When the WELS Historical Institute was founded in 1983, its first president, Pastor Roland Cap Ehlke, described the Institute’s overarching purpose and benefit. “Especially rewarding is the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of our WELS history.
… Certain themes come up again and again. Rather than a glorification of our past as ‘the good old days,’ we see the story of frail, sinful people like ourselves. Our forebears struggled. They made mistakes. Yet they shared a common blessing—the Word of God.
The Word brought those men and women forgiveness and the strength to carry on the work of the church.
… Some things don’t change. We still struggle. The Word is still our strength, our motivation. May God bless our Synod’s future as he has the past” (“The President’s Report,” WELS Historical Institute Journal, Fall 1983:3).
We hold this treasure in clay jars to show that its extraordinary power is from God and not from us. —2 Corinthians 4:7
Nowhere is the truth of Pastor Ehlke’s words seen more clearly than in the lives and ministries of those who have led the Wisconsin Synod during its nearly 175 year history. Our synod’s presidents have all been humble jars of clay who simply contained the glorious treasure of the gospel and led our church body with faltering hands and feet in its proclamation to the nations.
In those years, the Lord Jesus has blessed our synod’s efforts so that a small handful of congregations in the Milwaukee area has grown into a confessional Lutheran church body that proclaims the truth of the gospel around the globe.