Return to Wittenberg (R2W) is an organization sponsored by pastors and laymen affiliated with congregations of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) and Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS). Our mission is to promote, develop, and strengthen a Confessional understanding of the Lutheran faith in the millennial generation and beyond. We hope to do this by:
• Ensuring proper catechesis from the whole counsel of God’s Word as plainly taught in the Lutheran Confessions, with a particular focus on the Small Catechism of Dr. Martin Luther
• Examining what believers throughout the two millennia of the Church’s existence have taught about the Christian faith and its connection to Evangelical-Lutheran theology and tradition
• Emphasizing the centrality of the Means of Grace in the life and work of the Church and her Divine Service
• Explaining why we do what we do in the Divine Service through the Lutheran Liturgy
• Exploring the ways the Means of Grace affect Christian vocations, to the benefit of family, Church, and state
Why Return to Wittenberg?
Many young people struggle to find authenticity in the chaos of the world today. The lines between real-life and online, true and false, moral and immoral have become increasingly blurred. While church should be a source of reprieve, pop-Christianity usually offers very little to aid in the search for something “real.”
500 years ago a monk from the little town of Wittenberg, Germany, was also left asking life-and-death questions by a church that had lost its authenticity. The church in his day had invented new methods of “doing church” that were worlds apart from the Way of Christ and His Apostles. Under the pope in Rome, Christian worship became something people did for God rather than what God did for them. The focus of their worship was on man’s effort and action.
Unfortunately, this paradigm is not an isolated 16th-Century or papal phenomenon. It is reflected by modern church-goers who believe that “going to church” and “worship” are all about what they have to do for God. It is also present in the attitudes and motivations of those who place the emphasis on man’s desire for entertainment and novelty. In both cases, the heart and soul of the Church’s worship, and the church’s life together, is lost. In order to find it again, we will return to Wittenberg, and more precisely, to the clear exposition of Biblical truth found in the Lutheran Confessions, and re-discover the authentic Christianity that German friar and professor was blessed to re-discover nearly five centuries ago…
We use “Return to Wittenberg” not to describe a literal return to 16th Century Germany, of course, nor to represent the repristination of the same in the modern context, but rather to represent a periodic journey to review and be refreshed in the Scriptural teachings contained in the Lutheran Confessions—especially the Small Catechism.
Return to Wittenberg presentations draw strength from a broad network of individuals from multiple Lutheran synods. Our cooperation across synodical fellowships does not imply a spirit of compromise or indifference, but rather a conviction that uncompromising voices will be heard more loudly and more clearly if we cooperate and learn with all who share our objectives, regardless of current synodical affiliation. Just as Lutheran seminaries commonly assign textbooks, and Lutheran congregations commonly utilize Sunday school and VBS materials, from a publishing house affiliated with a synod outside of their own fellowship, so also we offer presentations to all who are interested, and invite participation from any persons or organizations who find themselves in agreement with our mission and vision. All conference presenters are carefully vetted by our trained WELS/ELS board of directors. In addition, all worship offered at conferences is exclusively conducted under the authority of our called WELS Chaplain and those to whom he delegates tasks, including our called WELS Kantor and other WELS/ELS ministers.