Biographical / Historical
Following the Allied victory in World War II, the United States underwent a boom in productivity and population. America had become a major world power and leader in the areas of manufacturing, technology and other industry. Young men, who had served as soldiers on the battlefields of Europe, Africa and the Pacific, came home and started families. Families grew as the first “Baby Boomers” came into this world, and moved where new jobs were being started across the country. With this increase in productivity and population, America soared economically.
All these factors played into a surge in opportunities for home mission work. Just as the United States boomed immediately after the war, similar trends showed themselves in the Wisconsin Synod. Increases in offerings, growth in numbers and a plethora of mission opportunities moved the Wisconsin Synod to increase its mission efforts during this time. One of the major players in these early efforts was the Wisconsin Synod’s Michigan District. In the half-century after World War II, both the General Board for Home Missions, and the Michigan District Mission Board in particular, were very busy as the Synod began to outgrow its Midwestern borders.
All was not necessarily bright and sunny in the years after World War II, however. The dark storm clouds of doctrinal controversy threatened to ruin the close fellowship between the Wisconsin Synod and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. The tension increased between the two church bodies until 1961, when the Wisconsin Synod formally terminated fellowship ties with the Lutheran ChurchMissouri Synod. This proved to be quite a challenge to the small Midwestern church body, since the LCMS had carried out much of the home mission work of the former Synodical Conference in the years prior to 1961. The Lord did not let this controversy ruin the Wisconsin Synod, or WELS as it soon became known, but used the years after the 1961 break with LC-MS to change the outlook in the WELS from a fortress mentality in the Midwest to an outlook of mission outreach under the slogan “Every State By ’78!”
Particularly from the early 1960s to the mid 1980s, the WELS pushed to expand mission outreach across the nation. The Michigan District was no different. During this time, the Michigan District helped to establish WELS congregations throughout the Lower Peninsula of Michigan, throughout Ohio, Pennsylvania, New England, the Mid-Atlantic and the South Atlantic. From the mission efforts carried out under the auspices of the Michigan District Mission Board at this time, two new districts of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod formed – the South Atlantic District in 1973, which encompasses much of what is known as the Deep South, including much of the Gulf Coast and reaching as far north as Tennessee and western North Carolina; and in 1983, the North Atlantic District, stretching from Charlotte, NC to northern Ontario and from the eastern Appalachians to the Atlantic. In the Michigan District itself, most of the congregations in what is today the Ohio Conference laid down roots at this time, as well as many churches in the present-day Southeastern Conference. It was a time of great growth both on the synodical and district levels.
During this time, pastors such as Daniel Gieschen, Herbert Kuske and Frederick Adrian served as chairmen of the Michigan District Mission Board and helped to guide the DMB as it fostered groups to form exploratory stations and then eventually mission congregations of their own. At the present, the Michigan District Mission Board continues to oversee the efforts of mission congregations in Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.