About the WLS Annual Symposium

Inaugurated in 2000 as part of the 150th anniversary of the Wisconsin Synod, the annual symposium attracts several hundred pastors who gather together with seminary students and faculty to hear and discuss presentations on important church topics. Held on the Monday and Tuesday following the third Sunday in September, the symposium includes three essays, a festival service, and an evening of relaxation and fellowship. Sessions begin at 1:00 p.m. on Monday and end at 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday.

The essays presented at the symposium can be found on the seminary website shortly after the symposium has concluded. For those who would like to participate in real-time but are not able to join as an in-person participant, an on-line only option for registration will be possible. In this option, a link will be provided for real-time access to the essays, reactions, and comments. As always, a live-streamed feed to the symposium worship service will be provided to the public.

Registration for the annual symposium opens on July 1 each year.

2022 Fee Structure

Active Pastors, Teachers, Staff Ministers, Laity – $60

Retired Pastors – $30

Virtual Attendance – $15

Current WLS Vicars should contact Nola Zemlicka directly at or 262-242-8141 if planning to attend.


View the Symposium 2022 Schedule Here

This Year’s Symposium

Symposium 2022 on Compassion Ministry

The 2022 WLS Symposium will focus on the topic of compassion ministry. We live in a cultural setting where many are wrestling with how the church can become increasingly active in demonstrating and implementing concrete displays of compassion while also keeping the ministry of the Gospel at the forefront. Our upcoming symposium will seek to provide an opportunity for reflection and growth as we wrestle with past, present, and future realities of compassion ministry in the Christian context.

Dr. Keith Wessel, professor at Martin Luther College, will present an essay on the biblical basis for Christian compassion. Dr. Glen Thompson, professor emeritus at Asia Lutheran Seminary, will present a historical overview of Christian compassion through the centuries. Rev. Ryan Kolander, a parish pastor serving at Palabra de Vida Lutheran Church, Detroit, MI, will present an essay on creating a balanced culture of compassion in today’s current contexts of ministry.

Essay #1 – See How They Love One Another!                                                                Dr. Keith Wessel

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  (John 13:34–35 NIV)

“See how they love one another!” Tertullian’s famous quote on how Christians were viewed by their contemporaries reminds us of the unique identity and opportunity that we have on this earth. This essay will formulate a working definition of compassion ministry based on biblical exposition. Special emphasis will be given to the work of the New Testament church. Questions to be considered may include: Where do we see a vibrant ministry of compassion at work formally? Was mercy ministry always missional or was it sometimes done for its own sake in keeping the law of love? What difference did the Christian view of mercy ministry make as early Christians interfaced with a pagan society?

Essay #2 – Christian Compassion Through the Centuries                                      Dr. Glen Thompson

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.… Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.  Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. (Romans 12:9, 13–14 NIV)

This essay will serve as a historical overview of the church’s ministry of compassion through the centuries—from Constantine to the present time. In modern media, Christianity is often viewed with suspicion, even derision. Historically, however, acts of Christian compassion have provided substantive benefits both to individuals as well as society as a whole. As we reflect on the historical record, we have opportunity to consider ways in which Christians have navigated compassion ministry in the past and the opportunities for outreach and evangelism that frequently result. And yet, the track record is far from perfect. What can we learn today from the successes and failures of the church in the realm of compassion ministry through the centuries?

Essay #3 – Cultivating a Culture of Compassion: The Opportunity is Ours                  Rev. Ryan Kolander

Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. (Galatians 6:10 NIV)

For many, the word “compassion” in the context of ministry conjures up images of soup kitchens or clothing banks. For others, “compassion” ministry evokes the false theology of the social gospel. While movements branching from the social gospel went and continue to go astray, are they trying to correct a real problem within the church? Where do they go wrong? Have we sacrificed the Christian duty of compassion on the altar of truth? This essay will cast a vision for “a culture of compassion” in the local parish, as well as on the home and world mission fronts. What can a culture of compassion look like in our unique settings, from impoverished to affluent areas?


The 2022 Symposium will begin in the campus auditorium at 1:10pm on Monday, September 19, and will conclude on Tuesday, September 20, no later than 12:30pm. In addition to the three essays, the symposium agenda will also include a worship service with Rev. Dan Sims, director of WELS Christian Aid and Relief serving as the preacher. As in past years, there will also be ample opportunity for fellowship on Monday evening.

Online registration for attending the symposium will be available from July 1 to September 2, 2022. For specific questions, please contact Nola Zemlicka at or 262-242-8141.