How this ministry began
…go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit
Ministry to WELS members in Europe began as the Vietnam War was coming to an end. Because WELS does not participate in the US military chaplaincy, our leaders had acted on the conviction that our church should fund and carry out personal ministry to our members in the armed forces.
A series of civilian pastors had been sent to Vietnam to minister to WELS members in the military. As American forces slowly withdrew from Asia, WELS leaders discussed ways to continue ministry to the military. Pastor Karl J. Otto, the seventh civilian chaplain in southeast Asia, was asked by WELS Special Ministries to evaluate the American military presence in Europe.
Because of the large number of WELS members living in England, Germany, Greece, Italy and Turkey at the time, WELS created a full-time civilian chaplain ministry to serve Americans in Europe, both civilian and military. Chaplain E.C. Renz was the first full time European civilian chaplain, serving from 1973-1982. Since that time there have been 17 chaplains serving the scattered WELS members living in Europe.
Chaplain John Hartwig, formerly a missionary in Africa and Thailand, and professor at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, is the current civilian chaplain in Europe. The WELS civilian chaplain, besides conducting worship services and retreats, is available for counseling, confirmation instruction, and other spiritual needs.
Photo: Chaplain John Hartwig with wife Helen