Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Coming Convention of the LCMS

I have been a delegate to the Convention of the LCMS three times, and have attended two other Conventions as a visitor. My observations at these conventions has made me somewhat cynical about the rationale of some -- particularly Boards and Commissions -- who offer overtures to the Synod. What follows is my take on the coming convention by review of the first issue of Today's Business.

First, most issues are not dealt with by the convention. They are shuffled off, given to some Board of Committee, the conduct of which may have inspired the overture in the first place. A number of overtures are denied simply because the powers that be like things just the way they are, and so the Synod in convention is not going to be allowed to consider them.

What the Synod is allowed to do is consider the resolutions that the administration wants them to consider - not necessarily what the people of they Synod want them to consider.

My observation is that most of what the Convention will spend its time on is not worth the time they will spend. It will not address any substantive issue and it will focus on saying things that don't - or should not - need saying.

My other observation is that the Administration appears to be tightening the reigns and drawing more control and authority into the bureaucracy. The Synod that began as a voluntary association of congregations to work together to accomplish certain things - stuctured with congregations on top and Synod as organization on the bottom - has reversed its understanding of itself and has become a controlling organization which seems to view the congregations as franchisees of the corporate entity known as the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. Truth doesn't need - or seek - this sort of power. Error and deception always do. The three stages in the progress of error in the church (from Krauth) seem to apply directly here.

Anyhow, here are select resolutions with my take on them. You may note that I ignore resolutions that seem to be of little value or effect:

LCMS convention resolutions:


1.03 - New study on the Priesthood of All Believers. appears hostile to the office of the Ministry

1.05 - Make outreach a top priority in worker training. not wise. It forgets the Gospel and sound doctrine.

1.09 - Accounting for the use of Fan into Flames Fund. Probably a good idea.

1.11 - Continue campus ministry in association with the ELCA. Weasel words. Awful repudiation of the late memorial from the Waseca Circuit. They were clear in asking that we dissolve such connections with a church body we have declared heterodox, Seems like a no-brainer to me, but I am not a social progressive bureaucrat.

1.12 - Decline overtures. Facile. RE:1-12 - Denies the Synod the opportunity to debate the theology of Ablaze and of the report on the theology of Ablaze issue by the Synod. Should be defeated.


2.01 - Theological Conferences on Worship. This appears to be an effort to baptize the status quo of diversity and mind-numbing abandonment of historic liturgy. I believe it is a bad idea.

2.02 - To Provide Guidance for the Use of Contemporary Worship Resources. unfortunate resolution
  • Asserts without foundation that there is a need for contemporary worship songs - does not define what they mean by Contemporary songs for worship or other terms or identify the need which they assert exists. Need and want are two different things, as any parent of teen-agers can clearly tell you.
  • Asserts that there are pastors and teachers and DCE's throughout the synod who are composing solid Lutheran contemporary worship songs. There is no reference to the not-solid and non-Lutheran junk that is also produced, or how to distinguish between them.
  • calls for the Synod to do the unnecessary: create a network for dissemination of these resources. A web site created by any interested party could serve. It would not give the Synod more power to do it that way, though.

2.06 - To Promote Relational Vitality in Congregations. This is a bad resolution:
  • wants to commend those who are charged with dealing with conflict in our congregations in a Biblical manner, but have have failed to faithfully address a great evil in our midst.
  • heads in the wrong direction for a proper solution to the problem in our Synod - not in the direction of the Word of God.
  • initiates another bout of bad technical jargon with ambiguous meaning.

2.07 - To Encourage Individual Confession and Absolution. a good resolution. It should not be necessary, but it probably is.


3.01 - Altar and Pulpit Fellowship with AALC. Definitely wrong
  • the AALC has a long history as a wild-eyed Charismatic Fellowship
  • the judgment of those in charge (CTCR, particularly the leadership of it) is notoriously suspect in this area.
  • If we are ready for fellowship with TAALC, I suspect that the change did not happen among them.

3.03 - To Request the CTCR to Develop a Plan for Confessional Leadership. Urges the publishing of a new dogmatics text and appears to want to take Luther Academy's place in arranging and directing Theological Symposia throughout the world. I personally am not tickled with either goal.

3.04 - Call for a Study of the Natural Knowledge of God and it Implications for Public Witness. Stupid. Moves in the wrong direction, away from the Word. Seems to be calculated to please the world.

3.05 - To Provide Further Discussion and Guidance on the Matter of Serial Prayer. Asking the wrong people to talk about theology. Actually dismissing the real question of unionism at Yankee Stadium and similar inter-religion services by focusing on something else.

3.06 - To Assign the CTCR to Address Environmental Issues. Bad idea. We have the Gospel to preach, why do we need to be involved in the debates swirling about in environmentalism as a church body? Although this is better than allowing them to address controversial theological issues.

3.07 - To Study the CTCR Reports Relating to the Service of Women in the Church. The reports are flawed. Maybe we should study Scriptures instead.

3.11 - To Endeavor to Keep the Unity of the Spirit in the Bond of Peace. This resolution misunderstands the concept, and asks us to reduce to bare minimums the doctrinal content of "unity". Like putting a loaded gun into the hands of a toddler. Clearly reflects the "new thinking" in Missouri.


4.01 - To Plan Summit to Restore Harmony and Trust. The fifth 'whereas' disavows the validity of the concerns which often divide us and lead to distrust. This Summit is dead on arrival.

4.02 - To Begin Stewardship Renewal Through Enhanced Communication. Double talk and gobbledygook. They (the people in the organization's Stewardship department) still do not understand stewardship. They think they can manipulate people into it.

4.03 - To Develop a Program to Emphasize Biblical Whole Life Stewardship. Nice words. Silly resolution. See 4.02 above.

4.09 - To Provide Financial Support and Adopt Funding Models for the Seminaries. That the Synod would take this funding matter over is right. What it will result in may not be so good. The crisis in Seminary funding happened over years as the organization called "Synod" found itself more interested in other things, and allowed the cost of a Seminary education to skyrocket while the Synod's financial support for the Seminaries diminished to nearly nothing. If Synod was willing and able to do this in the first place, we would not have the problems in funding Seminary education we have. When they take it over, we can expect money will control seminary faculties at the behest of the Synod administration. That will teach those uppity confessionals for maintaining a Lutheran presence on at least one campus (sometimes both)!

4.10 - To Encourage Funding for the Center for Hispanic Studies. Well, our nation refuses to control the border, so . . .
  • except that we probably could get CLEF or LHF to do the needed translation work for us cheaply.

4.12 - To Demonstrate Support for Walking Together. Seeks to encourage greater centralization of Synod resources. The power of the centralization is manipulative over many in Synod now. Going farther suits the Synodical desire for more control but will not serve truth or the Church well.

4.15 - To Decline Overtures. automatic. I list it here to give the example of shallow reasoning for declining to consider an overture.
  • RE: Ov. 4-36 To Change appointment process. Declined without giving the Synod an opportunity to discuss it or consider another process. Answer reads like, "We will ignore your ideas because we like things the way they are right now." Automatically a bad answer.


5.01 - To Establish Specific Ministry Pastor Program. Bad idea just on its face. Opens the door to too many evils to count.
  • Suggests that not all people need competent and well-trained pastors.
  • Creates a sub-class of pastors (with sub-standard preparation) which will eventually be regularized, if history is any guide.
  • begins to open the door to requiring continuing education.
  • lays the ground work for training specific men for specific places and types of ministry.
  • adds to the COP's already absurd authority.

5.05 - To Encourage Commitment to Continuing Education for Clergy. A step toward requiring Continuing Education. A Bad thing for the Church. I don't mean that continuing learning is a bad thing, but the requirement to do so under pains of decertification would be abusive and manipulative. This resolution doesn't take us all the way there, but it starts the journey.


6.04 - Ministry to Immigrants - We should be willing to subvert our nations laws to help the poor and needy? The Church as church has no place in this. Individual Christians may, but not the organization called "church".

6.05 - To petition the CTCR to give us theological cover for breaking the law of our nations for the sake of the illegals. Nah.

6.06 - To develop materials about domestic abuse. Yeah, let's leave off all that Gospel talk and do something socially useful.


(This is the place where the really spooky things start to happen)

7.03 - To Amend Bylaw 3.2.5. Meant to eliminate the presence of those nominated from the floor of a convention from the list to be considered if the board needs to replace someone elected by the convention. Stupid move. Gives extra authority - unwarranted authority - to the nominating committee of the convention.

7.07 - Change bylaw 1.5 and add definitions. This resolutions seeks to establish a conflict of interest policy which would silence dissent.

7.08 - To Add Bylaw re Removal of Individual Members from Board or Commission Memberships. The title itself should give one pause. After 160 years, now, all of a sudden, we need a special resolution to remove those we want to remove? This is clearly about strengthening control.
  • We cannot make charges of false doctrine work to remove pastors expeditiously, but it is listed here as a reason to remove a Board or Commission member.
  • We have a District President who was removed for failure to honor and uphold the doctrinal position of Synod and conduct unbecoming a Christian (reasons #2 and #3), yet he was restored by CCM fiat. Clearly these regulations are meant to serve administrative power, not truth or doctrine - nor the well-being of Synod.
  • "breach of loyalty owed to the board of commission" that will cover any expressed difference of opinion.
Welcome to the police state of LCMS! Big Brother is instituting thought control.

7.09 - To Affirm Use of Synod Dispute Resolution Process. The Dispute Resolution process was devised to sabotage justice and godly resolution of conflict. It has served to manage disputes to the liking of the powers that be. It is abusive to begin with. Now the Synod seeks to silence all opposition by closing the door to "secular remedies" and guarantee injustice, and threatens removal to any and all who disregard this notice. Then we will be treated to pious platitudes about the "procedures for dissent" which are only less effective than shouting into an empty room, and then closing the door quickly and quietly.

7.10 - To Amend Bylaws 1.9 and 3.9.3 Pertaining to Doctrinal Review. Creates a new class of materials which may be disseminated without doctrinal review. Now we can have false doctrine published by Synod and distributed deliberately through official channels as long as it is "study documents" and "exploratory materials" and as long as they are clearly marked as not having been through doctrinal review. The Statement of the 44 in 1945 would have been publishable by the Synod under these rules. Of course, today that document, condemned at the time as containing false doctrine, is held up as our modern orthodoxy. The danger in this resolution is phenomenal.

7.11 - To Improve the Process for Floor Nominations at Synod Conventions. Clearly intended to stop or at least severely restrict the practice. More authority centralized, less ability to work effectively for change given to the members and people of the Synod.

7.13 - To Decline Overtures. Rationale for declining most overtures appears to be, "we like it this way, and we don't want to take the time to talk about it."


8.01 - To Adopt Amendments to the Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws re Resolution 7-02A. Clarifies the responsibility of the Board of Directors, particularly as it deals with CCM Opinions. That part is good. Then it complicates the issue of review of CCM opinions by the Synod in Convention -- but maintains the pious fiction that we can actually call those things up for review. Furthers the appearance of the Synod as a dictatorship - our own little papacy, with the COP serving as the College of Cardinals.

8.02 - To Affirm Christian Resolution of Disputes. This is a reminder that we are obligated to resolve disputes by this single, unscriptural method.

8.04 - To provide Wording for Congregations' Constitutions and Bylaws. Sadly necessary. A good solution to the problems that prompted it.

8.07 - To Call a Special Convention to Amend Synod Structure and Governance. On its face, it is an attempt to streamline the process of change in structure and governance so the next convention can deal with the changes. It simply means that we need to streamline annd accelerate the transformation of the Missouri Synod into something none of us imagined and something none of us wanted when we joined. This is not your grandfather's Synod! Soon it will not be your father's or your own.

8.08 - To Provide a Process for Reconsideration of CCM Opinions. Adds a step in the process of challenging the CCM opinions, one that is really unlikely to have any success -- but will give the CCM the defense against any challenge to the opinions of the CCM that "we considered this objection, and found it without merit." If Walther could roll over in his grave, by now we could use him to power a high-speed lathe.

8.10 - To Refer for Theological Study CCM Opinions 02-2296, 02-2309, and 02-2320. The resolution begins with the premise that certain opinions"may" have been in error. It continues by suggesting that we have now adjusted our Constitution and Bylaws to fit the erring opinions, so they are no longer in error. It then suggests that the way to answer the theological concerns some have expressed is to let the CTCR take a run at it, and report back in three years. This is how we avoid allowing the Synod to actually review and vote on the opinions themselves in convention. George Orwell would be a prophet in today's church. He simply missed the date by 23 years.

8.11 - To Respectfully Decline Overtures re CCM Opinions. This means, we don't want the Synod to take any action on these.

8.12 - To Respectfully Decline Overtures. Sad.
  • We cannot reconsider a resolution because they don't want to.
  • In one case, we maintain the impious fiction that there is actual supervision of the President of Synod. This is, of course, a lie.
  • In another case, we cannot ask anyone who promotes false doctrine to leave the Synod by convention resolution because we supposedly have process in place to do that - although it only works when the powers that be want it to - while open false teaching is regularly ignored, and complainants about such false teaching are chastised and hounded for not following the correct procedure precisely.

Omnibus Resolutions pass without much controversy - and they serve to keep the convention from thinking too much. Besides, if we considered all of these resolutions, we might have to extend the time of the convention, or reduce the greetings and videos time, and that would tend to make the convention dangerously useful.

Well, there it is. My take on the coming convention. The best result appears to be that the convention does absolutely nothing - except electing new and confessional Lutheran Leadership (which ain't likely).

Typically, a convention automatically approves over 90% of what is presented to it. This could be a disastrous convention for the historic Synod. Probably a refreshing thing for Incumbent President Jerry Keischnick, and the revisionist "Jesus First" types that support him, and support change in the commitments and doctrines of our - should I simply say "the" - Synod.

God help us in these difficult and threatening times. We will need the strength of a faithful church to confront the impending dangers of Islam - and secularism - in our age (although I think militant Islam will simply crush secularism when the two collide). Sadly, we Christians are just too 'nice' for that.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Politics or Gospel?

Observing the church in today's world, one is prompted to wonder what the church is supposed to be about, politics? Or the Gospel?

In congregation after congregation, pastors are being attacked and forced from office for being too Lutheran. That is never the charge made formally, but time and again, a pastor who endeavors to teach faithfully, and lead his congregation in the historic liturgy is being attacked. The charges are things like "arrogance" for daring to confess that he knows the truth, that faithfulness is more to be desired than novelty, and that, as pastor, he is charged with the responsibility to oversee and guide what is taught in that parish. A host of other charges is usually concocted: the pastor is not "a people person", the pastor does not attend to the "needs" of his people adequately, the pastor is autocratic, and the pastor maintains associations with other, hopelessly old-fashioned, conservative Lutheran pastors.

Let me insert here the comment that in almost every case, if not every single one, the issue is theological. It is about doctrine, not the conduct or the person of the pastor. That is the single issue always denied and steadfastly rejected - and yet it is the issue.

That is a reality of the church in modern times. People don't want to stand on truth, and they expect their church to cater to their fluctuating desire and tastes. This is sad. The reason it raises the question about politics or the gospel is that those elected officials who are charged with preserving the Gospel and justice and the rights of both pastors and congregations usually don't. They count bodies and take the side of the larger number (the the deeper pockets) rather than even making a pass at standing on the truth. They are politicians, not churchmen. Their concern is evidently focused on re-election and organizational continuance than the preservation of the truth and the proclamation of the Gospel.

The same principle can be seen in the rush to the new hymnal. As the pastor of a congregation that still uses the old TLH, I hear from people of every age-group who cannot understand why the new hymnal is being pushed. The Liturgies can be had in the predecessor hymnals. The new hymnal loses some more old favorite hymns, and changes the ones it keeps. The single argument in favor of the change is that some people objected to changes in the past. One man even reports that select members of his congregation remember the same sorts of unhappiness with the issuance of The Lutheran Hymnal back in 1941.

I think the memory of 66 years ago is remarkable. The complaints then, of course, were not the same, since TLH did not change the liturgy from the old green Evangelical Lutheran Hymnal. Most of the hymns were preserved, too. The hardest change back then for most was switching from German to English. TLH was not perfect, but it preserved the liturgy, most hymns in familiar form, and the creeds as spoken for centuries among English speaking Christians.

It is sad when the argument in favor of the new hymnal boils down to the reality that after a generation or two have known nothing but this hymnal, it, too, will become a precious old favorite, to be replaced for publishing house profits - and to feed another worship controversy. It doesn't answer the question asked of why the old, faithful worship is being deliberately displaced, and why the cries of those who wish to cling to the historic worship are being cast aside. The answer, "Because we can" doesn't satisfy.

The question is not, "can the new hymnal be used profitably?", but how does the strongly encouraged change to this new hymnal serve the Gospel? I can illustrate with numerous examples how the constancy of the TLH in the life of Christians has preserved and aided their faith. Those suffering dementia have often demonstrated the value of the long and frequent repetition of the Liturgy, as they cannot remember family and friends, but the prayers and confessions of the liturgy remain. What illustrations are there for the rolling changes -- admittedly reduced somewhat in the liturgical sections -- of a new hymnal serve that purpose?

Change is inevitable, I suppose. The question is, does it serve politics or the gospel?

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Best Laid Plans

I always have the best intentions of blogging. I get very passionate about things and I think of all the stuff I want to write. Unfortunately, I think of it while I am away from my computer.

Besides, dial-up blogging is so time consuming.

My son, at A Fort Made of Books, tells me just to get on with it, and write something, or people will not come here to read, so I am going to try to put something up with some regularity.

Am I a mouse or am I a man? The answer doesn't matter, because their best laid plans both suffer the same fate.

Humor, arh, arh.