Affirm was once a great organization of conservatives. It was the outgrowth of a generation of battles fought in the Missouri Synod to hold the line against encroaching liberalism (as it was called back then). Those founding men are gone. So is the solid, conservative nature of Affirm.
I used to sit and listen to the war-horses of the battles of the '60's and '70's as they recounted their meetings and their strategy sessions and their valiant fight to hold Missouri to the confession of the faith. I was in high school and college when they fought those battles, but I remember some of them, watching them unfold and starting to get involved even as a kid and young man still in school, so hearing about the meetings and the strategies and the inner-workings of the small army that fought for faith once delivered to us by previous generations was heady stuff for me.
I also remember hearing about how there was a very small group trying to position themselves to be "the next generation" in those organizations that fought the good fight. Affirm was one such organization. Once solid, as the leadership aged, many found themselves squeezed out of the organization as younger men with different agendas quietly slipped into control of the organization. It is a sordid tale that should have been written, but all the primary sources, participants in the "good old days", have been called home to their Lord. Those left in the organization are second, third, and fourth generation and would likely tell that story from a less reliable perspective.
The July 2010 Affirm issue is a working illustration of how far the once venerable organization has fallen. A long time ago the Affirm group was invited to participate in developing what is now called the United List. They no longer know how to 'play nice' with the others and so they are no longer invited to a seat at the table when the list is developed. They now develop their own list, borrowing heavily from others, and malign the work of the good men and women who put together their recommendations as the United List. Small wonder they are not invited to the table with such bitterness. Affirm also plays fast and loose with statistics, proving the truth of the old adage that there are "lies, damn lies, and statistics".
The post-convention issue makes it sound like the chief player in the election of Matthew Harrison, other than Rev. Harrison, was Affirm. There seemed to be no recognition of the hard work of hundreds of people and dozens of organizations working for a change in leadership in our Synod. Nope, it was all Affirm! They seem to think that the margin of victory was small - only 58 people! Technically, 59 would have had to have voted differently, since a swing of 58 votes would have produced a tie, but I have seen elections where a swing of seven voters would have reversed the outcome! The election was not nearly so close as they try to make it sound. Frankly, I give the glory for the change to God, and thank Him, not the editor of Affirm, for the election results.
One of the more frustrating elements of their post-convention issue was the attack on the good men and women who issued the call to action calling themselves the "Association of Confessing Evangelical Lutheran Congregations." In the attack, Affirm sounds more like an arm of Jesus First than a supposed conservative bulwark for our Synod. Affirm accuses the signers of the letter of having an agenda to manipulate President Harrison. A cursory reading to the letter, coupled with the date of its sending, would suggest to anyone minded to be honest about it that the work of this group began long before the convention and was set for release without regard for how the elections turned out. Far from attacking or trying to manipulate President Harrison, they state quite clearly that their goal is to have a blessed and remedial effect on the Synod as she struggles with the pressures of our culture and society and "progressive" theologies afoot in the church today.
Clearly, the concerns of the ACELC group are not shared by the Affirm group. Affirm categorizes any stance on theological issues confronting our church that does not match their own as "anti-synodical". Apparently, they also hold the attitude that by-laws outweigh confession of the faith, and that politics, not Scripture, should decide issues among us. What was once called faithfulness is classed by Affirm as "right-wingers", and political unity and peace is preferred by them to standing up for the truth, referred to as "schismatic" in their brief diatribe. The faith of our fathers is also critiqued in Affirm as "teaching and practice contrary to the Synod". Affirm can say what it want to about who they are, the proof is in the pudding. They stand somewhere besides on the historic confession of our Synod, as this newsletter makes painfully clear.
Sadly, Affirm takes the irrational position that the "Synod's appointed Dispute Resolution Process" actually works effectively for expressing dissent and accomplishing change. They might have noted that during the convention, the egregious errors of certain CCM opinions were whitewashed and that the many memorials requesting that the convention reconsider them were set aside in favor of the impious fiction that it was misunderstanding of the CCM Opinion's words to take them to mean precisely what they said. The "Process" was used to silence congregations, circuits, and entire districts as they pleaded that the mistake of CCM Opinion 02-2309 be vacated. The resolution and its facile defense by the Committee Chairman, Lane Seitz - and members of Jesus First - showed the Synod that the vaunted "process for expressing dissent" was in reality a process for silencing unwanted opinions.
While accusing the members of ACELC of intending to break the 8th Commandment, Affirm actually goes ahead and does that very thing itself. Affirms is not what it used to be, nor is it a voice worthy of being listened to for confessional guidance. The proof is in the pudding.