Saturday, November 27, 2010

New Person to Blame

A Spanish woman is claiming to own the sun, according to the news.  She intends to charge for the use of it.  The thought occurs, does she open herself up for lawsuits for the unrequested shining of the sun, sun-burns, fading fabrics and the like?  If you have skin cancer, is she now legally responsible?

I figure I am going to sue her for waking me up in the morning with all of that light I did not request.

How silly can anyone be?

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Gospel Is Still Needed

In this age which runs from the Christian religion and which denies that there is any need for that “crutch”, the need for the Gospel is still there and still evident.  In ages past, men followed a variety of false Gods.  There was Dagon, the Philistine fish-headed god, the sacred trees and poles called the Ashtoreth, a tremendous variety of deities called the “Baals”, and, well, if I tried to name all the various “gods” that men have worshiped, it would require many pages on this blog post.  The world that knew that multiplicity of deities needed the Gospel, and the need was obvious.

Our age has its multiplicity as well; Allah, the various Hindu deities, the not-quite-divine focus of Buddhism, the modern occult deities, Mother Earth in her many ecological disguises, and the false gods cruising the realm of pseudo-Christian civic religions: the grand old man in the sky, the god who rewards men on the basis of their good works, and the various gods who wear the names of Christ and Jesus but bear no resemblance to the Biblically revealed Son of God.  Our age needs the Gospel, too.

Oddly, it is the secular, pagan world around us that reflects that need – the hunger for something spiritual and someone real – most clearly.  You can see the need highlighted in the entertainments that they create, movies like “Ghost”, or “Always”, or the recently released new movie starring Matt Damon, “Hereafter”, and television shows of the sort of “Ghost Whisperer” or “Touched by an Angel”.  They all want to tell us what death is like.  They try to answer the question that haunts humanity, “After death, what?”.

The problem is that they answer this question from ignorance.  They tell us what they creators of these answer wish were so, not what is true, because they have no truth.  The answers are entertaining, and comforting in what they present, if not in any lasting effect.  The uniformly show a common result that includes everyone, without distinction between good and evil, between this religion and that, between age or social condition.  The answer is always something peaceful and pleasant.  The concoction they come up with varies in this element or that degree, but it is fundamentally the view that we all die and go to the same pleasant place without distinction or discrimination.  Death is a friend.  It is pleasant and the afterlife is wonderful.  There is not a hint of judgment, particularly in regards to religious belief, except that in most cases, something awful is reserved for the truly wicked and extremely evil such as murderers and those who offend the secular morality of the moment most egregiously.

The message is, don’t worry about death.  You are going to be okay.  Whatever there may be will be good and you will come out well in the eschatological future.  This message is, of course, false.  It is the answer of the world and of the devil to the judgment of God, namely, denial.  It is the proclamation that there is no real religion and there is nothing to worry about.  I imagine that they movies would show that death was the end and there was nothing more to come, if there was a reasonable plot-line to it, and the true doctrine of demons would sell tickets.  This teaches us nothing, except, perhaps, that the world is still riveted by the question of what happens after death, and uneasy about the judgment that they somehow know is coming.

We have the answer!  We have the truth, revealed by God Himself.  There is judgment coming, and there is a hell, and it is something that we all deserve.  That there is no distinction between people, by nature, is the one part of the picture that the modern media answers have right.  We all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God!  But there is a distinction in the day of judgment.  It is the judgment that distinguishes those who are God’s from those who patently refuse to be His.

There is a need for the Gospel of the redemption which is in Christ Jesus and of the grace of God which forgives us our sins.  In this Gospel, God bestows as a gift the perfect righteousness of Christ, and as a result gives life everlasting and salvation to those who believe.  By "believe" we mean those who trust in the Lord to be who He has revealed Himself to be and to do all that He has promised to do in connection with Jesus Christ.  This is not the Gospel of meeting felt needs, but the Gospel of the grace of God.  This Gospel, however, also answers those “felt needs” ultimately, but it does so much more.  It actually comforts with a lasting comfort, and, although it refuses to answer all the questions that the mind of man can conjure up with any specificity, it answer the main questions: Is there something after death?  Yes.  Is it good for everyone?  No, but for some there is eternal life in glory, and for others there is eternal death in pain of body and mind and soul.  How can I know what is my part?  What can I do?  Believe in Jesus Christ (the One revealed in the Bible, not the imitations invented by society) and you shall be saved.  Jesus has accomplished all that you need done, and salvation is His gift.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your path straight.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Good Words

I love Walther!  He hits the nail on the head so clearly and sweetly.  Today’s devotion from “God Grant It” struck me as particularly applicable to the daily struggle of the Christian’s life.  Here is just an excerpt:

. . . Our text advises us to ‘put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil’ (Ephesians 6:11). The evil spirits employ exceedingly cunning attacks against us.  Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.  If he wants to cast us down into error, he presents this error as truth and distorts God’s Word in an effort to support his claim.  If he wants to cast us down into sin, he presents the sin as a virtue or as something permissible, innocent and unimportant, If he wants to persuade us to fall away from God, he tries to convince us, as he did Adam, that this is a way for us to draw closer to God and become more like God.
When we think we are furthest from Satan – for example, when we are praying, reading or hearing God’s Word, or when we are in the midst of upright Christians – there Satan is next to us, seeking to remove the seed of the Word from our hear and to annihilate the blessing of the communion.  He does not attack us where we are strong, but here we are weak.  Wherever he finds and opening in the wall of our heart, there he comes in.

God Grant It, Daily Devotions from C.F.W. Walther, translated by Gerhard P. Grabenhofer, Compiled by August Crull, Concordia Publishing House, Saint Louis, MO, 2006, pp. 829-830.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

What a Big Difference a Small Difference Makes

We were talking about Contemporary Worship - so-called - when it occurred to me what a difference a couple of letters can make.  Someone asked the question of why it was so important in this generation to bring culture, our modern culture, into the church.  No other generation had done it.

That, of course, was balderdash.  Every generation has done it to some extent.  We use the language of our culture, in one form or another.  We change our Scriptures to more modern translations from time to time.  But those intrusions of culture are relatively mild and, often, necessary so that the members of the congregation can participate in the service with understanding.  The intrusions of culture in what is called "Contemporary Worship" are far more significant, and are often done simply as a matter or taste (or the lack of it) and preference.

Contemporary Worship involves a theological shift as well.  The focus of the service becomes the individual worshiper's entertainment or sense of accomplishing something religious.  The worshiper is the one the service seeks to please.  Traditional Liturgical Worship was centered in the deity, and, for Lutherans, in receiving from God the gifts He came to bring in the Divine Service through Word and Sacrament.

The question, "Why is it all of a sudden so important to bring the culture into the church?", elicited the response from me that the churches that practice Contemporary Worship are different now than they once were.  Now they are apostate - unbelieving - worshiping the worshiper instead of the One who is worthy of all worship, the Lord.

The little difference that struck me is the difference from what was to what is:  from apostolic to apostate.  Just a couple of letters.  Such a small difference in language but such a huge difference in everything else.  Of course, the two words come from significantly different roots in Greek, but in English, they look and sound so close to each other.  Just three or four letters and you go from faithful and true to Contemptible - that is Contemporary - Worship

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Installation

It was good to see our new president installed, even though it had to be on-line.  Some of the pomp could lead one to wonder if we were installing a president or a pope, but that is the way it works in large organizations, I suppose.  I am puzzled that the Holy Supper is served in a crowd with so many of other faiths acknowledged to be present.  How does one regulate admission to the altar?

I guess this is why I am merely a humble parish pastor.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Surprise, Surprise!

The experts are reporting their surprise that terrorist are being radicalized here in America.  Given the high level of hostility on the political left to our nation, its prosperity, and its prominence, all soon to be former, the development of home-grown terrorists should be no surprise at all, particularly in the light of the eco-terrorists active for more than a decade with the full approval of lap-dog media.

But the most surprising thing is that none of the analysts seem willing to look at the source of the "radicalized" Muslims, Islam itself.  The religion teaches jihad, and commands jihad as part of the faithful Muslim's life.  It takes no more work to 'radicalize" your typical Muslim male than it does to encourage your average Protestant teen-ager to live out his or her Christian faith.  They begin with a well-stocked pond of adherents to the religion that demands and encourages and endorses and praises violent actions in what is believed to be the support of their religion and their deity.

The most moderate leaders of the Islamic religion will not condemn violent jihad.  There is no official element of the religion that opposes it.  So-called moderate Muslims were dancing and singing in the streets when Islam struck the twin towers on September 11, 2001, celebrating their victory against the "great Satan" of America, even inside the borders of this nation.  Islam is not merely a religion, but a political movement as well.  The very best Moslem has a split loyalty. 

How can our "experts" be surprised that the ardent followers of this religion can be induced to do terroristic things?  They are either deliberately looking away, which is dumb and irresponsible, or they are idiots.

A Failure to Communicate . . .

Some days, life seems to imitate art.

This is not one of those days, but the topic at hand put me in mind of the line from the film, Cool Hand Luke, "What we have here is a failure to communicate."  I was enmeshed in a mini-controversy on one of those email discussion groups when it struck me that the problem we were having in the discussion is often the problem in most human communications on topics of interest.  People confuse opinion with fact and knowledge with uninformed prejudice.

It appears that the combination of fierce individualism and thorough-going egalitarianism have produced circumstances in which everyone believes that their passing opinion on any topic they deign to opine upon is absolute truth, or at least every bit as true as anything anyone else might say.  I blame this on the Psychologist Carl Rogers as much as anyone.  He pioneered the idea that everyone and everything was precious and wonderful just by virtue of being.  His approach to self-esteem has crippled a couple of generations of American children, and it is on the way to crippling discourse in our nation.

It is bad enough that everyone thinks they are right, but when they lose the ability to distinguish between a mere opinion and a clear fact, debate and even education may be at risk.  In the on-line discussion that prompted this entry, an individual asked a question, having admitted a lack of knowledge to form a decisive assessment of a situation.  When offered the information upon which he might form his opinion, the individual became argumentative.  He rejected and contradicted facts simply because they did not conform to his prior prejudices nor support his hastily formed and unfounded opinions.  He subsequently withdrew from the on-line forum altogether, convinced that the group was the sort that would not grant equality to his passing thoughts with the results of careful inquiry and scholarly investigation.

It was an unfortunate decision, but it highlighted the problem in modern communications.  Too many people think that just because they hold an idea, it outweighs facts and reality altogether.  It is fine if someone wishes to cling to their own ideas and prejudices, even in the face of truth and evidence to the contrary.  It is not productive, but they have that right.  It is not helpful, however, if they feel the need to dismiss and invalidate facts and reality in pursuit of their ill-informed ideas, and to hold those who treat facts as something other than a mere opinion as unjustly prejudiced and even arrogant.

If bigoted fantasy and hard, cold facts are believed to be on an equal footing, rational discourse will cease to be possible.  We will have a true failure to communicate.

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Problem with Blogging

My son is always after me to blog more often.  In principle, I think that would be great.  In practice, by the time I have formulated my blog entry in my mind, my need to express myself is often satisfied.

I recently realized one of my biggest problems with blogging is the "So what?" factor.  I have read so may things that people blog that leave me wondering why they bothered.  What was the point?

It is like Facebook or Twitter.  I have trouble understanding the point, unless the point is for someone to say, "Dig Me!!!".  I was raised in the time when one did not pursue shameless self-promotion just for the sake of being noticed.  I remember telling a joke once in the presence of a couple of older acquaintances,and the joke sounded like I was bragging - that was the joke part of it.  One of the older women, an old German lady, simply spoke the German phrase which translates "Self-praise stinks".  That was my upbringing.   Even when one did promote themselves, it had a purpose - like getting elected or making money.  Waving my arms (so to speak) and yelling for people to notice me just to be noticed for a moment seems shallow and pointless -- and when I am done, it makes me feel more insignificant than ever.  Imagine!  I have to behave in this silly fashion to get anyone to pay me any mind.  Embarrassing!

I wish that when people were to take the time to write something, they would have a purpose for it, a goal other than being noticed, or mere self-expression.  I imagine, however, that my wishes perfectly fit my mother's favorite adage, "Wish in one hand . . ."

Friday, August 20, 2010

My Second Chance!

It came in the mail today.  Emblazoned across the front of the envelope, "Here's that second chance you hoped for!".  It came from an insurance company.  I was suspicious from the get-go.

It was an offer to sell me some life insurance!  It started, "Why didn't I get more life insurance when I was younger . . . and when it was cheaper?"  Yes, it was in bold green!

I couldn't help laughing out loud and reading the ridiculous thing loudly to the neighborhood.  It was over 95 degrees out, with high humidity, so I had a very small audience, mostly squirrels, and my dog, Martin.

I did not buy more insurance when I was younger because I could not afford it then.  Since I lived this long, it proved to be a wise lack of investment.  All of those years not paying for that insurance!  I feel silly about the stuff I did buy.  Wasted money so far.

My mother always said life insurance is a bet that you are going to die before your spend too much on the insurance.  The insurance I have is the sort that pays you back after a while, like an investment, if you don't die and use it up.  I can justify something I can use later.  The last thing I am looking for right now is more life insurance.

But a good laugh?  Thank you Mutual of Omaha!

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Superhero Problem

We have read it in the comic books often enough.  The villain tells the superhero that his weakness is that he cares about the little people, or that he has this set of rules that tie his hands that the villain is always prepared to ignore.  We have that problem as those who battle for the truth in the church and in society.  We have guiding principles.  The adversary is often fighting the battle with the 'victory at all costs' mentality.

There seems to be very little point in fighting for the truth and all that is right if we are willing to do wrong in order to achieve the victory.  Those who are on the other side of the battle, however, appear to be willing to say whatever they need to say in order to win, or persuade, or whatever their goal is at the moment.  The problem is apparent, but not real.

Greater still is the problem of the impatience of the one fighting for the truth.  All too often, we want to win the whole battle in one grand effort.  The adversary, on the other hand, is all about the long game.  They work on the plan of incremental gains.  They push and pry and argue and do whatever they are willing to do to gain just a little.  They want to gain a foot-hold.  They want to gain tolerance for their error.  They want to gain a point on the public approval poll.  They do not need the whole enchilada at any one point, because they know that if they get an inch here and now, and then another inch later, that eventually they will win the entire field.

People who stand for the truth are trying to hold their territory.  If they lose a little bit, they take comfort in what they still have, and soon appear to forget where they were and how much they have lost.  I heard an evaluation of the last convention of the LC-MS that acknowledged that several bad things happened, but that they were not as bad as they could be, and some were tempered in the process so that they could be good, in the right hands.  If you are trying to rally the morale of the troops, that may be a reasonable argument, but it is a losing argument.  "We may have lost this much, but forget that and look at what we still have."  If your goal is to lose more slowly, that attitude makes sense.  If your goal is to win, it makes more sense to always remember what has been lost, and aim to win it back.

Standing on the truth is not a passive task, it is a fight.  The enemy must be engaged at every point and nothing can be sacrificed.  The Statement of the 44 in 1945, "the Chicago Statement", serves as a great illustration of the principle.  When it was issued, it created a firestorm.  Most pastors recognized it as false doctrine and something was radically wrong.  After a period of controversy, a compromise was arranged.  President Behnken, unwilling to see the Synod split on his watch, permitted the signers to formally withdraw the statement without repudiating it, without acknowledging that it was wrong, without repenting, and without any charges.  It was as if they said, "Let us pretend that it was never sent out in the first place."  Peace, of a sort, was restored, and the Synod did not split - except for those few conservatives who acknowledged the reality that the Synod had formally corrupted itself and withdrew.

Today the false theology of that horrendous schismatic document is the orthodoxy of the Synod.  It may have been "withdrawn", but the leaven of the document has percolated throughout our Synod.  The spirit of compromise with false doctrine and of the political solution to a theological problem has also infected the Synod, becoming our standard operating procedure.  During the Seminex years, Jacob Preus was also unwilling to see the Synod divided on his watch, and he found political solutions to his theological challenges.  Afraid that the walk-out by students at the seminary and pastors in the field would decimate our Synod, Preus invented an amnesty program of his own for the Synod, and allowed those who had rejected the theological stance of our Synod to simply sign a piece of paper and re-enter the ranks of our roster, preserving their false theology's place in our church body, and providing them with employment.  The ripple-effect of those compromises are still rattling the Synod, as the hand-wringing about the recent elections in many quarters demonstrates.  We are a house divided because we have compromised with the adversary rather than standing firm and holding the line and fighting for the truth.

Another troubling aspect of the problem is that those who fight for the truth seem to grow weary and want to lay down their arms, set aside the battle and focus on the more pleasant aspects of their confession.  The adversary never rests, however.  He just looks for the unguarded door by which he may enter anew and raise the battle again.  Meanwhile, the old battles are never really quite over.  The advocates of error always believe that they are right, and when their opinions are not able to dominate, they seem to seek out teaching posts where they can spread the infection of their ideas to a new generation.  Our age does not understand the principle of destroying error.  Once it is rendered relatively powerless in the estimation of the leadership, practitioners of error are tolerated, and we grant them tenure at some institution, and promote them through the system as though their error were a personal peccadillo of no real consequence, and the stage is set for them to enable the next uprising.

Superheroes in the comic books always seem to leave the job not quite finished and thereby set the stage for their arch-enemy's eventual return.  It makes a great plot point for a story writer, but for real life it simply ensures more division, more struggle, and more pain.  The world of comic books is a pretend place of no real consequence.  The battle for truth in the church and society is of lasting consequence and bears very real results in the real lives of real people.  We cannot grow tired and rest.  The Leader of our cause will decide when it is time for each of us to rest.  Until then, there is always a need to be vigilant, watching for the encroachments of the enemy and taking the battle to the adversary. Oratio, meditatio, tentatio - prayer, meditation, and temptation - make a theologian.  We need to stand firm and always contend for the faith - every little bit of it wherever it is tested or challenged.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


I was participating in an on-line discussion of stewardship  when I realized that the thread sounded like a "giving of money" thread.  Stewardship is a whole lot larger a topic than just that one aspect.  Stewardship is the use and management of all the blessings with which God has blessed one.  How one deals with life and all it contains -Stewardship - will be determined by either the Law or the Gospel, even among those who do not share the Christian faith -- only theirs is always Law (self-imposed).  In most Christians, it is a little of both. 

God gives us all He gives us for His purposes, not merely for our own.  How one deals with life, time, talents, treasures, and so on is determined by whether or not one believes that assertion, and, if so, what one believes God's purposes are - and particularly His purposes in them and for them as He blesses them.

The difficult thing to keep in one's head is that God knows.  He knows - always and everywhere - where you are and what you have and what you are facing and what you need, and so much more.  When one believes the Gospel, they can act as though God knows - looking to see what God has set before them to do and what He has given them for the accomplishing of that task - or those tasks.  Unbelief leaves one only with the use of stuff for one's own purposes and advantage, which almost never works out quite the way one imagines at the start.

God gives us abilities.  Then He gives us a place in the world and circumstances in which to live.  He sets work before us, and pleasures, and duties and opportunities, and the steward then must determine what there is to do, and what they are capable of doing, and what resources they have to do those things.  They must decide - or remember - who it is they serve.  We then go about life - giving ourselves to God (or not) by how we deal with our neighbor and how we manage the things God has given into our stewardship.  Good stewardship is not necessarily giving a lot of time, or money, or both to the church.  That might be part of it, but some who may do those things might be terrible stewards - if they do it reluctantly and because they feel coerced, for example.  Some might give boldly to make themselves look good.  Their foolishness may be useful to a church budget, but it is not good stewardship.  Some people deny their families time or money for the sake of the congregation, proving themselves to be poor stewards, while others deny the church their participation or gifts, using their families (for example) as their excuse, also proving to be poor stewards.

Stewardship is to be measured by the Master, not by one's fellow stewards.  Do you live out what you believe in a consistent manner?  If so, you are probably a faithful steward.

When it comes to the plea for giving money, I always tell my congregation "The Lord loves a cheerful giver."  If you want to do it, then do it.  If you don't, then don't.  That same principle applies to any service in the Church.  If there are not enough faithful stewards around to support a congregation, the congregation will not last.  If there are enough who hunger for the Word, they will find a way to support the congregation's needs in terms of time, talents and treasure.  The focus needs to be on the Word, and not on perceived needs.  God can stretch a little a long way, and He can burn through a fortune in no time flat. 

Prov. 3:5-6 seems fitting: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight."

Thursday, August 05, 2010

The Proof Is in the Pudding

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.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Timed Test

Have you ever taken one of those timed tests?  You know the kind, where you have a seemingly endless list of difficult questions, and only a certain number of minutes in which to complete the test, or as much of it as you are able?  I have taken a few in my time, and sometimes the test flies by and you wonder why they have given you so much time.  Other tests are so hard that you could swear that they have shortened the time when you were not looking, and you struggle to finish what you are able to accomplish in the time allotted.  Then, there is the test that seems quite doable, but as you progress in the test, you find it so challenging that you pray for the time to run out so you can simply stop testing.

Life is a timed test.  We have no idea how long it is, or how difficult it can or will be.  Sometimes it seems like you will have all the answers finished long before you run out of time.  Sometimes it seems like you will never be able to answer all of the questions.  But most of the time, life is a difficult test.  Just when you think you have it squared away, you turn the page and new challenges confront you.

I find myself hoping, at times, that the time runs out and I can quit testing.  I miss those who have finished the test ahead of me and are no longer there to kibitz with.  I find some of the questions tiresome, and some of them just too painful to keep answering.  Mostly, I find it frustrating that instead of feeling more competent as time goes on, I feel less capable.

The Gospel is such a wonderful thing.  It tells me that I never was capable, and God knew it.  Sometimes it feels like the point of the test is to run out of gas and finally know that the only passing grade is a gift from the test administrator.  The longer I sit and test, the more certain I am that I have little to offer the testing process.  I cannot quit early, they mark that down as a failure, but I certainly long for the day I can lay down my pencil and turn the test papers in, and go out and join my friends and family who have completed the test before me.  I am sure they are just waiting for me to join them so we can celebrate together.

Oh well.  Back to the test.  It seems I have a few more questions to answer, and who knows how much time yet to get it done.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Don't Start Now!

If you do not normally read your bills while paying them, or someone else handles that chore, don't pick them up and start reading them.  It is like a visit to the Twilight Zone!

I confess.  My wife handles the bill paying -- by her choice and my happy compliance with her desire.  But today I decided to open the bills that arrived and read them.  The electric bill had an assortment of taxes and assessments, and energy charge (for the electricity) and an "availability charge" of $25.

That last one caught my eye.  I actually called to ask them what the item was.  The girl on the other end said it was just what it said it was -- it was the cost of providing the electricity - the buildings, the wires, the poles, and the salaries of various people.  I asked if she was saying that I was paying for the electricity and then also paying them to deliver it -and she said, "Of course!"

Frankly, it strikes me as stealing.  I don't go to grocers and expect to pay for the groceries and then have an additional percentage tacked on to cover the cost of the building and the employees.  I don't expect the gas station in town to charge an extra premium for actually having a station and pumps and such.  I expect that the products purchased are priced to include the cost of doing business.  The electric company, however, is bold enough to charge a pretty premium for the electricity and then charge the customers for their cost of doing business on top of the high cost of their product.

Next, I imagine that they will add a profit surcharge - you know, to cover actually making a profit on top of the cost of the product and their cost of doing business.  You can only get away with these shenanigans when the product is absolutely necessary and there is no real competition.  Utilities and governments - the two really abusive entities.  I wish I had not read my bills.

Thursday, July 22, 2010


I have been reviewing the recent convention of the LC-MS with others by telephone and emails.  Some of the things that were proposed for our Synod did not happen, and I think that is good.  There is reason to hope for good things in our Synod, mostly because we have a gracious Lord and I expect good from Him.  The elections at the convention also cheered me, but not as much as they cheered others.  I have seen good men elected before, and when they are gone, the Synod is found to have deteriorated step by step during their tenure, in spite of their very fine work.  The forces that want to see our confession altered never rest, and sometimes the warriors for the truth relax their guard when good men are in place, expecting them to do all the heavy lifting.  That expectation is not always met.

I understand why warriors relax at times.  They get tired of doing battle without relief.  They face the accusations of being negative and cranky and critical all of the time.  I know because I have been hearing that about myself since I was ordained.  It does get tiresome.  I have also seen good men, comrades in arms in this great effort, turn suddenly and abandon the battle, sometimes turning to the "dark side", to use a Star Wars analogy.  It is always amazing, and disappointing, and sobering, and sorrowful when that happens.  From time to time we all long for a break in the battle, but the truth is that the break in the battle comes at the casket, not at the election of the 'right man' to the office.  God will tell each of us when it is time to relax and set aside our vigilance.

I remember the days after the Seminex thing and the supposed ascendancy of the conservatives under Jack Preus.  I heard many an old war-horse say that we had finally won and now we could rest and get back to "gospel ministry".  I heard a lot of young, new to the battle pastors saying the same thing -- as though contending for the faith and confessing Christ were something other than gospel ministry.  Of course, Jack Preus changed a bit, apparently concerned that too rigorous a stand would split the Synod, and he was not about to have that happen on his watch!  Then he pointed out his chosen successor, the meek and mild Ralph Bohlmann, and we were off to the races again.  One can never set aside vigilance without setting aside faithfulness.

Now we are being treated to criticism of the vigilance of one element of the conservative coalition by another, and some talk of optimism, cautious, of course.  I have been in this Synod and in the struggle for faithful confession of Christ within her ranks for just over thirty years.  I have watched how things go, and have studied our history a little, going back to the days of Walther and Pieper and Pfotehauer, and I have found absolutely no cause for optimism.  As I said, I have hope, but that is because of our gracious God, but optimism seems a little out of touch.

I expect good things from President Harrison.  He is a good and sincere man and a Christian.  He seems like the sort who is not the least ashamed of being Lutheran -- a sort of theologian and leader that has been in short supply in our midst for a long time.  I am praying for him and his team and our Synod daily.

I am also aware that the men and women of Jesus First, and similar organizations in our Synod, have not given up and thrown in the towel.  They have a vision for the future of our Synod that will not be set aside by them or easily denied by the Synod.  Their sympathizers still hold many positions in our Synod, and they often sit in the seats of education where they can recruit new supporters and foot-soldiers.  We are way too far down the path described by Krauth (on the progress of error in the church) for this battle to be done with quickly, and those who stand on the other side of the divide from me have come too close to dominance to give up and go away.

No, history shows us that almost never does the tide of error and tolerance with false doctrine get turned back.  Some people praised our Synod in the seventies that we had done it, but that victory was only in one skirmish, and those who despise God's Word came back with a vengeance.  The problem is that they always come as wolves in sheep's clothing and when we are too clear about identifying them, they cry out in feigned pain and hypocritical piety and take two steps forward for every one step back they were forced to endure.  They move forward because the optimists consider too clear a confession to be unnecessarily offensive, and they want to appear reasonable.

I am not optimistic about the long term.  The devil never sleeps or grows tired, but good men sometimes do.  I have a hope that God will bless our Synod that for a time we may continue to be a voice for the Gospel, but no church body anywhere has ever stood faithful for very long.  I have read how even during the days of Walther, some men were chomping at the bit, eagerly waiting for that good man to die and get out of their way so they could make the necessary improvements and modernizations in the Church.  They were eager to see Pieper die and relieve them of the oppressive control of that good man.  There is always a team of men and women just waiting for the opening to push their agenda forward, and patiently tilling the soil (so to speak) preparing for their opportunity to harvest their crop of change.

So, let us lighten up on the Optimism, and set aside the critique of those whose zeal for faithful confession is somewhat more strident than our own.  May God bless President-elect Harrison, and our beloved Synod through him and his team and their work.  But let us not forget which side of the great divide we are on and which "team" we want to see win.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

It's Done!!

The convention is over, for good or for ill.  Some final thoughts:

First, let me give praise where it is due:  President Gerald Kieschnick ran a great convention!  I am addressing the chairing of the thing, not the business, of course.  He was fair and impartial, patient beyond patience and good humored.  If all the President did was chair the convention, he would be a great president.  I thank him for his conduct of the convention.  I was most impressed with his handling of the election of the new president, which must have caused him personal consternation, but he did not show it publicly.  Well done, Rev. President!

What this convention will have done to our Synod waits to evidence itself, but reading the resolutions does not give one a good feeling.  It appears to have changed the nature and polity of the Synod.  It has become a top-down thing, not a congregation-led church body.  The President, any president, has been given too much power.  Any president of the future that is minded to dramatically distort our Synod has that power much more nearly at hand.

The majority of the delegates seemed to grow very tired, and simply passed whatever was given to them.  Only three resolutions failed.  Another three were referred back or withdrawn, and less than a dozen were amended.  Everything else passed, often by huge majorities.  That means that as the week went on, tired delegates simply voted "yes" to get it over with.

Some argued that since these "good men and women" on the committees had worked so hard, we should honor their work by passing it.  But that was not the task of the delegates.  Their task was to be to act as gatekeepers and only admit what was, in fact, beneficial for our church.  Now, their judgment may have differed from mine at times, but the passage of so many resolutions so uncritically - even allowing the question to be called regularly without debate, means that they were not acting as gatekeepers, but as an unguarded gate!

It was troubling to see not just lay delegates, but pastoral delegates approach the microphone and confess that they did not understand parliamentary procedure, had not studied the resolutions they were acting upon, and did not even understand what was happening around them.  When a pastor tries to amend "commend for study" with "encourage the Synod to read and study", he reflects that he had no idea what the language he was trying to amend meant.  A Pastor!   Senseless amendments to add words that were already there in previous resolves of the same resolution seemed to indicate that the amenders (sadly, pastors again) had not carefully read the resolutions, or comprehended them if they had read them.

Saddest of all is that the delegates repeatedly tried to fiddle with the insignificant language of the resolutions while ignoring the real issues.  For example, no one addressed the perpetual gerrymandering of the Synod's regions they were authorizing as they approved that resolution, but they fiddled with - or tried to - relatively unimportant phrases in the whereas-es or the resolves.  Clearly, many of the people who were voting to totally transform our beloved Synod were not serious about the work or even quite aware of what they were doing, in many cases.

One pastor stood up and condemned an overture in the workbook, one seeking to confirm our confession, as "controlling and dysfunctional".  Whether one agrees with the overture -the overture asked the Synod to request those church bodies in altar and pulpit fellowship with our Synod to withdraw from the LWF because the LWF boldly states that membership in it is also altar and pulpit fellowship with all the other members - the judgment that expressing that concern is dysfunctional or controlling is simply outrageous!  I found the dancing and spinning to avoid the issue performed before the convention by the CTCR leadership to be dysfunctional.  But be that as it may, the condescension of the pastor who spoke so harshly should have been called out of order by the chair.

In fact, before I go on to the next thought, it should be noted that if those churches that stand in full fellowship with us can define altar and pulpit fellowship issues so differently that they can belong the the LWF and say that they 'do not consider it to be fellowship' while the LWF proclaims that membership is fellowship, how can we have any confidence that anything they agree to or sign means anything to them that it means to us?  Confessing the same faith while acknowledging that they confess something different elsewhere ought to be a big red flag!  If their traditions tell them that words mean something different to them than they do to us, Dr. Nafzger, how can we honestly have confidence that their confession of the same faith with us means the same things to them as we understand them to mean?  The defense of rejecting Overture 3-16 offered to the convention casts doubt on the entire process of declaring fellowship that was being defended!

On to the next point:  The same faces were seen at the microphones far too often.  There was a convention of twelve hundred people but the same two dozen speakers showed up at the microphones on every issue.  Some of that was doubtlessly an attempt to stall the convention and forestall it business, but they were out-maneuvered and out-planned.  Every single resolution that the committees wanted to bring before the convention were acted upon.  The planners gave the convention too much time to be forestalled, and the chair of the convention was far too able to be denied that victory.

On the bright side, from my perspective, the elections went well, and the convention made the best of the election process that it could have.  The Synod has a new presidium and they will have the opportunity to make the best possible use of the unfortunate changes enacted by the convention.  They will need our prayers.  Only God knows what He has planned for the next few years of our church body, and we must pray and work to see that the best possible results obtain from all of this.

Still, this will not be the "Old Missouri".  Whether that is a good thing or not will depend on the members of the Synod.  I am not optimistic, but I do believe that God is in charge, and He can make wonderful things happen even in circumstances we might consider truly unfortunate.  And what we have in our Synod is not evil, just different, unknown and unpredictable, and spooky to contemplate, knowing the history of the last decades of conflict in our Synod.

May God guide us and bless us, and prosper the Gospel through all of our work.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Let's Pretend!

As happens with most conventions, almost everything is passing --  unfortunately.  Sometimes pious fictions get approved as well.  In the case of resolution 7-02, we had a deliberate white-washing of history.

The resolution, which finally passed with an 83.5% approval, stated that CCM opinion 02-2309 "should not have been and shall never be understood" to grant immunity to any member of Synod in the case of misconduct.  During the debate on the issue, a delegate stood up and read the words of the opinion as published, "The member that acted cannot be charged since he or she acted according to the advice of his or er ecclesiastical supervisor" (emphasis added).  The floor committee, in the person of its chairman, D.P. Lane Seitz, proceeded to say that the opinion did not say what it said and did not mean what it meant because the CCM has had other opinions on the same topic.  That is intentionally misguiding and misinforming the convention.

I believe the assembly passed the thing by the margin it did because the delegates are getting tired of the debate - and the endless amendments, and some people there simply don't want that opinion overturned because it would mean that expulsion the D.P. David Benke, overturned by that CCM opinion, was proper all those years ago.  Regardless of its consequences, or lack of them, the resolution as passed is wrong - and it is not even a 'pious fantasy'.  The argument was made, by a member of "Jesus First", that the problem was so long ago and we should let the past be by-gones.  A lie, however, even when codified and made part of the official history of the Synod by convention, is still a lie.

But, hey, we are church!  This convention is all about unity and forgiveness and such.  So why rock the boat?

Somebody someday will point back at words (not necessarily these, but it will happen) carefully crafted to hide the truth, and say, "See?  They passed it back then!"  It won't matter that people did not know what they were doing, or that they endorsed a dishonest statement.  It will just be fodder for the mill, to promote something else, perhaps dicey and suspect.  But, since it is a convention, and everyone is supposed to be on their toes and paying attention, let's pretend!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A Pleasant Surprise

This has been a typical Missouri Synod convention.  The delegates make a mess by choosing policies that are "progressive", and then select a solid, conservative man to handle the mess.  They did it to J.A.O. Preus in the 1960's.  They did it to Alvin Barry in the 1980's.  Now we have done it to Matthew Harrison.

Don't get me wrong, I am delighted that Matthew Harrison was elected -- and on the first ballot!  I praise God that He did not leave Matthew alone, but gave him a good man for first Vice-President in Herbert Mueller.  Three of the four other VP's were also confessional men likely to be of one mind with our new president.  Still, they will have to deal with the unwise re-organization of the Synod chosen by the delegates.

While I am not cheered by the direction of the Synod's votes on polity, I am comforted that we will have good men leading the Synod as it puts it into place.  I must leave the final outcome in the hands of our Lord - nothing else is clear in this jumble.

Thank you, Lord, for the comfort of the election of this Presidium!

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Day the Music Died

The song in my title came to mind as I was watching my home burn down.  It wasn't the house I live in, it was the Synod that I had grown up in that burned down.  No matter what else happens, we can mark July 12, 2010 as the day the Missouri Synod died.

It was a close thing -- 51.3% voted to change the Synod structure.  Without seeming to recognize it, the delegates in the slender majority codified the change from Synod as a working-together of congregations, and an assisting organization for that work, into a thing of which congregations are merely sub-units and franchises.  Synod now determines how we congregations will work and what our goals and emphases shall be.  They haven't gotten to them yet, but other Committee Eight resolutions will change the definition of membership, reducing the significance and uniqueness of the pastoral ministry into just one of fourteen brands of "individual membership", and requiring congregational members to get on board, support the programs, and send in their money in order to remain members in good standing.  Quite the change.

How do I know that they will approve this?  They already approved on-going, perpetual gerrymandering of the Synod by the BOD and the COP to make sure that we elect the right sort of Vice Presidents - and BOD and what not.  So, now we have a new structure, a new, top-down organizational polity, a new relationship of pastors to Synod and to other "individual members", and the new idea of congregations as sub-units of synod, instead of the Synod as the creation and tool for the service of the ministry of the congregations.

What is really frustrating, besides the self-serving dishonesty (we call that "spin") of the officials, is that the debate on the floor of the convention has revealed that this slender majority that is enacting all these sweeping changes in our Synod does not seem to understand the polity they are replacing, or parliamentary procedure.  They seem to be in love with their own voices and with pointless amendments and terminating debate over the issues of greatest importance to the life our our Synod.  But they do not appear to understand the issues, or the intended or unintended consequences of their actions.

God is in charge, but I don't think His aim in this convention is as bright and positive as the leaders of our church body would like us to believe.  "My word will not return unto me void, without accomplishing that for which I sent it," does not mean that God always speaks to bless.  Sometimes He speaks to judge.  I weep for the Synod that once was, which nurtured me and so many, and which is very soon to be no longer.

I have always opposed the resolutions to change the name of the Synod.  I think now, it is time.  After all, it is not the Missouri Synod any longer, at least not the Synod of Walther and Wyneken, and Pieper and Pfotenhauer.  More's the pity.

Lord, have mercy upon us!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Hard to Believe it is Lutheran

I tuned in to watch the streaming video of the opening worship of the LCMS convention tonight.  I was truly impressed.  I was not sure I watching anything Lutheran, but it was impressive.

First, I have to confess I tuned in late.  I came in at the middle of the sermon by our beloved President.  I have a problem, and it is mine, personally, with the man.  He does things that make no sense for a man in his position in a Christian church body, so I have trouble listening to him -- and I didn't do much listening.  I found something else to do, as he was telling the gripping story of the frantic attempt to save someone's life so his daughter could be reconciled with him.  It was a gripping, tear-jerking story.  He told it well.  I would rather have heard solid Word of God preaching, but I guess that is just me.

Then I watched the communion service.  Now, I must confess, I do not believe that conventions and conferences have any business having communion services.  There can be no proper exercise of pastoral discipline at the altar.  I was raised to believe that closed communion was proper, and Missouri Synod polity said that such things (you know, communion services) belonged in the context of the congregation at worship.  Still I watched, riveted by what was happening like someone might be as they watched a tragic accident unfold.

The service planning committee decided the issue of the Eucharistic Prayer.  They used one.  I would not have been able to commune for that reason alone, if I were minded to commune at conferences (which I believe is contrary to our Missouri Synod theology in this regard), because I believe that the Eucharistic Prayer is not appropriate for Lutheran services.  I know I am not in agreement with many of my brothers on this topic, but that is where I stand, and I was disappointed to see that we had that issue resolved for the convention with the wrong answer.

I noticed that they practiced the showy  but un-Lutheran practice of the fraction of the host - breaking the huge piece of bread - during the consecration.  I had been taught that Lutherans did not do that because the Reformed insisted, contrary to sound doctrine, that it was essential to the proper practice and of the essence of the Supper.  We avoided the fraction, not by law but by confession, just as we avoid Baptism by immersion because so many among the Reformed say it isn't a 'valid' baptism without total immersion.  So they offended sound Lutheran practice, in my opinion, by breaking the host in the speaking of the Words of Institution.

Then I noticed that none of the elements on the altar during the consecration were used in the distribution.  When all was said and done, those elements remained on the altar.  The elements that were distributed were behind the officiant in the hands of the assisting ministers throughout the consecration - and the officiant never made any move to identify them or recognize them as present while he was speaking the words of institution.  My judgment at that point was that they had no communion to distribute, just common cookies and Kool-aide, like the Reformed they seemed so eager to emulate.  I had never seen a symbolic consecration like that before, at least not in a Lutheran Church.

Then the songs sung during the distribution - I hesitate to call them hymns - were, with one exception, '7-11' type praise songs.  Some of them did not actually name the Lord of whom, presumably, they spoke.  One of the songs mentioned the name of Jesus only once.  Another kept singing about "my Jesus Christ", as though He were their personal possession and someone else might validly have another Jesus Christ?  Clearly, the service was intended for someone who had not grown up in a traditional Missouri Synod congregation.

I found it all troubling.  But that is just me, and I am a newcomer to Lutheranism.  I was only Baptized about 60 years ago and raised in the LCMS, and attended one of the Missouri Synod's seminaries for four years.  I only have 30 years experience in the parish ministry as an active advocate for true and confessional Lutheranism, so I probably misjudged much of what I saw due to my recent entrance into Lutheranism.

I also found the prayers in the service disquieting.  Paul says that hearing the Word of God in a "tongue" and not knowing what is being said is a judgment of God (see 1 Cor. 14) on unbelief.  The exception is when someone interprets.  Unfortunately when the prayers were offered in Korean (I think) and some African Tongue, Spanish, and even our beloved German, there were no subtitles explaining what was being prayed.  As Paul says, how can we add the "Amen" if we do not know what is being said (1 Cor 14:16)?  Call me a fuddy-duddy, but 1 Cor 14:21 & 22 seem to speak to this situation, too.

I often have issues with convention service planners, like the year we had a preacher at our Synodical Convention wearing a yarmulke as he preached, which seemed to disregard God's Word about praying and prophesying with one's head covered.  I stubbornly think that God's Word remains valid and true and we ought to respect it.  This year just struck me as flying in the face of Lutheranism.  I am sure I will be told that I am wrong, and that we have learned to understand those passages differently - or disregard them - but it was hard to believe that what I was watching streaming over the internet was Lutheran.  Even harder to believe it was the LCMS.  I guess this is not my grandfather's church any longer, after all!

Thursday, July 08, 2010

A Dog's Life

I was walking my dog the other day when it struck me how a dog could serve as an illustration of human behavior in sin.

My dog is always straining at the leash, and when he is permitted to run free in the yard, he is always testing the limits.  It doesn't seem to matter how large or small the yard is, the only thing the dog is interested in is the edge of the yard - and he is constantly trying to escape to the 'outside'.

My dog is generally responsive to voice commands, so I can walk him around the yard - or sometimes the neighborhood - without a leash, but now and then, he acts as though he is deaf.  I know that he is not deaf; he can hear me open a bag of dog treats (or the container of animal crackers - his favorite!) from three rooms away.  Nevertheless, he acts deaf when he thinks I cannot see him, or I am too far away to grab him.  He is particularly hard of hearing when he is facing something he does not want to do - like take a bath or get a haircut.

Human behavior when facing the will of God is similar.  We tend to always want to go where we ought not to go and to do the forbidden thing.  When our circumstances permit little freedom, we seem driven to disobey in some small way, and take a perverse sort of comfort in doing so.  Where we have no limits -or so it seems- on our conduct, we tend to try to find the limits by doing more and more absurd, foolish, or dangerous things.  We tend not to hear the Word of God unless we are in trouble, or we want something from Him very urgently.

One day, I asked him why he was so contrary (as though he is capable of understanding everything I say) - and it struck me that his conduct was just like sinful man's conduct before God.  That did not make his misbehavior much easier to deal with, but it did make me laugh -- and thank God that He is so much more patient and forgiving that I am often minded to be.

It also put me in mind of the poem by Robert Burns, the Scottish poet, called, "To a Louse", referring to the insect, not to a particular sort of human miscreant.  Anyhow, the first two lines of the last verse are as follows:

O wad some Pow'r the giftie gie us
To see oursels as others see us.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

A First Look

The following is my first look at the "Today's Business" #1 for the July LCMS Convention. Take it for what it is worth. It may help you as you begin to unravel this thing. Note: now and again there is a little sarcasm in the responses. It is difficult to avoid when you spend hours reading self-serving bureaucratic jargon.


To Celebrate failing to meet the goal. Weird. Compare whereas #1 with #6.


Ablaze is not Lutheran to begin with. Let's put it away. It will pass no matter what. (That is called a "Gimmee")


A pointless Gimmee.


We could use better materials. Let's stop congratulating ourselves and develop some better stuff.


A nice thought. a reasonable idea. Hardly seems like it should require a convention resolution.




This hardly needs a resolution. It just requires common sense.


A waste of time, and a gimmee.


Ov 1-11 needs to be removed from this and considered on its own merits.


Bad idea. Just reinforces the bureaucracy. Comes from them too.


That is what we need, Synod guidance on how to fire people. Sadly, another gimmee.

2-03 -- A bunch of gobbledy gook and techno speak. Ridiculous.

“as they cluster in Christian communities sometimes also known as congregations;” (??)

“Such concern is reflective of the mind of Christ and is integral to His mission mandate to reach out to all” *this is not a true statement*

2-04 -- a waste of time and energy, simply an advertisement for CPH

2-05 -- the first resolved asserts something that is not demonstrably true and should be edited or deleted.

2-06 -- good idea

2-07 -- a nice idea, but really.

3-01 -- need to determine what the heck is meant by statements like:

“Loving, compassionate recognition of the deep pain and personal struggles that same-sex inclinations produce in many individuals, families, and congregations may not be neglected in the name of moral purity” (“Theological Implications,” 2010 CW, p. 15);

and ask what the import of phrases like this are: “[T]he LCMS believes and teaches that same-gender genital sexual activity–in every situation– violates the will of our Creator and must be recognized as sin” - where does this striking precision come from - "same-gender genital sexual activity"?

Since all of the resolution becomes the official position of the Synod, should it not be plain and clear?

This resolved does not appear to be true: Resolved, That the LCMS commend groups such as Word Alone, Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ (LCMC), Lutheran CORE, and others for their courage and faithfulness in maintaining their confessional identity by opposing the ELCA’s recent decision;

WHAT "confessional identity" are they addressing?


The resolution applauds the statement of the task force, fails to address the issue of the appropriateness of the 'cooperation in externals' and punts any thinking about the issue another three years down the road.


How can we discuss this issue when pastors are ejected from the Synod because their congregations have taken a confessional stand against the Synod, or failed to join the Synod - the case of a new congregation - in a timely fashion? If these men are not fit for fellowship as members of the Synod, how could we make that sort of determination about some fledgling church body?


We need a thorough response, and the issues raised by the ELCA document are for deeper and more significant than those mention in the resolution


As long as we commend it for study but do not commend it uncritically or commend the CTCR for the study, this is okay.


A sound idea.


A Gimmee


Needs to be substituted by the original memorial 3-16.

The LWF has declared itself a fellowship and all belonging are in Altar and Pulpit Fellowship - which means that we are in fellowship with everyone in the LWF if anyone we are in fellowship with is in the LWF.

4-01 Stewardship

a generic resolution: a gimmee.


These things are the duties of the Board of Directors, and should require no resolution. typical CYA waste of time.


Reflects the problem of the Synod, that the Synod sees itself as the central and top priority, and looks to manage the Synod full of churches and people for its advantage. Nonetheless, the idea is sound. Keep the people informed.


Stupid. Make stewardship and financial management a required course for all church workers? Resolution fails to understand that the problem is not going to be solved by programs and courses. It is about faith and the Word of God.


Resolution to permit two individuals from the same district to be elected to the Board of Directors for the simple expedience of the convention process. Not necessarily a wise idea.


Changes the priority of the purposes of Synod - making formation of new congregations and preaching stations primary and the support and maintenance of training and educating pastors and teachers moves down to about fourth place.

Removes the voting privileges from the pastors.

diminishes the identification of the Board of Directors.

Grants the authority to re-write the constitution of the Synod to the corporation. without any necessary turning to the Synod in convention.

Constitution and by-laws may be changed at any convention, special or regular, by a simple majority of the delegates, or by two-thirds majority of the delegates present for the vote. Whichever is less.

Not salutary changes.


Changes made to move the nominations and memorializing of the Synod farther away from the convention time. [sarcasm alert] I suppose with all our modern conveniences and tools, it is too much to expect that we could do the same work as those in previous generations without our modern conveniences.

The resolution also shifts a significant portion of the costs associated with the convention to the congregations and people, and changes the responsibility for delivery from Synod to user in most situations. Pay more, get less. Their solution to the problems of the changes in the post office is to put it up on a web site and make others find it and print it out at their cost.


Expands the presidents authority in planning conventions slightly and removes all time expectations from the procedure.


Streamlining the present system, but not altering the parts that have given offense - such as the president's power of appointment.


A reasonable change.


Codifying a CCM ruling. Even if it is defeated, the effect is null because the opinion will not have been vacated by the convention.






Poorly worded attempt to permit meetings to be done using technology rather than requiring travel and hotels.


Cost cutting. May not be wise - would rather implement go-to-meeting type technology and keep a variety of voices in the loop. Resolution is filled with bureaucratic-speak jargon.


Ov. 4-23 should be removed from the resolution by amendment. This issue is one that should be decided by the convention, not by the greedy overlords.


a gimmee.


Pointless, and a gimmee.


[Sarcasm alert] Why not simply ordain everyone at their baptism and stop this charade? - vote no. AC XIV


Waste of paper.


Another attempt to require continued education and hold the pastors hostage to the whims of the DP's - which they already are, pretty much - vote NO


Reverses things: the old way had the board of regents select the candidates and the electors elect them. This resolution has the electors -now called the "prior approval panel" determines who can be on the slate and the Board of Regents does the electing.


Generalizes the duties of the President and reduces his direct authority. The old by-laws gave the President the power to delegate his duties and responsibilities to others. I think that system was better.


A total change, eliminating by-laws about application, certification and placement. 5 pages of by-laws reduced to 14 lines.


The rationale explains that most people would not be qualified to be on the board of Regents. Gotta have advanced degrees and directly applicable experience and stuff.


Removes notification of intent to grant tenure from the process. Cuts out the ignorant layman and bellicose pastor.


. . . is the same resolution as 5-10


Eliminates the expectation that faculty will be rostered members of Synod, because "in many disciplines of study the most qualified faculty members are not rostered members of the Synod". Simply regularizing a practice that is contrary to the present constitution and by-laws.


Recommends rejecting specific memorials because the Board behind the committee doesn't like them.


Thank God that Human Care does what it is supposed to.
a Gimmee.


Another pro-life resolution. Good, but unnecessary.


Extending the definition of a call officially to those who serve as institutional chaplains and instructors.


To join the Lutheran Malaria Initiative - along with the ELCA, LWR and accept support from the UN. Good passion. Bad associations. Say NO.


To more formally support Prison Ministry - kind of a gimmee.


To continue working in the area of Domestic Abuse. a gimmee


To work to end human trafficking and slavery. another kind of gimmee.

After all, isn't the church really all about social ministry - helping the underdog. That is the real meaning of religion, right? Then we become ELCA Light.


To encourage the hokum called the Task force on Synodical Harmony. A Hokum Gimmee


Refusal to admit when the CCM makes a mistake - continuing to hold out the rationale for reversing the judgment against the unionism of David Benke. Once again, a rationalizing and justification.


To finally formalize a method of getting rid of troublesome members of Boards and Commission. Political expedience, and about time! Vote NO


Tweaking a bad system of reconciliation. Add a Layman.


Making sure that SMP's can receive calls, as long as they are approved by the DP.


Making it explicitly clear that we can call pastors from church bodies with which we are in fellowship.


Cannot pass this because the rationale, which is part of the resolution, is faulty and dishonest, and the resolution makes financial support of the Synod and completing statistical reports for the Synod part of the obligations of and condition of continuing membership in the Synod


Study the idea of establishing a statute of limitations in the Dispute Resolution Process


Decline overtures, specifically avoiding the desire to require CCM opinions to expire if not approved specifically in convention.

Committee 8 - Structure and Governance: "Run, Forest, Run!!"


Eliminate any distinction between rostered members of the Synod, now called "Individual Members" - and they all are eligible to be the non-lay delegate from the congregation.


Now moving to a quadrennium.

Congregations can no longer send in memorials to Synod - must send them to the circuit to process, and they must send them to District to process and send on to the Synod.

Enforcing the vocabulary of Minister of religion- Commissioned / ordained.

Eliminating Visitation Circuits and forming "Circuit Networks"

Circuit Forum will select the Circuit Counselor.

The District President shall nominate the candidates for Circuit Counselor.

The quadrennium will be Circuit Convocations, year 1, District Convocation, year 2, District Conventions Year 3, and Synodical conventions year 4.


Electing Circuit Counselors. Nominations begin with the congregations, but the District President has to have the right to nominate candidates. (Huh?)


Change in voting delegates to district conventions:
each congregation gets at least a layman, even in multiple congregation parishes.
In the event of a vacancy, each congregation can elect an "Individual member" to replace the pastor.
Churches with schools can send teachers instead of laymen.
Large parishes get twice as many delegates.


Synodical convention delegates are elected by the district
no longer pastoral delegates, but "individual member delegates"
The number of delegates per district will be computed based on A) 10% of the number of congregations in the Synod and B) the proportion of confirmed members in the district as a proportion of the Synodical whole.


Overtures may be submitted by congregations directly, but priority will be given to those which come through Circuit Forums and Districts.


To study how to deal with districts.


Leave CCM and CTCR alone - and Doctrinal review - and shuffle everything else into a two Board structure.

Treasurer will be CFO and appointed, not elected
Office of National Mission (ONM) and Office of International Mission (OIM) be established
Chief Mission officer oversee the ONM (above) working with CFO and CAO - Chief Administrative Officer
CMO also oversee the OIM (above)


makes explicit that congregations are sub-units of Synod, and responsible to carry out Synod programs - used to be Synod was the servant of the congregation


Adjusting things for the CFO no longer being an officer of Synod.


Formalize a procedure that will result in a new name for the Synod


To allow the BOD to adjust the handbook to reflect the new changes consistently


To give the President more power in the choosing of the First Vice-President.


To divide the Synod into five geographical regions and have one of each of the VP's elected from each region. Guaranteed to eliminate the possibility of electing conservative VP's


To allow the COP and the BOD to restructure the nominations to match the adopted new structure for this convention.


To require the new BOD be representative of the 5 regions.


To elect the president before the convention with all congregations having two votes two weeks before the convention.


To establish a 4 year cycle in place of the three year cycle.

8-19 & 8-20

Housekeeping to accommodate the change to a four year cycle.


changes to accommodate a four year cycle in term of office.


How to adopt doctrinal resolutions.

8-23 to 8-29
Housekeeping to update stuff


To change the requirements of membership in the Synod


to change the relationship of Synod to its members:
“B. Relation of the Members to the Synod

In their relation to the Synod, all members of the Synod, by voluntarily subscribing to the Confession (Article II) and the Constitution of the Synod, make a confession of faith, a joint commitment to God’s mission, and a mutual covenant of love. In so doing, they

1.Bind themselves to the confessional basis of the Synod (Article II);
2.Agree to abide by, honor, and uphold the collective will of the Synod as expressed in its Constitution, Bylaws, and convention resolutions;
3.Pledge their active involvement and support of the Synod’s efforts to carry out its mission and purpose; and
4.Promise that, if they find themselves to be in disagreement with the Synod’s actions or positions, they will so advise the Synod in a loving and evangelical manner, and if necessary follow the Synod’s authorized procedures for expressing dissent.


to reject all efforts to show this train down.

Hope that is a help as you sort through the book. Go ahead and comment your questions and I will try to respond.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

A brief response to Enroute . . . to Increased Harmony

One can hardly look at the report in the Reporter concerning the “Task Force on Synodical Harmony” without recognizing that it first and foremost illustrates the progress of error as outlined by the sainted Dr. Charles Porterfield Krauth, and that our Synod is well on it way between step two and step three. As a member of Synod, and therefore having a stake in the condition of our Synod, I find it difficult to trust the neutrality of the Task Force based solely on its origin. The contents of the abbreviated report in the Reporter appears to justify that lack of trust.

The first error of the report is the tacit assumption that the disharmony in the Synod is wrong, that is, that it is not as it should be in the light of the Synod as it exists today. One might effectively argue that the conditions in which the Synod finds itself is unfortunate, and in need of remedy, but that the consequent disunity and discord is viewed as a problem to be addressed independent of the causes of that disharmony is simply as symptom of the precarious condition of the Synod. The assumption that the Synod as it exists should not have sharp divisions and consequent discord is a demonstration of both the futility of the mission of the task force and that the task force itself is part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Discord in the Synod is not destructive of our unity in Christ or our concord in doctrine and practice, as asserted in the report. It is, in fact, that lack of unity in doctrine and practice that is creating the discord and disharmony. Far from being the cause, it is the symptom. Since the report views the situation from precisely the wrong perspective, it cannot help repair the problem, but will only serve to deepen the divide. Lip service to the potential blessings arising from conflict cannot disguise the faulty foundation upon which the effort proceeds. Discord is the symptom of the underlying disunity, not the cause of it.

The report is correct in noting that the problem is not merely that we are divided, but that many times those involved in the disputes of our church body conduct themselves in ways that are unbecoming the children of God and unhelpful to achieving the results that one must assume they hope to achieve, if one puts the best construction of everything as Luther so wisely counsels Christians to do. Polemical language is often strident, and emotions run deeply, but it is the part of Christians to eschew judging the heart of the other and addressing the problems clearly, taking no offense at the casual weaknesses of others as they struggle with issues that divide us and are of such significance in the faith of the disputants. Forgiveness and charity are proper starting points even in a debate. The battle will not be won, after all, by human chicanery, but by the Word of God, and not always immediately, but in God’s good time and order.

I will briefly address the seven ‘aspects’ of disharmony as reported in the “Board Briefs” contained in the Reporter mailed to members throughout the Synod. Regardless of the intention of the individual members of the task force, the report both lays bare the nature of the problem and explains, unintentionally I believe, why the effort to find unity and concord in the Synod by this methodology is doomed to failure. First on the list is “Inability to Deal with Diversity”. It notes that “most (not all) presenters agreed that our church is blessed with amazing concord in matters of doctrine”. The standard applied, however, must be measuring our agreement in doctrine against the diversity of doctrine throughout the spectrum of what calls itself “Christianity”. By that standard, any agreement is significant. The historic position of our church body is not to seek a minimal amount of agreement, but total agreement in doctrine. Against the more rigorous standard of our forefathers, we do not possess “amazing concord” in doctrine, but striking disunity on all but the most fundamental of doctrines, and some uncertainty even there within our Synodical ranks.

Our concord is further tarnished by the relegation of such things as admission to the Holy Communion, worship substance and style, the Office of the Public Ministry, the role of laity, and the “service” of women in the church to the realm of “practice” as opposed to doctrine. The report appears to gloss over the significant disunity in our midst over the understanding of the relationship and connection between doctrine and practice. Every controversy in our Synod appears to be categorized as an issue over practice, and assumed to be “non-doctrinal” (however that may be variously understood). The issue is acknowledged in the report, but appears clearly to be viewed by the Task Force from the perspective on those who do not stand with the historic doctrines and practices of our Synod in these controversies.

Second is “A Lack of Civility”. It is unfortunate that the analysis is couched in the terms of the unhelpful characterizations of only one element in the controversies of our Synod. There is no doubt that commandments have been breached by members on all sides of the questions in our Synod, but the official response from elements of the leadership of the synodical organization has often been to mis-characterize sincere and honest efforts at addressing the issues amongst us as violations of this or that commandment with no possibility of debate or discussion concerning those judgments, let alone the issues in question. To hear the charge repeated without a frank acknowledgment that it applies to all parties in the disunity of our Synod is disheartening and counter-productive.

The third point is spot on. The Synod is becoming politicized because the problems in our Synod are increasingly addressed from a political rather than theological foundation. Power trumps, and it does not appear that which “side” is in ascendancy changes that element of the equation – to the frustration of many who are not fighting for a team, but for the Synod’s well-being and for the Word of God to hold sway.

Aspect number four suggests that this is primarily a clergy problem. Two truths stand out that argue against the assertion being made here. First, pastors are supposed to be shepherds who protect their flock against the wolves. When error is openly tolerated and practiced, pastors are supposed to speak up. Viewing this as a “problem” is false and unhelpful. This is a clergy problem much like sound Biblical doctrine is inconvenient. It is only a problem if the clergy are leading away from the Word of God and sound practice, unless the one making this judgment is inconvenienced by the truth and unwilling to conform to the “sound words”, as in 1 Timothy 6:3.

The second truth which argues against this “aspect” is that when a congregation changes in new and unsettling ways, the laity who find the changes robbing them of the comforts of the Word and the familiar commonplaces of the liturgy (for example), often find that there is no alternative available for them. They have no congregation to flee to, no safe-haven of Word and Sacrament when the congregation at which they have been worshiping takes it upon itself to divest itself of the familiar and strike boldly out in a new and diverse direction. When the preaching is corrupted, when the hymns are taken away and replaced with less substantial songs, when creeds are discarded as too confining or “not visitor friendly”, the problem is not a clergy problem, it is a laity problem - they have, in many cases, no adequate alternative, and no champion to speak for them or fight for them.

Pastoral formation is supposed to prepare men to stand on the battlements and endure all odds for the sake of the truth and to protect and defend the sheep of the flock. To question pastoral formation because there are occasionally men who will actually take up the task to which their vows of ordination commit them - rather than because there are so many who will not and claim the right to be called ‘pastor’ while they fail to shepherd the flock in the pastures of the Word - is misguided and appears unhelpfully partisan.

Poor Communication across “party lines” (#5) results as often as not from commitment to different positions. Children often assume that communication is the same as capitulation. You haven’t ‘heard’ them unless and until you agree with them. The same mind-set afflicts many in the controversies of the church. Until we can understand that someone may disagree with us who truly understands us, we will continue to talk past one another. The task force needs to understand that what is lacking is the humility to be corrected, not the ability to listen.

When a veteran of the controversies of the Synod hears someone talking about holding pastors accountable for causing disharmony, the nearly-automatic reaction is suspicion (#7) that someone wants to solve the controversy by eliminating the other side. What the Synod suffers from is not the lack of an enforceable code of conduct, but the lack of commitment to true concord and doctrinal unity. We have become unwilling to wrestle the big issues down, and as an organization, we have relinquished the authority to require our members to participate in resolving the divisions. In blunt terms, the Synod has surrendered doctrinal discipline, and error is treated as the equal of the truth in our Synod. In many places, error has the upper hand, and tolerates the truth no more. But our Synod is formally unwilling and unable to face that fact honestly. It is our inconvenient truth. It has been so since the Behnken solution to the shattering controversy of the Chicago Statement - the Statement of the 44 in 1945.

The result is distrust. (#7) The problem is not the loss of “the system” which served our Synod for so long, and finally betrayed our Synod in the twentieth century. Pastoral formation through high school and college and Seminary with those holding strikingly different theologies learning to treat each other as good buddies created the mess we have. Somehow, they learned not to fix the problem by addressing the theology but to be kind to one another as each “team” tried to out maneuver the other in controlling the Synodical apparatus. Truth became something like a game, and the truth lost when holding hands with one another became more important than standing for what is true.

The Task Force wants to understand how to go back to the days when “churchmanship” (#6) was more important than confession. If there was a real hunger for concord and unity, it would be sought in the Word of God, and addressing the questions before us frankly on the basis of the Word. Reading the history of the Synod shows us that there was a time when standing together on the truth was more important than standing together as buddies. Back then, when someone wanted to hold fast to something no one else agreed with, he left the Synod - willingly or not. If we want “Synodical Harmony”, we need to find our way back to that sort of commitment to truth and sound doctrine - and church practice that reflects both sound doctrine and our unity in it. This is called the church militant for a reason! As long as our commitment is to diversity in practice, which is also diversity in doctrine, we cannot and will not find concord and harmony. The most we can look forward to is the day when error is ascendant, as Krauth describes it, and drives out all who stand on the truth so that there is no one causing controversy left.

If that is the goal of the Task Force - a church without controversy - Charles Porterfield Krauth set forth the recipe back in 1871 in his book, The Conservative Reformation and Its Theology. All they need to do is open their copies and follow the directions.