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  Another three were referred back or withdrawn, and less than a dozen were amended.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.

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