(Scott’s other posts are archived on the Regular Columns page of the website under the title “Apologetics – Apply Liberally to the Affected Area.” Part 1 of this report can be found here)
Report on the NOW District Convention, Part 2
I agree with the Synod President. One of the questions President Kieschnick was asked at the Northwest District Convention in the canned question and answer session was related to the challenges the LCMS faces, and what needs to be fixed. His answer, and he emphasized this as the most important challenge we face, was to change the spirit of distrust and mistrust in the Synod. I wholeheartedly agree with our Synod President. There is a pervasive spirit of mistrust that causes us to spend more time defending our own “turf” than going about the “business” of the Church. This attitude could certainly be seen at times during the proceedings of the convention, though it was most often hidden by a thin veneer of piety and cordiality.
As a follow-on to his answer, you might ask an even more important question, why is there a spirit of distrust and mistrust? Of course, he didn’t address that question, because the answer would have contradicted his previous opening statement, in which he claimed that the LCMS is “exceptionally united in what we believe, teach, and confess.” No Synod whose most important challenge is to deal with a spirit of distrust and mistrust can be walking in doctrinal unity.
In World War II, the Allies fought a common enemy, yet there was an underlying distrust between the American and European allies and their Russian counterparts that at times made it difficult to hold the alliance together. After the war, the smiling faces of joint summit meetings ended. The huge political differences could no longer be papered over, and nations that were once allies became enemies. As long as our Synod President continues to maintain we are “exceptionally united,” true unity will never be attained. We may lurch along the path for a time, putting on a smile for the press release, but unless true theological dialogue is begun and our differences resolved by the Word of God and our Confession, disaster will loom not far beyond the next hedge row. A house divided against itself cannot stand.
One of the softball questions that President Kieschnick answered illustrates this doctrinal division. The questioner stated that a Ft. Wayne professor commented that the Great Commission applies to the apostles only, and the questioner asked President Kieschnick what he thought of that interpretation. He replied that he’d heard that was being taught, and strongly disagreed with it, and that it was not the official position of the Synod. The question did not seem to be particularly relevant to the occasion, and the answer certainly left no room for anyone who exegetes Matthew 28 differently. The whole question and answer seemed to be more of a jab at those who don’t agree with the everyone-a-minister concept, and would never have been asked, or answered, in a Synod that was truly united in doctrine.
President Kieschnick pointed out that unless he is an idiot, he thinks he understands what’s going on in our Synod. He stated that not all of our pastors want to be pastors. I wonder how many of those pastors, as well as those who still want to be pastors, despair because of the doctrinal divide which confronts us. There are congregations and pastors that have left the LCMS solely for legitimate doctrinal reasons. As Martin Luther put it, “…My conscience is captive to the Word of God. …To go against conscience is neither right nor safe.” There are, right now, confessional LCMS pastors who are wrestling with these same issues, trying to answer these questions that should never have been needed to be asked. Perhaps now is the time to elect a Synod President that will confront our differences, rather than trivialize them, so that we no longer have to wrestle with these tough questions, and even tougher answers.