Great Stuff — LCMS Convention: An Outsider’s Perspective

Another great post found over on Pr. Lincoln Winter’s blog, Predigtamt:

 

koinoniaSome may argue that “Outsider” is not an apt description. But, I was not a delegate, I saw no updates on the convention until after it was finished, and I was not even around the internet for most of the week. Certainly, as a member of synod, I have “skin in the game”. But this isn’t a blow-by-blow account of how this resolution, or that resolution came about. It’s a general observation about the state of the synod.

The state of the synod is very good.

Now, I don’t make that claim lightly. When necessary, I have been known to speak up regarding changes I think need to be made in our synod. District Presidents, the Seminaries, the COP, the President of Synod – a tour through past blog posts will show that I am not ashamed to call out what I see as unfaithful practices.

I’m not saying I won’t be speaking up in the future. And I’m not saying the synod is now perfect. Nothing this side of heaven is – except our Lord Jesus Christ, and the salvation he offers through his Holy Church. But, even with her faults, our synod is on a stronger footing than we have seen in many years.

The convention, considering carefully lists from both sides of synod, decided to go with United List candidates for 80 out of 90 elections. Even some of the non-UL candidates elected were hardly what one would consider “liberal”. The United list doesn’t claim to endorse the only possible confessional Lutheran Candidate. In some cases, it was merely a difference of opinion regarding who was most qualified. The United List had their opinion, and the convention thought differently. But never in my lifetime has the president of Synod been given such a strong slate of candidates up and down the roster. Every board where I know the names of people was either strengthened, or had faithful members returned.

The Resolutions were much the same way. With one exception (And that will be it’s own discussion…) the resolutions which passed the convention have either strengthened our witness, or returned us to more faithful practice. In one especially controversial case, we ended a generation-long unfaithfulness.

But can it really be called controversial when the vote was 74% in favor? In most votes, that is an overwhelming super-majority. It was not even close. Those who oppose restoring Ausgutana Article XIV are truly a minority voice. The synod has overwhelmingly spoken, and they need to move on.

Interestingly, President Harrison said before he was ever elected that, with prayerful discussion centered on the Word of God, he believed the synod could have 80% agreement on controverted issues. Many I know thought he was nuts. (Or making political promises he had no intention of keeping). It wasn’t so long ago that the synod voted 55%-45% that we were not divided doctrinally. That’s not a good result, no matter which side you were on.

And yet, with six years of instruction, and the last three specifically and intentionally devoted to studying the issue, the synod came to 74% agreement. Had there not been such opposition to Augustana Article XIV from a very vocal minority of the District Presidents, he might have found that extra 6%.

But the results were consistently in that range or better for the most controversial issues. As an example Dr. Keischnick used to joke that the church argued over Wine, Women and Song, and that she always would. How about this: Faithful Practice of Closed Communion and rejection of intinction: 83%, Against Conscription of Women into Military Combat Positions: 91%, He even got 95% of the synod in convention to agree that truly Lutheran Worship – nothing high church or froopy, but simple hymnal worship – is edifying and delightful. How’s that for wine, women, and song? Every one of them was passed at over 80%. Perhaps the problem is not that Lutherans can not agree on these issues, but that we were in need of leadership that is willing to teach faithfully on them.

District Presidents or other synod leaders that are pushing more Open Communion Practice or intinction, Feminism, or sub-Lutheran Evangelical Worship, take note: the synod has clearly said that such things should not be. If you want to reshape the synod into some sort of Evangelical, Catholic, or Episcopal version of Lutheran-lite, the synod is not interested.

In 1974, A Brief Statement passed with roughly 55%-60% of the vote. Dr. Preus took it as a mandate to cleanse the seminary of false doctrine. For most of the 90’s, you could not get 60% of the synod in convention to agree on the color of the sky. The most controversial resolution at this convention passed with a 3/4 majority. That speaks well of the synod and her future.

There are still challenges. We aren’t there yet. There’s a lot of hard work ahead as we continue to discuss divisive matters. But, I am more hopeful than ever that, under the Word of God, we can come to a resolution on these issues. Only time will tell. And in the coming years, we’ll see whether those who disagree are willing to submit themselves to that Word or not.


Comments

Great Stuff — LCMS Convention: An Outsider’s Perspective — 13 Comments

  1. “How about this: Faithful Practice of Closed Communion and rejection of intinction: 83%, Against Conscription of Women into Military Combat Positions: 91%, He even got 95% of the synod in convention to agree that truly Lutheran Worship – nothing high church or froopy, but simple hymnal worship – is edifying and delightful.”

    So, we should immediately expect open communion to cease in 83% of LCMS congregations, and 95% of LCMS congregations to cease using Enthusiast worship? Or, like the LLD resolution, do we expect a multi-year process to somehow, someday, with lots of exceptions and loopholes, to kinda-sorta get there?

    As much as it pains me to say so, I just don’t see it. What I see is a nod to traditional Lutheran orthodoxy and orthopraxy, with the full intent to continue doing what’s currently being done. Except now, the Synod has a resolution to help staunch public critique.

    I wonder if we’ll hear any LCMS pastors publicly critical of the convention, current doctrinal issues, and resolutions (right, wrong, or indifferent…) or if the chilling effect of 12-07A has already got them quieted down, so the flag-waving parade leaders can keep the positive dialogue fully on script.

  2. Pastor Winter on Predigamt:

    But the results were consistently in that range or better for the most controversial issues. As an example Dr. Keischnick used to joke that the church argued over Wine, Women and Song, and that she always would. How about this: Faithful Practice of Closed Communion and rejection of intinction: 83%, Against Conscription of Women into Military Combat Positions: 91%, He even got 95% of the synod in convention to agree that truly Lutheran Worship – nothing high church or froopy, but simple hymnal worship – is edifying and delightful. How’s that for wine, women, and song? Every one of them was passed at over 80%. Perhaps the problem is not that Lutherans can not agree on these issues, but that we were in need of leadership that is willing to teach faithfully on them.

    Right.
    And if I believed that all the grape juice was immediately poured out and communion was “closed” in all LCMS churches yesterday; all the [LCMS] Lutheran women were staying out of the chancel on Sunday morning (also resigning from places like Elders’ Boards, Congregation President, and the Boards of our Seminaries); and finally all the pop music had been burned in favor of exclusive use of Synodical hymnals (ignoring for the moment the weaker hymns) then I might be able to stand up and cheer for this convention.

    Except that they have also chosen to use and expand a CCM resolution from the Kieschnick era to hide the activities of the bureaucracy and the seminary faculties from honest explanation to the laity!!!
    Paul, Luther and Walther thought the members of congregations (not “the Members of Synod”) competent to judge doctrine. If the laity are not, it’s because they haven’t been taught by “Members of Synod”. Rather than rebuke the “Members” for this negligence and the general neglect of doctrinal discipline in the leadership, the convention has been bamboozled into agreeing to hide it.

    Result:
    It will be “business as usual” for the liberal element and the rogue DP’s because when did a doctrinal resolution ever keep them from their un-Lutheran activities!?
    And it will be “open season” on the confessional pastor who dares to believe that the pewsitters [who fund this bureaucratic monster] are also capable of thinking about their church and their faith.

    If you don’t believe me, listen to the ‘sound of silence’ from the clerics here since 12.07A was passed.

    And look at its title, because if laity want their Lutheran church, they are going to have to step up and defend it again.

  3. @helen #2

    “… because if the laity want their Lutheran church, they are going to have to step up and defend it again.”

    Yep. For all the bluster and propaganda of the bureaucrats, the laity ultimately have the power of the purse and the gifts of the general baptismal priesthood. This whole mess would evaporate tomorrow, if the laity just decided to stop funding and supporting it.

  4. Sounds of silence!

    Where is the 80+ % mandating speedy placement for the CRM/CA (if that travesty is not prevented in the first place?

    What was the percentage allowing an appeal to the Praesidium if/when a DP is negligent or refuses to act?

    By what percentage did LCMS separate itself from LIRS (which has degenerated into a Lutheran label fronting a liberal government organization)?
    [Christian refugees need not apply. Muslim economic migrants welcome.]

  5. Sadly we have a synod where a pastor is more likely to be called to repentance for speaking the truth on a blog than he is for preaching a false gospel on his worship stage. And sadly we have a synod which appears united at its convention, but visit a dozen random different LCMS congregations or their websites and see how united they are in doctrine and practice.

  6. I’ve read more of Pastor Winter’s blog, Predigamt, and since he is in Wyoming district, he will perhaps be able to write (safely) in the future.
    I’ll be there to read.

    Thank you, Pr. Winter, for initiating this conversation, even though I had some negative things to add. [After more than half of a long life in Texas, I have reason.]

    God bless the faithful,
    even if they are in the “catacombs”!

  7. A friend of mine spent his vicarage at one of the rare Confessional Liturgical LCMS congregations in the Florida-Georgia district. His general impression of the district at that time was that it was united in its heterodoxy. I felt much the same during my time in the SE District. Today this is true of most of the LCMS. IMHO, the convention is peaceful because the resolutions do not typically really get to dealing with the basic issues that divide the LCMS.

    As a Synod, we are not really walking together, but each church and pastor are free to do whatever they want without interference, for the most part. In other words, there is no discipline exercised in doctrine or practice. This keeps most happy because they are free to do their own thing. This is essentially the same as when a congregation gives lip service to condemning sin, but does nothing when its members are obviously breaking sixth commandment.

    So the result is that the convention changes nothing happening on the local level in the local congregation. And that is really all the average congregation cares about because they are so disconnected from the Synod they don’t really care what happens at the convention. As long as it doesn’t interfere what is happening in their local congregation most are happy.

  8. @Rev. Loren Zell #7

    Pr. Zell,

    You mark well what I think is common to the experience of many at the local level. Since a synod is definitionally a group of folks walking together, the real definition of the synod is what actually binds them together in that common walk. For the LCMS, it used to be Scripture and the Confessions. Now, it is most obviously something else– either independence, Enthusiasm, a general acquiessence to a bureaurocracy for the sake of a nostalgic name, or perhaps a cocktail in mixed proportions of these and other motives.

    I used to think that the LCMS ceased to be a synod when it ceased to walk together in doctrine and practice. I have come to perceive now that it is still a synod, but the terms of its synodality are no longer really Lutheran– they are political and institutional. Oddly enough, and much like American Evangelicalism writ large, this makes the LCMS much more akin to the worst of Rome’s institution-over-doctrine errors than they might be willing to admit.

  9. The incorporated synod is a bit like a labor union. It’s an organization united around training its members, supplying them to member churches, setting their salary scales and managing their health and welfare coverage. In a lot of ways it has worked well for the church, but I’m not sure how feasible it will be in the days to come.

  10. I would feel better if Synod established a state of cordial relations with the Association of Confessing Evangelical Lutheran Congregations and concurrently began to distance itself from the Five2 model of Bill Woolsey’s at Crosspoint Lutheran Church, Katy, TX. Synod must also disengage from LIRS until and unless they focus on Christian refugees over against their concern for Muslim ones. And Candidate status is to the LCMS the equivalent of the VA to the Obama Administration. Had these issues be addressed, then I think we would have cause to celebrate.

  11. @Mark #10

    We can pray. Nobody on earth is listening.

    @Rev. Loren Zell #7

    So the result is that the convention changes nothing happening on the local level in the local congregation. And that is really all the average congregation cares about because they are so disconnected from the Synod they don’t really care what happens at the convention. As long as it doesn’t interfere what is happening in their local congregation most are happy.

    Some do care, and even write resolutions…which go in to “floor committees” and out with the waste paper. More would care, if they hadn’t seen the futility of it.

  12. Helen:

    I agree that some really do care, otherwise there would be even less voting and participation. What I said is a generalization. There is very little that can be said about member churches of the LCMS that applies to each and every one, other than their membership in the LCMS, and their outward confessional subscription.

    But its obvious that there is little interest because in our circuit meetings and other interactions between churches, there is little concern or interest in what happens at the convention. In our area, there is also little interest or participation in the other activities of the other local LCMS congregations. Even when invitations go out to other congregations, few are interested in joining in with the other LCMS congregations for a mission fest, anniversary, or ordination. Each church only seems interested in its own ministry and activities.

    I would hope other circuits are better than ours, but just by my general observations over the years, as a pastor of three different congregation, and a lay members of several others, I think my experience is probably typical.

  13. @Rev. Loren Zell #7
    “Each church only seems interested in its own ministry and activities.”
    Perhaps the passage of 11-03 will begin to change that.
    In 2019, all congregations will be expected to vote electronically in June.
    Can anyone tell me what percentage of congregations voted this June?
    Also, can anyone provide a link to the rationale of the 32% who voted against this resolution at the Convention?

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