A Case for the LCMS Having a Government Information Office

May 10th, 2013 Post by

Church State SignThere is no doubt that while we must distinguish between the two kingdoms, since it is essentially distinguishing between the law and the gospel, there is also no doubt that the two kingdoms interact on a daily basis in this world and in our own country.   The political and constitutional understanding of church and state closely relates to what we call the doctrine of the two kingdoms in Lutheran theology.   Both the kingdom of the left, the state or political processes of law, and the kingdom of the right, the ministry of Word and Sacraments in and through the church, are active means and institutions of God’s rule in His creation.

Once, in recent history, the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod maintained an Office of Government Information (OGI) in Washington DC.   It was created in 1987 and ended in 2000.  OGI functioned as part of synod president’s office.   Relations with the federal government were seen to be the responsibility of the synod president as he is given the clearest responsibility to communicate with executive and legislative bodies regarding issues of ethics, morality, and areas of liberty that affect the church her members.   Ethical issues such as abortion, euthanasia, genetic experimentation, and marriage, as well as matters of freedom of speech and assembly, tax issues as they affect the church, and sundry other issues are pertinent as the church exercises her Christ-given mission in this world.   Throughout history, many examples of church and state interplay could be cited that demonstrate the trials and benefits of this encounter.

The LCMS, on the national level, is the public organizational structure of synod that interacts most plainly with our federal government in its three branches.   Whether we have an Office of Government Information or not, we are impacted by what goes on at the federal level without question.   To be sure such an office or department of synod is not the essence of being church necessary in the most absolute sense.   In times past, bishops of the church would engage publicly with royalty and governors in letters, speeches, and sermons.   There is undoubtedly still a place for that on the synod and local level.  Luther himself was quite capable at this and saw its importance, for instance, in his Letter to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation.

In the stewardship of resources, what would be beneficial about having a synodical Office of Government Information or whatever a new such office would be called?

  1. It would inform and advise the synodical president and the praesidium about key executive, legislative and judicial issues of the day that impact the life of the church in the United States from a Lutheran perspective.
  2. It would help provide the pastors and laity of synod with a center of information that is formed not by partisan politics but by Scriptural understanding, moral clarity, and in the interest of the church’s ministry and mission.
  3. It would prompt synod-at-large to times of needed action and voice on important matters of the day in terms ethics, culture, religious liberty, the integrity of marriage and family, and infringement of rights may be a possibility.
  4. It would inform the laity of synod in their vocation as citizens as to a Scriptural and churchly perspective on certain critical issues that impact their congregation, synod, and family.
  5. While much information is available on television and internet these days, it can be much like trying to get a drink of water from a fire hose.   A synodical Office of Government Information could serve as an aggregator, filter, and summarizer of key topics in certain select areas as:  religious freedom, freedom of assembly, bioethical issues, tax and benefit policy as it relates to congregations and religious organizations, marriage and family issues, creation/evolution, and education.   Our culture and nation is seeing radical changes at a staggering pace in recent times.   Many non-Lutheran organizations do a great service in many areas for many of these topics, but not from a Lutheran perspective with a catechetical and vocational emphasis for our people.

In recent months there has been discussion of starting some kind of new version of OGI.   I support such an action as it is needed now more than in its original run.   Over the long haul, it is worth the stewardship to maintain a small staff and full time office in Washington DC while also observing what is going on at the state level.   God’s Word endures forever but kingdoms fall and change.   Even while we render unto Caesar that which belongs to him, we put not our trust in princes, in mortal men who cannot save.   As we say so often, we live in the world but are not of it.  Therefore vigilance is a wisdom that goes hand in hand with knowing what is in man, born of woman.   In these last days, God has spoken to us in His Son, Jesus Christ, and we confess Him in a world that would silence that confession, while the devil would seek to drown it out.   An Office of Government Information would give us one more tool to equip us with awareness of the situation in which we serve and alert us to approaching storms.  I submit this for your consideration.

 


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  1. Carl Vehse
    May 10th, 2013 at 12:31 | #1

    Concordia Theological Seminary Press has previous published works by Martin Luther, Johann Gerhard, F. C. D. Wyneken, C. F. W. Walther, Walter A. Maier, and Robert Preus. In November, 2012, CTS Press published a 544-page book, Two Wars We Must Not Lose: What Christians Need to Know About Radical Islamist, Radical Secularists, and Why We Can’t Leave the Battle Up to Our Divided Government, written by Mr. Bill Hecht, former LCMS pastor (1963-67), now president of Hecht, Spencer & Associates, a long-established Washington lobbyist firm. A CTS Press Release quotes Pres. Harrison as saying, “If I could recommend one book for clergy and laity to read on the crisis of the American experience, how we got here, and what we must do, hands down, this book is it.” Complimentary copies of the book were sent to all senior/sole pastors of LCMS churches.

    In the book’s last chapter, “The Role Lutherans Can and Should Play in this Life and Death Struggle for the Soul of Our Country,” Hecht reviews Missouri Synod involvement in some political, legal, and moral issues (e.g., KFUO hiring, the HHS mandate, and a church’s right to deal with its called workers without government interference). The chapter then describes a proposal, prepared by a former Deputy Director in the Bush White House, Tim Goeglein, for establishing a “Lutheran Institute for Cultural Affairs” in Washington, D.C., which, in part, would replace the Synod’s former Office of Government Information. After giving the proposal to President Harrison, during a visit to Hecht’s office. Hecht quotes President Harrison responding, “Let’s do it.”

  2. Pastor Eric Andersen
    May 10th, 2013 at 13:04 | #2

    Fine article, Pastor Frahm!

    “A synodical Office of Government Information could serve as an aggregator, filter, and summarizer of key topics in certain select areas as: religious freedom, freedom of assembly, bioethical issues, tax and benefit policy as it relates to congregations and religious organizations, marriage and family issues, creation/evolution, and education.”

    So basically, what you’re saying is we need someone to do (formally) what you are already doing electronically (and informally) via social media and various electronic means? Hey, I think I know a good guy for this job! ;)

  3. RK
    May 11th, 2013 at 10:46 | #3

    “And know this: As traditional Christians are driven out of the public square, the door is also closed for the Gospel. ” – LCMS President Matthew Harrison from below article:

    http://witness.lcms.org/pages/wPagex.asp?ContentID=1347&IssueID=77

    Someone quipped, “The world is moving so fast these days that the one who says it can’t be done is generally interrupted by someone doing it.” I thought rather cynically about this quote as I listened to the Supreme Court argue over the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Just a decade and a half ago, this legislation was signed into law, defining marriage for federal purposes as the union of one man and one woman. DOMA came as a safeguard against individual states redefining marriage and forcing the federal government (the whole nation!) to treat same-sex marriage as legitimate.

    Two sources tell us what marriage is. First, the Bible tells us that man and woman were created by God as the perfect match, and that marriage is to be a sacred, lifelong union of one man and one woman. The Bible universally rejects sex outside of this man/woman marriage. Second, we know from so-called natural knowledge, which is part of all human existence, and which has been codified by custom and law through the millennia, that marriage is for one man and one woman. It is Gods perfectly designed institution for the creation of new human life and for the nurture of civilized individuals. As Luther famously noted in his Large Catechism, If he wont obey his parents, hell obey the hangman!

    What has come with lightening speed is merely the summation of a long process of the devaluation of marriage in Western culture. In 1970, only one state had no-fault divorce. By 1980, 49 had it. Coterminously, marriage has increasingly come to be defined as an emotional bond with a significant other rather than a fundamental building block of all society, religion and culture, based upon the fact that a man and a woman choose to enter a solemn life-long contract and bring new life into this world.

    The Supreme Court will likely rule on the two cases (DOMA and Proposition 8) in late June. Like Roe v. Wade, which found a (fictional) right to abortion in the U.S. Constitution, the court could rule that the traditional definition of marriage of one man and one woman is unconstitutional. No matter how the court rules, the fight has just begun. Many in our own fellowship think, Whats the big deal? Isnt it just about widening the tent of tolerance a bit more? If that were it, it would a major relief. But its not. Whats at stake is our First Amendment right to the free exercise of our religious conviction in the way we act in society. As the same-sex marriage train gains steam, we find ourselves increasingly under attack, our social ministry agencies are forced to either capitulate to the state or lose funding and even licenses. All opposed to same-sex marriage for conscience grounds are and will increasingly be labeled bigots in line with slave-holders and those who were opposed to ending of legalized racism in this country. And know this: As traditional Christians are driven out of the public square, the door is also closed for the Gospel.

    The task before us is monumental. We are called to repent of our lack of appreciation for marriage and family. We are called to confess Christ to all and call all to repentance. We must elevate marriage among us and educate, educate, educate. Even as we seek specific ways to care for those challenged by same-sex attraction, we must resist conforming to the culture.

    We know whose we are. We know what is in store for us. We know we will be severely tested in these last days, but this testing will abound in faithfulness and praise (1 Peter 1).

    Pastor Matthew Harrison
    “Let’s go!” Mark 1:38
    e-mail: president@lcms.org
    Web page: http://www.lcms.org/president

  4. Joanne
    May 11th, 2013 at 22:36 | #4

    Better that the LC-MS develop a faculty of Law and a Law School at the Concordia Mequon campus. Then let that faculty of law address these issues as needed. An office in Washington is just a sop to lobbyists and consultants. We’ll throw lots of money at it which will all disappear into the DC rat hole.

  5. Carl Vehse
    May 11th, 2013 at 23:01 | #5

    Joanne,

    Let’s be careful so that in our comments we don’t associate decent law-abiding, patriotic, church-going rodents with lying, crooked, sleazy DC politicians, particularly of one prominent party.

  6. Jason
    May 12th, 2013 at 05:29 | #6

    @Joanne #4

    Concordia Portland has been branching out with multiple sites, enough (5?) branches to be remaned CU-Oregon. Of note is last year they expanded to Boise, ID, with a Law Campus. That is a good start. Now if we can make sure there is a Lutheran influence to their outlook…. (by electing solid Board of Regents members as convention)

  7. May 12th, 2013 at 15:16 | #7

    What I’m talking about here is for informational and purposes of public witness and admonition, not necessarily legal action. Synod already has a legal department for when that is necessary. However, if such an office and/or board is put into place, someone with legal expertise should be part of it along with those with expertise in theology, philosophy, political science, the constitution, culture, ethics, public relations, and the ability to deal with church and entities of the state. But the idea here is to be an observer, commentator, filter and summarizer of information, while also be able to bring the testimony of the church to the state in and out of season.

  8. May 12th, 2013 at 15:24 | #8

    @Jason #6
    We need to make sure whatever entity that is started is solidly Lutheran from the outset. But we need something far more than legal opinions. That’s really only a minute part of what I’m thinking of here.

  9. Noreen Linke
    May 25th, 2013 at 01:35 | #9

    I was extremely involved in politics in the 90’s and traveled to D.C. several years to lobby. One year in particular I contacted the OGI to schedule a visit with them to discuss the pertinent legislation that concerned all conservative groups and to see what our church body was doing in response. It was a friendly contact, however I was discouraged from a visit, and was also told that the OGI was being fazed out and was for all practical purposes ineffectual. That made me really, really sad. I have thought about that ever since. If we are going to engage our church body at D.C. level politics, we have to be PURPOSEFUL, and then DELIBERATE, and then we must present a consistent, united, and then strong front. No wishy-washy, no cracks, no weakness. Nothing but a bold, loving, clear witness. In the years since then I have become a lot more cynical, so I do not know if such a thing is possible, but I pray for God’s mercy towards us in the times that we are sure to face now going forward.

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