(from Pr. Preus) I believe that I have studied more theology and learned more during the last seven years than at any other time in my life except while at the seminary. And I am better for it. Let me count the ways.
In the early autumn of 2001 the worship service at Yankee stadium took place. President Kieschnick gave his permission for David Benke to participate in this service with non-Christians – each cleric taking a turn at prayer. At first I was a bit miffed because I had to spend so much time learning what had happened and attempting to evaluate it. But in retrospect I have to confess I learned a lot. I had to think through questions about who God is and what prayers He hears. I was forced to reread the Large Catechism. It was great.
Then when Rev. Wallace Schulz got fired without cause or due process I was angry at first because I had always admired his efforts for the Lutheran Hour and it seemed unfair that he should be fired for doing his duty. But later when I saw how much I learned I was grateful. I was forced to ask. Does a man who is said to have divine call really have one if he does not serve from an altar or pulpit? When can you fire a called servant? Unfortunately I didn’t study these lessons hard enough and they all came back when the synod fired Todd Wilken. So now I have studied a lot and learned a lot about the call. And I’ve grown in the process.
When, for the first time in the history of the synod, we OKed women presidents of congregations and women elders back in 2004 I was initially irked especially since the whole issue was brought forward without a lot of discussion before hand. But after the fact I did take the time to learn since I had been forced to restudy the whole question of the role of women in the church. I learned a lot about the synod’s rapidly changing doctrine on this matter.
When the synod in 2004 approved a reconciliation process in which only district presidents could actually charge someone with false doctrine in the synod that forced me to restudy everything I had assumed about laymen judging doctrine. I had to restudy both the Lutheran understanding of the royal priesthood and our understanding of the role of parish pastors in overseeing doctrine of their peers. Do district presidents have a divine call? If not then how can they be ecclesiastical supervisors of men who do? If so then how can they be terminated in an instant with the simple words “Ready? Vote now!” Can a man be removed from the office of pastor for the cause of false doctrine, immoral life or refusal to do his ministry? Can the congregation remove him from office but not from the synod even though he must hold office to be a member of the synod? These issues made me study very hard and I learned a great deal.
Then there is Ablaze. How much study time have we all spent learning because of Ablaze? A myriad of questions had to be addressed most after the endeavor had been approved. Is a “one on one” confession of the faith more critical and eventful than baptism? How about the Lord’s Supper? So many questions come to mind that they all make me want to write a separate piece about them. Through it all I was forced to think through our theology of evangelism and the role of baptizing and teaching in the work of the great commission.
Then there was the decision by the CCM that it was not grounds for dismissal from the synod if you did something wrong as long as you could claim you were told to do it. That made me spend a lot of time studying moral culpability, as well as the whole question of ecclesiastical authority and accountability. I learned a lot.
Then there was the lawsuit and the subsequent agreement which was broken and then there were more negotiations with the assurance of no recriminations only to discover that recriminations occurred during the convention itself with the man who promised no recrimination chairing the assembly. The whole thing made me crazy until I realized how much I have learned over the last years about I Corinthians 6 and the eighth Commandment. I’m grateful for the lessons.
I could go on but you get the point. I have been frustrated and intermittently dismayed during the last seven years because it seems that every time I turn around there is one more divisive decision made by the current administration and recent conventions. But as I think about it maybe the current administration was doing all these divisive things just so that I, and the church with me, would be forced to study theology. After all, everyone knows how divided we are theologically. And we all know that our deep theological divisions will not be resolved without study and discussion. Yup, the more I think about it the more convinced I am that President Kieschnick’s leadership style has been incredibly helpful in getting us to study and learn. Why else would all these discussions have been provoked among us? And I feel good about that.