Description of the Convocation, by Pr. Rossow

A few of the comments to various stories about the synod convocation have asked for a description of what went on. The following is based on  discussions with  a  pastor who attended.

 

Overall, it was perceived by this person to be a bit of a waste of time. The main purpose of the event, the presentation of the Blue Ribbon’s proposals, was simply done by having them read to the group. This could have been accomplished by e-mail or website publication.

 

Also included in the agenda was a presentation by Leonard Sweet, a so called “futurist.”   The  point of his presentation was to address the impact of contemporary culture on the church’s mission.  Dr. Sweet is on the faculty of Drew University’s school of theology. Here is the description of their theological position (from  http://www.drew.edu/).

 

Our Theological Position
Drew Theological School is rooted in the Wesleyan heritage and celebrates the centrality of Christ to our faith. The school does not require students to adopt a particular position or creed, but expects that students will remain in touch with and develop their own distinct faith tradition. Students take responsibility for articulating their own convictions, yet remain in dialogue with those of other faiths and with Christians who may think and believe differently. Students find many persons who share their faith experience and learn from persons who challenge them with their differences. In a world where diversity is often an excuse for hatred and a trigger for violence, Drew students learn to use diversity as a key to unlock the mysteries of a God beyond individual understanding, who is revealed more fully through our shared faith and experience.

 

Does it seem odd to you that at a convocation where we are considering fundamental changes to the synod’s structure (President K charged the Blue Ribbon Committee to do a zero-based study, i.e. throw everything out and assume nothing is sacred) has a person with this theological background making one of the four major presentations? Could you imagine the Apostle Paul, Martin Luther or C.F.W. Walther ever asking a person who teaches at such a seminary to address the church in order to help it understand its  purpose?

 

One of the other major speakers was Dr. Robert Newton. I actually had the opportunity to hear his presentation a few weeks ago at a Northern Illinois District theological convocation. Many thanks go to our District President Dan Gilbert for calling for such a convocation which has not happened in our district in the fifteen years I have been in Northern Illinois. However, in the end, the choice of speakers was a big disappointment and I am puzzled that Dr. Newton would be chosen to address such a profound gathering as the synodical convocation on structure. (Now before you pietists out there get all hot and bothered about my criticism of Dr. Newton, please know that I have spoken to him directly about the things I am writing here. However, if that does not satisfy you and you still feel a burning desire to quote Matthew 18 against me, it will please you to know end that I have never met Dr. Sweet in person, nor spoken to him on the phone nor even e-mailed him and yet I have the audacity to criticize his theology!)

 

Actually it should not surprise me that Dr. Newton was invited to speak to the convocation. The purpose of his paper is to expand the definition of the church’s mission. This is in keeping with the questionable moves made in the Blue Ribbon Task Force’s paper called “Basic Theological Principles Underlying LCMS Structure and Governance“. They too seek to expand the church’s purpose/mission. A detailed critique of this will have to wait until later but for now let me try to explain the problem with this in summary fashion.

 

The Augsburg Confession, Article VII describes the church as that place where “the Gospel is preached in its purity and the sacraments are administered according to Christ’s command.” I do not recommend that you use the  word “mission” to describe the duties of the church (“mission” is a non-biblical word that comes out of the corporate world of the late 1980’s), but  if you insist on it,  there it is in plain English from the Augusburg Confession. The church  is to be about preaching the Gospel (and making sure it is preached in its purity) and administering the sacraments (and making sure that they are administered  the way  Christ commanded  and not in some sort of Bapticostal way which  does the liturgy in an informal way that belies a  lack of belief in the real presence). Thus, the church is about forgiving sins because that is what the Gospel and the sacraments do. Once you talk about the “mission” of the church apart  from these words of Augusburg VII  you will tend to get away from the confessional and Scriptural emphasis on the Gospel and Sacraments and their purity and proper administration. An emphasis on the concept of “mission” also leads one to overemphasize evangelism and an overemphasis on evangelism leads one to place too much emphasis on sociology and psychology and not let the word do its thing, for example, restructuring the liturgy in such a way that the culture finds relevant and meaningful. Both Dr. Newton and Dr. Sweet do not properly appreciate the power of God’s word. Simple words of law (you are a sinner and have fallen short of the glory of God) and Gospel (Christ has shed his blood to forgive you of your sins) are what the church is about. One does not need to understand the culture in order to preach law and Gospel. Preaching law and Gospel to a postmodern in words, concepts and visuals that they understand and appreciate does not make the Word of God any more effective.  I  hope to post a  more thorough study of the “Basic Theological Principles…” document and the proposals themselves, but for now will limit myself to this review of the conference in general.

 

The conference also included presentations by former CTCR director Dr. Sam Nafzger  as well as the presidents of our two seminaries.

 

As described above, the final session of the convocation was the presentation of the proposals. They were simply read word for word to the group.  The pastor in attendance commented that this seemed to be a waste of time. The proposals could have been emailed to everyone and the few hundred  thousand it cost  to hold the convocation could have been saved. I am not opposed to spending money on convocations but if we are to spend that kind of money it  should be invested in an agenda that leads us deeper into scripture and the confessions and not into psycholgy and sociology.

 

If any one reading this was in attendance I would appreciate your comments. As always, all other comments are welcome also.

 

More to come…

 

Pastor Rossow

About Pastor Tim Rossow

Rev. Dr. Timothy Rossow is the Director of Development for Lutherans in Africa. He served Bethany Lutheran Church in Naperville, IL as the Sr. Pastor for 22 years (1994-2016) and was Sr. Pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran in Dearborn, MI prior to that. He is the founder of Brothers of John the Steadfast but handed off the Sr. Editor position to Rev. Joshua Scheer in 2015. He currently resides in Ocean Shores WA with his wife Phyllis. He regularly teaches in Africa. He also paints watercolors, reads philosophy and golfs. He is currently represented in two art galleries in the Pacific Northwest. His M Div is from Concordia, St. Louis and he has an MA in philosophy from St. Louis University and a D Min from Concordia, Fort Wayne.

Comments

Description of the Convocation, by Pr. Rossow — 27 Comments

  1. Was their anything said by the attendee about the incantation of Luther and Walther that Dr. K was going to do? I am curious when in the convocation this occurred and how it went.

  2. “…Drew students learn to use diversity as a key to unlock the mysteries of a God beyond individual understanding, who is revealed more fully through our shared faith and experience.”

    Since when do we use something that began as a curse – that is “diversity” which began with the confusing of languages at the Tower of Babel – to “unlock the mysteries of a God beyond individual understanding…”? They don’t even make a clear delcaration of the One True God, they leave room open for other possibilities with the words “a God.” The way that the mysteries of God are revealed to us poor miserable sinners is through the revelation of Jesus Christ found in the Word of God. He certainly is not revealed “…more fully through our shared faith and experience.” That’s the ugly head of humanism and new ageism, not Christianity.

    It sounds like the most honest thing that came out of this convocation was the propsal to rename the Synod because if these changes go through then there really be no need to use the title Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, it will, truly, no longer exist.

  3. Kiley,

    Good question. It was done during the divine service.

    I have heard the gentleman who does this and he really is quite good but this is not something to be done during the divine service. Again, as a good test, I ask, would St. Paul, Martin Luther or C.F.W. Walther have play acting during one of thier sermons? Of course not!

    This is another example of how President Kieschnick practices the principles of church growth (entertaimment vs. preaching).

    Pastor Rossow

  4. “Preaching law and Gospel to a postmodern in words, concepts and visuals that they understand and appreciate does not make the Word of God any more effective.”

    Amen! Indeed, not only does it not make the Word of God more effective, it is not the pure Word of God but false representations of it for the most part.

  5. Pastor Rossow, thank you for replying to Kiley Campbell’s question. I have a further one, if the pastor who attended the convo – or anyone else who was there – could elaborate.

    What did “Luther” and “Walther” have to say, when they were portrayed during the Divine Service?

    Thank you.

  6. Walther Descendant,

    I did not get any detail on that but will try to check back and see if I cna get any details.

    I know that when I saw the act several years ago, the script avoided any controversial topics such as lay vs. pastor, etc.

    Pastor Rossow

  7. I may be redundant to what others have already said here and in other posts, but it seems to me that LCMS Inc. belongs to the left-handed kingdom (a bureaucracy created by man) and the churches belong to the right-handed kingdom (where the word and sacraments are rightly administered). If Synod Inc, was created to serve the churches then should it be given power over the churches? Should the city of man rule over the city of God? Is that not one of the main issues to be doggedly addressed in any changes in restructuring the synod? I have wondered if we need to clearly define the main questions on the functions of the synod and stick to those subjects so that Synod Inc. shenanigans do not distract us away from the main issue(s) and take us down rabbit-tracks that get us stuck in squabbling?

    I guess the other main question I have wondered about is how to get the churches to accept the traditional understanding of what a church is – IE: where the Word and sacrament are rightly administered. How do we get them to understand that we do not mix left-handed methods such as marketing and/or seeker-friendly methods into the church? It seems to me that the left-handed methods used in so many churches remove or diminish what the church is supposed to be. How can anyone hear the gospel if it is drowning in shallow generic praise music and man-centered sermons where the gospel and Christ are assumed and where there is no liturgy to proclaim the good news? It is heart-breaking to see where the gospel is so watered down or missing that the worship service or sermon would work in a Mormon, Unitarian, or any other form of Deism church. How do we get the churches to understand that they have strayed and that what makes Christianity different from other religions is Christ alone and the Gospel alone not morality or self-help sermons or vapid friendliness to seekers, culture, or etc? It is about Christ and him crucified – no other message will save. If we try to look and sound like the world in order to attract the world, we will fail to clearly proclaim Christ and Him crucified.

  8. Comment 7: If we try to look and sound like the world in order to attract the world, we will fail to clearly proclaim Christ and Him crucified.

    Why must this be so? What about Paul’s “all things to all people…to win some”?

    Comment 3: Again, as a good test, I ask, would St. Paul, Martin Luther or C.F.W. Walther have play acting during one of thier sermons? Of course not!

    How can we be sure that if they were not alive today that they would not? Seems that each of them was pretty good at reaching the crowds of their day! And Jesus certainly told a good story in the midst of His messages to make a point.

    But then once again…what do I know? JALAJ (Just as Lutheran as Jesus)

  9. Responding to Susan’s observations above:

    I was pleasantly surprised by a podcast video delivered by the faculty of CSL St. Louis (available at the itunes store under “Concordia” and “Concordia Journal Currents,”) which looked at this very question of “Synod” as “left hand,” in both Scripture and Walther. They expressed the concern that this is an entirely foreign notion which we in the LCMS have grown into, but which has no grounding in our theology. It’s simply what we’re doing – letting the “Church” properly speaking be RUN by something which is NOT “Church” properly speaking (or, which IS Church properly speaking, but which nobody believes is Church or acts as if it were Church.)

    It’s a fascinating video, about 45 minutes, and I recommend checking it out. I intend to have it posted for viewing on my blog (www.beallwashedup.blogspot.com) some time this afternoon.

  10. What is my reward then? Verily that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel. – 1Co 9:18

    To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. – 1Co 9:22
    And this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you. – 1Co 9:23

    So if we sacrafice the Gospel in our Doctrine and Practice? we can say we do that for the Gospels sake?

    I’m fairly certain that, even though Paul was made all things to all men, he kept to the doctrine and practice that he was taught by Christ instead of sacrificing it to become relevant to the different cultures he preached to.
    Sam

  11. To add to what Mr. Lewis just said:

    The world has no conception of the Gospel. The Cross is foolishness, and Christ is a stumbling block to them. If we make the world’s standards our standards, then the Gospel cannot be a part of it (unless of course we are trying to pull a massive bait and switch on them, which would be dishonest).

    St. Paul was speaking about not offending the weak. “To a Jew I become as a Jew,” i.e. (or is it e.g.?) don’t eat a BLT in front of a newly-converted Jew until he understands the freedom of the Gospel. He would never say, “To a heathen, I restructure the Divine Service to resemble heathen worship.”

    Also, Jesus preached parables in order to conceal the truth, not to appeal to the crowds. It’s plainly spelled out in Matthew 13:10-17.

  12. Comment 8 asked: Why must this be so? What about Paul’s “all things to all people…to win some”?

    In my comments in #7, I was referring to the Divine Service where the definition of what makes a church a church applies. I’m sorry if that was not clear ( Please see Rev. Ecket’s comment #11). I understand the verse you are referring to in 1 Corinthians as dealing with interactions outside of the Divine Service and mainly with helping a weaker brother grow into the unity of the faith. I think if you read the verse in it’s context, you will see the difference. It is such a popularly misquoted verse that it is easy to be misled from what the Scriptures actually say.

    To comment 9: I am looking forward to your new blog post Rev.Fisk and seeing the video. All I know is that the apostles set up men to serve in administrative and distribution types of work in order for them to be free to preach the gospel unhindered. I thought these servants were supposed to be under the preachers of the gospel not the other way around. As far as I can tell, the LCMS Inc.is failing to keep it’s proper place in this hierarchy. I may be all wet, but it seems to me that it resembles the tail trying to wag the dog.

  13. Paul did not simply pretend he was weak for the sake of the weak–he didn’t put on a show of weakness so as to appear weak himself–nor did he disavow that which he himself truly believed for anyone’s sake.
    We never see Paul advocating any shortcuts–not to altar fellowship and not into the ministry–for the sake of the weak, but only through sound teaching and good example.
    This is a great discussion. It should clear up some muddy thinking for many of us.

  14. “Martin,” Comment #8,

    I am not convinced by your argument that St. Paul would do the same. There is no logical connection between Mars Hill and having play-acting during the divine service.

    Paul is not conducting the divine service at Mars Hill nor anything close to it.

    Also, it is getting annoying that you and others who think that the forgiveness of sins announced, read, preached and placed on the lips during the divine service needs to be amplified with dramatics, psychologizing, sociologizing, etc. keep misapplying this passage from Acts.

    There is no justification in this passage for what you want to do. Rev. Eckert’s comment about the BLT in #11 above is right on as are the other comments.

    Let’s be honest about what Paul did. He was in a lecture hall of sorts. He saw a fitting object lesson. He made use of it as he evangelized. Once the objective truth of his message was rejected he departed. He did not try to change the message or approach to somehow reach the lost. He went on.

    Being all things to all people is not any where close to what you and your partners have in mind.

    Pastor Rossow

  15. Comment 8 said: How can we be sure that if they were not alive today that they would not? Seems that each of them was pretty good at reaching the crowds of their day! And Jesus certainly told a good story in the midst of His messages to make a point.

    Martin Luther, I would ask that you start testing the teachings you are receiving by applying some Berean principles and searching the scriptures to see if what you are being taught is true to scripture. Look to the scriptures and not men.

    Please remember that Paul on a number of occasions was stoned, beaten, and driven out of town for his message. Please remember that Paul did not continue to hang around Mars Hill once he saw it was fruitless to continue to dialogue in an attempt to reach them. Please remember that Jesus sent people away because all they were interested in was the material benefits they could gain from Him. Neither Jesus nor Paul seem to be swayed by the numbers game that is prevalent in some churches. Remember that Jesus seemed to be far more interested in people having faith in Him than how many people would hang around and follow Him for the wrong reasons. Jesus said things like, “Let him who has ears hear.” He did not try to please men, but said some pretty hard things to hear at times. If you check out the scriptures, then I think you will begin to see the differences between what you are being taught and what the scriptures teach.

  16. Faux Martin Luther wrote, Why must this be so? What about Paul’s “all things to all people…to win some”?

    Most certainly it is NOT true that Paul meant that he had abandoned pure doctrine or the sound teaching in order to win some. That is the issue we are grappling with faux Martin.

  17. It’s important, too, to remember that Paul went to his death believing and preaching the same message–the largely rejected, despised message–not of growth and not counting how many he’d reached, but still reaching nonetheless.
    I’m sure he had more than one opportunity to amend his style and content, and I don’t doubt many important and willing people would’ve followed after him then, and he might’ve been elevated among Romans instead of martyred. He could’ve made himself into ‘a Christian Rome can do business with,’ and prospered. Etc. Etc.
    Of course, he and his lukewarm followers would’ve all died in their sins. But it would’ve fallen to someone else, to carry the gospel truth to the gentiles, since God sees to it that His Word remains uncorrupted, even if only in small quarters and hidden corners, in little synods and little-noticed congregations in quiet neighborhoods.

  18. Whoever said Paul or anyone else abandoned pure doctrine? And of course he did not have the so-called “divine service.”

    And thanks for directing me to be a Berean. It shows me that some people are hung up on forms and styles — and sometimes gets in the way of the Gospel!

  19. To comment #18:

    ML, you have misunderstood why I asked you to read the bible and test the teachings you have received. If you would read the scriptures, it would show you that your beliefs are not in line with scriptures and that your belief that there was no Divine Service that followed an ordered form and style is false.

    If you don’t like to study scripture, then try this book: Jesus: Made in America by Stephen J. Nichols. I hope you will be a true Berean and that you will let the Lord lead you out of the fallacies you have imbibed in.

  20. Been there…read it! Interesting that you would refer to a book written by a professor at a college that teaches this:

    We believe in the imminent return of Jesus Christ to rapture the Church Age saints, followed by the tribulation period, and the visible return of Jesus Christ with His saints for His millennial reign on earth. We believe in the bodily resurrection of the just and unjust, in the reward and everlasting conscious blessedness of the just, and in the judgment and everlasting conscious punishment of the lost. Luke 16:19–26; John 11:25; 1 Corinthians 15:51-57; 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18; Revelation 20:1–15; 21:1–8.

    A better book to read might be Christ Have Mercy: How to Put Your Faith Into Action by Matthew Harrison. Or perhaps to do as I have done for many, many years, studied and taught Crossways here and around the world. So do not label me as one not familiar with the Word!

  21. By the way–explain this one to me if you will:

    If you would read the scriptures, it would show you that your beliefs are not in line with scriptures and that your belief that there was no Divine Service that followed an ordered form and style is false.

    What are you referring to in the Bible that is the “Divine Service”? I would concur that there is am ordered form and style (even biblically based) that some have chosen to follow as a form and style. But I would argue that it can also be done using a more contemporary style as well…and done by a non-robe wearing pastor.

  22. “Martin Luther,”

    Two points: 1) no one has ever claimed the divine service is in the scriptures although it is how Jesus worshipped (please see Dr. Just’s video on the liturgy and then you will get this point) and 2) check out Rev. 1 and notice how Jesus is dressed – you who seek to be as Lutheran as Jesus – and you will notice that he looks like a liturgical pastor (and there are even candles!) and not like the protestant Pastor Schuller that you seek to emulate.

    Pastor Rossow

  23. To comments #20 & 21:

    Good Grief ML, if you wish to debate, please use rational logic so your arguments have some kind of validity worth answering.

    1. To ascribe the university’s statement of belief to Nichols as one and the same or vice-versa is irrational.

    2. Please give greater care into reading what is actually said and not what you want it to say. I did not label you as unfamiliar with the word. Being familiar with the Word and understanding it are two different critters.

    3. Matt Harrison’s book sounds good, but I would have to question whether you have really read Nichol’s book or if you are merely obtuse since you missed the major thesis of Nichol’s book.

    4. The Divine Service is described throughout the Bible in the same way that Christ is revealed in all of scripture. Also, please see Pastor Rossow’s comment in #22.

    Please understand that I am done debating with you and will not engage in any further nonsense with you. Like Paul on Mars Hill, I know when to move on.

  24. P.S. to ML,

    Please forgive my impatience with you. I did not mean to be sharp and impatient with you. I do think it is time for me to end my comments with you, so please understand that I will not be continuing in this debate. Thank you.

  25. Debate? What debate?

    Every time someone tries to make a point with M.L., he ignores the major points and fixates on some minor point in order to change the topic. He did not engage anyone’s remarks made against his own, only on details.

    This is not debate. It is an exercise in shifting domain in order to evade an argument’s thrust. It is all M.L. has ever done.

  26. COMMENT 23: 1. To ascribe the university’s statement of belief to Nichols as one and the same or vice-versa is irrational.

    Hmmm…wonder if it only works one way….see this…

    ROSSOW ARTICLE Dr. Sweet is on the faculty of Drew University’s school of theology. Here is the description of their theological position (from http://www.drew.edu/).

    Obviously some people on this can take issue with where pepole teach, etc…but others cannot.

  27. “Martin,”

    Your point in #26 would be worth considering if weren’t for the fact that there is a huge difference between the heterodox and the heretical. Dr. Sweet teaches at a hereteical institution that is antithetical to the true faith. Nichols teaches at a heterodox institution that is yet Christian.

    Pastor Rossow

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