Ablaze, by Pr. Klemet Preus

(Editor’s Note: Last week Mollie broke a story on an interesting assessment of Ablaze written by an insider. I followed up with a philosophical critique and now Pr. Preus offers this five part churchly analysis of Ablaze based on this recent insider assessment.)

I can remember sitting in the visitors section of the 2004 convention and watching as the deliberations regarding Ablaze! transpired. It was, to me, ominous.

Resolution 1-01a was presented. It’s first resolved stated our bold affirmation that “we must be confessional and mission minded in a world that continues to change.” I was annoyed that the word “and” was underlined in the resolution. It suggested two things to me; first, that we have not been mission minded in the past and, second, that we needed to stress mission work more than stress our confessionalism. It struck me as a deviation from the balance which president Barry had promoted, “Keep the message straight, get the message out.” No one back then said that we should be “mission-minded and confessional,” as if we needed to reaffirm the confessions more than mission work. Why were we pitting the two against each other now? Further, to me that little three letter underline not only downplayed the confessions it distanced us from our missionary past, it dismissed and even disrespected that noble past. It seemed obvious to me that someone was getting dissed.

Then I thought, “Klemet, you are just being uptight. You are probably reading too much into the resolution. The delegates are simply being mission-minded. They do not mean to suggest that a renewed loyalty to our confessions is unnecessary. They certainly do not mean to imply that we have not been mission-minded in the past. Quit finding the bad. Find the good.” I breathed a sigh of relief when one of the delegates made the motion that the resolution be amended by placing the words “continue to be” in front of the words “confessional and mission-minded.” “That’s better,” I thought. Now we will say that we will continue to be confessional and mission minded. No one will oppose this. We don’t want to disrespect our past and we can still look to the future and work towards the goals of Ablaze!.

You can read the minutes for yourself. The “motion to amend failed.” Ouch. My cynicism justly returned. Our synod was actually saying that our past evangelism efforts have failed.

Now let’s fast forward to the present.

“Of the four tenets of Ablaze! Outlined above, tenet number three may be the one which is the most contestable, as it implies that what has been done in the LC-MS toward the work of evangelizing the world pre-Ablaze has failed.” So says David Vaughn in his “A Policy analysis of the Ablaze! Movement.” [1] The last part of that sentence bears repeating. “What has been done in the LC-MS toward the work of evangelizing the world pre-Ablaze has failed.” What a remarkable statement. It is remarkable for four reasons.

First it is palpably and provably untrue. That analysis will have to wait until my next blog.

Second, it is insulting. Even if true why say it? That analysis will have to wait as well.

Third, such a statement is replete with such hubris as to make me angry. That will wait too.

Fourth, to distance ourselves from the noble past portends failure in the near future.

So, in my next few blogs I will show why the underpinnings of the Ablaze! initiative have undermined the success of the movement itself. It is based upon a tenet which is untrue, insulting, prideful and ripe for failure. I will then offer a better way in the blogs beyond that.

[1] David Vaughn, “A Policy analysis of the Ablaze! Movement,” Missio Apostlica, Vol. xvi, no. 2 (November 2008) 133-134.

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