What is the Post Synodical Age? A Live Report from The Augustana Ministerium Annual Conference, by Pr. Rossow

I am sitting in an LCMS church just north of Kansas City (Trinity – Kearney, MO) listening to a fine lecture delivered by a pastor in a maroon clerical collar. A maroon clerical collar is the sign of a bishop. But this man is not from the LCMS. He is not from the ELCA. He is not even from the Episcopal Church. (Remind me to tell you the story about meeting an Episcopalian in a maroon collar in the wash room. Maybe I’ll add it to the comments later.)

This particular bishop, the opening speaker of the Augustana Ministerium, makes for a great visual symbol for the theme of this conference which is on life in a post synodical world because he is the bishop of a group of pastors who have left the LCMS to form a diocese. Can a man just put on a maroon collar and declare himself a bishop? Well in this case he didn’t. There are nearly a dozen or so pastors who have agreed to join in this diocese (ELDONA) and submit to the authority of the Word of God as exercised by this man. Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

Before we get too wrapped up in that important question here is a brief review of the work of the Augustana Ministerium. This is how they describe their work on their website.

  • To provide emergency relief for pastors in crisis and need
  • To help small congregations keep their faithful pastors, even though they are unable to pay a pastor a full-time livable wage
  • To help plant new confessional mission congregations and preaching stations
  • To put ordained pastors who are without a call to serve in a particular place or are on CRM status back into ministry as pastors and teachers in the church
  • To establish, publish, and promote such theological conferences, educational resources, and other materials and events as appear helpful for the meeting of our purpose.

The Ministerium also commits to gather each year for theological discussion and debate and thus the conference.

I do not know enough about ELDONA to offer answers to my own questions above but will admit that these are great questions for us all and am pleased to report that much of what is being said here at the conference is very profound. For instance, here is an assertion from the first session about the role of bureaucrats in a synod that is organized like the LCMS:

Let’s no longer speak of presidents of synods accountable to an electorate but pastors accountable to the word of God.

Post synodical, according to the opening speaker, does not mean not eliminating organization in the church. It means not letting the rule of democracy be the authority in the church. It means letting the Word of God as supervised by those who have been given the call to be pastor, lead the church on the basis of God’s word. The speaker asserted that the LCMS has become synodical, that is, it has allowed itself to be defined by decisions at conventions rather than by pastor/theologians.

A rhetorical question was asked by the speaker: “Has anyone in the room (there are about 60 in attendance) ever seen the chair at an LCMS convention, district or synodical, rule a motion out of bounds because it was opposed to scripture?” No one could think of an example. The example was given of the adoption of the oxymoronic notion of “lay ministry” by the LCMS in synodical convention. Why didn’t the chair rule the motion that brought us this false notion out of order? Whatever being synodical means, it appears that it has allowed for democractic votes to overule Scripture.

I am not sure that a diocese organized around pastoral authority is the answer but it certainly is refreshing to hear about a group that has a greater dedication to pastoral supervision than what we currently see in the LCMS. It is also clear that no matter what we do in the LCMS, we need to increase our understanding of pastoral supervision, and also simply increase the amount of pastoral supervision.

I hope to share more from this conference. The second presentation is underway and there is more good stuff. I may not have time to share much more since I have several posts to write to summarize the Northern Illinois District convention from last week. Tomorrow morning the conference has granted me a few minutes to bring greetings from the Brothers of John the Steadfast. I am happy to report that the Augustana Ministerium is a steadfast group and we are glad to have them posting on this site regularly.

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

What is the Post Synodical Age? A Live Report from The Augustana Ministerium Annual Conference, by Pr. Rossow — 11 Comments

  1. I am not sure that a diocese organized around pastoral authority is the answer

    I don’t think that this is an accurate characterization. If you will look at the reading that Bp. Heiser recommended from “The Second Martin,” substituting “the laity in general” for “the duke” or other such referents, you will have a more accurate picture.

    I.e., it is not about pastoral authority, but about the authority of the Word. The pastor serves Christ’s flock by serving the Word, and the bishop serves the pastors by serving the Word–correcting, admonishing, rebuking by it.

    EJG (soon to see you in Excelsior Springs, God willing, after a delayed journey to northern Missouri)

  2. I’m not sure what the Biblically-endorsed church organization is supposed to be. I suppose the problem with having one man as one’s Biblical authority is that there aren’t any apostles left and therefore you are more likely to end up with a Jim Jones or a David Koresh than a Paul or John. I would suppose the intent of having a larger vote is that big deviations are less likely than in an individual. With a crowd, of course, one has the problem of drift, and in particular the following of fashion.

    Didn’t we have large crowds investing authority in individuals during the reformation? And thus we had the Lutherans, and the Calvinists, and the Zwinglians and so on?

  3. I suppose the problem with having one man as one’s Biblical authority is that there aren’t any apostles left and therefore you are more likely to end up with a Jim Jones

    Which is why the Evangelical Lutheran Diocese of North America does not have “one man as one’s Biblical authority.”

    This is really a good reason to ask, rather than to suppose.

    EJG

  4. I wasn’t saying they did, didn’t intend to offend. The article seemed to be about pastors reporting to one person rather than to a democratic body. I was merely reflecting to what kind of earthly doctrinal authorities one might have.

  5. I think that it needs to be said that ELDONA and The Augustana Ministerium are two totally different organizations. While both my be “steadfast” the Ministerium is not a church body, a synod nor a diocese. As you noted the Ministerium is organized to:
    * To provide emergency relief for pastors in crisis and need
    * To help small congregations keep their faithful pastors, even though they are unable to pay a pastor a full-time livable wage
    * To help plant new confessional mission congregations and preaching stations
    * To put ordained pastors who are without a call to serve in a particular place or are on CRM status back into ministry as pastors and teachers in the church
    * To establish, publish, and promote such theological conferences, educational resources, and other materials and events as appear helpful for the meeting of our purpose.

    this we are doing to the tune of about $30,000.00 dollars this year and would do more if the funds were available. My comments are not speaking against ELDONA, rather an attempt to differentiate between the two. TAM membership – both lay (confraternity) and pastoral (Ministerium) is pan-synodical.

  6. Good discussion. I came into the Lutheran church recently from another church that had bishops. It’s not a bad thing have a bishop as the pastors’ pastor, first among equals, but I don’t care for notions of apostolic succession or lifetime tenure. Now on a deeper note, we need to agree that bishop’s shirts are purple not maroon.

  7. It’s not a bad thing have a bishop as the pastors’ pastor, first among equals, but I don’t care for notions of apostolic succession or lifetime tenure.

    Pastors have “lifetime tenure.” When one is received by the body at large as a bishop, that is integrated into his Call as pastor of a particular parish (an addition to his duties locally), and thus it may endure as that Call itself does. Because–in the ELDoNA, at least–the bishop is not subject to the shifting winds of successive ‘conventions’, but rather to the pastors he serves and their commitment to the pure doctrine drawn from God’s Word, his ‘removability’ is higher than that of a bureaucrat who merely has to please a majority of mostly uninformed voters every three or four years. Humble pastors often have a bit of reticence to preach with other pastors present–a wariness, a fear of judgment, etc.–but the bishop, properly ordered, is under constant judgment by the pastors he serves and is held to the cumulative ‘higher standard’ of them all.

    As to apostolic succession, the ELDoNA, along with authentic Lutheranism in all ages, recognizes that the only real connection to the apostles that one may claim is the same as the claim to being sons of Abraham: agreement in what they have taught.

    Purple? Maroon? I would say, “Deep Purple,” but that would lend itself to too many jokes about the use of incense at Baptisms…

    😉

    EJG

  8. “Let’s no longer speak of presidents of synods accountable to an electorate but pastors accountable to the word of God.”

    In reality there still are synods and there still are presidents of synods accountable to an electorate (both pastors and congregations) and who are not currently pastors themselves in that they do not have a call to a congregation to perform the AC.XIV duties of a pastor, nor are their synods set up as an episcopist-style heirarchical “super-church” polity where the president of the synod is the “super-pastor” (e.g., archbishop) over all the other pastors and congregations of the synod. In the case of the Missouri Synod, the mitre will have to stay in the closet.

    Bubbles:“I’m not sure what the Biblically-endorsed church organization is supposed to be.”

    I’m not sure what “Biblically-endorsed” is supposed to be. Is it supposed to be equivalent to “Biblically-commanded,” “Biblically-mandated,” “Biblically-prescribed,” “Biblically-authorized,” “Biblically-recommended,” Biblically-suggested,” “Biblically-described,” “Biblically-permitted,” “Biblically-acceptable,” “Biblically-alluded to,” “Biblically-left to Christian liberty,” or Biblically-not forbidden”?

    From Church and Ministry: The Collected Papers of The 150th Anniversary Theological Convocation of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, (The Office of the President, St. Louis, 1998, p. 183f):

    “Citing Luther’s position that Christ gave His church no such law prescribing one right organization, government, and polity (de constituenda ecclesia), Sasse says, ‘Any way of organizing things may do, so long as the Means of Grace are going on and are not frustrated.’ Ibid., p.71 [Hermann Sasse, We Confess the Church, trans. Norman Nagel, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1986]. Note, furthermore, Sasse’s observation that the beginning of the Christian church was marked not by uniformity but by diversity.”

    Thus rather than being in a “post-synodical age” the congregational polity of the Missouri Synod could be considered a Biblically-endorsed organization, though at times the efforts of its elected and appointed representatives are not.

  9. Thus rather than being in a “post-synodical age” the congregational polity of the Missouri Synod could be considered a Biblically-endorsed organization,

    Beyond the right conclusion of Sasse that there is no Biblically-mandated polity, this post becomes utterly worthless by “Vehse’s” refusal to accept the definition of “post-synodical” repeated time and again by those who coined the term. When one pokes at a concept by distorting the concept (i.e., building a strawman), he shows his own reasoning to be vacuous.

    Then again, that’s what hiding behind pseudonyms does, too.

  10. Being in attendance at the Augustana Ministerium’s meetings today, I found Pastor Stefanski’s comments very thought-provoking. I myself am doing a bit of studying on ELDONA, so further resources along with the website would be much appreciated. Regardless of our use of terms such as “sectarian,” “power structure,” etc., our desire is for Confessional unity.

    One advantage I see to a smaller body of congregations’ striving to be faithful to the Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions is better ecclesial supervision. Not only do the bishop, pastors, and congregations have the advantage of mutual accountability to Holy Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions, they also have a not-so-far-flung collegiality.

    As one pastor stated some years ago, “Theology is the art of making distinctions.” Pastor Stefanski certainly got us thinking of the distinction between having fellowship with those synods sanctioning nonBiblical Eucharistic praxis vs. having fellowship with those who practice closed Communion according to Holy Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions.

    What a blessed tie-in this topic had with Pastor Weedon’s afternoon session on Confession and Absolution, especially for pastors. Part of my rightly upholding the office of the holy ministry as a layman involves respecting my pastors’ needs. They have the need to confess their sins, frustrations, and faults to someone just as I rejoice in receiving the gift of private Confession and Absolution from them.

    Again, our desire to uphold the authority of Holy Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions fashions our altar and pulpit fellowship, our theological associations, and Christ-centered outreach in our post-synodical world.
    David Rosenkoetter

  11. “In the case of the Missouri Synod, the mitre will have to stay in the closet.” –carlvehse
    (aka Dr. Rick Strickert)

    If the restructuring succeeds, what’s to make it “stay in the closet”? Our fearless leader has already got a magnificent cope for it.

    It seems to me that we are heading toward old time Methodist polity (and doctrine, too, perhaps) where the only thing the parsonage could be sure of is that they would be up ended every two years or so. For better or worse, depending on their “success” with the “Superintendent”.
    Which is not so different from Central Texas these days, except that the Methodist move was to another congregation, whereas all too many here have been invited to limbo. (Another one last week, I’m told.)

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