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.