Can we really claim to have accomplished anything at a convention where we lost every vote? I believe we can. First, we actually were able to force a vote on an issue when, to my knowledge, no one before has ever been able to bring the issue to the convention. We said “No” to a trend which has been uncritically accepted for at least 15 years in our church.
I speak of the trend of beginning missions without the name “Lutheran” and without Lutheran accoutrements such as Luther’s catechism or a Lutheran hymnal, the Lutheran liturgy or Lutheran hymns. This is a trend which many in the church find alarming but none have challenged lately. And we did. 35% of the delegates said “No,” to the resolution to welcome the Alley church into the synod.
I had thought that we would get more than 40% to oppose this ill advised motion. I had even dreamed of actually getting more than 45%. So 35% was a disappointment. But this is 35% more than anyone has ever been able to gather of pastors and laymen who are saying, “No.” We are saying, “Enough already.”
Instead of quietly griping about the district mission starts we actually complained. It’s like we got to the Super bowl and lost. But we got there. Now there is a precedent. And I hope that other districts will try. Complain, memorialize, raise a ruckus, and be nice but adamant. We want our churches to call themselves Lutheran.
We complained so loudly that we forced a pastor whose website theological statement had no reference to any sacrament actually to call himself sacramental. And now the word is making a showing up on The Alley’s website as well. We made such a fuss about closed communion that certain sermons were removed from the site which asserted otherwise. We insisted on the name Lutheran which resulted in links to the LCMS being placed on the site. In May the Alley’s pastor had complained in a sermon about the scrutiny he was receiving because of the congregation’s application to join “a certain denomination.” In June he was shouting with boldness before 500 people, “I’m Lutheran, I’m Lutheran, I’m Lutheran.” And I’ve got to believe that he will be more conscious of the church’s desire that he be Lutheran.
So something wonderful was gained even though we got outvoted.
Secondly, it is now very apparent that the district intends to start many missions which do not use any recognizable hymnbook. This is the third mission in the last five years with such a strategy and the Ablaze covenant churches, all which are targeted to start four more churches each, will probably continue down this path. This tendency was not well known before the convention. Now it is. Every time your treasurer puts the church’s check to the district in the mail you can be a little less comfortable that the money will be used to begin a church that you will even recognize.
This knowledge is good. The revelation, even in defeat, is important. Churches can no longer assume that their mission dollars are being used the same way they always have been. And the more we know about how our dollars are spent, the better off we are.