Great Stuff Found on the Web — Pastor Harrison on “Is the LCMS a Pseudo-Community?”

One of BJS’s faithful readers submitted this as something that would be useful to post. I know when I first read though It’s Time I missed reading this appendix. With some of the discussions going on here and around the web I thought the reader is right — it might be useful to re-read this part of Rev. Matt Harrison’s It’s Time document. This was originally published here.

Pastor Harrison speaking:


Here’s the “Appendix” I provided to “It’s Time.” Quotations are mostly from M. Scott Peck, The Different Drum: Community Making and Peace (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1987), 86-87. For the full document (and documentation) visit www.itistime.org.

Pastor H.

 

APPENDIX

Insights from M. Scott Peck on Community Building & the LCMS
(Is the LCMS a Pseudo-Community?)

WARNING: STRONG SOCIOLOGICAL CONTENT

MERELY FOLLOWING THE PROCESS which produced the Formula of Concord probably won’t get us too far, absent a little sanctified sociology. M. Scott Peck, the author of The Road Less Traveled, has also written extensively on the topic of community and community building, based on years of experience working with people and organizations. While there are significant aspects of his writing that I do not find particularly helpful and with which I disagree, he makes some very compelling observations on the sociology and pathologies of unhealthy communities and what it takes to change them. The LCMS, for all its great strengths and blessings, is in many respects an unhealthy community, and has been for decades. Unhealthy groups, Peck argues, generally find themselves in one of several stages of dysfunction. Peck’s analysis largely applies, I’m convinced, to the LCMS.

Let me just state up front, that like the community Paul addressed in Corinth, we are in fact the body of Christ, despite our warts. The church is “hidden under the cross” also in the LCMS. And despite all her weaknesses, the LCMS is still the best thing going. But by the grace of God, we can do much better at living this fellowship we have in Christ.

Stage 1: Pseudo-Community

“Honesty is the most important trait in life. If you can fake that, you have it made.”

“The first response of a group in seeking to form a community is most often to try to fake it. The members attempt to be an instant community by being extremely pleasant with one another and avoiding all disagreement. This attempt—this pretense of community—is what I term ‘pseudo-community.’ It never works.” “Pseudo-community is conflict-avoiding; true community is conflict-resolving.” “What is diagnostic of pseudo-community is the minimization, the lack of acknowledgement, or the ignoring of individual differences. Nice people are so accustomed to being well-mannered that they are able to deploy their good manners without even thinking about what they are doing. In pseudo-community it is as if every individual member is operating according to the same book of etiquette. The rules of this book are: Don’t do or say anything that might offend someone else; if someone does or says something that offends, annoys, or irritates you, act as if nothing has happened and pretend you are not bothered in the least; and if some form of disagreement should show signs of appearing, change the subject as quickly and smoothly as possible—rules that any good hostess knows. It is easy to see how these rules make for a smoothly functioning group. But they also crush individuality, intimacy, and honesty, and the longer it lasts, the duller it gets.”

“The basic pretense of pseudo-community is the denial of individual differences. The members pretend—act as if—they all have the same belief. . . . One of the characteristics of pseudo-community is that people tend to speak in generalities.” “Once individual differences are not only allowed but encouraged to surface in some such way, the group almost immediately moves to the second stage of community development: chaos.”

Stage 2: Chaos

“We started off trying to set up a small anarchist community, but people wouldn’t follow the rules.”

“The chaos always centers around well-intentioned but misguided attempts to heal and convert.” “By and large, people resist change. So the healers and converters try harder to heal or convert, until finally their victims get their backs up and start trying to heal the healers and convert the converters. It is indeed chaos. Chaos is not just a state, it is an essential part of the process of community development. Consequently, unlike pseudo-community, it does not simply go away as soon as the group becomes aware of it. After a period of chaos, when I remark, ‘We don’t seem to be doing very well at community, do we?’ someone will reply, ‘No, and it’s because of this.’ ‘No, it’s because of that,’ someone else will say. And so we are off again. In the stage of chaos individual differences are, unlike those in pseudo-community, right out in the open. Only now, instead of trying to hide or ignore them, the group is attempting to obliterate them. Underlying the attempts to heal and convert is not so much the motive of love as the motive to make everyone normal—and the motive to win, as the members fight over whose norm might prevail.” [This precisely describes life at the national intersection of the LCMS.]

“Frequently, fully developed communities will be required to fight and struggle. Only they have learned to do so effectively. The struggle during chaos is chaotic. It is not merely noisy, it is uncreative, unconstructive. The disagreement that arises from time to time in a genuine community is loving and respectful and usually remarkably quiet—even peaceful—as the members work hard to listen to each other….Not so in chaos. If anything, chaos, like pseudo-community, is boring, as the members continually swat at each other to little or no effect. It has no grace or rhythm. Indeed, the predominant feeling an observer is likely to have in response to a group in the chaotic stage of development is despair. The struggle is going nowhere, accomplishing nothing. It is no fun.”

“Since chaos is unpleasant, it is common for the members of a group in this stage to attack not only each other but also their leader. ‘We wouldn’t be squabbling like this if we had effective leadership,’ they will say. . . . In some sense they are quite correct; their chaos is a natural response to a relative lack of direction. The chaos could easily be circumvented by an authoritarian leader who assigned them specific tasks and goals. The only problem is that a group led by [such a figure] is not, and never can be, a community. . . . In response to this perceived vacuum of leadership during the chaotic stage of community development, it is common for one or more members of the group to attempt to replace the designated leader. . . .”

Then, says Peck, what is proposed, “one way or another, is virtually always an ‘escape into organization.’ [Note the non-stop, decades-long attempts; note all the special task forces on structure which have proposed this or that constitutional and bylaw change.] It is true that organizing is a solution to chaos . . . But an organization is able to nurture a measure of community within itself only to the extent that it is willing to risk or tolerate a certain lack of structure. As long as the goal is community-building, organization as an attempted solution to chaos is an unworkable solution.”

“The proper resolution of chaos is not easy. Because it is both unproductive and unpleasant, it may seem that the group has degenerated from pseudo-community into lighted with it. The disagreement was quite vocal, and the membership was in real pain over the schism. Yet in their outspokenness, their open suffering, and their commitment to hang in there as they struggled with each other I sensed a great deal of vitality. I was hardly able to suggest any immediate solution. . . . ‘Your chaos,’ I explained to them, ‘is preferable to pseudo-community. You are not a healthy community, but you are able to confront the issues openly. Fighting is far better than pretending you are not divided. It’s painful, but it’s a beginning. You are aware that you need to move beyond your warring factions, and that’s infinitely more hopeful than if you felt you didn’t need to move at all.'”

Stage 3: Emptiness

“I feel so miserable without you, it’s almost like having you here.”

“‘There are only two ways out of chaos,’ I will explain to a group after it has spent a sufficient period of time squabbling and getting nowhere. ‘One is into organization—but organization is never community. The other way is into and through emptiness.'” “More often than not the group will simply ignore me and go on squabbling. Then after another while I will say, ‘I suggested to you that the only way from chaos to community is into and through emptiness. But apparently you were not terribly interested in my suggestion.’ More squabbling, but finally a member will ask with a note of annoyance, ‘Well, what is this emptiness stuff anyway?’ . . . Emptiness is the hard part. It is also the most crucial stage of community development. It is the bridge between chaos and community. When the members of a group finally ask me to explain what I mean by emptiness, I tell them simply that they need to empty themselves of barriers to communication. And I am able to use their behavior during chaos to point out to them specific things— feelings, assumptions, ideas, and motives—that have so” filled their minds as to make them impervious as billiard balls. . . .” Peck asserts that among those things which members of an unhealthy community need to “empty themselves,” are:

  • Expectations and Preconceptions—”false expectations of what the experience will be like.” “We…try to make the experience [of talking to each other] conform to our expectations. . . . Until such time as we can empty ourselves of expectations and stop trying to fit others and our relationships with them into a preconceived mold, we cannot really listen, hear, or experience.” [Thus: ‘They will never change.’ Or, ‘We will never have unity in the LCMS on this or that issue.’]
  • Prejudices—which takes time! [Very often have we not simply pre-judged that “they” can’t and won’t hear the Word of God? We have done this for so long that we cannot listen to, or even hear each other.]
  • The Need to Control—”I am constantly tempted to do things—manipulations or maneuvers—that will ensure the desired outcome. But the desired outcome—community—cannot be achieved by an authoritarian leader who calls the shots. It must be a creation of the group as a whole. . . . The need for control—to ensure the desired outcome—is at least partially rooted in the fear of failure.”

Peck’s analysis of the impediments to the building of a healthy community are remarkably applicable to the LCMS, and at several levels. This is simply good sociology (a good, created gift of God when used in subjection to the Word of God).

Bob Kuhn once told me just after an LCMS convention, “Enjoy this year because the second year after the convention will be much worse, and the year before the next convention is always terrible.” Why? The LCMS pseudo-community mode of polite avoidance of the real and troubling issues predominates the institutional life of the Synod, while hardball politicking pervades the “back room” life of the institution. What Peck describes as “chaos” peaks, leading up to and through the LCMS convention. The “opposition” complains to high heaven about increased “powers” of the Synod president and bureaucracy, only to run right to “organization” (the “bylaws”) to maintain control and bring about “unity,” or rather, “pseudo-unity” if elected. Then the process repeats itself. But after a half century it has become intolerably “boring” and unhealthy. It’s never going to unite. Many (on opposite sides of issues) have fallen into “despair” regarding the “Synod.” Perhaps we are inching forward to the point of recognizing that this perennial/triennial vacillation between pseudo-community and chaos is as futile as it is unhealthy.

The road to what Peck calls “emptiness” will only come with repentance. And community among us will only be healthy, will only reflect the true “koinonia” (which is a gift, and ours despite ourselves), when it reflects the community of Acts 2:42, “And they devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles, the fellowship [community], the breaking of bread, and the prayers.”

Kyrie eleison . . .

Rev Matt Harrison


For more information read It’s Time.

About Norm Fisher

Norm was raised in the UCC in Connecticut, and like many fell away from the church after high school. With this background he saw it primarily as a service organization. On the miracle of his first child he came back to the church. On moving to Texas a few years later he found a home in Lutheranism when he was invited to a confessional church a half-hour away by our new neighbors.

He is one of those people who found a like mind in computers while in Middle School and has been programming ever since. He's responsible for many websites, including the Book of Concord, LCMSsermons.com, and several other sites.

He has served the church in various positions, including financial secretary, sunday school teacher, elder, PTF board member, and choir member.

More of his work can be found at KNFA.net.

Comments

Great Stuff Found on the Web — Pastor Harrison on “Is the LCMS a Pseudo-Community?” — 29 Comments

  1. How does Peck’s verbose descriptions of community and relative differences in cultural traditions and communication styles compare with the Church community that has to deal with the absolutism of doctrine?

    Church members can take numerous Dale Carnegie-style courses to have the most winsome personality, which will come in handy if a decision on the color of the new church carpet needs to be made.

    But if there is disagreement with or denial of the doctrine confessed by that church, the winsome personality ultimately isn’t going to count for squat in continuing to be a member of that church.

  2. I am assuming harrison does not agree with Peck’s mysticism and zen like approach that is the hallmark of most of his writing. This appendex again shows how we LCMSers find “good ideas” outside of God’s word and our confessions usually to our great harm. The heck with Peck, you are either with us or outside of us and determining this is much easier than our professionals would have us believe. We have every right to expect our leaders to adhere to fundamental confessional posisitions and practices and if they do not they should not be shocked if we let them go. enough of the excessively cautious avoidance of the application of truth. I am also confident that the kind of “community” Peck envisions is not the Body of Christ.

  3. Mames,

    Please be more specific. How does Pastor Harrison’s use of Peck’s idea (obviously without endorsing anything else Peck teaches) do “great harm”?

    I thought it was an example of rightly using an idea from outside Lutheranism.

    With all due respect, I think you’ve missed the point of Pastor Harrison’s essay.

    TW

  4. I get the point, as long winded as it was. I am awkwardly trying to say that Peck says nothing we do not already know. Many of our professionals cite these external sources as though they were powerful insights none of us have had before. I might add that both the appendex and Peck’s thoughts are far too verbose to be helpful for the common layman. THIs particualr idea is not harmful but the trend to go outside is in fact usually very harmful and therfore for the most part unnecessary. We are not in need of a culture and community shift we are in need of strident faithfulness to our Confessions.

    We will in fact need leaders who are willing and able to call any given other leader out of line when they in fact are. I find this especially disturbing when they do NOT PUBLICLY correct and admonish such error and practical doctrinal dilution even as it is done openly and in defiance of our Confessions. The last public admonition I read was from Wally Schultz several years ago and he caught unholy heck from some of his peers for his dead on words.

    Thanks for asking. I have high regard for your insight. Deep down I see as vital that (if possible) we have a loving, good old fashioned house cleaning and many of us in the pews see this as very necesssary. The blantant arrogance of many of our Pastors who when questioned about thier open communion, praise worship, annointing with oil, anti Walther’s view of church, CG gone amuck etc.. is not only rude but very unChrist like and leads one to question if the Pastor desires a kingdom of his own. Why are they so eager to emulate others who lack Biblical depth? Why do they go outside to find models like Schueller, Hybels, even Olsteen? I would prefer following an inside path and not look ouside for any validation.

  5. Mames,

    You appear to be lumping Pastor Harrison together with those who disregard our confessions in favor of non-Lutheran ideas and influences. I don’t think that this is fair.

    Pastor Harrison isn’t using Peck to undermine or replace our Confessional standard; he’s using Peck (in an extremely limited way) to help diagnose our plight. Surely you can distinguish between the two?

    TW

  6. Harrison: “The LCMS, for all its great strengths and blessings, is in many respects an unhealthy community, and has been for decades. Unhealthy groups, Peck argues, generally find themselves in one of several stages of dysfunction. Peck’s analysis largely applies, I’m convinced, to the LCMS.

    Stage 1: Pseudo-Community
    Peck: “Pseudo-community is conflict-avoiding; true community is conflict-resolving.” “What is diagnostic of pseudo-community is the minimization, the lack of acknowledgement, or the ignoring of individual differences.

    Vehse: What does this mean concerning those in the Missouri Synod who publicly hold a different doctrinal position than the official one of the Missouri Synod?

    Peck: “Once individual differences are not only allowed but encouraged to surface in some such way, the group almost immediately moves to the second stage of community development: chaos.

    Vehse: What does this mean concerning those in the Missouri Synod who publicly hold a different doctrinal position than the official one of the Missouri Synod?

    Stage 2: Chaos
    Peck: “In the stage of chaos individual differences are, unlike those in pseudo- community, right out in the open. Only now, instead of trying to hide or ignore them, the group is attempting to obliterate them. Underlying the attempts to heal and convert is not so much the motive of love as the motive to make everyone normal—and the motive to win, as the members fight over whose norm might prevail.”

    Vehse: What does this mean concerning those in the Missouri Synod who publicly hold a different doctrinal position than the official one of the Missouri Synod?

    Stage 3: Emptiness
    Peck: “‘There are only two ways out of chaos,’ I will explain to a group after it has spent a sufficient period of time squabbling and getting nowhere. ‘One is into organization—but organization is never community. The other way is into and through emptiness.’

    Vehse: What does this mean concerning those in the Missouri Synod who publicly hold a different doctrinal position than the official one of the Missouri Synod?

    Peck asserts that among those things which members of an unhealthy community need to “empty themselves,” are:

    Expectations and Preconceptions – “Until such time as we can empty ourselves of expectations and stop trying to fit others and our relationships with them into a preconceived mold, we cannot really listen, hear, or experience.

    Prejudices – which takes time! Harrison: “[Very often have we not simply pre-judged that ‘they’ can’t and won’t hear the Word of God? We have done this for so long that we cannot listen to, or even hear each other.]”

    The Need to Control – “But the desired outcome—community—cannot be achieved by an authoritarian leader who calls the shots. It must be a creation of the group as a whole.

    Vehse: What does this mean concerning those in the Missouri Synod who publicly hold a different doctrinal position than the official one of the Missouri Synod?

  7. To summarize: communities that ignore their problems are not truly communities. Communities that are fighting are at least acknowledging their problems, but they are talking past each other and not resolving them. I 100% agree that this is where the LCMS is.

    I believe Pr. Harrison is trying to say with stage 3 that LCMS bureaucratic restructuring will not solve our problems, but that we should repent and return to our common confession. I agree with this.

    I did not read it that way at first, before getting to Pr. Harrison’s conclusion. When Peck denigrates organization I took that to mean the LCMS should not practice church discipline or make rules binding us to true doctrine in any way. I took his calls for emptiness in a zen/buddhist type of way. I took getting rid of expectations and preconceptions to mean find ways to compromise. How can truth compromise with falsehood? I know Pr. Harrison does not believe any of this, but the point is that it is less than clear. Why have Peck call us to emptiness and then have Pr. Harrison translate emptiness to repentance? Just call us to repentance.

    I agree with the point Pr. Harrison was trying to make and with Mames’s critique. I believe Pr. Harrison would make a fine Synod President and would like to know if his article was not being interpreted the way he intended.

    Pr. Wilken, I don’t believe Mames means any disrespect to Pr. Harrison, just as I don’t.

  8. Justin,

    Please remember that what Norm posted here is an appendix to “It’s Time,” not the main document itself. Most of it is quotations from Peck (I assume to provide some context for Harrison’s use of Peck in the main document). This explains its disjointed reading.

    Pastor Harrison’s main points are best judged by reading the document itself, not an appendix.

    TW

  9. I can no more fault this Appendix for being mis-read than I can fault The Revelation to John for being cryptic. While many interpretations exist, only one is correct, especially in the case of Holy Scripture. In this case, we can’t say we weren’t warned. “Strong Sociological Content” subheads the Appendix. The question is whether sociological principles apply to the establishment known as the LCMS.

    What is the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod? Its members are baptized into Christ. Its members also comprise a corporation established for training of clergy and pooling of resources, united by a common confession. First and foremost, we are part of the body of Christ, ergo the Church, as Pr. Harrison correctly assesses. However, does that make us a community?

    Does community “logic” and sociological science apply to the body of Christ? Are communities inherently variegated in terms of individuals’ missions and differences of opinion? If so, should the Body of Christ call itself a community?

    Allow me to be clear: The Body of Christ has but one Head. A community has a lot of “heads” and he who speaks loudest and most persuasively has the floor, for better or worse. So…are we a community or a Body?

    I’m not going to try to minimize or trivialize our synod’s problems. I’m not going to say we don’t have differences, but Christ, our Head, didn’t die for our differences. He died for our common terminal illness. He died for sinners, and we qualify. He rose again for sinners, and as He did, so shall we.

    Now what? It’s not that we chose this. He chose us. We may choose to be a community, but He chose us to be His body. We can commonly confuse the Two Kingdoms just as easily as Law and Gospel. As a Body, we look to the head for all things (see Luther’s explanation of the Creed), and we find that in Holy Scripture. We have the Symbols as a correct exposition of the Scriptures. The LCMS should highly prize them above and beyond any other constitution or bylaws.

    Do our problems as the Body of Christ, the Church, have parallels to the community problems M. Scott Peck identifies? Undeniably yes, but every metaphor has its point of failure.

    “It’s Time” is about why changing the bylaws and organizational structures of the synod won’t solve the synod’s problems. The synod is full of sinners. That’s the problem. It will always be the problem, and it always has been the problem. We need to get the message straight. We need to get the message out. We need to remove obstructions from the proclamation of the Gospel: that Christ died for sinners, and we qualify. To do so angrily only alerts people to one’s anger, and they will hear only that, and not the message. (Even now, I struggle to appreciate the substance of Mames’ arguments over and against his tone.) Pr. Harrison recognizes this. I will charitably surmise that’s a reason M. Scott Peck’s insights are found in the Appendix, and not the essay proper.

  10. Pastor Harrison is right to refer to the Missouri Synod as a pseudo-community. A real community has some kind of common doctrine and outlook. The Missouri Synod is two church bodies, not one. the largest piece is a wierd quasi-Baptist group utterly besotted with the folkways and mores of American Evangelicalism. This group is devoted to the methods and values of the church growth movement, emotionalistic worship and the theology of glory. The other major group is more or less confessional Lutheran. The situation between these two groups is pretty much impossible. The Quasi-Baptists truly hate most of Lutheran theology and really don’t want to have much to do with it. I think the most God-pleasing thing under the circumstances would be a an amicable divorce. I honestly would wish the Quasi-Baptists well. I don’t hate them, just like I don’t hate the Baptist church two doors down from my house. I would wish them well, just as I wish the Southern Baptist Convention well. The time has come for the great Missouri crack-up. They can even keep the name if they like, although I would imagine they would like something that sounds a little more hip.

  11. todd wilken,

    I am trying to make the point that whats the point of using Peck or any other source to explain our situation. Our problem is a blatant derivation from our Confessions without consequences. As I said the heck with Peck. I am not lumping Harrison in with the non confessional types but I am suggesting he need not cite anything but our confessions. Stick to the elephant in the room, point out the real issue of disunity and lack of doctrinal and practical discipline. We do not care about sociological papers by folks trying to be the smartest person in the room. what in God’s name does any of this have to do with faithfulness and discipline?

    I suppose when Luther stridently confronted error “only his tone was heard and not the substance of his argument.” Yes it is true we are all sinners, thats always a given but movement away from core doctrine and practice by trained professionals cannot be viewed as simply adiophora, it is deliberate and forcefully imposed, it is poison and needs to be called what it is.

  12. @Carl Vehse #7

    @mames #13

    With these types of comments, is it any wonder that the JF and CG crowd think that we are “haters”. We want them to re-join us because we hold a correct view, or at least I have always thought that that was the idea, and not to drive folks away with yelling and screaming (yes, that is what strident means).

  13. I agree with Harrison’s inclusion of this Appendix in his very fine piece, It’s Time. There are other dynamics at work in dividing our Synod in addition to doctrine. The Synod is intended to be a community, a fellowship – a koinonia (Act 2). For FAR too long, we have been talking past each other, rather than to each other. Anyone who says, “Things will be all better when we do it MY way” has already sown the seeds of continued conflcit. Let’s deal with docrinal aberrations, certainly and most importantly. But to think that our fellowship will be “fixed” by obtaining doctrinal agreement is naive. Doctrinal unity does not take care of abrasive personalities, nor does it erase past wounds.

  14. @ Kenneth J. Schmidt #11

    As Pr. Wilken mentioned on Issues, Etc. recently, what unites the LCMS is not a common confession, but a common benefits package.

    I sincerely doubt that restructuring synod will fix that, either.

  15. It would almost seem that doctrinally & confessionally, we now have an anarchist community, but nobody’s following the rules. Hmmmm. Where have I read that before?

    We have forgotton who we are as Lutherans.

    Johannes

  16. Despite Steven Bobb’s ad hominem red herrings, we should focus on the issue of this thread – mainly the applicability of Peck’s sociological views of community and his prescriptions to the problems existing within the Missouri Synod today.

    My point is that majority, but not all, of the problems in the Missouri Synod have to do with doctrine, doctrinal indifference, and doctrinal heterodoxies. How does Peck’s prescription apply to these issues?

  17. Regarding the doctrinal differences in the Missouri Synod, Rev. Harrison noted in his article, “It’s Time”: “It is possible to unify 85% of the Synod in doctrine, practice and mission, I’m convinced.

    This would suggest that Rev. Harrison believes there is currently less than 85% agreement in doctrine, practice, and misson within the Missouri Synod (to which I would agree), and that it is reasonable to set and work toward a goal of 85 percent (of which I think is too low for doctrinal unity).

    A similar disunity among Lutherans occurred in the last half of the 16th century. According to Rev. Harrison, Chemnitz succeeded in resolving the disunity by inviting “extensive discussion with and between those who disagreed,although ‘in a certain sense he was more intolerant. [Yet] he never dictated! Instead, he discussed until the disputed points were so clear that either his opponents could agree with him or they at least had to respect his judgment.'”

    How something like this could be done today is not clear from the article, especially with its attached Appendix entitled, “Insights from M. Scott Peck on Community Building & the LCMS.” Thus the question I have asked repeatedly.

    BTW, around the middle of the 19th century the Lutherans of the Missouri Synod faced another doctrinal disunity, including with other Lutherans in the United States and in Europe. The Synod resolved this disunity and established the doctrinal “tracks” on which the Missouri Synod polity ran by discussing the disputed points and eventually preparing a document on the disputed points that was so clear that either the opponents could agree or they at least had to respect the Synod’s judgment. The Synod reaffirmed the doctrine in this document in 2001 (by only 73 percent!). Today, not only is there disagreement (or outright scorn) of the affirmed doctrine from both sides (locomotives?) but there is even a motion to be presented at the convention to derail the freight train’s polity from the tracks.

  18. Carl Vehse :Regarding the doctrinal differences in the Missouri Synod, Rev. Harrison noted in his article, “It’s Time”: “It is possible to unify 85% of the Synod in doctrine, practice and mission, I’m convinced.”
    This would suggest that Rev. Harrison believes there is currently less than 85% agreement in doctrine, practice, and misson within the Missouri Synod (to which I would agree), and that it is reasonable to set and work toward a goal of 85 percent (of which I think is too low for doctrinal unity).
    A similar disunity among Lutherans occurred in the last half of the 16th century. According to Rev. Harrison, Chemnitz succeeded in resolving the disunity by inviting “extensive discussion with and between those who disagreed,although ‘in a certain sense he was more intolerant. [Yet] he never dictated! Instead, he discussed until the disputed points were so clear that either his opponents could agree with him or they at least had to respect his judgment.’”
    How something like this could be done today is not clear from the article, especially with its attached Appendix entitled, “Insights from M. Scott Peck on Community Building & the LCMS.” Thus the question I have asked repeatedly.
    BTW, around the middle of the 19th century the Lutherans of the Missouri Synod faced another doctrinal disunity, including with other Lutherans in the United States and in Europe. The Synod resolved this disunity and established the doctrinal “tracks” on which the Missouri Synod polity ran by discussing the disputed points and eventually preparing a document on the disputed points that was so clear that either the opponents could agree or they at least had to respect the Synod’s judgment. The Synod reaffirmed the doctrine in this document in 2001 (by only 73 percent!). Today, not only is there disagreement (or outright scorn) of the affirmed doctrine from both sides (locomotives?) but there is even a motion to be presented at the convention to derail the freight train’s polity from the tracks.

  19. @Carl Vehse #18

    The characterizaton of Steven Bobb’s post (#14) as “ad hominem” is inaccurate and rather unkind. His comments are directed at the language of the postings, not at the authors themselves. His concern is shared by several of the contributors to BJS, myself included. There’s a great deal of vehemence, it seems, in this particular thread. I’ve been guilty of postings with the same lack of respect that I see here, so count me in as one of the “hominae” if you wish.

    Your point about doctrine is well-taken, but I doubt that we have to worry about Mr. Peck leading any Synod-sponsored gatherings, should Harrison get elected. If anyone believes Harrison is not concerned about doctrine, then he/she should have heard the comments he made to me at the 2007 convention. If Harrison isn’t good enough, who is, and how in blazes will he get elected?

    Thanks to Rev. Wilkin and others for adding the voice of moderation to this thread. The landscape is littered with craters.

    Johannes

  20. The characterizaton of Steven Bobb’s post (#14) as “ad hominem” is inaccurate and rather unkind

    No, Johannes, the characterization of Bobb’s comment as “ad hominem” is accurate, and thus not unkind to his comment. Bobb’s comment did not deal with the applicability of Peck’s quotes on community or the content of my question about its applicability to the Missouri Synod. Instead Bobb’s comment deals with his perception of my asking (“yelling and screaming”) and that the asking contributed to alleged negative feelings of others.

    But, again, back to the point of the thread, which is titled, “Pastor Harrison on “Is the LCMS a Pseudo-Community?” Or, as I am asking: “Are Peck’s views and prescription about community applicable to the doctrinal disunity in the Missouri Synod?”

    Someone (“One of BJS’s faithful readers”) thought it important enough to suggest posting this thread about the Appendix. So where’s the discussion about it?

  21. steven Bobb #14

    We are in fact full of LINOs and if strident is the incorrect word then maybe forceful honesty is more helpful. whenever the LINOs among us are confronted with the harmfulness of thier theology or practice they cry, “hater” as it is the only defence they can provide. why encourage these die hard s to stay among us if they are so set on thier agenda. Better to part ways as they are of a “different spirit”.

  22. It’s been my observation that when PoliticsFirst loudly accuses the confessionals of anything, you want to look around because you are likely to see that they are the ones doing it and making a lot of noise to distract attention from the fact.

  23. Sadly, I don’t see too many examples of folks on the Crypto-Baptist faction having much in the way of second thoughts about their position. They hold to their church growth ideas with a fanatical zeal that admits no reservations. They regard the latest nonsense from Fuller with the same dedication that I hold for, say, The Three Ecumenical Creeds. Nothing would give me greater joy than to see these people return to pure doctrine, but realistically it’s not in the cards.

  24. I’m reminded of the old joke about how Anglicans will tolerate any doctrine to preserve unity, and Lutherans will tolerate any division to preserve doctrine.
    Unfortunately, in the 21st century it’s the exact reverse, as Anglican churches are actually leaving the Episcopal church over Robinson.

  25. I feel sorry for Matt Harrison. He quotes Scott Peck and gets “drilled.” But I digress (or drag a red herring).

    Rev. Wilkin has put the matter quite succinctly—is Scott Peck’s “Pseudo Community” applicable to the LCMS today? One may agree or disagree. One may well ask, “Should Matt Harrison have quoted Scott Peck at all?” Couldn’t he have found a more Christian or confessional author to quote? But that is also a red herring—point is, he did quote Peck, and we return to the original question.

    Carl Vehse and others have brought up the matter of doctrine—that is, how does one deal with doctrinal aberrations within the context of the pseudo-community Peck describes (and Harrison employs)? Do we just sit around and agree to disagree, or do we “throw the bums out”? Do we try to restore our erring brothers and sisters (Gal 6:1), or do we treat them as “Tax collectors and sinners” (Matt. 18:17). Doctrine is at the root of our differences, claim these posts, and we must deal with it. Mr. Vehse raises rhetorical questions. Others would take more drastic action. Let’s assume this subject itself is not red herring or even a rabbit trail.

    I have often stated on BJS that 50 years of poor catechesis is one of the biggest reasons for our doctrinal situation. I first heard Dr. Kuhn make this claim at the 2001 Convention; he’s right. But let us consider the implications of 50 years of poor catechesis.

    When we consider poor catechesis, we think that it is the laymen who have suffered—and that is true, but it goes beyond that. When you send the products of 50 years of poor catechesis to the Seminary, what do you get? You get pastors-to-be that don’t know their catechisms, and then what do you get? You get professors who spend a lot of time on their knees out of the classroom, and trying valiantly restore damaged goods in the classroom. And you might end up getting Church Growth, Bapto-pentecostal-pseudo-Lutheran pastors, who have been catechized for years by the Evangelical culture via Christian radio and TV. I haven’t read anything about the effects of poor catechesis on our pastors—only our laymen. Yet I submit this phenomenon is at the heart of much of our synod’s disarray in doctrine and practice. You might check with the professors at our seminaries.

    At the BJS conference in 2009, Rev. Wilkin said that laymen crave doctrine, and I second that statement. But if many of our pastors are barely familiar with the confessions, let alone the catechisms, how will the laymen get good doctrine? The problem goes deep—where are these pastors’ ecclesiastical supervisors? Some DP’s are cut from the same cloth as the LINO pastors. Oh yes, Preus fired four DP’s but is it realistic to expect Harrison to do that? Should he form another fact-finding committee, bringing Walter Dissen and Paul Zimmerman back to head things up? Where are the circuit counselors in all of this? Helen has related horror stories from her experiences in Texas (of all places).

    Rather than waiting for Harrison to “kick backsides and take names”, I would suggest that we laymen get off our backsides and quit complaining. To quote Walther, “Laymen also possess this right [to judge doctrine]” Church and Ministry, Thesis X (Holy Ministry). It’s hard, daunting, and thankless work—ask men like Walter Dissen. You’ll get labeled as the “resident curmudgeon,” no doubt. But for heaven’s sake, don’t wait for Matt Harrison to take care of it. He has laid out a plan to deal with the disunity in synod—he hopes that it will result in 85% agreement, whether or not you like his comparison with Peck’s analysis. If you take action, you’ll find the dispute resolution process a labyrinth of dead ends (and the BRTF… is not allowed to deal with it!). Well, Walther proposed other remedies, as well (“Concerning the Church”, Thesis VIII).

    Now to the tone of this discussion. To quote Scott (#10): “Even now, I struggle to appreciate the substance of Mames’ arguments over and against his tone.” It’s hard to avoid the impression at least that some of the posts have a stridency to them (“commanding attention by a loud or obtrusive quality”—Webster). That Scott’s plea for civility in the discussion is “ad hominem” is questionable. Whether it’s a red herring is something else, indeed. To quote Webster (a non-Lutheran source): “The practice of drawing a red [salted & cured] herring across a trail to confuse hunting dogs.” I don’t believe that Scott’s request for civility is a red herring. On the other hand…..

    Johannes

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