An Hour with the Bishop, Hope for the LCMS, by Pr. Rossow

My District President invited me to his office the other day because he had some concerns with the BJS website. Things got a little heated once or twice,   more on my side than on his, to the bishop’s credit, but overall it was an amicable meeting and a  helpful exchange for both of us.

Before continuing, let me give a little background on my district president, in my opinion. He has a strong church growth background and tends to favor that when it comes to programming in the district but he is greatly respected by the “confessional” pastors of the district because he takes time to genuinely listen to us and has not treated any of us unfairly nor even come close to such.

I have been in the president’s office a few times with other brothers to discuss concerns in the district and have been amazed at how the bishop has been able to spend 90% of the time listening and 10% of the time talking. Even on this visit, the purpose of which was clearly oriented towards his talking to me, I would have to say that he listened more than he talked.

The details of what we discussed are private and really are not the point of this post. Suffice it to say that we each learned important perspectives from each other and I came away with a greater commitment to publishing the truth and only the truth on this website. That leads me to the first of the two points that this post is about.

First, I was impressed that the bishop’s main concern was for me. He is concerned about my spiritual well-being. He is clearly not on a witch hunt, scouring the BJS website looking for points of attack against me. He has noticed some things on the site that  bothered him because he thought that they might indicate a lack of respect for the truth on my part and on the part of our writers. As I said above, I came away with a greater commitment to publishing only the truth on this site. He and I still disagree on what is and isn’t true on this site but he did a great job of providing pastoral supervision to this lowly editor and hopefully such supervision will contribute to guarding my soul all the way to eternity. I did however, tell him that he had to get in line for the role of guardian of my soul since my “recovering pietist” mother has already taken the time to make sure I am not riding any high horse with the success of this blogsite.

My second point has to do with the hope for the LCMS. I am growing convinced day by day that the LCMS is looking favorably on Matt Harrison. My time with my bishop illustrated perfectly what Harrison has proposed in the document “It’s Time.” I do not know where my bishop stands on the LCMS presidential election but I can say this, he approached this touchy issue between me and him with care and listening. That is exactly what Harrison is proposing for the LCMS – gathering together key players from each “side” in the LCMS and hashing things out like a family. The bishop and I did not come to complete agreement on BJS matters but we are a lot closer than when the meeting started and most importantly we respect each other and will continue to work on this and other issues so that there can be harmony in the church.

Is my bishop ever going to be the Lutheran I would like him to be? Am I ever going to be the Lutheran my bishop wants me to be, for example, more committed to the Ablaze programs he espouses? Probably not, in both cases, but I am convinced that our district president has grown in his understanding of and openness to traditional, liturgical, Confessions-reading Lutheranism and I hope that he can see that I am not opposed to missions but only opposed to making it the over-arching principle of the faith. The final outcome on the BJS matters between my bishop and me may not be totally settled yet but the “It’s Time” sort of approach that was taken has made a solution we can both commit to much more probable. I really hope the delegates to the national convention will give this “It’s Time” approach a chance to be used on a synod-wide level for the next triennium.

It was a great hour with the bishop. It gave me some hope for the LCMS. All the credit for that goes to the bishop. Our hour together was a helpful model of how we can all move ahead walking in synod in the LCMS.

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