Another Interesting Reaction to the LCMS Convention this one from the SED President, by Pr. Rossow

Here is a communique that the Southeastern District President sent out in response to the synod convention. He notes that many were shocked at the elections and he pledges his support to the new Harrison leadership team.

July 21, 2010
 
Dear Partners in Mission:
 
Greetings to you in the name of Jesus Christ, the Lord of the Church!
 
“Regular” is the term that appears in the title of national conventions of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. From what most of us have already witnessed or heard, the one just completed in Houston was anything but a “regular convention.”
 
From the day I arrived, it was clear to me that most of the energy of this convention would be invested in the elections and the proposed changes in structure and governance. The election results were surprising, even shocking, to many, and they have clearly resulted in a wholesale change of leadership in virtually all synodical positions. We have a brand-new President, Matthew Harrison, and First Vice-President, Herbert Mueller, as well as a couple of other big changes in the composition of the Praesidium. From the Board of Directors on down, there are very few incumbents returning to their positions of service. Conventions certainly have the right to express their will. But in many cases, we have suffered some significant leadership losses.
 
The Structure and Governance Floor Committee succeeded in hitting more of a “stand-up double” than a “home run.” On the one hand, the Convention decided by a thin margin to streamline all the synodical boards and some commissions into a “national” and an “international” mission board. We also concurred with the resolutions to divide the Synod into five regions, each of which will nominate its own Vice President, representative on the LCMS Board of Directors, and members seated on the two mission boards. All congregations will have opportunity to participate in the election of the Synod President in 2013, and the President-elect will select a slate of candidates from the top 20 nominated for First Vice-President, from which the Convention will in turn choose the one who will serve in that office. Realignment of the 35 LCMS Districts will be studied for a recommendation to the next convention.
 
On the other hand, the money-saving shift from a three to a four-year cycle of district and synod conventions failed to gain the necessary two-thirds vote. The Convention chose not to act on another financially-prudent resolution to reduce the number of voting delegates to the Synod Convention from approximately 1200 to 600. It also blinked on the proposal to let the election of these same delegates take place in a new way, so that districts might more freely configure their circuits to aid area mission development.
 
In retrospect, this Convention appears to have ignored my pre-convention warning about making major changes without preserving a measure of continuity in either structure or leadership. Everything at the synodical level, therefore, has changed! Those who are taking the reins of leadership on September 1 will be facing great challenges. Hence, I encourage all of us, whether we were pleased with the outcome of the elections or not, to give them our support and to keep them in our prayers.
 
During these next months, the actions of the Convention will be studied, necessary changes made, and a new Handbook produced. During this time, we will learn more about the impact that these decisions have upon our walking and working together as Synod. In the meantime, I strongly recommend that you avoid becoming involved with any group or association seeking to organize for the apparent purpose of rolling back currently-held Synod positions or policing the ministry of congregations. Instead, I encourage you to be in prayer for the work of the Gospel that unites us and remains before us.
 
“Will the Ablaze! movement continue?” The answer to this already frequently-asked question is a resounding “yes.” The Convention in fact adopted to solid resolution to this effect. Under the Ablaze! banner, the Southeastern District is being richly blessed by God. The number of faith-sharing moments that have been tabulated to date is approaching 600,000, and we are more than halfway toward our goal of 100 new mission starts. Surrounding these missions are more than 2000 mission prayer partners. My proudest moment at the Convention, moreover, was the fact that two out the three congregations that received special recognition for their participation in the Ablaze! fundraising effort were from the SED.
 
Even more encouraging was the Convention’s overwhelming endorsement (1080-33) of the Lutheran Malaria Initiative. LMI not only aims to mobilize all Lutherans in the US in the global fight against a disease that kills one million people worldwide each year. It provides a unique opportunity for us to bear witness to the Jesus that so many in our culture long to see.
 
In my view, the uncertainty and the challenge that the 64th Regular Convention of the LCMS has created dare not distract us. The Lord of the Church, after all, is Jesus Christ. The mission opportunities that God has given to our congregations, therefore, must remain our focus.
 
In conclusion, the pledge I make to you as your SED President is to keep us one District together in mission!
 
Very truly yours in Christ,
 
Dr. Jon Diefenthaler, President
Southeastern District, LCMS

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

Another Interesting Reaction to the LCMS Convention this one from the SED President, by Pr. Rossow — 31 Comments

  1. I know it is time to move on but these reactions coming out in response to the LCMS convention give LCMS’ers valuable insights into the nature of the synod and are helpful for us to know as we consider how to better unify the synod in years to come.

    TR

  2. From the day I arrived, it was clear to me that most of the energy of this convention would be invested in the elections and the proposed changes in structure and governance.

    Captain Obvious strkes again.

    In the meantime, I strongly recommend that you avoid becoming involved with any group or association seeking to organize for the apparent purpose of rolling back currently-held Synod positions or policing the ministry of congregations.

    Hmmmm… I wonder what is meant by that buried comment… 😉

  3. Good point Carl. The handbook says that the #1 job of the President is to “police” the synod. Of course it does not use that imagery – it calls it “doctrinal supervision.” Also, we are not interested in synod policy but in Scriptural truth. Hopefully under a Harrison presidency we will get away from by-laws and get back to churchly, scriptural talk and categories.

    TR

  4. “Faith-sharing moments”???? I’ll be sure to tell my parish that the font is just something in the aisle on which to trip over.

  5. “But in many cases, we have suffered some significant leadership losses.”
    Oh please! I pray the newly elected consider that a compliment. They insulted the Lord and we are not above Him.

  6. “In the meantime, I strongly recommend that you avoid becoming involved with any group or association seeking to organize for the apparent purpose of rolling back currently-held Synod positions or policing the ministry of congregations.”

    I will take your recommendation under consideration.

    Hmmm.

    Ok, considered and rejected.

  7. Over-sight is needed. I went to my pastor, circuit counselor and district president with questions concerning my churches worship practices. All three refused to give a biblical answer in writing. It is a very sad situation in Georgia.

  8. “In my view, the uncertainty and the challenge that the 64th Regular Convention of the LCMS has created dare not distract us. The Lord of the Church, after all, is Jesus Christ. The mission opportunities that God has given to our congregations, therefore, must remain our focus.”

    “Jesus Christ is Lord.” Let’s focus on Him first and Him alone. He is faithful to carry out His mission among us.

  9. This is an interesting “take” on the convention, higly objective, no baggage, no rash judgments, no “damning with faint praise.” Just clear and objective.

    It will be interesting to see what the other DP’s have to say, and if they will manage to be as objective.

    Johannes (of wry smile and cramped tongue)

  10. “Will the Ablaze! movement continue?” The answer to this already frequently-asked question is a resounding “yes.” The Convention in fact adopted to solid resolution to this effect.”

    Is this true? I had prayed that President Harrison would be able to swiftly end this poorly conceived and extremely expensive ‘mission’ program.

    John Thomas

  11. I agree with Johannes.

    John (Pres. Diefenthaler) was my DP when I was ordained in the Synod and while we didn’t see eye to eye on many things he was never rash or misguided in his judgments. He seems to be once again even handed and pastoral in this letter. It is good to see.

  12. >>In retrospect, this Convention appears to have ignored my pre-convention warning about making major changes without preserving a measure of continuity in either structure or leadership.

    What mystifies me is why President Kieschnick and Jesus First so strongly opposed amending the schedule to have the election come first. I heard from many delegates from at least ten different Districts that at their District gathering that morning their District President advised such a change could be proposed, and implored them in the strongest terms to reject it. Judging from the similar language reportedly used by various District Presidents, this seemed to have been an agreed upon strategy. I wonder if Pres. Diefenthaler was one of those?

    But, surely, given the nominations disparity in favor of Rev. Harrision, they could see at least the possiblity of the convention schedule as it stood resulting in “major changes without preserving a measure of continuity in . . . leadership”?

    The most significant restructuring resolution, 8-08A, was brought up almost first, on Monday morning. This had the effect of “locking in” the changes regardless of the results of the election the next afternoon. “Under Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised, the motion to reconsider may only be made within a limited time after the action on the original motion — usually at the same meeting, or in the case of a multi-day session or convention, on the next day within the session or convention in which business is conducted” (Wikipedia).

    I have to wonder if it was all scheduled this way for that very reason, and that is why they insisted so strongly on the original schedule: to “lock in” with a vote far enough prior to what they assumed would be a victory for the incumbent the structural changes giving more authority to the President, so that it could not be brought up for reconsideration after his victory.

    Everything seems to have backfired on them big time.

  13. I’m going to continue to associate with those who want to overturn the unbiblical and unconfessional synod policy of lay preaching and adminstration of the Sacraments. It has been going on for 21 years now since the Wichita convention and needs to be put to an end.

  14. Not to hijack the thread, but just to the point of lay preaching: didn’t the two of you (Revs. Ball and Messer) preach from LCMS pulpits before you were called and ordained?

  15. “I strongly recommend that you avoid becoming involved with any group or association seeking to organize for the apparent purpose of rolling back currently-held Synod positions or policing the ministry of congregations.”

    It is a good thing the man is a district president and not the pastor of a congregation. I’m sure he is referring to Synod positions on the service of women in the church, including women assisting in the distribution of the Lord’s Supper, and on congregational ministry practices that include unimpeded admission to the table of the Lord even by those who deny the very presence of our Savior in that sacrament.

    “My proudest moment at the Convention, moreover, was the fact that two out the three congregations that received special recognition for their participation in the Ablaze! fundraising effort were from the SED.”

    District President Diefenthaler, with all due respect sir, the Great Commission isn’t a competition, and its not all about you.

  16. @John Clark #15

    “District President Diefenthaler, with all due respect sir, the Great Commission isn’t a competition, and its not all about you.””

    Unfortunately–or sadly–the whole revitalization and Ablaze (sorry no TM) program(s) ARE based on YOU and have a blatantly competitive flavor to them. It seems this DP has been caught up in this frame of mind. Keeping score, on way or the other, is the way we do things in the LCMS these days.

    Johannes

  17. Brother Messer-
    thanks for the 2nd. I think I am going to start a new group or association – The Associated Group of Lutherans Who Desire to Roll Back the Currently-Held False Position of the Synod Regarding the Ministry.

    The AGLWDRBCHFPSRM (catchy just like the BRTFSSG) will seek involvement from all around the Synod, including members of the Southeastern District.

    Let’s speak hypothetically, if the Synod were in error, would not be the duty of every member to seek the currently-held position to be changed? Isn’t that even understood in the wording “currently-held”? A position is held currently, but might not be in the future, may or may not have been in the past because of some reason or another. What if the reason was that it was WRONG, and those who made the position current, were WRONG in doing so? Should not every effort be made to change it? Would it not be God pleasing for Christians to group together, associate with each other in an attempt to do that very thing?

    An example, in 2004 the synod put itself in error stating things about the Sacred Scriptures that the Scriptures do not themselves say – resolution 8-01A. This particular error was regarding Matthew 18 and the supposed mandate, claimed to be clearly in the Scriptures, for face to face meetings prior to public rebuke of sin or filing of complaints. After lots of people grouped, associated, dissented and petitioned; the 2007 convention changed the synod’s clearly false rendering of the passage at hand and changed all the bylaws which spoke contrary to God’s Word. There is even a CTCR document, which I can’t remember the name of, Reponse to Dissent, or something like that, where what yours truly wrote is even quoted (anonymously). The Dissent process was worked through and in this particular case the Synod actually reversed itself. Such reversal came with no statement of repentance at all and the error went quietly into the circular file from where old LCMS Handbooks never return.

    The point is the process of dissent in the synod’s bylaws requires association, group discussion, work and maybe even some organization to all that. Change is needed, the last convention had overtures send in by the Northern and Southern Illinois Districts to address the Synod’s ministry error, and to change it. The needed change in currently-held synodical position didn’t change, but I am still going to work, and associate and group with other members of the new AGLWDRBCHFPSRM because I know it is good to do so and that it is pleasing to our Father in heaven when His children speak and practice those things that are true and reject those things that are false.

  18. @Bryce #12 Bryce, Jon Diefenthaler was not very even handed in his letter, nor was he before the convention, when he urged delegates to pass the restructuring proposals and re-elect President Kieschnick. I don’t think that’s being even-handed…I think that’s a DP misusing his office to influence delegates.

  19. President elect Harrison please ignore that man (the SED DP) who hides behind a curtain of euphemisms when he urges folk to: “avoid becoming involved with any group or association seeking to organize for the apparent purpose of rolling back currently-held Synod positions or policing the ministry of congregations.” THAT IS THE FIRST AND FOREMOST JOB OF A LC-MS SYNODICAL PRESIDENT!

    “2007 SYNODICAL PRESIDENT – DUTIES OF THE PRESIDENT

    “1. The President has the supervision regarding the doctrine and the
    administration of
    a. All officers of the Synod;
    b. All such as are employed by the Synod;
    c. The individual districts of the Synod;
    d. All district presidents.”

    I know you will busy will all sort of issues, but you must not fail to strenuously seek to fulfill this part of your calling.

  20. I was a delegate from the NorthWestern District of Minnesota but not at the national convention. Personally I have come to the conclusion that the problems are not so much of theological origin as they are of petty politics. I was very impressed by now President Matthew Harrison. I am, however, very concerned about the power handed over to our new president by the restructuring of the Synod. I don’t believe we should have a “head” to our synod because I believe Christ reserved that position for himself, not withstanding the Roman Catholic position. The measure of a man is how closely he comes to fulfilling the obligations of his office. In this case, how closely President Harrison comes to fulfilling his role as Christ’s guide to the church. I hope he can withstand the onslaught of the devil who now has only one individual to entice and mislead because of the power we have entrusted in him. I also hope he will be instrumental in shedding some of this authority we have vested in him to protect this office in the future.

  21. @Elmer A. Nies #23
    I was a delegate from the NorthWestern District of Minnesota but not at the national convention

    The restructuring was not designed by the BRTF for Pres.-elect Matt Harrison.
    He is on public record saying that he did not want it. Short term, the best person for power is the one who is reluctant to exploit it. Long term, I hope that most of the decision making will be returned to the congregations.

    I wonder, Mr. Nies, if you would have been happier with it, if SP Kieschnick had gotten another term?

  22. Nearly 8 billion people on planet earth and the LCMS is choosing to put its efforts towards malaria victims. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but aren’t there even more maladies we could try to fix? I am not sure why this person was championing that as significant convention news. I personally would like to see a task force formed to see if we couldn’t stamp out juvenile diabetes from which my granddaugter suffers. (tongue in cheek, sort of)

  23. I remember Diefenthaler as a professor at Springfield. His method of teaching left a lot to be desired. I believe that he was asked to leave the seminary community while I was on vicarage for he was not there when I returned. His confusion of Law and Gospel in his church father’s class was greatly battled against by Dr. John Drickermer who understood the Biblical languages much better than the young Dr. Diefenthaler.

  24. How many gallons of DDT would $41 million dollars buy? (Which is worse, the effects of DDT or the effects of malaria, which a person can get over and over again?)

  25. Nearly 8 billion people on planet earth and the LCMS is choosing to put its efforts towards malaria victims.

    Malaria is a serious and deadly disease in Africa, especially in areas where there is a significant Lutheran presence. So the Missouri Synod certainly has a connection and an opportunity to be involved in the fight against malaria.

    The question raised in a previous thread is whether the LMI method of providing mosquito nets would be effective in Africa where there are some cultural and practical problems in using the nets correctly. In addition the WHO has recommended a combined approach of using mosquito nets and the controlled application of DDT as a safe and effective way to reduce malaria deaths, based on the successful experiences in other primitive areas of the world. Of course, to environmental extremists, DDT is a politically incorrect insecticide.

    At the July convention, which approved the LMI program, an attempt was made to discuss the use of DDT and possibly incorporating it into the LMI effort. This attempt was diverted with stories of people in Africa dying from malaria, assurances that the LCMS and E_CA would not hold joint worship services while distributing the nets, and someone calling the question.

  26. @Kebas #13
    “What mystifies me is why President Kieschnick and Jesus First so strongly opposed amending the schedule to have the election come first.” The reason being so that the ex-president could have as much floor time as he could get. He was given the opportunity to preach two sermons (or lectures) and try to win the delegates over with as much time as he wanted. Ex: “Let me explain to you what I meant by my comment, This isn’t your grandfather’s church anymore!” Never mind the fact that I didn’t see Rev. Harrison around at all until Tuesday and I was sitting near the front, right side, at the convention. Someone at my church suggested that all the folks that wanted to run for president should have been given 10 minutes each to speak at the convention. Not sure if this would have helped but it was a good suggestion from one of my parishioners. Maybe we’ll learn something from this convention and move the elections up to Sunday.

  27. @B. T. Ball #19
    Check the ACELC’s definition of Confessional Lutheranism. Part of their points covers this issue. I agree with you. We need to let AC XIV stand and roll back the Wichita decisions which ignored it.

    No one needs to apologize to well-meaning folks who want to open the office of preaching to folks who are not rightly called to it. Instead, discussions with such “well-meaning” folks need to return to our Lord’s gift of the call to the office of the holy ministry and call of lay people to their given vocations.

  28. @L S Convention Delegate #27
    The malaria initiative is good, as noted by Carl Vehse, but the DDT thing is not even a problem. DDT actually does very little harm at all to anything besides pests. That novel “Silent Spring” caused a panic about it, even though the book was not based on any scientific studies and there was no evidence that DDT destroyed all the birds or anything else besides crop pests.
    Too bad it is in joint effort with the ELCA, however. It is going to take some time to untangle all of our ministry mess with them.

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