Drink Your Beer and then Start Talking, by Pr. Rossow

Here is a happy group of Harrison supporters in Alma, Michigan, including Pastor Tom Messer, a regular BJS contributor, drinking up in thanksgiving for the election of Rev. Matt Harrison.

My advice to the folks in Alma and to LCMS’ers all around the globe, is to drink up and then start talking. In his It’s Time document, Harrison lays out a process whereby synod folks start talking to each other about our differences in hopes of bringing about greater unity. President Elect Harrison himself will be convening a group of synod leaders to do just that in hopes that by the end of a year of discussions they will be able to formulate a series of theses, similar to the Formula of Concord, that will carve out an identity for Confessional Lutheranism as we forge into this new millennium.

It is a great plan. Before you start commenting below please take time to reread It’s Time and then once you set your beer down, start talking.

(By the way, for great stories about beer drinking, travel, and all sorts of life’s pleasures be sure to regularly check out our “No Pietiests Allowed” page.)

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

Drink Your Beer and then Start Talking, by Pr. Rossow — 41 Comments

  1. I happily pray for Rev. Harrison success. But, does it really make a big difference who the president of the LC-MS is? Can the President bring more people into my parish? He may encourage me and my fellow pastors to be more orthodox, which is good. But I’m already orthodox, and those who don’t wish to be, won’t be. (Though I think the number of such folk is small).

    If we were a top down church like Rome or the Episcopalians, then the presidency would be more consequential, but we’re congregationalist in structure. Am I wrong? Set me right.

    We all know that we’ve been loosing membership over the past 50 years. (That’s my life time. Oh, No! I hope it’s not me!) Yet, we’ve tried hard. We’ve had so many initiatives from “Preaching Teaching and Reaching” to “Ablaze!” and still…

    These days, I just administer the Word and Sacraments and let God worry about the rest.

    Pastor Phil Spomer
    Edgewood, NM

  2. It is wonderful that you are orthodox, and that you are administering the Word and Sacraments. I thank God for you.

    What I hope for from this new president is a different emphasis in our Synod. I hope that he will talk more about missionaries, and young men receiving calls, and Christian mercy efforts, and in so doing tend to encourage our focus to be there. I hope that his true and sincere excitement about Bible study, and confession study, and study of our Missouri Synod founders will prove contagious. I hope that where he can direct or influence the direction of Synodical funds, that he will influence their tilt toward what I think are the main jobs of the Synod–providing doctrinally pure worship and study materials, properly training capable Pastors, establishing mission churches while encouraging and supporting existing ones, spreading the Gospel in its truth and purity, and showing Christ’s love through charity work on a global scale. I hope for a focus on what true worship is, and on the relationship between teachings and practices.

  3. @Pastor Philip Spomer #1
    Pastor Spomer,

    I’m glad where you live the number of the unorthodox in the LCMS is small.

    For some of us, there can be a number of LCMS churches in the same general area, yet it can be difficult to find one that hasn’t sold out to Contemporary worship. The problem is, when over time it becomes more entertainment and less worship, more me-focused and less God-focused, more subjective and less objective. A Synodical President can make a difference, and I pray for the direction the Synod will be headed. Please pray for President elect Matt Harrison, and all of us.

  4. I am thrilled Pastor Harrison has been elected. I believe it is a prayer answered for many, in the LCMS (including mine). Also, a cause for concern for those who support non Lutheran doctrine, non Lutheran practice, non Lutheran music, and non Lutheran study materials (like the Shack, SWD)
    I read it’s time over a year ago, and it is great cause for hope. However, with the Resolutions that have been passed, it will make the execution of what “It’s Time” for, very difficult indeed.

    With the LCMS church (mega plex complete w/ Police Direction for traffic) done the road, one of their small group’s “doing” the Shack, and confirming a child that has stated to his parents, he doesn’t believe in God, Jesus, or etc, (know these members personally, many a discussion in love has been had by me)

    I would say it is past Time. Hard decisions and hard boundries are going to have to be laid. With the resolutions past, I just can’t see how that will be possible for Pastor Harrison.
    But nothing is impossible for our Lord.
    Not pessimistic, just pragmatic.

  5. I think it can make a huge difference who the president of the Synod is, especially now that the Synod in Convention has removed an extra “tier” of bureaucracy between itself and the members of Synod, that is, congregations and pastors. Without various governing boards standing between the will of the Synod and the work of the Synod, we’re bound to see some improvements; more so, due to the caliber man we’ve elected as president.

    The duties of the SP, according to the handbook, include ecclesiastical and administrative oversight:

    3.3.1, “The President of the Synod shall be a full-time executive and shall serve as a voting member of the Board of Directors of the Synod.”

    3.3.1.1, “As the chief ecclesiastical officer of the Synod, the President shall supervise the doctrine taught and practiced in the Synod, including all synodwide corporate entities.”

    3.3.1.1.1, “The President of the Synod has ecclesiastical supervision of all officers of the Synod and its agencies, the individual districts of the Synod, and all district presidents.”

    3.3.1.2, “The President shall oversee the activities of all officers, executives, and agencies of the Synod to see to it that they are acting in accordance with the Constitution, Bylaws, and resolutions of the Synod.”

    The oversight described in the handbook makes a huge difference, especially if officers and agencies of the Synod are not accountable to their own governing board (which may be in conflict with other governing boards), but to the president himself. This is a huge shift for us, moving from a clumsy structure where the buck never stopped to flatter arrangement with less bureaucracy and clearer accountability. Now, the SP will actually be in a position to exercise the office of overseer that the Synod’s handbook states he properly should. Thankfully, I think we have the right man for the job.

    Got any IPA?

  6. Pastor Eggelston,
    No IPA, but we’ve got Spaten Optimator. It’s also really hot here, so we have some St. Chateau Michelle Gewurtztraminer. It is Sunday, and we are German Lutherans, so it must be German today, all the way. lol

    I realize & am most grateful, Pastor Harrison has the power to do these things, but the question is, will these wayward congregations obey & will the power be used to enable the Solas & Doctrines to again be our strength & stay?
    Sticky wicket, I think.

  7. “But I’m already orthodox, and those who don’t wish to be, won’t be. (Though I think the number of such folk is small).”

    Plenty of lay folks want to be faithful and just need good teaching. I count myself in that category. We can’t know what we don’t know. We can’t teach our kids what we don’t know. To what extent do those who don’t wish to be orthodox impede the learning and spiritual growth of clueless folks like me who don’t know the difference?

  8. @Pastor Philip Spomer #1
    Pastor Spomer, We are now a top-down polity. The President of the Synod now controls virtually everything. If the confessional pastors practice Word and Sacrament ministry, while at the same time ignoring what is going on around them, then not-so-confessional Presidents will be elected, because their supporters will be diligently working to get them elected. Then a not-so-confessional President will control the Board for National Mission, the Board for International Mission, communications and public relations, fundraising activities, pre-seminary, seminary, and post-seminary pastoral formation, just to name a few. Not-so-confessional pastors will flood the Synod, not-so-confessional materials will flood the airwaves and publications, and not-so-confessional parishioners will eventually be produced who won’t know any better. One day you’ll wake up and your once confessional Synod will be gone, and along with it, you might be gone too, because confessional pastors in a not-so-confessional synod sometimes find themselves without a parish.

    While the LCMS has a history of a congregational polity, that can rapidly change when people aren’t diligently watching their doctrine, both within their own parish and also outside of its walls, as we have just seen. What your brother pastors do influences you as well, especially if that brother pastor is the Synod President.

  9. Mr. Diekmann,

    Your comment is very well put. One that needs to be drummed into the head of anyone/everyone who might simply think, “Oh, what does it matter? What difference does what happen at a Synod convention make in the life of my congregation and my ministry?”

    Cordially, in Christ,
    Paul McCain
    Saint Louis, Missouri

  10. “President Elect Harrison himself will be convening a group of synod leaders to do just that in hopes that by the end of a year of discussions they will be able to formulate a series of theses, similar to the Formula of Concord, that will carve out an identity for Confessional Lutheranism as we forge into this new millennium.”

    Why do we need a new series of thesis, similar to the Formula of Concord? We already have the Holy Bible and the Lutheran Confessions, which includes the Formula of Concord. Are not the Bible and Lutheran Confessions sufficient? Either you subscribe to them or you do not. Pretty black and white to me.

    Verbum domini manet in aeternum. (The word of the Lord endures forever)
    John Thomas

  11. This reminds me of a quote from a once LC-MS pastor. Richard John Neuhaus,

    “Wherever orthodoxy is optional, it sooner or later will be proscribed.”

    I should have touched on this in my original post, but hey, the instructions were “Drink your beer THEN start talking.”

  12. Good comments. We will be okay, Lord willing, for at least another three years (IMO). President-elect Pr. Harrison himself said it best in that his sinful nature would like this power, and that’s why he shouldn’t have it. When the next JF-sponsored SP comes along three, six, nine, or however many years from now, I’m afraid we’re BIG trouble. We know that Christ’s invisible Church will endure by God’s Mercy, so that is our ultimate comfort.

  13. Excellent points Pr. Rossow. I would also like to quote form “It’s Time” which indicates what Pr. Harrison means with “talking,”

    “There, I believe, is the Center: A theological enterprise centered in the Scriptures of Christ. Such a Center is manifest in congregations walking together because we talk together about our shared confession of the doctrines of the Gospel. There are very few reasons left to perpetuate the Synod except that we want to bind ourselves together around these doctrines and voluntarily hold ourselves accountable to one another for the theology we preach and teach. . . . We need each other, not so much for structured work as for nurture and growth in the full Word that leads to salvation. . . . Theology can’t just “underlie”; it has to be our Center.9” (p. 7)

    It is refreshing to know that Pr. Harrison does not mean with “talking” that we are going to engage in a conversation about doctrine in order to arrive at a compromise on key issues, instead, and as he states, “We must first repent, listen to the Word of God, and then begin listening to each other” (p. 14). If we can’t listen to God’s word and our own Lutheran symbols, then we can’t listen to each other; so as Pr. Harrison points out “we must first repent” and listen to the Word of God.

  14. I haven’t had my beer yet, but I’ll put in my two cents’ worth, anyways.

    Anyone who thinks that CW will magically disappear tomorrow is spttin’ in the wind. And anyone who thinks that there will be reign of terror directed against JF and its fellow travelers is spittin in the same direction.
    After all the campaign rhetoric of the past few weeks, it’s great to see such thoughtful postings here, and on Martin Noland’s “My Salute to the Passing Generation…” elsewhere on BJS. These ought to be required reading. I direct your attention particularly to the posts by Rev. “Kebas”. He’s been around, and speaks with authority. He is a keen observer of things in synod, and knows the players–almost all of them. There are differences of opinon on these postings to be sure, but there is much to give us pause.
    We do Harrison a disservice to expect miracles. Kebas says that Dr. Barry was constantly battling interference from much of the entrenched establishment in St. Louis, esp. on the boards and commissions. Many of those have vaporized. Perhaps that will make Harrison’s job a bit less daunting. But it’s still an uphill battle. My DP told us in 2001 that GK would “bring us together.” Tragically, he did not succeed. Harrison has made that a top priority. Let him proceed and let us hope that he is successful.

    Now that the smoke is at least clearing, it’s time for thoughtful reflection, and I wager, a serious effort at reconciliation.

    Johannes

  15. Rev. Paul McCain:

    “Oh, what does it matter? What difference does what happen at a Synod convention make in the life of my congregation and my ministry?”

    You have stated the #1 attitude (at least in my mind) that prevails within the laity of our synod. And although I don’t like to admit it, I believe there are many pastors who feel the same way, leading to a ‘disconnect’ between laity, pastors and synod. I fear correcting that will not happen soon – and so we need strong direction from circut, district and synod leadership to re-catechize and re-educate all of us. We now have that Biblical leader in the person of Rev. Harrison and I trust he can ‘do’ the task set before him.

    @Rev. Paul T. McCain #9

  16. Rev Harrison’s election, and that of many governing board members, was indeed welcomed. Now, the other problem: We also passed a number of resolutions that I believe were not thoroughly “thought through” and could have unintended consequences. We believe we will be “safe” under Rev Harrison, but he will not be with us forever. Shouldn’t we strive to rescind some of the 2010 resolutions in 2013? (Like maybe the regionalization; the way VPs will be selected; the Praesidium being given the authority to enter into altar and pulpit fellowship with church bodies). Does Fan Into Flames/Ablaze have an expiraion date? Can some of the “studies” fade into oblivion? Like Creator’s Tapestry – have you READ that?

    God have mercy!

  17. Although beer is a good starting point, some of the brothers from Wyoming took it to another level, as we always do, by commemorating with a nice single malt, Glenfiddich 12! Of course the Hilton charged a pretty penny for it 🙂

    Kiley

  18. It’s interesting that in your article you tell everyone to drink up and then talk. Interesting that you believe that the start of talking is by eliminating anyone who is an alcoholic from the discussion. Nice to know how little you care about people who are not your people. Maybe that attitude is where change needs to happen first.

  19. L S Conv Delegate :Shouldn’t we strive to rescind some of the 2010 resolutions in 2013? (Like maybe the regionalization; the way VPs will be selected; the Praesidium being given the authority to enter into altar and pulpit fellowship with church bodies).

    We’re still striving to rescind resolutions that were passed before 2010.

    Does Fan Into Flames/Ablaze have an expiraion date?

    The deadline is 2017 — 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Individual congregations don’t have to participate if they don’t want to. Our District President presented Fan Into Flames at our parish hall two years ago and we said no thanks. The DP agreed that our supporting seminarians was mission work too.

    Can some of the “studies” fade into oblivion?

    A lot of synodical studies already have. I recall that a report on church growth by some very respected members of synod commissioned by President Barry was completely ignored by most, attacked by some, and submitted for doctrinal review to the CTCR by the next elected president (a first).

  20. Kevin #21,

    I should just leave your ridiculous comment be but instead I will foolishly respond.

    I happen to be an over-eater. I sure hope you are consistent and never extol food in my or anyone else’s presence who struggles with eating. I know of people who are addicted to TV. Agan I hope that you never watch TV or extol any of its virtues (few as they may be). Etc., etc. etc….

    I hope you see my point. I am sorry that you struggle with alchohol but please do not beat me and others over the head with your struggle but let us enjoy this God-given gift. I know countless people who struggle with alcohol addiction who do not foist their struggle on me or others but deal with it graciously. A few folks got together to enjoy a moment of joy, who knows, there may even be an alcoholic in the picture. Let them and us enjoy our gifts rather than turning it into an opportunity for you to make some sort of editorial point.

    We will keep showing pictures on this website of people enjoying God’s gift of alcohol just as we will keep showing pictures of people enjoying God’s gifts of food, animals, etc. I pray that God will continue to give you strength in your struggles.

    TR

  21. “Oh, what does it matter? What difference does what happen at a Synod convention make in the life of my congregation and my ministry?”

    “You have stated the #1 attitude (at least in my mind) that prevails within the laity of our synod. And although I don’t like to admit it, I believe there are many pastors who feel the same way, leading to a ‘disconnect’ between laity, pastors and synod. I fear correcting that will not happen soon – and so we need strong direction from circut, district and synod leadership to re-catechize and re-educate all of us.”

    Interesting, because there are lay people out here who have made a strategic retreat and taken the task of teaching upon themselves. I mean the homeschool movement. It was not promoted from the top down. It grew from the bottom up. No church body that I know of has an office promoting homeschooling to the members, yet it grows. The point is that laity aren’t just going to follow in any direction. We still have the Bible. We can sit on the sofa or at the kitchen table to make sure our kids learn it. The synod can do all this fancy stuff. I will still be here on the sofa quietly teaching my kids. So maybe that is why it looks like we don’t care. The synod can direct where some donations go. Okay, fine, I pray they are good stewards, but our kids are the real future. I found a wonderful document of the sort that keeps me going. See item #6
    That is what my kids will be learning on the sofa.

    http://www.reclaimingwalther.org/articles/700/749.htm

  22. @Rev. Paul T. McCain #9
    “Oh, what does it matter? What difference does what happen at a Synod convention make in the life of my congregation and my ministry?”

    Does anynoe know how many of the 1200 +/- delegates were alternate delegates? That is a leading question, and may serve to highlight the above question in your posting.

    Johannes (not “just askin'”)

  23. 1. Thanks to you all on this thread for giving me the topic for my next newsletter article. Why does it matter to my people in my two congregations? It matters because the Synod is *not* Matt or Jerry, *not* the “Purple Palace” (sincerely used as descriptive, not pejorative), *not* district HQ, but the congregations gathered in the pews, at teh fonts, around the altars, by the Word of Christ, and confessing teh Same. What Synod does is what *we* do. As a Synod, we really are all in this together–which is why we need to be doing the real work of talking and knowing what’s going on outside our own little “silos”–what a neighbor congregation/pastor does, what a sister congregation in CA does, reflects upon and affects Trinity and St. John Lutheran churches in NW IN.
    That was my point the last time I went to the mike–on 3-04a–giving the president power to declare A+P fellowship *before* a convention comes up. Unfortunately, not that many were in a state of mind to work through what I said, I guess–“just get the work done and let’s go home!”–a frame of mind which I also had, to be honest. (Though my “get the work done” was more the work of turning back what I believe were bad ideas.)
    2. Re: Alternates–I was one in ’04, and went. We had at least 3 pastor delegates from IN who were *3rd* choices, because neither the delegate nor the alternate was able to go in the end.
    3. Did you pray for both Jerry and Matt yesterday in the Divine Service?

  24. SK Peterson :@Pastor Tim Rossow #24 There’s always coffee, the “other” Lutheran beverage.

    Oh, but that might offend the Mormons! I guess political correctness isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Still, re: beer, we can say “It is a great plan. Before you start commenting below please take time to reread It’s Time and then once you set your beer” or beverage of choice “down, start talking.” Remember, most Americans don’t drink beer: they drink “American Beer”, which doesn’t even come close–might as well drink water.

  25. @Scott Diekmann #8

    Indeed. As I said on another thread, (as we’re finding in our national political scene) the surest way to put too much power in the hands of someone you do not trust, is to first put too much power in the hands of someone you do trust.

  26. All the more reason to stay awake this time and not “let St Louis worry about it”!
    We’ve been there, done that and are paying for it. Hopefully we are wiser now.

    @Rev. Allen Bergstrazer #32
    “… the surest way to put too much power in the hands of someone you do not trust, is to first put too much power in the hands of someone you do trust.”

  27. Kevin,
    I don’t drink beer but when our local Book of Concord enthusiasts thought it would be fun to initiate the meetings in a local pub, I was there. (They had Coke, too.)
    [It was fun, but we have since grown and moved back to the church where I see more Starbucks and bottled water.] 🙂

  28. @kevin #21
    Kevin I wish to point out that I was in that happy group I am right up front, (the bald ugly guy)
    I find it just a tad offensive that you would say we were being unthinking about Alcoholics’. I was drinking Pepsi as I am on Kadian a Morphine type medication and Vicadin, as well as several other medications that don’t react well to alcohol as you see I have M.S. If I had beer I would be flying out of the bar into a tree. I exercised responsibility and did not drink a Beer and I love Beer. An Alcoholic that has been in treatment knows that Alcoholism is the Alcoholics Problem no one is responsible for your behavior, but yourself. It is right in the 12 steps; you have to take responsibility for your actions. How can we be viewed as insensitive? We at Peace are a very Orthodox Lutheran Church and we love it. I had a lot of fun with my Brothers and Sisters. Kevin, with all due respect “ Lighten up” .
    William Harmon

  29. @Pastor Tim Rossow #24

    An absurd analogy. You can eat. An alcoholic can not drink. You are comparing apples to pluto.

    Secondly, I never said I struggle with it. Reread what was written. That is another GIANT leap in logic. Perhaps you should read what is written and not jump to completely absurd conclusions. Oh, wait, you do that regularly.

  30. We should fear and love God so that we may not deceitfully belie, betray, slander, or defame our neighbor, but defend him, ‹think and› speak well of him, and put the best construction on everything.

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