Great Stuff Found on the Web — What Should the Synod Do?

A post by Pastor David Petersen on Gottesdienst Online. We thought it might generate some interesting comments here as well as over on the original site.


Rumor has it that Synodical-types lurk on Gottesdienst. That may or may not be true. But let’s play a little game for them. Instead of our normal Gottesdienst bomb throwing complaints about what the Synod is doing, what could the Synod do to support, encourage, and help congregations and pastors?

The synod’s restructuring offers an opportunity to not only streamline the Synod’s corporate functions but also make the synod useful to congregations. So if you had the chance to reform synod, humanly speaking, what would you do?

Let’s take the international question in another post. For now, what should the synod be doing in the United States? How should it do it?

Here is some stuff to get you started, with the caveats that these are my own ideas, not those of Gottesdienst, and that I don’t claim to have thought all these through. I am willing to be talked out of them. So if you find them insulting, outrageous, etc, please explain what the problem is and understand that I my intent is not to hurt but to really consider not only what we ought to do but we might actually be capable of pulling off.

  1. The President needs to continue, even amp up, his presence as the Synod’s Theological teacher through writing, youtube videos, etc. His bit with the Litany last Lent was spot on. More like that.
  2. The Lutheran Witness needs to continue, even amp up, its current effort at honesty and transparency. The October “issues” issue was the best LW issue of my lifetime. Don’t tell us we’re all united and everything is happy. Face reality. Give us Theological resources for addressing disunity and division. Etc.
  3. CPH needs to rethink its mission. It should be taken back as a non-profit subsidized by synod. Hymnals and Catechisms should be “sold” at as near cost as possible. Grants should be created to help CPH give away hymnals and catechisms at less than cost. The point of the hymnal should be to unite the Synod in doctrine and practice not to underwrite a terrible VBS program that promotes contemporary worship. CPH execs should not be paid at the same rate as Zondervan execs but at district scale. The Catechism translation should be owned by the synod not CPH. It should be made available for reproduction, without cost, to anyone who is using it piously, without modifying it.
  4. The Seminaries should be the main focus of synodical education and receive a  percentage of unrestricted gifts.As they are more fully funded, the seminaries should be asked to do more.
  5. CUS should be re-evaluated. Perhaps they should be cut loose and take on their own debt. Perhaps the synod could operate one or two colleges. But teacher certification and continuing ed, as well as advanced degrees, could be taken over by the seminaries. Not only would this increase the depth of theological training of the teachers but it would also help re-establish camaraderie between pastors and teachers.
  6. Pastors need evaluation – the same as teachers. They should be visited by their circuit counselors on site twice a year. They should respond to a standardized test on doctrine and practice developed by the seminaries. The seminaries should also develop a large reading list. The pastors should report to the circuit counselor what they are reading from that list. Finally, they should report they number of visits they have made by category: evangelism, hospital/shut-in, and member.
  7. The CTCR should be de-funded and its work passed to the seminaries.
  8. Campus Ministry needs support: money, materials, and manpower. This should be a priority – especially if CUS is cut loose.
  9. Rural, small town, and urban congregations need support. In particular the synod needs to play the heavy. Some of these congregations need to combine as dual and triple parishes or into new congregations. Some of them need to close. Congregations have lifespans. There is no shame in dying. Rebirth only happens in those who have died. The synod needs to help these congregations get full-time, fully competent, fully trained pastors. They deserve that.
  10. The synod needs to cut loose all forms of lay ministry and half-training of pastors. Those who are currently working in these ways should receive the training needed and be ordained. Ethnic minorities and poor people need solid, well-trained pastors just as surely as wealthy suburbanites. The racism of the LC-MS should be confessed and repented of. Ethnic minorities are not genetically predisposed to false doctrine or too weak for the rigors of serious theological education.
  11. The districts are not needed. They are a level of bureaucracy that provides very little service for the money. The synod should be divided into four geographic regions. Each region should have approximately 30 “districts” of approximately 50 congregations each. Those districts would be served by volunteer district presidents, full-time pastors. The pastor’s study or front porch would become the district office. He would provide oversight for 5 circuit counselors who would provide, as volunteers, not compensated, oversight over 10 pastors. The regional office would oversee the 30 district presidents and take care of paperwork, etc. They would be served by paid staff and a paid vice president of synod. These regional staffs would function very much the way that district staffs currently function but more closely tied to the national office, less territorial.
  12. Discipline should be re-instituted. The synod cannot remove pastors from Office. But they must protect and guard the synod’s name and reputation. They can remove men and congregations from the roster. They should remove those who teach false doctrine, refuse discipline, etc.
  13. The Synod must establish boundaries for worship. The hymnal -as human as it is – is the obvious place to start. Regional VPs or district presidents could allow local customs. But local customs should be deliberate and well-thought out, established practices, not changing week to week. Local customs should be exceptions made for pastoral reasons. Human rite should not be mistaken for Divine rite but should be honored and obeyed for the sake of good order and unity. This one would “hurt” me. But I think it is the right thing.

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,, 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


Great Stuff Found on the Web — What Should the Synod Do? — 4 Comments

  1. support the confessional faithful who address sin-instead of denying the sins of false doctrine and practice during before and after golf—and the faithful lose all-but we have Jesus.after Christmas-lets have open public debates to clean things up with Law and Gospel—and dps-no letter writing with trouble makers w/o informing faithful pastors of congregation-Mt 18 and Commandment #8-remember

  2. For #6, I’m curious, that seems an awful lot like treating a pastor like a hirling. Either you’d have to lower the bar so far it’d be ridiculous (in order to accomodate all) or you are left with punishing those who don’t “pass.” Would pastors be fired for this failure?

    #12 to me is the biggest hurdle. After decades of not using church discipline of any form (I’d argue the last time it was used was Seminex) how do we suddenly re-introduce it? Perhaps simply removing one or two names would cause pastors and churches to leave voluntarily rather than repent. Do we then have a process by which we can bring them back in if they do repent?

    Good post! Good food for thought!

  3. “Those districts would be served by volunteer district presidents, full-time pastors.”

    Well, that ought to weed out the social climbers! Will they at least get the occasional junket with LCEF? (“In Orlando, mind you!”) 🙂

    Speaking of the LCEF, maybe they could be the focus of #14 on this provocative (and long overdue) list…

  4. In response to number #12

    1 Timothy 6: 1-5
    Let as many bondservants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and His doctrine may not be blasphemed.
    2 And those who have believing masters, let them not despise them because they are brethren, but rather serve them because those who are benefited are believers and beloved. Teach and exhort these things.
    3 If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness,
    4 he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions,
    5 useless wranglings[a] of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself.

    By the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the Word do we address our brothers false doctrine. By application of His Word, we should hold those who would teach falsely accountable, and by His work on the cross we believe that forgiveness is the process of bringing them back should they repent.

    And if there is no repentance after the Word is re-introduced to our brothers, the Word says:

    Hebrews 10: 26-31
    26 For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,
    27 but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.
    28 Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.
    29 Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?
    30 For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. And again, “The Lord will judge His people.”
    31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

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