The last time I wrote one of these e-mail blasts, I called myself the “pet layman” of the ACELC Board of Directors. While that description remains frightfully accurate, my real job is to lecture mathematics at the University of Texas at Austin. Academia is a wonderfully interesting place, not just because of all the fascinating mathematics being discussed and created, but also because there are so many, very different sorts of people crowded into one small space. At any given moment on the 11th floor of Moore Hall there must be at least 10 different languages being spoken. We have people weighing 80 lbs, and people weighing over 300 lbs – all genders (there are a surprising number of these), all colors, all religions, all political bents, and every dietary variation imaginable. “Diversity” is one of our sacred cows. I enjoy interacting with my colleagues and students, and learning about their opinions, countries, and their perceptions of America, Texas and meat-eaters. But, having said that, there are times I just want to seek out “my own kind.” It takes extra effort to carry on a conversation with someone who doesn’t speak English well. It takes extra effort to listen closely to a narrative and not try to interpret it through one’s own world view. It takes extra effort to pay attention so that one does not give offense. And that extra effort is often tiring.
So it can be a great relief to retreat back home, where communication flows effortlessly, where I share a common context with others, and where I’m not so worried about making someone angry (….again…). I would guess that pastors, especially confessional pastors who may find themselves surrounded by pastors who are not-so-confessional, might have the same experience. After walking on eggshells at the circuit meetings and winkles, it must be a relief to gather with other confessional pastors who have the same troubles, same opinions, same taste in beverages, etc.
Erblicken Sie: The annual ACELC conferences. What a delight it is to be able to travel to all the various host congregations and see The Familiar. There are the Church ladies, serving up coffee and homemade snacks (and sweetly not seeing all the crumbs and spills.) There’s that one retired elder who knows where everything is and has a key to it. But mostly, here gather people who believe that to be Lutheran means to adhere to the Lutheran Confessions. They agree that “lay minister” is an oxymoron. They believe in Closed Communion. They dislike contemporary worship almost as much as I do. And the reports (the shockingly many reports) of faithful pastors being unBiblically removed, their families impoverished and their reputations tarnished (and, I suppose, their naive, youthful dreams crushed), hurt them as they hurt me.
The theme of the 2015 ACELC Conference, February 10-12, is “Office of the Holy Ministry Part II (The Unbiblical Removal of Pastors).” The Conference will be held at Holy Cross Lutheran in Kansas City, Missouri – and I, for one, am really looking forward to it. Like you, these reports of injustice gall me, and every time I hear one, I want to do something about it. Who do I have to write, bribe, punch, or tattle on to get this evil to stop spreading? As Lutherans, we should probably refrain from bribing and punching, and go with what we do best: Teaching and preaching (or “barking”), which is what the ACELC Conference is all about. I hope my presence at the conference adds, in a small way, to our collective voice when we publicly decry the unBiblical practices which seem rampant throughout the Missouri Synod.
And one thing I hope to see this year is many new faces. Kansas City should be a much more do-able drive for most than, say, Austin was in 2013. At least for those who don’t live in Austin. We have a great program of speakers, and offer a healthy dose of Gemütlichkeit – and we would love to see you there with us. Details of the Conference can be found on the ACELC website. Come, join us, and get recharged!
Dr. Bart Goddard, ACELC Board
Member, Trinity Lutheran Church
P.S. If you haven’t yet seen the new ACELC film, “If Not Now, When?” you can find it on our website under the “ACELC Film Project” link. There you will find the full film; parts I and II, broken down for easier viewing; as well as six study guides on different parts of the film. You may also order DVDs (one copy or more) if you would like to have a copy that can be viewed without a computer or shared with your friends as a gift.