A Gordian Knot of bylaws – How could a Synod President remove a District President?

Alexander_cuts_the_Gordian_KnotThe Gordian Knot is an interesting tale.  Alexander the Great’s solution is also interesting.  The LCMS Handbook lays out a Gordian Knot called Dispute Resolution (which produced the results of Dr. Becker’s being viewed as an orthodox Lutheran not needing a formal hearing).  Now there are calls for the President of the Synod to do something with regards to the District President over Dr. Becker.  Enter Bylaws again, another Gordian knot.  Here are the bylaws…

2.15  Expulsion of a District President or Officer

 from Membership in the Synod

 2.15.1     The action to commence expulsion of a district president or an officer of the Synod from membership in the Synod is the sole responsibility of the President of the Synod, who has the responsibility for ecclesiastical supervision of such member (Constitution Art. XI A and B 1). This Bylaw section 2.15, among others, provides the procedures to carry out Article XIII of the Constitution, “Expulsion from the Synod.” However, it does not provide the procedure for the expulsion of a congregation or individual member of the Synod (Bylaw section 2.14), the President of the Synod (Bylaw section 2.16), or individual members in cases involving sexual misconduct or criminal behavior (Bylaw section 2.17).

Definition of Terms

2.15.2     For a definition of terms used in this bylaw, see Bylaw 2.14.2.

Consultation

2.15.3     When a member congregation or individual member of the Synod is aware of information which could lead to the expulsion of a district president or an officer of the Synod from the Synod’s membership under Article XIII of the Constitution, prior to any formal written complaint or accusation the member shall consult with the member’s district president or with the President of the Synod if the member’s district president is the accused to seek advice and also so that it can be determined whether this is the appropriate bylaw procedure (Bylaw section 2.15) or whether the matter falls under Bylaw sections 2.14, 2.17, or 1.8, or dispute resolution under Bylaw section 1.10. In regard to this consultation:

(a) If and when the accuser’s district president (if the district president is not the one accused or if the accused is an officer of the Synod) is the one consulted, the district president shall consult with the President of the Synod. Whether the President of the Synod is the one consulted directly by the accuser or by the district president, the President of the Synod may consult with the vice-presidents of the Synod, with the district president of the accused (if an officer of the Synod), with the chairman of the Council of Presidents, or with the Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR). The President of the Synod may also ask an opinion of the Commission on Constitutional Matters (CCM). The President of the Synod must follow any opinion received from either the CCM or the CTCR, which shall be rendered within 30 days or such additional time as the President of the Synod may allow.

(b) The district president or the President of the Synod shall require the accuser to follow the correct bylaw provision under the circumstance, and shall provide for evangelical supervision, counsel, and care to the persons involved.

(c) If this Bylaw section 2.15 applies, the district president or the President of the Synod shall ensure that the accuser has met face-to-face with the accused in the manner described in Matthew 18:15. Even if the alleged violation of Article XIII of the Constitution is considered to be “public,” this provision of Matthew 18:15 shall be followed. The reputation of all parties to the matter is to be protected as commanded in the Eighth Commandment.

(d) The district president of the accuser or the President of the Synod may appoint a small committee to assist in reconciliation efforts. The goal throughout is always one of admonition and reconciliation, of repentance and forgiveness (even if the following proceedings result in expulsion from membership).

(e) The requirement of the Synod of previous admonition called for in Article XIII of the Constitution commences at this stage if applicable.

(f) Only after all of the requirements of the consultation provided in this bylaw (Bylaw 2.15.3) have been followed may the accuser bring the matter to the President of the Synod for action under the correct bylaw provision determined by the accuser’s district president (paragraph [b] above).

Commencing an Action

2.15.4     Under this bylaw, the President of the Synod shall commence the following action when he becomes aware of information or allegations that could lead to expulsion of a member from the Synod under the provisions of Article XIII of the Constitution. The President of the Synod may become aware of such information by his own personal knowledge. Such information or allegations may also be conveyed to him in a formal written complaint or accusation made by a member of the Synod who has carried out the above provision (Bylaw 2.15.3). In commencing such action, the President of the Synod:

(a) Shall determine whether Bylaw 2.15.3 provisions have been carried out and shall thoroughly investigate the matter to determine whether the facts learned from his investigation form a basis for expulsion of the member under Article XIII of the Constitution. He may appoint a small investigation committee (cf. Bylaw 4.4.6). If the accused is a district president, the investigation shall include consultation with that president’s district board of directors and district vice-presidents. He may also consult with the circuit visitors of the given district.

(b) Shall proceed in the manner described in Matthew 18:15-16 as the requirement of “admonition” in Article XIII of the Constitution, if applicable, continues to be carried out.

(c) May, apart from the investigation, also appoint a small committee to assist in reconciliation efforts (see Bylaw 2.15.3 [d] above).

2.15.4.1  In the event the President of the Synod is disqualified because he has a conflict of interest or is unable to act, the chairman of the Council of Presidents or the next qualified officer of the Council of Presidents shall function in his place in carrying out any of the following bylaw provisions. The majority vote of the district presidents of the Council of Presidents, excluding the involved district presidents, shall determine any challenge to the eligibility of the President of the Synod to act which is not agreed to by the President of the Synod.

Referral Panel

2.15.5     In the determination of whether or not to initiate formal proceedings, the President of the Synod may form a Referral Panel consisting of three district presidents.

(a) This panel shall be formed by blind draw, shall not include the district president that is a party to the matter or the district president of an accused officer or the district president of the accuser.

(b) The blind draw shall be administered by the chairman of the Council of Presidents audited by witnesses.

2.15.5.1  After reviewing the accusation and the results of the investigation, the Referral Panel shall make the determination whether or not to initiate formal proceedings.

2.15.5.2  Whether made by the President of the Synod or the Referral Panel, if the determination is not to initiate formal proceedings, the President of the Synod shall in writing so inform the accuser, any other district president involved, and the involved member, which shall terminate the matter.

2.15.5.3  If the President of the Synod fails to act within 60 days after receipt of the formal written complaint or accusation, the accuser may present a formal written request to the President of the Synod for the forming of the Referral Panel, which request the President of the Synod must grant. If the provisions set forth in Bylaw 2.15.4 have not been carried out, the Referral Panel shall carry out these provisions in the process of making its determination whether or not to initiate formal proceedings.

Commencing Formal Proceedings

2.15.6     If the President of the Synod or the Referral Panel concludes that the facts form a basis for expulsion of the member under Article XIII of the Constitution, the President of the Synod in commencing the formal proceedings shall

(a) provide to the member a written notification of the member’s suspended status under Bylaw 2.13.4;

(b) provide to the member a written statement of the matter which sets forth the facts and states that he is requesting expulsion of the member from the Synod in accord with Article XIII of the Constitution; and

(c) provide to the member a written notification that the member has 15 days from the date of receipt of the statement of the matter to advise the President of the Synod that there is a desire to have the matter heard and resolved.

2.15.6.1  Failure by the member to file such written request for hearing and resolution within the 15-day period shall be deemed to be consent to expulsion from membership in the Synod.

Hearing Panel

2.15.7     If the request for hearing as granted in Bylaw 2.15.6 (c) is made, the President of the Synod shall inform the Secretary of the Synod who shall initiate the formation of a Hearing Panel, such formation to be accomplished within 30 days of the request in accordance with the provisions in this bylaw.

2.15.7.1  At the time that the request for hearing is made, the President of the Synod shall forward to the Secretary of the Synod the statement of the matter and a written memorandum describing the manner in which there was compliance with the guidelines provided in Matthew 18:15–16 and “previous futile admonition” (Constitution Art. XIII), as well as all of the provisions of Bylaws 2.15.3-2.15.6.1.

2.15.7.2  A Hearing Panel consisting of two district presidents (excluding the involved district president[s]) and one reconciler who is a layperson, selected as follows, shall conduct the hearing:

(a) One district president shall be selected by the accused (a district president, if he is the accused, may not choose himself).

(b) One district president shall be selected by the President of the Synod.

(c) One reconciler who is a layperson shall be chosen by blind draw from the Synod’s roster of reconcilers, with the blind draw administered by the Secretary of the Synod and audited by witnesses.

(d) Each Hearing Panel shall be assisted by a nonvoting hearing facilitator selected according to Bylaw 2.14.2 (j).

(e) No two members of the panel nor the hearing facilitator shall be from the same district.

(f) The hearing facilitator shall administrate the hearing and may draw upon persons and resources that he/she deems necessary for conducting a hearing in a fair and equitable manner.

(g) The hearing facilitator shall serve as an advisor to the panel on the form but not the substance of the decision.

(h) If a Referral Panel was formed, the three district presidents that served in that capacity are not eligible to serve on a Hearing Panel.

2.15.7.3  Upon receipt of a request for hearing, the Secretary of the Synod shall promptly notify the accused and the President of the Synod of their respective right to choose one Hearing Panel member and direct that the identity of their selection be transmitted to the Secretary of the Synod within 15 days from the date of such notice. If either party declines to make a selection within 15 days, the Secretary of the Synod shall then make such selection within 5 days.

2.15.7.4  The Secretary of the Synod shall also promptly select a lay reconciler to serve as a third member of the Hearing Panel and a hearing facilitator to assist the panel.

2.15.7.5  When the Hearing Panel members and hearing facilitator have so been chosen, they shall be promptly notified of their selection.

2.15.7.6  Within 15 days after the Hearing Panel is constituted, the hearing facilitator shall, after conferring with the panel, the accused, and the President of the Synod, select a date and location within 45 days after the panel was constituted for the panel to hear and consider the matter.

2.15.7.7  The Secretary of the Synod shall forward to the Hearing Panel the statement of the matter together with the written memorandum describing the manner in which there was compliance with the guidelines provided in Matthew 18:15–16 and “previous futile admonition” (Constitution Art. XIII), as well as all of the provisions of Bylaws 2.15.3-2.15.6.1.

2.15.7.8  The Hearing Panel and all parties to the matter shall follow the guidelines as set forth in Bylaw 2.14.7.8 with the exception of paragraph (g) and instead shall follow this guideline in its place:

(g) While the matter is still undecided or while an appeal is contemplated or pending, publicity shall not be given to the issues in the matter by any of the persons involved during any part of the procedures outlined in this bylaw with one exception. Due to the fact that this bylaw procedure deals with a district president or an officer of the Synod, which necessarily means that the case will most likely have a high public exposure, as the ecclesiastical supervisor the President of the Synod, at his discretion, may carry out his duties to properly advise the Synod as the needs dictate in order to “promote and maintain unity of doctrine and practice” (Constitution Art. XI B 3) and in order to provide counsel, care, and protection for all of the members of the Synod (Constitution Art. III 8, 9).

2.15.7.9  Upon completion of the hearing, the Hearing Panel shall deliberate and then issue its written decision within 30 days.

(a) Copies of the decision shall be mailed to the accused, the district president who imposed the suspension, the accuser and his/her district president, the Secretary of the Synod, and the President of the Synod.

(b) The decision of the Hearing Panel shall be subject to appeal by the accused or the President of the Synod.

(c) The President of the Synod may request an opinion from the Commission on Constitutional Matters (CCM) or the Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR).

(1) Any opinion so requested shall be rendered within 30 days or such greater time as the panel may allow.

(2) When an opinion has been requested, time limitations will not apply until the parties to the matter have received the opinion.

(3) CCM and CTCR opinions must be followed if the matter is appealed.

(d) If not appealed, the decision of the Hearing Panel shall be regarded as final and shall

(1) be binding upon the parties to the matter and not be subject to further appeal;

(2) have no precedential value;

(3) be carried out by the district president or the President of the Synod; and

(4) be publicized as deemed appropriate under the circumstances by the district president or the President of the Synod.

 Appeal Panel

2.15.8     The decision of the Hearing Panel may be appealed by the accused (if an active participant in the hearing before the Hearing Panel) or by the President of the Synod if a question of doctrine or practice is involved (Constitution Art. XI B 1-3) within 15 days after receiving the decision. Such request for a final hearing shall be submitted to the Secretary of the Synod with copies provided to the district president(s) of the accuser and the accused, the chairman of the Hearing Panel, the accuser, and the President of the Synod, and shall be accompanied by a written memorandum stating the basis for the request.

(a) Within 30 days after receipt of an appeal from the accused or the President of the Synod, an Appeal Panel shall be selected by the Secretary of the Synod. The Appeal Panel shall be made up of three district presidents who shall be trained for such service.

(1) One district president shall be selected by the accused, one by the ecclesiastical supervisor of the accused, and the third by the two Appeal Panel members so selected.

(2) If the two Appeal Panel members cannot agree on a third panel member, the Secretary of the Synod shall select the third member by blind draw from the remaining eligible district presidents.

(b) The members of the Appeal Panel shall be provided with copies of the official record of the case, including the Hearing Panel minutes, the written decision and all documentary evidence considered by the Hearing Panel, and the written memorandum stating the basis for the appeal. The panel shall make its decision solely on the basis of the materials received.

(c) The only decision to be made by the Appeal Panel shall be whether to approve reconsideration of the Hearing Panel decision. The panel shall not approve a request for a new hearing on the basis of newly discovered evidence unless such evidence was clearly not available to the Hearing Panel and was not the fault of the party requesting the reopening of the case, and unless it is clear that the absence of such evidence resulted in a gross miscarriage of justice.

(d) The standards of review that shall define the Appeal Panel’s considerations shall be limited to three basic areas:

(1) Factual findings: The Appeal Panel shall review factual findings of the Hearing Panel only to determine if they are supported by evidence. The Appeal Panel shall not ordinarily sit in judgment of the Hearing Panel’s conclusions regarding evidence, since the Hearing Panel was in the best position to judge factual issues. The Appeal Panel must be convinced that a mistake has been committed, that is, that the evidence is such that reasonable minds could not agree with the Hearing Panel’s decision.

(2) Conclusions on authority: The Appeal Panel may approve an appeal if the Hearing Panel was clearly outside its authority, e.g., a decision was made that the panel had no authority to make under the Constitution and Bylaws of the Synod, or a decision was made on an issue not related to the sole issue to be decided, or a decision was made on a theological question that the panel had no authority to make.

(3) Discretionary acts: The Appeal Panel may approve an appeal if there was a clear abuse of discretion impacting the decision of the Hearing Panel, resulting in a gross miscarriage of justice, or that involves an obvious and inappropriate bias or prejudice.

(e) If the Appeal Panel denies the request for reconsideration of the decision of the Hearing Panel and upholds the suspension of the ecclesiastical supervisor, the decision of the Hearing Panel shall be regarded as final and shall

(1) be binding upon the parties to the matter and not be subject to further appeal;

(2) have no precedential value;

(3) be carried out by the district president or the President of the Synod; and

(4) shall be publicized as deemed appropriate under the circumstances by the district president or the President of the Synod.

(f) If the Appeal Panel grants the request for reconsideration of the decision of the Hearing Panel, a Final Hearing Panel shall be selected by the Secretary of the Synod.

 Final Hearing Panel

2.15.9     Within 30 days after the receipt of the decision of the Appeal Panel granting the request for reconsideration of the decision of the Hearing Panel, a Final Hearing Panel shall be selected.

(a) The panel shall be constituted in the same prescribed manner as described in Bylaws 2.15.7.2-2.15.7.6, except that the two district presidents, the reconciler, the hearing facilitator that provided assistance to the Hearing Panel, and the involved district presidents are omitted from consideration for the Final Hearing Panel.

(b) The procedures for the final hearing shall be the same as prescribed in Bylaws 2.15.7.6 -2.15.7.8.

(c) The chairman of the Hearing Panel shall provide the Final Hearing Panel with a written statement of the matter and the Hearing Panel’s report, minutes, records, and proceedings.

2.15.9.1  Upon completion of the hearing of the Final Hearing Panel, the panel shall deliberate and then issue its written decision within 30 days, a copy of which shall be mailed to the accused, any involved district president, the accuser, the Secretary of the Synod, and the President of the Synod. The final decision of the Final Hearing Panel shall

(a) be binding upon the parties to the matter and not be subject to further appeal;

(b) have no precedential value;

(c) be carried out by the President of the Synod; and

(d) be publicized as deemed appropriate under the circumstances by the President of the Synod.

General Regulations

2.15.10   The President of the Synod shall take those steps necessary to assure that the spiritual needs of the respective members (accuser and accused) are attended to and shall continue efforts to resolve those matters which led to the commencement of the formal action against the accused member.

2.15.10.1  Since this matter involves individual membership, the calling or contracting body is encouraged to continue financial support, existing housing, and insurance of individual members until the final decision is rendered.

2.15.10.2  Any member participating in this bylaw procedure that violates any of the requirements or procedures in this bylaw or is persistent in false accusations is subject to the same disciplinary measures as set forth in Bylaw section 2.14 or this Bylaw section 2.15. Violations of the prohibition against publicity while a matter is still undecided or while an appeal is contemplated or pending (Bylaw 2.15.7.8 [g] above) by any of the persons involved are specifically included as violations subject to the same disciplinary measures set forth in this bylaw section or Bylaw section 2.14.

2.15.10.3  In consultation with the Secretary of the Synod and with the concurrence of the Council of Presidents, the Commission on Constitutional Matters shall amend as necessary the Standard Operating Procedures Manual that serves as a comprehensive procedures manual for the provisions set forth in Bylaw section 2.15.

About Pastor Joshua Scheer

Pastor Joshua Scheer is the Senior Pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Cheyenne, Wyoming. He is also the Editor-in-chief of Brothers of John the Steadfast. He oversees all of the work done by Steadfast Lutherans. He is a regular host of Concord Matters on KFUO. Pastor Scheer and his lovely wife Holly (who writes and manages the Katie Luther Sisters) have four children and enjoy living in Wyoming.

Comments

A Gordian Knot of bylaws – How could a Synod President remove a District President? — 57 Comments

  1. @Pastor David L. Prentice Jr. #50
    It is not the title of the office that matters, it is the authority, accountability and responsibility that is assigned to the office that counts. Personally, I am opposed to the apostolic polity because due to our history it sends the wrong message about the relationship between clergy and laity. In Christ’s Church there is no hierarchy other than Christ is the head and He is over all the body of true believers. Clergy hold a higher office, but are not overlords, managers, etc. They are servants of God to server their flock. When clergy forget that or rationalize it away the trouble starts. It is true, the clergy are set apart and called to a higher office when that is their vocation, but that does not make it hierarchical as some support. But it does make it sound hierarchical due to history when the term is used. That is why I don’t support its use.

    Also, the sheep shall judge their shepherds is a theme the current environment seems to have forgotten regarding the DRP. The laity cannot file charges and are only included on a panel where they are outnumbered 2 to 1. That doesn’t sound like equality between the clergy and the laity to me.

    I agree, the laity are not up to snuff on things happening outside of their own congregation. I fight against that in my own congregation routinely. In recent years this has been aided and abetted by the severe lack of circuit convocations. As I recall that was an initiative encouraging convocations coming out of the 2010 Convention, or shortly thereafter. Whatever happened about that? Nothing that I am aware of. This is one opportunity to interact outside ones congregation, which is a good thing. I also know from personal experience here in the NOW that some pastors don’t want the laity to know what is going on outside of the congregation so they will rely on the pastor for instructions on how to vote at the district convention. I have been a delegate to two district conventions and I could count on one hand the number of laity, besides myself, who came to a microphone to speak to a resolution. Now that is disgusting, but it is a sample of the thinking in this district.

    A pastor friend of mine who is following this mess from afar made the following suggestion regarding the apparent lack of ecclesiastical supervision. Do it like we do it in the congregations. If there is public error/sin, ban them from communion until they repent, and if they have not repented in a certain amount of time they are excommunicated. That throws them off the roster and gets them removed from office all at the same time. Sounds sweet to me but there is probably a bylaw that prevents that from happening too.

    I say there is not enough real equality between the learned laity and the learned clergy to write good bylaws that are simple, direct and to the point, and don’t offer protections for wrong doing, but do provide protection for those unjustly removed, or fired, or whatever. They would also ensure that all judgements concerning spiritual matters are in full accord with Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions. Really, is that so hard to do?

  2. Wouldn’t be many legs of lamb or lamb chops with mint jelly were the sheep to rule the roost.

    Just saying . . .

    And yes, Gene, the failure of polity is a major issue.

    I have no real dog in this hunt, but I am amazed at the comments here and in all of the similar posts.

    Incredible.

  3. @pastor david prentice #39
    You cannot ask a convention to remove pastors, it should be done at the level of pastoral leadership of fellow pastors. The laity should not be involved, which would be done at a convention level.

    Frankly, Pastor Prentice, you seem to be the only Pastor interested in a lockout of the laity, and I find that inappropriate.

    The laity got fed up and precipitated the 1973-74 revolt which led to Seminex.
    The laity have more freedom of action than the ordained, because district officials are less likely to be able to influence their jobs and livelihoods.
    [E.g., Tod Wilken, (Pastor) who was dismissed because he objected to CG methods and his severance denied because he would not agree to silence about the injustice. And if you missed it, a layman owns the rights to “Issues, Etc.” (TM) to protect it from the machinations of the SP who arranged Tod’s “divine disposal”.]

    If you think “the laity” are incapable of such decisions, I say, they are if taught Lutheran doctrine and what the issues are. And who is responsible for teaching? There, I completely agree with Pr. Rossow. The clergy are to teach; if the laity are ignorant, their pastors haven’t done their job.
    (Now, I would say that no layman should be a delegate to anything, or even a church officer, unless he is in regular attendance at the Pastor’s training classes, Bible or BOC.)

  4. @helen #3
    Dear Helen
    Yes, I do wax historical for Rome, in the sense of Apostolic order, “ain’t gonna happen”. I know. Remember, Luther disliked the error, not the order. Yes, he thought the Pope was a jerk!

    As for laity, you hold the keys (OK, won’t get into Walther, etc.)

    OK, to the comment –

    If I had my ideals, Laity can do it all, except, let the clergy be clergy, and guard the Gospel as it should be proclaimed.

    What if Laity voted in the Council of Nicea, etc.?

    If we have problems of Scripture, the learned theologians and churchmen must deal with that, and the ones that the office is given.

    If we need to spend monies on mission, could care less. You all vote.

    If it was not for you laity, ALL pastors in our polity, “out of a job”. We are not Rome in that sense.

  5. Becker-gate

    I’ve said before that I find the Becker-gate to be interesting largely because he has been able thus far to game the synodical system by deftly using the very by-laws and labyrinthine “dispute resolution” process put into place to curb such an activity, as a vehicle to promote a set of “theological” views as his “civil” right. To any Charles Dickens aficionado, Becker-gate thus far is reminiscent of Jarndyce v. Jarndyce in England’s Court of Chancery, immortalized in the novel Bleak House; to any film aficionado, President Harrison’s statement on Becker-gate is reminiscent of Captain Renault’s famous line from Casablanca, meanwhile every “confessional” pastor, pike in hand, has taken on the role of Lord Protector. I suspect that those brave souls who wrote the original and (in)famous “Letter of Fraternal Admonition” when President Harrison was first elected to office can now say with some degree of truth, “We told you so.”

    I’ve never been particularly concerned with men like Becker, or academics in general simply because for them, theology and the parish are largely a hobby; while I certainly have my detractors (and while I could honestly care less) my own concern has always been for those for whom theology and the parish are existential. So while I read a great deal of what gets posted on-line, what gets re-posted or linked to, what I’m always curious about is (a) how such a post relates realistically to the very human condition of the pastor and his family, and (b) is the author a practicing member of the brotherhood? (B) may sound a little dismissive, perhaps even a bit arrogant, but if you haven’t an altar, or haven’t had one in decades, you may indeed write well but to me you’re largely “white noise.”

    I suppose that at some level the realm needs Lord Protectors, complete with pikes, or Red Queens to shout “Off with their heads,” but too much oxygen can be sucked out of the room in such an endeavor; it become far too easily to focus on the “confessional” and the left hand kingdom of by-laws, and forget about the humanity of our men in the trenches of the parish; a humanity that Christ took upon himself.

    I don’t know how many “Beckers” there are within Synod, but I would bet that for every Becker, there are three men suffering from some form of addiction, and how many more from same-sex attraction, from mental illness, from depression, the abusiveness of a parish, or perhaps even facing the very real prospect of divorce?

    We Lutherans have an aversion to human flesh; in fact, our preference is for something like Becker-gate largely because, I think, it’s impersonal. Becker becomes a straw-man of sorts that we can write about, post about, read synodical statements about, that perhaps takes our attention away from our own very human struggles in the parish as a whole. Becker-gate allows us the scarce luxury of speaking openly, albeit on a largely theoretical level, and again, allows us to escape an equally honest flesh and bone discussion of our own lives, phobias, addictions or obsessions.

    The human flesh among us-the pastor-is largely left to cry in the secrecy of an office and what balm there is, isn’t found of the clichés of cleric-speak, but in bottles, behaviors, and the steady march of mortality, bearing its own insidious desperation.

    Such a contempt for human flesh has bred a cult of secrecy among us, that has in turn created a Frankenstein of perceived pastoral perfection (and a de-humanized God who is more abstraction than Father): a man who needs no photo-shopping outwardly, and yet perhaps inwardly is the embodiment of Eleanor Rigby. As a church body we’ve never been satisfied with the humanity of a pastor; he was always supposed to be “different,” and perhaps so, but the “difference” has over time become based less on scriptural precepts and models and much more on personal opinion informed by a herd mentality; as if a prophet never suffered.

    The divorced pastor is critiqued by the single pastor or the pastor with perfect marriage.

    The mentally ill pastor is critiqued by those who have never heard “voices”; the obsessive-compulsive pastor is counseled by those who have no idea of what’s involved in ritualistic behavior.

    The addicted pastor is buried alive in stories by recovering zealots, who have spiritualized their own very human struggle to overcome addictions and in the process have self-beatified.

    Becker-gate however provides us with something we can all agree on, and so is in a way diversionary.

    I’ve often wondered what the average parish pastor, perhaps serving a dual parish out in some rural area, really thinks about a situation like Becker-gate? Those of us who have been there know that at the end of the day-the drive between parishes, clashes between parishes, the hospitals in different regions, and the continual self-guilt of not spending enough time with family-that the last thing on our mind is Becker. While we might admit that at some level Becker-gate is important, what is of more importance is the health of the pastor and his family, and maybe that isn’t a confessional issue, but it certainly is an incarnational one.

    The loss of Christology within a church body cannot help but cause a loss in the humanity of the same, for Christology is the Incarnation.

    Pastor Ken Kelly Jr.

  6. Thanks.

    Optics mean a great deal within the Church and are often self-generated, as opposed to occurring naturally. Becker-gate has generated a great deal of optics and posturing, but in reality, no more so than when University Lutheran Chapel was sold by the Minnesota South District, or when the brother involved with the grief of the Newtown massacre was trotted out to the whipping post. There’s always a righteous indignation, a sort of confessional snorting, and no matter what the offense you can always count on who will have the moral high ground.

    The difference with Becker-gate however is that it has called into question the confessional posture of all the LCMS pastors-not bureaucrats-who do not agree with his position; his acquittal is from a functional point of view an indictment of the rest of the LCMS pastorate, for logically we can’t both be right. What Becker-gate has also done is to expose the fallacy of a church body that insists on being by-law/resolution driven, and if you don’t believe that, I encourage you to read the CTCR response to Becker’s “dissent”; if there’s a more torturous and legalistically incomprehensible document within the LCMS, I’d be surprised. It’s a document that former US President Clinton would be proud of.

    To put it bluntly, Becker-gate has made an utter and complete ass of the scriptural foundations of the LCMS, to say nothing of ordination vows. We can all now see just how shallow those scriptural roots actually were, for no matter what any blog site may say or claim, the LCMS as a church body simply (now) has no clothes.

    There is however something else that Becker-gate has done, perhaps more subtle, but done none the less: Becker-gate has allowed those small independent Lutheran “synods” to occupy the spotlight. It has given legitimacy to the assertion that problems like Becker-gate are either non-existent or handled in a completely different manner within their organizations, and perhaps more interestingly, traditional LCMS blog sites are now giving such independent synods space to proselytize. The outcome of this is that it paints a picture of the LCMS as a bloated, top-heavy, by-law laden organization, that has been obsessed with its own image for so long that it has simply forgotten about Christ. It has demonstrated that the LCMS cannot discipline its own pastors, the absurdity of the Papal States we euphemistically call “Districts,” and an almost erotic fondness for a secular dispute resolution “process.”

    The real outrage isn’t Becker; rather it’s the Synod whose narcissism has allowed a Becker to form. So while President Harrison’s outrage makes for great optics, it is I think largely misdirected.

    Equally interesting is the (thus far) fledgling response to this exposure of Synod; that some LCMS pastors are at least for now seriously considering the move to these smaller, independent Lutheran consortiums, and in other instances the move out of Lutheranism completely. The rallying cry to stay and fight for the “good ship Missouri” is certainly not new, but even the passengers aboard the Titanic finally realized that were not all going to survive and that no matter what else may happen, the ship itself would sink. I suspect that few of us have the actual strength of our convictions (or outrage) when it comes to severing financial ties with a parish we are currently serving, to say nothing of the fact that average LCMS pastor who has gone from an undergraduate school with a BA in Biblical Languages directly to the seminary for a MDiv., has two worthless degrees and a mountain of debt that flipping burgers won’t do much to pay down. Still though, I have a great deal of respect for the brothers who do go.

    What these brothers perhaps do not realize is that taken as a whole, as an organization, Synod could really care less if any pastor stays or goes; if you haven’t learned by now that your expendable, there’s little hope for you. There are now and will always be men ready to jump into an LCMS parish that has been vacated by a pastor, the seminary grist mill just keeps turning out more and more indentured servants.

    Still though, the villain in all of this isn’t Becker, and while we all act like he is a new sort of anomaly, his “dissent” has been going on for some years now—years, and Synod, by its very by-laws, has allowed this. I think we all understand that any organization that sucks at the teat of the state like the church does is bound to have to have rules and by-laws; what we never considered was that such rules and by-laws would eventually become a higher authority than scripture or Christ. Becker-gate has shown us just how flawed a plan this is, and for that he ought to be thanked.

    What CRM was unable to expose among District Presidents, namely, the corruption of authority, Becker-gate has done, and for that he ought to be thanked.

    And we feign shock? Surprise? Outrage? Even Frankenstein had a creator.

    Synod has simply failed, and Becker-gate has shown us that.

    The obvious question is: What will be done about it? And if past history is any judge, we all know what the answer will be: Nothing. You can’t scale back an organization; you can’t re-focus an organization without some pruning, and there is simply no will-absolutely no will whatsoever-to do the serious pruning needed in the LCMS.

    We simply have a Synod that is completely and absurdly out of touch with the reality of its members, its pastors, and at least one District President; and it is this obsession with shiny new objects-programs, slogans, all things hip and cool-that have simply eclipsed theology.

    We created the monster who now seeks to devour us.

    Pastor Ken Kelly Jr.

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