The LCMS – The Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde of Lutheranism.

nid-conv-INAfter attending my first district convention as a member of the LCMS I confess myself disappointed. To be honest I wasn’t expecting much. I tried to keep a positive attitude and if you knew my personality you’d know that I am a pessimistic person. I understand that the LCMS is made up of sinners. I do have to say there were moments of great confession and moments when I wanted to bang my head on the table. I’d like to share with you the good and the bad from the layman perspective.

Dr. Jekyll

There were many good things that I took away from my district convention. There was morning devotions with Dr. Paul Raabe of Concordia St. Louis titled “Zion and the Nations: Isaiah’s Vision for Today”. I have to admit I have a hard time keeping my interest level high while listening to lessons from the Old Testament even from my own pastor let alone someone I’ve never heard speak. However, Dr. Raabe kept things interesting and really connected the readings from Isaiah to the world today.

Another great moment was the convention’s essayist Dr. Adam Francisco of Concordia Irvine. I found his speaking to be very engaging and informative. He began with presenting information on “worldview” and how that shapes belief and faith. Day two and three were focused on the worldview of Islam and how Christians can respond. I would suggest everyone to Google his work as I felt his presentation very clear and easy to understand. There are also these two videos on YouTube of Dr. Francisco speaking about Islam from The White Horse Inn.

 

I’ve heard that sometimes the worship service at a district convention can fail miserably I am very happy to say the divine service at my district’s convention was great. The service had everything I would expect from a Lutheran church including Confession & Absolution, the reading of God’s Word, Hymns from the hymnal, an excellent sermon by LCMS First Vice President Herbert Mueller and the true Body and Blood of Christ in Sacrament of the Altar. The church (Zion Lutheran Church, Brainerd MN) itself was beautiful but even more beautiful was the grace and gifts we all received during the service. It was the most Lutheran thing that happened during the conference. It was great to worship and confess with my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ where God was truly present in his Word and Sacraments.

On a personal note, I was very happy that Steadfast writer Pastor Karl Weber was elected as First Vice President of the district.

 

Mr. Hyde.

Going into my first district convention I wrote in a previous article that I was fighting the urge to be pessimistic. I’d say that I am more informed about the current state of the LCMS then most of the members at my church because of my interest in reading blogs and knowing others who know the many dirty secrets of the LCMS. I found many of resolutions put forth at the convention to be a waste of time. Things that didn’t really need to be talked about when there are so many other elephants in the room that could be discussed. While many resolutions passed and will likely do good things within the district those resolutions seemed like common sense items that didn’t warrant discussion. I was asked to be on a floor committee but had a prior commitment. It was probably a good thing I was busy because I would have not been helpful unless they wanted eye rolling and sarcasm. The overall feeling I came away with after all the business of the convention was a lack of unity within the district when it came to certain topics of discussion. This lack of unity was revealed for all to hear during discussion of resolution #4-2 from Floor Committee #4 – “To Address the Exclusive Use of Doctrinally Pure Agenda, Hymnbooks, and Catechisms within the District”.

The last Resolve originally stated that “in 2018 that the Minnesota North District Convention institute a plan of action for all congregations and church workers in the district to diligently strive for the use of doctrinally pure agenda, hymnbooks, catechisms at the direction of the district president.”

After discussion which only proved our lack of unity and the ever so obvious fact that we do not walk together when it comes to worship and I would say our confession of faith, the last Resolve was slightly altered to read: “in 2018 that the Minnesota North District Convention explore a plan of action for all congregations and church workers in the district to diligently strive for the use of doctrinally pure agenda, hymnbooks, catechisms at the direction of the district president.”

All teeth were removed from that resolution with the substitution of one word. We can walk together to the buffet table but we can’t walk together in how to worship and confess. The resolution passed with about 75% of the vote but became as generic as some of the other resolutions that passed.

It was interesting to me that some seemed to use the word “trust” as a way to reject any kind of oversight or correction from other pastors. I have hard time understanding someone who thinks you should just trust your sinful brother in Christ to be able to choose what is confessed in the worship within his church without any correction, oversight or discipline. When my children are playing alone in their room and they don’t want me in there or checking up on them, usually they are doing something they shouldn’t. I know my own pastor is a sinner and needs his fellow pastors to correct him when he sins. If he wasn’t willing to let his fellow pastors correct him, I’d be worried. Some of the comments really blew my mind, I could write about them all day. This issue is nothing new in my district or across the LCMS. The resolution that was passed gave us three more years of doing what we want during worship and I’m pretty sure I know the outcome of the next convention’s resolution.

 

In my article before the convention I stated, “One thing I will have to try to remember going into the convention is that our church body is filled with sinners who have a Savior who is far greater than our church body. He will always look after His church regardless of how we sinners try to screw it up. So during any times of annoyance, frustration and hopefully joy, I will need to try to focus my mind on Jesus Christ. His church is strong because of His Word and His work for us all. Our faith is in Christ alone and not the LCMS.

That statement certainly rings true after attending. I spoke to a few pastors who told me they couldn’t wait to get back to their parish where the real work of God is done. While there were many good things that happened during the convention those things pale in comparison to what the church does every day in faithful congregations around the Synod. In my opinion, we as a Synod do not walk together on many things. Our confession on what it means to be Lutheran really varies throughout my district and the synod as a whole. While our confession may fall short, our Savior did not. His confession to the Father for us was perfectly faithful. Thanks be to God that our hope is not in the Synod but in Jesus Christ.

About Nathan Redman

Nathan Redman was baptized into Christ at Bethel Lutheran Church (ELCA) Wahpeton, North Dakota on June 17th 1979. He and his wife, Bernice and their two children, Elsie and Porter are members of Redeemer Lutheran Church (LCMS) in St. Cloud, Minnesota. Nathan works for a family owned Pepsi distributor in St. Cloud. In his spare time he enjoys watching Doctor Who, listening to Frank Sinatra and drinking single malt Scotch. Nathan considers it a privilege to write for Steadfast Lutherans.

Comments

The LCMS – The Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde of Lutheranism. — 25 Comments

  1. Nathan,
    Thanks for your insightful post. I find it interesting how when I go to a district convention where I know I do not walk together with many in attendance I still commune together with them. Should I be doing this? I need some instruction about this.

  2. I would love it if you could come to the PSW district convention in June and report back. There are LCMS churches down here I won’t commune at.

  3. Even the original resolution provided subjective wiggle room with the words “to diligently strive for…”

  4. @Matt Moss #3

    Very true, Pastor Moss. As long as we trust one other then everything should fine. I could have used some Lagavulin after that resolution.

  5. “It was interesting to me that some seemed to use the word ‘trust’ as a way to reject any kind of oversight or correction from other pastors.”

    Indeed, a never-ending foil followed by some reference to the 8th and best construction. 🙁 Sometimes one wants to respond, “No, given your track record, I don’t trust you!” But that would be unloving.

  6. I found many of resolutions put forth at the convention to be a waste of time. Things that didn’t really need to be talked about when there are so many other elephants in the room that could be discussed. While many resolutions passed and will likely do good things within the district those resolutions seemed like common sense items that didn’t warrant discussion.

    LOL. I’ve noticed this over many years from both district and national conventions.  Is this just a quaint Missouri Synod tradition?  “Resolved:  We are against sin.”

  7. Wonderful to have you at the convention. Blessings in Christ to you, Redeemer, and the MN North District.

  8. It was great that you got to hear Dr. Paul Raabe
    of our St. Louis Seminary. He is one of the top
    Old Testament scholars in the LCMS. Dr. Raabe
    brings clarity and deep insights from the Word of
    God and applies them to our daily life. He is
    an excellent theologian. May the Lord continue to
    bless his teaching and preaching.

  9. @Pr. Don Kirchner #5

    The laity are asked to ‘trust’ all the time. More times than not, it’s the laity that point out the problems with messing with the liturgy. Pastor Rossow has said on more than one occasion, that pastors get bored with the liturgy and try and fix it or change it to make it more relevant. We must be vigilant at all times. We are always just one generation away from being a heterodox church body.

    In Christ,
    Diane

  10. Frankly, I think you need an attitude adjustment. I firmly support liturgical worship but also acknowledge that you can’t force people to worship the way you want. Worshiping a certain way won’t get you into heaven. I know people who force their children into Confirmation — and think that is the ticket into Heaven. Which sort of sounds like you.

  11. @John Marquardt #12

    Since I’m a sinner I do need an attitude adjustment. God’s law is the only thing that has ever worked to adjust my attitude. If you believe the liturgy forces people to do things instead of freeing them from themselves to let the Holy Spirit work through the liturgies scripture (God’s Word) filled hymns, prayers, etc then your statement about confirmation as a way into heaven doesn’t surprise me. I make my children eat fruits and vegetables to help strengthen their physical body. After they eat those fruits and vegetables it is their body that does the work in helping them grow. I make my children attend church so they can hear God’s word, believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ and strengthen their faith. God does the work of delivering faith to them. The liturgy is the best we sinners can do to deliver as much of God Word’s, the Gospel and JESUS as possible to in a one hour church service.

    Frankly, It doesn’t sound like you firmly support liturgical worship.

  12. @Nathan Redman #13

    You are absolutely wrong about how I feel about the liturgy. You write like you have chip on your shoulder. Get rid of it.

    From your previous article you went to the District Convention hoping to find something wrong — you found it. I doubt you would have been happy unless you did.

  13. Nathan, not sure what you mean by walking together? Do you mean every single man woman and child must think exactly alike? That’s a pie in the sky illusion, as humans are not configured that way. If every human being thought exactly the same way and agreed 100% on everything that would be totally irrational.

    You have a twinge of legalism in your post which can be dangerous as well.

  14. The worship question was but one resolution, perhaps the most discussed. The result was a good one. It is something we need to discuss, honestly, openly and respectfully.
    I hadn’t been to a district convention for almost 20 years, and came with no expectations. Nathan’s description of this one is pretty accurate. I was most impressed by the fact that about 1/3 of our time was spent in devotions, worship or education. All of it worthwhile.
    There was, blessedly, much concord. +VDMA

  15. The lack of substance in the resolutions isn’t the fault of the district president or the convention. Congregations and circuits have opportunity to submit memorials and overtures for consideration. Did you help in any of this by working within your congregation or circuit to have substantive memorials and overtures submitted?

  16. @John Marquardt #14

    I don’t think I was hoping to find something wrong but considering the current state of the LCMS I wasn’t very optimistic. I’ll work on that chip on my shoulder – I’ll let you know if it’s ever removed, I can tell you are concerned.

  17. @Cliff #15

    By “walking together” I mean our confession of faith as it is stated in the Lutheran Confessions and also in our practice. I know it’s probably unrealistic to think things will ever be 100% but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t point out the differences.

  18. @RR #17

    You’re absolutely right I did not help with any submissions of overtures. That was may fault in not knowing how the process works…remember I’m new at this. Personally I don’t think anything my pastor or congregation would have come up with would have made it through the floor committees as they probably would have stripped them of anything worthwhile. So you’re right, submit as many overtures as you can, then get on the floor committee and make sure they actually make it to the convention as they were originally submitted.

  19. @DJ #16
    The devotions, worship and education were good…also the conversations with other pastors and just listening to them talk about their churches and lives was interesting to me. Don’t forget the food and weather. 🙂

  20. @John Marquardt #12

    Mr. Marquardt, regarding your comment “I know people who force their children into Confirmation — and think that is the ticket into Heaven.”

    I thank the Lord every day that when I was an adolescent, my parents were the kind “who force their children into Confirmation.” Not because they believed it “is the ticket into Heaven,” but because they took the Table of Duties seriously.

    I am forever thankful to the Lord that my parents “forced” baptism on me as an infant, they “forced” me into Sunday School, they “forced” me to attend Catechism instruction for two years, they “forced” me to memorize the Catechism lessons, they “forced” me to church every Sunday, etc., etc., etc.

    I am eternally grateful that the Lord gave me such wonderfully forceful parents.

    God’s Blessing,
    Ginny Valleau

  21. @Ginny Valleau #22
    Ginny, your parents sound a lot like mine! I too, thank God that mine took the Table of Duties seriously knowing that what they were doing was “training up a child – – – ” Praise God for faithful parents!

  22. @Ginny Valleau #22

    Ginny, I evidently did not state correctly what I meant by ‘parents forcing confirmation on their children’. I too am very thankful for my parents and grandparents in guiding me in my youth — being baptized and being confirmed. I spent four years every school day studying the Catechism and Bible — I will always relish those days.

    What I am talking about it parents who get their child confirmed and then you never see them in Church again. I’m sure you’ve seen this also. My parents until the day of their deaths encouraged me to study God’s word and attend Church.

    Confirmation is not a ticket into Heaven.

  23. @John Marquardt #24

    What I am talking about is parents who get their child confirmed and then you never see them in Church again. I’m sure you’ve seen this also.

    Some parents should be required to attend catechism in a parallel class with their children. Some parents are only seen in church while their child is required to take sermon notes (and others not that often). No surprise then, that the children do as their parents do.

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