After 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.
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.
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.