The 66th Regular National Convention of the LCMS is underway. Yesterday were the floor committee meetings, and I spent some time in the room for Ecclesiastical Supervision (Dispute Resolution/Checks and Balances [12-01] and also Candidate resolutions [12-02]). The Floor Committee thankfully strengthened the candidate resolution to include some benchmarks and reporting requirements for District Presidents in their conduct and care of candidates. It may not be the perfect solution yet but it does keep the issue in people’s minds and will make it a little harder to ignore these men needing our care and congregational calls. With regards to the Dispute Resolution discussion, I heard a lot of the class warfare (clergy vs. laity) and then claims of power grabs (how does having a good check and balance equal power grab? I don’t know. Checks and balances are a way to curb power.)
I also spent time in the room for the Licensed Lay Deacon discussions (13-02). Here again I heard many emotional stories about deacons. That is fine (many of us who have pastors could supply many emotional stories about having pastors too), except we don’t decide doctrine or practice based upon emotions. We base such things on the Word and our Confessions. The proposal doesn’t remove deacons. It helps ordain them and then helps so that we do not fall into this erring practice (not to mention a divisive one) again. It heals the divisions in the LCMS. It also helps heal confusion. Many of the comments about deacons differed because there is no standard for them – each Deacon is a creature of the individual district (and District President). The fix proposed by the floor committee standardizes all of this across the Synod. That is a good thing and heeds the wisdom of St. Paul in that things should be done in good order. I also heard an argument that “local control is best”. I get that in regards to the government of the United States, but the Synod is not like that. In fact, the licensed lay deacon programs that vary by district and even by district president are not really that local – they come from the “on high” of Districts, not congregations. Deacons thus become accountable to District Presidents. A better system is that of regular, ordained pastors who are accountable to congregations (Board of Elders especially), their circuit pastors, their circuit visitor, their District President, and yes even the Synod leadership as well. That accountability not only represents order and oversight, but it also means help for those men as they serve God’s people. So when it boils down to it, the effort to work on getting “every parish a pastor” helps, heals, and brings accountability to a situation that has divided us many times since 1989.
As convention moves on, I will be posting a bit here and there.