It didn’t take long for the quips to fly regarding the just-passed LCMS Convention Resolution 12-07A, “To Clarify Definition of Dissent.” This circularly humorous question was posed on Facebook:
Can I dissent on Facebook with Resolution 12-07A, adopted 684 to 244 at the 2016 National LCMS Convention? Or does the resolution itself prohibit it? Asking for a friend.
I started out thinking this was going to be a serious post, but I’m sorry, even though I love you guys, there’s no way I’m spending my entire weekend reading through a stack of Synodospeak for a 1,500 word post. It’s just not happening. So instead, I created the following handy flow diagram on the evolution of 12-07A so you can spend your weekend reading. (Never mind that it took longer to get it right than if I’d just read all the references in the diagram, which I pretty much did anyway.) You can affix it to your refrigerator door with the Walther magnet that was previously holding the Christmas card from Aunt Minnie.
Disclaimers: Apologies in advance for poor penmanship. My second grade teacher won’t be happy. CAUTION for fellow Germans – flow chart may contain humor.
For those of you that aren’t yet familiar with 12-07A, it essentially draws up in Resolution form what was already codified by Commission on Constitutional Matters (CCM) Opinion 13-2665 in 2013, titled “Fellowship of Peers.” The text of the Resolution is reproduced below. Pastors are nervous for obvious reasons. Nobody wants their ecclesiastical supervisor monitoring their online behavior. According to the discussion of the Resolution while it was being debated, there’s little reason to be alarmed, unless you’re pushing false doctrine. Both President Harrison and District President John Wille indicated that there would be no witch hunt. The main point is that doctrinal dissent should be discussed starting with a group of appropriate peers, not in the BJS comments section. Advocating for women pastors is out of bounds in a public forum; discussing semper virgo is fine. If you’d like to view the video feed of this Resolution being debated at the Convention, it occurred in the afternoon session on Wednesday, July 13, available here. The relevant discussion begins at the 2:46:00 mark.
To Clarify Definition of Dissent
R65 (CW, pp. 306–307)
“The Lutheran Church has always affirmed the right and responsibility of expressing dissent from teachings and practices believed to be at odds with God’s Word” (Commission on Theology and Church Relations on p. 6 of its 2006 report, “CTCR Response to Expressions of Dissent [2004–2006]”). Accordingly, the Synod has established an agreed-upon procedure for dissent which respects both the dissenter and the Synod.
When, then, a member of the Synod in such forums as “blogs, Facebook pages, and email pages publicly teaches and advocates that a doctrinal position of the Synod as stated in a resolution of the Synod is in error and does not use the Synod’s dissent procedures, he/she/it may no longer be honoring and upholding the Constitution, Bylaws, and resolutions of the Synod and could thereby be subject to a charge of false doctrine” (CCM Opinion 13-2665).
Given the development and expanded use of such electronic media by members of the Synod, often to call into question matters of doctrine and practice, at times attempting to excuse such conduct as conversation “within the fellowship of peers” (Bylaw 1.8.2), the Synod will do well to expand its bylaw section on dissent with the following changes developed upon consideration of the opinion by the Commission on Constitutional Matters in its August 2013 meeting (Opinion 13-2665).
Therefore be it
Resolved, That Bylaw section 1.8 “Dissent” be expanded to address current concerns by adding additional wording:
1.8.1 While retaining the right of brotherly dissent, members of the Synod are expected as part of the life together within the fellowship of the Synod to honor and uphold the resolutions of the Synod.
1.8.2 Dissent from the doctrinal position of the Synod as expressed in its resolutions and doctrinal statements is to be expressed first within the fellowship of peers (that is, with those who are competent to evaluate the issue critically) and then brought to the attention of the Commission on Theology and Church Relations before finding expression as an overture to the Synod in convention calling for revision or recision. The discussion among the fellowship of peers is to be conducted privately and confidentially among those who are competent rather than a public forum. While the conscience of the dissenter shall be respected, the consciences of others, as well as the collective will of the Synod, shall also be respected.
1.8.3. This right of brotherly dissent does not allow a member of the Synod publicly to teach or practice contrary to the established doctrinal position of the Synod. Any such public teaching shall place in jeopardy membership in the Synod.