Elected as the Pastoral Delegate for the Orlando-West Circuit of the Florida-Georgia District (FL/GA) in 2015, I attended the 2016 LCMS Synodical Convention in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Being a Lutheran Pastor for less than two years, I needed to learn quite a lot about the Constitution, By-Laws, and voting procedures of our Synod. However, I quickly learned from faithful pastors that these things are meant to serve the Word of God, and to protect congregations from any spiritual harm or scandal from a corrupt pastor, Circuit, District, or, even, Synod! What a comfort to realize that the purpose of these Conventions is to be faithful to God’s Word for the sake of the members in our churches!
Before the Convention, the pastoral and lay delegates received a good amount of paperwork. Those elected to attend were expected to read, study, and then vote according to their conscience. Some the resolutions presented were decisive, and, if adopted or rejected, would change the face of our Synod. Therefore, you can imagine how nerve-racking it was as these proposed Resolutions were read aloud at the Convention.
Moreover, I am not surrounded by many people who believe, teach, and confess the Word of God in the same way! Being inundated and surrounded by many unbiblical teachings, I began to think that my congregation and I were stranded and alone! Something encouraging occurred: Through His Word, God led the majority of our Synod to make the same confession! The faithful preaching and teaching of God’s Word over the past six years bore fruit! Here are a few of the most decisive Resolutions which were adopted, passing with a majority vote. Consider the following:
95% voted in favor to uphold the Biblical and historically Christian understanding, order, and liturgy of Christian worship, and to urge congregations to seek uniformity by following the Common Service and singing doctrinally pure hymns (Resolution 4-04A, Yes: 795; No: 146);
83% voted to uphold the Biblical teaching and practice of Closed Communion affirmed in the Lutheran Confessions, and to reject the unbiblical practices of Open Communion (sometimes referred to as “Close” Communion), infant communion, and to request further study of the practice of intinction (Resolution 5-15, Yes: 821; No: 167);
67% voted to uphold the Biblical teaching of man and woman, and to reject the unbiblical, and confusing practice of women distributing the Lord’s Supper (Resolution 5-14, Yes: 683; No: 167);
74% voted to restore the Biblical teaching of the Pastoral Office in our Synod and to eliminate the unbiblical, and recently man-made innovation of “Licensed Lay Deacons” (Resolution 13-02A, Yes: 809; No:277);
97% voted in favor to uphold the Biblical teaching that marriage is only the life-long commitment between one man and one woman (Resolution 14-03A, Yes: 1004; No: 25);
91% voted in favor to protect Christian consciences by not subjecting women to be drafted to fight in war (Resolution 5-11A, Yes: 946; No:89).
What does this mean? It means we are not alone! Even though the church I serve might be one of the only churches believing, teaching, and confessing these things in our area, they are in fact not the minority! In fact, being faithful to God and His Word is now what the majority of our Synod is doing! This encouragement is for all pastors and congregations who are faithful to God’s Word, no matter where they might be.
When a congregation follows the historic liturgy and the Divine Service from the hymnal, know that 95% of the Synod upholds the same practice! When churches practice Closed Communion (rejecting Open Communion, infant communion, and intinction), they not only agree with Holy Scripture, but 83% of pastors and laymen support it in this Synod! The majority of the Synod (67%) agree with congregations that uphold the biblical teaching concerning man and woman (rejecting the practice of women distributing the Lord’s Supper). When a congregation upholds the pastoral office and rejects anything that undermines or despises it, 74% of the Synod has their back! Though unpopular in this world, the overwhelming majority of the Synod believes, teaches, and confesses the Biblical teaching of marriage (97%) and the protection of women from the military draft (91%). We are not alone!
The small minority of pastors and congregations who fail to teach or practice these things have disagreed with Holy Scripture. They have voluntarily departed from the unity of the Church’s confession which God has so graciously given! They, instead, have separated themselves from what the majority of our Synod believes. Rather than confessing Scripture, few accept the newest scholarship, fads, and ideas instead. Beware of those who teach falsehood (See Matthew 7:15). Mark and avoid them (See Romans 16:17-18).
The sad reality is that we do not have real unity or complete fellowship with every pastor and congregation in our Synod. Do not assume that we are united. The numbers reveal our division. Rather than give up, we must continue believing, teaching, and confessing the truth! God alone grants authentic unity in His Church! Since He does this through His Word, we must, therefore, continue to preach, instruct our children, and correct and discipline false teachers who wish to separate and destroy what God has joined!
We rejoice that there are more who confess God’s Word faithfully and that we are not alone in this fight. To fight the good fight is to fight for True Doctrine (See 1 Timothy 6:12). Even more than having numbers on our side, God is on our side. We are not alone, and we never will be. It is better to trust in God than to take refuge in man (Psalm 118:8). If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31) Even if Circuit, District, and Synod are to depart from God’s Word, we will not. Since God will never leave us nor forsake us, we can gladly preach and teach God’s Word even if we are the only ones in the world doing so; but, thanks be to God, right now, we’re not. There are much more who walk with us; we are not alone.
- Lord, keep us steadfast in Thy Word,
Stay Papal craft and Muslim sword,
For Jesus Christ, Thine only Son,
They fain would cast from off His throne.
- Lord Jesus Christ, Thy pow’r make known,
For Thou art Lord of lords alone;
Defend Thy Christendom, that we
May evermore sing praise to Thee.
- O Comforter of priceless worth,
Send peace and unity on earth.
Support us in our final strife
And lead us out of death to life.
- Destroy their counsels, Lord our God,
And smite them with an iron rod,
And let them fall into the snare
Which for Thy Christians they prepare.
- So shall they then at last perceive
That, Lord our God, Thou still dost live,
And dost deliver mightily
All those who put their trust in Thee.
(TLH 261; ELH 274, Lord Keep Us Steadfast In Thy Word)