Thursday, August 8, 2013
The end must be near. . .
There are those who have long complained against the sacerdotalists in the Synod, clergy dominance, and the presumed anti-lay bias among many in the Synod today. Normally they would tend to fall into the camp of those whose battle for the Bible in Missouri has given birth to a host of publications, some of whom continue to exist while others have shuttered their doors long ago. Now we hear the former Pres. Kieschnick has joined this complaint.
It sounds a lot like the direction the LCMS seems to be heading these days with respect to clergy/lay relationships. Clergy dominance was particularly evident at last week’s Synod convention, even more so than in the past. In worship services, on the podium and at microphones, black shirts and white collars were abundant.
Clerical collars and the voices of many younger Lutheran Pastors at the Convention in July have become translated into a disdain for the laity. The common fear now on both the left and the right is that these Pastors want a clergy dominated church, that they presume to know Scripture and the Confessions better than the laity, and that they are better equipped to decide thing in and lead the Church and its agencies.
But the trend toward a clergy dominated culture in the church is also currently manifested in the exclusion of laity from consideration for positions of significant leadership in our church body. That includes, for example, university presidents, significant missionary supervisors, and other leadership positions at the national level.
Furthermore, there’s a discernible aloofness and even pharisaical demeanor exhibited by some pastors, obvious during worship services and in pastoral ministry functions as well. Intentionally or unintentionally, this telegraphs a “holier than thou” attitude in both work and worship.
While this could simply be an unintended byproduct of deep and sincere piety, I don’t believe it enhances the pastoral office or represents its true nature. Pastors are called to serve, not to be served. Pastors are called to lead evangelically and collaboratively, not to dominate or domineer.
For truth purposes let it be known that the proportion of clergy to lay at the Convention was the same as always -- roughly equal. Let it be known that the composition of the boards and structures of the Church are defined by by-law and the massive by-law changes of the previous convention were underwritten by Kieschnick and his crew. The "balance" between clergy and lay cannot be undone by Convention when it involves changes to constitution and by-laws -- these require the full approval of the congregations. Let it be known that we educate Pastors precisely in the hope that they will know Scripture and the Confessions better than the folks in the pew and this is not snobbery but sober wisdom and realistic expectation. Let it be known that there are now more lay presidents of our colleges (pardon me, universities) than there were when I was a student and far more than there ever were going back even further than this.
What’s the bottom line? Some seem intent on moving us toward a clergy dominated church. I believe that’s not helpful and tends to dishonor the priesthood of all believers.
Hmmmmm..... A clergy dominated church? Well, we are not supposed to be voting on doctrine anyway... we are not supposed to be taking positions at odds with our Confessions on any subject... we are not supposed to be reinventing ourselves every generation but gradually and deliberately changing (always weighted more to the past than to the present or future).
I will go out on a limb here and say I think the concern is overblown. If anything, we are not paying enough attention to those who speak to remind us what we believe, confess, and teach. I would suggest that we emulate the Australian Lutherans who require than anything issue impacting upon doctrine and practice have gone through the ministerium and been approved there before it hits the national convention. Of course, I will be accused of clergy dominance. But why have an expensive to educate clergy anyway and then ignore their voices? Oh, wait, but that is exactly what we did with respect to SMP and licensed lay deacons. My problem here is not only how we voted but that we voted on something we should not be voting on -- both of these are primarily doctrinal issues and not simply practice.
Guess I will not be the favorite of either group... but I gave that dream up a long time ago. In either case, since both fear that same problem (clergy dominance in the LCMS), the end must be near!!
You can read another take on this here...