Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Convention Begins...

Well, the drama has begun in Houston.  It may not have the news value of what is happening among the Presbyterians in Minneapolis, but it is surely a pivotal moment in Missouri's history.  I am not speaking primarily of whom will be elected President for the next several years -- that will indeed have its own ripple effect down the pike.  What I am referring to are the proposals for restructuring that will centralize and make more efficient the governing process and the administrative oversight and implementation of the Synod's vast array of programs and agencies, boards and commissions.  As I have posted before, I am not so sure that efficiency is the measure that we should use to decide how best to structure our church body and how to govern her.

The key issues before us remain not on the agenda -- at least not directly.  We will not be discussing the things that have lit up discussion boards and conversations over coffee.  We need to decided what the heart and soul of Missouri is -- what we say on paper (Confession) or how we do it in the parish (practice).  We need to decide whether all our talk about the Confessions is lip service or are those Confessions where we form our identity and what shapes how we live it out.  We need to decide if we are broad enough to include LakePointe and The Alley AND Redeemer and Zion (Ft. Wayne & Detroit) or whether there is a line of division that is so deep we cannot bridge it in one church body.  We need to decide if Leucke's neat division of style and substance is possible or faithful and if we will shape who we are by this dichotomy.  We need to decide what to do about failing and dying congregations and whether TCN and the latest growth methodology from generic Christianity will fit us or whether this renewal comes from the altar, font, and pulpit (the liturgy, which by Confession is the Word and Sacraments).  We need to decide what functions belong to Synod, what to District, and what to congregation -- as well as what we can do and what we cannot do (for lack of funds, need, or timing).  We need to decide if we need larger Districts more uniform in size or smaller Districts more uniform in size so that we can walk together on the same path and walk more effectively.

These issues will not be talked about on the convention floor but you can bet they will be talked about over lunch, over a beer in the off hours, in the hallways and hotel rooms, on cellphones, and on line.  Would that we could discuss them directly but that is seldom possible today.  Instead we will decide them by deciding WHO will be elected, by WHAT structural changes are made to implement the consequences of these choices, and by HOW we will shape the decision making process.

So for now we wait... wait for news from the floor, wait for the votes to be taken, wait for the ballots to be counted, and wait to figure out what is will mean and how it will play out in the future.  While I may or may not be hopeful about what happens in Houston, my confidence lies not in what we do in church conventions but in the places where people gather every week around the Word and Table of the Lord.  My hope is founded upon the promise of God who never reneges on His promises.  I am not ready to write off Missouri or to nitpick at everything I do not like -- we need to be positive people and not simply against things.  I am not naive enough to believe that Houston will not matter or to believe that it will make all the difference.  Missouri's road to redemption and faithfulness leads through small towns and big cities, suburban neighborhoods and rural farms and the congregations there where God's people gather around His means of grace.  It is here where we need to rediscover who we are and live out confidently this faith with practices consistent with that confession.  It is here where this confessional and liturgical renewal will bear the fruit on the Circuit, District, and finally on Synod level. 

We have done a good job with the Seminaries and both of them have fine and faithful teachers, now we need to make sure that the academic ideal is not some ivory tower dream.  Lutheranism was never really an academic domain but the practical place where people are called, gathered, enlightened, and sanctified according to God's own plan through the Word and Sacraments and the Pastoral Office that brings these gifts to God's people.  Lutheranism has never been a clerical or hierarchical group but a vocational one -- one vocation within the community of faith and one vocation within the workplace, homes, neighborhoods, schools, and world -- that complement and support each other toward the ultimate goal of bringing Christ to the nations and the nations to the Church...

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