Sunday, April 14, 2013

Wish I had not read it. . .

A task force of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod recently reported on the causes and shape of the disharmony within the Synod.  It would probably have been better if I had NOT read it. . .  Not that there is not truth in its words but that just as evident is what was missing from this report.

You can read it all here....

The main points of the findings are that disharmony is caused by and reflected in:

1. Inability to Deal with Diversity.
2. A Lack of Civility.
3. A Politicized Culture
4. Primarily a Clergy Problem
5. Poor Communication
6. Lack of Accountability
7. Distrust

Let me begin by saying I do not argue with any of those seven points as being a cause and an encouragement of the disharmony in Synod.  What I do find shocking, however, is that missing from this list are doctrinal disagreement and practices at odds with our confession.  I have no doubt that these are as causal and as important, if not more so, than the seven identified by the commission.

The first point is a fruit of our lack of trust and so it is connected to the last point on the list.  Our inability to deal with diversity is fueled less by our lack of trust, however, and more by the dramatic differences, dare I say conflicts, between the doctrine taught and the practices of the parishes of Synod and their Pastors.  I have never said that I am the model of what all Lutheran Pastors should be.  I have never said that my parish and its practice should be normative for Synod.  What I have challenged is the open hostility toward liturgical congregations and doctrinal teaching and parish practice that is more congruent with our Synod over history.  We lived through a decade or more in which the liturgical parish and faithful confession and confessional practice were held up as impediments to growth and ridiculed openly at District and Synod levels by our leaders.  Happily that is changing but the idea of diversity cannot be discussed apart from the conflicts with confession and practice that openly exist between the congregations and clergy of our Synod.  These are not small matters.  We do not need uniformity in every way but we do need consistency and we need parishes that reflect a familial identity in what doctrine is confessed and how it is practiced.  That has been sorely lacking and the problem here is not so much an inability to deal with diversity as much as it is a diversity that betrays our unity by consistently living on the edge.

Of course it is primarily a clergy problem.  The clergy are the teachers of the faith in the parish and those who oversee doctrine and practice are clergy so, duh, it is a clergy problem.  But it is NOT a simple issue of problem clergy.  There is a difference.  Yes we do have problem clergy; those who cry the sky is falling every time a song is sung they do not like.  But this is a clergy problem only because it is the clergy who are teaching the faith and handling the bulk of the practical decisions about how that faith is done.  We must be careful to make this distinction.  A few angry voices silenced might make the scene quieter but it will not end the problem of disharmony.


Anonymous said...

Pastor Peters.... I concurr. Full disclosure I am no longer LCMS, I am now Catholic, however I still am fond of the LCMS.

I read this document at least 3 years ago and in conjunction with Kononia etc., the natural outgrowth.

The point to guard against is the other parts which suggest that we must now have open discussions at all levels from synod to parish of all points of disharmony. No longer will positions voted to be heterodox at council be barred from discussion.

If one is not very careful a perfect storm is gathering wherein the orthodox positions will, with the production of a badly worded code of conduct, be silenced and the heterodox always allowed under this new discussion. Note that "the role of women in worship" is part of what is in this document but not part of Kononia.

I spoke with one of the authors of this Task Force report who assured me I was just being paranoid, that this was not going to open every heterodox position up and require its representation "at all levels" from synod to parish. That this was not the intent of the document nor its preparers.

But I am old enough to understand their intent isn't what matters.

Note carefully too in either this or the follow up Kononia document the need to study the fact that no parish is bound by synod decisions if they are deemed contrary to scripture or "inexpedient" or a similar word.

I can tell you at my local parish before I swam the tiber we had a prolonged study led by our pastor all about how we needed to "repent" of our position on homosexuality.

I don't mind if you don't publish this.
I'm not wishing to speak negatively of the LCMS. I do want to speak to you though a clergyman among them. Help keep Missouri the staunchly conservative force in America it has always been.

Anonymous said...

Last anonymous:

I stand helpless watching the LCMS slowly transform into yet another non-denominational cult. Negative news on blogs such as Steadfast give me a sick feeling that the LCMS is not salvageable. Where is the good news?

I would gladly leave the LCMS for Rome, but the adoration of Mary and the saints and the endless sex abuse scandals have prevented me from doing so. I do respect and admire your decision to leave. As other church bodies are too liberal or too "praise tent" evangelical, I feel stuck in the LCMS.....

Perhaps the LCMS remains better off in hiding its problems from the majority of ignorant laymen........