Sunday, September 1, 2013

Talking about Talking

The pace of change in the Church is glacially slow.  This is frustrating to many and a source of great consternation to those within and without.  I am regularly among those who alternate between a complaint at how slow things are moving for the changes I want made and how relieved I am when the pace of change is slow for those things I do not want to change.  Many have given up on the process and believe the Church is stymied from growth because it is slow to change.  I wonder if the reason the Church remains to exist is due to this very deliberate pace of change.

Often before substantial measures may be dealt with, the whole process begins simply with the invitation to begin a conversation.  In other words, we begin by talking about talking.  You may laugh but talking about talking is not a small step.  When the old Synodical Conference fell apart, both the WELS and ELS said that they would keep talking to Missouri but that conversation never really took place until recently.  None of us believes that the old unity once enjoyed by the Synodical Conference will be quickly or easily recovered – and not primarily because of the reticence of Missouri.

Years of distance, fear, and suspicion have made it hard for all sides to know where to begin.  So we begin simply with a conversation about conversing.  Talk is not cheap.  Sometimes it costs us not only the effort to form the words but the rekindling of a desire to listen as well as speak.

Think how division becomes institutionalized in families where hurt, suspicion, mistrust, and distance keep those related by blood from living together as a family.  So this happens in the same way on a larger scale for church bodies.  If we can understand how this happens within the human family, we can imagine how difficult it is to get congregations and synods to begin to talk to one another and to listen to each other.

Right now Missouri is talking about talking with WELS and the ELS, and, it might be said, with many others throughout the world -- including those with whom we have no prospect of any foreseeable future fellowship.   These include Anglicans as well as Lutherans of various persuasions -- and that surely includes those who have left the ELCA.  This is a good thing.  It may not bring immediate or significant result but it is not itself an insignificant or small thing.  Some wonder why we would talk without a prospect of future fellowship but I suggest to you that these are entirely the right conversations at the right time.  Talking about talking is a good and realistic first step.  We pray the Lord to bring fruit to these tentative conversations begun with folks near and far, those who know our Confession and those who are just finding out what confessional Lutherans believe, confess and teach.  I would also suggest that this may be descriptive of our conversations with Rome -- talking about talking and finding out what it is that share, how it is that we disagree, and what it is that we can do together acting fully with integrity on both sides.

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