Sunday, January 4, 2015
Self-consciously Lutheran. . .
Missouri has an odd structure by all accounts. We are congregational but not congregationalist, we have a ministerium but we act as church as well, and we have no bishops but we do invest individuals with the episcopal authority to oversee doctrine and practice on all levels in our church. We are somewhat anti-clergy and yet hold up the Office of the Pastor as the highest of all offices. We are kind of democratic but refuse to allow democracy a place when it comes to what we believe, confess, and teach. We are highly uniform in creed, confession, and (in theory) hymnals and agendas and yet free to allow congregations to structure themselves and order their work locally. We are divided into districts but none of those districts are representative to the national Synod; quite the other way around, the districts are "synod in that place." Sometimes we seem and, perhaps, we are a bundle of contradictions. Yet they worked and will work if and when we are self-consciously Lutheran in doctrine and practice.
Therein lies the rub... We are not at all sure or united in what that means. Some see it in a minimalistic way that offends our Confessions and others see it in a hierarchical way that is equally offensive. The structure works when we set aside liberty for the sake of witness and work in the name of Jesus. So parishes set aside (voluntarily as a condition of membership) their right to call whomever and agree to call from the roster of our church pastors, teachers, and other rostered workers. So parishes set aside (voluntarily as a condition of membership) their right to define the faith and agree to uphold and adhere to the confessional standard of the Synod (expressed constitutionally in article II but also in the doctrinal resolutions and stances agreed upon by Synod in convention over the years). So parishes set aside their freedom to act individually (voluntarily as a condition of membership) to act in concert with their brothers and sisters throughout the Synod in the work of educating church workers, foreign missions, publishing orthodox educational, theological, and liturgical materials.
It does not work when we no longer have confidence in the means of grace, when we resent the willing and voluntary setting aside of liberties to work in concert, when we insist upon individual rights and privileges first, when we are jealous of turf and dollars, when we are suspicious of the motives of each other, when we act with a party spirit, when we act in solitude or individually to do what we have agreed to do together, and when we refuse the oversight, advice, and counsel of those whom we have elected to serve with this episcopal ministry for our sake, for the sake of one another, and for the greater good of the cause of Christ and His Gospel.
There is no shortage of people complaining about the state of the good ship Missouri and some of their
..the LCMS structure as conceived by the founders of Synod only works if the members of congregations and the pastors of parishes are self-consciously LUTHERAN, that is, if they are willing to be corrected by and held accountable to the Symbolical Books in doctrine and in practice.