Wednesday, January 13, 2016
The problems of church conventions. . .
For some within Lutheran circles, the fact that Rome or Constantinople is not governed by a biennial or triennial convention cycle is part of the attraction -- along with the fact that those who oversee doctrine and practice are not subject to elections every couple of years or so. Now it seems that for Rome, at least, a synodical style of government is an appeal. In fact, there are voices who are suggesting that annual synods be held to review doctrine and practice and to make changes to update the church's teaching and structure and practice.
The archbishop of Milan at the time, a Jesuit and the undisputed leader of the “liberal” wing of the hierarchy, said that he “had a dream”: that of a Church capable of getting into a permanent synodal state, with a “collegial and authoritative exchange among all the bishops on some key issues.”
While I am neither expert on nor part of the decisions of Rome, I do possess a passing curiosity that the very thing that seems sometimes to be our thorn in the flesh (conventions that shift from one opinion to another) is now become the idea in fashion among those fomenting for change in the Roman Catholic Church. Perhaps ballots could be distributed so that individual parishes or dioceses could vote on their own perspective on controversial issues. Maybe there should be a performance evaluation committee to weigh in on the effectiveness or success of the pontiff. Maybe the Catechism of the Catholic Church could be reviewed a few chapters at a time and voted on by those who think they should be retained or omitted. Wow, the list of possibilities is endless.
Conventions in the LCMS have been asked to make their way through thorny issues of what we believe, how we confess it, and what practices are in conformity with that belief. Sometimes it has appeared we are simply voting on the Word of God (which we all know requires a 2/3 majority vote to be overturned). Sometimes it has been very successful and other times it has merely reflected the closeness of the majority/minority positions within the church. Sometimes we have had to go back and change our minds because what seemed good at the moment was not good to the Holy Spirit. And sometimes we have merely rearranged the deck chairs on a listing ship rather than deal with the trouble facing us. All of these are true enough and yet our church body has continued pretty much in official step with our past confessions. We have turned back a liberal tide now and again. We have made hard decisions among passionate voices pleading with us from several corners. I am not much of a fan of votes by delegates at church conventions but we have done better than many of those who do not vote. It is our structure.
What remains to be seen is how Rome intends to remain in solidarity with its past while, it seems, conceding to the voices who want to review, adapt, change, and do something new with respect to long held positions. I am not one to believe that a married priesthood would in and of itself destroy the Roman Catholic Church but it does not seem that those in favor of a synodical structure are willing to stop at much of anything in their endeavor to modernize what Roman Catholics believe and how they live it out. This will not end well.