Sunday, June 9, 2019

Interesting. . .

There was a time when in my Synod when there were a greater number of national leaders, men who were well known to the people of our church.  They were people of stature and most of them were parish pastors or pastors who had broad parish experience before taking positions out of the parish and on one administrative level or another.  They were people whose past was well known to the church.  They were certainly not perfect people or perfect leaders but we knew who they were.  We had respect for them, sometimes grudging respect. 

Today we live at a time when there are fewer national leaders of stature.  They can be invented, as some have, and we certainly do have the media to invent leaders.  But when it comes to the pew, it is harder than ever for folks to name even one Lutheran leader.  In my own parish, the folks who still look for that kind of leader are first prone to name Oswald Hoffmann (Lutheran Hour Speaker) as much as anybody.  Even Concordia Seminary President Dale Meyer is know more by his tenure as LH Speaker than as leader of the Synod's flagship seminary.  Sorry, Dale.  That is just how it seems to go.

Now this might be a mere curiosity except that when it comes to electing leaders for our church, we are left with a small number of regional names with limited regional identities or people we do not know at all.  Of course, parish pastors are not quite in the same boat but even then we know fewer and fewer folks directly and more and more simply by reputation.  I have watched this happen on the national stage for a while now.  It is also now happening on the District stage.  The leaders we do seem to know are those who have served in the District Office more than they have distinguished themselves as parish pastors.  I do not mean to cast broad aspersions against those whose longer service has been in administrative positions but neither do I mean to suggest that these are our better group of leaders. 

I read recently where an ELCA midwestern synod has elected a woman as bishop who has served a year here and there in the parish and that is the extent of her parish experience.  Curious.  They voted to unseat one bishop to elect her (who had been one of his assistants) and she without much of a resume except administrative work under the bishop now unelected.  I would not be surprised if something as odd has happened in Missouri.  I am not pointing fingers at the ELCA but wondering why a group of parishes would choose someone without much of any parish experience to be the bishop, some would say the chief pastor of the district?  Without even knowing who she is or who the bishop is whom she unseated and presuming all things were equal here, why is substantial parish experience not a requirement of those who serve in the role of episcope (overseer, bishop)?

Have these offices become so administrative that it matters little to us how much the candidates know or have experienced about parish life?  That could be one answer.  Do we know so little about those who would be our leaders and have so few that we do not have a great number of choices?  That could be another answer?  Do we care?  That is the answer I fear most of all.  I fear that we elect people mostly because parishes (both pastors and lay) feel they have no real stake in it all and really do not think it matters much.  If that is the case, then we are in bigger trouble than I thought.  Living in isolation from one another, insulated from issues and challenges beyond the local arena, and facing the temptation to hunker down and deal with our own back yards only, well, these are the ingredients of a recipe to disaster -- as if we did not have enough to challenge us! 

Now more than ever we need faithful leaders, faithful LUTHERAN leaders, who know Scripture and the Confessions, who have broad parish experience (and some administrative experience as well) who will stand up and stand out in a world telling us Christians that we should neither be seen nor heard outside of Sunday morning.  Pray for such leaders.  Look for them.  Elect them.  Listen to them.  Hold them accountable.  Be prepared to be held accountable by them.  Although I am thinking primarily here of Districts and their leadership, it applies equally to the national scene.  We cannot afford invented leaders nor can we profit from those who run against someone.  We have seen what the politics of division have done to our nation.  Is this where we want to go as a church?


Carl Vehse said...

"I fear that we elect people mostly because parishes (both pastors and lay) feel they have no real stake in it all and really do not think it matters much."

Given how Synod Workbook overtures from congregations, circuits, and districts have been trashcanned, sidelined, or replaced by (sometimes opposite) resolutions written by synod commissions or floor committees themselves at the direction of the SP, one can see why there might be that feeling of having no real stake in synod activities.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of the Lutheran 1/2 Hour Ministries....does anyone know any congregation that has an active LLL chapter? For that matter, who listens to the Lutheran 1/2 Hour? None of my pastor friends across every district in our Synod pays any attention to LHM very few have any members that listen to the LHM stuff. LHM strikes me as an organization that has $$$ and little to no reason to exist any longer.

Carl Vehse said...

As one of the Synod Vice Presidents, which the LLL/LHM fully promoted, Rev. Wally Schulz was assigned to carry out the duties of acting President of the Synod, when SP Kieschnick was recused by the Praesidium, during the investigation of David Benke's spiritual adultery at Yankee Stadium.

Under pressure from leftist contributors, the LLL caved and fired Rev. Schulz from his position as Lutheran Hour Speaker and disinvited Schulz from an upcoming convention where he was to be honored for his years of service. The LLL has never apologize for their maltreatment of Rev. Wally Schulz.

Just like the Walther League (which was founded by Lutheran congregations of the Synodical Conference, of which the Missouri Synod was one of the members) the LLL had for decades been a shining star for the Synod. But also like the Wather League, the LLL went over to the dark side. In 1977, the Walther League was removed as an auxiliary organization of the Synod.

The LLL probably should have been removed as a recognized auxiliary of the Missouri Synod, but, even under the Harrison administration, that has never brought up to the Synod Convention.

Anonymous said...

Whether it should/should not be an "auxiliary" my point (which you didn't speak to Mr. Vehse) is simply that as far and most of my pastor friends can tell, Lutheran Hour Ministries is simply irrelevant and of no significant to anyone/anywhere. It appears to be grasping at straws spending money people leave to them in their will/trusts as a result of their legacy of many, many years ago. I have seen nothing in the past forty years to make me think any differently about, long before the Benke kerfuffle in the Synod.

I honestly have no idea what the LHM does, other than keep the lights, pretend to have some kind of activity and pay its staff.

It's just become a running joke for many: "Lutheran 1/2 Hour Ministries."


Anonymous said...

Carl Vehse

Wow, the Walther League ! There's a blast from the past.

I always wondered what became of it. Thanks for the link which describes what happened.

Saxon Immigrant said...

For all his bluster and whining, Vehse has never been at a Synod convention as a voting delegate and his grasp of reality as to how the Synod has always processed all the overtures it receives prior to a convention is tenuous at best, insane at worst. Just another example of Cranky-Carl and Crazy-Hazy Vehse doing his thing. Poor old guy.

Carl Vehse said...

"I read recently where an ELCA midwestern synod has elected a woman as bishop"

That would be Lorna H. Halaas, who was elected on the fifth ballot to replace the Rev. Rodger Prois, 66, who has served as bishop of the Western Iowa Synod since 2013. Lorna's resume includes:
1978 - BA, Concordia College in Moorhead, MN
2008 - MDiv, United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities, New Brighton, MN
2009-2010 - pastorette, Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, Williston, ND
2011-2012 - pastorette, First Lutheran Church, Hoople, ND
2012-2013 - interim pastorette, Hope Lutheran Church, Sioux City, IA, Immanuel Lutheran Church, George, IA
2013-2019 - assistant to the bishop of the Western Iowa Synod