Sunday, June 9, 2019
Interesting. . .
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?