Monday, March 07, 2005

Some of you may know that our SP has sent out a "pastoral letter" recently announcing the formation of another blue ribbon panel to study the governance of the LCMS after trying to jam through an amendment that eventually failed. Well, if you haven't seen it, here it is with appropriate commentary.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

Greetings in the Name of Jesus Christ, Savior of the world and Lord of the universe, through whom alone we receive forgiveness, life and salvation!

In Exodus 18, Jethro counseled Moses regarding the governance of God's chosen people. He advised appointment of able leaders to serve as judges among the people. "It will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. If you do this, God will direct you, you will be able to endure, and all these people will go to their place in peace." (vv. 21-23) Those words are on my heart, "God will direct you ... and all these people will go to their place in peace."

Too bad he had his goons, errr, the CCM centralizing power for him. Otherwise, I might actually believe him.

This pastoral letter is written after much prayer and contemplation about how we work together, relate to one another, and govern ourselves as God's chosen people in our beloved Synod. My prayers have been for God to direct us, that "these people" (The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod) may "go to their place in peace" as servants in the mission of our Lord Jesus Christ.

For over 34 years I have served our Lord in the LCMS. Like you, I have been truly blessed by our Synod's confession of forgiveness and salvation through faith in Christ alone. Yet in the past few years I have become deeply concerned about the internal disagreements that have weakened our witness to the oneness that is ours in Christ. Such disagreements have resulted in discord and disharmony among us and have been a focal point of national Synod conventions for many years.

Maybe if someone would have had the guts to discipline people like the signers of a Statement of 44, we might not be here. But we are. What, pray tell, does our SP have in mind?

One matter causing contention during and following the 2004 convention relates to the limits of authority of the Synod's Board of Directors. This was the subject of Proposed Constitutional Amendment A, which was adopted by a 71% affirmative vote at the convention. Then, in the post-convention ratification process, 56% of the congregations of the Synod cast ballots. The result was a 52% affirmation from the congregations that voted, which is less than the two-thirds vote required in the congregational ratification process for the amendment to become effective. Thus the current wording of that Article of the Constitution of the Synod remains unchanged.

Translation: Boo, hoo. I lost the vote to consolidate power even more.

These votes are now history, but one thing is obvious. There is not broad agreement in the Synod regarding this matter. During the past few months several written communications containing conflicting information and counsel regarding this proposed amendment were sent to congregations of the Synod by various individuals and groups. Those who supported and those who opposed the proposed constitutional amendment endeavored to persuade congregations why it should or should not be adopted. Pastors and people reported to their District Presidents confusion, consternation, and uncertainty regarding the issues at stake and how best their congregation might respond. The people were not at peace in their place!

Blatant power grabs have a way of causing disharmony, don't you think?

It is apparent from this issue and others as well, that our Synod is not experiencing the degree of harmony and unity we all desire. We in the LCMS are not of one mind regarding how we can and should function together in love as brothers and sisters in Christ.

Throughout our Synod's history, its system of structure and governance has been discussed and disputed, revised and reorganized, altered and amended. With honorable intentions, we continue attempting to enhance, simplify, clarify, or rectify the way we live and work together in carrying out the purposes of the Synod. Yet we still have significant confusion and disagreement about what the Synod really is, what it does, and how it most appropriately functions.

These issues concern me deeply. Under Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions, we must ensure that the Synod, a humanly designed organization, carries out all its objectives, especially the first one, to "Conserve and promote the unity of the true faith (Eph. 4:3-6; 1 Cor. 1:10) .." (LCMS Constitution Article III). Agreements on how we live and work together must not foster division, but serve to build unity.

Throughout the history of the synod, we have changed the constitution so that it has become more ambiguous, nebulous, and, in general, open to interpretation thu8s allowing for his ascension to our own form of the papacy. Even so, this isn't a disagreement about how we should govern ourselves, but about accountability, and especially for his sinful approval of DP Benke's participation at Yankee Stadium and his unwillingness to repent such sinful behavior.

The Synod in convention (2004 Resolution 7-02A) directed creation of a committee to be appointed by the President and Board of Directors to review matters regarding "officer and board responsibilities." That committee, with its special and limited focus, has been appointed and is to report to the 2007 convention of the Synod.

Recent events, however, have convinced me that more than this is needed. There is a great need for a thorough and fundamental review of what our Synod is, how it is organized, and how it functions. What was first created as an organizational system for a Synod made up of a small number of congregations now struggles to serve more than 6,150 congregations.

Therefore I have decided to appoint a special Blue Ribbon Task Force on Synodical Structure and Governance to review comprehensively the very complex system by which our Synod operates. I will be asking this special task force to report its findings and recommendations to the 2007 Convention of the Synod. Please remember its important work in your prayers.

So, we're now going to have two committees working on the same problem at the same time. Is this why we had to cut half our missionary staff, to fund another committee? So you're going to chose a committee to say "give the SP more power." Like I can't see that coming for a thousand miles.

The glue that holds together the LCMS is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This Gospel is revealed in the Holy Scriptures, which we confess are the written Word of God and the only rule and norm of faith and of practice. We are bonded in our belief that the Lutheran Confessions are a true and unadulterated statement and exposition of the Word of God. Under Christ, our mission together must not be diminished by lack of understanding or agreement regarding our walking together in love as a Synod. The way we carry out our mission, which is God's mission, must be enhanced and supported by organizing and governing principles that are in harmony with the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, my fervent prayer is that "God will direct" our beloved Synod to work in harmony for the good of God's mission in Christ. As the Scriptures declare, "Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!" (Psalm 133:1, ESV).

God's grace, mercy and peace be with you all!

You know, every time I try to give our SP the benefit of the doubt, he always disappoints me. I try to obey the Eighth Commandment with him, I really do, but I can only get burnt so many times by someone before you find speaking well of someone impossible, especially when speaking well of someone could cause grave harm to your neighbor. It's kind of like knowing there is a robber living in your neighborhood. Do you speak well of the robber, or do you warn your neighbors and tell the police so justice can be done. In the end, the more loving act has to be warning the neighbors and praying justice will be done.

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