Surely “someone’ wanted it to happen this way. Defenders of the LCMS polity use the analogy of a pyramid standing on its tip. The congregations are the base; the Synod is the tip. Well, that pyramid has crumbled.
The 2003 Texas District Convention Workbook had 54 overtures submitted mainly from congregations; these were pared down by the District President selected floor committees to 30 resolutions to be brought to the convention floor. The 2006 Convention Workbook had 37 overtures pared down to 35 resolutions. Guess the number in the 2009 Convention Workbook? 8 overtures were submitted and probably because if they pared down any there would be no need for a convention at all, they have 8 resolutions.
The resolutions that will be brought to the floor are as follows:
“To Update the District Support of Missions.” 21 years ago the Texas District Convention resolved to increase it’s funding of Synodical programs from 43% of the District budget to 45%. This resolution wishes to rescind that because “the continued population growth of Texas and mission funding needed to reach out…renders the percentages in this resolved no longer applicable” and because 65% “of our current district budget supports synod and district missions” anyways. Please read between these lines.
“To Support the Frontera Ministry.” Frontera ministry “began in 2001 as a movement to create a vibrant Lutheran border ministry along the United States and Mexico border…that initiates and expands innovative Hispanic ministries.” This resolution requires the District to communicate the ongoing activities to congregations, urges congregations to share information about Frontera with members, encourages congregations to support this ministry with time, talent, and treasures, and asks congregations and pastors to identify, send, and support church workers in this ministry. The words to notice are “innovative ministries.”
“To Study and Reach Across Congregational “Fronteras.” This resolution directs congregations to determine their “Frontera,” so you can do what is being done on the border.
“To Encourage Cross-Cultural Church Plants.” This one is just another way of saying what the above does. Congregations are “encouraged to start and support cross-cultural church plants.”
“To Encourage Congregations to use “Missioninsite.” Missioninsite Demographic Service provides free demographic information for anywhere in the country. This resolution directs congregations to utilize the help of the four full-salaried Mission and Ministry Facilitators to access, use, and understand the data provided. I’ve accessed this site on my own when the District first notified me of its existence. It told me everything imaginable about the people who live in our area. One could get very busy with all this information.
“To Encourage the Study of Every Sunday Communion.” This resolution encourages congregations to study every Sunday Communion. I find it funny that it doesn’t cite the 1995 Synodical Resolution (Resolution 2-08A, p. 113, Convention Proceedings) encouraging congregations to do the very same thing. Perhaps 14 years of “encouraging” have not been adequate.
“To Encourage the Synod to Respect the Dissent Process.” The original overture asks the Texas District to memorialize the 2010 Synodical Convention “to bring all issues in public dissent to the floor of the convention” so that the roughly 30 members of Synod who had entered the process of public dissent could participate in the third step of dissent, i.e. bringing their case before a Synodical convention. I was one of the 30 members of Synod; Trinity congregation is another. We submitted the resolutions, but “none were allowed by the floor committees to make it to the floor.” The original of this one fared no better. The resolution that came out of the District floor committee resolves only “that the Synod be encouraged to be sensitive to all aspects of the dissention process, especially with overtures to the convention.” Are you still wondering why so few overtures were submitted to the District convention?
“To Address Sexual Predatory Behavior in the Church.” This resolution encourages our colleges and seminaries to include training in recognizing sexual predatory behavior, encourages congregations to offer support and spiritual care to victims, and encourages the Council of Presidents to continue to study this issue.
Our April Voters Meeting resolved not to send delegates or pay our assessement. Had we done so it would have cost our congregation about $1,700 There are 329 congregations in the Texas District. Allowing for less travel costs, let’s say it cost each congregation about 1,500 to attend. That means it cost 493,500 dollars to have this convention. That is 61,687.50 per resolution.
But how would we have elections without them? We don’t need them. The District President is running unopposed. Two confessional Lutheran pastors declined to have their names on the ballot. One is Rev. David Rhode who wrote a paper on why it was important to stay in the LCMS and fight. The last time I checked the boxer who declined to get in the ring wasn’t a fighter but a forfeiter. Three out of the four District Vice Presidents also are unopposed. There are 14 other positions available. These could be filled the same way as the 43 circuit counselor positions are. The District nominating committee receives ballots from congregations, and the pastor with the majority is nominated with the expectation that the convention will agree.
One more item from the Convention Workbook needs to be mentioned. President Ken Hennings has this paragraph in his report. Resolution 03-02-06 called for the President of the District to use every possible means to facilitate true unity among us in the District. The President formed a group of twelve pastors and one moderator to sincerely discuss (sic) unity issues regarding communion practice, worship styles, and the role of women in the church. This group was asked to use only the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions in considering these issues. Even though no working agreement was produced for sharing with the rest of the District, this group believed that the time spent in honest dialogue was good. This type of commitment is necessary for true unity among us. The District President thanks these men for the time spent and for the open sharing.
Although I made a public presentation of our dissent in September 2005, though our congregation sent in 7 resolutions to the 2006 District Convention expressing our dissent, I was not asked to be part of these discussions. I didn’t even know of them till I read the President’s report. I don’t know who this group consisted of, but they were probably considered to be the most “reasonable” on both sides. If these pastors couldn’t come to terms, what does that tell you about the issues of communion practice, worship styles, and the role of women in the church? We are firmly divided over them, yet not one resolution submitted or one that will be brought to the Convention addresses them. Congregations did so in the past and got nowhere with them. We have been worn down and out.
You would think that since unity of the faith is a prime thing the Synod was formed for this would be foremost on the minds of our leaders. Yet all our District President can do is report the fact. The Convention will accept the fact and blindly and blithely go to communion together professing a union that doesn’t exist. How sad; how shameful. The vaunted pyramid has crumbled, and more than a polity, a way of conducting church business, has been lost.
Many refuse to believe it has really crumbled. Please reconsider. Only about 30members of Synod entered into formal dissent after the 2004 Synodical convention officially sanctioned open communion, praying with pagans, variety in worship, women having authority over men, “lay” ministry, and removing a layman’s right to bring charges against a pastor. Only pastors, congregations, and a several other manmade offices (teachers, deacons, deaconesses, DCE’s, etc.) can be “members” of Synod. I entered into protest and so did Trinity congregation, so about 7% of the Synod-wide dissent came from us. It also means that of the 9,164 pastors and the 6,167 congregations that could officially dissent only a handful did (about 2/10ths of 1%).
Logia, a Lutheran theological journal, published by some of the more confessional pastors in the LCMS, has a cartoon in the Epiphany 2009 issue. It shows a Lutheran pastor between two clergymen of other faiths. They are standing in front of a sign that reads: “Inter-Faith League for Unity….No Matter What.” The cartoon has the Lutheran pastor saying, “….So aside from doctrine and practice everything is just tickety-boo!” To be apropos our time it should depict 3 LCMS pastors standing in front of, if not an LCMS District Convention sign, then certainly before a LCMS Synodical Convention one.
It does surely seem that the entire point of Synod is to prove that Synod doesn’t matter. But nobody said that we also couldn’t play along. Why not try to secure some of these grants which would otherwise go to not fruitfull churches but fruity churches and distribute these funds to missions or missionaries who are currently being neglected.
The truly Confessional Pastor’s and Churches in our Synod are not striving for ‘unity’ which is seen but for ‘audibility’ simply trying to be heard. Jesus told the parable of the Shrewd steward to make the point for us also to be clever and insightful with our money for the Kingdom of Heaven. This gives us an opportunity. It seems all that is needed to secure such grants are pieces or paper with cleverly written descriptions of our intentions. Districts and Synod are giving out grants to churches but for what. They refuse to look at us, and they refuse to let us speak……..
In our Synod the proper foundational teachings behind such words as Lutheran, Confessional, or even Christian now are ‘Innovative’.