July 27 marked the 60th anniversary of the ending of the Korean War. “The armistice ended America’s first experiment with the Cold War concept of ‘limited war’” (This Day in U.S. Military History). The thought was that no one could “afford” in terms of causalities, cost, and contamination an all out nuclear war. There may be some wisdom to this concept in terms of material war but I don’t think it’s sound in theological war.
Limited theological war is what we have been about since the 1974 walk out. We don’t sit down and have face to face, frank discussions about what divides us. Synod leaders in fact discourage this and actually prevent it. They insist on micromanaging the discussions. Witness President Kieschnick’s 2003 “Kiss and Make-up Conferences” dealing (or not) with the Yankee Prayer Service and President Harrison’s “Rodney King Can’t We all Just Get Along” Koinonia project. Since we are treated as children for fear if that we interact as adults we (both sides) will conclude that we have no business being in the same synod, we resort to sniping at each other in private and making nice in public.
Below is an email I received from Rev. Dr. Charles S. Mueller, Jr., Senior Pastor, Trinity Ev. Lutheran Church, UAC, Roselle, Illinois. It’s an example of sniping. (How I got on this “let’s throw the bums out of office” email list I don’t know. I knew something was afoot a few months back when I got an email asking me if wanted more information from someone who knew first hand how President Harrison was gutting non-Higher Things campus ministries. I responded to neither email except with a smile.)
“Fellow LCMS leaders:
I am sure that many of you are as concerned as I am regarding the direction of our Synod. Having reviewed our convention workbook and Today’s Business, I will be praying for the Holy Spirit to work at our convention to return us to our roots – the Gospel-centered, mission-driven, future-oriented, layfolk-trusting denomination we have been. That was our history. I was glad when we were on that road together as Synod. I am saddened at the new direction being proposed at this convention.
Others share my concern. In fact, I received a document in an email the other day from a District President, asking me to forward it anonymously to brothers and sisters in Christ like you. Here is a link to the list.” And this is how the list began: THE LUTHERAN CHURCH MISSOURI SYNOD IS AT A DECIDING MOMENT IN HISTORY. WILL SYNOD FAITHFULLY CHOOSE LEADERS WHO ARE PASSIONATE ABOUT THE GOSPEL IN REACHING THE LOST OR WILL SYNOD CHOOSE LEADERS WHO ARE INWARDLY FOCUSED AND WHO ARE LIVING IN THE PAST?
When my side is desperate to get back in power, we shoot the same sort of bullets, and we sound as silly as they do. Now for an example of making nice publicly.
Rev. Timothy Yeadon, the District President who sanctioned the Synod’s latest official foray into unionism and syncretism in Newtown, CT, addressed the convention obliquely referring to how President Harrison tried to exercise ecclesiastical oversight and then apologized for doing so. “President Harrison, Jesus found a way…I think for you and me and Pastor [Robert] Morris (the syncretistic, unionistic pastor) to stand at the foot of the cross,’ Yeadon said. ‘And that’s what makes all the difference in the world’” Reporter, August 2013, 6).
You know Scripture makes a point of saying that Herod and Pilate came to be friends over the issue of Jesus going to the cross, and that the chief priest, scribes, and elders literally stood at the foot of the cross with St. John and the Marys. Not wishing to imply that any of the three above mentioned clergymen were anything but St. John or Marys, I do wish to point out that being able to stand together at the foot of the cross really means nothing and makes no difference in this world or the next. Can you kneel together to receive Communion is what matters? Our Synod leaders can and do with all those in the LCMS even those LCMS churches in open Communion with other Lutherans who accept abortion and homosexuality.
But in limited theological war, this won’t be dealt with. Synod leaders, the bureaucrats and bean-counters are afraid the structure can’t survive the losses. And as Herman Sasse is said to have quipped to Kurt Marquart while both were observing the bureaucratic wrangling of Vatican II, “The have found a new sola, sola structura.” Because saving the structure is paramount, we won’t be allowed to come out and really fight. Once Churchill was asked why he wasn’t involved in the fighting currently going on in Parliament. He responded, “Fighting? I can’t see any fight. All I can see in this Parliament is a lot of people leaning against each other” (The Last Lion, II, xxxi). And that’s what I see among our synodical leaders. But as Luther said, a people always gets the leaders they deserve. Therefore, repentance must begin with us not our leaders.