It starts with the synod not being a church. Congregational polity rules the day. Then the Synod incorporates and must function as one. Synodical president, District presidents, and even Circuit Counselors – oops now visitors – as officers of a corporation can’t hear, or keep confidential anyway, anything that they hear in Private Confession. Can’t get any more unchurchly than that. Watch.
President of the Texas District, LCMS, Rev. Michael Newman, published a book in 2016 titled Gospel DNA Five Markers of a Flourishing Church. My first reaction was the 1980s church growth movement is calling and they want their title back. My second reaction was to the subtitle. I wasn’t going to write about it because Pastor Newman is a nice guy, but I did share the subtitle with my Sunday Morning Bible Class and they thought what I did. So, it is funny.
The subtitle is: “Learning from a movement called ‘Missouri’”. See? That’s where the bodily function comes in. When it was proposed in the 90s that the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod drop “Missouri” from her name. My friend, benefactor, and now saint, Harvey said: “Why? That’s the only part of her name she lives up to.”
Now the name that once stood for bold, confessional stances that preserved Lutheranism of the mid-19th century from being completely Americanized and therefore Protestantized, is reduced to a movement. Something that passes through the Body of Christ. Missouri doesn’t stand for anything she moves.
What the LCMS of late has been is nothing but a typo. Actually, it’s Typos. This was the imperial decree issued by Constans II in the 7th century A.D. With an eye toward establishing peace between the East and West of the empire, it forbade anyone to assert either that Christ had only one will or that He had two, one divine, one human (ODCC, 1401). The emperor didn’t claim to be deciding the issue, and insisted the pope agree to the Typos. In part it reads: “’Wherefore, we decree that all our subjects henceforth are forbidden to dispute about the one or two wills of Christ’” (Rahner, Church and State in Early Christianity, 233). What’s at stake was whether a fully operational human nature was in Christ. The emperor said just agree to disagree.
This is the Typos of the LCMS. Her presidents and floor committees assiduously work so that rarely is anything divisive or decisive brought up let alone decided. Remember Harrisons plan to unite the LCMS? Remember him saying, “Why it could take as many as 10 years?” That was 11 years ago, and there has been no movement. O right there has. The Body politic has moved and the same old do-do has resulted.
As long as synodical, district, and circuit Communion services continue to bring together opposing faiths at one altar, the LCMS will not even be a footnote in Confessional Lutheranism. She will be a typo, a bodily function execrated by all who realize what she could have been had she had men to lead her.