08 March 2007

Some Thoughts on Synodical Politics

A very wise and holy man once observed:

"If truth be told, my attitude towards all gatherings of bishops is to avoid them. I have never seen a good outcome to any synod, or a synod which produced deliverance from evils rather than the addition to them... Rivalries and maneouvres always prevail over reason.”

Anyone who has hung about Mother Mo for any length of time can completely sympathize with St. Gregory of Nazianzus' sentiment.

With a Synodical convention looming again this coming summer, the question arises what should we DO about the Synod and the current state of affairs?

Here's my suggested action-plan.

1. Trust not in princes, they are but mortal. And I don't care WHO your prince happens to be. The solution to what ails us is not politics, but repentance. And repentance happens via the preaching of the crushing law and the absolving Gospel, not the election of "the right" person.

2. Pray. Pray for your pastor, your parish, your circuit counselor, your district president, and your synodical president and other church leaders. Pray for them EVERY DAY. Pray for them to be faithful in proclaiming the Good News and in holding fast the apostolic doctrine; pray for them to be protected from the temptations of the enemy.

3. Humility. If there's one thing that reeks to high heaven in the whole mess, it is the pride with which "we" view "them." As though, "they're" just stupid, or unfaithful, or dishonest, or whatever. May the Lord forgive us all! Let's lose the pride that damns others - because that pride REALLY ends up damning us. Let us remember that our battle is never against "flesh and blood" but against "the principalities and powers."

4. Hope. The temptation to cynicism is great: Satan would really sell us on our situation being hopeless. And, of course, if it depended simply on us, it WOULD be. But the truth is that it doesn't. Our hope is the Word of God and the power of that Word to bring us to repentance, to keep us in repentance, and to lead us to ever greater faithfulness. To give up is to say: "The Word cannot effect a change here."

5. Show the Possibilities. Tired of hearing about how liturgical-minded folk don't care about mission? Me too. So let's show that not only do we care, but that we understand what the Church's mission is (rescuing idolators from false worship and bringing them into the worship of the Blessed Trinity, which alone IS life) and demonstrate a zeal in using the tools God has provided (the Gospel!) to reach out and liberate. Let's become not just people who subscribe to the Augsburg Confession; to borrow Schroeder's phrase: let's become Augsburg Confessors!

There's my five point plan. Anyone ready to join me?

16 comments:

Edward Reiss said...

Fr. Weedon,

You can sign me up. :-)

It was not too long ago, about two years, that I was flirting with jumping ship because of the mess in our synod. But God showed me, in no uncertain terms, that there is no refuge from strife within the Church. And I agree that we need more humility and repentance, but especially prayer.

Speaking of which, my wife and I will be implementing the prayer list you suggested, so we will no longer simply state "we will pray for you", but actually have a list of our brothers and sisters in front of us.

saxoniae said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
saxoniae said...

Pray for us lay delegates too. I'm already frustrated and it's still four months away.

Rev. David M. said...

Count me in. I pray the 2004 Convention I attended as a delegate will be my last. Trust not in princes indeed!

My last sermon at Iuka mentioned the matter of praying for your pastor every day by name. It's a good habit.

Thank you for lunch yesterday and for all the "a-ha" moments you've given me these last almost five years. I pray for more to come!

Lincoln - BoW said...

Well said. I like the quote about synods being useless, especially since GN presideed over NICEA!

As for number 5, I have started a blog devoted to that very thing. blog.tellthegoodnews.org.

+INJ+

Lincoln
BoW

William Weedon said...

Edward,

Super! I know I'd be lost without my prayer list - the memory is NOT what it once was!

David,

We're going to miss seeing you around. :( I would remind you that you'll virtually HAVE to drive past Hamel to get back to DuQuoin.

Lincoln,

Cool. I've added it to my blog rolls.

Past Elder said...

I wish I could come to the serenity to take all of this plan. Apart from baptising and teaching all that he has commanded us, there is no mission, at least from him, and if one is on any other mission one is not sent by him and one of the things he has commanded us is to avoid them. Lutheran Number One said, Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise. The who do otherwise should have the honesty to go stand somewhere else. If I had men on my elder list who regularly downplay the importance of correct teaching as much as some of our leadership, I would question their communing at a Lutheran altar, let alone leading a Lutheran synod. For every person these megachurch wannabes bring in, there are five who leave as my late wife did as a young woman, saying Call me when you figure out what you believe.

The Word cannot effect change unless it is heard. And didn't someone say how will it be heard unless it is preached, and how will it be preached unless someone is sent. There's the sent thing again -- the real "sent". Why did St Paul write to all those churches -- because their numbers were down?

Lutheran Enigma said...

Fr. Weedon,

Excellent post. As a recovering synodical official, I would like to add some thoughts to your post.

1. I have developed a new mantra - 'Friends don't elect friends to synodical/district offices.' (They won't be your friends anymore.)

2. I began including our synod and district president in the congregational prayers a few years back. It is helpful for your people to know that they can pray for someone and yet at the same time disagree with them. I think praying for officials helps us to remember to keep our disagreeing on a civil level and to address the issue not the person.

3. Humility, been there, done that, failed at it. In all seriousness, I think this is the hardest thing to remember. And our pride is something most often to be repented of.

4. Hope -- Israel went through 400 years of bondage, 25 years of Ahab, and 70 years of exile. Yet through it all the Lord remained faithful to His Church and He raised up a leader to lead the people in repentance.

5. One of the best discussions at the SWD convention was when we discussed 'closed communion.' A number of delegates deeply appreciated Pr. Bender's poignant and pastoral instruction. In light of that, I asked my congregation to submit four memorials based on the first four articles of the Augsburg Confession. They would give us an opportunity to discuss theology rather than polity.

Sorry for the long post.

Gary Gehlbach

Fr. Hank said...

A welcome and timely post, thanks.

Ed Schroeder will invariably link the phrase 'Augsburg Confessor' with 'Christ truster',,,,,,, says it all.

Amidst the parallel struggles of ECUSA, Ephraim Radner has recently produced two essays which parallel yours,,,,, truly the Holy Spirit is alive and well in His Church.

William Weedon said...

Dear Father Gehlbach,

Good thoughts. Thank you!

Fr. Hank,

I'll have to check that out.

Pastelder,

The point of becoming Augsburg Confessors is to do some of that confessing - indeed, as we are "sent" or "called." : )

Pax!

Fr. Hank said...

Dumb question,,,,,, are things heading into Mother Mo's triannual bloodletting worse this year and for any particular reason.
What little I pick up is that it's supposed to be mild and cheerleader-ish,,,,,, and the drift into evangelicalism will proceed apace.

Matthew said...

What little I pick up is that it's supposed to be mild and cheerleader-ish,,,,,, and the drift into evangelicalism will proceed apace.


Not to pick on this quote, not at all. I joined the LCMS last year, here in Palm Bay Florida. We are strictly liturgical, and I'm fond of saying, over and over again, "I did not join the Lutheran Church to turn around and walk back with them to Evangelicalism."

And I didn't. I joined because I'm tired of laffy taffy, happy clappy, hip hop influenced non worship. I'm guessing at this point that I'm dangerously close at the moment to failing to model humility, but please hear me out. Other religions sometimes flurish because they are unique. What we do in the LCMS is truly unique indeed, whether it's the liturgy, infant baptism, the Eucharist, Law and Gospel, Matins, vespers... Why on God's green earth would we want to throw all that away? To fit in? News bulliten: WE DON'T FIT IN!

No drifting, please. Just read the cover story on Christiantoday.com on young people turning to Calvinism. Once they learn, as I did, that you can't hold that doctrine for long, where else will they turn to? Willow Creek? Joel Osteen? Or Rome?

Or maybe, the LCMS?

Sorry for the rant. Not a good way to introduce myself.

Past Elder said...

Rant on young brother Matthew!

I'm old enough to be -- well, I was going to say your father, but I'm old enough to be the greying 50 something leading the praise band at the "contemporary" service or the pastor encouraging it, thinking it reaches out to youth.

Where I live you can turn to both the LCMS and Willow Creek. There's two WCA member LCMS churches here that I know of, along with our mega church "interdenominationals", one of them borderline mega church itself drawing thousands. You get a lot of Willow Creek, not sure if you get much LCMS. Interesting that the Contagious Christian thing has a graphic with matches about to become -- ablaze!

It's subtle. Reading their Statement of Faith, one might think, who can argue with that? And who can indeed, as far as it goes. It just doesn't go far enough. And specifically it goes nowhere near the idea that worship is God's service to us, not our service to him. That God feeds us his Word in Scripture and preaching, and his body and blood in Sacrament as his pledge, not that we get a contact high from our praise of him.

Luther wrote (in the Babylonian Captivity) that when one really understands what is happening in the Eucharist, who could not but faint for joy at the thought of such a Saviour. That I think is why some of us do want to throw all that away -- statements like the WCA Statement of Faith IS as far as it goes, and not understanding what Sacrament is, construct a worship accordingly that seems to be all about him when it's all about me, what I feel rather than what he does.

It's a way to worship when you don't believe all of what we believe, and apparently some of us think we can worship like that and still believe what we believe. This was a problem in Walther's day too, and his words about why we would want to worship after the manner of people who do not believe what we do are as relevant now as when he wrote them.

Man, did I just say "relevant"? Sorry, it once was a legitimate word! Welcome aboard, Matthew, glad you're with us. If you would, please pray for someone dear to me caught up in all this stuff.

Matthew said...

I'm with you. Actually, I listen to Pastor Weedon on Issues etc. And I will pray not only for someone dear to you, but everyone who is lost in "me" worship.

I imagine that even a flat out liturgical and divine service looks to the untrained eye to be "us serving God" rather than "God serving us".

Gives me a good idea for my Sunday evening Blog entry. "We serve God OUT THERE... God serves us IN HERE".

Past Elder said...

Thanks, Matthew.

You're right that liturgical worship strikes people as us serving God too. And from there it's a short jump to seeing the happy clappy thing as serving God with enthusiasm rather than some cold formalism from the past.

And there's the real problem -- the idea that we have to do something to be right with God is a human idea, completely overturned by the Gospel. God dhowed us in the Law exactly how he wanted to be worshipped, along with exactly how he wanted everything else, and we promptly showed we cannot, we will not, do it. The liturgy is no different than any other part of salvation -- it is God's work, not ours, but our human sinfulness rebels at this at every turn, and in worship that means finding a way to make it about what we are doing, what we should do, what we should feel, on and on.

So you can do what Rome did and make the divine service an act of ours offered to him, or what the happy clappy crowd does and make it an act of ours offered to him -- hey, same thing, ends up being about us, the only difference being in what way, those who like forms and rituals go one way, those who like emotion and spontaneity go another, and neither ends up with God's service, Gottesdienst, liturgy, a Greek word originally for something a wealthy person did at his own expense for the public good, which makes it clear why it was appropriated as the word for Christian worship, it being what God did for us at his expense.

Which also explains why worship that emphasises feelings originated with those who believe you can make a decision for Christ. If you don't get how faith comes about why would you get how worship in spirit and truth comes about? That's where the real problem is. And that's why you eventually become in belief like you are in worship. The classic phrase is lex orandi lex credendi, you're gonna believe the same way you pray.

Maybe rather than approaching it in terms of how one prays, we should approach as an evangelism issue, how and/or what do you believe.

William Weedon said...

Matthew,

First, welcome to the blog! Good comments.

I've been convinced for years that if we let people EXPERIENCE liturgical worship and help them to understand the miracle (that God in the Flesh goes on wearing His apron, continues to serve up to us eternal life!), then there's no way anyone would want any other way of worship!

Past Elder,

Right on. And how everything changes when you get the bead on that question and know who is doing what in the Divine Service. Our pentecostal brothers and sisters like to sing about there being "power, power, wonder working power in the blood of the Lamb." Well, they're right! But what they haven't guessed is that the Lamb still comes among us to pour that blood with its wonder working power right down our throats! Glory to Him forever!!!