Thursday, July 15, 2010

What Really Matters

Today I was reminded of what really matters. What matters about this
convention is not restructuring (although plenty of that is going on).
What matters about this convention is not the future of the seminaries
(although it is being discussed). What matters about this convention
is not the presidential election of the election of other officers
(although those seem to have gone rather well thus far).

What really matters is the proclamation of God's Word and the joyous
peace we have in Christ because of His gift of salvation. During our
afternoon session today we held a memorial service for those who have
entered eternal rest since the publication of the Convention Workbook
three years ago. On those pages listing the names of these servant of
the Lord, we saw represented over 15,000 years of experience and
service to our loving God and on behalf of the lost and erring. I knew
several of those on that list. I remember their blessing in my own
life, how even in friendship they fed me with the Word of God.

Let us be ever mindful that the span of our lives are but a mere
breath in the timline of the universe. Let us not think that our own
efforts will amount to anything. "Vanity, vanity, all is vanity,"
cries the Preacher. Our deeds fade and fall away. Let us fix our eyes
on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who never fades or
fails. Jesus our Savior gives us His gift of life eternal and speaks
to us, "Well done, good and faithful servant." It is His working
through the church... it is HIS working that really matters.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A Tale of Two Conventions

Legislative conventions have a tendency to be of two minds, very
unpredictable. Such has been the history of LCMS conventions. There is
a long history in the LCMS of voting out incumbent presidents yet
adopting their "pet projects" at the same conventions. This convention
is no exception.

I will be perfectly honest. I was going to write last night, but I was
so depressed I really didn't want to rehash the day. As I posted over
on the Twitter feed about lunchtime today, I started feeling like a
Cubs fan - I hadn't voted on the prevailing side of more than one main
question. All of the restructuring resolutions (all of which I
oppose), except for the first resolution brought to the floor, were
adopted. Many of those by a very narrow margin (40 votes in an
assembly of 1200). Even the big, meaty resolution, 8-08, passed,
though by a slim 45 votes. Some additional enabling resolutions passed
by a fairly sizeable majority (once 8-08 passed, these pretty much
needed to go along with them). Another resolution that we really hoped
would be defeated, giving the President-elect the ability to hand-pick
the slate of candidates for First Vice-President, also passed by the
narrowest of margins (30 votes). One cannot help but wonder if the
resolution had not been amended to make it more favorable (at least
two of the five must come from the 5 candidates with the most
nominations) whether it would have passed at all.

Leading into today, all of the resolutions brought before the assembly
were again passed, many of the more controversial ones by the slimmest
of margins. But, as one of the guests here observed - "You get what
you work for." There was one group in our Synod that has worked VERY
hard to get the restructuring, but there was another group that has
worked VERY hard at getting Matt Harrison elected as President. In the
end, both groups have gotten what they have worked for - Rev. Matthew
Harrison was elected as Synodical President, with nearly all of his
supporters elected into the five VP positions. Today was a good day.

The best thing about today was the humble servant God has brought to
us to lead our LCMS. President Kieschnick, despite all of his best
intentions, has not been a unifying force within our Synod. Rev.
Harrison addressed the convention just following the election with
words of humbleness and repentence - coinciding quite well with our
convention theme: One People - Forgiven. This example for all of us
has been great.

Tomorrow is another day. In the two minded nature of conventions,
great sympathy is usually held for those who lost elections, so many
things will probably not go the way those who are more conservative in
the church would like. But we live together as a family, reconciled in

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Our First Day of "Business"

Today was our first day of actual "business." I put "business" in
quotes because other than the organizing events, we listened to
presentations all day.

One note of excitement, though. The convention came very close to
doing what has never been accomplished in the past - moving the
presidential election. Historically, the election of president has
come in the first session - usually immediately before or after the
Presidential Address. When I say usually, I mean out of 64 synodical
conventions, only 4 or 5 of them have had the presidential election at
a different time (including all three conventions chaired by our
current President). Robert's Rules of Order also states it is
preferred to hold the elections first.

Most delegates will just normally go along with the agenda published
by the chair. The motion to change the agenda lost by 36 votes. There
has never been a vote that close ever before!

As mentioned before, we heard a lot of presentation on the
Restructuring Proposals. We already heard a lot on the Restructuring
Proposals. We're going to hear a lot more on the Restructuring
Proposals, but hopefully we will start voting on actual resolutions

Kyrie Eleison

These words, meaning "Lord, have mercy," describe our theology of worship. It is by the mercy of God that we approach our Lord, and it is by the mercy of His righteousness covering us that we can come into His presence.

It is also a cry of exasperation and frustration. So it aptly describes my experience at the opening worship of the LCMS convention.

Worship - God's coming to us through His means of grace and our response to that great love, should be a point of unity for God's people. That was not the case at this opening worship. My eyes were opened to just how desperately divided we are as a Synod, and this is not just a question of musical tastes or styles, but of our understanding of what worship is.

Please, do not get me wrong - it is not that the worship service was bad or heretical. In my Tweet just following the service, I referred to the service as eclectic. I was tempted to use the term schizophrenic. The texts were, for the most part, rather decent, but it was almost as if there were a checklist of musical styles that needed to be incorporated into the service, and we checked them off one by one. (One particularly inappropriate pairing, I thought, was the 3rd stanza of The Church's One Foundation (the one about the church being oppressed and the saints crying, "How long?") being paired up with a light jazz piano accompaniment that made the pastor next to me think of Linus and Lucy - that fun little jazz number that plays when Snoopy is walking out to his doghouse in the animated TV specials of the Peanuts cartoons. I wouldn't have minded a full jazz setting, I guess, but to pull that out for just the one stanza just seemed glaringly out of place.)

I am one who doesn't mind having my horizons stretched when it comes to artistic styles and tastes, even when it comes to the Divine Service. But the fundamental understanding of "everything in service to the text" seemed to be absent in the service. And trying to incorporate so many styles in the service reminded me of those commercials for "sugar coated sucrose puffs" cereal. They always talk about "part of this complete breakfast." But, as one comedian pointed out, it isn't a part of the complete breakfast, it is adjacent to the the complete breakfast. The service was neither traditional nor contemporary, and not a blending of the two. A blending denotes a cohesion. This was more of an aqueous suspension of styles in close proximity to one another.

The thing that was more disappointing to me were the accoutrements to the service. Again, the rule that stands above all the others when it comes to the things accompanying the worship service is "everything is service to the text." The flashing colored lights, continuously moving/changing multicolored background of abstract art behind the altar projected onto a scrim which at times "disappeared" because of a theatrical lighting trick, and the giant flatscreen television attached to the front of the altar served as much distraction from the Word.

But the most disappointing thing of the entire evening was a division that came at a time when we should have been the most united. Toward the end of the distribution, a particularly moving contemporary song was played. An appreciable number of those gathered and raised their hands to feel the wave of the Holy Spirit coming over them. Coming from the district I do, I have never seen so starkly the disparate disconnect between the theologies of worship at work within our Synod. At a time when I should have been rejoicing in our unity under the redemption brought by the Body and Blood of Christ, I wanted to sit and weep like Rachel, mourning for her children. (Jeremiah 3:15)

But as much difficulty as I had with the man-centered additions to the worship service, I can say this: The Word of God does not return to Him void. (Isaiah 55:11) His Word was proclaimed, His Body and Blood were received, and they cover all of my sins, even those sins of distraction during the service and uncharitable disgust. (Some of the disgust was righteous, and deservedly so. But this poor, wretched man cannot distinguish between that which was righteous and that which was unrighteous just as I cannot divide within myself between sinner and saint, for I am completely and wholly sinner and completely and wholly saint.) Even despite our frailties to be the instruments by which God brings His means of grace, even despite our frailties to be the recipients of that grace without questioning or doubting the instruments by which He brings us those means, God was at work and brought me the forgiveness that I need to be His servant.

And God is working through this convention to bring about His will through our congregations and the denomination into which they have confederated themselves. God is working.

Kyrie Eleison  - Lord have mercy!
Come, Lord Jesus. Quickly come. Amen.

Friday, July 9, 2010

First Day

Well, technically, the first day of the convention is tomorrow, but I arrived in Houston today. Attended the open session of Floor Committee 8, had dinner with my DP, the official photographer for the convention (DP's son), and SP/VP nominee Herb Mueller, and went to the Cardinals/Astros game. (I finally snapped my losing streak with the Redbirds - before tonight, they were 0-6 for games I had attended this year.)

The thing that has struck me today is the collegiality I have experienced in this first day. I saw my vicarage supervisor and several of my former profs from the sem. (No matter how old you get, "I'm proud of you," is a sentence that, when spoken by those who have trained you or raised you, warms your heart and inspires you to do even more.) I have seen many seminary classmates that I haven't seen for over a decade. As we talked, we realized that we didn't always agree, but we could be civil to one another even in our disagreements. This is what the real "politics" of conventions are about.

It has been a long day, so I'm not going to post a lot tonight. After being up for nineteen hours straight, I'm ready to try out the bed here at the Hilton.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Politics - from the Latin: "poli-" meaning many, and "ticks" - blood sucking creatures.

The above definition was e-mailed to me several years ago and expresses the great loathing that most of us feel for all things political. Professional politicians often practice the "art of the possible" seemingly without regard for truth or morality, and so it is no wonder that we often regard those who hold these positions as amoral and spineless.

But politics, in and of itself, is not an evil thing. One of the oldest (serious) definitions of politics comes from Aristotle - "the deliberation of how we ought to order our lives together." When husband and wife decide that family dinner will be served at 5:30pm each night - they've engaged in politics. When a group of friends decide to join each other after church for Sunday dinner by getting 99¢ Whoppers at Burger King, they've engaged in politics. "How ought we to order our lives together?"

Two out of every three years, our church body engages in politics at varying levels. We ask ourselves "how ought we to order our lives together as a district?" every three years, and the year following district conventions, we ask ourselves "how ought we to order our lives together as a Synod?" For an entire week (noon on one Saturday to noon the following Saturday), the congregations of our Synod will send their delegates to meet at the national convention in Houston, TX. These are times when our prayers are particularly needed.

The church is constantly attacked by Satan with his subtle detractions. Many ideas presented sound good at the time, but can lead us away from looking first to the Word of God for our guidance. We must always be diligent that what we do does not run counter to what is spoken to us in God's Word.

As we prepare for our Synodical convention, a great deal of conversation is happening about how we structure ourselves as a Synod. Should we be able to change doctrine by a 2/3 vote of delegates without congregational input? Should we let larger congregations receive twice the representation as smaller congregations? Should we change the name of our Synod so those outside the church can better recognize we are a national church body with congregations outside of the state of Missouri?

These are some of the questions that face us in the coming years, and we will need the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. Please join me in praying for our Synod and that the holy process of politics - the deliberation of how we ought to order our lives together - may be completed in a manner pleasing to God, our heavenly Father.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Where is the Priority?

Recommendation #16 of the BRTFSSG calls for giving “priority consideration” to overtures submitted to Synodical Convention that come from congregations through the circuits and/or districts. This recommendation was adopted by the Floor Committee in the form of Resolution 8-06. So I was curious – what does “priority consideration” look like as practiced by the Floor Committee that is proposing it?

Of the 82 overtures submitted to it, Floor Committee 8 received six overtures that explicitly fall under this priority category, having received these six overtures from a combination of congregations, circuits and/or districts. (We could actually consider it nine, since one overture was submitted by multiple congregation/circuit/district combinations.) How did these six/nine overtures fare in this floor committee that proposed to give such overtures “priority consideration?”
  • Overture 8-04 To Postpone Consideration and Implementation of Task Force Report submitted by congregation through circuit – REJECTED
  • Overture 8-05 To Exercise Care and Delay Implementation of Structure Changes submitted by congregation through circuit (North Wisconsin) – REJECTED
  • Overture 8-05 To Exercise Care and Delay Implementation of Structure Changes submitted by congregation through its circuit through its district (Missouri)– REJECTED
  • Overture 8-05 To Exercise Care and Delay Implementation of Structure Changes submitted by congregation through its circuit through its district (Southern Illinois) – REJECTED
  • Overture 8-05 To Exercise Care and Delay Implementation of Structure Changes submitted by congregation through its district (Iowa District East) – REJECTED
  • Overture 8-11 To Delay Implementation of Certain BRTFSSG Proposals submitted by congregation through its circuit – REJECTED
  • Overture 8-18 To Affirm Integrity and Dignity of All Congregations submitted by congregation through its district – REJECTED (although, I would suspect the Floor Committee would consider that they IMPLEMENTED this one)
  • Overture 8-49 To Return to Previous Definition of Function of Doctrinal Resolutions submitted by congregation through its circuit – REJECTED
  • Overture 8-73 To Retain Board for Pastoral Education submitted by congregation through its circuit – REJECTED

It would seem that “priority consideration” would mean “priority rejection.” Indeed, of the 48 overtures rejected, 17 were submitted by districts and another 13 were submitted by circuits and one by a district pastors conference. And this doesn’t even count the ten overtures that were essentially rejected, but the same logic that tells us that “non-participation” is stronger language than “renounce” (cf. Resolution 8-30) could lead us to consider these overtures as implemented, at least in part, by the floor committee. (Four from districts, three from circuits, two from boards, and one from a congregation.) Also not included in that number are the 3 overtures (2 from congregations and one from a district) that are completely missing from Today’s Business (that’s right – they are in the Workbook, but the floor committee seems to have just ignored them – they are not in any of the regular resolutions or the omnibus resolutions – nowhere to be found!), or the one overture (8-80) submitted by the Commission on Structure proposing a change in bylaw wording that was referred (via Omnibus A) to the Commission on Structure to draft an overture to propose a change in bylaw wording!

In the floor committee’s defense, 16 of the 23 overtures implemented in some way, shape or form came from districts of circuits, which is a higher percentage (69.7%) than those that were rejected by the committee (62.5%). But that percentage is not significantly higher.

So the question remains – What does “priority consideration” mean? Perhaps some delegates should inquire at the floor committee meetings on Friday and Saturday.

Convention Preview

The work of the 2010 Synodical Convention will cover many important topics. This blog will offer opportunity for those in the Shelby Circuit of the CID (and those on the world wide web) to see how they are being represented through their elected delegates.

To take a look at what is being proposed, take a look at the Convention Preview prepared by Pastor Mohr. This resource also includes some prayers that can be used to pray for the convention and the delegates who are there.