Skip to comments.LCMS convention post mortem
Posted on 07/31/2013 7:04:21 AM PDT by Alex Murphy
The convention of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod is over. There were no big controversies. Virtually all of the resolutions passed, overwhelmingly, and those that didnt were defeated overwhelmingly. No challenges to Lutheran orthodoxy even came up. The delegates were pretty much all on the same conservative page. After the jump, Lutheran journalist Mollie Hemingway writes about the difficulty religion reporters have in covering a church convention that is peaceful and non-contentious.
But surely what didnt happen is huge news for Lutherans. To be sure, issues remain, but could it be that the LCMS is getting unified again?
Were any of you there? Please report.
From Mollie Hemingway, News crisis: when people agree (Lutheran edition):
Unlike previous conventions featuring narrow vote margins, nearly every resolution here was passing with huge margins whether the topic was checks and balances of seminary faculty hiring, proper administration of the sacraments, review of non-seminary pastoral training programs, lay deacons, campus ministries, or other items. Theres interesting subtext there were definitely in a new era in the LCMS, but its pretty tough to explain briefly. Which is probably why the St. Louis Post-Dispatch keeps publishing stories about how the Synod handled a First Commandment issue last year relating to syncretism, or worship with non-Christians at an interfaith worship service in Newtown, CT. (Mono-maniacally obsessed was how I heard one delegate refer to the reporters focus on the topic. Tell him to get off the Newtown template, was what another said. Consider it done.)
But you try to come up with something interesting to say about a huge convention taking place in your backyard when everyone is operating in peace and love (sadly, that might actually be big news when it comes to our church body and others ). . . .
I think the declaration of formal fellowship with the Lutheran churches in Liberia, Siberia and Togo were a big story from this convention. And these encouraging resolutions which will force my church body to have some tough discussions about doctrine are easy to pass with huge margins. Whether those discussions will result in some tough decisions down the line is another thing.
Lower in the story we get some notes on non-seminary training of pastors and whether seminaries should restore the checks and balances on hiring that they had until 3 years ago (the Lutherans voted to restore that check). It was one of the more contentious debates and closer votes. Still, it passed 61 percent to 39 percent. That would have been a landslide vote in the old days. . . .
But I think this post-convention story is also a great case study in how difficult it is to cover non-political religious bodies, particularly those not embroiled in sexy debates about ordination or interpretation of Biblical passages on sexual morality. As one of my editors once told me, continue is not a very exciting verb for a lede.
News is about drama. Ive been to our recent conventions. They were nothing but drama. We had a president who would barely get re-elected and debates so tense that you could feel it in your body. There were lots of serious debates full of theological subtext did we want to be a church body that retained its Lutheran identity? Did we want to adopt a more American approach? Were our doctrines on communion, the Office of Holy Ministry, etc. in need of revision? What were the theological implications of reorganizing our national headquarters? We still have those debates. The current administration and district presidents seem to want to work on handling those debates in a less contentious manner through discourse and open engagement. From the votes of our Synod, its clear that this is being largely well received by the clergy, church workers and laypeople but it makes for very difficult news writing.
I’m here for the Liquid Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry convention.
If I weren’t Catholic, I’d be either Orthodox Church in America or LCMS.
I was at the convention. This is the report I posted at steadfastlutherans.org:
The Boring-Isn't-Bad Convention
The gavel has sounded. The 2013 National LCMS Convention has come to a close. Some might call it "The Do-Nothing Convention." Or "The Kick-the-Can-Down-the-Road Convention." Or "The It-Isn't-Time-Yet Convention." Or "The Baptized-for-the-Next-Convention Convention." But I think a better name might be "The Boring-Isn't-Bad Convention."
Late in the week President Harrison said (I'm paraphrasing, since I don't have the exact quote in front of me): "Some have said this has been a boring convention. And that's not bad." My translation: There's no way this convention could possibly match the intense drama of the 2010 convention. And a lot of the resolutions here won't change the synod overnight and fix all the problems at once. But we are putting some things in place that will help us deal with the important issues, more directly and decisively, beginning at the next convention. We're moving the ball down the field in the right direction. And we're doing it in a patient, consensus-building way. In other words, boring isn't bad.
Today I'm writing only a brief, off-the-top-of-my-head reflection on the convention just concluded. (I may put together a more complete report later on.) And I'll focus on the business of the convention, the resolutions and elections, rather than on the worship, the theological essays, etc. For example, the magnificent music at the services, President Harrison's "You're all wet/It's in the water" sermon, his "gavel-gazing" speech--all excellent, and you can find links to them through the lcms.org/convention page, but I won't spend time on them here.
Of course many of the "mom and apple pie" resolutions passed by wide margins, virtually unopposed. These were opportunities to highlight the good work our synod has been doing in many areas: e.g., campus ministry, military chaplains, disaster response. So also with resolutions on the Koinonia Project, fellowship with several overseas church bodies, some boring bylaw language clarifications--little controversy there.
The resolutions that addressed more controverted issues fell mostly in these committees: 4, Theology and Church Relations; 5, Seminary and University Education; and 7, Structure and Ecclesiastical Matters.
Committees 4 and 5: In regard to licensed lay deacons and the SMP program, structures were put in place--a task force here, an oversight committee there--that will bring recommendations for action to the 2016 convention. Likewise with our seminaries and universities. There will be a task force to address the question of Lutheran identity at our Concordias, lest they drift away from our theological moorings. And there will be a committee that must give prior approval to any new faculty at our seminaries. These measures are not glamorous, but they could prove effective.
Committee 7: This committee did have some good resolutions, and they passed, particularly a couple that emphasize the importance of visitation. But this committee also proposed the only really bad resolutions in the book. These were the past Blue Ribbon proposals dug up from the graveyard of bad ideas. I am happy to report they all failed miserably. One resolution would have allowed visitation circuits to be formed by "affinity" rather than geography, thus further balkanizing us when we need to be brought together. We defeated that one on Monday by a whopping 71% to 29%. Another resolution, the worst one in the book, would have taken delegate elections away from the circuits and moved them up to the district level. We thermonucleared that one 93-7. Its companion enabling resolution thus did not come to the floor. And while the proposal to go to a four-year convention cycle was brought up early in the week, the committee did not bother bringing it back later, because that one would have been shot down too.
There were a total of 71 elections, if you include the pre-convention election for Synod President. And there were two competing lists recommending candidates. The United List (UL) traditionally recommends more conservative/confessional candidates. The other list usually recommends more liberal/church-growthish candidates. That list this time was called the "Missional/Our Future/Preferred Servants List" (MOFPSL)--the title morphed over the last several weeks. If you're using a scorecard, the UL won 40 head-to-head elections, the MOFPSL won 19. Candidates common to both lists won eight elections, and candidates from neither list won four. Speaking as one who generally favors the United List choices, I can say we ran the table on the Praesidium, winning the presidency and all six vice-presidencies. This in turn may tip the balance--to the good--on the Council of Presidents. And we swept the four elections for new members to the Fort Wayne Board of Regents. But we split the four elections for the LCMS Board of Directors (although the overall balance looks good). And we split the four elections for the St. Louis BOR.
Overall, the tone of this convention was amicable, the theme for the inspiration was baptismal, the synod's good work was highlighted, and the framework was put in place for correcting some nagging problems more decisively next time. All in all, boring isn't bad. We're moving in the right direction.
I saw Mollie at the convention. She's a longtime friend. In fact, it was Mollie who first told me about this place called "Free Republic," back in November of 2000. (She was Mollie Ziegler back then, before she married Mark Hemingway.)
Thanks for that report.
Be rooted in Christ!
And I believe I'm the one who introduced Cousin Mollie to FR at the "House Manager's Dinner in 1999.
I pray that God continues to bless LCMS.
“The convention of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod is over. There were no big controversies. ... The delegates were pretty much all on the same conservative page.”
And that is the scandal. The scandal is that there was no scandal or excitement.
Lutheran Child and Family Services (LCFS) of IL a purely LCMS run entity (ie. not a pan lutheran one like usual ) decided to comply with IL law a couple years ago and start adopting kids into homosexual households. The LCMS administration stated in advance that they would not seperate from LCFS, a synod approved RSO, if they complied. No action was taken so the Norther IL District sent up an overture to remove the RSO status. The Convention scuttled that in Omnibus Resolution A and referred it right back to the same admin apparatus that had done nothing the last couple years.
Catholic and Evangelical charities refused to comply.
The administrator of the LCFS IL has been reported announcing the org will happily take the Catholic ( and presumably the Evangelical kids ) and hand them out to whomever the state civil unions.
Harrison himself commented on the event some time ago so it has visibility to the top. The National Convention also was aware. They actively voted to do nothing and thus voted to allow this to continue.
So while harumphing sounds and position papers pour forth when it comes to actual deeds its clear.... comply with the state and throw all that conservative talk to the wind.