Report, Advice and Commentary On Day One of the 2023 National Convention

Convention Day One: A Report and Prayer

With a Matins worship service led by 1st Vice President Peter Lange, the convention began the process of working together to serve our Lord and our Synod.  There were some technical glitches typical for the first day, but delegates finally accepted the convention’s Special Standing Rules.  They affirmed the agenda for the week.  Overtures were retained or removed from Omnibus A, B, and C Resolutions.  Greetings and an essay were heard.  The LCMS established church fellowship with Lutheran church bodies in Sudan and South Sudan, Finland, Uganda, Ukraine, and Sri Lanka by convention action.  We all received catechesis.  And we all affirmed and celebrated President Harrison’s election and Vice Presidents 1 through 6.

First Resolution Returned to Committee Four

Something extraordinary happened when Floor Committee Four brought their first resolution to the convention.  Delegates amended and referred back to the Floor Committee Resolution 4-01: To Commend and Encourage Continued Use of The Koinonia Project and Give Thanks to God for the Sainted Rev. Dr. Herbert C. Mueller, Jr. 

There was nothing specifically wrong with the resolution.  Delegates just wanted it to be improved, considered, and most likely passed.   And delegates want to have it return to the convention floor for debate and voting later at the convention.

How do we know that?  They said it with words, votes, and a positive spirit.  There was no great controversy.  Instead, a helpful amendment improved the resolution so much that delegates wanted time and opportunity to consider it well.  Wise, thoughtful delegates said, “Let’s wait.  Let’s improve.”

That would describe the delegate direction of Day One:  let’s talk, let’s consider, let’s work together by building on a foundation of truth, and let’s not cut corners but instead get what we do right.

Acts 15 in Action

If nothing else happened at the 2023 Milwaukee Convention, doing it right and doing it together would be great outcomes from our days together!  Congregations Matter believes it would be better for the LCMS’s unity and witness of Jesus’ love to use the process St. Luke described in Acts 15.  That means conversation and agreement rather than declaration and power. 

The former will help the LCMS be more unified in our work for Jesus on this side of heaven.  The latter will only press through our convention delegates’ right to debate and decide so the convention may pass more resolutions.

Getting through a convention agenda is not as important as getting through a convention united in purpose, strengthened in God’s Word, and moving forward together in Jesus’ love.  Our real power is not in our ability to garner votes for a candidate or cause.  Our real power rests in the Spirit’s ability to unite us as one in Jesus (Ephesians 4) and send us out into the harvest (Matthew 9) to accomplish His will.

Let’s all keep that spirit up and the Spirit up as we consider more challenging issues in the coming days.

There Are Yet More Challenging Issues to Come

More challenging issues?  Well, there’s Resolution 7-03: To Call Concordia University Texas Leadership to Repentance, for sure.  Delegates are divided as to how to ask both our Concordia Texas University and our Synod leadership to repent and restore relationships between them, come to the table to talk, and come to a godly resolution of the current division that honors Jesus Christ instead of imposing “my way” on everyone else.

Add 7-05A To Bring Accountability to Concordia Boards of Regents and to Improve Fidelity and Amenability to Ecclesiastical Supervision to the mix.  Both show through their words and tone that some in Synod seek the condemnation of CTX and the tightening of control.  Others at the convention seek repentance, faithfulness, unity, and a “return to the table” by all involved to work this out.

The first response, condemnation, is easy to do.  It comes from anger, self-righteousness, and a need to control.  The latter takes a kind of Christ-like humility and trust from Synod and CTX leaders and will require self-reflection, repentance, and backing down from already entrenched, hard positions.

It Will Be Hard Work For Everyone

That will be a hard task all around.  But while that may not be something our leaders want to do, it can be something delegates direct them to do because it is in the best interest of our Synod and our witness to the world as followers of Jesus.

Then there are also opposing ideas regarding the complex and ever-changing Resolution 7-04A To Revise Bylaws to Revisit and Renew Relationship of Colleges and Universities with the Synod that delegates will navigate in the coming days.

Resolution 7-04A in its present form was just presented to the delegates this morning (that’s why it ends with an “A”) in Today’s Business 2B for Sunday, July 30.  Wise delegates will want to examine both the importance of 7-04A and its twenty-six-page, single-spaced type kind of complexity.

We all must realize we are on the road to an answer — but still understand we’re not there yet.  Added to the problems of the topic itself is confusion and concern among delegates because they can’t figure out what changed from 7-04 to 7-04A.

One thing is certain:  the further amended 7-04A needs still more conversation within our Concordias and in our congregations.  The Floor Committee proposal is more than a revamping and refreshing of bylaws that govern our current relationships between our Concordias and the Synod.  It is a whole new, separate system of governance and relationships that does not yet have broad acceptance in the LCMS.

We’re Not There Yet

Why isn’t there broad acceptance?  Because we haven’t had a chance to talk about it.  When people believe they are right, they stop believing they need to talk about something, much less bring unity or compromise their position.

That’s what is needed here.  Talk.  Compromise.  Unity.  There has been no history of — or plan to bring — this untested change of relationships to the congregations, lay people, pastors, professors, parents, and students of the LCMS.  What was supposed to have been completed in its final form six months ago so we could talk and bring unity is being changed daily.

It’s hard to agree on a moving target.

And more.   Among other issues, delegates don’t even know if each Concordia University’s legal counsel has reviewed 7-04A for compliance with their state’s unique laws — let alone how regional accreditation committees will respond.

Everyone agrees change is something we need to do.  We’ve lost three Concordias — almost a fourth in Ann Arbor — and now there’s division.  The Concordia University System is broken.  It needs replacing.  But, despite all of the effort put into 7-04A, not enough effort has been put into connecting the dots for delegates, tying up loose ends, and making all the changes necessary so congregations, delegates, universities, and all who love the LCMS can talk through and understand the issues.

The future of our Concordias is not a “tell and sell” issue.  Delegates don’t need a proposal or a Floor Committee that “tells” delegates what is the right thing to do is and then “sells” them on the necessity of acting right now “before it’s too late” without taking the time to consider the decision and talk about it.  That kind of pressure won’t fix anything.  It will just make things worse than they already are with a CUS that is not outfitted to serve our 21st Century Universities.

Delegates need to help our leaders pause, work together, and come to a God-pleasing result for the sake of our Gospel.  Jesus said “By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).  Love doesn’t pressure.  Love doesn’t condemn.  In patience and kindness, love doesn’t use power or control.  As an “ambassador of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5), we let the “love of Christ compel us” and guide what we do and how we treat one another.  That even goes for a convention.

No, that especially goes for a convention.

A Prayer for Today

Lord Jesus, as we face this day and our work together, if there is ever a moment of contention among us, let Your Holy Spirit fill my heart so that the way I treat others always is more important than the decisions we make at the convention.  Make us to be instruments of Your love, Your grace, and Your peace.  Remind me that I don’t have to defend Your truth.  You are in charge of that.  You’ve got this.  And You’ve got me.  You hold me in the palm of Your hands and remember me always. 

So let me have the confidence to be an example of the power Your love has on a life — on my life.  Instead of bowing to the pressure of the moment or responding in anger to the power I feel being used against me, let me respond with even greater love and the assurance You are, and always will be, in control.  Let Your Kingdom come and Your will be done in me and through me today.  I want to preach Christ crucified for all people through all of my life — even my convention life today.  I pray this in Jesus’ name.  Amen.



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