Dr. Patrick Ferry’s commencement speech at Concordia Seminary in 2022 can give LCMS congregations hope and a focus for the future. Using the title “Here I Stand – Here We Go,” Ferry utilized running and racing metaphors to urge students to both appreciate the past and move forward in Christ.
Our LCMS must do more than stand “on the marks” of the Church. We are fully “set” and prepared to accomplish our Savior’s mission on earth. But “On your mark” and “Get set” won’t get the race run. There’s more. We have Christ’s “go” command.
When the focus of the LCMS is on the past, it’s hard to move forward.
AN IMPORTANT READ
The full text of Pat Ferry’s speech, based on Romans 5:1-2, can be read here at www.patferry.com and viewed here. It’s a powerful encouragement from a church historian to stand boldly on our past and unite for our God-directed future mission.
Instead of reporting past glories of our stand against the Prussian Union (see item 280. President’s Report to the November Synod BOD meeting), Ferry suggests a forward, united focus will better accomplish our work sharing the message of Christ crucified that our world so desperately needs.
FERRY IS A MAN WITH A PLAN
On the cusp of their graduation, Patrick Ferry reminds the graduates heading into our Lord’s mission field that a myopic focus on “here we stand” will not accomplish His mission for us now and into the future. Ferry explains that spending our time focusing on the past hamstrings our efforts to proclaim Christ and Him crucified.
“[W]hen the Reformers believed the Church was hamstrung by tradition or traditions, their Gospel freedom moved them to cast off whatever impeded or hindered the message of salvation by grace alone, through faith in Christ alone, as taught in Scripture alone.”
It’s hard to run forward when we’re facing backward.
BUT WE CAN LOOK BACK
Ferry suggests we will do well to acknowledge our strong and faithful past. We stand with faithful Lutheran men and women of the past in a bold counter-cultural confession:
“Indeed, it is perfectly fine for us to stand here for a while and look back, ponder, savor….
…especially in this day and age, this time and place, when our Christian faith and religious freedoms are so often undermined and threatened by an inimical and antithetical culture and post-Christian world, we must show some spine and stand straight and tall and prove true when tried about what we believe, teach, and confess.”[emphasis added]
NOW IT’S ABOUT THE “GO”
While as an expert church historian and theologian, Ferry’s “Here I Stand — Here We Go” focus is not on the glories of our past but on charting a course for the future.
“Yes, do stand! And, here we stand — on our marks — the pure, powerful Gospel in Word and Sacrament.Here we stand, all set — the unshakable promise of Jesus never to leave or forsake us … never … ever. By all means, stand! But, don’t just stand all statuesque — on your marks, and get set to go!” [emphasis added]
FORWARD IS NOT OUR FORTE
At the same time, as an experienced, long-time leader in our Concordia University system and congregational pastor, Ferry observes that “forward is not our forte.”
“If we are honest, we have to admit that [“go”] is not easy for us. A Church like ours, rooted as we are in our confessional identity, mindful of the struggles we have endured to preserve as well as proclaim the truth, justifiably proud of our tradition and heritage, wary of fads and gimmicks — a Church like ours will not only stand on the shoulders of others, but we are also apt constantly to be looking back over our shoulder as we run our own race. In other words, forward is not our forte.” [elipsis and emphasis added]
USE WHERE WE “STAND” AS A LAUNCHING PAD
Ferry reminded the seminary graduates that God has given us more than a foundation to stand on. Firmly acknowledging the marks of the Church from Augustana Article VII and the confession of Christ as the rock on which Jesus builds His Church, Ferry calls us to Christ’s “Go.”
“Here we stand — on the shoulders of others, but on our marks of Word and Sacrament and set upon the promises of God, the Church of our time and place cannot, must not merely stand in place, or worse, just look backward. For such a time as this we are called to ‘Go’ forward.”
“Look around. We may not agree on everything, but certainly we can agree on this — people around us are in trouble. I heard President Harrison once say that this old world is falling off its hinges, and it appears to be so. Of course, throughout human history this has appeared to be so.” [emphasis added]
THIS IS OUR MOMENT — HERE WE GO
Concluding, Ferry notes that ours is a mission not given to those in the past. We are called to serve at this time and in this place.
“But, we did not live in other eras. God has seen fit to have us live in this time and this place so that at this moment we would figure out ways to bring to others struggling, suffering, sinking that faith, that grace, that peace, that hope of the glory of God that Paul preaches; that Word, those Sacraments, that Gospel that marks the Lord’s Church. Forward! Luther surely had his moment and thank the Lord he seized the day.
“We are all blessed because of the Reformation. But, Luther’s moment is not ours. Walther’s moment is not our moment. Ours is now, and it is time to go. Might be hard, might be risky. But, this is precisely what you are prepared do — what you are called to do. Let’s do this. Let’s go.” [emphasis added]
FERRY FOCUSES ON SUPPORTING GOD’S “GO”
In conversation with Pat Ferry, Our Congregations – Our Synod learned his work preparing for this speech helped him focus on a plan for the future of the LCMS. You can read all about his “Walking Together for Generations to Come” plans on the www.patferry.com website put together by Friends of Pat Ferry.
Ferry’s three-point action plan fulfills his vision of “Our shared future is connected, supportive, and faithful”:
- Restore a Spirit of Collaboration
- Build a Community of Mutual Trust
- Energize and Equip Congregations
While Synod can’t do everything, it must do all it can to support congregations in their work. The details of Ferry’s plan from his website show his practical, congregation-focused, confessional heart. They also show what a theologian who is an administrator can do to chart and accomplish a course of action.
He stands among the pastors who have proven they can build a team, establish a supportive culture, set a positive course for the future, and lead an institution to accomplish it. Strategy set — strategy achieved.
Supporting congregations in their work for Jesus. That’s what frontline leaders in our LCMS congregations need.
Help Make Pat Ferry One of Five Nominees
With his focus on supporting and enhancing the work of local congregations, Our Congregations – Our Synod believes Pat Ferry should be one of the five nominees for Synod President your congregation should consider. Others, too — but Pat Ferry should be one of our choices.
Ferry has a record of building up Concordia University Wisconsin and, together with others, saving Concordia Ann Arbor (read the details in his journal post “In the Room Where It Happens”). At a time when others have closed three Concordias, saving CUAA and expanding CUW is an important accomplishment.
Ferry has a common-sense plan to strengthen our confession and witness to the world. Consider nominating him before the deadline on February 28th. You read more about how to nominate pastors for LCMS leadership here.
Our congregations and our Synod need a proven, faithful, confessional leader like Pat Ferry to support our work for the sake of Jesus and His love.