What should concern delegates?
Resolution 5-08 seeks to affirm in-person communion by condemning the emergency practice of “online” communion. It suggests in Whereas 10 (lines 19-21) that “no theological justification for the novel practice of online or virtual Communion” exists.
That’s simply not true. Some have produced their justification (Communion in Homes During Times of Crisis: Scriptural and Confessional Principles, Communion and Covid-19, et al.). We just haven’t had the conversation about it….yet.
While no one in the LCMS is practicing “distance” communion since the end of the pandemic, this issue is being kept alive by resolutions such as this. Without theological discussion, some have condemned others of a differing opinion. Is the issue that no one may receive the Lord’s Supper outside of the Sunday morning congregational worship service? Is the issue that the pastor must be physically present for God’s Word to do its work in the Sacrament? Should pastors no longer provide shut-in communion, or commune individuals in hospitals? Is the Lord’s Supper valid if it comes from the hand of someone other than the man called to serve as pastor of the congregations?
And what does all this mean for LCMS Christians receiving the Lord’s Supper “in person” at a National Convention, but where there is a “sponsoring” congregation that has no real pastoral responsibility or relationship with the delegates — let alone a call or spiritual accountability — that would allow him to serve the Lord’s Supper to 2,000 people at a National Convention?
Other issues: context is important. The seventh Whereas (lines 9-12) discusses the Formula of Concord Solid Declaration VII out of its context of a Corpus Christi procession.
Appropriately, the ninth Whereas (lines 15-18) suggests all the texts cited above “require serious study by the church.” That’s good.
However, in Whereas Eleven (lines 22-25), the resolution recognizes “the need for collegial debate, collaborative decision-making, and consensus building” without also recognizing we haven’t had the conversation yet.
The second and third Resolves (lines 34-40) propose that we already have a determined doctrine regarding “online communion” in the LCMS — without fraternal conversation or Synod resolution. We have a process for determining our Confessional positions (See Bylaw 1.6). That process hasn’t happened.
In contrast, Resolution 5-13 calls for such conversation, establishes a reason and a process for doing such, and calls for a time of talk, learning, and theological reflection on all the issues surrounding the use of technology in worship and congregational life.
In both of these instances, conversations should come first before we jump to a decision as a convention. To do otherwise would affirm a controversial position that requires discussion before we even discuss it.
What can be done about it?
First, move to consider 5-13 before we consider 5-08. If we do that, we may come to a decision about the issues some have with online worship and surrounding issues before we even recognize there are valid “divergent and diverse positions” among us.
We need a conversation before a condemnation — in the spirit of Acts 15 and the Preamble of our own Synod’s Constitution.
Read Overture 5-20 from the Texas District on Workbook Pages 299-300. Overture 5-20 proposes a process by which we can begin to come to a godly conclusion — just as they did in Acts 15. It didn’t stop the “Circumcision Group” from opposing it, but over time, the decision “after much debate” was accepted by the Church.
Move to table Resolutions 5-08 and 5-13 until after we all have considered the process outline in Overture 5-20 as a model for how to come to an agreement on controverted issues.