Recently Lutheran Concerns Association (LCA) sent out a letter to all congregations including an article by one of their Board Members, The Rev. Dr. Martin R. Noland, entitled “Congregations Matter Exposed.” It would be very easy to provide a rebuttal to Dr. Noland’s arguments and while it is tempting to do so, this is not the venue for such a debate.
It is common practice within our Synod to debate issues in print or social media. We are quick to take major or even minor issues and present well-written papers to demonstrate how our brother or sister is in error or misguided. Dr. Noland is very quick to accuse Congregations Matter of sin against the Eighth Commandment by arguing that his position is correct and Congregations Matter has it all wrong. That’s not honest debate.
The old debating adage is true: “he who defines the argument wins the debate.”
Martin Noland wants the argument to be defined as “My side is right therefore anything you say to the contrary breaks the 8th Commandment.”
Congregations Matter has done it’s best to support its point-of-view with facts instead of opinions. A John Adams quote comes to mind:
“Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”
The facts don’t support Martin Noland’s point of view regarding Congregations Matter and only reveal his bias.
No Venue for Honest Debate
For many years now Lutheran Concerns has been sending their newsletter to the churches of the Synod advocating their understanding of doctrine and practice within the Synod. For the past three years Congregations Matter has been sharing with the Synod articles which identify concerns they have relating to actions taken by leaders in the Synod. Congregations Matter too has raised concerns about the doctrine and practice of leaders within the Synod. Unfortunately, there is no longer an avenue within the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod for honest dialog to take place and for subsequent decisions to be made.
There was a time when open and honest discussion of issues could take place at a Synod Convention, even for hours on a given resolution. Recent conventions have deteriorated into seeing how many resolutions can be passed in the least amount of time with minimal discussion and then imposing the resolution on the whole church.
We have lost the meaning of Article VII of the Constitution:
“In its relation to its members the Synod is not an ecclesiastical government exercising legislative or coercive powers, and with respect to the individual congregation’s right of self-government it is but an advisory body.”
Noland Argues from Bias, Not Facts
The material contained in Congregations Matter is carefully fact-checked before inclusion. The interpretations in articles certainly demonstrate the biases of the authors — just as Dr. Noland’s arguments reflect his bias in support of current leadership.
NBC’s Meet the Press on March 3 included a revealing poll of American citizens’ opinions on certain events in the news. The not so surprising result of the poll was that Americans form their opinions based upon the network news they watch.
It is no surprise then that the faithful people of the LCMS are going to base their opinions of events in the church on the source by which they get their news. We have a plethora of publications, blogs, and social media outlets trying to convince the readers of their understanding of the actions of the leadership in the Synod.
Congregational Decision-Making the Key
The new structure adopted by the Synod in Convention in 2010 was created with the goal of placing more emphasis on the importance of the congregation in decision-making. While all of our congregations and pastors strive to remain faithful to our Lutheran doctrine, congregational settings require local discretion concerning practice.
Congregations Matter has attempted to demonstrate how the past three conventions, the United List majority on ALL boards and commissions, the President Harrison’s administrative decisions have eroded the self-government of congregations and universities. We believe the facts that have come to light accomplish just that.
Congregations Matter Supports Our Historic LCMS Legacy
You can read more about the Congregations Matter movement, its history and goals by clicking here.
In summary, the articles provided in www.congregationsmatter.org are intended to bring actions of Synod leadership to the attention of the whole church so that congregations and their delegates can make informed decisions as we select our next president and vote at the convention in July.
Sadly, from our experience of President Harrison’s choices of Floor Committees and his direction of debate, we have no confidence that Tampa will be any different.
Perhaps we’re wrong, and this time President Harrison and the United List control of our Synod will be open to real debate on the issues at hand.
We can only hope President Harrison will agree and act to make Walther’s dream, desire and spirit true live today as it has been in the past:
Congregations…and not Synod President control and Synod bureaucracy…matter.