In 2010, the LCMS adopted sweeping changes to the Handbook of the Synod. Here’s the strange twist: while the convention adopted the “Blue Ribbon Taskforce” changes, delegates also strangely (and certainly ironically) then elected as President a man who opposed the changes, Matthew Harrison. Delegates wanted Synod’s work to be more responsive to the congregations of the Synod. What have we gotten instead?
The news these days from Synod headquarters is that further decline is imminent: mission properties sold to help the financial distress; Synod universities will be shed. This is a nightmare for Synod. New leadership can and will bring a renewed Bible-based, Gospel-centered future for Synod.
In the January Reporter, listed under the “Official Notice” section, a very timely and important posting was made by the Secretary of Synod. It is time to submit nominations for national convention-elected positions. Click HERE to read the text of the Official Notice from the online version of the Reporter. While the convention isn’t until July 20-25, 2019, preparations are already in full swing. This “Official Notice” was followed up on January 15, 2018 with Mailing #6, a post card summarizing what positions are open for nominations at this time. The positions that are open for nominations are as follows: Secretary of Synod LCMS Board of Directors (At-Large and Regional) LCMS Boards for National and International Mission (Regional) Commission on Theology and Church Relations Concordia Historical Institute Board of Governors Concordia Publishing House Board of Directors Lutheran Church Extension Fund Board of Directors Concordia University System Board of Directors Concordia
“Faithful churches cultivate character.” Thus writes Concordia Seminary Professor Joel Biermann in his book, A CASE FOR CHARACTER: Towards a Lutheran Virtue Ethics. 1 Rev. Dr. Biermann recounts how Lutherans are unfairly portrayed as soteriological reductionists pitting law and gospel against one another. Some critics say Lutheran theology and ethical teaching simply don’t fit together. Biermann admits some Lutheran preachers have indeed spent too little pulpit time on clear Scriptures regarding how we Christians ought to live. Dr. Biermann’s prescriptions for re-emphasizing our Lutheran Confessions’ solid commitment to character and virtue ethics are valuable. His book’s message is also timely as we witness widely-known men losing leadership positions due to their wrongful actions toward women as revealed via the #metoo movement. Joel reminds fellow pastors, “Christian people need to be trained in virtue. A noble character does not simply happen.” He also believes community can still shape and sustain a
The History, Theology and Practice of Congregational Self-Governance in the LCMS In terms of governance and order, the Missouri Synod has throughout its history balanced power between the baptized and the ordained. We have made our decisions at conventions through votes mediated by an equal representation of clergy and laity. These votes were not to be viewed as mandates, but as carefully crafted and thoroughly dialogued advice. In a fun, tongue-in-cheek essay, the Editorial Staff of Congregations Matter has provided another brief history of the LCMS on one issue: Congregational Self-Governance as opposed to the current Synod trend towards hierarchialism. The essay reviews our history, theology, and the unfortunate, current tendency of our Synod to move from prizing the Priesthood of All Believers and Congregational Polity toward a foreign, non-Lutheran emphasis on maintaining and growing the structure itself and fulfilling its needs at the expense of the our “first love”:
With a letter to the congregations and rostered members of his district, District President (DP) John Denninger of the Southeastern District joined the growing number of LCMS leaders voicing their opposition to recent and unconstitutional bylaw changes giving final ecclesiastical supervision to President Harrison. At President Harrison’s request and Secretary Sias’ hand, the United List majority of the Synod Board of Directors (BOD) wrested the constitutional, historic responsibility of ecclesiastical supervision from District Presidents. Without vote or action of the Milwaukee Convention, the BOD gave this responsibility to one man. The President of Synod now is the de facto ecclesiastical supervisor of the LCMS. Harrison has taken ecclesiastical supervisory decisions away from our 35 District Presidents. He relocated those life-changing decisions to his own desk inside the secretive International Center in St. Louis. Wrested Power Over Congregations First, Council of Presidents Chair, Texas DP Hennings stood his ground against this dangerous
Last Friday District President (DP) Ken Hennings sent an unprecedented, public letter to the rostered members of his district. The letter explains the drastic change that the United List majority of the Synod Board of Directors adopted in May regarding ecclesiastical supervision. But Hennings did more. The letter explains why District Presidents in Synod are no longer the final ecclesiastical supervisors of churches, pastors, teachers, DCEs and other church workers. Our new, changed reality? Synod President Harrison has taken that job for himself. District President Hennings clearly warns of the consequence this bylaw change brings: “It is necessary that I personally make you aware of the significant changes to the process of ecclesiastical supervision in our church body. The board of directors of the Synod has adopted bylaw changes that give the ultimate responsibility for your (and your congregation’s) ecclesiastical supervision to the President of the Synod. In other words, if
“Among You It Will Be Different” It was a simple request. A mother asking for positions of power and influence for her sons. Then it all broke loose. “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. The other disciples became indignant with James and John. And the Master settles the issue with these words: 25 But Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. 26 But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. 28 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:25-28 (NLT) Jesus does not need political posturing. He needs
Sadly, our Synod is moving toward a greater centralization of power. Despite the LCMS being historically a Synod of congregations bound together by a common confession and walking in love, we are more and more ruled by an administration in the International Center bent on control. If we resign ourselves to a Synod with centralized control, we will never have freedom from fear as workers in the harvest, freedom from church-political agendas that limit the Gospel — and we will never be free to be the Church our Lord has called us to be, nor fulfill His commission for us as followers of Jesus.
Congregations Matter© believes we need a change of leadership in the LCMS. Either the current leaders need to change the way they are doing things — or we need new leaders. Four Reasons for a Change of Leadership There is a lack of cooperation with and support of our district elected leaders — especially our District Presidents. Congregations don’t matter — neither do our District Presidents. The centralization of power in the office of Synodical President sought by our current administration is dangerous for our Synod now and in the days to come. This is an unprecedented power grab in the history of our church. At our last convention, President Harrison showed his lack of trust for the Boards of Regents, theological faculties of our Concordias, and our District Presidents (and the congregations that elected them) as he became the agent of approval of all theological faculty Synod-wide. In addition, at the