In my last post on the topic, I posited that the multiplication of statements has not historically been helpful in the Missouri. I would be delighted to be corrected, but I am hard pressed to find one example in our LCMS history that would point to an external group (which I will explain in a moment) serving to call the synod to repentance, admonish, exhort, etc, and that actually resulting in a change in LCMS doctrine and practice. I will happily be corrected.
It seems as though there are a couple of basic objections to this line of thinking. Let’s see if I can list them off here.
- This is not an “outside group,” but members of the LCMS calling it to repentance.
- There are plenty of “outside groups” that have a very positive influence on the LCMS. Higher Things, LLL, LWML, etc.
- How will we discuss and correct the problems in our church without such entities? Doing nothing is not an option.
- The synod is not a church, but simply an external organization. As such, it is good and reasonable that congregations join together to serve as a positive influence on the LCMS as a whole.
I’m sure there are other objections to my first post. That is my distilling of the arguments as I’ve seen them. Here are my responses:
This is not an “outside group,” but members of the LCMS calling it to repentance.
In one sense this is true, in another obvious sense it is not. The ACELC (as well as Higher Things, LLL, etc.) are by definition an outside organizations. They are incorporated, with officers, a constitution, finances, and so forth. While the individual members of a given organization may be LCMS, the organization itself is not. I as an individual member of synod (rostered) may interact, cajole, influence, and speak. So can congregations. I would contend, however, that when a group of pastors and/or congregations start speaking together ad hoc, and outside of our agreed upon structure, it creates a conflict that I do not believe is helpful.
Please note, I’m not saying it’s wrong, sinful, or anything to that effect. I am saying it is not helpful. I don’t believe that it will help the confession of the faith in the LCMS.
The reason I do not believe it is helpful is because once that ad hoc entity is created and begins to espouse a particular position, the underlying question is now “what is the point of this group?” and NOT “what are they trying to say?” That is one of the many things I learned during my time working with Consensus.
There are plenty of “outside groups” that have a very positive influence on the LCMS. Higher Things, LLL, LWML, etc.
Very true. The way that these various entities have served as a positive influence has been by what I would call vocation. Higher Things works with youth to teach and pass on the faith. LLL (primarily) works and teaches men. LCMS works and teaches women. Bethesda, all of the various Lutheran schools, the groups that are the most helpful are the ones that have a laser tight focus on how they may serve the furtherance of the Gospel in our midst.
None of them have as their stated purpose to change the doctrine and practice of the LCMS (either in a good way or a bad way). They simply do what they do, and the results speak for themselves.
I would commend that the places where confessional Lutheranism has been the most vibrant are the places where there is a need and it is filled by like minded people who recognize the need and act upon it.
I suppose one could look at a group like the ACELC and say that is exactly what they are doing. As I look at the stated goals, that’s not what I see. (I will address where this conversation should take place in my next post.)
How will we discuss and correct the problems in our church without such entities? Doing nothing is not an option.
I believe conservatives are people of conviction. People of conviction want to speak what they believe, see things in pretty clear black and white categories, and want to have all of the lines cleanly drawn. I resonate with that. It is who I am as well.
But publicizing a list of all of the “tolerated errors” in the LCMS, what that does and will do is create fissures, cracks, broken relationships, side taking, antagonism, and anger. The laity will remain ignorant of the whole picture, or they will only be catechized about one “side” of an issue. Where does it end? Is this really the best we can do in the LCMS?
The synod is not a church, but simply an external organization. As such, it is good and reasonable that congregations join together to serve as a positive influence on the LCMS as a whole.
This is a big one. It is big enough that it shapes much of our common discourse together. I’m going to deal with this in another post, because I don’t want this to get lost in a bullet.
So what is coming next is an answer to this last bullet, and a proposal for a more positive and helpful way to approach the challenges facing the LCMS. I welcome your thoughts.
Pr. Todd A. Peperkorn, STM
Messiah Lutheran Church (LCMS)