Hopeful Optimism and Unhelpful Behaviors: A Response to the ACELC
Pastor Larry Peters said this better than I could, so I won’t even try. He offers an excellent commentary on the mailing a small little group of self-appointed “amonishers” of the Missouri Synod has sent throughout the Synod, announcing the formation of what is, effectively, a new church, call it whatever you want, but they are setting up a “synod within the synod.” This is precisely not the kind of behavior we need. Here is what Pastor Peters had to say.
Many, including myself, have offered a cautious and hopeful optimism about the future of the LCMS. On one level we can rejoice that we are talking more honest theology than we have talked for a long time. But this is not a momentary conversation. It is a dialog for the long haul. Conversation that has real effect is honest, it is regular, and it is built upon trust. The people who were elected are good people but the Synodical President has not and will not be installed into office until September 11, 2010. Until that time it is my hope and prayer that the conversation before, during, and after the Synod Convention will continue on every level of our church body.
With that conversation, we would do well to temper the irrational exuberance of some with a patient view toward a long term effort to rebuild consensus, to keep the conversation about theology and not personality, to prioritize the subjects of this conversation, and to keep the conversation positive AND pointed. That said, some are not so sure that they are willing to wait, that the changes wrought in Houston this past week will come fast enough or go far enough. I am concerned about this because this is the very thing that can and has derailed the good efforts of some in the past. They and we need to be careful.
Some have determined to couch their hopeful optimism with some unhelpful pragmatism. The organizing has continued following the convention and now one group is proposing an association of like minded confessing congregations which is self-described as a “loving challenge to the LCMS.” They are planning a “constituting convention” and have sent a fraternal letter of admonition to every LCMS congregation (though we have not received one), and they speak as an action group and not a discussion group. If you exchanged the acronyms you might think this was formed by folks from within the ELCA to counter the controversial and radical actions taken nearly a year ago at their CWA. But it is not. It is a largely lay group from within Missouri.
I guess this is where my concern comes… Those who tried to suggest that the election of Matt Harrison was about a purge or housecleaning of Missouri were told over and over again that this is not the way of real change that endures — rather theological consensus borne of honest, substantial, and serious theological conversation. Yet some of those who are speaking for this new group (unofficially since it is not yet constituted), sound as if the goal is more removal of those who disagree than changing minds through common confession.
Anyone who knows Matt Harrison’s career knows that he is a theologian, a historian, a pastor, an administrator, and a leader. He has the gravitas to argue theology with just about anyone at anytime and he has a wit and winsome personality to frame this debate in fraternal terms. So what is up with those who are presenting their loving challenge to the LCMS — are we in for a bad cop good cop routine… or are some not content to wait for the conversation to even begin… or are some who were for his election not so sure they can count on him? Whatever the answer to this, I think it might be pragmatic to do this but not beneficial to the Church as a whole and the opportunity given by solid election results. So, if anybody is listening, I say, step back and wait a bit…
I am not against organizing, or studying the Confessions, or challenging practices inconsistent with the Confessions… but let’s leave the structures for later and hold off on the shots across the bow… Not everything that is possible is beneficial… I think I read that somewhere….