Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Life In the Post 2004 Convention Era, A Pastor's Perspective

by Rev. Glenn E. Huebel

(Presented previously and republished with permission. Also published at Consensus.)

My assignment today is to provide a parish pastor’s perspective on our Synodical struggles. Pastors in our Synod serve in a great variety of ministries, and context shapes perspective. A pastor who serves a small rural congregation of families who have been connected for decades, whose grandparents were baptized in the congregation, and who see very few new faces on Sunday will see a different Synod than a pastor who serves in the inner city or one who serves a fast growing suburban congregation. It is only fair for you to know my background before you hear my perspective. I have served in many different kinds of ministries and communities during my 24 years in the pastoral office. As a young man I pastored a tiny mission congregation in a quiet little old Texas railroad town with one traffic signal, one small high school, and no chain stores, not even a McDonalds. I am now serving as Sr. Pastor of a multi-staffed congregation with a preschool and school in a heavily populated and fast growing suburban community with traffic snarls, three large high schools, shopping centers, and new neighborhoods on every corner. I have also served everything in between. All of this I have been blessed to experience without ever changing locations or congregations. I was sent out of seminary in 1980 to plant a congregation in Keller, Texas, and the world has been dramatically changing around me ever since. I am not a confessional pastor who lives in the delusion that we can recreate the 1950s or any other era. I am used to dealing with change, and I know that we must adapt to new circumstances, but not through accommodation. From the beginning to the present, Messiah, Keller, has been a haven and refuge for orthodox Lutherans who want to remain steadfast and constant in confession of the truth as the world changes around us. Messiah’s membership is a cross section of the community itself, a wide distribution of ages and economic status with a large core of young families. A large proportion of our members are professionals working in the airline, defense or high-tech industries. As I have informed my congregation of synodical problems and issues through the years, the people of Messiah have remained theologically unified. We may debate for an hour over a $50 item in an $800,000 budget, but we are of one accord in the important matters. The present crisis is no exception. For this rare and precious blessing I give God thanks daily.

It might be helpful for you to know also that I am a pastor who is well acquainted with our Synodical President. Our relationship actually began on a very positive basis over 30 years ago when I was a 19 year old church youth director in Port Arthur, Texas. I greatly admired Pastor Kieschnick, the young and enthusiastic pastor of Redeemer, Beaumont, who was also the spiritual counselor for the zone youth organization. This experience gives me some understanding of those who have fallen under the Kieschnick spell today. Pastor Kieschnick, as circuit counselor, ordained me in my home congregation in 1980. During the following years we occasionally engaged in friendly correspondence and personal conversations, discussing various issues troubling the Synod. We did not always agree with one another, but our relationship was cordial. After he was elected District President he appointed me to my first term as circuit counselor and thereby placed me on his “team.” This was a magnanimous choice on his part since I was a founder and editor of Concord, and he was not a fan of unofficial publications (at least, not confessional ones). The circuit counselors met for two three-day retreats each year to discuss Synodical issues and to be informed of the Kieschnick agenda. Our conversations and correspondence became increasingly confrontational as I saw, firsthand, his agenda and leadership methods, and as he saw that my loyalty was not to him …. my reluctance and refusal to be a “team player.” I do appreciate, however, the opportunity that I had, while circuit counselor, to deal directly with those on the other side of the theological fence. I became keenly aware that the issues are not as simple as both sides often make them out to be. I also became aware that our disagreements are not merely a matter of semantics. In the end, I think both Jerry and I finally realized that our conversation is futile. I think he appreciates my advice even less than I appreciate his agenda. Our conversation has virtually ceased since he became Synod President.

My assignment is to describe life in the Missouri Synod in the post 2004 Convention era. The assumption, of course, is that the 2004 Convention was a watershed for our Synod, and it certainly was quite a significant event. It is now crystal clear that this is no longer our “grandfather’s Synod” even in doctrine and confession. Nevertheless, I am convinced that the real watershed occurred with the election of Rev. Kieschnick in 2001. All that has followed since that election, including the Benke controversy, the power struggles of the past triennium, and the 2004 convention, has been a predictable and natural result of the 2001 election. Confessional leaders differ from one another in style or degree, but Rev. Kieschnick is a leader of a different KIND. Pastor Lawrence White calls him the first “post modern Synod president,” and he is right. He is a thorough-going, unabashed, impatient, pragmatist. President Kieschnick emphasizes and focuses on what works instead of what is true. He prefers the measurable over the unseen, the things he can control over the free course of the Gospel working where and when it pleases God. He tends to view the church primarily as an outward institution rather than a union of saints who hear and follow the voice of Christ. President Kieschnick is not just a little more moderate than old LCMS conservatives. He has a fundamentally different approach to the nature of the institution, ecclesiastical authority, and even to the clarity and authority of the objective Word of God. This kind of difference has been described quite well, I think, by Bonhoeffer, in his “Life Together,” where he makes an interesting contrast between the community of Spirit and the human community. He wrote,

“In the community of the Spirit the Word of God alone rules; in the human community of spirit there rules, along with the Word, the man who is furnished with exceptional powers, experience, and magical, suggestive capacities. There God’s Word alone is binding; here, besides the Word, men bind others to themselves. There all power, honor, and domination are surrendered to the Holy Spirit; here spheres of power and influence of a personal nature are sought and cultivated. It is true, in so far as these are devout men, that they do this with the intention of serving the highest and the best, but in actuality the result is to dethrone the Holy Spirit, to relegate Him to remote unreality. In actuality it is only the human that is operative here.” (From Life Together, Harper and Row, 1957, page 32)
With the election of Kieschnick, Synod crossed the line from a “community of the Spirit” to a “human community of spirit,” whether it intended to or not, whether it realized it or not. An institutional revolution was set in motion. No longer are church politics ruled and shaped by theology. Under President Kieschnick, theology has become the handmaiden to political expediency and social engineering. In this reversal, the centrality of concord is replaced by the centrality of institutional harmony and growth, the authority of the Word is replaced by Synod’s official “interpretation of the Word,” which is, coincidentally, under the President’s control, the theology of glory replaces the theology of the cross, the relationship between Synod and congregation is reversed (i.e., Synod does not belong to congregations, congregations belong to the Synod), the authority of clear Scriptures, is replaced by the authority of fuzzy and complicated bylaws which always seem to say what the President wishes them to say, theologians are replaced by administrators, pastors are replaced with institutional managers and entrepreneurs, and the principle of sheep judging shepherds is abandoned.


Kieschnick is a post-modern leader with a large following of people who have been steeped in post-modernist culture. He is a religious manifestation of our cultural values and philosophies, and he understands quite well that he is riding in the jet stream of our times. The momentum will carry him as far as he wishes to go. Great numbers of people who fill our churches (even our conservative churches), educated in our public schools (and even in our church schools), influenced daily by the mass media, working in corporate America, and only meagerly instructed in Scriptures and Confessions, understand the Kieschnick agenda. He speaks their language. His pragmatic spirit and his emotional appeal resonate with them. On the other hand, the values, priorities, and language of “old Missouri” are strange and foreign to this culture. Confessional pastors must struggle mightily to keep their own congregations from being swept away by the swift current. I continue to hear about the importance of “catechesis” and I agree with that priority, but I also recognize that the hope of teaching a whole Synod, the majority of which is outside our realm of direct influence, to turn and swim against the current is ambitious to say the least. When we add to this the fact that a majority of the members of our churches are probably led by pastors who are eager supporters of the Kieschnick revolution, the mission becomes humanly impossible. I am not suggesting that we should despair, for the Lord is with us, but we cannot correctly evaluate our alternatives unless we understand and confront the stark realities we face. Frankly, I think many are in a state of denial. Two or three troublesome Convention resolutions are but the tip of a huge ice burg. For once, let us deal with the whole problem and not just with its superficial symptoms.

How does all this impact the confessional LCMS congregation and its pastor? To understand that we must go back to the reason Synod was founded. Synod was established to help confessional Lutheran congregations persevere and multiply in the world. The confessional congregations of the 19th century sought and found one another because they knew they needed one another. Without the support from and accountability to faithful and like-minded believers, temptations to compromise the truth or to become legalistic and sectarian are very difficult to escape. Thus, under “objectives” in the Synod’s Constitution we find such things as conserving and promoting the unity of the true faith, strengthening congregations to give bold witness, recruiting pastors and other church workers, protecting congregations and pastors in the performance of their official duties, and so forth. Let us consider how or whether the Synod can accomplish these noble objectives under the new circumstances we face.

CONSERVATION AND PROMOTION OF UNITY OF FAITH
Under its present leadership the Synod no longer has credibility, nor perhaps even the will, to fulfill its very first objective - to conserve and promote the unity of the true faith. A Synod that, in convention, endorses and champions a joint prayer service with the heathen simply cannot, with any integrity, provide a united defense against unionism. Nor can it enforce its own stated condition that Synod members must “renounce unionism and syncretism of every description.” Such a Synod cannot and will not support my congregation or me in efforts to maintain doctrinal distinctions or to confess the truth in controversial situations. If a discontented and vocal minority in my congregation complained to Synodical officials that our confessional boundaries around altar and pulpit are too rigorous, the officials would certainly sympathize with them. The
best
we could hope for, in such a situation, is that the officials would politely ignore the complaints. We can no longer lean upon Synod to support or help us confess and practice the truth, much less to hold us accountable for confession. In other words, faithful congregations and pastors who take up the cross can no longer expect the Synod to defend or encourage them. And such neglect of duty on the part of Synod is, as I say, the best we can hope for.

The worst is that Synodical officials may now become an enemy to faithful servants. When the outward harmony and peace of the institution replaces unity of doctrine and confession as the principle goal of church leadership, confessors become political threats and liabilities to the institution. The orthodox can be tolerated if they remain silent or if they hold the truth only as their personal opinion, but confessors must be “dealt with” very firmly. Like the prophets of old, they are threats to institutional harmony. The present administration views confessors as the same kind of threat that we view false teachers. Any congregation or pastor who is determined to separate from error and confess the truth, particularly one that refuses to give credence to the official sophistries and euphemisms used to justify doctrinal changes, will eventually become the target of Synodical contempt and discipline. President Kieschnick’s reference to Constitutional Article XIII, “Expulsion from Synod,” to respond to those who formulated and signed “That They May Be One,” is an ominous sign. This heavy-handed approach is justified through the shameful process of marginalizing and demonizing the confessional minority. Not only are confessors called “speed-bumps” to progress, and “divisive troublemakers,” they have been publicly declaimed as right wing extremists, power-mongering control freaks, liturgical Nazis (or just Nazis), servants of Satan, and snakes who do not belong in the house. Men of integrity and solid reputation have been slanderously accused of misappropriating funds or unethical conduct, without the slightest official opportunity afforded them to offer public defense of their reputations. And all of this is done openly by enthusiastic supporters of a synodical president who prides himself as a vigorous enforcer of the eighth commandment. An astonishing contradiction is now apparent. The same people who insist upon loving restraint and gentleness in the way we speak of ELCA or even other religions, seem to have no qualms about bashing confessionals in their own Synod in the harshest of terms.

More significant for the long term health of the Synod is the growing concern that the call process is increasingly controlled and manipulated by a bureaucracy with a clear bias against confessional pastors and congregations. The Synodical leadership now has the power, through controlling the call process, to contain confessional pastors by relegating them to safe closets of ministry. As it has often happened in church history, the greatest enemy of the confessor is not the enemy without, but the enemy within the walls of the ecclesiastical institution. The Synod is no longer a safe place for a bold Lutheran confessor to live and work.

The present situation in Synod leads to another kind of danger or concern for the orthodox congregation and pastor. As Synod officially strays into the green fields of heterodoxy, we have no assurance that LCMS visitors to our altars have been properly instructed. In fact, we might well assume that they have not been. Our present communion policy excludes members of other denominations, including ELCA, because we ASSUME that their personal faith is consistent with the public confession of the churches to which they belong. Even if a person’s private confession differs from his church membership, we confront the brother or sister with the problem of making a contradictory confession. For example, if a person is a good “Lutheran” privately, he must, nevertheless, be confronted with his membership in the Baptist church, or the Roman Church, or the Lodge. Though we have suspected for years that many LCMS members were not in agreement with the public confession of the LCMS, we charitably assumed that their personal faith was consistent with their public confession. Their LCMS membership was the basis for our confidence that they believed and confessed what the LCMS officially taught … lots of charity, I know, but we are not in the business of trying to read hearts. To remain consistent with our former practice, must we now assume that an LCMS member outside of our congregation agrees with the present official positions of our church body? If not, on what basis must we make the judgments required for faithful administration of the sacrament? I assume that most of you here today did not change your confession just because Synod changed her own in the recent Convention, and I hope that your numbers are legion. Do we now begin practicing selective fellowship? What does “close” or “closed” communion mean in our present context?

More serious yet, perhaps, is the issue of receiving transfers. Messiah, Keller, has grown significantly through the years, in large part through transfer growth. The members of Messiah who have joined in the last 10 years far outnumber those who are still present from the first 15 years of our existence. We have not previously required that LCMS transfers take our fourteen week pastor’s class, but we must now seriously reevaluate since it goes beyond charity to simply assume that transfers believe as we do, especially in the issues in controversy. We must face the reality that they often do not. Just as our Synod seems to have been overtaken by members who have not been properly instructed, individual congregations can be transformed by an influx of uneducated new members. Yet requiring a significant instruction period as a pre-requisite for receiving LCMS transfers has its own consequences, including the real possibility that we lose many opportunities to lift up the weak or uninstructed because they will take the path of least resistance. How do we hold firmly to the truth without being elitist, judgmental, separatistic, or indifferent to the needs of the immature Christian? I believe that the Church Growth enthusiasts are in grave danger of falling into one ditch by removing all doctrinal barriers, but we confessionals are in danger of falling into the other by building impenetrable fortresses that only the veteran, true blue LCMS warriors can enter. I do not propose an answer to this. I am just presenting a growing tension that has resulted from the doctrinal disintegration of our Synod.

MISSION WORK
The second purpose of organizing a Synod is mission work, but in this area the Kieschnick revolution raises another important issue. Can a Synod which values the external institution more than unity of doctrine and confession fulfill its purpose to foster and sustain mission work in the world? President Kieschnick and Jesus First have effectively used “missions” as the primary reason to call for the ceasing of wrangling over doctrine. I don’t think I need to explain to this audience how foolish and dangerous is the practice of dichotomizing missions and doctrine, but it seems the whole Protestant realm in America has fallen for this cheap trick, and a great many LCMS people have blindly joined the happy parade. The result will not be church growth, but church decline as the Word of God is pushed to the fringe. Luther reminds us that if we leave doctrine out, Satan himself will gladly pitch in the help the church “grow.”

One might ask whether a Synod which strongly defends syncretism as a mission strategy has a real understanding of what the church’s mission is, but that would not be fair. We must assume, in spite of the agonizing controversy we have endured, that our opponents are sincere in their confession that “there is no other name under heaven, given among men, by which we must be saved,” and that they simply cannot see how participation in a prayer service with rank idolaters severely undermines and compromises that truth. Even so, much has been revealed about how they believe the mission of Christ can be accomplished – certainly NOT by proclaiming to the world that there is only One God who will judge the world in righteousness, and NOT by the balanced preaching of God’s Holy Law and saving Gospel. Rather, they seem to assume that the church is built through worldly means, just as any other social institution, through making use of good PR opportunities and photo ops, establishing friendly relationships, diplomacy, and various marketing strategies. At
best
, such mission efforts will do no harm to souls, but will simply waste enormous resources. At best they will only distract the church from its God-given mission. At worst, such efforts will weaken and even destroy the church’s mission to the world. According to the parable of the sower, shallow soil produces quick growth that wilts in the heat of the sun (Matt 13:21). By watering down the church’s message and substituting entertainment for the preaching of repentance and remission of sins, the church is being fattened for Satan’s day of slaughter. Does our strategy enable the church to win the world, or the world to win the church?

Closely connected to the topic of missions is the plight of faithful Lutherans who move about the country seeking truly Lutheran congregations. In some regions of the country such congregations are extremely difficult, if not impossible, to find. Every pastor here has probably dealt with the problem of trying to find faithful pastors and congregations for members who move to other areas of the country. Unfortunately, no one in the District or Synod mission departments seems to care about the needs of traditional Lutherans. Our Synod evidently feels no obligation to provide ministry for humble Lutherans who simply want a recognizably Lutheran traditional liturgical service with Lutheran hymns, and Law-Gospel sermons firmly rooted in the lectionary readings. These folks do not want to be assaulted with praise bands, show-boating pastors, how-to sermons which deal with relevant issues rather than biblical texts, emotional manipulation, spiritual gifts tests, and all the other baggage that comes with being “mission-driven.” These humble Lutherans, who used to form the backbone of our church body, are now neglected and often treated with utter contempt by the most zealous missionaries among us. They are often ridiculed and mocked by those who think they know better. I know from personal experience that mission congregations today don’t really want such “old Lutherans.” As a young mission developer I naively sought to gather sound Lutherans to form the core of the new congregation so that converts could be taught and guided. I discovered, in District seminars and training sessions, that it is considered best to avoid Lutherans and to gather a core of unchurched people. Fuddy duddy Lutherans, with their Lutheran expectations, are only a nuisance and hindrance to church growth missions. The assumption always seems to be that they have plenty of other places to go. There may have been a time when that was true, but no longer. When I addressed this concern with a leader in the mission department of the Texas District, and asked him why they are not providing ministries also for these blessed saints who move to new and growing communities, he cordially responded that that was not the responsibility of the mission board. He did not know who should have that responsibility. This mission leader was not antagonistic to me. In fact, I believe he sympathized with my concern, and I have some evidence that he is now, at least, pondering the issue, but the reality is, the needs of the members of your congregations and mine are not even on the radar screen of our Synod’s concerns in developing new missions. They do not count in all the demographic studies because they belong to Christ. By that I mean the traditional Lutherans are not “unchurched” and therefore, do not count in the most important statistics. I sometimes joke with faithful Lutherans that if they just dropped out of church for a while they would become demographically significant. As “unchurched” people, their opinions of what a church should be would possibly attract great interest in the Mission Boards of Synod. Isn’t that silly?

So, why don’t WE plant these necessary missions? We (Messiah) would be happy to do so! In fact, we
have
done so, but the District was not exactly happy about that either. We planted a congregation in a community adjacent to ours, a community without any Lutheran church whatsoever. The mission we planted was geographically closer to us than to any other Lutheran Church in the area. We informed District that we would have to use our District contributions to fund this new mission. The District made it clear that, though they had no intention of financially supporting this new mission congregation, they did not think it appropriate for us to take away from the missions they intended to start. A few years later, the District heavily funded a “cutting edge” church growth mission congregation in our own back yard. That congregation, located in our community, just a few short miles due west of us, was initiated by a congregation in another community, 10-12 miles due east of us. The reason District gave for funding that mission was that they fit the mission paradigm required by the Mission Board; namely, the church growth paradigm. The Texas District Mission Board, following the Kieschnick endorsed “Strategic Plan,” has demonstrated clearly that they have no intention of initiating traditional, confessional congregations anywhere. Is it different elsewhere? Do you think it would fly to have a few of us in this room pool our mission money to start confessional churches in the Atlantic District? Ironically, we cannot do that because we are a part of this Synod and must “trust” the Atlantic District to care for the sheep of our congregations who move there. Even though we have a vested pastoral interest in having confessional congregations on East and West coasts, or in urban wildernesses, we can do nothing to help create them because we belong to the Missouri Synod. In other words, the confessional movement has been essentially “castrated.” The Synod will not start missions to serve our people, and we are prevented by our fellowship obligations from doing so. This means, essentially, that the Synod, originally created to foster and support confessional churches, is now preventing their mission development.

RECRUIT, TRAIN, AND SUPPORT PASTORS AND CHURCH WORKERS

A third purpose of Synod is to provide help in recruiting, training, and supporting pastors and other church workers needed for the ministry of the Gospel. This depends in large measure upon our seminaries and colleges, but these institutions do not create servants of the church, they mold and shape those sent to them from the congregations of the Synod. Young men enter our seminaries from all kinds of backgrounds, even if they are lifetime members of LCMS churches. A member of my own seminary class was an open defender of the homosexual lifestyle. He is now a District officer in one of the most liberal districts of the Synod. One young pastor recently told me that he entered the seminary steeped in “Navigator” doctrines, and knowingly rejected the doctrine of the real presence. Thankfully, the St. Louis seminary made a Lutheran of him, but how many like him simply “cooperate and graduate?” Many young people today, born and raised in “Lutheran” congregations, have never seen a liturgical service. Some may never have even heard the Creed confessed in a service. Can someone who was spiritually nurtured in a completely different kind of church environment be transformed by four years of college or seminary to function well in a congregation like Messiah? More basic still, are our schools are even
trying
to prepare church workers to fit in an environment such as ours?

We must reckon with the fact that the neo-Pentecostal/church growth/liberal wing of the Synod will use its considerable political force to shape our schools to respond to their perceived needs for church workers. They do not want or need theologians, historians, traditional musicians, or classical teachers. They want religious marketers and salesmen, charismatic leaders, and people who can design and lead “quality” dog and pony shows to stimulate positive emotions. Classical studies will decrease, and training in new methods and techniques for social manipulation will increase. It may take time to shape our schools to conform to the Kieschnick revolution, but it must happen. The Marquarts and the Feuerhahns must yield their seats to the Luekes and Howers of our Synod, as style replaces substance. This will create a dilemma for faithful pastors and congregations. Not only must we question whether such schools can fill our needs, but do we continue to recruit the youth of our church and entrust them to such institutions of learning? At secular schools they expect to hear things that are contrary to the faith they have learned. They are prepared to be discriminatory. We do not, however, expect
our
schools to lead our youth away from the doctrines they have learned in our churches. I was very happy to hear that the last Synodical Convention affirmed the Biblical teaching of creation and condemned both atheistic and theistic evolution, but alas, we all know how ineffective such resolutions are when they trickle down to some of the Boards of Regents and University faculties. On the other hand, now that our Synod has significantly liberalized our position on the role of women in the church, we can be sure that the pressure for women’s ordination on our campuses will increase. Furthermore, you can be sure that teachers and professors who oppose our recent concessions to liberalism will be gagged by the Kieschnick machine. The double standard of allowing liberals miles while denying confessionals inches will continue. Some of you are astonished by that blatant double standard. We Texas confessionals simply say to you, “Welcome to our world.”

Almost all the other functions of Synod are also jeopardized by the Kieschnick revolution, but they impact the congregation a little less directly than the ones above. The thought that fellowship discussions with other church bodies are being led by the present administration is truly frightening, for the long term consequences will be devastating. I think we all realize that these leaders will simply give the store away – all in love, of course.

In conclusion, the great Synod PR machine will continue to taut the Kieschnick administration as one of renewal and regeneration. It is repeatedly affirmed that under his vigorous leadership the Synod will face the challenges of the 21st century and set the world ablaze with the fire of the Gospel. In this scenario we confessionals are depicted as the old cumbersome, dying breed of Lutherans, dinosaurs who are almost extinct, and should politely stand out of the way of progress. Satan’s lies are always magnificently adorned because he is a master of deception. (“You shall be as gods.”) Behind the glorious fa├žade is a very sick tree called the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. Just as our bodies go through stages and finally grow old and die, so also do our congregations and church bodies. The once vigorous and fruitful Missouri Synod is no longer, and many believe it will not be again. Many may disagree with brother White’s pronouncement that our beloved Synod is already dead because they see that she still has many green branches and bears fruit, but the tree is very sick. The 2004 Convention was not just a symptom of her disease, but of her terminal condition. As Bonhoeffer says, “only the human is operative there.” Some are suggesting that the living branches can still be the instruments of reviving the sick tree, but in the perspective of this pastor it is far more likely – even inevitable – that the diseases of the tree will eventually infect and kill the remaining branches. The Synod has lost confidence in the Word of God, and is desperately seeking alliances with the world, thinking that she will be revived by accommodating the culture. We know that this strategy will only hasten her demise, but she is now deaf to our voice, and to the voice of her founders. There is a time to grieve, and certainly that time has come upon us, because the 2004 Convention convincingly said, “We want external peace, not concord.” Ironically, the Gospel cannot thrive where that spirit prevails. It was the desire to maintain external peace that gave birth to the plot to kill Jesus (John 11: ).

Nevertheless, under old trees, new shoots spring forth. Out of a corrupt Israel, came the Christ and the 12 Apostles, and the powerful movement first called “the Way.” Out of a corrupt Roman Church, the Lutheran Church sprang. Out of the corrupt Lutheran church in Germany, the Missouri Synod was born. Next to the glory of the grand old tree, the new shoot is not impressive. Aged saints wept at the dedication of the new temple in Jerusalem. But let us always remember, God’s blessing is not bound to institutions of our making. He binds Himself to the Gospel. When Jesus said “follow Me,” He was not commanding us to be faithful to a Synod, but to His life-giving Word. “If you continue in my Word, then you are my disciples, and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” Walther reminded us long ago that the true treasure of the church is not our size or buildings but our doctrine. If the Synod chooses to go in another way than the path of the Word, we cannot follow. We can go only where the Word leads, and we cannot force it. Again, Bonhoeffer writes in the Cost of Discipleship:

"If it is obvious that the Word is being rejected, if it is forced to yield its ground, the disciple must yield with it. But if the Word carries on the battle the disciple must also stand his ground.”
May God grant us wisdom and boldness as we face the challenges of our day.

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