Monday, September 22, 2008

Don't Get Fooled Again

The August 28th Issues, Etc.™ show included an interview with Dr. Ken Schurb, pastor of Zion Lutheran Church in Moberly, MO. The topic was the recent Synodical restructuring proposals of the Blue Ribbon Task Force on the Synod Structure and Governance, which I previously mentioned here and here. This is most definitely a show which never would have gotten past the “network executive censors” back in the day of the “old” IE. We can thank those same censors for now providing us, albeit indirectly, with the ability to enjoy shows such as this one that are free of executive interference. Here are a few highlights from Todd Wilken’s interview of Dr. Schurb.

Dr. Schurb:
...the structure is going to make a difference in how the Gospel is proclaimed, even maybe how the Gospel is understood. ...the Church is a passive receiver, first of all, of the grace and gifts of Christ - forgiveness, life, and salvation, as He delivers them in Word and Sacrament. And then the Church responds to God by telling the good news... How you think of the Church as the receiver of God’s gifts and as the agent for God’s activity in the world can’t help but how you reflect on that Gospel message and I don’t think that matters of structure need necessarily be entirely neutral. In theory they could be, but I don’t think these matters of structure are entirely [theologically] neutral as regards all that.
Discussing the distinction between the Synod working in behalf of congregations to do what we couldn’t do individually, such as missions to foreign lands or operation of the seminaries, and the Synod working in support of the congregation, directly providing help to congregations in areas such as Christian education, stewardship, evangelism, and youth ministry, Dr. Schurb had this to say:

It’s a critical distinction as you look at this set of proposals, because this set of proposals is very heavy on the service in support of congregations. In fact, by sort of shear weight in the number of mentions and things like that, this is the thing that seemingly this task force has been most concerned with, and therefore relatively less concerned with the more traditional service in behalf of congregations, and not mentioned a great deal, although it’s not absent here, is the original purpose for the foundation of the Synod, which is the conservation of the unity of the true faith.
On the concept of giving more votes to larger congregations:

Now again, there is a theological rational, if not a theologically binding command from the Lord, to structure this way [an equal number of votes per congregation], and that is no congregation has more or less of Christ than any other. Where His Word is proclaimed, where His Sacraments are administered, there is the Church and there is Christ in His forgiving fullness, and no church has more or less of Him than another, be it 50 members, 500 members, 5,000 members, whatever you may have. This now is a fundamental change in the way congregations are represented, and I wonder if it’s not a fundamental change in the way the Synod is conceived.

...My question is, If you’ve got a system in place that does have some theological rhyme or reason, if you move away from it, what does that say about your commitment to that theological rhyme and reason, and, what kind of new theological spin might there be to the new system that you are putting into place?

Again, with regard to representation:
We have a proposal that we’ve already talked about how we have about how you’d represent congregations at the district convention, now, congregations get together in groupings called circuits, 7 to 20 congregations, usually its about 10 or 11, and choose two delegates, again a pastoral delegate and a lay delegate to a national Synodical convention. The new proposal has a very, very different thing. Now those delegates to the national convention would be chosen at the district convention. And again, I think this is huge, because it raises the question “What does the task force have envisioned for the Missouri Synod?” Is it going to be a national church body that is divided into districts, or is it going to be more a confederation of districts that lump together and form a national church body.
Regarding the consolidation of power, Dr. Schurb said

I do see a proposal that would eliminate, or at least morph into other forms potentially. The Synod’s existing program boards, like Congregation Services, Missions, Human Care, and some of those boards might become advisory, and the executives, the top executives especially, who currently serve those boards, would no longer be working so much for those boards, they would be reporting directly to the Synodical President, according to this proposal. And I wonder, for example, does that mean, the proposal doesn’t say explicitly one way or the other, that the members of the executive staff would also be appointed by the President in the first place?
He continues:

I think that that’s an important overall question that needs to be put to this task force in everything it’s saying: “Why is this change better? Give us some rationale.”
If you’ve listened to many Issues, Etc.™ shows, you’re aware that there is often commentary created by the lyrics of the bumper music that is sometimes as telling than the dialogue, and this show is no exception. The lead-in to one of the breaks included a portion of The Who’s song “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” Here’s the lyrics from the clip that was played:

I'll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around me
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I'll get on my knees and pray
We don't get fooled again
Finally, Dr. Schurb’s parting comment says it all:
A final word from one of my seminary professors: “Perhaps powerful denominational machinery is alien to the American Lutheran spirit. Certainly it is foreign to American Lutheran history.” That’s what he said. Are we seeing a new day?
Click below to listen to the show:

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