Monday, February 15, 2010

The Brother’s of John the Steadfast Conference 2010

Where to start? If you enjoy hanging out with fellow confessional Lutherans like I do, you’d certainly have a great time at the BJS Conference.

We gathered on Friday afternoon in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and departed on Saturday afternoon filled with God’s Word and Christ’s body and blood, given and shed for the forgiveness of our sins. There is no greater joy.

This year’s speakers included Pastor Klemet Preus, journalist Mollie Ziegler Hemingway, and Pastor Todd Wilken - "The Fired and the Staff."  The "fired" is of course a reference to Pastor Wilken who was fired from his host duties at KFUO.  The staff refers to Mollie and Pastor Preus, who are both staff writers for BJS, and also to Pastor Preus's book The Fire and the Staff.

Pastor Preus described how the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod has become more and more a body which emphasizes what we do rather than what we get. Due to the influence of Evangelicalism in the Synod, our understandings of unity, worship, and the Office of the Ministry are being corrupted. He taught us and encouraged us to “defend the unity of Christ’s church based upon what He gives and what we all receive by grace. Defend and use the Divine Service of Christ’s Word and Sacrament as gifts which he freely gives and which we, by grace, get. Defend the pastor’s call as a divine responsibility to give.”

Mollie described her journey as a journalist, relating the ups and downs of a Christian journalist in a secular world, and the ups and downs of a Lutheran journalist in a sometimes less-than-Lutheran LCMS bureaucracy. Mollie’s smiling face really exemplified her love for her job, which shines through in her writing. I escorted Mollie to and from one of the No-Pietists-Allowed parties, as well as taking her to the airport, so we had plenty of time to compare notes. It was fun discussing writing with a professional journalist – I found that the two of us share many of the same experiences, challenges, and goals when it comes to our writing venues.

Pastor Todd Wilken, was nothing less than the usual Wilken. Sending out emails and talking to Jeff on the phone about Issues Etc. business when he wasn’t speaking, and insightfully describing the current state of affairs of the LCMS when at the podium. He discussed “the myth of LCMS exceptionalism” – how the LCMS pictures itself to be incapable of error or calamity simply because it’s the LCMS. He recommended that if you want to believe the myth of LCMS exceptionalism, read President Gerald Kieschnick’s new book Waking the Sleeping Giant. Our belief in LCMS “manifest destiny” has led to confessional complacency, led to the failure of church discipline, led to the idea that pure doctrine and practice are enemies of evangelism, and led to a corporate culture that values image over integrity. By contrast, he pointed out that our founders knew that the LCMS wasn’t exceptional, and suggested that we might have to do a man hunt to find the real Lutherans.

We were treated to two fine sermons by Pastor Tony Sikora and District President Herb Mueller, as well as superb music led by Cantor Phillip Magness. We were also treated to a great selection of No-Pietists-Allowed Parties. The choices included wine tasting with Pastor Preus, chocolate, wine, and cheese with Mollie (that’s where I started out – who could pass up Mollie and chocolate? Thanks to Richard & Gail Sutis for hosting us.), and trips to the Bull and Bear Smoke Shop and Quigley’s Irish Pub.

It was about 11:30 p.m. when I dropped Mollie off at her hotel. I had previously gotten Pastor Messer’s phone number and gave him a call. He and two of his parishioners, Larry and Andrea Elliot patiently waited for me to show up at the pub while I took a rather lengthy detour, having misread the map. Who’d expect a pilot to be able to read a map anyway? It’s been a while since I closed down a bar, but we managed to do it this night. It seems we all had a great time talking theology and listening to a rather loud band.

Four hours of sleep was more than enough time to show up for the manly breakfast, which started at eight o’clock sharp the next morning. Just like last year, Pastor Henrickson led us in a couple of his fine musical creations, including this one, inspired by the suggestion at the recent LCMS Model Theological Conference on Worship that one way to attract “seekers” is by the scent of freshly baked bread. The song was titled “Scent Warm Like Bread Baking,” sung to the tune of “Sent Forth By God’s Blessing:”

Scent warm like bread baking
The converts are making
The fragrance of bread makes them feel like we care
A cookie or Danish
Or anything grainish
If fresh from the oven says love’s in the air
The fresh-baked aroma
Reminds them of home, a
Subconscious attraction when we make our pitch
The bread will entice them
A bagel we’ll slice them
The numbers will rise from the old bake-and-switch

This year included a brainstorming session for the upstart Sisters of Katie Luther, which I think will be a great complement to BJS.

A special thank you for all the people who helped make this Conference a success at Bethany Lutheran Church and School in Naperville, including Chad Baganz, Julie Bernier, Angie Blaesner, Carol Bramstedt, Gretchen Brouch, Laurie Cade, Karen Calpin, Mark Cummuta, Rev. Jacob Erhard, Dr. Jennifer Fitch, Tom and Elaine Gavin, Dave Groth, Samantha Groth, Fred Hardin, Mollie Ziegler Hemingway, Tyler Heuer, Helen Jaworski, Stephen R. Johnson, Erich Keller, Donna Linnemeyer, Don Lohrentz, Caitlin Magness, Cantor Phillip Magness, Bethany Mueller, Rev. Herb Mueller, Pam Mueller, Tom Mueller, Bethany Novak, Shawn Novak, Scott Ostrander, Sabrina Paar, Brad Perry, Eric Ramer, Linda Ratliff, Phyllis Rossow, Rev. Tim Rossow, Nada Salvino, Rev. Stephen Schumacher, Rev. Tony Sikora, Nancy Skibinski, Sue Sreniawski, Rich and Gail Sutis, Michelle Stehle, Jonathan Syres, Chris Thilk, Erin Thompson, Bethany Vasilie, Mike Vasilie, Kim Vertuno, Aimee Walsh, Rev. Todd Wilken, Sandy Wischmeyer, Beth Zobel, Marlin Zobel, Suzanne Zobel, and Nick Zuardo.

I’m looking forward to next year’s conference, again scheduled for the second week in February.

For more coverage, including photos and audio of the speakers and church services, check out the BJS website.


Anonymous said...

Kinda makes me wish I had been there. I guess I'd better mark my calendar now. Good report, Scott.


Rev. Thomas C. Messer said...


It was wonderful to spend some time with you, my friend. Like you, I can't remember the last time I closed a bar down, but I was happy to do so talking theology with you. :) Keep fighting the good fight of the faith, brother!

In Christ,
Pr. Messer

Scott Diekmann said...

Thanks Pastor Messer. That was a truly great time. I wish I had more brothers I could close down bars with. I'm already looking forward to next year. Sleep can wait!

Dave Lambert said...

My wife (Mary Ellyn) was happy that she finally was able to meet you in person!

Scott Diekmann said...

I was happy to meet both of you in person as well Dave. I felt bad that we didn't get more time to sit down and chat. Are you coming next year?

Dave Lambert said...

We hope to attend again next year!

Michael Paul 白霈德牧師 said...

Too bad I left the pub too early...but maybe I'm just too old.