Thanks to Craig, Jeff, and Todd for bringing us a quality product day in and day out. We all appreciate your efforts.
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Thanks to Craig, Jeff, and Todd for bringing us a quality product day in and day out. We all appreciate your efforts.
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
if his presentation includes the same god presented in The Shack, it will be a false god to which her refers. This makes me wonder if his appearance will be one which presents valuable truths for the assembled guests to digest or an exercise in honing one’s apologetic skills.
Young told the audience that "the God of evangelical Christianity is a monster." He was referring to the evangelical belief that God is a God of judgment and will judge the unbelieving. Young also rejects the biblical view of atonement…. Young told the audience that his book has now sold 14 million copies. He says that he believes his book has been a "god thing" to heal people's souls because so many people have been tainted by this evangelical God. …In a derogatory manner, he said there are "1.4 million" rules in the evangelical church….
As Paul warns “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish everyone with tears” (Acts 20:28-31 ESV).
Monday, June 28, 2010
The Truth about the Stewardship of
LCMS World Relief and Human Care
For the sake of our work of mercy and those in need around the world, and to provide reassurance to our donors, it is necessary to respond to the Jesus First Delegate Letter No. 9. As chairman of the Board for Human Care, I have requested our board Vice Chair, John Edson (a Certified Public Accountant), to prepare a response.Rev. Bernie Seter
Chair, Board for Human Care
But it gets worse. In Jesus First Delegate Letter No. 9, the numbers have actually been twisted and turned in such a way that they no longer tell the truth. We will give them the benefit of the doubt that their raw numbers are correct, but their understanding and therefore their interpretation of the numbers is in error. I will make a promise to the author of that article: I won’t try to preach if he doesn’t try to do accounting!
Now the truth! The following information was provided to all World Relief and Human Care Board Members at regular board meetings. This information is available to anyone who asks. All the information is from financial statements prepared by the Synod’s accounting department.
Over the past 8 years (2003 through 2010), WR-HC has been responsible for expenditures totaling $108,458,610 (through May 2010). Of this, $14,200,077 has been given to support ministry areas within the Synod, and $67,164,394 has been granted to others. This total of $81,364,471 has funded the programs and mission of WR-HC. During this same 8-year period, administrative, fundraising, and communications costs have totaled $27,094,140.
In each of WR-HC’s monthly financial statements prepared by the Synod’s accounting department, a comparison is made to the benchmarks established by the Charities Review Council and the Better Business Bureau. Each of these agencies has established a maximum benchmark as to the amount of administrative, fundraising, and communications costs that a good charitable organization should maintain. The Charities Review Council benchmark is 30% of total expenditures, and the Better Business Bureau is 35% of total expenditures. The 8 -year history for WR-HC is 24.9% for overhead expenditures. 75% of donor dollars go to the mission and programs of WR-HC. To our knowledge, WR-HC is the only department in Synod that compares itself to these nationally established benchmarks.
Looking at the same 8-year period, the administrative, fundraising, and communications costs have ranged from 35.9% (2004) down to 13.2% (2006)—all within tolerable range of the benchmarks. At the same time, WR-HC has always maintained a positive fund balance (i.e., cash in the bank) which has helped the Synod as a whole cover cash flow shortfalls in other areas. In essence, the Synod has borrowed funds from WR-HC on an interest-free basis. This has been a great blessing to Synod, Inc., but is also a significant cost borne by LCMS WR-HC.
Jesus First would also have you believe that Lutheran World Relief (LWR) is a better-managed organization because their ratios appear to be better than WR-HC. But this is comparing apples to oranges. LWR includes “gifts in kind” (e.g., quilts and other material goods, etc.) in their revenues, representing approximately 30% of their total income. The Synod financial statements for WR-HC do not account for gifts in kind. That’s okay because when you do the right calculations based on the proper use of financial information, WR-HC meets the benchmarks even without accounting for material goods donated to us. Lutheran World Relief is a great organization, but WR-HC is not the same—neither with respect to mission nor to funding—and therefore any comparison should only be made with a complete picture in mind.
Let’s look at some other financial matters that have occurred during this same time period. WR-HC was the recipient of funding from the unrestricted funds of Synod, but during this time period those funds have gone from $800,000 in 2001 to zero in 2006. Thus, WR-HC is currently responsible for raising all of its own funds through its own staff with the assistance of the LCMS Foundation. During this same period, WR-HC also took on two major programs of the Synod—Veterans of the Cross, and Life Ministries. The Synod was struggling to fund Veterans of the Cross. In short, WR-HC costs corporate Synod nothing! In fact, WR-HC provides substantial funding to the Synod to pay for overhead costs for the International Center and support services. WR-HC pays its own way—and more!
Another transition has also taken place during this 8-year period. WR-HC has gone from an organization that was almost exclusively a grant-making organization to one that not only makes grants and supports human care projects, but also has its own internal capacity to meet human care needs. The internal capacities of WR-HC that have been built up over the past 10 years include district and congregational services, social ministries, pastoral counseling and clinical care, life ministries, health ministries, deaconess and intern programs, Medical Mercy Teams, and disaster relief both internationally and domestically. (See the recent publication, Decade of Mercy.) These programs would simply not exist if WR-HC had not made the transition to greater capacity.
WR-HC has taken the lead in maintaining integrity in relationships in the Lutheran crossroads. WR-HC is the primary interface with Lutheran World Relief, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services, Lutheran Services of America, and many other inter-Lutheran agencies. Over the past 10 years, WR-HC has provided a total of $27,392,251 to these organizations.
WR-HC is not a bureaucracy built to administer grants, as Jesus First would imply. It is a group of unbelievably dedicated people bound together in the name of Jesus Christ to address human need. Jesus First implies that this is an inept organization wasting donor dollars. They would have it disassembled under the restructuring plan which will, we believe, seriously cripple the future work of human care in our Synod.
The truth is that WR-HC is one of the truly bright spots of the Synod today, effectively carrying out its ministry and meeting its fiscal responsibilities at the same time. WR-HC is looked at as an example of a truly Gospel-driven outreach, and with good cause.
John W. Edson, CPA/ABV, CVA, CMA, CFF
I don’t think it helps dialogue to remove some people from the conversation.
Well, I do speak several languages, but I’ve had to learn how to speak her language in the past few years, but I can translate it. So, here is her language – here’s the interpretation. “Number one, we have done what we believe is correct. We shouldn’t be punished because we’re doing what we think is right for conscience sake, and if you remove us from this situation, then we won’t have any more opportunity to convince you that we are right and that you are wrong.”
In a statement remarkably similar to Jefferts-Schori’s, ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson responded to LCMS leaders:
We also hope that you understand, and we understand, that our actions put stress on relationships, but not stress to the point that we believe that they should sever the relationships rather than call us to deeper conversation.
Thursday, June 24, 2010
...The human will indeed does cooperate in a good work, but not as a captive and dead will as it was of itself and by its own nature, as it is described in Eph. 2:1, but as a will freed and living through the Holy Spirit. Augustine therefore says correctly: It is certain that our will is required for this that we do good works, but we do not have this will of our own powers, but God works in us so that we are willing. And in his work On Admonition and Grace he says, “Only by the Holy Spirit is the will of the regenerate kindled, so that they can do God’s will because they are willing, and they are thus willing because God causes them to be willing.”
And finally, we should note that feeling and experience do not precede faith, but it must all come out of the Word. Therefore we must not dispute about experience in this way, “I do not feel this movement and impulse of the will with which the Holy Spirit must anticipate us, therefore I will not hear, or meditate, or seek, or struggle, or contend, or try.” But rather when the mind hears and meditates upon the Word, sustains itself, and does not resist; rather when it seriously contends, as we have seen in the case of Augustine, it is certain that then the Holy Spirit is moving, impelling, and aiding the will. Therefore one should seek, beg, contend. Sometimes indeed the heart plainly senses that which it grasps in the promise, but often, to be sure most often, it experiences that the Holy Spirit conceals his aid with groaning “which cannot be uttered” (Rom. 8:26). Thus you should not inquire whether you feel something, because his strength is made perfect in weakness; but by faith you must rest in God according to his promise, even though you feel nothing, yea even though you feel the very contrary. Augustine says, “If you are not drawn, pray that you may be drawn.”
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Quotable Quotes From Around the Blogosphere
Wild Boar From the Forest
Pastor Lincoln Winter
The Augustana dealt with this false teaching a mere 480 years ago. (Since it was written before the formation of the CTCR, many synod officials have never heard of it.)
Pastor Larry Peters
A wonderful and supportive nursing staff and physician made it possible for a family to gather around the newest son and a new brother. The technology and machines were pulled away so that this hospital room could be a family room. Each held this child so very small and fragile. Each had a moment to remember the miracle of life, though brief, and to mirror to this child the love we have from God... the love that binds us as one, even while wounded and hurting. Scripture was said and prayers were prayed. And then he was gone...
Gone from the wounds that would not heal... gone from the life that was tethered to machine... gone from the tubes that fed and lines that monitored him... gone from the life that was all too briefly his... but not gone from the heart of the mother who gave him birth or the father who held him in his arms... not gone from the brother and sister who will remember him and the sister who whose memory will be strengthened by the repetition of this birth, this child, and this fleeting moment...
Not gone from the God who knew him by name... Paul Edward... who marked him with the cross of Christ as a child of the heavenly Father... who washed him clean in the waters of baptism... who clothed him with the perfect, white robes of Christ's righteousness... who wrote his name in the ink of Christ's blood in the Lamb's book of life... No, not gone from the God who sent His angels to carry home to eternity a lamb of His own flock. Not gone from the God whose resurrection gave to him the life that his mortal flesh could impart... a perfect life of blessedness, wholeness, fullness, and peace.
Brothers of John the Steadfast
Pastor Charlie Henrickson
I am in favor of women fully participating as laity. In the Divine Service, that means receiving God’s gifts in Word and Sacrament–faith is the highest form of worship–singing God’s praises, confessing the Creed, giving one’s “Amen” to the prayers, etc. That is the blessed position of the person in the pew. Christ’s minister is in the chancel, standing in Christ’s stead, dispensing the gifts. No “chancel envy” needed when one has one’s theology of worship screwed on straight.
I am in favor of women fully participating as laity also outside of the Divine Service. That means living out one’s vocation in daily life, in whatever station that involves. This too is God-pleasing.
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
The conference is sponsored by Life Journey Ministries, Concordia University, Portland; and Thrivent Financial for Lutherans.
Life Journey Ministries was formally begun in 2005 when Carolyn Schoenborn (who is now its Executive Director and primary course leader, keynote speaker and author) “was asked by the Leadership Advancement Process (LAP) of the Northwest District of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod to develop an on-line process to help people more clearly identify their specific God-given purpose and how to do ministry outside congregational walls. She developed a process for showing people how to combine faith and life in a manner that makes God more visible wherever God places them and with whatever resources are available” (online reference). Mrs. Schoenborn “has a BA in Religious Education; a Masters of Ministry from Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa, Idaho; and a Masters of Organizational Management from The University of Phoenix. She is certified in conflict resolution through The University of Idaho, and as a life-coach with Dream Coach University. In addition to working as a trainer, performance specialist and project manager for Micron Technology, she was an independent consultant in organizational management; and she is still a partner with Performance International. She is a pastor's wife with multiple years of experience in parish ministry” (online reference).
No additional information is provided about Mr. Young’s presentation other than its title "Is God Really That Good?," and that he will be available afterwards for a book signing. It’s not apparent how or if the presentation will relate to the theme of the conference, but if his presentation includes the same god presented in The Shack, it will be a false god to which her refers. This makes me wonder if his appearance will be one which presents valuable truths for the assembled guests to digest or an exercise in honing one’s apologetic skills.
Pastor Todd Wilken described The Shack as “…a book about God that get’s God wrong,” and which contains “glaring errors” and “erroneous ideas and propositions.” Layman Jim Pierce stated that “The Shack contains deep, troubling, doctrinal errors.” The Shack mangles the Trinity and does away with justification by grace through faith.
The latin phrase caveat emptor, let the buyer beware, comes to mind, although in this case, there is no charge to attend the presentation or the book signing.
Monday, June 21, 2010
Very many and necessary gifts are required for the ministry, 2 Cor 2:16. But one who has been brought to the ministry by a legitimate call can apply the divine promises to himself, ask God for faithfulness in them, and expect both, the gifts that are necessary for him rightly to administer the ministry (I Tim 4:14; 2 Tim 1:6; 2 Cor 3:5-6) and governance and protection in the office entrusted to him (Isa 49:2; 51:16). (emphasis added)TCN:
For more information on the Transforming Churches Network click here.What if many don’t think the pastor is capable of leading the church through this process?
There is no doubt that some pastors lack the basic skills to lead a congregation. However, most pastors have simply not been given the chance or the training to lead [sic] The traditional structure of our churches give conflicting directions to the pastor. While there has always been an expectation that the senior pastor would lead the church, there has also been a fear of the senior pastor “taking over” the church. This has resulted in many pastors being blamed for the condition of their church, yet not having authority to make needed changes. The accountable leader model recognizes the senior pastor as the leader of the church, it empowers him to lead, and holds him accountable for his leadership. Some pastors will require training to grow-up into this model. Some pastors will require time and patience to learn the fine art of leadership. Some pastors won’t be able to make the transition. You and your congregation need to be in prayer for your pastor. Your congregation will be greatly blessed through his successful transition. Trust in the checks and balances of the accountable leader model. Should the pastor struggle with the change, the coach will be there to encourage and direct and, when needed, say the hard words that need to be shared. (emphasis added)
photo credit: Pierce Place
Friday, June 18, 2010
Some of you may not know it, but Dr. Rast spent a couple of pre-sem summers [possibly] bumming around in Jamaica, [definitely] sporting dreadlocks and [possibly] studying Rastafarianism for a yet-to-be-released book. Hence the title for his blog, Rastaman Vibrations. Rastaman Vibrations is also the title of one of reggae singer Bob Marley’s albums, which has the well-known song “Positive Vibration.”
If you’ve ever wondered what Dr. Larry Rast is thinking, you’ve obviously not visited his blog. There you can climb behind that dapper smile and get an idea of what’s going on in Dr. Rast’s head – thoughts on soccer, Lutheranism, herding cats, and, if you tarry long enough, a nice selection of tunes to play in the background.
After I perused for a minute or two, music started playing. As has happened in the past, I wasn’t totally sure from whence this set of music emanated (since I had multiple internet windows open), until I noticed the little video playing towards the bottom of the right sidebar. Of course, I should have known from the title of the blog and the tag line as well: “This is Lawrence Rast's blog. It deals with stuff that interests him--especially American Religious history, Lutheranism, obscure music, and Africa.” I didn’t hear any Bob Marley, but plenty of tunes from groups such as The Raspberries, Elvis, The Lemon Pipers, The Beatles, and The Flamin’ Groovies. Having listened to the lyrics of some of these songs, I can safely place Dr. Rast under the not-a-pietist recording label.
So if you’re in the mood for Rast’s random thoughts or some good music, this is the spot. I just heard October Country’s “My Girlfriend is a Witch” playing:
Leaving trails of smoke across the sky
On a broom
Glad that I am safe within my room
Thursday, June 17, 2010
Of Foreboding and Forgiveness
This column reaches you from France. It is written with a sense of foreboding. Just before leaving California, I called a friend in New York. He is a native Berliner of Jewish descent. In the early Nazi years he fled to Paris while still a teenager, and then fought in the French Resistance. “Make the best of your stay in Europe,” he counseled me. “By the time of your return we might be living in a totally different world.”
This sounded plausible. You would have to be blind and deaf not to realize that a new era is upon us, and that this era is unlikely to be agreeable. We discern the bitter fruit of human hubris all around us – in the Gulf of Mexico, in economics, finance, in the shaky condition of governments on both sides of the Atlantic; in the deplorable failure of most media outlets to inform their audiences responsibly about world affairs; and in the state of the Church many of whose branches have either slid into rank heresy kowtowing to sexual deviance, or are offering feel-good fluff as a tonic to soothe the apprehension millions share with my New York friend.
This morning I telephoned a former German government minister about the future of dollar, the euro and other currencies. He is a statesman with a reputation of financial wisdom. He said, “I frankly cannot predict where we are heading. I have just bought Norwegian bonds because the Norwegian money appears to be relatively healthy, but who knows? Tomorrow I could be proven wrong.”
It cannot be the purpose of this column to list the plethora of indicators leading a neighbor of mine in France to compare the current time in history with the situation that prevailed in Europe just before World War I. “An insignificant event in an insignificant placed triggered that calamity,” she said, referring to the assassination of Archduke Franz-Ferdinand of Austria in Sarajevo in 1914.
As the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod approaches its convention in Houston in July, it must consider the present perils in national and world affairs. Confessional Lutherans know of course that theirs is not to offer amateurish advice in worldly matters. Bicker though they might among each other, the various parties within the LCMS have generally resisted the temptation to emulate other denominations in poaching in alien territory, meaning the secular realm.
I did not learn my theology all at once, but had to search constantly deeper and deeper for it. My temptations did that for me, for no one can understand Holy Scripture without practice and temptations. This is what the enthusiasts and sects lack. They don't have the right critic, the devil, who is the best teacher of theology. If we don't have that kind of devil, then we become nothing but speculative theologians, who do nothing but walk around in our own thoughts and speculate with our reason alone as to whether things should be like this, or like that.WA 1, 147, 3-14; Luther's Works, American Edition, 55 volumes, edited by J. Pelikan and H. T. Lehmann (Saint Louis: Concordia and Philadelphia: Fortress, 1955-1986)
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
A Little Fun With The Banjo
LWML Mite Box – Mite you?
The Greatest Mission Passage in the Book of Concord
New Luther’s Works Volume from CPH – Luther on Joy
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
"Now listen carefully if you happen to be attending a confessional Lutheran congregation and you’re looking for a confessional pastor. Pay close attention. You might want to give Pastor David, well Vicar David Whan a call. We want to help him out. We want to help him get placed here. I’m telling ya, this guy is gonna, if you’ve got a confessional congregation, this is your guy."
On this Fighting for the Faith segment, Chris plays a very interesting recording of Vicar Dave teaching the Bible class, in which he recounts his journey from unconfessional Lutheranism to a church absentee to pastor at an evangelical seeker-driven emergent type church, and by God’s grace, miraculously to Concordia Theological Seminary.
As Chris warns at the beginning of the segment, “…this is one of those things where Lutheranism is discussed, as if Lutheranism is true. The confessions of Lutheranism are proclaimed and upheld as being faithful and true interpretations of the Bible. If you are put off by denominations, and titles such as ‘Lutheran,’ well then you’re going to be put off by this sermon, uh, this lesson.”
I’ve heard Dave’s story a few times now, first told to us as he and his family joined us for dinner when he served his vicarage at our congregation. I share his excitement as he recalls the unfolding of Lutheran theology in his life, and of how that foreign-sounding theology gradually became a living thing in his family’s life. I look forward to seeing how the Lord will use Dave to deliver His good gifts of Word and Sacrament to those who need Christ’s blessings.
Dave’s lesson begins at the 1:08:00 mark.
Make sure your offering is counted among those who faithfully encourage and support Sharing Christ’s Love.
In short, the mark of an orthodox church body is that throughout the church the true doctrine alone prevails, not only officially and formally, but also in actual reality. The entire practice of our church rests upon this fact. For example, we unhesitatingly transfer members from our congregations in St. Louis to our sister congregations in San Francisco. But this only occurs because we know that the member who has been released will find the pure doctrine in all its articles in that new congregation. Under the same assumption, other congregations can release their members to the congregations in St. Louis. The unhesitating transfer of members of our fellowship would be unconscionable if we could not assume that the pure doctrine sounds forth from every pulpit in the Synodical Conference. If we were to define an orthodox fellowship in any other way, if we would say that it does not depend on the doctrine which actually sounds forth but only on the officially recognized doctrine; or if we believed that it was sufficient for a majority of the pastors to teach the right doctrine; we would then have already given up the distinction between an orthodox church and a unionistic fellowship. We would then be deceiving orthodox Christians when we encouraged them to join any one of our congregations without misgivings.
Monday, June 14, 2010
There’s no other Bible passage more memorized than Christ’s last words to His disciples, those words we call the Great Commission: “All authority in heaven and on earth have been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:18-20). “…Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you…” (KJV). They define the essence, purpose, and direction given by Christ to His Holy Church on earth. Yet, by and large, the Church has misunderstood, ignored, or discounted Christ’s words.
It has become “The Great Omission.” First, the ultimate authority over all things was given to Christ, the resurrected and glorious Lord. His words shouldn’t be disregarded as an utterance of some idealistic footnote to His ministry. Rather, we should realize the total authority of heaven and earth is the underpinning for the validity of Christ intended for the Church to grow and become strong. Yet, these words have become grossly misunderstood because the English translation brings the casual reader to a wrong turn in its interpretation.
Grammatically, the passage has only one imperative (command): “to make disciples.” All the other words—“go,” “baptizing,” and “teaching,” are participles that modify the passage’s only command “to make disciples.” A better Greek understanding says, “As you go from here, make disciples of all nations, by baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, by teaching them to observe all the things in which I have instructed you.”
The purpose of the Great Commission is "to make disciples." That's a tall order; an order that can only be accomplished by Jesus' command through the means He offers.
The recent history of the Christian Church on earth indicates that we're not doing very well at following Christ's instructions. The Pew Report of the last decade of the 20th century indicates that the Christian Church is not growing. In proportion to the American population, Christianity is shrinking.
Recently, the Church Growth Movement (CGM) came to a shocking realization that the mega-churches that grew over the last generation merely shifted nominal church-goers from mainline denominations to "community, non-denominational" churches. In a 2007 article in REV magazine, Sally Morgenthaler states that the CGM has not grown the total number of Christians, but only changed their seats.
That’s why we’re faced with a great Omission, and not the great Commission. In our own Synod, not unlike all other mainline denominations, we see an erosion of membership. Except for Roman Catholicism’s immigration boost, all mainline denominations lost total membership in the last three decades of the 20th century. That’s even more dramatic compared to America’s population growth. Since 2000, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod lost an increasingly alarming number of members—equal to the total membership of the Mid-South District each year!
What has been omitted in the Great Omission that has passively allowed the Church to fail at the Great Commission? Morgenthaler’s article makes it apparent we’ve missed the particles of the Great Commission—means by which the Great Commission is accomplished. CGM had one great objective in mind: Getting more people into the Church. In itself, it’s a good motive, but incomplete. Getting more people in the seats omits the particles of the “what and how” Jesus commanded. He clarified HOW disciples are to be made—by baptizing and teaching them to observe all things He gave to the Church.
Friday, June 11, 2010
Nope. It’s not the name of a trendy church, it’s the name of a restaurant. Cheryl, Paige, and I went to the Power House Restaurant & Brewery in Puyallup, Washington for lunch. Paige happened to bring her camera along so I took a few photos.
The Powerhouse was at one time a working power substation, supplying energy for the southern leg of the Interurban Electric Trolley, which ran from Seattle to Olympia. It stopped supplying power in 1957, and was vacated by the power company in 1969. Fortunately, an enterprising architect purchased it in 1994 and renovated it to its current state.
The inside is filled with all sorts of old electrical gauges and gadgets. It’s got a huge skylight in the center, so is nice and bright even on a cloudy day. You can also take a look at the beer works, where they craft their own microbrews. As far as ambiance goes, this place is my favorite.
Cheryl had the Mediterranean Plate, I had halibut, and Paige had a Black Bean Burger. This is the first time I’ve seen pressed black beans, or grilled black beans. It was definitely tasty. One of the beers listed on the board mentioned something about a “nitrogen conditioned chocolate” stout. I guess that’ll be my excuse for going back.
Thursday, June 10, 2010
Rev. Randall Golter, the President of the Rocky Mountain District, is opposing President Kieschnick’s restructuring plans. President Golter said in a very pastoral way in his District’s newsletter that “perhaps this is not the time for restructuring…,” and “financial collapse of the LCMS structure may well be the Lord’s way of restructuring.” These are pretty strong words coming from a District President. I’ll bet he thought about it for a while before he clicked “send” for that email.
I commend President Golter for his courage in saying what needed to be said, and encourage other District Presidents to speak up as well. As we teeter on the brink of annihilating the congregational polity of our Synod, now is not the time to mince words or remain silent.
You can read President Golter’s entire article here.
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
I’d have to say that this first volume of the series certainly has started the "Questions in Lutheran Theology and Church" series on a strong note. There are a number of positive things that this volume has going for it that fill a need within Lutheranism, including
- a thorough-going analysis of the topic, done with an even-handedness and documented with thorough Scriptural and confessional support;
- a writing style that is insightful and comprehensive without using theological terms and concepts that are outside the grasp of a layman;
- a subject matter that is very timely, this volume having been published within months after the Worship Theses were published;
- and a frequent use of quotes from the Confessions, which will be helpful for those who aren’t well acquainted with the Book of Concord.
Given the declaration of the newly released theses that uniformity in forms of worship is not necessary and that imposing one specific form militates against the Gospel, Lutherans should not have had a problem adjusting their worship to changes in the culture.
In light of the Theses’ ability to evoke different responses, Dr. Sonntag’s book is a helpful voice. In the introduction to the book, Pastor Paul Strawn mentions the influence that the Theses could have within the synod:
…While such statements such as the Eight Theses are rare, and have no constitutional weight within the synod on the whole, or the individual districts, being in no way binding upon its pastors and congregations, such statements can be influential in that they simply exist. How? By being referenced in continuing discussions and conversations about worship on whatever level within the synod as the status quo of the situation, as in, “All of the district presidents agree…” (p. 9-10).
…I began to think that some sort of response to the Eight Theses should be written. But not simply because there is such a wide variety of worship formats present in one particular circuit, or numerous circuits across the country within the LC-MS. For if in the monthly meeting of the pastors of a circuit, theological agreement is obvious, the differences in worship forms, rights and ceremonies present in the congregations represented there would not be much of an issue at all. After all, what would be happening but what the Eight Theses implies is happening throughout the synod, and that is, that the same theology is being expressed contextually in different communities through a variety of forms, rites and ceremonies? Unfortunately, after ten years of observation and reflection within this one particular group of pastors and congregations, it would seem that something else is actually happening: The forms, rights and ceremonies employed by its pastors and congregations seem to be simply the public expression not of a unity in theology, or even a unified approach to theology, but of the presence of a variety of theologies within the circuit. And this variety of theologies is not a result of seasoned pastors making pastoral decisions within a specific cultural context on the basis of a life-long and careful study of the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions, but a result of various interactions of the pastors of the circuit with the theologies of different Christian traditions such as Pentecostalism, the Assemblies of God, the United Church of Christ, Baptist, etc. Such interactions on the part of the pastors specifically in these traditions takes the form of books promoted, programs fostered and conferences attended which disseminate the ideas of popular spokesman for those traditions such as Rick Warren, Max Lucado, Bill Hybels, Luis Palau, and Nicky Gumbel. The end result, of course, is that monthly circuit meetings, intended to foster unity by means of the study of the Bible and the Lutheran Confessions are poorly attended and discussion focuses chiefly upon non-theological matters such as families, vacations, church staffing challenges, etc. The elephant in the room is the theological gulf that has gradually developed between the pastors and congregations of the circuit, all of which theoretically, officially and even publically swear allegiance to the theology of the Lutheran Confessions.
Sadly, that theological gulf does not exist solely at the circuit level, but even more deeply at the congregational level, especially in the congregations of the circuit that weekly schedule more than one type of style of worship service. As was noted by other denominations already fifteen years ago, when services of different types are present in one congregation, what so often occurs over time is the formation of different congregations which share the same pastor and building….
Monday, June 7, 2010
People are confused about prayer. First of all they think that prayer has a power in itself. It doesn’t. The power of prayer is in the object, that is, the one to whom we pray. Does God change outcomes? Yes He does. You say “How can that be? God doesn’t change. How can He change outcomes? If God’s will is this, why am I even praying? If God’s will is going to be done, why am I praying?” Well let’s answer a few simple questions.
Is God’s will always done? The answer to that question is, first, “No.” What’s the biggest example of that? Your sin. When you sin, it is not God’s will that you do this. You are violating God’s will. Now is God’s will always done ultimately? Answer to that question – “Yes.” And here we enter into what we know of God’s will and what we don’t know of God’s will, and believe me, there’s a lot more that we don’t know than we do know. But what we do know is absolutely essential. We do know that God works all things together for good. We don’t know how, or by what means. We do know that God’s ultimate will is the salvation of every, every sinner. That is not ultimately fulfilled. There are those who will die apart from Christ. God suffers Himself to be resisted even in that greatest of matters. We know where it’s all going, we just don’t know how He’s gonna get us there. And, here we need to talk about the hidden will of God, into which we are not permitted, let me say that again – into which we are not permitted to look, God’s hidden will, that is, how He’s doing it here and now.
When we pray, we ask that God heal our grandmother of cancer, and some people mistakenly say “Well, if grandma got better that means it must have been God’s will because it happened.” We do not measure God’s will by what happens. Otherwise, we’d have to conclude that our own sin, because it happened, was God’s will, and it isn’t. The mystery of God’s will is largely in that fact that much of it is hidden from us, and God constantly points us away from trying to peak behind the curtain, into His hidden will, and [instead points] to where He has clearly revealed His will for sinners, at the cross of Jesus Christ.
Friday, June 4, 2010
Congregations Walking Together in Mission
To Direct the Board of Directors to Amend the Bylaws as Necessary
TF Report (CW TFR)
WHEREAS, Despite the careful work of the floor committees of the convention, the complex work of making major interrelated changes to the Bylaws can result in unintended gaps or ambiguities; and
WHEREAS, Bylaw 7.1.2 provides a mechanism for resolving such issues; therefore be it
Resolved, That the Synod in convention authorize and direct the Board of Directors, pursuant to the procedure provided in Bylaw 7.1.2, to amend such other bylaws as may be necessary to implement the spirit of the resolutions involved in the restructuring of the Synod as adopted by the 2010 convention, to be prepared by the Secretary of the Synod and reviewed by the Commission on Constitutional Matters.
photo credit: d'oubliette
Stadium High School
Washington State Ferry Sytem
Pike Place Market
Pike Place Fish Market
The Tacoma Museum of Glass
Thursday, June 3, 2010
…The unity of which St. Paul speaks [in Eph. 4:1-6] is that for which we pray and work. Such unity comes only as a gift of God’s grace, through Jesus Christ our Lord, whose perfect life and atoning death on the cross makes it possible for mortal, finite, sinful human beings to experience “the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Understanding the source of this unity and giving thanks to God for making it possible is critical for our Synod’s health. Thankfully, in most cases, people and pastors in the LCMS do indeed deal with one another in a spirit of humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another in love.
At the same time, I observe that the devil’s temptation often succeeds in replacing unity with division. We sometimes seem to have part of our DNA devoted exclusively to criticism, gossip, and failing to put the best construction on everything. That’s precisely why we cherish so deeply in our beloved Synod the Gospel of Christ. Through His death on the cross we are made righteous in God’s sight—ONE People—Forgiven. Only as we kneel at the foot of the cross in sincere confession and humble repentance is it possible for us to “lead a life worthy of the calling to which [we] have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
Dr. Franz Pieper, the fourth President of the LCMS, somewhat mirrors President Kieschnick’s thought…
If we want to preserve the unity in the faith, we must be sure not to give up any part of revealed doctrine. It is, however, well to note that the apostle in Ephesians 4:3 says, “[Be] eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” The unity in the Spirit can only continue to be maintained through the bond of peace. If those standing in the unity of the faith are not truly peaceable but are quarrelsome, if they don’t allow love to prevail in all things, then unity in the faith will not last long. Luther: “There, where love is not, neither can doctrine remain pure.”
What is the chief way love should express itself? We should not argue over words. The admonition of the apostle is much misused in our time. We will argue over words in this sense, that at last we partake of the praise of our Savior telling us that we have treasured His Word. But we do not desire to fight about things that are not mandated in God’s Word and thus are matters of indifference.
We further desire that when we must criticize one another, this not be done in an injurious manner. Fidelity over against God’s Word is quite appropriately joined with loving considerateness. If we exercise loving critique of one another, this will be by God’s grace a means to preserve unity in the faith. If we exercise over against each other criticism in an injurious, inconsiderate manner, this will be a means to destroy our unity in the faith (quoted from Rev. Matthew C. Harrison’s book At Home in the House of My Fathers, 597-8).
We may allow to arise among us no other understanding of unity than what is scriptural, that is, unity in the faith, which is the agreement in all articles of Christian doctrine (Harrison, 596).
But unity can never be purchased with a lie, nor can discord ever be eliminated by sacrificing the truth of the Gospel (Here We Stand, 54).
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
This issue contains “essential convention information, including the convention schedule, additional overtures, Part II of the President’s Report, special standing rules, and official announcements. Most importantly, it contains proposed resolutions to be considered by the convention.”
One thing the Synod President would like you to know is how a mountain of your district and congregational overtures were made to disappear. Here is his explanation:
A word is in order regarding overtures submitted to the Synod that do not appear in the Convention Workbook. Part of the responsibility of the Synod President in the process of overture review is dictated in the Bylaws of the Synod which read, in part:
The President of the Synod shall determine if any overture contains information which is materially in error or contains any apparent misrepresentation of truth or of character. He shall not approve inclusion of any such overture in the Convention Workbook and shall refer any such overture to the district president who has ecclesiastical supervision over the entity submitting the overture for action. (Bylaw 126.96.36.199(c); ref. 2001 Res. 7-04A)
Some overtures submitted for convention consideration contained such information. Therefore, these overtures were not included in the Convention Workbook and were referred to the respective district president, communicating to him the specific objectionable feature(s) of the overture. I did not suggest any specific action on the part of the district president.
For further reference, see my previous post "The LCMS Convention: Floor Committee Intrigue."
Q: How would you judge the health of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod today?:
Harrison: This is the most dynamic moment in history to be part of the LCMS! Worldwide opportunities abound. I’m giddy with hope (Rom. 15:4-13)! Yet, we are accomplishing a fraction of what’s possible. The New Testament shows us the twofold reality: “Saints” are also sinners, beset with problems (1 Cor. 1:2, 10ff.). It’s never been different. We need Jesus. We are blessed to know the Gospel in all its fullness. We have faithful workers, the two greatest Lutheran seminaries in the world, LLL, LWML, LCEF, great schools, partner churches—the list goes on! Best of all, the world is open for the mission of Christ. Healthy? Under the Law, no (Rom. 3:9ff.). But by the Gospel, we are congregations of living saints, blessed for this moment (Zech. 8:13; 1 Peter 2:9-10). The key to exploding upon the world in mission and mercy is this: Courage through repentance and renewal by the mighty Word of God. We’re no more or less healthy than that ragtag dozen who burst onto the world after Pentecost.
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
The idea behind deconstruction is that any given text has no fixed meaning. Truth is experienced as the reader is in conversation with the text. There are infinite possibilities in interpreting the words scribbled on the page, and thus no ultimate truth, but rather your own self-made truth. What's true for you is just plain true, and what's true for me will also be. What’s handy about this hermeneutic is that it frees you from the thorny issue of having to limit yourself to what the author actually meant. This is of course a ridiculous premise. If it were true, there would be no point in attempting to communicate with anyone. But fortunately most normal people generally try to grasp the original meaning which the author intended, and are able to carry on a conversation with at least a modest degree of success, while avoiding all the intellectually charged undercurrents of deconstruction. There are, however, some postmodern people who insist on assigning their own meanings to a given text. One of these people is George Elerick.
Elerick is a journalist who writes for The Huffington Post and Wrecked online magazine. He certainly seems to uphold the postmodern tradition on his blog The Love Revolution, skipping social conventions such as capitalizing the first letter of the first word in sentences, giving the reader a bit of a head start on assigning their own meaning to the text. Links to Brian McLaren and John Dominic Crossan’s websites, and sites such as Queermergent and The Burning Man add to the postmodern ambiance.
Chris relates his own postmodern “experience” after receiving an email from Elerick inviting him to read Elerick’s blog post titled “throw away the cookie cutters.”. In this post George deconstructs the Genesis account of Adam and Eve, musing that “it isn’t a story just about two literal people, in fact, their [sic] is archaeological evidence that demonstrates the story originated on a scroll in ancient Mesopotamia. one of the many deeper layered meanings could be about judging others.” His story comes complete with the eisegesis of Hebrew words (actually “hebrew” to George) and a truly postmodern climax:
judging others in the traditional sense doesn’t allow much space for healing the world or broken relationships, in the traditiona [sic] sense it is the opposite of cheering and more like how adam and eve might have got it wrong. and so if judgement [sic] is about justice and setting things right, maybe we can stand shoulder-to-shoulder and believe in and dream out the kind of world god intended. i hope we can.
Hopefully I don’t have to explain to you how George Elerick’s deconstruction of Genesis departs from the meaning that God intended for the text. This point wasn’t lost on Chris either, who after another email exchange with Elerick responded with his own deconstruction of what Elerick said in his post, thus demonstrating the absurdity of deconstruction using the technique himself. The beauty of this is, as Chris points out, the postmodernist can’t refute or quibble with what you’ve said. You’re using their own rules, therefore your conclusions are perfectly acceptable, no matter how whacky they are.
Here’s Chris’s response to what George had to say:
George, remember that once a text is written there are a limitless number of interpretations that the reader can experience while in conversation with the text. Ironically, while I was in conversation with your text, the one that you pointed me to, the one on your love revolution dot com, love revolution blog, funny enough, I felt in my heart that this text was saying that homosexuality is a sin, that Ronald Reagan was the greatest president in the United States that has ever lived, that increased oil consumption by the world is a great thing for the environment, that Arianna Huffington is a ditz, and that non-dialectical judging is divine. You see, the key to unlocking this interpretation was found when I discovered that the Aramaic words for “Adam” and “Eve” are directly related to the Spanish word for mud, and everyone knows that mud looks like oil, and that Ronald Reagan had to deal with oil embargoes very early in his administration. So I think your post was an excellent example of a colonial imperialistic apologetic with metaphorical implications that can be applied toward further raping and ravaging of mother earth.
Wow! What a revelation. I didn’t know that the Aramaic words for “Adam” and “Eve” are directly related to the Spanish word for mud. Now it all makes sense.
As Chris says, “Friends don’t let friends go PoMo” (or CoWo). And that’s all I have to say about that. Stay Confessional my friends.
photo credit: oddsock