Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A More Perfect Form of Love?

I received the following email four times in the last 24 hours. It seems the LCMS campaign season is now in full swing. Those supporting Rev. David Maier have set up a "Friends of David Maier" FB page and are busy making contacts and sending out emails, like this one. That's fine. They're certainly entitled to campaign for the man they want to be our synodical president. Like it or not, we have a political process in place, and so politics are with us. No use crying about it. It is what it is.

However, that said, I find it very ironic that the supporters of Rev. David Maier believe "we need a more perfect form of love," but then show a less than perfect form of love in their commentary on the two main issues they believe merit the election of a new synodical president. I'm also left to wonder if they are as woefully naive as they appear to be.

First, we hear about "fear and suspicion," as we always do when the "silly season" begins. The implication is that electing a new synodical president will alleviate this. It won't. That's because the "fear and suspicion" in our synod does not come from whoever sits on the throne at the IC, but rather from the fact that we have some very real, very serious theological divisions in our synod. Currently, we have a synodical president who recognizes this, and who seeks to lead us in tackling these divisions, so that we might come to greater unity. Prior to him, we had a synodical president who always swept those differences under the synodical carpet, highlighting the fact that he believed we were unified on the things that really mattered, and that all the differences among us were nothing more than differences in practice, which did not affect our unity in doctrine. That dog won't hunt. It never could hunt. It won't start hunting now. You cannot be united in doctrine, but divided in practice. Practice is nothing more than doctrine in action.

But, that really gets at the heart of what Rev. David Maier's supporters want when they speak of our synod needing "a more perfect form of love." They believe that "a more perfect form of love" would come from us ignoring our very real, very serious theological divisions. We should just trust one another, after all (I heard that sentiment often at last summer's Michigan District Convention), and relegate our differences to nothing more than differences in practice. We're all Lutherans, for Pete's sake! We all believe the same thing. I wrote about this in a blog post last year, as I gave my review of the Michigan District Convention

The truth is that we don't all believe the same thing. We're not all Lutherans, just because we all claim the name Lutheran. And, truth be told, that's where the fear and suspicion really originate. I think we all know this, but it is much easier to sweep it under the rug than it is to admit it and work on it. The pastor who leads the "worship experience" in his ripped jeans and t-shirt, removes the altar to make room for the praise band, and preaches self-help, motivational messages does not believe the same thing as this pastor. That should be obvious, and it is obvious. But, what the supporters of Rev. David Maier believe is that me pointing out that obvious fact is the reason that fear and suspicion exists among us. It's not. The reason that fear and suspicion exists among us is that we have pastors doing the things mentioned above. Duh!

Is it really "a more perfect form of love" to turn a blind eye to our very real, very serious theological divisions and pretend that we have unity? Not at all. In fact, the opposite is true. The loving thing is to be honest about these divisions and seek to address them via serious study of Holy Scripture and our Lutheran Confessions.

We do need a new Spirit in our synod. Actually, He's not new at all. He's the Holy Spirit, and He's been around since, well, always and eternally. He convicts us of sin, leads us to repentance, and points us to Jesus. He doesn't ever say, "Just trust one another. Ignore your differences. Live and let live." Rather, He directs us to address our differences and strive toward unity around the clear and compelling Word of God.

Besides all of this, when has a pastor ever began statements at pastoral conferences with, "I am not a heretic, but . . ."? I've never once heard such a thing. Of course, I haven't been to every pastoral conference, so it may have happened. But, I find it hard to believe that it happens "too often." This is just a scare tactic used to get people to buy into the "fear and suspicion" stuff. Scare tactics aren't the most loving things to employ. Just saying.

But, far worse than the "fear and suspicion" nonsense is the second issue Rev. David Maier's supporters raise as a reason we should elect a new synodical president. Are they serious?! Do they really not know how the "Sandy Hook Controversy" made it to the mainstream media and brought "embarrassment" upon our synod? Here's a clue: It had nothing at all to do with the very churchman-like way President Harrison handled it. Caleb Bell, the reporter for Religious News Service who broke the story that the mainstream media picked up on, didn't just stumble onto the WMLT blog. He was directed to that blog by someone/some people who deliberately wanted to bring shame to our synodical president and scandal to our synod. It was a political move - a vile, despicable political move, the kind of political move that has no business in the church. How do I know this? Because I'm not an idiot, that's how. Well, that, and the fact that the original story provided very little evidence that Mr. Bell had even actually read the letter President Harrison had posted on the WMLT blog. It read more like an interpretation of the letter he was presented with by whoever it was that tipped him off about it. The whole thing was rather sickening, but it's nice to know that "a more perfect form of love" is one in which we reopen old wounds and pour some salt in them, all in the hope that we can win politically.

Furthermore, it is one thing for the mainstream media to misinterpret things happening in our synod and go nuts about them, frothing at the mouth to accuse us of all sorts of bad things. That happens all the time. If they can sink their teeth into some Christians, they will, since there is hardly anything tastier to them. But, it's quite another for pastors in our own synod to use this as an opportunity to lambaste our synodical president and bring more scandal to our synod - one that was not in any way scandalous to begin with, but was handled in love and faithfulness by those involved.

And, what of the theological issues at play here? Do they matter? Are the "friends of David Maier" suggesting that he would have given the okay for one of our pastors to participate in the unionistic and syncretistic prayer service held in Sandy Hook? Inquiring minds want to know. Perhaps, if Rev. David Maier's friends are going to bring this up as one of two main issues we should consider electing him, he should make his thoughts known on this. If he has, I haven't seen it. Does he think President Harrison erred in how he addressed the situation? He should go on record, I think, and let us know where he stands.

But, the worst of all is this: "Why do we insert ourselves into conversations that aren’t about us? We have done it before, and without different leadership, we will do it again." First, the fact that they can imagine that one of our pastors participating in a unionistic and syncretistic prayer service has nothing to do with "us" reveals a very strange belief on what it means to belong to a synod in which we claim to be "walking together" in fellowship. Secondly, it is precisely the duties of our synodical president to address matters of doctrine and practice among us, as clearly outlined in our synodical constitution. To suggest that President Harrison should have just minded his own business is to misunderstand what it is our synodical president is to do. I guess we need "different leadership," i.e. a different synodical president who will not perform the very duties outlined for him to perform in our synodical constitution. Otherwise, if we stick with President Harrison, he might actually be a synodical president, and we can't have that.

Anyway, if what is revealed in this little political missive is "a more perfect form of love," count me out. I'll stick with the supposedly less perfect form of love we have in President Harrison, who is not afraid to admit that he's a sinner and repent of mistakes made, even when those supposed "mistakes" were brought on by those playing nasty politics (you know, the loving sort among us). President Harrison has shown exemplary leadership among us, displaying not only the theological acumen we should all desire in a synodical president, but a true pastor's heart, full of compassion and love for those he serves, and I hope and pray that we will reelect him to serve this year, and in many elections to come.

Oh, and by the way, St. John means something completely different when he says, "Perfect love drives out all fear," but I'll leave you to study that on your own. 

Here's the email:
Dear Friends:   (Make sure you read down to the action items.)

We have had an EXCELLENT response from the Church to initial efforts to lift up David Maier’s candidacy for Synod President.  The positive response (great Facebook activity, many have passed our letters on to others, many other have contacted us, some have even offered $$ support—so far we have not had to spend any money!) took off quickly and is growing.

All this supports the notion that electing David Maier this summer is possible!  Apathy and inactivity are not allowed.

We need a new spirit in our Synod, a spirit of humility, gentleness, love and faithfulness.  Please consider these two issues.

1.)     The fear and suspicion pastors experience in our circles is ungodly and debilitating.  Too often pastors begin statements at pastoral conferences with, “I am not a heretic, but…”  Is our Church’s culture so filled with fear that every statement must begin with an apology?!?  John writes, “Perfect love drives out all fear.”  We need a more perfect form of love.

2.)    The recent issue with Sandyhook and the apology/non-apology that was in the news is another sad example that we need a new spirit.   There was a profound tragedy in the town of Newtown, Connecticut, and the next thing we know our church body began the predictable internecine squabbles that turned the event into something about us.  Charges were lobbed.  Strident online conversations were conducted.   A faithful local pastor was brought under undo Synodwide scrutiny.  It was never clear who was really apologizing for what.  People throughout our Synod were embarrassed.  AND IT WASN’T ABOUT US!  Why do we insert ourselves into conversations that aren’t about us?   We have done it before, and without different leadership, we will do it again.  We need to break this long standing pattern.  We need a more perfect form of love.

There will always be conflicts in the Church that must be handled.  We believe that David Maier will be a leader who can guide us gently, appropriately, lovingly and faithfully through future conflicts.  We believe David Maier through his leadership, example, team building, faithfulness to the Word and concentration on first things (Great Commission and Great Compassion) will help us develop a new spirit and keep conflicts from becoming problems. 

(For more info about David, please see the attachment.)

The ballot for President will have just three nominees.  Biographical information on each candidate will be available in the next Lutheran Witness.    (BE INFORMED)

The voting procedure is described this way on the LCMS website

Four (4) weeks prior to the national convention, the Secretary of the Synod, using lists of delegates in attendance at the prior year’s district conventions as submitted by the secretaries of the districts, shall provide, via a secure and verifiable method, opportunity for two (2) voting delegates from each congregation in attendance at the previous district conventions who remain members of the congregations they represented to vote for one (1) of the three (3) candidates for President.  If no candidate receives a majority of the votes cast, another vote will take place.  (For more information on the voting process, see the 2010 Handbook, Bylaw

As you can see in order to vote you:  
1)      had to be a delegate to your 2012 Disctrict Convention.   (make sure you were counted)
2)      need to have your email registered with Synod’s secretary,  Rev Raymond Hartwig (make sure your email works)
3)      need to vote via the prescribed email method when it is available.  ( make sure you vote !!!)

·         If you are an elector, make sure that your email is properly registered with the Synod for voting purposes.
·         Pass this note on to as many people as you can, especially called teachers and official lay electors.
·         Join us on Facebook:
·         Pray for God’s guidance for our Synod.

Friends of David Maier:  Rob Appold, Larry Eckart, David Davis

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