Friday, June 21, 2013

Jerry's Suggestion

In his weekly missive yesterday, former synodical president, Jerry Kieschnick, chimed in on the upcoming election for LCMS president, which will take place online, beginning tomorrow, June 22, and concluding on June 25. In his missive, he writes:
Here’s my suggestion, humbly and respectfully offered. Ask your district president for his counsel. Unless the pastoral and lay delegates from your congregation did not attend last year’s triennial district convention, your congregation participated in your district president’s election. He is a trusted leader in your midst. And he knows all three nominees for LCMS president.
Evidently, Jerry missed the memo. As we have seen, some of the district presidents aren't waiting around for delegates to seek their counsel, but have already sent out campaign letters in the hope of swaying delegates to vote for the candidate of their choice. Or, maybe Jerry didn't miss the memo at all, and this is his way of offering his "humble and respectful" support to those district presidents, who have already chimed in, while encouraging delegates from other districts to contact their district presidents, who haven't sent out campaign letters, for whatever reason (maybe, hopefully, out of a sense of decency and ecclesiastical tact). Whatever the case, the message from Jerry is clear: District presidents know best, and they should play a significant role in the process of electing our synodical president. After all, these dudes have been elected to serve their districts, so they must be trusted leaders in our midst.

It's kind of ironic, isn't it? Three years ago, Jerry was soundly defeated in his bid to be reelected as synodical president, as Matthew Harrison was elected on the first ballot by a pretty significant margin, as far as LCMS presidential elections have gone in the past decades. Shouldn't that make him a trusted leader in our midst? Maybe we should just forgo asking our district presidents for their counsel and ask Harrison for his.

What a grand idea! Thanks, Jerry. President Harrison is a trusted leader in our midst. He knows all three nominees for LCMS president. I'm going to ask him, and I humbly and respectfully advise all delegates to do the same:
Dear President Harrison,

You were elected to serve as our synodical president in July, 2010, which makes you a trusted leader among us. I am writing to seek your counsel in regard to the upcoming election for synodical president. You know all three candidates. For whom do you think I should vote?

In Christ,
Rev. Thomas C. Messer
Peace Lutheran Church, Alma, MI
Okay, so, no, I'm not really going to send that inquiry to President Harrison, and neither do I really advise delegates to do so. I'm just trying to highlight the irony and absurdity of Jerry's "humble and respectful" suggestion here, especially the bit about our district presidents being "trusted leaders" by virtue of being elected. If we have learned anything of late, the district presidents who have chosen to forsake all sense of decency and engage in electioneering have proven themselves to be anything but "trusted leaders."

That Jerry Kieschnick would send out this suggestive missive just a few days before the polls open is not surprising, given the fact that he has seen fit to offer his own not-so-humble and disrespectful commentary and criticism regarding our current synodical president, jumping on the bandwagon of the criticism heaped upon our synod and its president a few months back. He even sent out an "Early Edition" of his "Perspectives" back on February 11, which included a section sub-titled "People are asking . . .," wherein he noted that lots of people were asking him whether or not he'd be willing to serve again as our synodical president, how he was humbled by that, how he has always believed that the office should seek the man and not the man the office, which was followed up by a reminder that the deadline for nominations was quickly approaching and seemed to be the reason for the "Early Edition" of his "Perspectives," even though he was totally not seeking the office in any way - totally. So, not surprising at all. This is the same sort of "Ecclesiastical-ness" we all grew so fond of during Jerry's tenure as our synodical president, where churchly matters were often handled behind the locked doors of Executive Sessions, and where lawyers, bylaws, and CCM opinions were consulted before, or even in lieu of, Holy Scripture and our Lutheran Confessions, and where the ends always justified the means, so that the circling of the wagons was always employed to protect the institution of Synod, Inc. and we never heard any repentant apologies from our "trusted leaders" about anything (if I'm wrong about that, show me). Nothing says "Ecclesiastical" like Executive Sessions, lawyers, bylaws, CCM opinions, and the circling of the wagons. If that's your bag, by all means, contact your district presidents for counsel.   

As for me, as soon as the polls open and I can cast my vote, I will do so for President Harrison, as will the lay delegate of the congregation I am blessed to serve. And, amazingly, we will be able to do so without having contacted our district president for his counsel. Go figure! We will do so not because President Harrison has the right vision or is trodding the right path, or because he's just more awesomer than the other candidates. We will do so simply because he shares our confession of the faith, promotes that confession, and desires to live and lead by that confession, which includes his ready admission that he is a sinner in need of Jesus Christ. He's transparent, unafraid to speak his mind or answer questions directly put to him in a direct manner (rather than screening questions in advance to formulate the best political answer), an excellent theologian, has a true pastor's heart, and will readily admit when he's wrong, repent, and seek forgiveness - you know, like a Lutheran.

So, thanks for the "humble and respectful" suggestion, Jerry, but I'm good.      

Thursday, June 20, 2013

COPs Gone Wild

The LCMS Council of Presidents (COPs) have often been referred to as the "8th Commandment Police," which is a nickname that only slightly edges out the other nickname by which they are also affectionately known: the "Blogging Police."

They have come to be known by these nicknames because some of the COPs have often issued missives, either in written or oral form, decrying what they deem to be crass violations of the 8th Commandment among the Lutherans they serve, especially within the crotchety realm of the Lutheran blogosphere. In fact, word has it that portions of COPs meetings have been devoted to addressing this issue, so concerned are some who belong to that high and venerable Council about this.

But, one wonders where the COPs are now? Some of their own venerable members have taken a liking to trampling all over the 8th Commandment lately, but not a peep of concern has been heard (at least, publicly) from any of the other members. Strange, that. Even stranger is the fact that those intent on setting the 8th Commandment aside in the attempt to score political points are among the loudest voices on the COPs decrying 8th Commandment violations, especially in the Lutheran blogosphere.

I guess the lesson we are to learn from this is that the COPs are above reproach. What is good for the goose is not good for the gander, since not all geese are equal in our synod. The 8th Commandment simply doesn't apply to certain Geese, who reside in certain, plush District offices. They are above the Law (hey, wasn't that a Steven Seagal movie?). For them, the end justifies the means. If the 8th Commandment must be obliterated in order to accomplish some self-perceived "higher good," so be it.

The first member of the COPs to forsake all sense of decency and use the power and resources of his office to do some dirty electioneering was Paul Linnemann, District President of the Northwest District of the LCMS. He sent out an email to voting delegates in his District to tell them about the two distinct paths he has witnessed forming in our synod. It is obvious to anyone reading his email that he is a big fan of the second path he describes, which, according to him, is being trod by his fellow District President, David Maier. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that Linnemann sent this email out to voting delegates in his District to campaign for Maier. And, if one didn't know any better, one might be swayed by what Linnemann writes, for golly gee willickers, who would want a synodical president like Matt Harrison, who is "seeking to concentrate the activity and authority in the church in the office of pastor," and who doesn't want to engage the culture in which we live with the Gospel, but follows "a paradigm of limitation"? I mean, Harrison sounds like a big, fat jerk, especially when compared to how Linnemann describes Maier: "As the leader of the largest District in the LCMS, he has fostered a spirit of collegiality and trust among the people of his District." That sounds wonderful. I'll take two of those, please.

But, Linnemann's distasteful 8th-Commandment-Be-Damned politickin' was rather tame in comparison to the most recent diatribe from another one of the above-the-law COPs, Robert "call me Bob" Newton, District President of the California-Nevada-Hawaii District of the LCMS. There is no subtlety to Bob's campaign email he sent to delegates in his district. He just comes right out and slams Harrison, taking a quote from him in the May issue of The Lutheran Witness completely out of context in the attempt to convince voting delegates in his district that Harrison believes the preaching of the Gospel should only happen within the walls of our churches and be kept "far from the earshot of those who have not yet heard." Yeah, because a) that is an accurate description of the dude who happens to be the first LCMS President to testify before a congressional hearing in D.C., and b) that is totally what Harrison was saying in that article - totally.

Another member of the 8th-Commandment-Breaking 8th Commandment Police Squad, Chris Wicher, District President of the Eastern District of the LCMS, said the heck with sending out an email to voting delegates in his District limited to campaigning for Maier's election as synodical president. He went a step further and sent out a "Missional List" with suggested candidates for many of the elections to be conducted at our upcoming Synodical Convention. I mean, why limit your electioneering to the highest office in the synod when you can use the power and resources of your District office to go ahead and endorse a whole slate of candidates?

So much for fearing and loving God so that we do not tell lies about our neighbor, betray him, slander him, or hurt his reputation, but defend him, speak well of him, and explain everything in the kindest way. There's an election at stake here! We cannot let something like the 8th Commandment get in the way of our very important campaign. The future of our synod depends on this, after all! Harrison must be ousted. If we reelect him, he might pass some edict from on high which prevents us from ever saying anything about Jesus anywhere at any time, except within the confines of our churches, of course.

What a joke these men and their letters are - a disgraceful, disgusting, sickening joke! And, what hypocrisy! The "8th Commandment Police" doing such violence to the 8th Commandment themselves is like the corrupt cop who takes money from the mob, but pretends to be a cop on the up-and-up, or who, like in the pic above, claims to protect and serve citizens, while using every opportunity he can to beat the crap out of them in the name of performing his duties.

Not all cops are corrupt, of course. Neither are all COPs. Which is why it surprises me that none of the other COPs have issued public statements of concern over the unprecedented and disgraceful electioneering of their brother COPs. Will none of the other COPs speak up in defense of Harrison's reputation being damaged by these renegades? Is this just the preview of things to come in future elections, where the COPs will become the political activists in our synod, using the power and resources of their District offices to disparage other COPs in order to campaign for their preferred candidate?

I wonder how these renegade COPs would feel about President Harrison sending out an email to all the delegates in their Districts prior to their own elections in a couple of years, campaigning against them by twisting their words, misrepresenting their positions, and endorsing one of the candidates running against them. Oh, wait, never mind. These guys believe that what is good for the goose is not good for the gander, as mentioned above. They would most certainly cry "Foul!" were someone to have the audacity to send their delegates an email campaigning against them, just as they decry all the 8th-Commandment-Breaking in the Lutheran blogosphere, but have no problem breaking it themselves.

Of course, these renegade COPs have nothing to worry about here, as President Harrison wouldn't stoop to their level and use the power and resources of his office to actively campaign against them in their own Districts. I think they know that, which is why they don't fear putting aside all decency and engaging in such disgraceful electioneering. But, can't any of the other COPs chime in and call these renegades out on their despicable behavior?

And, what is the theme song for these renegade COPs? I think it's something like:

"Bad Prez, Bad Prez,
Whatcha gonna do?
Whatcha gonna do
When we come for you?"

These are a few of your Ecclesiastical Supervisors, O Lutherans. Kind of changes the meaning of "ecclesiastical," doesn't it?   

UPDATE: Since posting this yesterday, it was pointed out that the Florida-Georgia District had sent out a campaign letter, which you can read here. So, for those keeping score at home, please add that district to the list of those engaging in shameful and disgraceful electioneering.            

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Our Synod's Biggest Challenge?

On the Friends of David Maier Facebook page, the following was shared today:
We like this response that David Maier gave to the Florida Georgia District when asked various questions.

(See if there is something you can do today to encourage others to support David Maier for Synod president.)

How would you describe the biggest challenge facing the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod today?

I’d like to answer that question by telling this brief story I remember reading or hearing. The story was about 2 brothers who each had a son. For their sons Spring Break they decided to go fishing at their favorite summer fishing hole in north Texas. To make it more fun the four of them decided to also camp in the camper on the rear of the truck of one of the brothers. Everything was fine and dandy until rising early the next morning with the expectation of a full day of fishing ahead them, they opened the camper door and experienced an early north Texas spring storm with snow and 30 MPH winds. They closed the camper door and decided to play cards the rest of the day. The also did a little bit of drinking to pass the time. It wasn't an all-bad day, talking about fishing and how they would rather be on the water. The next morning the weather was just as bad with a little snow and a whole lot of rain. They spent their time like the previous day playing cards, doing a little reading, getting on each other’s nerves all the more. By supper that night, with the wind a little warmer but still howling, they not only stayed inside and didn't fish, but jabbed at each other with cutting comments and sarcasm and began “fighting.” So they packed up and went home.

The "moral" of the story was, "When you don't fish, you fight."

We’ve to stop fighting each other. God has called us to "fish," to take the truths of Scripture, especially that God loves the world - God loves sinners (even a one like me), to take that Gospel message - which is still the power of God unto salvation – and declare it to the world. To be sure doctrine is important. Our Synod’s first President, C.F.W. Walther, recognized good doctrine as tantamount to a farmer having and sowing good seed: it is the only way to ensure a good harvest. BUT, having good seed, we must sow it (Matthew 28:18-20) – (we must fish), demonstrating our concern for those who face a Christless eternity! I believe that God wants us to spend more time finding better methods for equipping, encouraging, and supporting our laity in the mission work within our neighborhoods and communities – especially as we face the rise of secularism and Islam – and less time examining the doctrinal purity and practice of others. How we relate to one another says much about our theology, our God, and our relevance to the world. (Cf.1 John 4:7-16) [Emphasis mine]
Wait, what? Did nominee Maier just describe the biggest challenge facing the LCMS with a story about a Spring Break fishing trip with two fathers and their two sons? Seriously? Call me dense, but wasn't it the weather that prevented the fathers and sons from being able to fish? Shouldn't the "moral" of the story be, "When the weather's bad, you can't fish"? I mean, the "moral" that nominee Maier shares doesn't make a bit of sense. Is he trying to suggest that two fathers and their two sons will necessarily start fighting if the weather prevents them from fishing? My best friend and his son spent a week with my son and me a few years back at my parents' cottage fishing and hanging out. There were a couple of days when the weather prevented us from fishing. We didn't fight. So much for the "moral" of the story.

But, worse than the silly story with its silly "moral" is the fact that nominee Maier believes that the biggest challenge facing the LCMS is that we're not spending enough time "finding better methods for equipping, encouraging, and supporting our laity in the mission work within our neighborhoods and communities" and too much time "examining the doctrinal purity and practice of others." Amazingly, he uses C.F.W. Walther, our Synod's first President, to give the impression that he understands that doctrine is important, but then he does the VERY THING Walther himself already warned our Synod about in his day, as he goes on to state that our problem is too much focus on doctrine and not enough focus on reaching the lost. One wonders if nominee Maier has actually read what Walther had to say on this issue, because he couldn't possibly butcher our first President's position on this any more than he has here.

Here are a few quotes from C.F.W. Walther related to this issue:
Many say, 'Instead of disputing over doctrine so much, we should much rather be concerned with souls and with leading them to Christ.' But all who speak in this way do not really know what they are saying or what they are doing. As foolish as it would be to scold a farmer for being concerned about sowing good seed and to demand of him simply to be concerned about a good harvest, so foolish it is to scold those who are concerned first and foremost with the doctrine, and to demand of them that they should rather seek to rescue souls. For just as the farmer who wants a good crop must first of all be concerned about good seed, so the church must above all be concerned about right doctrine if it would save souls. - C.F. W. Walther, "Our Common Task: the Saving of Souls" 1872

Whether our Synod gains friends or makes enemies, wins honor or invites disgrace, grows or declines in numbers, brings peace or incites enmity, all this must be unimportant to us-just so our Synod may keep the jewel of purity of doctrine and knowledge. However, should our Synod ever grow indifferent toward purity of doctrine, through ingratitude forget this prize, or betray or barter it away to the false church, then let our church body perish and the name Missourian decay in disgrace. - C.F.W. Walther, "First Sermon Delivered at the Opening of Synod" (1 Cor. 1:4-5).

Oh my dear friends of the Lutheran faith, confession, and conflict, do not be misled when today those are everywhere accused of lovelessness who still do not give up the battle for pure doctrine in our Church. . . . Oh my dear friends, let us indeed sorrow and lament over this: that false teachers constantly assail the pure doctrine in our Church and thus are at fault for the conflict and strife in the Church. However, let us never lament but rather extol and praise God that he always awakens men who fight against those false teachers, for, I repeat, this pertains to "the common salvation." . . . This conflict is one commanded us by God and is therefore certainly one blessed in time and in eternity. . . . Oh, therefore, let us never listen to those who praise and extol the conflict of the Reformation for the pure Gospel but want to know nothing of a similar conflict in our days. - C. F. W. Walther, "Why Dare and Can We Never Give Up the Church's Struggle for the Pure Doctrine?" 1876
Nominee Maier sounds a LOT like our former Synodical President, Jerry Kieschnick, who never tired of making it known that he believed our synod's biggest problem was that many among us "wasted time on incessant internal purification at the expense of the lost in the world." What he never seemed able to grasp, and what nominee Maier seems equally unable to grasp, is that the biggest problem our Synod faces is that we are NOT united in what we believe, teach, confess, and practice. That doctrinal disunity cannot be swept under the synodical carpet, so that it just magically goes away. You cannot pretend doctrinal disunity away. It needs to be addressed, but both former SP Kieschnick and nominee Maier would have us stop wasting time on trying to address it, something that C.F.W. Walther warned against time and time again.

Here's a story:

A woman was being abused by her husband. If she didn't have his socks folded exactly right, he hit her. If she didn't stack the dishes according to his preference, he hit her. If she didn't bow to his every whim, he hit her. Sometimes, he just hit her because he felt like it. He abused her horribly for years. All the while, he presented himself publicly to be a loving, committed husband to the wife he abused, and a loving, dedicated father to their two children. It was a sham, but he pulled it off for years. No one suspected him of being the abusive tyrant he was, and he made it clear to his wife that, if she ever said a word to anyone, the beating he would give her would make all the previous beatings over the years seem like loving hugs.

Finally, the woman couldn't take it anymore and went to speak with a counselor about this. The counselor told her, "You need to stop complaining about this and focus on all the good things you have with your husband. I know married couples who have bigger problems than you. At least your husband has a good career and provides you with financial security. You have two beautiful children from this marriage, and it sounds like both you and your husband do a pretty good job of keeping from them the ongoing abuse you suffer from your husband. It could be worse. He could be abusing them, too. But, he's not. My advice to you is to stick it out. If you have to take a beating once in a while, that's okay - it pales in comparison to all the good in your marriage. Don't waste your time trying to fix the abuse; instead, focus on being a good mother to your children. Don't make your children suffer by wasting time on incessant internal purification within your marriage. Find better methods to cope with your suffering. Stop being so selfish; this is not about you, but your family."

The "moral" of the story: "Put up with the abuse for the sake of your family."

Oh, and about that "equipping the laity in their mission work" thing, in the spirit of Bill Lumbergh, "Um, yeaaahhhhh, I'm going to have to go ahead and ask you to stop butchering that passage from Matthew 28 like that. If you could just go ahead and realize that what you call 'the Great Commision' is about making disciples through baptism, ongoing catechesis, and ongoing reception of the Lord's Supper, where Jesus fulfills His promise to be with us always, and NOT about 'equipping' the laity to be 'missionaries' in their neighborhoods and communities, that would be great. Mmmm Kay? Yeaaaaaahhhh."

Lastly, about that "finding better methods" thing, C.F.W. Walther and company fought against the "new measures" being everywhere promoted by revivalistic, Americanized Protestants in their day. It seems odd that we would have those claiming to be their spiritual descendants exhorting us to embrace them today. We have the Holy Word and Sacraments; there are no better methods than these - in fact, there are no OTHER methods than these.