My travels and meetings in July (youth gathering and Synod convention) were quite instructive about the future of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod.
How can I begin to praise Higher Things? If you don’t know much about one of the newest RSO’s (recognized service organization) of the LCMS, please visit www.higherthings.org. 1100+ young people and adults gathered at Vanderbilt in Nashville, TN July 6-9 for worship, study and fun. In addition to the opening and closing Divine Services, we were GIVEN three (3) services daily: Morning Prayer, Vespers and Evening Prayer. Dormitory groups were encouraged to pray Compline before going to bed as well. The catechesis involved two plenary speakers (total of four hours), one in-depth (3 hours) and three elective break-out sessions (one hour each). All were very stimulating, challenging and rewarding. Fun time included a downtown “fun place” where line-dancing was taught and enjoyed by all, swimming, and general outdoor games on the large grassy areas of campus. We were all very fired up by this great experience and can’t wait until 2011 in Atlanta, GA! Higher Things’ motto is “Dare to be Lutheran!” and bodes well for keeping our young people active in the church of their fathers.
The 64th convention of the LCMS, July 10-17 in Houston TX was another matter. Having just come from the mountaintop of Higher Things, the worship and catechesis of the convention suffered by comparison. Some context: Five years ago, President Gerald Kieschnick appointed the blue ribbon task force on synod structure and governance (BRTFSSG). Floor committee #8 was responsible for taking all their recommendations and crafting resolutions, 38 of them. The floor committee made two major miscalculations, in my opinion. First, they used most of Sunday to sell their resolutions to the delegates. This was largely perceived as a waste of time. Secondly, they presented entirely too much material for us to possibly consider even with two extra days tacked on. After a trial balloon failed to receive the necessary 2/3 support for a constitutional change, the floor committee focused on by-law changes which only need a majority vote. Several major changes to our structure and governance were passed with less than 52%, a very painful and divisive experience for the assembly. Then on Tuesday afternoon, after an outstanding sermon by Pastor Kenneth Klaus (Lutheran Hour Speaker), elections were held. Pastor Matthew C. Harrison was elected on the first ballot by 54%. At this point, the mood and spirit of the convention changed dramatically. Most subsequent elections were overwhelmingly in favor of those who supported Pastor Harrison. When we finally got to the work of the other seven floor committees, in stark contrast, many resolutions were passed almost unanimously. Beyond the elections, I believe that all matters that effect our walking together should require a 2/3 majority to pass. 2/3 is required to cease debate and to pass changes to the constitution. Why not for other matters as well? This would go a long way to promoting the healing and unity, trust and spirit of forgiveness that we desperately need to once again move forward as the body of Christ. Surely we can arrive at consensus by speaking the truth in love and listening to one another. At this point, I am cautiously optimistic about the future of the LCMS. Please keep Pastor Matt Harrison and his team in your daily prayers.