Thursday, July 12, 2007

The problem with Missouri. . .

. . . is that we have a long and tried history of legalism. While I am a great fan of Walther - and in fact, I think the congregational polity as we have it in a Church independent of the State is rather spiffy - I do think that Walther had some defineate legalistic tendencies, which he bequeathed onto the Synod. What is ironic, is they jumped out at me at points in Law and Gospel. . . but now is not for preaching, now is for History.

Historically - when Missouri has faced a theological disagreement, what has Missouri's solution been. You are with us or against us. Now, on many things this must be what happens - there is importance to doctrinal unity. However - our first action shouldn't be to kick out those who are wrong - but should be to teach, and teach dilligently and patiently. And in fact, if it is a matter of some weakness - to bear with it.

We didn't in the 1840s (as Rev. Cwirla reminded me) with Grabau and Loehe. You were with us, hook, line, and sinker on polity, or you were against us. There was no room for manuevering, and you were to be expelled.

We didn't in the 1880s with Ohio. Either you said Election unto faith (which is techinically more correct), or, if you refused to abandon the phrase "election in view of faith" (which not only had a long established history of usage in Lutheran Orthodoxy, but one might argue is appropriate when taking an anthropological approach to election - of course, that's perhaps not the best approach to take, but it does counter some of the errors in extreme Calvinism). If you bucked what we said, there is no room - you are gone.

This has been Missouri's approach - rather than reconcile, it is exile, rather than teaching it is castigation. In fact, if you listen to most of the Conservative folks, the idea seems to be that if we just get the right people elected things will be better - cause then they can smack down those bad people and kick them out.

I am a preacher and a teacher. Indeed, I am one of the Church's teachers - and so my first response to false doctrine shouldn't be "You stupid idiot, leave!" It should be, "How can I best teach this person a better way?" I head to convention tomorrow. No matter who gets elected on Sunday to whatever offices - there are still a lot of Pastors who have shaky theology in our synod. There are still a lot of pastors who do foolish things without thinking. There are still a lot of congregations that have suffered under a lack of teaching for many years.

No election, no resolution, no by-law will change that. It will only come about by teaching, teaching that will take time and effort. There are more of us who wish to teach - who see our job not as vanquishing the foes of the Gospel, but to convert them with patience.

It all goes back to an adage I made at the Seminary - "Confessional" is not Latin for "rectum" -- and we need to remember that. We need to abandon legalistic hopes of swift victories making a "pure" synod - and rather do what we Pastors have been called to do - preach and teach - and do so for the long term.

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