Thursday, July 28, 2011

Thoughts Upon Hearing The Rumor of a Brother Leaving the Synod

The Missouri Synod can often be a skitterish, frightful bunch. In many ways our clergy can act like a gaggle of Junior High Girls. We will stand together in a corner (say, isn't the German word for "corner" "Winkel") and titter away on the latest scuttlebutt.

This tittering is always interesting when one of our own leaves the Synod (or is rumored to, at least) - swimming the Bospohorous and goes East or swimming the Tiber and becomes Roman Catholic (yes, we have cute little names for this too). And often, like the Junior High girls, there are all sorts of wild reactions. There often is anger - fierce, biting, accusatory anger. Often there is fear - who will be next, will this start the tide that spells the ruin of our cool girls club... I mean Synod?

How do I react? Me, I think of a Chris Rock routine.

I heard Chris Rock do a routine about OJ Simpson - and this was well after the fact when the wild passions had cooled down. And Rock comes out and says that we know OJ did it. But then he paused, and said something along the lines of imagine your wife in your car with your money running around with another man... but building it up. And after all the build up he said words of wisdom.

"I ain't saying it was right, but I understand."

Whenever I've come across the tales of these folks who have left the Synod... I'm not filled with anger (maybe a bit of sadness) - I'm not worried about the doom of everything. These things happen in life. This world is harsh, and we get kicked in the teeth, especially pastors.

And we as pastors get scared, we get angry at institutions, we get hurt and bruised and battered. And some of us... go away.

I ain't saying it's right, but I understand.

Most every pastor who has left the LCMS that I know of (other than the folks who just fall off the moral wagon and move in with their new boyfriend or something like that) has some wound, some hurt some pain. And they think that leaving will keep that pain at bay.

I understand that. And you know what - for many things they are right. That specific pain might get covered. If you are being kicked in the teeth, the teeth kicking will stop. If you want to chant in peace - well, "they" will find a place where you can chant in piece. If you a tired of the lack of oversight (i.e. you don't want to be the bishop anymore, you want to be under a bishop who can take care of you), you can find that.

That I understand.

Far too well.

But the reason why I've never really been tempted to go anywhere else is two fold.

First, It might make you feel good, but it's not worth the cost. It's the same reason why I don't do drugs... that might make the immediate problem go away... but it's not worth the cost. And yes, other confessions might safe guard you from the strife that you are facing right here, right now... but they don't have the Gospel in its clarity. And I can't give that up - that is too high a cost.

And more over - I'm a historian. You take your lumps here -- and while they might shield that bruise you have now... there's plenty of filth and kicking going on everywhere. It's the nature of this world, it's the nature of the Church militant. If you fear the Evangelicalizing trends in Missouri... you realize that wave is coming in the East, right? You're jumping right into an Americanization process. If you go to Rome, you've seen their liberation theology, you've seen their capitulation to reason... and you've seen that their hierarchy is coming under much more scrutiny, right?

And that's just the junk I see. I can go talk to my RC friends or my EO friends and hear plenty of complaints about the parish across town.... It's an awful lot of "2nd verse, same as the first."

I ain't saying it's right.

But sometimes - when we are in the moment, in the trial - under those specific pressures and burdens... we just need to go.

When you go my friend, know this.

I won't be saying that you're right, but if you want to talk about it, I will understand.


Anonymous said...

Ah, for some it is not East or Rome but just back to the pew. Still Lutheran-and possibly able to help the new guy without the history yet. We do not know how to take care of our own. Never have-and doubtful we ever will. There are always more coming up from behind who are a hopeful lot. Think it won't get them? It does. Don't believe me? Look at our veterans-they look awful. Going elsewhere gets you no where. But the pew looks mightly attractive and peaceful.

Sage said...

Just a thought after seeing this discussed a couple of places. Do pastors have a good support group themselves? I mean, if the heirarchy does not support you or your families can you not establish groups within yourselves to do foster that?

I see that being a pastor is an incredibly giving job where you truly don't have down time. Someone, somewhere will always be sick or needy. From what I've seen, the only time you get away is when you leave the city on vacation and don't carry your cell with you. You guys have got to take the time to feed and nourish yourselves or there won't be anything left to give.

With the internet and all the ways to connect, it seems you could reach out to create groups in your area to minister to each other. Other things I've heard is that a lot really don't take a day off. That's insane. It seems to come back to physician heal thyself.

Carl Vehse said...

The former LCMS pastor, now a Tiber River Snorkeler, had a number of posts on Luther Quest, including one on June 29, 2004:

"I went through the colloquy process and it certainly isn't a short cut. I spent five years at another theological institution. While it was a conservative and respected institution, it served as a theological foil for me in many ways. When I came to the LCMS through my search for the Church catholic, after my second-year at the school, I spent the next three years in constant dialogue between Evangelicals and the evangelicals. Once I graduated, I was accepted into the STM program in St. Louis and applied for certification through colloquy. I was interviewed by the colloquy committee, which is not an easy task, and they set forth the courses required for certification. Of course this also included a year of vicarage."

His Romish misunderstanding of "the Church catholic" should have been uncovered during the colloquy committee interview.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Anon - I consider the pastoral office like military service. There's no shame in only doing a few tours. Returning to the pew is a good, fine option.

Sage - Is there support... eh, yes and no. It depends on where you are at. There's a lot of politicicking that goes on, so the structures that should give support and aid often don't. Also, if you've read blogs, you've seen that there can be quite a bit of snark and bile and cruelty amongst pastors in our drive for doctrinal purity.

In fact, my very first blog post here notes that:

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Carl, you dead SOB and example of eating our own:

See, there's nothing productive with this. The passage you site -- do you know what his search for the Church catholic that you mock was? He read the Fathers and said, "Ah, the Lutherans treat the Sacraments the way the Fathers do." That's not a bad or mean thing.

This one in particular endured more crap and dirt than most -- lots of being kicked in the teeth.

I ain't saying it's right, but I understand.

Also... it's sad that we would view a misunderstanding as something dastardly to be unconvered rather than something to be corrected. But then, witch hunts wouldn't be fun if we only restored the witches at the end instead of burning them at the stake.

Benjamin said...

"Most every pastor who has left the LCMS that I know of ... has some wound, some hurt some pain."

Sometimes that pain is realizing that the "purity" you've sworn to teach is really something less than that, something askew. Sometimes the pain is from coming to grips with having to leave what has become part of you in the LCMS for the fullness of Christ that can only be found somewhere else.

Pain or hurt may drive a person to seek other options, but a final decision to leave is usually about far more than the original pain. In fact, the original pain would be bearable if there were no other options, but when a person discovers that they should be elsewhere, then a new pain sets in from the conscience itself (though it's hard to be sure at first). Eventually, for those who leave, it is because they conclude that the pain isn't coming from a lack of bishops, or a bad polity, etc., but it's coming from their conscience.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Ben, of course, does give another option -- sometimes it does become a sincere and honest difference of opinion - in which case, again... while they aren't right, I understand... and if one thinks another fellowship speaks the truth, then I will defend your moving there.

I understand. To go against conscience is neither right, nor safe.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

And as a note to the those using psuedonymns -- we aren't naming names here... especially as I haven't talked to the fellow, and given what I've seen on Luther Quest... no one knows if he has actually left. He's had that job for several months, and when I talked to him a bit ago he was working there but hadn't left yet.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Carl - that is twice you have named names... and once, when I expressly told you not to.

That's two strikes.

I general enjoy your comments as they can be over the top - but basically, you now have two strikes... three strikes and you're out.

Anonymous said...

I think this kind of thing is a call to repentance to us all---both the one leaving and the ones "left behind." That the Church is divided to this extent that it is possible to leave one communion for another is a shame, a scandal, and a sin for all involved. We have failed one another profoundly.

I think our upset is unwittingly appropriate. :-)

Pr. Tom Fast

Pastor Anderson said...

Well now, I don't know about Oklahoma, but here in Chicago we most definitely do not carry on like a "gaggle of Junior High girls."

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

I grew up in Chicago, still have plenty of friends in the area - and yep, when something scandalous or strange happens, there is still a lot of "shocked" conversation and flitter and fluster. There is scorn and fear and mockery.

If you do not, I commend you. If you have trained your congregation and they are slow to engage in this - fantastic.

Of course, posting on a blog to basically say, "No, I'm not... you are! -- that does sort of remind me of school days >=o)