7/12/2016 8:41:47 PM
Pastor Chris Vossler
Synod Convention: Tuesday
Greetings from Milwaukee! After yesterday’s business sessions got bogged down with arguments about the issue of Ecclesiastical Supervision and Dispute Resolution, it was nice to be able to really cruise through so much business today. There were a few points of contention, but compared to some previous conventions, it’s my understanding that this one has been relatively smooth.
There was quite a bit of discussion when Committee 13 (Routes to Ministry) brought its second resolution to the floor, the resolution to regularize the service of Licensed Lay Deacons. I think a lot of the argument came from a misunderstanding of the committee’s (and Task Force’s) intent with the resolution: they did not intend to denigrate the men who served, or to elevate the Pastoral Office over the Priesthood of Believers. Rather, their goal was to recognize the service of men who have served (in essence) in the Pastoral Office, but without proper calls, and to move in the direction of bringing this practice in line with our doctrine. One question I had about this resolution (but which was answered by the final resolution) was whether or not a Deacon could continue to serve after 2018 if he only preaches and administers the Sacrament under the supervision of a pastor and does so temporarily and infrequently. It is my understanding of the resolution that this is permissible, but with the consent of the Council of Presidents.
Committee 13 also brought 2 more resolutions, but only one was acted on, which created a task force to explore future ministry needs. This is something which is very necessary, particularly with all of the changes in our culture.
Committee 14 (Church and Culture) brought 3 simple resolutions. First, encouraging the creation of resources to do outreach to Muslims. Second, affirming the Biblical definition and sanctity of marriage, followed by a response to various challenges to the same. Considering that direction that our country is going, speaking the truth about marriage and the family is becoming more and more difficult.
The Committee on Ecclesiastical Supervision and Dispute Resolution did not bring the resolution on appealing to the Synod President back to the floor today—for which I am grateful. Yesterday’s debate proved just how divided the convention is on the matter, so further time and discussion can only help to bring a positive resolution to this issue. Instead, the convention acted on 4 other resolutions: speeding up the Dispute Resolution process, providing for returning missionaries and chaplains to receive calls, offering theological assistance to Lay Reconcilers who are part of the Dispute Resolution process, and finally providing a means for district officers to be removed from office when that is necessary. That last resolution caused some degree of confusion, but it is nothing more than correcting an oversight in the bylaws by which Synod and District Presidents can be removed from office for certain offenses (incapacity, breach of fiduciary responsibilities, neglect, commission of a felony), but other elected officers could not. To be honest, 3 of the 4 resolutions fall into the category of correcting oversights.
The Committee on International Witness only presented 2 resolutions today. The first commended our International Schools, something near to my heart, as not only have I visited our international school in Shanghai and met missionaries associated with the Hong Kong International School, but my sister will leave to begin teaching at a non-Lutheran international school in Panama in a week. With the Synod moving to explore opportunities for founding new international schools, she could be a resource in forming a school in Latin America! The second affirmed our support of the religious freedoms of our military chaplains, that they should be free from coercion by the military, particularly in this climate when it comes to LGBT matters. I do not envy our military chaplains with the difficult time they must have in juggling their responsibilities both to the Synod as their supporting agency (as well as to God) and to the military.
The afternoon session involved a whole lot of elections. You can find the results on the Synod website, but one I would like to point out is that my Seminary classmate, Rev. Eric Ekong, was elected to the LCMS Board of Directors! We need to praise God and pray that He will guide all of those being elected to positions of responsibility for the coming triennium!
The two committees that took the floor after the elections both worked through an enormous slate of resolutions (probably because everyone was getting antsy after all the elections!). The Committee on Theology and Church Relations got through 9 of their remaining 11 resolutions, including resolutions commending our Synod’s ongoing conversations with the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Synod, North America Lutheran Church, and Anglican Church of North America. At this time we don’t know where any of these conversations will go, beyond joint statements with the NALC and ACNA and other forms of “cooperation in externals,” but it is exciting to see God building these connections, particularly with WELS (with whom we have historically had strong ties prior to 1969).
Committee 16 (Family, Youth, and Young Adults) somehow succeeded in getting through all of its 6 resolutions—this despite a ton of debate on one of those resolutions and confusion regarding parliamentary procedure while working on another one! For me I think the most important resolution from this floor committee was 16-06, which called for further study on the matter of Scouting following the decision of the Boy Scouts of America not only to allow gay scouts but now to allow gay scout leaders. I grew up in Boy Scouts, but I have been very conflicted over the 4 years since those decisions were made. Guidance in how we as confessional, Bible-believing Lutherans can respond to this challenge would be most appreciated. We should also note Resolution 16-03, which encourages us to uphold and affirm the role of father. Speaking for myself, I don’t know where I would be without the influence of my father—but I certainly wouldn’t be at the LCMS Synod Convention in Milwaukee, serving alongside my father as a pastoral delegate!
Before closing, I want to make a final note regarding the Every One His Witness evangelism program which we approved a couple days ago. Rev. Mark Wood from the Office of National Mission presented to our Kansas District delegation at breakfast this morning and told us a lot more about this program than we already knew. Presently they are working on testing out their training methods, with the ultimate goal of making it possible for the basic training to be done without the need for a trained facilitator. They are also working on finishing up the contextual modules, though it is currently at the mercy of their I.T. department as all of these contextual modules will be made available online. When it finally gets rolled out, I would love to see our circuit host the basic training, particularly as part of our celebration of the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation next year. I kind of think that Martin Luther would be tickled to know that we are celebrating the Gospel by seeking to spread the Gospel to people who desperately need to hear it.
Praise God for the service of the men and women who work so hard toward the mission and ministry of our Synod. Pray for all those who will be responsible for this mission and ministry for the next 3 years.
Let us pray: Our Lord and our God, You have called us all to be witnesses of Your love and mercy to those around us. You have called us to be Your people, and have raised up for us pastors, missionaries, teachers, and other workers who serve us and equip us for our service to You. We pray for all those that have been elected today to serve the Synod and church at larger. Grant wisdom and steadfastness as they carry out their responsibilities. We ask this for Jesus’ sake. Amen.