The Election is Everything?

I know that it is important who gets elected to office in our Synod. My question is, let’s say that all the people we want to get elected to office (President & Vice-Presidents) actually got elected. So what? What’s that going to change in the long run? Is that going to mean that all the churches practicing open communion are now going to be reprimanded? Will it mean that all the churches that use non-traditional worship practices will have pressure put on them to change their practices? Does that mean that the lay-ministry program will be eliminated in all Districts, and that no more lay preachers will be allowed in our churches? I know I’m being cynical, but it’s really hard not to be. Maybe someone with a little more optimism can comment intelligently on why it really matters who gets elected in our “Synod”.

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About Rev. Paul L. Beisel

Graduate of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN in 2001 (M Div.) and 2004 (S.T.M.); LC-MS Pastor and Adjunct Instructor for John Wood Community College; Husband of Amy and father of Susan, Elizabeth, Martin, and Theodore.
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5 Responses to The Election is Everything?

  1. OSC says:

    In a number of ways I do agree with you. I’m honestly more concerned with the systemic problems that are present within the Synod rather than the elected officials. What I mean is that we seem, and I may be overgeneralizing, to be raising up legions of Lutherans who really don’t have much of a picture of what it is to be Lutheran. That runs the risk of becoming a pattern and the results of that are then realized when decisions at all levels are made, from the congregation to the Synod in convention. Yet those who are elected are not inconsequential.

    I don’t intend to be cynical, either. I’m unfortunately the hopeless idealist. I tend to get hung up on the way things ought to be. But the way things are is rarely the way they ought to be. And my idealism unfortunately gives way to cynicism.

    I don’t know what the answers are, or even if there are any answers that will actually do much good at this point.

    Is the elected leadership honestly representative of the majority of those comprising the body? I can say that in my district that is the case. That may be the case at the Synodical level as well. Or it may be that most of us feel as you do, that the elected leadership doesn’t really matter that much.

    I think the leadership honestly is important, if for no other reason than they are the public face of the Synod. That and the unfortunate fractured status of the Synod makes the selection of the elected leaders important. They would be in a fine position to be able to respond to that. My personal opinion is that the elected Synodical leadership should be sound theologians and able to communicate. I don’t think we need programs as much as we need an emphasis on Word and Sacrament ministry, and in that upon theologically-sound reconciliation. (This ought in no way to be taken as a criticism of anyone in particular. I am writing in generalities, not with any persons in mind.)

    Is this possible? I don’t know. The Synod is a system in which we all react instead of act. It’s an anxious system. We are, all of us, wounded in some way, and no matter one’s position (liberal, conservative, or somewhere in between), we’ve all been running in some shade of crisis mode since, oh, 1974, and probably some before that.

    I think the slate of elected officials won’t matter much unless we–all of us, together–recognize and discern where we truly are and where we need to be. Again, I don’t know if that’s possible or not.

    I think I’m rambling. It’s because I’ve been wrestling with this one for years in my head and in hopeful and fatalistic (at the same time, no less!) conversation with others. 1 John 1.6-10 has grown in significance for me over the last couple years, as I’ve considered this and other situations in which I’m involved. I think it has a lot to say to us as a Synod.

  2. Lawrence says:

    It doesn’t matter with regard to the actual direction of Christ’s Church.

    However, should influences succeed in driving the Synod in a direction other than the direction of Christ’s Church, it matters.

  3. Pastor Beisel says:

    OSC makes a good point that there are an increasing number of people who are becoming Lutheran that are not actually “Lutheran” in doctrine and practice. I think of some of the mega churches down south, particularly in AZ, NM, and TX where the “LC-MS” churches are bringing people into the Church and making them non-denominational types, rather than Christians. As long as these churches are allowed to remain in the Synod, then men from these churches will go to the seminary to become pastors (or maybe not!) and the cycle is complete.

  4. Father Hollywood says:

    Paul:

    I think you make a great point. Which is more important, a higher cosmic event, something that shakes the foundations of the universe: a baby being baptized in a nearly empty country church, or a synodical president being elected amid pomp and circumstance in St. Louis? We carry on like the latter is of greater importance, when in fact, the former – along with preaching, absolving, and giving the Supper – are truly important while the latter doesn’t effect us much at all. Whoever gets elected, you and I will still do the same things – as will our faithful laity.

    Our polity leaves nearly everything in the hands of individual parishes. A local congregation can opt to have women distributing the Lord’s Supper, or not; laymen preaching, or not; traditional liturgy, or not; Synodical hymnals, or not; open communion, or not; speaking in “tongues,” or not. The same churches and pastors did the same things under Barry as they do under Kieschnick, and vice versa.

    Having said that, even in hierarchical churches, like Rome, to a great extent, individual parishes and pastors (especially bishops) are largely uneffected by who sits on Peter’s chair.

    I suppose ecclesiastical polity and government are a “necessary evil,” but the bottom line is this: whoever sits on Peter’s or C.F.W.’s chair doesn’t change the fact that we preach Christ crucified and administer the sacraments. Our Lord Jesus is no bureaucrat, and he never has to stand for election. Suits and synods come and go, but the Word of the Lord endures forever.

    We (and I mean this collectively for us as a synod, not to impugn any individual – most especially not you, Paul!) need to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, and stop putting our faith in princes. In this error, conservatives are just as guilty as liberals.

  5. Past Elder says:

    A second for Father Hollywood’s sentiments. As a convert from the RC church, there are times I wish an authority existed that could simply boot out those who don’t believe what we believe but hang around anyway. At the same time as a convert from the RC church where that exists, it doesn’t really matter and heterodox practices and pastors go on all the time, along with laity uneducated in their faith.

    Indeed I remember all the liberals in the RC university where I learned historical-critical methodology, revised liturgy (which unfortunately has infected other liturgcal churches including ours) etc everyone was watching Seminex rooting for the “good guys” ie liberals. And my inclination is to root for the good guys, no quotation marks, solid confessional Lutherans, in the upcoming elections.

    Yet it remains true what Luther wrote at the conclusion to the Preface to the Little Catechism about pastors. Our (your) ministry is something different than it was under the pope. The root of it all is Lutherans who don’t know what Lutheran is, whether in the pew or in office. We need faithful pastors to teach, preach and administer the sacraments, a serious and saving responsibility. We laity will be lazy if you clergy are asleep or silent, if you fail to urge these things or make it into law and bitterness — which applies equally to relying on officials in St Louis as to those in Rome!

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