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Messages - Dave Benke

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Your Turn / Re:
« on: March 24, 2023, 01:51:19 PM »
OK, that's quite a life story.  What I notice over and over is that he is convinced and passionate about the truth that the Gospel, by grace alone, trumps the Law.  And that's not an online message told well or often enough in my opinion.

Dave Benke

Your Turn / Re:
« on: March 24, 2023, 09:31:38 AM »
Breaking Lenten post-fast for a shout-out to Chad Bird.  He's on social media with some short videos on a daily walk through Scripture.  Very well-informed and pastoral in approach. 

This is a different "incarnation" of him for me.  I remember standing behind him on line at a Synodical convention where he opined vigorously against adopting a resolution for the use of the hymnal This Far By Faith.  The next speaker, a Black woman, said "Thank God for this hymnal!"  The next speaker, the one before me, called the question and the resolution passed by a substantial majority, over the objection of Chad Bird.  He doesn't seem like the same guy in the videos I've been seeing.  At all.

Dave Benke

This article is required reading for this thread.

It reads as though the author has been reading this thread. Marymount seems to be in the same mess as VU, only they’re not selling paintings, they’re eliminating theology and philosophy.

Interesting article, and very realistic.  He notes the coming "demographic cliff" of 2025 to 2029, with the dire prediction that "50% of colleges are poised to fail by 2032".  He also astutely observes how many colleges and universities have essentially shot themselves in the foot by gutting not only the uniqueness of their identities (such as a Catholic institution removing theology from the curriculum), but also in watering down the core nature of the fundamentals, where the basics become niche subjects driven by the whims of the professors and the prevailing trends of the culture.  While it is not necessarily encouraging to hear the predictions he offers, we are probably facing an inevitable corrective in a bloated educational system.  The LCMS has felt this and too often some have lashed out at the synod in anger while missing the realities that could not be ignored.  During the pandemic the church where I was married and did my vicarage in Denver closed and sold the building to someone else.  It was sad to see a part of my past and my wife's past disappear.  But I could see the demographic shifts from before I came there in the mid-80s to the present.  The days of growth had come and gone.  The two high schools of my hometown are now reported to be in plans to merge.  Populations change and so do the needs.  We saw several of our regional rural grade schools in my current community close in the last few years and merge with the city's schools.  The Baby Boom was done a long time ago.  The needs are not there.  The schools are just an economic liability.
Other Catholic colleges besides Marymount have stopped offering majors in traditional liberal arts fields, including two in Minnesota: St. Mary's in Winona and College of St. Benedict/St. John's University in Collegeville.

St. Francis College in Brooklyn, a NCAA Division I school, has chosen a different economy: they are pulling out of intercollegiate athletics.  No art galleries will be affected, as far as I know.


Breaking Lenten fast from posting to say that St. Francis has been a great landing spot for lots of people whom I know, some of whom went there on partial athletic scholarships.  It doesn't have the level of heft of some of the other Catholic universities in the area like Fordham, St. John's, Iona, but has been a real Godsend in Brooklyn in the past several decades because it represents, as might be imagined, a thoroughly multi-cultural/racial/immigrant student body.  Athletic scholarships will be honored, according to their press release.  However, this is in my opinion a calculated risk which must be based on how many students utilize the sports programs.  I would guess the answer is quite a bunch.  So either it's a continued paring down of enrollment while remaining sustainable, or a move toward another direction in the delivery of the school's educational offerings.  (For those outside the NYC loop, they play in the conference with Fairleigh Dickinson in hoops of upset notoriety this year, and almost beat them, and used to regularly take that conference title - and they have had some great men's baseball teams too.)

Mercy College has adapted to and adopted some of the students who went to either Concordia or College of New Rochelle - the one of course Lutheran and the other a private school run by the Ursuline order until closure - and Touro College, a Jewish institution has joined them in growing while others have declined.  Additionally the CUNY (City of  New York) system with 220,000 students and the SUNY (State of New York) system with 320000 students have gone through 20% plus enrollment decline in the past five to ten years.  CUNY for stay at home students only runs about $12000 per year all-inclusive, and SUNY about the same for those living in NY, and those are scattered all over the state.  Included in CUNY are community college (2 year) schools which cost New Yorkers even less.  So there are very affordable options.  A lot of kids will take the community college route, live at home, and then transfer to one of the four year CUNY's or SUNY's. 

So in the overall decline, there are still over a million college/university students in metro NY, with the economics dictating choices for the majority of young people.

Dave Benke

Your Turn / Veterans of the Cross March 6-8 Titusville FL
« on: March 02, 2023, 06:06:54 PM »
I'm officially off the board for Lent, but want to extend to any who are in Florida an invitation to St. Stephen Retreat Center in Titusville, FL, where the annual LCMS Veterans of the Cross gathering is held this year.  Bonus points for our orthodox participants - St. Stephen is owned and run by the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States.  I believe this includes something different for Lutherans, from what I'm told.  No alcohol. 

Anyway, I'm the keynote on the chosen topic which is "Mind the Gap" - which is in short described thusly:  Every change creates a gap between what was and what is, between what is left behind and what is taken up.  Christ has led the way across the gap from death to life (John 5:24) and we follow Him with the cross lifted high.

These are mostly post-65 (70/80) church workers.  Should be fun. 

Dave Benke

Your Turn / Re: Stop...Go...Wait...Uh...
« on: February 20, 2023, 11:31:28 AM »
Great response Dave and thoughtful from a man who led with distinction. I was fortunate enough to serve with your colleague Larry Stoterau as he retired. He was such a stabilizing force for so many of us. His wisdom was gained over a lot of years and he too led nationally as chairman of the COP. Sometimes I think, if everybody just knew how smart I was and how well I had everything figured out, they would think the way I think and do what I think is best:)
One of the problems with the current system is how much tinkering with the idea of the divine call people are willing to tolerate. Term limited calls are a trick, as are term calls to begin with. Already the field of candidates for DP is pretty much limited to people who could expect to retire if they didn't get reelected.  If if a good candidate was 45 years old and limited to, say, nine years as DP, what does he do after that? Everybody would know or suspect the stop was a finagled call for the purposes of still having a call, and confidence in the divine nature of the whole things would further erode.

In short, if it is time to talk term limits, and it very well may be, then it is also time to talk about positions that require a call and positions that require a contract.

IMHO, I think we should abolish terms limits for DPs as we do with the Synod President, and once a man is elected as DP or SP he stays in that office until he dies, retires or takes another Call.  He should NOT be "elected out" of his Call.
I disagree. We've muddied the waters by misunderstanding/misapplying the Call to a political structure/position.

I believe it to be beneficial if a political officeholder (i.e., DP, SP) or academic officeholder (i.e., Sem/Univ Pres, Sem/Univ Faculty) to have, as Pr. Benke so wonderfully put it, a side-hustle as a Called Pastor to a congregation (as Pr. Benke & Pr. Harrison have done), primarily because it helps keep them in touch with parish ministry. Their primary vocation once elected or selected, however, is that political or academic office.

If it truly is a Divine Call, then what Pr. Eckstein describes has to be the model. And if this is how we want to handle it, then let's stop putting political titles on the office (particularly DP & SP, where the office is a full-time position) and be honest/realistic about our polity and start calling them Bishops & letting/holding them to true ecclesiastical supervision. (Side note/observation:  IMO, our polity in the LCMS is what it is because of the dual factors of reacting against Bishop Stephan and being in the American democracy.)

I'm not saying it is/will be easy, but I am saying that we (collectively) need to start being honest with ourselves about these foundational matters. Much of the sturm und drang we are currently (and have been for generations) experiencing is cognitive dissonance generated by foundational uncertainties. I've experienced it in congregations that I've been a member of, as well as when I was on CUI's Board of Regents from 2010-13.

I agree with you on a lot of this, Glen.  "Foundational uncertainty" is a great descriptor.  A book written back in 1999 by Mary Todd speaks about it through the lens of women's involvement in the denomination beginning with the Stephan beginnings and the resultant constitutional framework of the denomination and its adherent members leading to the local voters' assembly being the arbiter of doctrine and practice.  The teachings on the topic via Walther's transference theory in my opinion hold the balance toward local autonomy nicely with the wider church body, but fall prey often to manipulation.

There are time-designated, ie non-tenured divine calls for rostered workers including clergy.  Most congregations grant a tenured call, but in these days of diminution, there are more congregations simply stating that absent an income/member inflow, the compensation, and as a result the call itself, are going to last only three years.  but most of the non-tenured calls are to institutions - schools, nursing homes, and the like, into which pile goes the three year electoral cycle for those placed into full service as district or national "executives." 

The hard conversation about the use of the ecclesial term Bishop is long overdue, but I don't necessarily think it ends with acceptance of the term Bishop or the end of the an election cycle.

Dave Benke

Best Practices for Ministry is rolling out in Phoenix, AZ this week.  2500 registrants with an enormous roster of speakers and workshops skewed toward the younger demographic, plus plenary sessions that tend to be electric.  Our deaconess, Janine Bolling, is there along with her brother, Pastor Gerard Bolling from Bethlehem, St. Louis.  Some direct conversation and interaction on racism in the church and in the LCMS and major workshops on outreach and ministry development.   

The food and hospitality at this event, hosted on the campus of Christ Lutheran Church, is always at chart-topping levels, according to those speaking with me from out there, who indicated that the Large Catechism is indeed available for purchase at the CPH booth.  Anyway, it's a gathering of folks including many from the large(r) congregations who have not had much voice or visibility at the national LCMS level for over a decade. 

Dave Benke

There is a group of people, perhaps several groups of people, who are planning to do major changes within your church body, some of them specifically directed at particular leaders. You want to handle this as if it were a dispute within a congregation? Very bad idea.

This has taken on a new level of high concern at the national level of our denomination within the last 12 hours.   I wrote this yesterday afternoon:  I would not be surprised if all kinds of threatening gestures are taking place, because this is a very dedicated tribe.  I have heard now that those words were somewhat prophetic.

The analysis provided in the link is that the LCMS has been selected by this "dedicated tribe" because of perceived alignment on issues of Christian Nationalism and Patriarchalism as they have appeared in other settings and venues articulated by clergy and other leaders.  That assessment is most difficult to deny.

Dave Benke

Your Turn / Black History Month
« on: February 14, 2023, 08:19:02 AM »
Black History Month

Returning from a COVID-delayed cruise through eight Caribbean islands in early February, I was struck not only by the incredible beauty of this island string of pearls, but also by the centuries-long swipe of the lash in the depredations of slavery and violence against the indigenous populations, African chattel slaves and the indentured by colonial merchants and governments. 

It's an odd juxtaposition now – islands owing 80-90% of their gross national product to travel and tourism welcome enormous ships serving up thousands and thousands of mostly white folks from the US and Europe who disembark to spend their hard-earned money on rum and trinkets and head in droves to the beautiful beaches to burn their sun-starved skin.

At the same time tour guides, invariably with a family history plunged deep beneath the boat-helm into the galleries where cross-ocean slave oarsmen toiled, tell their hearers to make sure their listening devices are turned to the correct channel as they connect the unique island topographies to devastating intertwined island stories of greed and colonial nations’ warfare over control of space and the bodies of the enslaved for the sake of the profit margin on sugar cane or cotton ball or tobacco leaf or coffee plant. 

As the indigenous Arawak, Taino and Carib tribes were either wiped out or found tiny jungle footholds to survive against all odds, the black slaves arrived.  Within decades island by island they vastly outnumbered by factors of 20-1 and more the white overlord plantation owners, who had the firepower to keep them in line.  Barbados and other islands were the first stop early on, as the American colonies in the Carolinas, for instance, often received their slaves by way of Barbados. 

In most islands monuments in the public square pay tribute to both the Carib native leaders who revolted, or the black slaves who revolted and organized against their masters, breaking the chains of bondage.  The cane has all but ceased to be cut on most islands.  The cotton balls are on tiny remnant plots, the tobacco leaves and coffee plants only on select hills – they do not cover the land any more.

There is great pride in the Caribbean in the eventual independent status achieved in the latter part of the 20th century and through to today by most of these islands.  That legacy is being built by descendants of those who made it through the dark days of bondage.

People of faith, hope and purposeful determination have made this possible.  To those who arrived on the farther shores of the United States and settled on the Golden Shore in New York, so many of whom are in the communion of saints in Brooklyn, in this Black History Month I offer a prayer of thanks for your devotion to God, to Church, to family and to freedom!

Dave Benke

Who in the world preaches a 10 minute sermon?  And why would anyone think that was sufficient for the care of souls in their congregation?  Even 20 minutes is barely enough.  Luther said we shouldn't preach more than an hour unless we had something especially important to say!

Having now sat in the pew as retired for a couple of years, I always strove for my sermons to be in the 10-12 minute range. The average lay person's attention span goes dull far more quickly than the average preacher thinks that they are stimulating orators. Good preached is, in my humble and retired opinion, far, far more difficult to find than preachers who think they are good preachers. Just saying!

While I agree that American attention spans are not what they were 60 years ago, they are still generally good enough in my experience to deal with a well laid out and presented 25-30 minute sermon proclaiming Christ's sacrifice for the sinners in the pews.  If all I was going to do was tell them that Christ opened the pathway to heaven confess His Name and believe in their hearts God raised Him from the dead, well I'd just print it in the bulletin, sing a hymn or two, offer a prayer for the church and send them home.  Might take less than 1/2 hour.  I'm sorry brothers but I'm having the feeling some of you have raised the rightly administered Sacrament so high you're neglected the proclamation of the pure Gospel (hope I'm wrong about that)

Tim comments: Word AND Sacrament are the twin poles of worship and the liturgy carries the freight. I have occasionally heard longer sermons that were very edifying. However, the best Gospel sermons I've heard are memorable quickly and succinctly. I worked in broadcasting for many years. 60-seconds became too long for a commercial unless it was quickly memorable. 30-second became the norm. We're down to 15-seconds these days. They do not air infomercials during normal TV shows. In our "sound-bite" social media meme based culture, the attention span of most folks is being eroded. We would do well to pay attention to what our parishioners are truly hearing and taking with them.

I would suggest that most of us (me included for which I pray God forgive me) get enamored with the sound of our own voice and the egocentric oration of our own learning. FWIW.


Great post, Tim.  "Memorable quickly and succinctly."  Preach it! 

Dave Benke

After some consideration I'm putting this link on the LCMS Convention site thread, with the proviso that I do not know who Machaira Action is -

This is very thorough in analysis of some of those on the White/Christian Nationalist Patriarchalist front who have been highly active in and around the Large Catechism issue, taking credit for getting President Harrison to flinch, and now I am very sure reacting in a strongly negative way to the continuation of the project without changes.  I would not be surprised if all kinds of threatening gestures are taking place, because this is a very dedicated tribe.

However, my reaction is that this behavior is described as being assisted by the attitudes propounded inside the LCMS, and the potential for the fomenting of the Nationalist types to find not only safe haven but ample ground for recruiting within the LCMS.

As examples, there is the clergy-driven Gottesblog, which threw the same shade as the Twitter folks with regard to the catechism on grounds of wokeness, and has in addition walked right up the Anti-Woke trail for months and years point by point.  There are those, many connected to Gottesdienst and also rostered clergy, who sponsored and elevated the Anti-Woke campaign at CUW for months and months including condemning the Black Student Union.  There are those who are on other lesser sites who can't get enough Anti-Woke on a daily basis.

Whatever is thought and said about those described in this link, attention must be paid to the pastors and professors who have taken a very similar tack to Mahler and Co.

Dave Benke

Your Turn / Re: He Gets Us
« on: February 13, 2023, 03:19:26 PM »
How about these seven women, US Navy Pilots? 
Arielle Ash, F/A-18F Super Hornet
Saree Moreno, F/A-18F Super Hornet
Suzelle Thomas, F-35C Lightning II
Margaret Dente, EA-18G Growler
Lyndsay Evans,  EA-18G Growler
Caitie Perkowski, F/A-18F Super Hornet
Naomi Ngalle, F/A-18F Super Hornet

This is the 50th Anniversary of women aviators in the Navy so they took care of the pre-Superbowl fly-over. 
Well done!

Dave Benke

Your Turn / Re: He Gets Us
« on: February 13, 2023, 11:38:00 AM »
Great game although I wasn't crazy about the holding call at the end of the game. 

Hegetsus has been doing what it does for awhile now, and as far as I'm concerned it's great and always specifies that "he" is Jesus.

The Superbowl is not only about football, and for many people not mainly about football. 

My favorite commercial, though, was the one paid for by Steve Cohen on behalf of the New York Mets with team members selling season tickets.  Nice!

Dave Benke

Just a word about the idea that the lectionary should not be seen as teaching Scripture, which is for Bible study.  That sounds great until you look around and see how few people are actually in a true Bible study.  The number is far less than it ought to be and I chose to preach lectio continua for years so people could have a decent basis for why we believe, teach and confess certain doctrines of the Church.  I have nothing against lectionaries per se and have generally used various ones, but neither is there any real reason to hold them up as some kind of end all or be all in Christian worship.  BTW, the OT readings often seem to have more to do with the Gospel than some of the Epistle readings.

What then is true bible study?  As it happens I just had some conversations about bible study this morning after church.  What the adults who spoke to me are looking for is
a) solid teaching from the teacher
b) interactive mode of learning
c) open to all
d) questions abounding

I'm on that side of the page, which is a different way, my opinion, of "indoctrination."  More Socratic and perambulative than sit at desk, take notes, write them down and memorize them.

Where are you on that spectrum?

Dave Benke

The RCL rejected discarded the Christocentric lens and thematic OT lessons for a more or less lectio continuo approach; which, as Frank Senn properly noted and objected, confused a Eucharistic lectionary with Bible Study. 

I still don't see what makes the RCL better than other options.  If the focus is on the Eucharist and not Bible study, then why have a three-year lectionary.  A one-year lectionary should do just a well.  The logic seems to be that with a three-year lectionary, more of Scripture is covered.  But if the focus isn't Bible study, why would that matter?  Another problem with the RCL is that are two options during the Season of Pentecost.  There is more variation within the RCL than there is between the RCL lectionary used by Lutherans and the LCMS three-year lectionary. 

I understand the argument for a common lectionary across denominations.  I understand the value of using a lectionary that is closely tied to the Church Year and to traditional themes that are found in historical lectionaries.  I just don't understand how the sequence utilized in the RCL is more suitable for the Eucharist than something like the Narrative Lectionary, which is still Christocentric and which takes not of the Church Year.

I'd like to hear Amy Shifrin unpack that sentence and the Senn reference further.  Maybe she can be asked to contribute here on the topics explored in her article, of which this is one. 
Guest Teacher/Interlocutor - why not give it a try?

Dave Benke

Maybe not formally, but the LCMS was part of the LBW project, which was the precursor to unity.
Wrong again. There were no unity discussions connected to the LBW project. And the LCMS broke all good faith at every step of the LBW way, pulling out after the rest of us made considerable concessions to accommodate the LCMS need for including certain hymns already rejected by the project.

Whether there were formal unity discussions connected to the LBW project or not, it was assumed that with the LCA, ALC, and LCMS sharing the same hymnal, this would contribute to their eventual union into one church body.  Indeed, it was the LCMS fear that many LCMS congregations that were adopting LBW might eventually leave the LCMS for the new Lutheran church body that led to rushing the LW into production, thus afflicting Missouri with liturgical confusion for decades.  When I hear of ELCA complaints about the Lutheran hymns the Missourians wanted in their Lutheran hymnal it makes me smile.  It was a gift!  And what did we get out of the deal?  A second rate hymnal that probably did more to advance CW in the LCMS than anything else.

And what did we get out of the deal?  A second rate hymnal that probably did more to advance CW in the LCMS than anything else.  This line made me smile, RD.  There is an alternative theory.  In the 1980s, the continued emphasis on biblical inerrancy, particularly at the Ft. Wayne seminary, led to affiliations of a semi-official sort with the Reformed and Evangelical(ist) movements.  These movements are not tied to Word and Sacrament but more to word and music.  So as they continued down the line fully aligned as to verbal inerrancy, congregations and future leaders were focused toward that unity in the LCMS and picked up the different worship styles as being helpful to the inerrancy cause.  The article outlining this in detail was written by Wallace Schulz some years ago. 

So - was that actually the case?  I think it has some merit.  As one of the first to purchase LW for his congregation back in the day, I didn't think we were ill-served by it; what was apparent in this part of the world was that many many congregations had gone with LBW and were well-satisfied with it in the LCMS.  So when I came into the District Presidency in the early 90s it was basically 1/3,1/3, 1/3 - LBW, LW and TLH.  And about ten congregations inside those stats who had lots of prayer and praise.  In fact, most of the contemporary worship/prayer-praise congregations had TLH as their hymnal resource.

Dave Benke

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