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Topics - Rob Morris

Your Turn / Aquinas on Faith and Reason
April 04, 2024, 10:20:37 AM
Rather than bury this on another thread, I thought I would start a new one.

Can I make a request, though? If anyone is tempted to comment in any way on communion practice, women's roles in worship, the third use of the Law, or the LCMS walkout, please resist the temptation until it flees from you? :)


I have been digging more lately into Aquinas' understanding of faith and reason.

As I am grasping it, for Thomas (unlike in most current understandings), neither is primarily a psychological stance or commitment. Faith is the realm of God's revealed truth; reason is the realm of truth attainable by our own observation and rationality. They can overlap, like a Venn diagram. Some truth can only be revealed (like the nature of the Trinity) and thus is solely the realm of faith. Some truth has not been revealed and is only observed (like how to build a carburetor) and is thus solely the realm of reason. Some truth has been revealed but can also be found by human effort (like the existence of God, if you accept Thomas' lines of reasoning) and is thus the area of overlap.

To a topic quite current on another thread: some people believe that the age of the earth is solely the realm of reason and only to be studied by those with PhDs in various disciplines. Others believe that it is solely the realm of faith and only to be understood through Scriptural revelation. Others believe that it is an area of overlap between revealed and discovered truth.

Overarching Aquinas' whole framework, though, is the belief that all truth is God's truth. If what we discover seems to contradict what has been revealed, then there is simply more work to do - either in further discovery or better understanding the revelation.

I wonder if this framework is why the Catholic church has typically remained more phlegmatic on a topic like evolution and the age of the earth?

First - any Thomas scholars who can correct/refine this?
Second - how well does this jive with Luther's take on reason and faith?
I am starting a thread here, as the connection to Harrison's letter (the thread which has been taken over by Russian conversation) is thin at best.
Your Turn / Reflecting on 12/14 in Newtown
December 14, 2022, 09:51:34 AM
This is the letter I sent my congregation today.

December 14, 2022

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?
I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living!
Wait for the Lord;
be strong and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord
~ Psalm 27:1,13-14

To all the saints at Christ the King,

You can probably remember where you were when you heard the news. There was a shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown. Shocking as that was, no one yet knew the extent of the trauma that had taken place. We had to learn...

Over the next few days, we had to learn that 20 children and 6 educators had been shot and killed. We had to learn that 2 additional adults had been wounded and 12 children witnesses had fled the two classrooms and survived. We had to learn that many more children had been forced to evacuate the building and, through an accident, the events had been broadcast on the school's loudspeaker system, meaning that everyone in the school had heard the events. Cars had been abandoned in the middle of the streets in Sandy Hook as families rushed to the firehouse to learn if their child or adult loved one was still alive.

And, after several heart-rending hours of waiting, 26 families learned that the answer was no.

We had to learn how to grieve in the midst of our congregation. Christ the King gathered that same night for a prayer service led by the District President of the LCMS New England District and other area LCMS pastors. I was not there. I was with a family who had just learned their child would not be returning to them in this lifetime. We gathered again the next day, a Saturday. We continued gathering every day for a week. We gathered every month for half a year. We gathered on 12/14 every year for 5 years. We learned it's okay to cry together, to question together. And we learned to find hope and light in Christ in the midst of the darkness and doubt.

We learned that ministering in the face of trauma is complicated... some within our national church body were upset by my presence at the prayer vigil that was held on 12/16 at the High School. We learned how to forgive those who judge with less than all the facts. We learned the tremendous value that a golden hug from a golden retriever could provide to those who are hurting or angry or despairing. And then, we got to see that value played out in the schools and hospitals and nursing homes of our own communities and far beyond for nearly 10 years of comfort dog ministry.

We learned how to trust one another through challenges... town challenges, Synod challenges, and our own uncertainty. We learned how to welcome new people and families in who had not experienced the events as residents of Newtown or members of Christ the King.

We learned that traumatic events have a very long tail... that emotions can be triggered by similar events, by the decisions of those prominent in the lens of those events, by anniversaries, by absolutely unexpected occasions.

We learned that not everyone is kind or empathetic... but we learned that many, many people are. Some people recoil in the face of such evil, seeking any way to avoid its reality. Some may even try to profit from it. But far more will offer to do anything they can to assist.

We learned that our present media reality is complicated... without it, the support that poured in by phone and email and mail never would have come. On the other hand, it often stoked division, mistrust, and hurt.

We learned that political aims cannot bring personal healing... people can agree on an evil without agreeing on its cause or its solution. We saw those who could best support one another instead turn on one another because they couldn't agree on the best solution in the political realm. We still see it.

But above all those things (and I am sure I could list many more): we learned that God's love in Christ is perfect and unending. We learned that He alone is our stronghold who can overcome our fears. We learned that even in the darkest moments, His light continues to shine and guide. We learned that we can take heart: the death of God's own son has brought an end to death's victory and the sting of the grave. We who are joined with Christ in a death like his shall most certainly be raised with him in a resurrection like his.

To all the members and families who were here through all the events of the last 10 years: thank you for your faith, love, and hope, and may God continue to strengthen you in the light of his faith.

To all who were not in our midst during those days, but who were offering prayers and care from afar: thank you for your support and the sensitivity you have always shown towards those more directly affected by 12/14, and may God continue to use you as a means of His support and care.

During this Advent season, we learn once again, as Jesus said in John 1:5: "the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it."

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor Rob Morris

Your Turn / Atlantic District Question...
November 21, 2022, 09:10:15 AM
I have looked on the and on the Atlantic District webpages without success, so I am asking here...

I just received a prayer email (somehow ended up on the AD email list) from "Bishop Dien Taylor", even though Derek LeCakes had just been re-elected. Has anything been communicated regarding this change?

Regardless of the cause, both the (now-former?) District President and the (current?) District President have my prayers.

BTW - I am looking for official communications, not over-the-fence reports... I have heard a couple of those already, but I have been hoping for something more appropriately-communicated.
Your Turn / A Word About Uvalde (from Newtown)...
May 25, 2022, 08:49:04 AM
(I hope it doesn't interrupt the arguing about gun control too much to share the following, which I just sent out to my congregation. /end slightly bitter rant)

A Word About Uvalde...

To all the saints at Christ the King,

Like yours, my heart breaks for the suffering being endured in Uvalde over the last 24 hours. We who lived through the events of nearly 10 years ago can remember too well the pain, confusion, shock, and sorrow.

A few things:

1) Please be in prayer for all those currently affected:
- Victims' families - first and foremost, pray for comfort, strength, and hope for those whose loved ones have been killed or injured. Pray for the peace that passes understanding which only Christ by His Spirit can give. Pray for the hope that can only be found in the certainty of eternal life for all who call on the name of the Lord.
- Survivors/witnesses and their families - pray for the children and adults who must now live with what they have seen, heard, and experienced, that they would have rest, endurance, and the certainty of God's eternal care.
- School staff/faculty - pray for the teachers and staff who must process their own trauma while caring for the traumatized in their classrooms. Pray for courage, humility, wisdom, and compassion.
- First responders - pray for those whose job it was to intervene and respond: law enforcement, fire and rescue, emergency medical services... who must now process that which they have seen and done. Remember, too, those medical examiners and law enforcement investigators and funeral care providers for whom these events will define the coming days and weeks.
- Public officials - pray for the school's principal and superintendent, the town's leadership, and that of the county, state, and country. Faced with the unspeakable, pray that God would grant wisdom, humility, compassion, and strength.
- Neighbors and community - pray for the entire community: increasingly, schools are the gathering point for people otherwise isolated from one another. Pray for all those who attended the school, volunteered at the school, or are otherwise affected without being at the center of events - pray for hope and comfort.
- Mental health caregivers - pray for wisdom and clarity in the short-term, and resolve and endurance in the long-term, as the needs will be many and will be far-reaching.
- Pastors and spiritual caregivers - pray for those whose job it will be to point the grieving and the traumatized to the truth of Christ, a hope that reaches far deeper than the shock and sorrow of the present day, which is staggering.
- Trinity Lutheran Church and Pastor Mark Tews - pray for the LCMS church located two miles away - as of right now, it does not seem there are any church members among the victims, but pray for clarity and courage to minister the gospel of Christ into the darkness and confusion that has begun and will remain in the coming days.
- Trauma survivors affected by these events - all who have endured any similar loss or shock, including many in our own community of Newtown, may find these events making their journey more difficult... pray for Christ's hope, assurance, and promise to reign, even in the midst of honest grief and hurt.

2) Gathering for prayer after tomorrow night's Ascension Day Service - We already have a service scheduled for tomorrow night at 7pm, which we have planned to be led by our Confirmands. That service will continue as planned. I will not address Uvalde specifically at that time out of sensitivity to the worshipers/families who may not wish these events to be front and center for themselves or their children. I will invite anyone who wishes to remain afterwards for a time of discussion and prayer. I expect this time will begin about 7:45pm or so.

3) Political Discussions - Just a quick note, as political debate has predictably already begun to dominate the news cycle: as citizens, we have both the right and the duty to advocate for just laws and their enactment and enforcement. As Christians, however, our ultimate hope lies, not in the legislative or political process, but in Christ and his Resurrection. It is good and right to have deeply-felt views on whether different governmental approaches might be more effective at preventing events like yesterday's shooting. Please, however, remember to respect those whose views are different, and to speak and act in such a way as to give testimony to the ultimate Truth and Hope that are found, not in laws or earthly rulers, but in Christ, our Good Shepherd and Certain Hope.

[some specific prayer needs of the congregation followed - a few medical procedures being undergone today]

May we all continue to find strength and hope in the resurrection truth of Christ our Lord!
Pastor Rob Morris

If I might editorialize here on this board - have those who are debating gun control laws spent at least an equal amount of time in prayer for the vast needs represented by the points above? Maybe do that first, before continuing the political debate?
Your Turn / Cancel Culture Friendly Fire
March 07, 2022, 09:16:21 AM

I read this article today in the local Danbury paper... actor Fredric March (Oscar for Best Years of Our Lives), once keynote speaker for the NAACP's celebration of Brown v. BOE, had his name removed from buildings at University of Wisconsin because in college, he was once elected to an honorary society, unaffiliated with the Klan, that used the same name tongue-in-cheek.

Not really trying to dredge up all the points and counterpoints, just found it a fascinating read.
Your Turn / Options for a dwindling church...
February 09, 2022, 12:04:38 PM
{Starting note:} We have talked at various times and in various places lamenting the shrinking and dying of many US churches. This isn't intended as an invitation to pontificate, but a request for specific examples.

Background: One of the churches in my circuit is just at the line of being able to function. Attendance hovers around 15, with another 25ish loosely connected to the church. The same small crew man the leadership positions, etc. Their pastor left a few months ago and went into a different career entirely. In between the PPP funds from when he was there and the savings when he isn't they are just above break-even... in other words, add a pastor back in, and they are underwater financially. They can only afford to call a pastor if they rent out or sell the parsonage, and then they can afford him but he can't afford to live here.

What arrangements has anyone seen work for such a congregation?

I can start the list:
1) Become a dual-point parish
2) Sell off, close up, and disperse (both people and cash)
3) Limp along with string of guest pastors/lay led service until there are no more assets, human or financial.
4) Offer housing and meagre salary in return for a bi-vocational pastor, if one can be found.

Does anyone know any other options? We have some healthy churches nearby... the smaller congregation becomes a preaching station/satellite congregation of the larger? Some sort of dual-point involving an Associate at the healthy church being housed/partly funded by the smaller congregation and splitting time between the two?

Again, I am specifically asking for arrangements you have seen work in such a scenario. Theoretical brainstorms might be helpful, but I would really love practical examples.

Your Turn / Online and in-person dynamics, post-Covid...
November 22, 2021, 09:15:44 AM
Migrating the discussion here...

Quote from: Charles Austin on November 22, 2021, 08:30:38 AM
Well, the cathedral is also a parish church and does that for people who are the on-site members. Their television ministry is a different kind of service, and, by the way, at the time of the offering, the celebrant always encourages people to first of all support their local church.

This is an excellent practice - thanks for pointing it out. I know it has never occurred to me to do so, though our services have been online for the entirety of Covid. On the other hand, we don't have a ton of views (four or five dozen a week is the recent norm) and I know who many of them are.

One of the realities that I think will emerge post-Covid is the rise of online-focused churches. I still receive the newsletter of one NC-area mega-church and they are leaning into this hard: an online campus that intentionally avoids in any way hinting that online attendance is lesser than in-person attendance. I suspect this reality will drive the contemporary-flavored mega-church approach even further from the sacramental/liturgical and will also wedge them further from local worship. Honestly, when it's all about production values, a TV/web production is easier than an in-person one for all parties involved. (Maybe churches should blackout services in local viewing areas when attendance/donations drop too low - like sports teams? :) )

But it's not really new: it's the televangelist church that has an enormous budget because of national supporters. It's just online instead of on TV.

To this point, but straddling the line: the National Cathedral's financial statements show that of its $21+ million budget, $2 million comes from their local congregation's donations. (Compare this to their $4.2 million fundraising budget.) Clearly, they are still seeking to emphasize the liturgical and its harder to evaluate but perhaps they are seeking to emphasize the local in-person ministry, but I expect they will be the exception to the rule.

And even then, I do wonder how many local, liturgical congregations will see bleed off of attendance and donations as people, seeking online excellence, turn away from the A/V-challenged, nervous-throated amateurs to the production values budgets of that size enable. As a touch point, the National Cathedral's budget averages expenditures of $80,000 per week for worship and music... not including pastoral staff salaries.

Anyway - a bunch of very-not-Rittenhouse-related observations...
Your Turn / Church and weddings...
January 14, 2021, 11:36:09 AM
Since it came up on a different, more politically-focused thread, I wanted to migrate the discussion here before adding to it...
Your Turn / Tim Keller on Biblical Justice
August 08, 2020, 12:00:24 AM
Here is Tim Keller on Biblical Justice:

There is much here that is worth consideration and discussion. I am toying with using it as the text for a two-week (or so) adult study on justice and current events.

Keller offers something of a precis right near the outset:
"In the Bible Christians have an ancient, rich, strong, comprehensive, complex, and attractive understanding of justice. Biblical justice differs in significant ways from all the secular alternatives, without ignoring the concerns of any of them. Yet Christians know little about biblical justice, despite its prominence in the Scriptures. This ignorance is having two effects. First, large swaths of the church still do not see 'doing justice' as part of their calling as individual believers. Second, many younger Christians, recognizing this failure of the church and wanting to rectify things, are taking up one or another of the secular approaches to justice, which introduces distortions into their practice and lives."
Your Turn / A gentle request on anonymity...
July 24, 2020, 11:23:12 PM
The thread on federal involvement is kind of a final straw for me... That is a topic of genuine concern for me and it has devolved into a number of otherwise intelligent people having some sort of schoolyard spat over the anonymity of one poster. Again. This is something I have seen over and over on this board. It is neither edifying nor does it reflect well on either the posters or the organization.

So, can I make a request? If the ALPB does not wish to allow anonymous posting (which I personally would understand), please make that the policy and then enforce it. Ban permanently those who disregard it. If the ALPB chooses to continue to allow anonymous posting (which I also could personally understand), please warn and then ban permanently those who seek to doxx or otherwise bully or belittle those who post anonymously for their anonymity.

There are many deeply valuable discussions being had and viewpoints being shared. I highly value that. I understand that with deeply held views the conversations might get spicy... fine. But the anonymity spats and weird insinuations are bush league, and really should be stopped.
I have tried to listen a lot and talk a little. For me, there are a few things that seem relatively self-evident. Each has associated topics that are much more debatable. I wanted to start a thread to focus on the areas of opportunity.

For starters, the things I consider self-evident and the associated topics that are worthy of debate (but for which this thread is not intended).

1) For roughly 200 years, America was systemically racist.
(Topics for debate: Was it more or less systemically racist than other cultures? What was the role of religion in the enactment and enforcement of such systems? How and to what extent should present-day Americans pro-actively condemn such systems and those who installed/governed them?)

2) Efforts to re-form the racist systems began in the 1860s, were renewed in the 1960s, have been under way ever since, and seem to have been largely successful on a legislative/institutional/governmental level.
(Topics for debate: Should the goal be equality or reparation: affirmative action vs. equal opportunity? Is the intention to create a color-blind system or one that intentionally points out and emphasizes different racial identities and cultures? Should present-day systems be overthrown entirely or continue to be reformed?)

3) The effects of two centuries of racist systems remain evident in multiple ways.
(Topics for debate: Where does individual choice balance with systemic effects/after-effects? Do past wrongs in any way justify illegal outbursts in present situations? Who has the right to comment/make observations regarding current realities? Can we even have a healthy debate about all these debatable topics?)

4) There are still areas of opportunity to address the ongoing effects of two centuries of systemic racism.

Thus far, in all my reading here and elsewhere, I don't have a whole lot to populate the list of what those areas are.

I have read of:
- Reform of police practice (the most constructive to me seem to the the 8 Can't Wait proposals at
- Home ownership efforts (the only discussion of which I have found anywhere is this forum)
- Better racial representation in positions of leadership (there are many mines in this particular field and many assumptions behind the goal: I would rather focus on what steps would result in better racial representation)
- Employment discussion (see - more on this in a minute)

What other actual, constructive areas of opportunity do people see?

Part of my complaint/concern with the ongoing protests and even the LCMS-specific efforts is that there is so little that is tangibly able to be addressed. Unlike the protests of the 1960s, there are almost zero action items. Lots of people saying, "We need to listen," and I agree. Lots of people saying, "Silence is violence," which seems to make listening a tougher option, but I think I see what they mean.

But when I listen, I am not hearing a whole lot besides anger. That has its place, but once it's expressed, what is step two? What are the action items? What are the areas of opportunity where real steps can be taken?
Your Turn / What is an Ordinary Sunday Now?
April 22, 2020, 11:41:26 PM
I have really valued hearing from a cross-section of pastors what a typical Sunday looks like for them now. I thought I would provide a collecting-point for those observations.

Because my congregation is currently about 25-35% able to worship in person (with many precautions) and 65-75% worshiping from home, I wrote this for my congregation to read so that everyone can know what attending is like right now. Also, so that those who may begin to attend when restrictions are lifted are prepared for the precautions we may still be taking at that time. It's lengthy (sorry!) but you are welcome to take a look as well.

For context, though we have had family members, friends, and neighbors with virus diagnoses, thanks be to God we have not had any members test positive for the virus. In Newtown, a town of about 28,000, we have around 60 CoVid cases and 1 CoVid-related death which occurred in a nursing home.


You pull into the church parking lot a few minutes before service, thankful that somehow nothing came up to delay you this morning. The parking lot has about a third of the cars it would normally have. Though it still feels awkward and makes you a little self-conscious, you pull your facemask into place and make sure it's properly secured. "I have to remember not to mess with it once it's on – that would defeat the purpose," you think.

Swinging your legs out of your car, you walk toward the church building. It's sunny, but cold. Despite the cold, one of the sanctuary doors is propped open, so you won't have to touch the handle and worry about who might have touched it last.

As your eyes adjust to the light in the narthex, you are greeted by two members, also wearing masks. You smile under your mask and make a rather awkward wave, still not sure how to properly greet people from six feet away. They chuckle and say, "Good morning and welcome!" as you grab a full-text bulletin that has been laid out in a spaced row so that you only need to touch your own. There is a large pump bottle of hand sanitizer there, and even though you washed your hands right before you left home, you use a bit of it. Partly to be extra sure, partly so anyone watching will see that your hands are clean. You decide not to grab a pair of nitrile gloves from the box, but they are there if you did want them, which somehow feels assuring.

Because the service hasn't started yet, you say a few "good mornings," and give a few more waves as you find a place that is tucked away from everyone else who is there. Looks like 30 or so people. It's odd because it feels both crowded and empty. On the one hand, the sanctuary can seat over 200 pretty easily. Still, it feels a little like you are getting away with something... this is the most people you have been near in a week.

The pews still look a little funny – the hymnals, bibles, pew cards, and pencils are all gone (too hard to keep disinfected), but 54 years of sunshine has left a perfect outline of them on the finish of the pews: a bittersweet reminder of what you used to take for granted and hope can someday return. They are absent, but they left their mark.

There is a bottle of hand sanitizer right next to you, but you just sanitized in the narthex and you haven't touched anything since, so that wouldn't make sense. The pew still smells like disinfectant, which makes sense since it was wiped down just 15 minutes ago.

It's almost exactly 9:30 and now the pastor is starting the live feed on the A/V equipment that sits on a card table between the front pew and the lectern. He turns on the video camera which records a backup if the live feed has any difficulty. It occurs to you to say a quick prayer of thanks for the technology that makes this possible. Fifteen years ago, live-streaming would not have been an option and those who must continue to stay home for health and safety reasons would be even more separated from their church and worship. Pastor said last week that if online views are counted, church attendance is actually up during the virus. Isn't that something? The pastor exits and the bells begin to ring...

Several logistics announcements finally give way to the prelude, that chance to take a deep breath and focus on God's presence here, even at this time and in these circumstances. A chance to pray for all the people that would normally be sitting next to you or in front of you who have stayed home because they are at greater risk, or in some cases because they are working to fight the virus, or to provide essential goods and services in the middle of it.

The service begins, and since everyone is situated now and no closer than 6 feet (actually, it's more like 10 in your case), you can carefully pull down your mask, which makes it easier to speak the responses, sing the ordinaries, and even just to breathe. Breathe in the certainty of God's gifts, breathe in thankfulness that He is still with us, even if some of us are watching through that tiny webcam on a tripod in front of the lectern. The familiar rhythm of the liturgy is so comforting, the Scriptures both challenging and assuring... partly because you know that these words have stood the test of time. God was using them to feed His people before this virus and, unless he returns first, he will be using them to feed people after this virus has passed – or at least after it doesn't dominate everyday life like it does right now.

The Passing of the Peace is a noticeable difference: no hugs, no handshakes. You stay in your place and wave and speak "Peace be with you." Some members do the American Sign Language for "Peace of Christ" which Pastor taught at the last Children's Message before that, too, had to be dropped from the service. It's too hard to keep little ones from touching one another, and everything else for that matter. At least when we pass the peace this way, and with everyone spaced throughout the sanctuary, you can pass the peace with nearly everyone in the sanctuary.

Communion is hard, but such a blessing. Why are hard times so frequently the most blessed? True, there are no ushers to dismiss you and you have to use the sanitizer again to put your mask in place as you walk up; yes, you have to remember to keep six feet away from the next household at the rail (handy that the kneelers are almost exactly six feet – it makes it easy to estimate); yes, it's hard to remember not to touch the rail at all; yes, the pastor has to wear nitrile gloves to distribute the host and has put on a mask since he will be closer than six feet when he distributes the host and the cups; yes, the wine is only available as individual cups spaced out on twice as many trays as usual, so you can take yours without touching any other... but despite all of those things, this is still Jesus' body and blood, given for you for the forgiveness of sins. So many cannot receive it in person right now. So many times, you were distracted when you received it. You're not distracted right now. All those precautions have brought a high level of focus. And still they seem... well, small things, just a mild accommodation if they mean you can still have this means of grace and unity with Christ and His church.

After returning to your pew and sanitizing again, the service comes to a quick close. The mask will have to go back on for dismissal – carefully, to prevent touching your face – and the conversations as you leave, maintaining 6 feet of distance, will still be a bit awkward. But you've been able to worship – a freedom and a gift you have never appreciated more than you do right now. Maybe it will only look like this for another week or two. Maybe it will be much longer. But the church has withstood much more than this in its 2000-year history, the precautions are a way to show love for vulnerable neighbors, and most importantly: Christ is still with you, with the whole church, facing this challenge with the "joy inexpressible" that First Peter referenced in today's Epistle reading.

The whole world may have changed, but Christ's truth has not. And what better place to be reminded of that than in His house, even if we have to take some additional precautions to make it wiser? And once again you give thanks for the saints that couldn't be here in person today, but through the gift of technology are able to stay connected... One day, one joyous day, this shall all be a memory. But as you get back in your car, you say a quick prayer that you will never forget to value gathering in church as much as you do right now. You're already looking forward to next week...
Rather than get into extended back-and-forths about specifics, allow me to start a new thread to propose what I think a few principles should be in extraordinary times:

1) Though innovation is unavoidable, the less innovating the better.

None of our churches is functioning as normal. All of us have introduced novel practices previously unknown within our lifetimes - we should be honest about that.

But the less novelty the better.

This isn't just a conservative thing. There are many reasons for this. Firstly, a hurricane is a bad time to start testing new designs for lifeboats. If it wasn't a good idea a month ago, can you be sure it's a good idea now?

Connected to that, decisions made under severe stress and time pressure are less likely to be carefully-thought-through and thoughtfully applied.

Lastly, in times of crisis, the greatest human needs are documented to be predictability and agency. People need to know what's coming and to feel they have some control over their own circumstances. Whole-scale innovations actually lessen the first, though watching Pr. Tricker's video, I saw loads of evidence that he and his people are leaning hard into the second.

2) Even within innovation, the greater the connection to regular practice, the better.

I know that some churches value "creative thinking" as being "part of their DNA". That's a discussion for another day. But even those churches probably aren't introducing some new worship format or disbanding their praise bands or their choirs at this time. Staying the course as much as possible is an obvious principle that most churches are at least partly following.

On the one hand, the mega-churches are really stuck... Since my regular Sunday attendance is 100, and many have self-quarantined or are avoiding all outside-the-home contact, I can still meet in church and fulfill all of both the state's and the CDC's requirements (last Sunday's attendance: 33, all sanitized and at least 6 ft apart). But a church with weekend attendance of 2,000 cannot. On the other hand, a church with attendance of 2,000 usually has a pastoral staff of 6, 8, or even 10 rostered workers. My church has 1. I know it depends on each state and municipality's regs, but a church with a pastoral staff of 10 and a large facility has a lot of options that don't necessarily have to involve anything brand-new.

And since most pastors are not pastoring mega-churches, what options are closest to regular practice? These options are probably to be preferred.

These are two examples of principles I think churches must be discussing right now... Other ideas?
(After a very long hiatus from these parts)

I am genuinely looking for input here: links to articles are just as helpful as personal comments...

During this time of crisis, everyone agrees with unanimity that we can livestream worship. But the idea of an at-home parishioner preparing elements for communion which are then blessed by the pastor is considered incorrect.

My question (and note the specificity): on the basis of Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions, why can't elements be consecrated remotely?

I have a lot of thoughts, but I am curious what others think.

NOTE: I know there are many here of other confessions - what your church bodies have decided and why would be helpful, too, but isn't my primary aim with the question.
I signed in and caught up today to see where things stand. What a bizarre and tragic day of posts (starting with #617 over on the Mobbing thread).

The way I see it, where "Mobbing" is concerned, there are two concurrent problems. The discussions of each have overlapped and conflated the two problems - as did the original article. But separating them would be the healthiest and most helpful approach. (I should add, it would be the most Biblical approach, too, but I have already tried to make that case at length elsewhere - and this is a long read as it is!)

Before beginning, at the risk of resume-reading, I will point out that my degree is in Organizational Behavior and Communication - all of that came before seminary... which came before another seminary... which came before colloquy into the LCMS. Further, a reminder that I have absolutely no history in the LCMS or any strain of Lutheranism prior to about 9 years ago, so whatever baggage those previous tempests would have brought did not encumber me.

The two issues I see are these:
(1) An LCMS culture of power-grabbing behaviors which frequently encompass mobbing-style tactics.

(2) At least one coordinated organization of mobbers with influence throughout the entire synod currently utilizing these mobbing tactics.

(Note: Further obfuscating these issues is the clandestine process of political organizing within the Synod: something which should not be equated with mobbing, though I think both are clearly unhealthy.)

An organizational consultant would tell you that these two specific problems require different solutions. You need one solution strategy to address the cultural problem, and another solution strategy to address the organizational problem. Right now, only one solution strategy is being utilized to address both problems. This is not good. In fact, it could end up kneecapping any chance to fix either.

Addressing an overall culture within which mobbing is happening could certainly include an awareness campaign, complete with personal testimonies and articles exploring the phenomenon Scripturally and academically. These efforts (which I would recommend would need to be strategically directed and communicated through many outlets over a substantial period of time) would seek primarily to educate people, and to create a stigma around such behaviors as clearly being wrong.

So far, so good... these things are happening, if only in their infancy.

But the problem is this: the solution to the first problem, which exists at the cultural level, does not solve or even address the second problem, which exists at the organizational level. And until and unless the second problem is meaningfully addressed, the first cannot be helped. When there are specific people engaging in specific behaviors, those people must be clearly and unmistakably brought to account. There must not just be propaganda, there must be action.

By way of an example: Take a look at the NFL. Does anyone believe the League takes the problem of domestic violence seriously? That's a pretty strong "No". Why not? After all, the NFL runs great ad campaigns about it, they donate money to causes supporting victims and cuases working toward violence prevention - they do the education thing. Yet, no one believes they take it seriously... why not? Because the League has time and again allowed those who have enacted domestic violence to continue to be paid millions of dollars, to continue to sign contracts (and autographs). Google Kareem Hunt if you want the latest in a long, sad list of examples. If the NFL really wanted to take a stand, they would issue lifetime bans to anyone their investigative team determined had engaged in domestic violence (like kicking a woman in a hotel hallway... on video). Where there is no such stand, then it's all just grandstanding.

I don't even need to outline why the Catholic Church's priest abuse scandal is this problem of teaching vs. practice writ large. The pain was found in the abuse. The scandal lies in the intentional and systemic cover-up. The church can speak against abuse all it wants, but it means little until it actually takes steps to remove the abusers.

Which leads us to the good old LCMS. Some have started the article-writing and letter-writing and discussion, with the intent of leading the way toward cultural change. That really is fine and could prove quite laudable. I will wholeheartedly speak up for and wish Christ's grace to anyone who has been victimized (and the silent victims: their families and parishes). My comments on this board, even in regards to Pr. Engelbrecht's specific situation, bear this out. Awareness and education really are important. Over time, they may help to shape the culture.

But if that's all that happens, then it is pretty impotent as far as organizational change.

And if the organization doesn't change, then the cultural change will be either be abortive or, at best, short-lived.

That's why victims - of anything, in any setting - have to name names. This is a burden... sometimes a crushing one. I have physical and sexual abuse victims among some of my closest family members: I know this burden well. I would totally understand someone saying: "I will never go public with what happened to me." I would understand and, depending on the circumstances, might even advise that course.

What you can't do and what I could never advise is to go half-public. Or more accurately, go public with half an accusation.

Victims can't tell the NFL: "Your players engage in domestic violence; some did it to us. We won't name them, but you should do something about it!" Just like victims can't tell the Catholic Church: "Your priests are abusing children; some did it to us. We won't name them, but you should do something about it!"

Why not? Because those accusations are not actionable. And take a look at what results when only the cultural education happens, but no organizational follow-through.

Every NFL player is too easily looked at askew. The NFL is too easily seen as a league of wife- and girlfriend-beaters. You can't say: "He wouldn't do that - he would have been out of the league." Because far too many have done it and still stayed in the league. Likewise, every priest is looked at askew. You can't say: "He wouldn't do that - they wouldn't let him stay in the priesthood." Because far too many have done it and stayed in the priesthood. (BTW - this is the reason that in predominantly-Catholic New England, I never wear my collar when I am around town with one of my young sons. I did that once early on, and the looks I got for holding hands or giving hugs taught me my lesson pretty quickly.)

What results when a fervor for culture-change does not have real organizational direction is McCarthyism: everyone is guilty until proven innocent, and the charges can be twisted for whatever ends the user wishes.

Take a look at the direction Pr. Engelbrecht's article has been taken by Christian News, or by Congregations Matter. Pr. Engelbrecht may not have intended political consequences, but to publish such an article in a Convention year and expect it wouldn't be used politically would have to be the height of naivete.

Some of that McCarthy flavor has happened on this board in the weeks since I stepped away. Anyone who questions the testimonies or the techniques used to share them is painted as being either a Mobber or a Mobbing sympathizer. Notice how few anonymous commenters are showing up recently. Do you think that's a coincidence? Even if taking anonymous posting away is seen by some as progress, did you really want to bully them away with the "Are you now or have you ever been a Mobber" line of treatment?

As I said from the beginning, this situation as it stands is deeply unhealthy. Everyone can talk about how bad the problem is; but no one can do a single thing about it. And plenty of people get smeared along the way. Shadows and darkness and bitterness and resentment grow and Satan rejoices.

The only possible solution is to shine the full light of truth on the realities.

It takes courage for someone like Pr. Engelbrecht to stand up. It takes courage for someone like Pr. Staneck to publish his article. Pr. Engelbrecht claims he has evidence of all that he claims. Pr. Staneck claims to have access to data and testimony that supports Pr. Engelbrecht's claims.

But who will actually take the steps to stop these people?

Who will even say, "I am going to take those steps, I'm just not quite there yet, and here's the reason why"?

I can't do it. I don't have any evidence and I don't know who the perpetrators are. I know who was offensive and even borderline-abusive to me after my ordeal here with Sandy Hook. But I reported such behavior to my DP, complete with forwarded emails, and he attended to it immediately and appropriately. I even discussed it with my Synod President, who also took steps to ensure the behavior abated immediately and would be more easily actionable if it took place in the future.

(Perhaps ironically, making it even more impossible that it could be me who stands up on the basis of the article... after defending the credibility of Pr. Engelbrecht for days, I was the one who needed to point out that "gan ainm" who used to post here has never been the Main Nag; in fact, he has never even spoken to Pr. Engelbrecht. Pr Engelbrecht's unwillingness to either clearly affirm or retract his parenthetical claim equating gan ainm to the Main Nag has been excruciating to watch.)

The only people who can take the steps to stop this behavior are the people who were subjected to it. I get why that's hard. I lament it. But it's the truth. I will stand with anyone willing to actually stand. I will bring the charges myself if you'll provide the testimony and evidence.

But until someone does take a full stand, the activities will continue.

Several people are taking Step 1 - addressing the culture. Thank you and God be with you in your recovery from such mistreatment.

Will no one take Step 2 and actually call such people to account?

If the answer remains no, then the mobbers can carry on unchecked, while we squabble about culture.

And until someone takes them on, the list of victims will inevitably and tragically grow.

Please, for the sake of the Church, do not let this end with half-measures.

Pastor Rob Morris

(Note: I have only referred to Pr. Engelbrecht in the third-person because he has not yet, despite multiple requests in multiple formats, private and public, electronic and phone, and through his editor, responded directly to me in any way. He wouldn't even respond to my previous public plea on that thread. Absent this basic courtesy across all formats, I can only refer to him, as I currently despair of actually interacting with him. It is a shame, too - I have (prayerfully) publicly accused him of sin, but he has shown zero interest in even finding out against whom he may have sinned... This sorrows me greatly, but this is territory I covered weeks ago.)
I post this as its own thread with much prayer and consideration. If the moderators think it more appropriate to close it from public comment, I would not take offense at all. I only take this course of action because I can't see any other that would be Biblically faithful... In Christ, Rob

I am so very, very sorry to everyone who has ever been abused in any way, especially within the church. I genuinely believe that list includes Pastor Edward Engelbrecht. May God grant you His comfort, His restoration, and His Spirit of healing and truth.

I must state two facts of which I am absolutely convinced by first-hand testimony...

1) The ALPB Forum poster who goes by the screen name "gan ainm" has never worked for any synodical entity and is in no way "the Main Nag" who sits at the head of a mobbing "Machine".

2) At least one person who did work for a synodical entity was wrongly accused by Pr. Engelbrecht of being a "probe" a few years ago and shut off from personal interaction, an action which caused deep personal hurt and confusion.

I am willing to put my own name and testimony to these facts. These two have been sinned against and, absent any apology, are still being sinned against. I have attempted privately to point these things out, both to Pr. Engelbrecht and to his editors, without avail. I have now publicly pointed them out in the Mobbing thread and here.

Thus far, there has not even been any effort to examine whether my claims have any validity. The whole attitude of continued public comment by Pr. Engelbrecht (and silence by his editors) seems to be that because wrong was done, because good is now being accomplished, because awareness is being raised, these sins evidently do not matter.

It may be only two sins in the face of a landslide. The article may be furthering the conversation we need to have in the LCMS. But how many sins are we willing to intentionally ignore because we believe good is being accomplished? The Law (even Christ's Law of Love) demands that number is zero. Otherwise, aren't you making the very same devil's bargain that you claim the "Machine" and its "operatives" have accepted - sinful behavior in the service of a greater good?

The Gospel offers forgiveness for the sinner, not license to go on sinning. In his heartbreaking hurt and in his praiseworthy desire to uncover that hurt, I believe that Pr. Engelbrecht is sinning against others and ignoring calls to correct those errors. The editors who give him a public platform to do so enable these sins.

Pr. Engelbrecht - I repeat: I am so very, very sorry for all that you had to endure. If I could have done anything to prevent it, I would have.

As proof, I am now saying to you: you have wronged two innocent people and are still doing so - please, brother, stop. If anyone knows what it is like to be falsely accused, it ought to be you. If anyone was ever motivated to ensure they would never do that to anyone else, it ought to be you.

And to that plea, I add: do everything you can to stop this abusive behavior from continuing in the Synod. Name the names, present the proofs, and see it through to completion. Do it to synodical officials; do it to law enforcement; do it to me or to anyone you trust who can accompany you to the proper authorities. You say you want to equip others (presumably like me) to defend ourselves. I sincerely thank you but honestly can reply - I don't care so much about defending myself... I care about defending all those whom you testify are at this moment in harm's way. I don't just want to know about that behavior, I want to stop it. And it isn't the "Main Nag" who is stopping me from doing so, it isn't the "Machine". It's you. And by extension, the ALPB. Whatever motivates that decision, whatever Bible passages you believe sanction it, I have to point out: the end result is that you are sheltering those you claim you want to oppose.

The wrongs that have been done to you are becoming Satan's cover for further wrongs to be done. And this must not be.

To Pr. Engelbrecht's editors, I continue to plead: until all of the article's claims can be proven (not "It's plausible," not "I have seen something like that," but "It happened - exactly the way he says it did; here's my eyewitness testimony; here's the proof...") the second half of the article should never have been published and should be retracted. It should be reissued only if and when that can be done with names and dates and corroborating testimony and evidence. For the good of the Synod, for the good of Christ's church, for the good of the ALPB, for Pr. Engelbrecht's own good.

I say all of this as one who knows what it is to be publicly, falsely accused. It should not be tolerated from anyone, towards anyone, for any reason - well-intended or ill, self-serving or altruistic. Like all falsehood, it is darkness and death - everything the Gospel of Christ opposes. I say it as one who abhors mobbing or any other abusive behavior in the church or in any other forum. I long with all my heart that it may be rooted out and burned away.

I pursue this matter here for two reasons (and with much prayer): 1) It is your own chosen venue, one where your words and mine at least have the potential to reach the exact same ears with equal ability to be evaluated on their own merits, and 2) the option of official Dispute Resolution Process would require bringing into public attention the two I know whom you have falsely accused, something neither of them at all desires.

Please, apologize to those you have wrongly accused - I can facilitate this off-line with no further public attention. Then, either take the next step and name names and present evidence or retract the second half of your article until you believe you are ready to do so.

Until you do so, who knows how many errors you may have made in pursuit of a worthy goal, how many sins are being justified by the pursuit of good?

With love and respect,
Pastor Rob Morris
Your Turn / An example of self-awareness...
October 10, 2018, 02:27:18 PM
I didn't want to toss this into the gaping maw of the "Morality" thread, so I am starting one: I just read this article from the Atlantic, and I found it the most refreshing example of self-awareness I could remember from the last month at least.

Though I agree with the author's conclusions (I will now be extensively using the term "the Exhausted Majority"), that isn't the reason I share it... I share because I think it's a nearly-perfect example of reviewing data objectively and turning the conclusions towards one's own convictions as well.

It was so refreshing to me to read it, that I thought I would share.
Not my style to start discussion threads, and perhaps this should be in recommended resources, but I just watched the British mini-series "Little Boy Blue" about the gang-related accidental killing of an 11-year-old boy in Liverpool, England.

A little while ago, I wrote about traumatic, complicated grief in response to Editor Johnson's request for Forum Letter. If you want to watch it heart-wrenchingly portrayed on screen, get a hold of a copy to watch (I saw mine through a Britbox subscription on Amazon Prime).

After I watched it, I was not surprised at all to learn that the bereaved parents were heavily involved in helping the writer and the actors. Be forewarned: it is unflinching in its study of human response to traumatic and complicated grief. But never have I seen or read a fictional work that came even half as close to depicting what I have seen the experience to be like.

Also, as a warning, there is a lot of bad language throughout, and the beginning is bloody, though not garishly so.
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