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Messages - Richard Johnson

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16
Your Turn / Re: LCMS Inc 2020 Report
« on: January 10, 2021, 03:18:33 PM »
This is one area where the cultures in LCMS and ELCA really differ. At our assemblies, there are no "lists" floating around (well, there likely are, but they are floating around in very small circles). Voting members get presented with long, long ballots full of (usually) two already vetted persons for each slot, with virtually no information about them. At least two-thirds of the voting members are there for the first time and likely know absolutely none of the candidates unless they happen to be from their own synod (and maybe not even then). That's how almost all of the elections go. Even for the officers, if you've been around for a while, you might know some of the candidates for Presiding Bishop and Secretary, but if you haven't, you likely don't. For Vice President and Treasurer, I can't recall that I've ever known any of the candidates other than the incumbent (and then only because s/he is the incumbent). It's mostly a really stupid process, IMO, from start to finish.

17
Your Turn / Re: Civil unrest and Christian witness
« on: January 10, 2021, 03:12:06 PM »
We do a Zoom "coffee hour" after our recorded service each Sunday. It was interesting that the conversation, usually fairly trivial and social, turned immediately to the events of this week and the way forward. Lots of talk about how we forgive one another, how forgiveness is related to accountability, etc. Our rector had preached this morning about confession and forgiveness (picking up mostly on the Baptism of Jesus phrase about people coming to John "confessing their sins"), and the sermon was recorded a couple of days before Wednesday. He admitted to watching it this morning with some trepidation, wondering if it would have any relevance after Wednesday. Turns out it really did; the conversation at "coffee hour" really began with someone saying, "I suppose you recorded that sermon before Wednesday, but it certainly said just what we needed to hear today." Funny how God works that way.

18
Your Turn / Re: A Few Gaudete Reflections
« on: January 10, 2021, 03:07:04 PM »
I don't really care what color the candles are. Just DON'T give them names, and DON'T stick a "Christ candle" in the middle of the wreath!

19
Your Turn / Re: Coronavirus news
« on: January 09, 2021, 01:42:47 PM »
THat's a terrific and very "New York/New Jersey" idea: smudge the year on your driver's license.

3 month wait for 75 year olds in New Jersey for the vaccine, from last night's news, even though they initiated "phase 1b" earlier than NYS.  I will have to go with insider trading, I think, to get mine before May, with 9 million of us on the line in the City.  What I should have done this week was to have the 3 Kings come down the aisle bearing their gifts:  Moderna, Pfizer and AstroZeneca.

Dave Benke

Due to our preschool, I will be in group two. Should be late February to early March.

My daughter got hers about a month ago. She had a sore arm and bit of dizziness, but that was all.

For some reason, they wrote down her birthdate wrong, putting 1987 instead of 1985. Apparently another side effect is that the vaccine takes two years off your age. If it takes two years off those in their 30s, imagine how many years will come off guys in their 70s!

It's a plot to enable them to say, "No, you now don't meet the age criteria."

20
Your Turn / Re: Coronavirus news
« on: January 08, 2021, 11:11:07 PM »
Interesting article. The U.S. radically outperforms Europe in controlling the outbreak, developing a vaccine, and distributing a vaccine.

https://www.spectator.co.uk/article/the-eu-has-botched-its-vaccination-programme

My associate is scheduled to get the vaccine in a week. I just scheduled mine, but won't get it until a week from Tuesday. In Indiana clergy are allowed to get them the same as first responders because our jobs require us to go into so many vulnerable facilities and to be in public gatherings. I think people over 80 have first crack at it and many are already getting it. You sign up easily via the state website, though there is a wait time. Normally I wouldn't get one because I'm not really afraid of getting the virus and wouldn't want to take one from someone who really needs it. But the staff at church thought it would be a good thing that would really put a lot of people more at ease and also encourage people who might not trust the vaccine. So I figured I'd sign up.

Same in Calif. Our rector got his yesterday.

Wait, how can this be? I thought California was hostile to religion in general and Christianity in particular?  ::)
Yes, very odd. They probably gave him one of the deadly fake vaccines. Either that or they didn't consider an Episcopalian to be much of a threat to anything on their agenda.  ;)

Or they just want to keep tabs on him through the microchip.

21
Your Turn / Re: Civil unrest and Christian witness
« on: January 08, 2021, 08:50:42 PM »
Amen, Dan. He managed to get through to the “deplorables” clinging to God, their Bibles and their guns: “I know many of you have been left behind. Let’s fix this.”

Weren't his actual words "I alone can fix it"? Which was a big part of his problem.

22
Your Turn / Re: Civil unrest and Christian witness
« on: January 08, 2021, 02:16:02 PM »
Mentioning and speaking of the sitting president as one of if not the primary trigger points is hardly non-rational - it's the rational concept being considered by the majority, maybe even a two-thirds majority, of the elected officials housed in the Capitol in the context of either the 25th Amendment to the Constitution or impeachment.
The 25th Amendment is not in play here, as there is no basis for the Vice President and a majority of the Cabinet to declare "that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office." Even if they were to claim otherwise, the President could immediately provide "his written declaration that no inability exists," and if the Vice President and a majority of the Cabinet still disagreed, then it would require a 2/3 majority vote of both the House and the Senate to uphold that determination. Impeachment and removal is actually easier in this case, requiring only a simple majority vote of the House and a 2/3 majority vote of the Senate, assuming that the standing rules for such proceedings are changed to expedite the process since the current President will leave office in twelve days regardless.

Of course that 2/3 majority may be attainable if all the GOP Senators who want to run for President next time realize that removing Trump also prevents him from being a candidate in the future.  ;)

23
Your Turn / Re: Civil unrest and Christian witness
« on: January 08, 2021, 02:09:42 PM »
Ike did not seek the Presidency, however the
Presidency sought him.

I can't conceive of that ever happening again. Sad.

24
Your Turn / Re: Coronavirus news
« on: January 08, 2021, 02:03:43 PM »
Interesting article. The U.S. radically outperforms Europe in controlling the outbreak, developing a vaccine, and distributing a vaccine.

https://www.spectator.co.uk/article/the-eu-has-botched-its-vaccination-programme

My associate is scheduled to get the vaccine in a week. I just scheduled mine, but won't get it until a week from Tuesday. In Indiana clergy are allowed to get them the same as first responders because our jobs require us to go into so many vulnerable facilities and to be in public gatherings. I think people over 80 have first crack at it and many are already getting it. You sign up easily via the state website, though there is a wait time. Normally I wouldn't get one because I'm not really afraid of getting the virus and wouldn't want to take one from someone who really needs it. But the staff at church thought it would be a good thing that would really put a lot of people more at ease and also encourage people who might not trust the vaccine. So I figured I'd sign up.

Same in Calif. Our rector got his yesterday.

Wait, how can this be? I thought California was hostile to religion in general and Christianity in particular?  ::)

25
Your Turn / Re: Civil unrest and Christian witness
« on: January 07, 2021, 07:43:18 PM »

26
Your Turn / Re: LCMS Inc 2020 Report
« on: January 05, 2021, 05:15:51 PM »
Peter writes:
...but major social movements do not depend upon personalities, they create personalities....
I comment:
I could not disagree more. Even if we leave Jesus out of it for a little bit, let’s consider such persons as Augustine, Gregory the great, others of the great patriarchs. Or in the later times Savonarola. Frances. Henry the eighth. And in more modern times Gandhi, King, Nelson Mandela,. I contend that these personalities created the movements.
Without the person of Herman Otten and his persistence, the LCMS would be a different church body today.
I contend that had MLK died of a heart attack ten years earlier, the Civil Rights Movement would still have happened. South Africa would be integrated if Mandela had never been born. India would have been liberated by now without Ghandi. These things might not have happened with the same twists and turns or at exactly the same rate or with the same high points, but the overall move to integration of the races and the dissolution of the British Empire was not the work of individual leaders. You may as well say that if the Wright brothers had gone back to their bicycle shop we still wouldn't have the airplane. We wouldn't have had it as soon, but the trend to toward every greater capacity for manned flight would have happened in some kind of way without them. And the numerical decline of the LCMS and the established American Protestantism generally was not going to go in a significantly different direction if only Herman Otten hadn't wrecked everything starting in Milwaukee in 1961. At best he and that conference were one of ten million factors that gave shape to the overall trend lines.

I mostly agree with Peter here. But of course this is an ongoing debate among historians. The "great man theory" was articulated in the 19th century and held sway for quite a while, but it has been less influential in recent decades. As a church history professor, there were a very few figures that I felt justified in saying, "If this person hadn't lived, everything would be completely different." But not many. Do individuals have an impact on history? Obviously, yes; but the impact appears less and less significant the further the camera pans out. In the big picture, individual people and events are more illustrative than causative.

27
Your Turn / Re: LCMS Inc 2020 Report
« on: January 04, 2021, 06:54:22 PM »
"...The church had been declining from the glory days for decades....

Not picking on you, because I'm not sure whether this use of "the glory days" is in jest or not ... or if any of the other uses of the term are serious or sarcastic (not that I would pick on you anyway...).

However, many of the comments that include "the glory days" seem to dwell purely on the number of members (sometimes totally unreflective of the percentage of "members" attending services), or on the legendary Seminary professors now sainted or sailed away, et. al.

I am reminded of an illustration, drawn by N.N. Taleb's brother.
It shows a formally dressed, very large turkey standing before an audience of also very healthy looking turkeys in late October.  He is pointing to a graph labeled "growth this year", and illustrating virtually continuous growth since the start of the year.  He tells his followers, "We've had a great year to date and I'm looking for continued great growth during the rest of the year!"  Context.
The glory days would be in terms of anything, really. Numbers, yes (attendance, not merely on the rolls), but also services on special days (as opposed to moving things to the nearest Sunday), finances, building, quality of music and musicians, the place the church occupied in the lives of the members-- youth groups, pot lucks, etc. It simply means the same thing it might mean to a town, a business, and industry, a family farm or whatever.

I wonder how often when people (me included, of course) say "glory days" they really mean "good old days," which always look "good" to us because we've forgotten all the bad parts.

28
Your Turn / Re: LCMS Inc 2020 Report
« on: January 03, 2021, 11:56:12 AM »
     By late 1944, Americans were anticipating an end to the long world war. In St. Louis the mayor invited representatives of different churches to plan a community celebration when peace came at last. When the LCMS representative informed the mayor that the Synod could not participate in a service of worship, it was agreed that the celebration would be designed as a civic event. In May 1945, the Axis powers surrendered and the St. Louis celebration of “V-E Day” was scheduled. The mayor was to preside, and clergy representatives from five different religious groups were invited to speak for five minutes each. The Missouri Synod was represented by Dr. Richard Caemmerer, professor of homiletics at Concordia Seminary. His participation was approved by the St. Louis pastoral conference. The other speakers included a Roman Catholic priest, a rabbi, a Presbyterian, and an African American Protestant pastor. All the addresses were primarily of a civic nature; Caemmerer, for instance, “stressed the significance of V-E Day as a reminder of undone tasks and the need for continued vitality of citizenship.” Another Missouri Synod pastor had been asked to give the benediction, but when concerns were expressed by fellow pastors that this would cross the line into participation in a unionistic service, he bowed out and Caemmerer took his place. Instead of offering a prayer, Caemmerer closed the meeting by reading portions of Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address.
     Nevertheless, some were offended at Caemmerer’s participation, and letters were sent to Synod officials charging him with “violation of God’s Word and the Synod’s constitution.” For other Synod members—so argued Jack Treon Robinson, whose 1972 dissertation is the most complete account of the events surrounding “A Statement”—this attack on Caemmerer was the last straw, and discussion began about how to make their concerns known. The result was the document drafted by a group of Missouri Synod pastors who met in Chicago in September 1945.


--Richard O. Johnson, Changing World, Changeless Christ: The American Lutheran Publicity Bureau, 1914-2014 (ALPB Books, 2018), 139-140.

29
Your Turn / Re: LCMS Inc 2020 Report
« on: December 28, 2020, 10:34:06 AM »
It's an issue with congregations, too, of course. Back in the late 1980s my parish was burgeoning, trying to live in a 100-seat building when attendance at two services was totaling close to 200. There were some who thought that was just fine, others who wanted to remodel and expand the building somewhat, others who wanted to build new. The latter was the choice, and a large (250+ comfortable capacity) sanctuary was built. The first Christmas Eve we crowded more than 400 into it. Today, average attendance (pre-pandemic) has declined to somewhere in the low 100s (still spread over two services).

Was it the right choice? Yes, I think so, though at the moment one might wonder (well, at the moment, there are no in-person services at all). Thing is, we just don't know what it will look like in ten years. Changes in demographics, changes in leadership--these things are big unknowns. One has to make the best guess and, with prayer and hope, make the best plans one can. Sometimes the best one can say is, "If we build, we hope A, B, and C will happen; but if we don't, it seems pretty likely D and F will be the result."

In my current congregation, we had a somewhat similar situation. We really have no space for expansion. A building that actually shares our (small) parking lot came on the market. The congregation, after lots of discussion, decided to buy it--with no specific plan for what it might be used for immediately, but with the realization that it was really the only option for some future expansion. So it's now being utilized somewhat for some activities that probably could have been accommodated in the existing buildings with some difficulty, but there are continuing discussions about some ministry opportunities that will make better use of the acquired building. (Interestingly, the land on which the building sits at one point belonged to the congregation; they sold it decades ago because they didn't think they really needed that space and money was tight!)

30
Your Turn / Re: Coronavirus news
« on: December 26, 2020, 05:54:12 PM »
I've been pondering this a bit over the last few days. African Americans have a higher rate of COVID cases and deaths than whites (some other communities of color as well, but the highest rates seem to be among African Americans). That's an easy enough statistic to gather, and to grasp. But I've been wondering why that is, exactly, and that seems harder to get a handle on. Is it because African Americans have higher rates of other conditions that make them targets for COVID (obesity, diabetes, etc.)? Do they have higher smoking rates which make them more susceptible? Is it because of less adequate health care? (Obviously all tied together!) Is that a racial issue entirely, or an economic issue? How do the COVID stats for economically disadvantaged white people compare? (Harder figure to gather, since death certificates generally indicate race but not economic level.) Are there other social factors--a high rate of intergenerational households, for instance? Answers to all these (and similar) questions would seem to be important in understanding priorities in addressing COVID (and other health issues to come). It isn't helpful just to observe that African Americans are harder hit; we need to really understand WHY that is, and address that issue.

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