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Started by prsauer, July 20, 2019, 09:37:23 AM

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An Eastern Orthodox colleague once remarked that the beauty of being governed by Ecumenical Councils which never happen in our modern era is that the church is forced to slow down and recognize that the "urgency" of our present day issues are often more important to us then they are to the history of a 2000 year old church.

Three years is not very long in the church's life. Yet with the shortness of our lifespans three years can seem like an eternity. Since I last served as the ALPB's reporter at the 2016 LCMS convention, I have left employment at Concordia-New York, returned full time to Our Saviour Lutheran Church and School in the Bronx, become a US Army Reserve Chaplain, welcomed three of my oldest daughter's relatives to come and live with us as my children while they go to school, and welcomed a grand-daughter from one of those children. My world looks significantly different today.

Perhaps my own life changes, including a disconnect from the broader church-political world, have given me a different perspective on the LCMS convention. There just does not seem to be the same sort of angst about specific resolutions at this convention. There are details to be worked out, for sure, but the Harrison administration has historically preferred to work those details out outside of the convention format (see last convention's referral of the dispute resolution process changes). It is hard to envision many resolutions that will generate anything under 60% approval and most will have over 90% approval.

For those who love seeking out conflict (you know who you are), here is my prediction where significant disagreement will occur:

1.   First Vice-President Election. Incumbent Herb Mueller is not seeking re-election. He is battling serious health issues, and his retirement is well deserved and probably overdue. He has faithfully given far more than should be asked of anyone to the church. Herb is one of those rare individuals in the LCMS, who even when you disagree with him, you still walk away from him feeling like he genuinely and pastorally cares for you. I was privileged to serve under him when he was a district president and I was a field worker at Unity Lutheran Church in East St. Louis. His heart for that ministry eventually led to the district providing support for the opening of a school there. He never forgot my field work there and every time I saw him he would fill me in on the progress of the ministry and you could see and hear his passion for the work that Unity was doing. His pastoral presence on the praesidium will be missed. As President Harrison presumably gets closer to his last term (via retirement or as has long been rumored as President of Concordia-STL when Dale Meyer retires), whoever is elected first vice-president at this convention can potentially be seen as placeholder/stepping stone for 2023. Or not... 3 years can be a lifetime for ever-urgent Missouri.

2.   Lutheran Immigration and Refuge Services – LCMS participation and financial support of LIRS never really fit in with the stereotype of the LCMS as the "Republican Brand of Lutheranism". With the country polarizing further politically it is hard to see how LCMS continued participation in LIRS survives at previous levels. Other threads on this board have already noted the issues. LCMS will no longer fund LIRS. I believe there is an outside shot that the convention may vote to sever ties completely with LIRS. This is one of those 60% resolutions that will generate some passionate floor debate.

3.   The Concordias – The real issue ought to be the financial challenges that our Lutheran Higher education institutions face (along with the rest of the small-college and university Higher Ed world). This convention instead will likely focus on the way that Concordia-Portland has handled a pro-gay student group and use that as a call to further Lutheranize (and centralize) the Concordia University institutions. Urgency to do something seems to be the order of the day even if the something to be done is not holistically considered.

4.   Dispute Resolution – This is primarily an issue for the "opposition" who dislike the way that the process was centralized through the office of the President at the last convention (or more accurately through the last convention's referral to Synod's Board of Directors at the last convention).  It is hard to see a push for change gaining much traction. To my knowledge there haven't been any significant cases that have worked their way through the new process yet, so it is hard to demonstrate why the process needs to be changed. Given the amount of angst last convention about this issue (remember the Matt Becker case as the driving force here), it is doubtful that the convention is going to want to re-open that wound again. Three years is too short of a time for healing to occur.

The convention began yesterday with floor committees but begins in earnest today with delegate orientation and opening worship tonight.

I will be attending the worship service, but my reporting will begin in full tomorrow morning.

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