I was skeptical. I admit that. I wanted to arrive and immediately dig into theology. Instead we met, we talked informally, we visited, toured, and then talked about “context”. It seemed as if we would not get down to business until sometime Wednesday afternoon.
We began, as the materials suggested, by talking about our parishes, and about the challenges of ministry in our context. To me, the context of our ministry is the Holy Word of God and His Blessed Sacraments. We do that in different places and among different people from different cultures and with different customs. But the context of ministry is the same. And I feared too much time would be spent discussing background.
I suppose my fear – such as it was – was a little short sighted. We had been assured back in October that the brothers in the Atlantic District wanted to talk theology, not just yack about their situation. And it was true. Even as we discussed our context, it was clear that there was a desire on both sides to get to the meat. We wanted to discuss theology. They wanted to discuss theology. And it was not long before it was no longer we and they discussing theology, but us discussing theology together.
Here’s the rub: In order for this process to work, we agree not to discuss the discussions outside of the group. The Koinonia process has been criticized for its secrecy. That’s one reason I wanted to write about it. The Koinonia process is not a secret.
Then why do we not discuss what is said? Because it is unfair to the brothers. If we are to make headway, we must be honest with each other. That’s not going to happen if everyone knows that any stray comment or poorly spoken thought is going to end up as fodder for the Facebook feed. These are honest and open discussions, and in the moment, it is easy to misspeak. We need to trust each other that the conversations, while we are talking and hashing through these issues, will remain just that: Conversations, where the truth is spoken in love, between brothers in ministry.
So, while I will comment about the process, I can’t really comment about the content of discussions. I believe that talking, in broad terms, about the process is a good thing. If everything is kept super-secret, then there is an air of mystery that can turn sinister in people’s minds. If this process is discussed in the open by those who have been a part of it, then the mystery is dispelled. It is open, and in view of the whole church. But out of respect for my brothers in ministry, I must stop. I really can’t talk about what was said.
And that’s going to be hard for those outside of the process to understand. What mysterious things were discussed? Pastors will understand when I say that it was an honest discussion of theology and practice, much like what one might do at a regular pastor’s conference. The only difference is that the Koinonia Project has the opportunity for formal written statements, a Status Controversiae, with both points of agreement and points of disagreement. Ours is still under discussion at this point, and so is not shared beyond our group – not even among brother pastors from my own circuit, or our respective District Presidents. Just as conversations and writings from other groups are not shared with me at this time.
I will comment in general on my impressions of the process, but don’t expect juicy details of the discussions themselves. For the most part, there really weren’t juicy details. It was an honest, open, fraternal discussion of theology with brothers in the Ministry.
NOTE: The opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the author. They do not represent the opinion of anyone else in the Atlantic or Wyoming Districts, or in the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. Please also note that this disclaimer is made freely by the author, and not at the request of any person or group.