I know there is a risk in posting about the Koinonia project. Much as the United States broadcast every moment of the moon landing live, I am risking failure in a public forum. (Although, one hopes, not death in the icy blackness of space.) I am risking that some will think I have shared too much or too little, I have been too personal or too theological, too irenic or too polemic, too longwinded or (actually that’s my cue to move on.)
Because if we are to have synod-wide honest dialogue, we can not limit it to church gymnasia, or hotel ballrooms. We can not just wait for the Koinonia Project to come to town and work its magic. We need to change the way we think about theological discussion in all it’s formats, whether it be books published by an official publishing concern or through a private publisher. Whether it be by official proclamation of synod in convention or through the blog of our synod’s president. Whether it be through facebook posts, or sermons.
And so, I am taking the risk and speaking honestly my opinions to whomever wants to hear what I saw, said, felt and experienced in New York.
After the first round of discussions, there was a break for the evening. (Other events were planned, but we didn’t have Koinonia Project discussions again until the next day.) This gave us a chance to reflect on what had happened. And, as friends are wont to do, there was sharing among the brothers regarding the general outlines of what happened (though, as mentioned before, not specific conversations). I suspect the same was true of the brothers in the Atlantic District as well. The most common question was “What did you talk about?” We did not mean “What contexts were discussed?” but “What were the theological topics?” Answers included such things as Closed Communion, Lay Ministry and the Diaconate, the service of women in the Church and Order of Creation, Worship, Fellowship, etc. Because we all knew that we were coming together to discuss the things which may divide us, we came ready to dive into one of those topics. And so, the table discussions mirrored our synod’s perceived division points.
On Wednesday, we were asked to pick a specific topic. A variety of topics were chosen. The groups then had opportunity for each person to state their position. The honesty was refreshing and welcome. There was not unanimity of belief on any topic that I am aware. That is to say, there were divisions. However, it seemed to me, as brothers shared the general contours of the discussions with each other, that the divisions were not where they were always expected to be, and that there was a great deal more concord than was expected. This is not to say that agreement was reached in all areas. But the desire for faithful practice and for conscientious teaching and application of God’s Word was certainly an overwhelming factor in the discussions.
Ultimately, I was encouraged by the unanimity in basic principles in my group. In some other groups, it seemed as if divisions may have been more obvious. But given what one might infer from the past history of the Wyoming and Atlantic Districts, the overall feeling of all the pastors was great encouragement for our future prospects.
That having been said, it is possible that in the future we will find that we agree on 14 1/2 theses, but not on the 15th. (As did Luther and Zwingli) It is by no means clear sailing from here. But the ice has been broken; the process has begun. There is much yet to do. How it will end is up to the individual groups, working together under God’s Word and with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. And such results are known, for now, only to God. But the foundation laid here is a good one. In a sense, this was a test case: Can the Atlantic and Wyoming Districts come together and discuss theology for a week? (Yes, we can!) If they can do it, then shouldn’t others be willing to give it a try? (Yes, they should.)
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.