Some may argue that “Outsider” is not an apt description. But, I was not a delegate, I saw no updates on the convention until after it was finished, and I was not even around the internet for most of the week. Certainly, as a member of synod, I have “skin in the game”. But this isn’t a blow-by-blow account of how this resolution, or that resolution came about. It’s a general observation about the state of the synod.
The state of the synod is very good.
Now, I don’t make that claim lightly. When necessary, I have been known to speak up regarding changes I think need to be made in our synod. District Presidents, the Seminaries, the COP, the President of Synod – a tour through past blog posts will show that I am not ashamed to call out what I see as unfaithful practices.
I’m not saying I won’t be speaking up in the future. And I’m not saying the synod is now perfect. Nothing this side of heaven is – except our Lord Jesus Christ, and the salvation he offers through his Holy Church. But, even with her faults, our synod is on a stronger footing than we have seen in many years.
The convention, considering carefully lists from both sides of synod, decided to go with United List candidates for 80 out of 90 elections. Even some of the non-UL candidates elected were hardly what one would consider “liberal”. The United list doesn’t claim to endorse the only possible confessional Lutheran Candidate. In some cases, it was merely a difference of opinion regarding who was most qualified. The United List had their opinion, and the convention thought differently. But never in my lifetime has the president of Synod been given such a strong slate of candidates up and down the roster. Every board where I know the names of people was either strengthened, or had faithful members returned.
The Resolutions were much the same way. With one exception (And that will be it’s own discussion…) the resolutions which passed the convention have either strengthened our witness, or returned us to more faithful practice. In one especially controversial case, we ended a generation-long unfaithfulness.
But can it really be called controversial when the vote was 74% in favor? In most votes, that is an overwhelming super-majority. It was not even close. Those who oppose restoring Ausgutana Article XIV are truly a minority voice. The synod has overwhelmingly spoken, and they need to move on.
Interestingly, President Harrison said before he was ever elected that, with prayerful discussion centered on the Word of God, he believed the synod could have 80% agreement on controverted issues. Many I know thought he was nuts. (Or making political promises he had no intention of keeping). It wasn’t so long ago that the synod voted 55%-45% that we were not divided doctrinally. That’s not a good result, no matter which side you were on.
And yet, with six years of instruction, and the last three specifically and intentionally devoted to studying the issue, the synod came to 74% agreement. Had there not been such opposition to Augustana Article XIV from a very vocal minority of the District Presidents, he might have found that extra 6%.
But the results were consistently in that range or better for the most controversial issues. As an example Dr. Keischnick used to joke that the church argued over Wine, Women and Song, and that she always would. How about this: Faithful Practice of Closed Communion and rejection of intinction: 83%, Against Conscription of Women into Military Combat Positions: 91%, He even got 95% of the synod in convention to agree that truly Lutheran Worship – nothing high church or froopy, but simple hymnal worship – is edifying and delightful. How’s that for wine, women, and song? Every one of them was passed at over 80%. Perhaps the problem is not that Lutherans can not agree on these issues, but that we were in need of leadership that is willing to teach faithfully on them.
District Presidents or other synod leaders that are pushing more Open Communion Practice or intinction, Feminism, or sub-Lutheran Evangelical Worship, take note: the synod has clearly said that such things should not be. If you want to reshape the synod into some sort of Evangelical, Catholic, or Episcopal version of Lutheran-lite, the synod is not interested.
In 1974, A Brief Statement passed with roughly 55%-60% of the vote. Dr. Preus took it as a mandate to cleanse the seminary of false doctrine. For most of the 90’s, you could not get 60% of the synod in convention to agree on the color of the sky. The most controversial resolution at this convention passed with a 3/4 majority. That speaks well of the synod and her future.
There are still challenges. We aren’t there yet. There’s a lot of hard work ahead as we continue to discuss divisive matters. But, I am more hopeful than ever that, under the Word of God, we can come to a resolution on these issues. Only time will tell. And in the coming years, we’ll see whether those who disagree are willing to submit themselves to that Word or not.