In the early life of the synod, she was dynamic, nimble, ready to tackle challenges and make necessary changes. District realignments were frequent. Universities and seminaries were founded, moved, consolidated, re-separated, moved again, etc. Facilities were meant to facilitate.

At a certain point, the movement stopped. And institutionally, it was a fairly abrupt change.

The last district realignment happened in 1972. The seminary in Springfield was moved to Fort Wayne in 1976, and the last University to move to a new city was 1982. In only a decade, the synod settled into immobility. In 1992 the Concordia University System was implemented. It’s goal is to maintain the status quo. Since that time, the only changes to the component parts of the system have been when outside circumstances force a change.

It’s interesting to me that the Boomer Generation, the one that so boldly proclaimed “The times, they are a-changing”, and rather rudely instructed their elders “get out of the new one if you can’t lend a hand”, is the generation that set in concrete the systems of the LCMS as they were during their own formative years. Over the years, the power accumulated into little fiefdoms, and the Presidents zealously and jealously guard their little palaces. Whether district, synod, university, or corporate entity, the goal now is to preserve what was, not seek out new directions for future growth, or adapt to changing conditions on the ground.

You can quibble about this or that generalization above, but we have 50 years without a single district change, and 40 years without a college change that wasn’t driven by the creditors.

Things are changing now, because we have no choice. The change will accelerate, because things that can not be sustained, won’t be: Health insurance costs more than the starting salary for a pastor, synod funding doesn’t cover synod expenses, districts are selling their office buildings to fund operations, and our universities are facing headwinds both cultural and institutional.

My entire life has not seen a single district change it’s shape on the map; I wonder what great cataclysm will finally shake things up. Three Concordias closed in 5 years, yet no one seems interested in discussing the synod’s overall approach to higher education.

Calm can be good. But it can also be a sign of paralysis.

I’ve said it before: The church has survived for 2000 years, despite our best efforts to run things.

The church will survive until our Lord returns. That promise doesn’t extend to institutions. I’m ok with that, because our Lord is ok with that.

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1 Response to Paralyzed

  1. jimhuffman says:

    Good thoughts. I’ve wondered for a long time as to why we have districts at all. They seemed to have made sense at one time, but now, at least in mine (Southeastern) district officials seem to be trying to find a purpose for their existence. Even the synod itself seems to be losing its traditional reasons for being (at least as far as publishing, training church workers, and missionary sending, since the Internet, relatively inexpensive transportation, and cheap phone communication have changed the way people operate. Even the fellowship in the gospel is no longer tied to synod, at least in the circles I run in

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