11 June 2012

“A Marriage of Athens and Jerusalem…”

I normally try very hard not to cross the streams of the left and right hand kingdoms, mostly because I am just as passionate about theology as I am about politics and am probably just as polarizing in both realms, but here goes nothing.

I took a brief hiatus from Party politics last week to attend the 49th Rocky Mountain District Convention for the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod 7-9 June in the Denver Tech Center.  This was quite unexpected.  At our May voters meeting at Church, I was elected as a last-minute alternate to replace our other alternate who had a conflict arise, just in case our delegate couldn’t make it.  No one else volunteered, so I did.  Our Delegate swore up and down that he would be there—and I know it would have taken an act of God to keep him from it.  Which is what happened.  Those incredible rains came last week in Colorado Springs, and late Wednesday evening, I got an email from him informing me his house had flooded and he couldn’t make it.  Our Pastor’s house flooded, as did my mothers.  All three live very near each other.  So I, living in Denver now, ended up attending as our congregation’s voting delegate.

After a little kerfuffle with the sign-in (I was so last-minute my paperwork wasn’t there, and because my Pastor, who is the District Secretary, had a flooded house, he was delayed in getting to the convention), the fun began.

Without getting too much in the minutia of the theology of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, let me give a brief overview for those who aren’t too familiar.

We are a creedal church, meaning we confess the Ecumenical Creeds (Apostles, Nicene and Athenasian).  We believe in Faith Alone through Grace Alone by Scripture Alone.  We believe that the Bible is the infallible Word of God.  We are a sacramental church, which means we actually value the saving properties of Baptism and Holy Communion (which we believe in Real Presence, which means that the Body and Blood are in, with and under the elements—not transformed into, nor merely representing).  The Book of Concord is our confession of faith, and is entirely based upon and in accordance with Scripture.  We hold tradition and history to be important, but not on the same level as the Bible.

Anyone who wants to know more may certainly ask.

Now, as with party politics, there are essentially two sides in our synod.  The “confessional” side, the Quia subscribers to the Book of Concord (“Quia” is simply Latin for “because”, meaning that we believe in the Book of Concord because it is supported by Scripture, indeed, in full support by Scripture), are all very conservative.  The liberal side, the Quatenus subscribers to the Book of Concord (“Quatenus” is Latin for “insofar as”, meaning that they believe in the Book of Concord only insofar as it is supported by Scripture), are the folks who promote things like ordination of women and contemporary worship.

I am just as conservative in my church politics as I am in my party politics.  In fact, on Facebook, I identify myself as a “Confessional Quia Reformed Catholic”.  Originally, the word Lutheran was a pejorative used to try and convince others that those subscribing to the Augsburg Confession were following a man, not God, so while it is an identifier now, I prefer to not use it when at all possible.  When not using it as a title, I also specifically use small “c” catholic (like my many rants on “l” vs. “L” libertarianism) because it refers to the church universal, not the Roman Catholic church.

Hopefully that helps give you a foundation to understand where I’m coming from religiously now, so that the rest of this makes a little more sense.

I hope sometime soon to have the chance to expand this more, but for now I am just throwing out some notes I made during the convention.

·         Confessional Lutherans seem to have a slightly small “L” libertarian tendency—this, largely, I think is due to our strong left-hand, right-hand kingdom doctrine (one that, interestingly enough, Kevin Miller—a non-Lutheran—used as the basis for his book “Freedom Nationally, Virtue Locally or Socialism”)

·         Lutherans really do just have more fun.  How many other church bodies can you think of where you can sit down with your Pastor, the President of the Synod and your husband… drink whiskey, smoke cigars, listen to U2 (on the iPhone of the Synodical President) and talk left-hand kingdom politics?  I dare you to find me one.

·         Speaking of our Synodical President, Matt Harrison… you might know him as the man who kicked serious butt testifying before Congress earlier this year on HHS rules.  If you missed it, it is so worth it to watch/read (various video, audio and statements can be found here).  Find me another church body that, on their website, implores their members to actually study the Constitution (“Learn about our rights under the U.S. Constitution to freely exercise our beliefs and to speak of Jesus Christ and our conscience in the public square.”).

·         There was a huge political emphasis at this convention.  Colorado Right to Life was present with a table and petitions to take to churches.  The banquet speaker (which I missed due to a previously-scheduled conflict) was the National Right to Life President—a Missouri-Synod Lutheran, I might add.  Tim Goeglin was one of the session speakers.  Even during President Harrison’s address the opening night of convention, a few political questions were asked.  This is a church body that, more than most I can think of, is engaged in and understands public policy and the left-hand kingdom.  I’m glad they are getting more engaged as Pastors, as we only have 6 LCMS Congressmen right now (one of them is our own Cory Gardner, though!), and I think that may be changing soon.

·         On a less political note, Colorado has some absolutely incredible confessional Pastors.  It was such a blessing and salve for my soul to be around God’s servants who preach, teach and confess everything I hold dear.  For too long, we’ve been fighting against the infiltration of liberalism into our Synod (anyone who knows me knows that I refer to the ultimate outcome of Seminex, the formation of the ELCA, as the E?CA, because they’re not Lutheran but I don’t know what they are…), and I am so pleased to see a marked return to our confessional roots.  In speaking to several there, it appears this is a pretty drastic shift from even 10 years ago.  I couldn’t be more pleased.

Now, for a few thoughts on the parallels I saw there between the GOP and the church politics.  Maybe I’m just reaching.  I’d love your input on whether or not I’m crazy or if there are the actual parallels I’m seeing, particularly from those who were in attendance.

Declaration of Independence/Bible (conservatives)
Our ‘roadmap’ for the founding of this nation given to us by our founding fathers
The ‘roadmap’ for the foundation of Christian life and doctrine, given to us by our Lord
Declaration of Independence/Bible (liberals/progressives )
Worth reading, but an old history lesson
Worth reading, but not always right
Constitution/Confessions (conservatives)
Sacred, means today what it has meant always, unchanging
Sacred, means today what it has meant always, unchanging (quia, because the Word of God is unchanging)
Constitution/Confessions (liberals/progressives)
A living, breathing document, can change over time to mean whatever we want it to mean
A living, breathing document, can change over time to mean whatever we want it to mean (quatenus, because the Word of God is not sacred and can be reinterpreted to “fit the times”
Traditional, “old-fashioned”, time-tested principles with a focus on actually retaining and promoting those principles of governance
Traditional, “old-fashioned”, time-tested principles with a focus on actually retaining and promoting those principles of faith
Focused on growth and unconstitutional practices to gain the illusion of more power, principles can and are sacrificed in order to obtain more power
Focused on growth and extra-biblical practices to gain the illusion of more power, principles and doctrine can and are sacrificed in order to obtain more ‘power’

Like I said, maybe I’m reaching, but the parallels are pretty obvious to me.  The fight of principle vs. the illusion of power is alive and well in the GOP, and appears to be in my church body too, which of course means I just can’t sit idly by, I must engage in this battle.  Party politics is important, and I will likely be engaged in it for the rest of my life.  But church politics… that is of eternal importance, and so I can’t be uninvolved any longer.  I’m looking forward to the 2013 Synodical Convention now.

Let me be clear… this is not the time or place to debate me on religion.  Comments like that will be removed because they have nothing to do with this post.  Notice I didn’t evangelize in the least here, I’m simply talking about my faith and am looking mostly for input from those who share it (meaning all of Christendom, not just Missouri-Synod Lutherans).  Don’t attempt to evangelize me on your beliefs or lack thereof here.  We can do that another time.  Just talk to me on the elements here.  Thanks!

Oh, and one last comment—that was the best run convention I’ve ever seen, bar none.  Somebody there knows Robert’s Rules of Order pretty darn well (actually, I think most of the attendees knew RROO pretty well, which helped significantly).  There were a few nit-picky things I noticed, but not enough to really even bug me.  The GOP could learn a thing or two (or ten) from them on how to run a meeting.