By Ron Biel
Attending my fourth (and last) LCMS Convention this summer, I left feeling hurt as again witnessing what goes against my Gospel Grain. New laws and rules and regulations – who may we exclude from the Sacrament which Jesus offers to all who have need of it, and for us to thereby remember Him. “Closed” or “close” – either way it still smells sour.
It was a “positive” Convention, as we are all now hearing repeatedly. The votes, the consensus, the mandates, the overwhelming desire by the voters to deal overwhelming with the issues of the past decades. Yes, it was indeed all glorious.
I was personally never given opportunity to address any issue from a microphone. A vote was called, and it was all over. So much for democracy, and minority views. It never happened. The podium ruled and controlled what would be discussed and by whom. I felt like I was asked to follow a script.
Women were never at many microphones, never assisted in any acts of worship, and were treated as second-class believers. Worship style was singularly high church and always from the acceptable hymnal. No outsiders (from ELCA or anywhere else) were allowed to share their insights. We have no one to learn from; we have the answers. That is enough! We will take in new Lutherans from third world countries, as long as they follow us.
The whole thing was like a “glory journey”. More missions, more seminarians, financial improvements (?), we are in this together (read, vice-presidents, boards, the powers that be, etc.) – this showed who was in control. Young pastors with their penguin-outfits all lined up. This is our future! They eat this kind of thing up. It was a sad moment in my life and career.
So, where do we go from here? Where? To the Gospel, to our Lord, and to His Church! There is nowhere else! Flaunting our chagrin proves nothing. Hiding will only allow the “opposition” to proceed further. We can’t just go away; the Gospel doth constrain us.
So, quo vadis? To issues of the above, and speak boldly as did the apostles.
· The role of women in the Church. We are in a sad state. Our stronger female voices are leaving us in droves. I care about that!
· The Lord’s Supper – “He is indeed worthy who believes in the words and promise of Christ, ‘given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins’”. I care about that!
· There are many worship styles, and our world is changing. We have lost a couple of generations already; we dare not lose any more. I care about that!
· The Church of Jesus Christ encompasses all people, all denominations. Let us live as we proclaim in our Creed. We need to keep stressing the Mission Affirmations which said it all so well. I care
· I want to be given a voice to share what I believe to be true. I am willing to listen. There is room from dialogue – always. I care about that!
As many of those of us grow older, weary, and a little less alert, we still need to challenge when and wherever appropriate (choosing our battles carefully). At times, we may need to expose in a spirit of love. There is always a need for a minority to speak. Martin Luther could not speak otherwise. Nor did St. Peter. Nor did Jesus. Nor can we.