Monday, July 16, 2007

an observation on the Missouri Synod convention

The tentative schedule for the 2007 convention of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod can be found here:

Looking at this plan for the convention, I can't help noticing a couple of things, which will perhaps strike some as being judgmental, or bitter, or whatever. In fact, I don't think I'm bitter. It's not like I woke up one morning and realized the Synod has changed. It has been on a certain trajectory for years & years now. Nor would I shy from this observation even if, say, William Weinrich were President of Synod, instead of the current leadership.

Now my observation: despite the fact that the synod web site boasts that worship is a key part of the convention, just take a good look at the daily agenda for the triennial convention of the great Confessional church known as the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, and what do we see? There is one liturgy on Saturday, called "Opening Convention Worship Celebration with Holy Communion," a noneucharistic liturgy on Sunday morning called "Morning Prayer Service," a liturgy on Wednesday morning designed, I think, as a memorial service for church workers who have died in the past three years, and a "Closing Worship" on Thursday.

William Weedon has reported that the Saturday service was surprisingly good. For that I am grateful. I do not have any criticism of the substance of these services, except to say that it should be stunning and scandalous for the Missouri Synod to gather in convention and not celebrate the Lord's Day with the holy Mass. Instead, there was a "Morning Prayer Service." Beyond that, I wonder why the paucity of liturgical opporunities at the Convention? There is no time for a daily Mass? No time even for a brief order of the Daily Office, say Matins, Lauds, or Vespers?

Worship and nurture are two of the chief purposes of the Convention. Wouldn't it have been appropriate, then, to have several stations set up at the Convention hall for Private Confession? I do trust that those who planned the Convention had the best of intentions, and had no ill motives. Just step back and look at this convention, though, not with the eyes of one who has grown accustomed to the way things are in this synod, but as an outsider looking at a church that claims to stand in the great tradition of Lutheran Catholicity, and one will conclude that things just don't add up. I know, if a synodist reads this, he will conclude I am being judgmental, I'm being "Ft. Wayne" or some such sinful vice, and if a "confessional" man reads this he will likely wonder why I am going on about the obvious, why I am expecting the impossible, why I am being so idealistic, etc, etc. I was not expecting that the convention would be like stepping into a former time. Yes, this is our Church body, etc. But I do not want to "get used to it." "Ecclesia semper reformanda est" ought to be our attitude and our constant goal. Yet I am struck by the quietness from so many quarters regarding this convention.

I make no critique on the votes and acts of this convention. I merely think it is worth observing that my general impression of this convention is that of a corporate business meeting, with a few "Bible Studies" and "devotions" sprinkled into it. Why is this worthy of observation? Because I think it is a sign of the condition of the church represented at the Convention. It is a venerable saying that "Since our Church's problems are not political, but rather spiritual, we pray God to grant us repentance, and seek no political aim." In that light, I pray future conventions, whether at district or synod level, will be more concerned about the renewal of Confessional Lutheranism among us. The Augsburg Confession, for example, could be publicly read at each convention, perhaps divided up so that a portion is read each morning and afternoon. No time for that? Really? At a convention that has time for numerous Bible Studies, devotions, evening parties and receptions? I'm no expert, just a layman, wondering aloud, and praying for our Synod.


William Weedon said...

Amen, Latif. It is striking.

At our District Convention we have for years offered private confession and absolution and offered both opening and closing Eucharists, I believe, with ample devotions.

I know that in the past, private confession was offered at Synodical conventions, because I served as confessor for this. A pity if it were not offered this time.

The Rule of the SSP is right on: we need not politics, but repentance.

Latif Haki Gaba, SSP said...

I did not realize that Confessions were heard at past Synod conventions. Perhaps that is the case this time as well. I really don't know. I'd like to hear some reports of what it's like there.

Latif Haki Gaba, SSP said...

In fact, let me be clear. My statement on Confession in my post assumed too much, and it was inappropriate. Now you've got me curious, though, to learn more about the liturgical/sacramental goings on at the convention than what is apparent on the schedule.