For several weeks I had been offline; now that I am back online after our move, I have taken the opportunity to catch up on some of my blog reading, and one happy discovery is that Father Michael Hill has been blogging again. I commend his blog to your reading; you can find it here, and also know that it is included in my blog list at the right.
Fr. Michael Hill is a churchman who is not recognized as such by the church, or at least by its current bureaucracy. Just as Luther's excommunication was not a true and rightful excommunication and did not mean that he was excommunicated from the Church, likewise, despite how some are led to think, Hill's removal from the roster of the LC-MS does not in any way alter his true identity as an ordained minister of Christ. His removal was a wrongful act of synod bureaucracy.
God asks us to live with certain ironies in this life. One of them is that the Reverend Father Michael Hill is forced to earn a living in the world, where he is known simply as Michael Hill, rather than receiving his living from the Church, while some ordained men of the Missouri Synod, for the sake of their rising careers in the church, have quite willingly left the ministry of preaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments, and yet are called "Pastor" so & so. Some of these men have been moving from one arm of bureaucracy to another for years, apparently never stopping to consider the option of actually going back into the work of the Predigtamt.
To be clear, I am not a functionalist, as my remarks about how I view Fr. Hill (ie., as Fr. Hill) testify, nor am I a congregationalist, as though the only way a man can serve in the church is in parish ministry. My complaint about certain synod officials, rather, is that while some of them indeed preach on occasion, these men who are ordained ministers of the Word of God will not stir up the gift that is in them, but prefer to don their corporate tie, sit behind their desks, travel the speaking circuit, and assure themselves that they are rendering a great service to the Church. I am sure, moreover, that such synod and district officials are good men who pray, work hard, and only mean well for Christ's Church. I believe, however, that the disconnect that happens in today's synod from the life of preaching the Gospel and celebrating Mass, when a man moves out of the parish, and into a synod office, is not only against the healthy scriptural tradition of our Confessions, but that it also leads the official perhaps inevitably towards a mindset of institutional loyalty. The temptation for this institutional loyalty to take precedence over truth and the Gospel overwhelms some of them, and injustice and untruths result, and become the new truth.
Fr. Hill's experience with the synod is a case in point. As negative as this diatribe may seem, my ultimate point is positive. Namely, I would like to highlight one of the things I love most about Fr. Hill, his integrity. And I am reminded of one of my favorite film quotes. You, dear reader, have likely seen the movie V for Vendetta. Evey (played by Natalie Portman), while suffering torture and imprisonment, discovers a letter tucked away in her cell. The letter is the first person account of a prisoner who went through a similar experience at the hands of her captors. As Evey reads the story of Valerie (played by Natasha Whightman), the lesbian actress who at length gives her life to stay true to her integrity, she is inspired and strengthened to remain true in her stand against her tormentor (who turns out, incidentally, to be the very one she is protecting).
In the midst of Valerie's letter she makes the following statement, "Our integrity sells for so very little, but it is all we really have. It is the very last inch of us. But within that inch we are free."
I strive to be that free, and I am thankful I have such true churchmen as examples. One of them is Fr. Michael Hill, though he may not appreciate me comparing him with a futuristic English lesbian film character.