Monday, December 14, 2009

Missouri Think

The logic employed by the offices of LCMS officialdom at times borders on the bizarre. Father Larry Beane invokes an embarrassing example from the realm of ecumenical relations. It reminded me of an example I encounter around convention time. This past summer I was a lay delegate to the district convention. That happened to have been accurate nomenclature, since it was still a couple weeks before I received diaconal ordination.

Something makes me wonder if the Missouri Synod will ever consider the historic office of deacon to be anything but that of a layman, though ironically the same conventions which fail to recognize a real diaconate for what it is approve when the men who merely call themselves deacon perform "word and sacrament ministry" even as they take their SMP mail order courses. But then, it hardly takes a knowledge of the Augsburg Confession to navigate a district convention. But I digress.

What has been going on for years is that the category of "lay delegate" is routinely used for not only lay delegates, but indeed for priest delegates as well. If a priest happens to be a member of a parish, though not its pastor, and let's say, he is chosen as his congregation's lay delegate for the convention, then that is what he is for those three or four days, a "lay delegate." If you are most accustomed to a rural church situation, you may find this hard to believe. First, are there really so many ordained men out there, not being used by the Church for the ministry of the Word (however convincingly some have argued that they are engaged in "elder ministry")? Yes, there are. Second, if they attend a synod convention, either at the district level or at the big gig in Houston, why call them lay delegate, when no one unfamiliar with institutional Missouri's mentality would think to call them that? There is any number of possible alternatives, priest delegate, congregational delegate, nonpastor delegate, etc. Yet there are men, ordained into the Church's ministry of teaching the Gospel and administering the sacraments, who boast every three years of the good they will do at convention as "lay delegate."

The answer is to start thinking, Missouri, and stop using Missouri-think.

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