Monday, June 25, 2007

Why "Confessionals" Scare "Moderates"

As the July LCMS convention approaches, I have been pondering the struggles of the Synod and my place in it all.  I have been thinking for some time about the two camps in the LCMS and how I managed to start in one and migrate to the other.  

Coming from the East Coast and out of Concordia, Bronxville, I was a prime candidate to 
end up in the "moderate" wing of the synod.  Going into seminary, I wasn't totally convinced
of Closed Communion, and had my doubts about women's ordination.  

I remember even in Seminary getting into an argument about whether the LCMS should even be discussing women's ordination (I thought then, that we should - my wiser adversary saying it was a settled matter).

Back then, I didn't like contemporary and praise type music, but still didn't really "get" the liturgy.

I remember firmly thinking that style and substance were completely unrelated.  

I also figured I could and would remain neutral in all the various squabbles of the LCMS, and be "above it all".

Honestly, I also didn't study the Confessions as seriously as I should have in seminary.  It didn't seem so "relevant" to me then.

How that changed.  While I still am careful about how and when and where I participate in our synod's political process, I find myself increasingly taking sides with the confessional/conservative/traditionalist camp.  My growing appreciation for and understanding of Lutheran theology is to blame for this.  

The Yankee Stadium contraversy was, for me, and for many I think, a turning point.  It almost drew a line in the sand.  You kind of HAD to take sides.  And as I examined what happened there and studied the issues carefully, I found myself siding with a new and strange group of people.  The people who used to scare me.

I was, originally, quite intimidated by the Confessional crowd in the LCMS.  I think I understand why.  To me, they represented the Law.  Their very existence suggested there was something "less pure" or "less faithful" or "less Lutheran" about me.  And I resented that.  I guess I also internally knew that it was true, and so these guys became a sort of walking talking embodiment of the Law for me.  By identifying themselves as certain things, they implicitly identified others as not those things.  Liturgical, traditional, Biblical, concerned about Law and Gospel, faithful, confession-minded... all these have an opposite.

I have heard moderates in the synod speak derisively of the "ultra-conservatives", as they assumed I sympathized with them.  I honestly don't know what the problem is, other than a feeling that because that guy wears a collar all the time and doesn't do contemporary worship, he must think he's better than us.  And in a sense, I guess that's true.  But perhaps he simply thinks what he is doing is better.

Sure there's arrogance and condescension on the confessional side too.  And to the extent that we allow this we are sure to turn off the moderates even more.  But even without it, I think a certain amount of Law will prick the honest moderate's conscience, as he sees a faithful pastor doing things he knows he should be doing - but is either too lazy, or afraid, or uninformed to do.

I have come a long way in the last 7 years.  I still feel like I am on the road to becoming truly Lutheran.  I appreciate the internet and all I have learned here, in the blogs and on the email lists and forums... and it gives me hope.  Issues Etc. is another gem.

I hope that many who were or are like me - once the Squishy Missouri Middle - can grow and learn and see why it is we want to build Lutheran identity and stem the tide of the Neo-Evangelical influence in our Synod.  


Pr. John M. Berg said...

Glad to scare you Tom! It has been our pleasure ; )

Preachrboy said...

Some of you still scare me.


elephantschild said...

And some ordinary laymen, like me and Mad Musician, have been in congregations where the banner of "Confessional" has been used as a blunt hammer to pound people with. It's taken us a long time to become comfortable calling ourselves "confessional" not because of any doctrinal disagreement, but because of the way we have seen that doctrine used to hurt and exclude people.

Thanks in part to you and our current Pastor, we've learned it's possible for a pastor to be both conservative, confessional AND a loving, gentle Pastor who cares about teaching his flock!

Scott Scofield said...

Beautiful post, Reverend Chryst. There is always something powerful about a leader sharing his own personal struggle with difficult issues - an inspiration to the rest of us that we can have doubts and not clearly see the men that we are to become. When an influential person acknowledges this, it opens the door for the rest of us, otherwise fearful of being vulnerable to seemingly 'perfect' beings!!

Thank you.