Dear Blog Readers,
I received the following letter from our South Wisconsin District's delegate to the recent convocation on synodical restructuring. Having heard Rev. Torkelson address this issue in person, and also having grave reservations about the proposals myself, I submit this letter for the benefit of our district and others.
Thanks for your thoughts, Rev. Torkelson!
-Rev. Tom Chryst
Dear Brothers in the South Wisconsin District,
As many of you know, a proposal to restructure the LC-MS is rapidly approaching. As the clergy delegate from the South Wisconsin District to the so-called “theological conference” in August, I became convinced, for a number of reasons, that the proposals being set forth for Synodical restructuring were not in the best interest of the Synod’s pastors and congregations.
Among these reasons, I include the following:
1.The theological and Gospel foundations of our current structure were completely ignored in the Conference itself.
2.The proposals, as a whole, point to a greater centralization of Synod and not necessarily a greater sense of our congregational identity.
3.The proposals address the wrong problem—the main problem facing the Synod being disunity and uneven confession of our theology. This hampers missions considerably. A confessional church body will, by its very nature, be a missional church body. (Witness the ecumenical movement as a negative example of this truth).
4.The impetus for restructuring does not emanate from the congregations, but from the Synod’s leaders’ wrong perceptions of the problem in our Synod.
I have been travelling the District, as has President Wille, to measure attitudes toward this process. The response, at this point in time, has been singularly negative, crossing political/theological lines, as well as small/large congregational lines. Suffice it to say, the prospect of restructuring is not a popular one on the grass roots level. Many see this as a power play. Too many times now I have heard pastors tell me that the solution is simple. We simply need to return to the Lord our God through His Word. Unity will come when the pastors and congregations are freed from the constrictions of the national church body to be the mouthhouses of the Lord. Hearing God’s Word rightly, we can do no other than to boldly proclaim Christ’s love in word and deed in our villages, towns, cities, and regions.
To that end, if the LCMS is going to be delivered from such an unwise direction, the Synod’s congregations are going to need to demonstrate to the national church body that any call for restructuring of the Synod must needs come from them (the congregations) and should aim to confess the Gospel as well as our current structure does.
In other words, the congregations need to speak now or forever hold their peace. I am lovingly asking you to consider taking the following steps toward assisting your congregations in avoiding what could be a mistake of absolutely stunning proportions on the part of the national church body.
1.Please go over the proposals with your church councils, elders, and be ready to summarize the problems with your congregations as a whole, utilizing newsletters, bulletins, whatever communication options you have, in order to catechize the laity on the problem.
2.Select a lay delegate to the 2009 District Convention who is concerned not to allow this to continue and be willing to put forth delegates to the 2010 National Convention who feel the same way.
3.Overtures, overtures, overtures. The SWD is one district which is providing a special floor committee dedicated to the topic of Synodical Structure And Governance at its next District Convention in June of 2009. I invite you to “weigh in” in the form of overtures to the District Convention. The more, the better. We cannot receive too many.
With regard to overtures, I ask you to consider the reasons I listed above, as well as your own concerns, in writing your overtures. Please remember that a good overture is short and to the point. What the President of Synod needs to see is a large number of such overtures. Please ask your congregations to consider the overall benefit of weighing in with an overture, as well as your circuits.
Above all, I ask that you pray for our Synod. The proposals on the table will change the Synod at its most fundamental level. This is not merely a “rearranging of the deck chairs” but a centralization of authority which will likely breed further distrust and sap the dynamics that come from a vigorous confession of the Gospel in our congregations and localities. Please pray that the Synod not make such an unwise move as to restructure along the lines it is proposing and that she put the Lord of the Church first in her confession and in her mission.
The Lord bless you all richly this Advent season as you prepare for Christ’s Second Coming and the celebration of His first.
Sincerely in Christ,
Rev. Daniel T. Torkelson, Pastor
Zion Ev. Lutheran Church, Clyman, WI
SWD Clergy Delegate to the 2008 Theological Conference On Synodical Structure And Governance