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Topics - Mark Brown

Your Turn / Institutional Trust
March 14, 2023, 07:01:04 PM
I received the last Reporter in the mail and turned to my favorite section - the official notices. And I found an amazing thing in that last one.  The notice that the recently re-elected DP of the Atlantic District (2022) had been removed from the Roster of the Synod and was no longer able to receive a call.

Pondering this, it lead me to a question. The formal hierarchy of the LCMS has no problem using a very broad brush when the malfeasance is a bunch of internet laity, lumping with actual Nazis a wide variety of other folks as persona non grata for disturbing the peace of the synod in the harshest terms.  I had long wondered what would actually cause the use of the missing binding key.  We now know.  And although I do agree with Pastor Speckhard's recent article that the Boomers that run things basically don't get it.  There is no accommodation with the current culture that can be reached, what we need is an institution that is explicitly counter-culture. I also think that coming down hard on actual Nazis is necessary even if it was too broad.  Although I'd just chalk that up to an office out of touch with anyone under 35.  But the question it leads me to regards 1 Peter 4:17, "the judgement begins at the household of God." If we are going to rebuild institutional trust, which we need to do. And if part of that is using the binding key as well as demanding some standards, which it should. Is not something more than "Rev. Dr. So-and-So was removed from the roster" necessary when that man was the recently re-elected District President of a District of Synod?

Should there not be at least a 300 word fact article that explains why the DP is no longer the DP and not even on the roster? Or is such treatment from the Synod President only necessary for internet Nazis and rando-laity?
Your Turn / Capitulation
September 13, 2022, 03:08:16 PM
One of the best scenes of Television in forever is Breaking Bad Season 5 ep 14 where anyone that might have been rooting for Walter White as the "hero" gets to see the real protagonist, Hank. Being Breaking Bad and this unfeeling nihilistic universe, of course Hank dies in the scene.  But his line makes clear the situation.  "You're the smartest guy I ever met, and you're too stupid to see he made up his mind 10 minutes ago."  The entire situation is real because of the actions (and lack of action) of Walter White.  But Walter is still in denial.  He still thinks he is partially the good guy that a good chunk of the audience is rooting for.

There have been articles/letters recently that brought this scene to mind. All the smartest guys you ever met have been trying to keep "Communions" together for a long time.  But they didn't realize that the people they were trying to negotiate with, and keep the Hank's of the world in communion with, had decided to kill them a long time ago.

This is Ephraim Radner about the "Anglican Communion"...
This is Dennis Nelson of Lutheran Core about the ELCA...

Neither one of them is perfect.  Radner is still thinking you can work together in works of mercy.  But even that capitulates that such a "communion" is not koinonia and has none of the flavor of what the church traditionally meant through these works.  Nelson reads a little like someone with Stockholm syndrome using "their" pronouns and clutching at various straws like "at least they are against racism and the abuse of power" even though the entire movement has been one long abuse of power.

But both of them read like a capitulation. The progressives decided a long time ago to kill their communions with any real continuity with the historic church. The smartest guys in the room never realized that.  But now they have no option.  There is no fig leaf, no last offering, no verbal game that can paper over the rupture.   Denial, anger and bargaining is finally giving way to what might come next.
A new year of General Social Survey data is out, and with that the first round of some interesting data. The general religious data points per Ryan Berge seem to have been effected by changes in the mode of questions (personal/phone to web-based).  But Lyman Stone has been tracking "the rise of sexlessness".

Here is his concluding paragraph...
QuoteIncreasingly delayed marriage has a large and well-understood effect on sexual frequency among American adults. But the rise in sexlessness among unmarried adults is not as well understood. If the data from the General Social Survey is to be believed, a key part of this story of changing sexual behavior in America is a change among religious people, or others, who believe premarital sex is wrong. Increasingly, religious young adults are "practicing what they preach," adopting a distinctive set of sexual behaviors. As a result, the growing diversity and polarization that typifies so much of American life is reaching even further, even into bedrooms.

So, Christian distinctives appear to be reasserting themselves. Not for lack of trying to bury them.
I've been reading Joe Coulombe's - The Joe in Trader Joe's - book about building up and running that unique place.  His roots in it go back to buying a 6 store chain called Presto Mart from a Drug Chain in 1964.  Over the years he details at least 5 mental stores that Trader Joe's has gone through: Presto, Good Time Charlie, Whole Food Harry, Mac the Knife, and the current.  There are a lot of interesting nuggets along the way, like his dedication to paying the most in the industry determined a lot of his success, along with developing actual product knowledge which that pay structure enabled.  But his section on Location is fascinating.  I recognize that pulling an example from a retail outfit toward the church is probably off putting to many, but I think it helps understand some things.  Or at least puts some good questions before us.

What the LCMS did in the time of plenty was in Pr. Benke's words "start a place everywhere the DP wanted to stop."  Of course every place you started has to have an infrastructure that is even more permanent than the 15 years leases Trader Joe's worked with.  And in the leaner times, our strategy collectively has been to try and keep open every single one of those LCMS outposts.  The advice is to get the demographic report for the area you are in and to morph yourself into whatever serves that demographic.  This is the first solution rooted in the fixed cost.  It also is a recipe for the LCMS meaning nothing, at least the way we have all morphed ourselves chasing that. 

But to me the deeper question given the American church landscape remains: what is the LCMS?  Are we "here comes everybody?"  I don't think so, that is Rome.  But even Rome has two non-negotiables: the Pope and the Priesthood.  Are we just American Protestants?  There are several who would like that, but that isn't our history.  And there are several who would be dead set against that.  We can't be sociologically defined anymore, the German American Synod of Many States is dead.  What is the confessional answer? Probably "everybody", but in practice a theological destination.  In our current confusion we are basically Arby's.  We used to have something unique, but it wasn't that popular to sustain thousands of places.  So we have latched onto everything ("we have the meats") not doing anything particularly well.  Trader Joe's is a story of being unique, not being for everyone, but being very successful.

Some quotes from his section on location:

QuoteBut my preference is to have a few stores, as far apart as possible, and to make them as high volume as possible...Too many stores, too many irreversible leases, too much geographical saturation was a recurrent theme in the failure of American retail chains in the twentieth century...I believe in ruthlessly dumping the dogs at whatever cost. Why? Because their real cost is in management energy. You always spend more time trying to make the dogs acceptable than in raising the okay stores into winners. And it's in the dogs that you always have the most personnel problems...I believe that the sine qua non for successful retailing is demographic coherence: all your locations should have the same demographics whether you are selling clothing or wine...Trader Joe's is not a store for kids or big families. One or two adults was just fine.

Now those last two are tough.  They are anti-gospel.  But in the American spiritual marketplace, which we all are effected by, there are people following exactly that strategy (hello, Acts 29!).  And the question is does every church fill every niche?  Let's say that we the LCMS did three things: 1) Took from the confessionals (and Trader Joe's) the core idea of being something recognizably different from everything else, but similar across the whole, 2) You attempt to work outposts in 25 mile jumps based on Americans having cars, and 3) Recognize that we are not to everybody's taste and be ok with that, work with that instead of against it.  Is such a thing even possible?  How would you get from here to there, and would it work?  It is a solution opposite what we've been doing for 30 years that has not worked. Or is that the solution that is being worked, but it is just being worked slow motion, one church closure at a time?
This particular paragraph, the real conclusion to the author's "conversion" story, comes from The Lamp (Issue 5, Saint Anselm 2021) which describes itself as A Catholic Journal of Literature, Science, the Fine Arts, etc.  The author is Emma Mutch who is described as pursuing a Ph.D. in animal genetics at University of Edinburgh.

QuoteWe left the church and the trip continued without much of note.  When I returned, I found faithful and kind friends whom I missed. It told them about my pilgrimage and what I had learned, and found their responses full of wisdom.  One said, "Of course it would be painful. You've thought about being Catholic, but you hadn't thought it meant you had to stop being Lutheran." It's an important point. Catholicism cannot be grafted onto something else. Try as one might, one finds that to be Catholic is to have a singular attitude towards life. It affects everything we do and everything we conceive. I am often surprised that there is a Catholic way to dress, a Catholic way to eat, a Catholic way to rest, a Catholic way to work, a Catholic way to love, etc. It was in Rome that I realized I could not be a Protestant Catholic. I was a Protestant and now I am Catholic, and that has fundamental implications for everything I am.

Now, if one reads the longer article, you learn that the author had been attending an Anglican church.  She had also slid through a Presbyterian church, an atheist phase, and without spelling it out was probably as a child a Lutheran but attended Catholic schools. So there is a large question about just how Lutheran the author ever was and by evidence of life had stopped being that a long time ago.  But putting that aside, her summary of this "conversion" hits I think at the mission of this group.

1) Her summary I think stands in complete contrast to what Neuhaus said on his conversion.  He emphasized a continuity, if he had come believe it was fuller in Rome.  This conversion emphasizes the break and how one is necessarily the end of the other.  Given being read out of Lutheranism by the Synod President, I think it might be safe to assume that he might agree with this author.  Is this just the times?  It is a time for scattering? Or is this a necessary reversion to confessionalization and its walls?

2) As a Lutheran I can't help but read the author's description as exactly the reasons I could never be a Roman Catholic.  As much as I appreciate a "thick lived experience" and might wish that Lutherans had a bit of a thicker one, thinking that there must be a Catholic everything screams of legalism.  And I don't think is Revelation's description of the saints coming from all tribes, languages, peoples and nations.  Is such a thick lived experience necessarily legalistic?  Meaning that living in a in between space like evangelical catholic or maybe from the other direction a V2 Catholic is untenable?

3) Other than simple size, is there any particular reason why Roman Catholics can produce high quality but general journals like this, but Lutherans really can't?  (LF being the closest.) Ours are either propaganda, often the glossier the better, or lugubrious "I'm smarter than you and have read more Luther" publishing games. Spaces for honest meditation - the second of prayer, meditation and trial - are sparse.
Your Turn / Conventions
May 19, 2021, 04:07:30 PM
Saw something that reminded me of another claim.

1) The WY district held their convention May 6-8 (

2) I made a math claim a while ago about his in support of having the conventions.

Quote from: Mark Brown on December 16, 2020, 03:11:33 PM
In Rochester, NY the clinic established is vaccinating 200/hr.  Plus there are direct ships to old folks homes.  But let's just assume the one place and let's assume they work 16 hour days.  There are 740K people in Monroe County.  This one 16 hr place could vaccinate the entire county in 230 days.  They started yesterday.  230 days from yesterday is August 2nd.  But we aren't going for 100% we only need 70%.  Which would be May 25th.  So, when you further take into account those that already recovered.  Kids who really don't need it.  And that more than one place will eventually get the elixir.  June isn't even that optimistic.  By April there will be enough vaccinated to dramatically drop the spread.

As of yesterday (5/18) in the Finger Lakes region 62.3% have been vaccinated.  In the US just under 50% have at least one dose.  I've still got 7 days on my back of the envelope calculations.  Pretty solid.  Maybe we should have had conventions.
Your Turn / Confirmation Verses
May 19, 2021, 09:36:57 AM
I suppose there are two practices in regards to confirmation verses.  A) You let the kids pick them, or B) you pick them for the kids.  Since I'm a tyrant, I always do the second.  And if you are picking the verse, I've always felt that it requires a bit of the prophetic in there.  John 3:16 is a great verse, but picking it for a kid feels like saying "yeah, great kid, but I ran out of time or just didn't imprint much."  Most years I haven't had trouble.  The verses kinda picked themselves.  But what verse to you pick to saddle the kid with for life on the fancy certificate when they are just good well adjusted kids with great parents if not overly driven by piety?
Your Turn / Crystal Ball Gazing - LCMS futures
May 05, 2021, 12:47:38 PM
Quote from: Dave Benke on May 04, 2021, 07:04:38 PM
Quote from: Dave Likeness on May 04, 2021, 03:21:41 PM
The LCMS Website has posted the latest membership totals for our Synod.

2020.........1,861,121 Baptized members

2010.........2,310,235 Baptized members

This is a net loss of 449,106 members which is about one half million members.
This  quick glance at the LCMS might help us understand the big picture that
faces our two seminaries.

So 2030.........1,300,0000 Baptized at the current rate.  Except the rate is going to accelerate as the result of even less baptisms and schools and even more deaths, so maybe 1.1 million. My aim is to be there to witness it at age 84.  Some of the statistical folks try to plug in a way that this all levels out.  That seems more like wishful thinking. 

Of course, you can check out those numbers through other denominations, and get the same sinking feeling.  We are not alone.

Seminary-wise, let's say the new goal is 100 per year from both seminaries in all programs, so 1000 per decade, and let's say by 2030 there are 5000 congregations left in various states of repair or disrepair.  Is that enough fresh energy?   Maybe it is.

Dave Benke

It is getting harder and harder to find information to do the math, but the above exchange from another thread brought up two question I'd like to pose.  But first some of that data and some assumptions.  It was not very long ago (2008) when we were baptizing around 30,000 per year.  The most recent Annual I have 2019, which is 2017 data, which says 21,087 baptisms. We confirmed 15,512 that year.  I believe I saw a reported number of something close to 20,000 baptism in the past year.  Let's make some heroic assumptions: 1. We stabilize at 20k/yr, 2. We confirm 85% of them for 17K/yr. 3. Adult entrants over a lifetime more or less equal those who walk away.   Yes, these assumptions are in line with the Harrison "have more babies" approach.  They also happen to be optimistic based on the recent past.  If you stabilize at 17k/year, and let's take 78 as the typical lifespan, that makes the Synod in steady state 1,326,000.  Again, given birth trends, steady state is optimistic, but let's lean into it.

How many congregations are needed to cover 1.3M?  Let's assume that the 1.3M are a little more serious about their faith and attend at a 60% rate.  Any given Sunday 780K are in church.  Which you will note we are already below that number as typical attendance I saw reported at ~680K.  Let's then stipulate that to survive financially as a congregation you need a minimal budget of $160K.  US median household income in $68K.  Now we know that churches are funded on 80/20 rules.  80% of the money comes from the 20% of the population the tithes.  But what it works out to on average is 2% of gross.  Since we are assuming these hardy folks are a little more serious, let's assume 3%.  Which would mean the "average" giving unit gives $2K/yr.  So, you need 80 giving units per congregation to support the budget.  Each giving unit is a family, and since we are leaning into steady state, let's assume that is 4 people.  So a congregation would need about 320 member to really be viable.  1,326,000 members divided by 320 per gives you 4,144 congregations.   Baring a large movement of the Holy Spirit, that is probably best number would could hope for.  The reality is the we are 2000 congregations over that.  The number of congregations that have a solid 320 members is much smaller.  So unless you develop a way to share people and money across congregations, you will be closing more than that. I'd guess that you end up around 3000 congregations.

But this gets to my deeper question.  What happens if 2600 of those 3000 congregations are all in the Midwest?  I serve in a place where there are 14 local congregations.  Of those 14, I'd only place good money on 3.5 of them limping through. What if the LCMS becomes, as a friend of mine on the west coast says, an midwest phenomenon with the coastal regions treated as foreign missions?   Added complication to this, what happens if 3 of those 3.5 congregations are basically American Evangelical Non-denoms?

Please, somebody, tell me where my heroic assumptions are clearly off?  (I will accept that the Spirit will move, but if you are asserting that, we just stop talking and wait for His movement.) Or, somebody please tell me how that configuration is institutionally stable?

My list:
- We move people back to tithing which makes congregations of 100 viable
- Evangelical Non-Denom does move into an acceptable "foreign missions" expression
- Average people in the US become even wealthier
- The movement of the Spirit moves many more people into the LCMS than who leave - "Come Home to Missouri"
- The people of the Synod start have much larger families
- We create a structure that overcomes congregationalism and is willing to support smaller parishes

Of all of those, what sounds like the most achievable?
Your Turn / Harrison and Evangelical Catholics
April 21, 2021, 01:33:36 PM
Matt Harrison gave an interview with Issues, Etc.  This is from roughly the 6:50 mark.  Seems to be an interesting addition to the Lutheran Forum's recent articles.  Also seems to go out of its way to create a distinction that doesn't seem to understand "Evangelical Catholic" all that well.  Thoughts?

QuoteHarrison (Roughly 6:50)
We actually, in the sixties, it was very popular to teach also in our seminaries that the confessions, especially the Augsburg confession was about a confessing movement within the church and the so-called Evangelical Catholic Lutherans like to talk this way, but Orthodox Lutherans simply say that the Formula of Concord is a reassertion of the Augsburg confession and the formula of Concord and the confessions indeed confess the existence of an Orthodox church, not some kind of confessing movement within the church. It is an Orthodox church. And, uh, when we interpret the Lutheran confessions, we do not in fact, look at them as so much historically conditioned that they have very little to say to us today. In other words, yes, that was the right kind of decisions they made at the time, but they don't bind us today. Our subscription to the confessions means that we are bound to the phrases and words of those confessions when the explicate, the doctrine and teaching of the church full stop. And if we aren't doing that, then we're something less than Lutheran.
Your Turn / Interesting Quote From Jenson
December 03, 2020, 02:18:50 PM
"The two main charges the prophets brought against Israel were the tendency to assimilate Jahve to Baal (flight from historical responsibility into mystic security), and failure to pursue radical social justice in the life of the nation (creeping capitalism)." - Jenson, Story and Promise, 1973
Your Turn / Parish or Sect
August 06, 2020, 01:02:24 PM
This article is by a parish priest in England (CoE).  I found it fascinating and maybe more applicable to LCMS life than people might think, or at least the tensions.

Here is the nut I would say.
QuoteThe parish priest, protected by the rules of incumbency, is the very model of subsidiarity — the bishop has lots of moral authority within a parish, but much less actual authority than many imagine. This means that a bishop is not able to sack clergy with whom he disagrees with theologically. These ancient terms of employment were historically the basis for academic tenure, and exist for the same reason: to maintain a diversity of thought, highly necessary in such a broad theological coalition as the Church of England.

But the downside of these structures is that ineffective clergy are often impossible to remove. Changes in some parishes can only come about through death or retirement. In other words, the traditional structures of the Church of England emphasise stability and subsidiarity, but not necessarily the energy and dynamism required for missionary zeal. And given that these structures are lodged in the law of the land, it is almost impossible to change them. That is why those who want to start a theological revolution from within the Church of England often find they have to leave it to bring about their vision — see Methodism.

Now transplanting that from an established church situation to the American field is interesting.  I made a comment elsewhere about my daughter specifically, but about my kids in general.  The gist of it was "Yes, I'd love to have all my kids be lifelong Lutherans, for I believe that is the truth of the faith best expressed.  I think they will have a hard time getting away from it.  But, looking at reality, I'd would happily take a family of Latin Mass Catholics rather than have them ripped away from the church."  The response was two fold: 1) Those who fully understood what I was saying and 2) Those who questioned my ability to be Pastor if I would make such a statement.

I bring that up to talk about some of the differences between the field.  The article details how the CoE has stripped the parishes to establish what is essentially a sect.  In the United States this was accomplished through Worship Style as the the Non-Denoms and their imitators strip mined the local parishes.  But in the US there is another sectarian force that the established churches of England don't really deal with.  My phrase is that it isn't the theology that has failed, but the sociology.  The only reason I would make my statement above is that I have clear eyes as to the overall health of the Lutheran Church.  There are lots of things that are not of the essence of the church but are for her good, and many congregations are below the point that they can effectively provide any of those goods.  For example, eligible men.  The sectarian response is that my statement is heretical and almost disqualifying because our church of 30 provides all the essentials.  And this might be true, but it also just leaves the sheep open to wolves of every kind in important ways.  To avoid being a sect, a diminishing one at that, would require figuring out how to address the sociology, which a parish traditionally did.  The established church doesn't deal with this, because it doesn't necessarily pit congregation against congregation.  We do.  Which is why we don't (address the sociology).

Our congregationalism, which can be a very good thing, right now is what pushes toward being a sect.  And I'm pretty sure, other than death and retirement, there isn't a way to address it.
Your Turn / Now This is Some Mobbing
June 20, 2020, 11:25:05 AM
From MA Justice dept...

QuoteSix former employees of eBay, Inc. have been charged with leading a cyberstalking campaign targeting the editor and publisher of a newsletter that eBay executives viewed as critical of the company. The alleged harassment included sending the couple anonymous, threatening messages, disturbing deliveries – including a box of live cockroaches, a funeral wreath and a bloody pig mask – and conducting covert surveillance of the victims...

In response, Baugh, Harville, Popp, Gilbert, Zea, Stockwell, and others allegedly executed a three-part harassment campaign. Among other things, several of the defendants ordered anonymous and disturbing deliveries to the victims' home, including a preserved fetal pig, a bloody pig Halloween mask, a funeral wreath, a book on surviving the loss of a spouse, and pornography – the last of these addressed to the newsletter's publisher but sent to his neighbors' homes.

As part of the second phase of the campaign, some of the defendants allegedly sent private Twitter messages and public tweets criticizing the newsletter's content and threatening to visit the victims in Natick. The documents allege that Baugh, Gilbert, Popp and another eBay security employee planned these messages to become increasingly disturbing, culminating with "doxing" the victims...

The third phase of the campaign allegedly involved covertly surveilling the victims in their home and community...Baugh and Harville allegedly carried false documents purporting to show that they were investigating the victims as "Persons of Interest" who had threatened eBay executives...

Your Turn / Behind the Clamor
June 14, 2020, 07:13:32 PM
Amy Schifrin deserves a nice hand for her article on "virtual communion".  The parallel to Mormon baptism by proxy is a great insight.

And the atomization and spectator sport aspect of worship is something that we've been dealing with for a long time.  I wonder how "Amish" Christian worship will look like in a couple of generations?  Because what we are insisting on is an actual community created by an actual communion.  And that is going to become deeply counter-cultural in a culture known for ghosting and the inability to even call back.

It also had me thinking in a McLuhan vein.  When the medium is incarnate that says one thing - the reality is present here and now.  You could say the Kingdom is near.  As the article stepped through a bit, when it is made tele-visual or recorded the real thing isn't what you are participating in.  The real thing is some perfectly produced thing that everyone is just trying to replicate.  Commentator James Poulos has been attempting to say that the internet is a very different medium than the tele-visual.  If the tele-visual was selling a vision or a dream, the internet kills all of those because of its memory.  Tele-vision is Calvinist as the reality is the Spiritual meal we all want to be part of.  The internet is Zwinglian as all we are doing is remembering a long ago meal and appropriating it to ourselves however we take it.   How you do things says a lot more then whatever you are actually saying.
Your Turn / The End of the NYT
June 07, 2020, 08:04:58 PM
I'd love to know the answers to a few questions by our resident journalist.

1) What do you think of the forced resignation of the NYT editorial page editor over an Op-Ed by a Sitting US Senator sought after by the NYT expressing an opinion that 65% of the American public agreed with? ( Is this the action of a real newspaper?

2) What do you think of the tactics of the "editorial page staff" to demand his firing and essentially the end of his career over this?  Is making people unemployable acceptable?

3) Why should anyone to the right of Mao bother to talk with or read the NYT in the future?
Your Turn / A Theory of Thread Death
May 19, 2020, 12:40:45 PM
In good epidemiological fashion we should contact and trace exactly why some threads die prematurely and do our best to prevent that from happening to good threads.

My work on tracing.
1. A thread moves toward either "Women in the Church" or "Gays in the Church".  Both of these are fatal launching a cytokine storm of immune system response that kills both the invader and the invaded.
2. A thread makes a clear theological suggestion for political action.  This brings on the "domino theory" or cascade of organ failure as all rational and theological abilities shut down to protect the ideological priors resulting in thread death.
3.  A thread moves to a place of honest church politics and good faith argument.  The patient appears to be moving into recovery.  But in a strange Munchausen by proxy move people enter into the thread with all kinds of stories of illness and psychological trauma to draw attention to just how bad something is.  The thread dies as good faith and honest politics are not possible while everyone is required to perform emotional work over poorly documented harms and signal their "good person" status.
4. Brian Stoffregen makes a post.  The thread experiences brain death immediately, but it might stagger on in life support as people, especially new posters, struggle to comprehend what has just happened.

It is suggested for immediate preventative measure that as soon as any thread experiences any of these they should be fully quarantined for a week.  Those already infected by the thread may continue to interact in the hope that it might recover, but they should not be allowed to spread to healthy threads.
Your Turn / May Forum Letter - Clericalism?!?
May 07, 2020, 02:51:33 PM
Read the new Forum Letter last night.  It was a strange offering.

Pr. Johnson's piece of Corona, Communion and common answers was top notch.  The Lack of consensus, in everything but assuming we are the authority.  The lack of authority, in everyone except our own "prophetic" opinion.  And we seem to lack the will or even the means to even imagine consensus or legitimate authority.  Not a very strong clericalist answer letting everyone go their own way.

But as helpful as Pr. Johnson's piece was, Gilbert Meilaender's manages to both invoke Nazis on Lutheran Pastors and come off sounding like a Gary Wills attack on Priests.  Maybe my problem is that we are not an every Sunday place.  And while we did go on a eucharistic fast, we increased the services to continue to meet and be under executive limits.  But I think that Dr. Meilaender would probably say I like the sound of my own voice too much and can't imagine people going a week without it, dirty clericalist that I am.

Which is it?  Do we really need to be able to put our own house in order, let the judgement start with how we clerics are ruining everything?  Or is it that we are ruining everything and so we should let the laity ruin things for a while?

Or maybe we are all just at the end of every rope we've got.  Did anyone else have a reaction to the Letter?
Your Turn / What Percent of Lutherans?
February 21, 2020, 02:42:50 PM
This is a fascinating poll result in a couple of ways:

Polling just self-claimed Roman Catholics.
31% believe Transubstantiation
69% Just a symbol

Of that 69%, 22pts actually know the real teaching, just don't personally hold to it.

Of the 31%, 28pts know the real teaching.

Hence the poll question.  What do you think the results would be for Lutheran pews?
Your Turn / Indifference to History and Consequences
October 11, 2019, 09:31:21 AM
"Certainly we sang, and sang lustily, 'the times, they are a changin'.'"  There's a whiff of that in every generation, perhaps.  Still, it doesn't seem to me, at least at this distance, that my generation (that would be boomers) was advocating tossing history on the ash heap." - Editor Johnson

C'mon.  The Age of Aquarius? (The new age seems to be a pretty big discontinuity.)  Don't Trust Anyone over 30?  I could go on.  Tossing history on the Ash Heap is the definition of boomers.  Especially when you realize that the previous big generation (WW2, the poor silents just kept things working as long as they could) wasn't a bunch of fuddy-duddy stick-in-the-muds that the boomer mythology holds they were right and just in rebelling against.  But instead they were largely a very liberal to progressive force everywhere.  They were progressing with all due speed toward the progressive Utopia through the Warren Court, The Ecumenical Movement, the UN, NASA, etc (a mixture of good and bad).  But it is Boomer Mythology that they were a bunch of dead consensus breaks that needed to be taken out and replaced whole cloth. 

And of course we now live in the wreckage and the hangover.  Might be the only thing the millennials get right.  What came before isn't that good.  Maybe we should start over.  Of course when you are starting over in a pig sty, they haven't realized that the first real step is one of return, not eating the carob pods.
Your Turn / Discussing Together
September 04, 2019, 11:34:35 AM
What does this mean? (From Claiming Christian Freedom to Discuss Abortion Together, LF Summer 2019, Carr & Helmer)

QuoteAs Lutherans, we know that justification by faith in Christ means that we are free to live from our sense of what our neighbor needs, rather that from a preoccupation with what does or does not constitute our own moral perfection.  This is not an excuse for "cheap grace" that blankets over any sin, but a demanding call for creative fidelity in the circumstances in which we find ourselves.  Discerning what we and our neighbors need also involves listening for the nudging of the Spirit, who speaks in particular contexts - not as a didactic rule-maker, but as One who actively conforms us to the mind of Christ, connecting us in each time and place to the ground of values into which we are formed as part of the body of Christ.  How we hear the Spirit speak depends upon where we stand in the body of Christ; from each standing place, the Spirit journeys with us, praying in us (Romans 8:26), searching, revealing and guiding us (1 Cor 2:10, John 14:26, 16:12) toward the Beloved Community of with we have a foretaste in the Lord's Supper.

I think that is the nut paragraph, along with the one following it not typed in.

What I hear reading that is:
1) Abortion must be legal, we are not questioning that.
2) If those who are questioning that were really following the gospel and caring for their neighbor they wouldn't be.
3) The Spirit can't possiblly have been invovled with the 10 commandments, he's not a didactic rule maker, even though he is part of the Trinity.
4) God's Kingdom doesn't speak with certainty or come by itself.  It comes through nudges, and limited places where we allow the Spirit to speak.
5) Where we stand (which is that abortion must be legal and easily available), is where the Spirit is nudging all the church.
6) The first use of the law, which is as a curb against great sin and a teacher of appropriate action, is not valid for a Christian to use or vote with.

What am I missing, in the interest of discussing together?
Just finished reading the Forum Letter for Aug 2019.  I wanted to both say thanks for a couple of Editor Johnson's contribution, and to maybe explore an implication.

The first was his article on the lectionary.  I might have a few more beefs with the RCL, the biggest being that I think if there is a "hard passage" for modern ears, it is more or less guaranteed to skip it.  It often feels like the work of Bultmann and Papal Lavender Mafia.  But as ROJ remarks, that might be as much from having gone through it 3 full times, as reality.  And so what I find myself doing on the 4th time through is giving myself clearance to add the verse(s) I feel were wrongly cut out, rarely more than two extra.  I am always disappointed when either at winkel or on vacation I realize that the place doesn't follow the lectionary.  Something that should unite us in the larger church without much imposition has been lost.  That lead to his note about the loss of collegiality.  The particular point was to note that funerals of pastors are no longer shared things.  I've commented elsewhere that I so often hear the advice or the lament, but I never knew the fact that gave rise to it.  We get together at winkel, but do we really "share this ministry"?

I think those things - the loss of a lectionary and the loss of collegiality - might be closer together than we might think.  Yes, all these things are adiaphora.  I am so #$&@ sick of that word.  I think it is fair to say that we've been fighting the adiaphora wars for at least two generations now.  And I don't think it is an error to see how the most recent generations have been catechised and the numbers leaving and think that maybe a bit less adiaphora and a bit more "preach the word, administer the sacraments, and conduct public worship" which maybe should include all the readings and the actual catechism would be called for.  And if our ministries looked a little more like each other in that - lex orandi, lex credendi after all - that maybe we'd have a bit more collegiality? 

We seem to be trying to keep certain things together that have just grown apart.  And what we've sacrificed on that altar of "my way" is the joy of shared mission.  There will always be something to argue about.  But it would be nice to have a church order that governed more than just my 40 acres and this mule working them.
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