Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed, for the Lord God, even my God, is with you. He will not leave you or forsake you, until all the work for the service of the house of the Lord is finished.
–1 Chronicles 28:20b
The special voters’ assembly did not result in calling a candidate. Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily and I will explain. I believe there were three major points of discussion:
- Transparency through more communication
- Expectations regarding how the call process works
- Relationship and implications of Pastor Mackay with the ACELC
There have been questions regarding the timing and content of communication that can be provided to the congregation regarding the call process. That specific issue will be addressed as we move forward and work with Kansas District. As for the call process itself, we will review the current state with Pastor Lee Hovel, the circuit visitor, and communicate that as well. Meetings begin in earnest this week. As we work through the process, you can expect more communication and it is hoped that this effort will provide clarity to Hope members. Stay tuned.
As for the third point, this is a bit more complicated and requires some background.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. – Hebrews 13:8
For I the Lord do not change, therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed. – Malachi 3:6
Developing doctrinal beliefs involves attempting to understand what God is saying to us and developing a statement of what we believe, a confession of who we are. We immediately run into some problems: For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord – Isaiah 55:8. Because of sin, we are not aligned with God’s thoughts or His ways. However, God did not abandon us to our lost condition, He provided His Word through the prophets, apostles, and most importantly, directly through Jesus as the Word made flesh.
The fundamental elements of our Lutheran doctrine have been in place for several centuries and have withstood the test of time. Lutheran doctrine is articulated in the Book of Concord that contains writings such as the catechisms, Unaltered Augsburg Confession, etc. All of us hold this doctrine as a statement of what we believe. Though there are pastors and professors holding beliefs that conflict with the Bible and Book of Concord, you can take comfort that our confession of faith as a church body is solid.
The final step is putting doctrine into practice. The complication with this step is that it involves the concept of adiaphora. Adiaphora are matters that are neither condoned or condemned by scripture; they are not essential to faith. The quandary is defining what is essential to faith and how broad or narrow is it defined depends upon who you talk to; there is not always a straight-forward answer.
I don’t believe the discussion regarding the ACELC at the meeting was necessarily about doctrine; most of ACELC’s talking points have already been addressed by the Synod’s Commission of Theology and Church Relations (CTCR). I suggest using CTCR documents for official synodical positions. I think the concern that was expressed was focused on practice. When pastoral and congregational practice is not aligned, conflict can and often occurs, so it is quite reasonable and important to have a discussion about pastoral practice before a call is made.
The term “confessional” was used during the meeting and that deserves some context. By definition, all faithful Lutherans, called and non-called, are automatically confessional because they believe doctrines of the writings of the Book of Concord to be a faithful witness to the theology of the Bible. Called workers take a vow to this effect. Confessional and Lutheran should mean the same thing.
However, the word confessional has also been used in the Synod to classify what has been deemed a political movement that had its beginnings when Dr. Ralph Bohlmann became synodical president in the early 80s. Among other things, the movement included pastors who applied pastoral practices that resulted, in some cases, in forcing adiaphora upon congregations. Congregations either disintegrated or rebelled. I personally experienced this at my home congregation in Indiana. Congregations have not always been in the right but the contentiousness was something one would not expect from Christian pastors and congregations. This is why the word “confessional” can bring lots of baggage with it in our synod.
Doctrinally, I think our congregational family is significantly unified. I think there is an opportunity to learn and discuss subjects like living as Christian or raising a family in a post-modern world or studying about several doctrinal subjects and how they apply to practice. I believe education is key and we as members need to continually learn.
Secondly, take hope that most of this challenge is administrative in nature – it is something we can work through and come together on. Some expressed worries about missing out on candidates because of timing. I assure you we are not going to “miss out” on anything because our next senior pastor isn’t going anywhere until he is called to serve Hope Lutheran. God is still directing our efforts.
Finally, I think if we improve transparency through communication, our church family will become more comfortable with the process in general. Transparency removes the ambiguity that leads to people making things up (and usually not in a positive mindset). We’ll focus efforts on communication and have conversations regarding who we are as a family in Christ.
Take heart that every single person in the assembly has the same goals in mind. We all want to see Hope grow and prosper. We all want to remain faithful to Lutheran doctrine. We all want the best fit for Hope’s next senior pastor. Calling a senior pastor is a significant event in the life of the church. It is worth taking our time and unifying as a congregation. God will continue to guide us.
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
–1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
See you in church!