Tuesday, September 4, 2007

The New Administration

The comment discussion has turned towards the hope for a new direction under a new administration. I would imagine that Pres. Schroeder is trying to sort things out and get a hold of his new direction. As the waters of the WELS have become muddied, divided, and misguided. I can imagine that in two years Mueller would decide to step aside also. I am happy that the prez has put forth a direction. So I guess I will hold off on posting those 95 theses as Jared suggested.

What I am wondering is how he will prioritize the synod needs. I believe he realizes that the administration became very top heavy over the last decade. I know that he is a strong proponent of the Lutheran educational system. Someone mentioned how the ELS has made a concerted effort towards opening and supporting their school system. I would think that would be a move in the right direction. Our schools have been pitted against other ministries and have lost too much ground.

I believe that Schroeder must take a hold of those pastors that are trying to shed their Lutheran identity in order to grow the church. I believe that Schroeder does need to address the Church Growth inroads and address the fellowship issue. Again, I believe that Satan is working hard even amongst the DPs. I also feel that he needs to commend pastors to take hold of the office of the holy ministry.

What do you think his top priorities should be?

I appreciate the commenter who made the suggestion to write the president. I will and I will invite him to read the blog. I will also continue to bail water.


rlschultz said...

I believe that doctrine should be the #1 priority of SP Schroeder. Specifically, this means plunging a dagger into the heart of the Church Growth and Pietism that has so deeply infiltrated the WELS. Going after the proponents of false doctrine will surely bring on much blood-letting. If done right, heads will roll at high places in the synod administration. Teaching and preaching the Word in truth and purity will bring many blessings. It will also create many enemies and cause discord and division.

Rob said...

I admit that I did not pay much attention to Rev. Mark Schroeder’s paper, “Reclaim the Mission,” when it first appeared in June 2007. In June and July 2007 our radar screens were overwhelmed with fleets of resolutions, memorials, and financial reports distributed by Milwaukee, Delegate Conferences, and Special District Conventions leading up to our Synod’s Biennial Convention. However, in the wake of the Convention and Mark Schroeder’s election as Synod president, Schroeder’s 12-page “Reclaim the Mission" paper has greater importance for two reasons: (1) it provides insight into the author’s perspective on Synod issues, and (2) it provides a provisional target, starting point, and framework for the Convention-mandated ad hoc study. It's worth reviewing.

Rob said...

rlschultz said...
I believe that doctrine should be the #1 priority of SP Schroeder. Specifically, this means plunging a dagger into the heart of . . . Pietism that has so deeply infiltrated the WELS.

According to one reference, Pietism is:

1. the earnest and thorough study of the Bible in private meetings, ecclesiolae in ecclesia ("churches within the church")

2. the Christian priesthood being universal, the laity should share in the spiritual government of the Church

3. a knowledge of Christianity must be attended by the practice of it as its indispensable sign and supplement

4. instead of merely didactic, and often bitter, attacks on the heterodox and unbelievers, a sympathetic and kindly treatment of them

5. a reorganization of the theological training of the universities, giving more prominence to the devotional life

6. a different style of preaching, namely, in the place of pleasing rhetoric, the implanting of Christianity in the inner or new man, the soul of which is faith, and its effects the fruits of life

rlschultz, is this a good definition of Pietism, and do you oppose this?

Anonymous said...

I think he means Pietism in the bad sense, that is, in the movement of the 17th and 18th centuries in Germany. Pietism had some valid criticisms, but overall, it was bankrupt theology and yet its concepts are still very prevalent today. I would not want that kind of "pietism". Piety is different than Pietism. And that list of definitions is pretty saccharine when compared to the damage that the Pietism Movement has done to the church. Read "The Complete Timotheus Verinus" for more information.

rlschultz said...

I hope that I am not being baited by this question. However, I will give what I believe to be an honest answer. No, this may not be a thorough enough definition of Pietism. I would qualify my definition by looking at what Pietism has lead to both historically within Lutheranism and today in the WELS. Generally speaking, Pietism leads to trusting in methods rather than relying upon the efficacy of the Word. One of the main problems with Pietism is its heterodox nature. Small errors become tolerated because they are masked by that which appears to be acceptable. I am not trying to dance around the question. I am just not sure what the question is leading to.

Rob said...

In his paper "Reclaim the Mission," author Mark Schroeder struggles with different definitions of the Synod and how different parts of the Synod are to communicate with each other.

On page 2 Schroeder raises a concern that WELS "has taken on characteristics of a denomination -- a large congregation of 400,000 members." IMHO, we laypeople need to be reminded that we are not members of WELS. Members of the Wisconsin Synod are pastors, male teachers, and congregations. We laypeople are members of congregations affiliated with WELS. President Schroeder does not have the constitutional authority to speak to all 400,000 directly. Pastors are the gatekeepers of information. Synod administration lists the names of pastors in the Synod Yearbook and does not list the names of congregation presidents in the Synod Yearbook.

On page 4 author Schroeder expresses . . . a loss of confidence that the Synod is heading in the right direction. So who might be headed in the wrong direction? Is he referring to Synod administrators, COP, SC, pastors, male teachers, or congregations?

On page 10 author Schroeder identifies the "actual problem" with WELS: "the disconnect between the synod and its people and the loss of focus and direction at the synodical level." Is this disconnect between pastors and the 400,000? Between the COP and pastors?

An observer said...

Perhaps some of your confusion results from the fact that "Synod" can properly be understood in two different ways. Theologically adn biblically, synod is "church," since any gathering of two or three in God's name qualfies for the definition of what the visible church is. It's this understanding that enables the synod, as a visible gathering of Christians, to support and carry out activities which only the church can do (establishing missions, placing calls, assigning graduates, etc.) Theologically, and biblically, that is what the synod IS. We can also understand and view the synod in terms of its function -- what the synod structure, as a human arrangement, was created to do. In that sense, our forefathers established the synod not to be one large version of a congregation, doing all the things a congregation does. Rather, they established the synod as a means or instrument for congregations and individuals to join together to accomplish things that they could not easily do on their own. So in this sense, the synod is not one large congregation or a denomination, with all the responsibilities of a congregation, but rather an instrument for specific kinds of joint kingdom work (which the recent convention identified as primarily world missions, home missions, and ministerial education. It is the latter aspect of the synod that Pres. Schroeder was referring to when he talked about the "disconect" between the synod and its people -- whether pastors, teachers, or lay people. He pointed out that the historical purpose of the synod has been eclipsed by a broader, denominational approach, with the result that pastors, congregations, and members have seemed less than confident to use it for the common kingdom work that they can't do alone. He seems to want to restore that connection by returning the synod to its original purpose. I would suggest that anyone who has questions about his views contact President Schroeder directly.

Anonymous said...

I am wondering if anyone knows Pres. Schroeder's new WELS email contact address?

Norman Teigen said...

I have heard from reliable sources within the ELS that President Schroeder will be a good leader. Schroeder, the opinion goes, has good blood lines and is expected, from the ELS perspective, to be an effective leader at a critical time for the WELS.

Anonymous said...

Since when do "good blood lines" make someone a good pastor or a good leader? The nepotism in the WELS drives me crazy. It's disgusting how blatant and widespread it is.

Anonymous said...

The bloodline thing is overdone, imho. However, there is truth to the fact that a father with sound doctrine will teach his children sound doctrine. There are exceptions to the rule, of course. The bottom line, however, is that Schroeder is encouraging because of the things he has written and said, the "blood" is incidental.

rak said...

What does imho mean?

Also, fathers with false or wrong doctrine will teach that to their children. Depending on the number of children that could bounce several ways. One believes his father, another rebels against his father. That is certainly noticable in many institutions, both religious and secular.

SMJW said...

"IMHO" means..."in my honest or humble opinion."

As for the blood line thing...it's not 100% reliable at all...I wouldn't hang my hat on it 100% of the time (speaking very, very broadly here...beyond the subject at hand).

Rob said...

An observer said...
Perhaps some of your confusion results from the fact that "Synod" can properly be understood in two different ways.

Observer, thank you for helping me make my point. The word Synod is ambiguous. In his paper Reclaim the Mission, author Schroeder uses the word Synod 114 times and the word Synodical 51 times. Each time he uses the term Synod and Synodical, we the readers must use context clues to determine which definition applies. Sometimes Synod means collective masses, sometimes it means administratively all those who occupy 2929, and sometimes it means the Synod leadership. There are shades of meaning within each of those 3 categories. For example, the collective definition might include broadly all 400,000; or just 2,000(?) pastors and male teachers. Speaking of Synod leadership, the definition might include the President/1VP, COP, and SC, or just one of those groups. Sometimes context clues help us determine which definition author Schroeder meant in each case, but if we're honest we can see that many instances could be interpreted ambiguously. We must be careful to avoid inserting our personal bias into what author Schroeder may have intended. His words should stand on their own, especially in light of the fact that page 12 (the final page) of Reclaim the Mission is Suggested resolution for adoption as a recommendation to the 2007 Synod Convention. I assume that the best minds in the Synod vetted this paper before it was commended to districts and conferences.

Six pages of Reclaim the Mission are a detailed action plan, A Road Map for Change, to address our deeper malady. Schroeder's clearest statement of the actual problem occurs on page 10: the disconnect between the synod and its people and the loss of focus and direction at the synodical level. Unfortunately, ambiguity exists in the statement.

If I were not a Gurgel fan, I would assume that Schroeder meant that Gurgel were disconnected.

If I were disappointed in the COP's regulation of practice, I would assume that Schroeder meant that the COP were disconnected.

If I despised the SC for recommending defunding or closing MLS, I would assume that Schroeder meant that the SC were disconnected.

If I thought that some pastors were off course, I would assume that Schroeder meant that pastors were disconnected.

It would not make sense to assume that Schroeder meant that the synod (400,000) were disconnected from its people (400,000).

From whom is the synod disconnected? Schroeder says the synod is disconnected from its people. Does he mean that the synod is disconnected from pastors and male teachers? Disconnected from 400,000? If I felt I were a victim, disenfranchised by any "synodical" decision, then I might feel disconnected and assume that Schroeder were talking about me.

Author Schroeder gave us a 32-point action plan, but from where I sit I don't see a clear explanation of the problem. He provided evidence of a problem (7 quantifiable + 15 less tangible), teased us on page 4 talking about a problem that involves the very purpose and nature of the synod and a loss of confidence that the synod is heading in the right direction, and delivered the actual problem on page 10 using (IMHO) ambiguous terms.

I hope that when the ad hoc commission conducts its work, the commission defines terms.

Anonymous said...

Frankly, I was very disappointed with the convention results. I was not a strong proponent of closing MLS, but I do believe that, barring blatant lying on the part of our financial officers at the synod level (2929 Milwaukee, or whatever), we are in a SERIOUS financial crisis.

Simply agreeing to ask one more time for more money is really an ill conceived notion. The congregation I attend is always thousands of dollars behind in its target contributions; in the past we have usually been "saved" when one of our older members die and leave a substantial amount of money to the congregation. We ask again and again for more money at the congregational level, but the contributions remain relatively unchanged.

I fear the same for the synod.

By deciding NOT to close MLS and NOT to recall missionaries (at least for now), the budget crisis only grows. Martin Luther College may well be threatened with closure at the 2009 convention since no measures have been taken to signficantly address financial issues.

God answers prayers. However, even Luther had to run and hide at Wittenburg castle when the heat was on from the forces of the papacy.

Rob said...

Anonymous wrote . . .
Frankly, I was very disappointed with the convention results.

I, too, was disappointed with Convention results. By making no decision, by making no change in financial policy, the delegates bequeathed the current debt of the Synod to their grandchildren.

Was the Convention decision (or indecision) ethical? Some might reason that the word "ethical" does not appear in Scripture, therefore it's adiaphoron, therefore we have the Christian freedom to do it.

A brother said...

rob, the line between "having faith that God will provide" and "counting the cost" so as to be fiscally responsible is a hard line to draw, and different Christians draw it in different places. I have been to many voter meetings over the years where debate took place over these two Scriptural principles. When either principle gets emphasized to the near exclusion of the other, the "ethical" line can get crossed, but that judgment, too, will differ according to different consciences.

Our church needs wisdom and guidance from God to draw these lines in the right place.

Rob said...

"A brother" wrote . . .
the line between "having faith that God will provide" and "counting the cost" so as to be fiscally responsible is a hard line to draw, and different Christians draw it in different places.

I agree with you in principle; however, I like to draw two lines. One line marks the threshold between Scripturally good and bad, and the other marks the threshold between ethically good and bad in secular terms.

Is the church obligated to conform to secular ethics? I argue YES, as long as our action is not Scripturally bad.

I, too, have locked horns with others during congregation budget debates. Some like to project optimistic offerings and school enrollment, then lock in higher spending for the fiscal year by calling an extra teacher, granting pay increases, and signing contracts for new services, capital improvements, and repairs. I hear people say, "Trust God," and "The Lord will provide," but as a fiscal conservative my response is always "Do not put the Lord your God to the test." In the secular world projecting high income may be reckless, but it's not necessarily unethical.

Example. Should congregations pay male and female teachers the same amount of money if they're working side by side and doing the same work? I have debated this both Scripturally and ethically during budget development. Some of my pastors think that Scripture requires a pay differential; I do not. Nationally, WELS does not. According to current secular ethics in the U.S., a gender pay differential is repugnant.

Example. What about internal Synod borrowing? Scripturally I would say it's a gray zone. In the secular world it might be technically legal (due to corporate structure), but ethically I put it on the "bad" side of the line because restricted funds were diverted from every donor's intended purpose without due process redesignation and there is no viable plan to pay it back. Internal borrowing started out innocently enough; however, over time, temporary borrowing became permanent and (consequently) ethics deteriorated.

Anonymous said...

I would like to comment on your question of priorities. I believe that a major priority is to bring what you call the "fractured" WELS back together. What does a doctor do with a patient who has a fracture? Sometimes major reconstructive surgery is needed as rlschultz suggest in his comment above. This may lead to a scar but over time it heals. Sometimes the doctor has to put the fracture in a cast or splint it so that it is immobile. Maybe that is what the synodical president needs to do with some of these fractured groups. Bind them tightly so that they can't keep running away.

So what is the tool of choice. The Word of God using both Law and Gospel!!!!

Rob said...

Who has seen President's Schroeder's video DVD address to the Synod? Comments?