At our November board meeting, it was decided by a vote of 365 to 173 that we should each take the next few months to sit in a dark room and ponder the root problem of the Lutheran church bodies in America. Yes, that did mean that we missed out on Advent, Christmas, and a chunk of Epiphany, not to mention many family events and work-related duties, but we feel our vocational responsibilities, though important, do not outweigh our more pressing need for self-indulgent continual self-analysis. Therefore, here’s the problem, as we see it:
Church bodies are too large. It’s difficult for a doctrinally pure ecclesiastical supervisor to keep that many sinners under his thumb. Church body size would be better restricted to nothing higher than a single-digit number, preferably all living under one roof. This could be accomplished most conveniently by the father of each nuclear family naming himself bishop, binding his wife and children to his interpretive authority, and preaching and administering the sacraments in the home. There would of course be some challenges to this approach:
a. None of these men are called to do this, so it would be a break with the historic Church, but since in so many places “everyone a minister” is already practiced, it shouldn’t cause too much of a stir.
b. It’s conceivable that not every man who is a physical father is qualified to be a spiritual father.
c. The wife and kids might be heretics who would have to be excommunicated to the garage, which while keeping purity in doctrine and practice, may make for an unpleasant living situation.
d. What to do with the older kids? School outside of the home/church environment is not a satisfactory option. The best alternative we’ve come up with so far is arranged marriages. After home-schooling through high school is completed, if you (and possibly your wife) can agree with another father enough doctrinally to permit your children to marry, you could give your daughter a letter of transfer, and after she takes the proper membership classes, she may be admitted into the church/home of her husband.
e. This may have implications for the whole “body of Christ” imagery of the Church. We’ve decided it’s best not to think too much about that. We’d rather not destroy our simplistic absolutes.*
Discovering that seminal flaw of American Lutheranism didn’t really take too long and left us with enough time to ponder the problems of some of the “confessional” Lutherans in these church bodies. The following is not a complete list, just a few random things that make us angry (more annoyed really, but this is Angry Lutherans, so we’ll stick with angry).
1. Blogging. (Yes, we’re aware of the irony of using a blog to call blogging a problem. Don’t write in.) Blogging in some “confessional” Lutheran circles has become a root of much time-wasting with precious little usefulness. The seemingly endless navel-gazing has progressed to lint-gazing and in some cases, lint describing in excruciating detail. Your situation is not that bad. God is in control. Quit whining.
2. Ego. Especially on the internet, but also in person, ego has outpaced intelligence (in some cases ego is so far out in front that intelligence can’t even be seen in the rear view mirror anymore). This seems most prevalent among the younger “confessional” pastors, though not limited to them. From our informal market research, to an outsider these men are offensive. No one is quite sure how they appear to themselves (though the word “brilliant” gets bandied about), but to others it’s just one egomaniac shouting down the last egomaniac, with nothing better about which to shout. Reminds one of resounding gongs and clanging cymbals.
3. Fighting. The fights involving “confessional” Lutherans are already legion, but apparently, there’s always room for one more. To broadly point out some of the contentions for those unfamiliar, we have pastors vs. lay people, “confessional” pastors vs. other pastors, pastors vs. district officials, pastors vs. synod officials, pastors vs. seminaries, “confessional” pastors vs. other “confessional” pastors who don’t quite measure up…. Some of the differences are serious, some are not. If “confessionals” can’t judge the difference between a gnat and a camel, they are damaging their own ability to deal with the very serious theological problems plaguing the churches.
4. Not giving the devil his due. The much maligned church growthers and “confessional” Lutherans are finding themselves closer together than either group might like. The search for methods has infected the “confessional movement”. We’ve heard many a “confessional” say: “If we use the historic lectionary…”, “If we make our people accept the chasuble”, “If we bind ourselves to a rule…”, “If we do away with the general confession and absolution…” While some (certainly not all) suggestions for methods made by “confessionals” are better than praise bands and cozy coffee house churches, they will likely not bring success (however you define it) and may not even constitute faithful service to your flock (N.B. Bullying is not faithful service.).
Is there any hope for the Lutheran churches in America? Probably not. Should we all blog ‘til our fingers bleed about the hopelessness? No. See to your duties, as insignificant as they are and as troublesome as they may be.** Christ reigns. His Church endures.
*The preceding is not meant to be serious, but we have heard some of these ideas posited in all seriousness by some who believe home-schooling, arranged marriages, etc. will “save the Church”. (To those folks we say: Christ already did that.)
**Goodness, what does one expect in the ministry?! Recall what Jesus said, “If the head of the house has been called Beelzebub, how much more the members of his household!”