Sunday, September 22, 2019

Bibles and Brews, Tuesday, September 24, Under Pressure Brewing, at 6:30pm: a Lutheran consideration of Communism

Upcoming event at which this particular blogger will be leading a discussion (a.k.a. presenting, or "herding cats") on a Lutheran consideration of Communism. If you have an interest, do show up!

This coming Tuesday, September 24th, your humble blogger will be part of the presentation on a Lutheran consideration of Communism, to be held at 6:30pm at Under Pressure Brewing, 8806 7th Ave N Golden Valley, MN 55427. The other part of the presentation will be, obviously, some very good beer, so at least one part of this will turn out well. The event is being held by Saint John's Lutheran Church of Corcoran (and Maple Grove) Minnesota.

Those interested in attending should use the comment section below to contribute questions for the event, which I will try to answer, and which will give me a better idea of what topics are of greater interest to those attending. Topics so far may include:

Why has the question of the Christian, the Church and its relation to modern manifestations of communism become important at this particular time in history in North America, Western Europe, and in Western Civilization in general?

Is there one form of political or social structure that is most compatible (or incompatible) with Christianity?

Are the Cultural Marxist, Socialist, and Liberation Theology criticisms of Christianity valid? How so? How not so?

Are private property, ownership, democracy, liberty and the other traditional aspects of what we know as Western Civilization little more than accidents of a particular phase of history? Are they like slavery, an outmoded accommodation to an earlier and more brutal time, economic order and society?

What do the commandments "Thou Shalt not Steal" and "Thou Shalt not Covet" mean if private property is an entirely optional aspect of a given order?

Is Acts 2:44-45 prescriptive or descriptive? What is it describing or prescribing?

And other topics, which you might suggest in the comments below.

Doors should open at 6:30pm, and discussion is scheduled to start at 7pm.

Gordon Bynum, Chaplain, the Saint Timothy Society for Lutheran Seminary Scholarship

Friday, June 28, 2019

2019 Synodical Convention: Overtures 3-06 through 3-09. Why Not Us Among The Immigrants?

For those who are tired of the often repeated tropes about Immigrants (which can mean, variously, Illegal Aliens, Undocumented Workers, Refugee, Asylee, ad nauseum) the 2019 LCMS Convention might offer a slightly different take on the matter. Unlike some churches in the United States and Canada which largely parrot open borders ideology but rephrase it with largely "context free" verses from the Old Testament, the LCMS contains within it a genuine difference of opinion. Should the Church take a specific position on public policy which is at odds with the legimately enacted laws of their country? Or should the Church avoid taking what is effectively a public policy position, and encourage the various levels of government to enforce those valid laws, especially when segments of the state are unwilling to do so?

This blog post grows out of a meeting held on Wednesday, June 26th by the Metro Northwest Circuit of the Minnesota South District with their voting delegates to the convention. It is not intended to be a comprehensive or verbatim reflection of the discussion on June 26th, so by all means corrections, additions, and further comments are welcome. Pay attention to the Acceptable Use Policy and our regulations for comments, and let us know what you think.

First things first, let's get it out of our systems right off the bat: "THE NAZIS DID EXACTLY WHAT THE UNITED STATES IS DOING TODAY! JUST LIKE THE CHURCHES DID IN NAZI GERMANY WE MUST WELCOME ALL IMMIGRANTS HERE TO THE UNITED STATES OR THEY WILL ALL BE SENT TO CONCENTRATION CAMPS!" Scream that a few times, put that up on Twitter, Facebook (or TwitFace) in ALL CAPS (you can copy and paste above!), and then take a few deep breaths, and take a look at overtures 3-06 through 3-09 in the 2019 Convention Workbook, pages 403-406 (435-438 in the .pdf file). There now; that's better, isn't it? These four overtures offer an interesting set of disagreements and points of view normally lacking in modern ecclessiastical discussions.

My bias, of course, is evident, so I leave it up to the readers and commentators to take me to task. Yet, some difficulties are obvious with some of these overtures. Overture 3-07 encourages support of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services ("LIRS"), an organization whose ideology (both theological and political) is cited in overture 3-08 as being unacceptable. It's hard to tell whether LIRS itself is aware that its politics is dictating its theology, which would make it an organization much like the "German Christians" of 1932-45 (somehow, from the dates, I'm guessing that did not end well), but perhaps a mirror image which replaces their national socialist ideology with that of cultural Marxism, class and state socialism. Those of us who reject socialism in general (soviet, national, marxist, democratic, etc., etc.) will find overture 3-08 wonderfully freeing. Individual Christians can, indeed, advocate for all kinds of policy positions. But the Church itself should encourage those who "bear the sword" to carry out and enforce the valid and legitimate laws of their country.

The understated point made in overture 3-08 was at one time commonplace among all churches, but the modern environment has made this a rare, radical and brilliant assertion: it is the duty of the government to enforce valid law especially when large parts of the government advocate lawless evasion of the laws they are sworn to uphold. And Christians and Churches are obligated to encourage them to do their duty.

But all is not lost for those of use (like the present writer) who believe that the LCMS and its members should redouble its efforts outside of our own borders. What could be more salutary and God pleasing than to help those in distress around the world in the places where they live now, as part of our effort to bring the Gospel to all corners of the globe? The challenges in this are vast, but a dollar spent overseas has vastly greater impact, economically, than a dollar spent in this country in an effort to further erode the rule of law in the name of a political ideology masquerading as compassion. Overtures 3-06 and 3-09 have much to recommend in this regard.

So chime in if you like below.

Gordon Bynum, Chaplain, The Saint Timothy Society for Lutheran Seminary Scholarship

Thursday, June 27, 2019

2019 Synodical Convention: Overtures 2-06 through 2-11. Congregations and Overseas Missionaries

So are congregations of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod (hereafter "LCMS", for the acronym minded) allowed to send and fund overseas missions and missionaries, and if so, under what circumstances and conditions? This is a little bit of "inside baseball" being played within the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod, and the next inning will be at the 2019 Synodical Convention held in Tampa, Florida, from July 20 - 25th.

This blog post stems from a meeting held on Wednesday, June 26th by the Metro Northwest Circuit of the Minnesota South District with their voting delegates to the convention. It is not intended to be a comprehensive or verbatim reflection of the discussion on June 26th, so by all means corrections, additions, and further comments are welcome. Pay attention to the Acceptable Use Policy and our regulations for comments, and let us know what you think.

Sometime in 2014, the Commission on Constitutional Matters ("CCM", in acronym speak) was asked to give an opinion to clarify in what way was "Synod... [i.e., LCMS, the] Only Sending Agency” according to Bylaw 3.8.3 of the LCMS Handbook. The result was CCM Opinion 14-2724, which has it's own FAQ here: FAQ on CCM Opinion 14-2724. For those looking for the full text of this opinion, it can be found in .pdf format here, on pages 133-137 (the .pdf has those on pages 167-171) of the 2016 LCMS Convention Workbook.

The various resolutions which this opinion has generated are found in the first edition of the 2019 Convention Workbook on pages 395-399 (427-431 in the .pdf), specifically overtures 2-06 through 2-11. Some of these are pro, some are con, and while the wording may seem convoluted to those unfamiliar with the process, "con" means the LCMS in convention expunges and makes void the opinion, "pro" indicates the convention affirms the opinion.

It may be the case that this disagreement is a self inflicted confusion on the part of the LCMS. For example, this "Whereas" from 2-06:

WHEREAS , 1983 Res. 5-10A, “To Reaffirm Essential Congregational Polity of the Synod” (Proceedings, 181) in a “Resolved” clause states that “The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod reaffirms that its synodical polity is essentially and principally congregational in nature ...”;

The reason this is confusing is perhaps due to polity, a discipline which is part art, part science, part black magic, and part other things. LCMS polity is synodical, which combines the worst features of episcopal and congregational polity, or best, depending on your point of view. Some have called synodical polity "Hegelian" in the sense that the thesis is episcopal, the antithesis is congregational, and the thesis (or synthesis) is synodical. Who knows, maybe that fits, but that's a different discussion. To the casual observer, doctrine comes first, followed by practice, followed by polity. This may, in fact, be accurate.

This blog post will be extended, edited, amended and footnoted as we learn more.