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.

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