LCMS Convention Fascination With Legalism, Law, and Lawyers

By: Rev. Jack Cascione

 With the adoption of "Ablaze," the LCMS plans to spend $100,000,000 to tell 100,000,000 people about Jesus Christ.

For more than three hours on the Saturday afternoon before the 2004 LCMS Convention was called to order, delegates were harangued with vacuous Madison Avenue hype, jingles, and repetition from the LCMS Ablaze Mission Festival Celebration.

Presidents from Lutheran Church bodies affiliated with the LCMS from around the world were flown to St. Louis and introduced on stage as a promotion for "Ablaze."

Doctor Marquart described it as the most shameless exploitation of mission work he has ever witnessed.

Again and again, the delegates were reminded of Luke 24:32, "Did not our heart burn within us?"  Actually, my heart was not burning; it didn't even get warm.

I didn't hear anyone quote the entire verse. "And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?" Luke 24:32

The delegates were led to believe that our hearts should burn within us with a desire for mission work instead of a response to the entire work of Christ prophesied in the Old Testament.

The Convention responded by adopting a resolution that by 2017 the Synod would make 100,000,000 witnesses to people in this country and around the world about Jesus Christ as recognition of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.  (Could this be an opportunity to merge the ELCA and the LCMS?)

The Synod did not say there would be 100,000,000 converts, but there would be an attempt to tell 100,000,000 people about Jesus Christ.  They passed another resolution to raise $100,000,000 to help fund telling 100,000,000 million people about Jesus Christ.  This comes to about one dollar a witness.

There was no explanation of how the money would be spent.  People wanted to know how the Synod would keep track of the 100,000,000 witnesses.  How would we know when we had reached our goal?

On the last day of the Convention, Rev. Roegner, LCMS Executive Director for Missions, told the Convention that there would be a website established to keep track of all of the witnesses that were being made in America and around the world.

Keeping count of how many people we tell about Jesus is hardly a Biblical idea.  We don't know how many people the Apostle Paul preached to in the New Testament.

God punished Israel because David took a census.

Christ warns in Matthew 6:3-4 "But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly."  But, now the LCMS is going to count its good works on a website to tell the world how many people we told about Jesus Christ.

In his sermon on Easter Monday, 1524, Luther preached on the text of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus as encouragement to draw near to God's Word and take the Lord's Supper. ("Sermons of Martin Luther" Baker Book House, Volume 2, page 267)

Apparently Luther, the greatest evangelist of the second millennium, didn't have a heart ablaze for mission work.

Perhaps the Synod would be wiser to study the work of Christ in the Bible and let God be the one who turns our hearts "Ablaze" before we pass a resolution to do it for Him.

Without an emphasis on the work of Christ, "Ablaze" is little more than grandiose, legalistic hype to make people think we have accomplished God's work by our own standards.  Knowing that he had nothing to boast about, the Publican bowed his head and said, "Lord, be merciful to me a sinner."

A debate about the laws of Missouri broke out on the Convention Floor.  The LCMS Board of Directors (BOD) said it was against Missouri corporate law for the LCMS Commission on Constitutional Matters (CCM) to overrule the BOD because the BOD is elected by the Convention.  However, the LCMS President appoints members of the CCM.

I was sitting in the back of the Convention Hall next to a retired lawyer. "What do you think?" I asked.  "Fascinating," he replied.

Lawyers at the microphones with their faces projected on the large screens were making legal points and counter points.  Lawyers were also rendering legal opinions from the podium.  All the maneuvering and intensity was better than Court TV.

Suddenly, I realized that in the future, if a pastor was really going to go anywhere in the LCMS he would be better off going to law school than earning a Doctorate of Theology.

Based on the Brian Cave Law Firm opinion, purchased by the LCMS Board of Directors (BOD), the BOD published a resolution on page 24 of "Today's Business," that CCM rulings against the BOD, 02-2259, 02-2357, 03-2358, 03-2359, and 03-2365 "are of no effect."

Floor Committee Seven, chaired by President Kieschnick's appointee, Northwest District President William Schumacher, presented Resolution 7-02A, reversing the BOD and declared that the rulings of the BOD "are of no effect."  This placed the BOD, an elected Board of the Convention, under the authority of the CCM, a commission appointed by the President.

This raised the question as to whether the LCMS is an association of congregations or a Corporation.  The Synod's Attorney did not support the position of the BOD and told the Convention that the Synod was still a Corporation even if the BOD is under the CCM.

David Hawks, member of the BOD, argued this would not hold up in court and all the congregations would now be directly liable should the Synod suffer a major law suit as the ELCA recently experienced.  The Convention adopted the 7-02A 654 to 541and declared the rulings of the BOD "are of no effect."

Personally, I can't understand how the BOD can really be a BOD if they can be overruled by the CCM, a commission appointed by the President.  The CCM is now the real BOD of the LCMS.  The CCM rulings can only be overturned by a vote of the Convention, and unlike Convention Resolutions (Article VII), the rulings of the CCM are binding on all congregations according to Bylaw 3.905d.

During the Convention, pages and pages of Bylaws were being revised, quoted, and rearranged.  By itself, "Today's Business, Tuesday, Issue 4 - Part B," on Dispute Resolution, had 25 pages of Bylaw revisions.

No one is really able to keep up with all the current Bylaws, new Bylaws, Bylaw revisions, and their relationship to each other.  At least three resolutions were sent back to Committees because their quotations of Bylaws contradicted existing Bylaws.

Naturally, we walked out of the 2004 Convention with a lot more Bylaws than we had before.


 Sunday, August 29, 2004

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