Thursday, August 4, 2011

Synod convention highlights - IL edition

Here’s my little recap of what I consider to be the high’s and low’s of last week’s synod convention.

Schroeder re-election = High

The convention started off on a very high note with Pres. Schroeder’s landslide re-election. He has been quite outspoken over the past four years about our need as a synod to embrace confessional Lutheran doctrine and practice in all areas, including hot button areas like worship and outreach. His overwhelming re-election is a good sign that the synod as a whole believes he is on the right track and wants to be led in that direction.

Zabell essay = High

Rev. Jon Zabell delivered an excellent essay on the Sacramental Life, with a very practical emphasis on the role of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper in the daily thinking and spiritual life of the saints. The essay was very carefully worded in regard to “forgiveness won” at the cross and “forgiveness distributed” in Word and Sacrament. I was impressed by the spirit of the essay as well as the content, and appreciated the encouragement to consider offering the Sacrament of the Altar more often.

Translation Evaluation Committee report = Low

Let me reiterate what I have said before: I respect the men on the TEC and don’t question for a moment their qualifications, their integrity, their honesty, their motives or their Christianity. And I appreciate the time they have invested in studying this issue.

That said, I disagree with most of their conclusions. I think they are absolutely wrong. Not only do they see the numerous changes to gender-neutral language in the NIV 2011 as innocuous, but they even seem to embrace and welcome most of these changes. They are not swallowing hard as they recommend the NIV 2011 to the synod. They are promoting it as a translation they favor.

It’s not just the gender-neutral issue that concerns me. It’s the approach to translation that, in the process of trying to “help” the reader, ends up adding to or subtracting from God’s inspired Word. As Mr. Lindee has articulated so well in his articles on translation philosophy, we are going down a very dangerous (and non-Lutheran) road if we move too far away from the formal equivalency model employed by Luther and the KJV. That doesn't mean we need to retain "Thee's" and "Thou's" and other words that have changed in meaning over the last 400 years. It does mean that attempting to convey the "most 'relevant' aspects of the essential 'meaning' intended by the biblical text" is not good enough.

Delegates’ response to TEC report = High

In spite of the credentials of the men on the translation committee, the delegates did not behave like lemmings. They respectfully asked for more study and for more time, which they have now been given. Next year at the district conventions, the twelve districts will each have the opportunity to vote on a translation for use in our synod publications. This is a good thing. But it means we have lots of work to do in the next year. While the TEC has been enlisted to try to build a consensus around the NIV 2011, those of us who disagree will have to articulate our concerns very thoroughly and very loudly.

Much more will be said about translations over the coming year.

Time of Grace resolution = Low

Two memorials were submitted to the synod convention regarding Time of Grace with Mark Jeske. The first did not address the content of Time of Grace, but rather called for an end to Time of Grace’s Recognized Service Organization (RSO) status with the LCMS, since it is, at best, a cause of confusion and offense and, at worst, unionistic. The second memorial did not address the RSO status at all, but praised the content of Time of Grace and called for the synod to officially encourage WELS members to watch Time of Grace and make use of the materials they produce.

Time of Grace mailed to all the convention delegates a packet of promotional information, including a defense of their RSO status. To the delegates on the floor committee to which the two ToG memorials were assigned, Time of Grace sent a second mailing with a point by point rebuttal of the memorial that criticized their RSO status.

The delegates at the convention ended up adopting a merger of the two memorials, mostly praising the content of Time of Grace, but also recognizing the concerns that have been raised, and sending the issue back to the Southeastern Wisconsin District for resolution, to be presented to the Conference of Presidents in October.

The delegates, in good faith, assumed the messages of Time of Grace to be “doctrinally sound,” since there was no evidence presented to the contrary. One cannot fault them for that, but I think it was unwise for them to turn their good-faith assumption into a synodical declaration. One wishes that they had avoided entirely speaking to the content of the programming – either for or against.

I found the Time of Grace arguments in defense of their RSO status to be utterly...unconvincing. Over the past two years I have corresponded directly with Time of Grace over this issue, and have forwarded all my thoughts and concerns, as well as copious documentation, to the president of the Southeastern Wisconsin District and to President Schroeder. In deference to synodical leadership, the matter has not been the subject of discussion on Intrepid Lutherans during all that time, in spite of the public nature of the issue. In one more show of good faith on our part, we will continue to postpone the discussion, trusting that the Southeastern Wisconsin district presidium, together with the COP, will bring the matter to a God-pleasing resolution by their October meeting.


Anonymous said...

From what I have heard, and from our congregation's pastor's perspective, this NIV 2011 is really faulty....

Has there been any discussion of going back to the KJV (500th anniversary this year) or the English version of Luther's Bible?

Why are they so "locked in" to the NIV 2011 ?

Also, just kicking the issue down the road 2 years, doesn't that just make a decision in 2 years more stressful?

Anonymous said...

Long time listener, first time caller here...

I would offer a thought about your post.

I think the jury is still out on whether or not re-electing Pres. Schroeder was a good thing. On the one hand, I do not think there are better alternatives, but may be I am just not in the know there. Unfortunately, I find his lack of vocal leadership currently dissapointing in areas or decisions I support and ones I disagree with. While I understand that he "could" be doing things behind the scenes, I would like some sort of out front voice on some of these divisive issues.

I believe and agree with you that the convention delegates did the right thing to strongly push back on the NNIV translation. This translation should never be adopted.

I also agree with the convention in not getting involved in specific congregational issues like Time of Grace, this is for the district to deal with. We do not want issues like these whether we agree or disagree being brought to conventions for resolution. We elect people to deal with these issues.

If President Schroeder has an opinion on either issue and as a confessional Lutheran pastor (as he is talked about here) I hope he has voiced his disappointment with the translation committee and his thoughts on Time of Grace to the presidium in private. I believe strongly, though, that we need his leadership out front on these issues. You can only lead from the back of the bus for so long. It is time for him to step up and to see if he was the right choice.

In Christ,
Albert Gallaway

Anonymous said...


very astutely said. I think President Schroeder not only should take off the boxing gloves, but I think, if he were to do so, would find the silent majority would stop being silent.

Groups of people need strong leadership and President Schroeder needs to exhibit that Strength. It would've been better if he'd had to fight for the president's job--better if he'd have a chance to delineate between himself and someone else. That would've made it easier to be strong.

andy groenwald

Unknown said...

I find it sad to think people think that the silent majority needs a human being in the form of Pres. Schroeder (or whomever occupies that office) to lead them on any divisive issue. Do we really want human reasoning and the synod president or other leader to be the focus point or the Word of God?

That said, in my face to face conversions with Pres. Schroeder, I find his servant's heart and humble yet strong approach to be refreshing. He is a common man who walks and talks with the people, confessing that he as a sinful human being can only do his job by the grace of God. While I am least able to speak for any of our synod leaders, I think Pres. Schroeder displays his leadership as a shepherd in his called office.

We may wish for stronger measures to be taken in addressing the issues facing our synod, but our synodical system is not one to mirror this world's political system... rather one that addresses our eternal salvation. My belief is that most of our synod leaders and especially Pres. Schroeder have a love for the Lord in their calling. When he leaves the office of President of our synod, that will not change.

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