I'll start by emphasizing the very positive impression I was left with as a result of my observations and experiences and the extended conversations I had with pastors of ELDoNA, and also as a result of the variety of scholarship I was privileged to take in. Over the following four or five days, I will provide a report of my impressions in parts. I hope that you will find it as intriguing as I did.
A Warmly Welcomed Visitor
A visitor at an intimate gathering, I was nevertheless welcomed from the start and treated that way throughout. Of course, Lutherans are stereotypically friendly. Too friendly, some would say – almost a weird manifestation of eager confidence, I would say. But that's okay. I like that kind of weird. I expect it of Christians – especially confessional Lutherans. It's not a “niceness” in the sense of being cautiously or fearfully inoffensive, but a “niceness” wrought of such assurance in one's Confession as to be totally unthreatened by challenges to it, and to be genuinely motivated to share it for the sake of its inestimable value to others.
In fact, there has only been twice that I was treated otherwise at any Lutheran event, that I can recall. Because they are so odd, those experiences stand out to me. One was a large evangelism event sponsored by the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS), that turned out to be little more than a mutual admiration rally, at which my wife and I were treated like leather-clad bikers caught crashing someone else's family reunion. The only conversations we had went something like this: “Who are you? ...Oh. Who's your pastor? Oh yeah, didn't he marry one of the Heutenschleutermacher gals? They're my cousins... They're my wife's cousins, too... (gigglegiggle) Don't worry, we're legal! Our kids are normal... mostly... Hahahahah!” (No! I'm not making that up!)
The second was the Lutheran Free Conference in November 2011, at Martin Luther College in New Ulm, MN. Although I was greeted by, and enjoyed delightful conversation with a number of pastors and laymen from the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod (LCMS), my reception from the half-dozen or so WELS pastors and professors who I recognized, with whom I had established eye-contact in a way that displayed an intention to engage them in conversation, who, therefore, I know recognized me, was quite the opposite: a turning away of the head, or a turning up of the heels as they walked away. One WELS pastor I knew, however, was happy to see me; we had a nice, though brief, conversation – that hallway meeting was definitely a highlight of the conference for me.
So, a warm reception at an intimate gathering of ELDoNA pastors and laymen at their Colloquium and Synod means something, though little more than this: they're friendly Lutherans who are confident enough not to be suspicious of outsiders. In other words, nothing out of the ordinary, no red flags, just what I was expecting from good Lutherans.
More to come, tomorrow...
Click here to continue to PART II