Friday, September 6, 2013

Blog Fellowship - Let's Blog About It!

 Thoughts from Thunder Mountain
["Huachuca" - A Chiricahua Apache word meaning "thunder."]

 Blog Fellowship - Let's Blog About It!


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 "Blog"
{From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia}

A blog (a contraction of the words web log) is a discussion or informational site published on the World Wide Web and consisting of discrete entries ("posts") typically displayed in reverse chronological order (the most recent post appears first). Until 2009 blogs were usually the work of a single individual, occasionally of a small group, and often covered a single subject. More recently "multi-author blogs" (MABs) have developed, with posts written by large numbers of authors and professionally edited. MABs from newspapers, other media outlets, universities, think tanks, interest groups and similar institutions account for an increasing quantity of blog traffic. The rise of Twitter and other "microblogging" systems helps integrate MABs and single-author blogs into societal newstreams. Blog can also be used as a verb, meaning to maintain or add content to a blog.

 The emergence and growth of blogs in the late 1990s coincided with the advent of web publishing tools that facilitated the posting of content by non-technical users. (Previously, a knowledge of such technologies as HTML and FTP had been required to publish content on the Web.)

A majority are interactive, allowing visitors to leave comments and even message each other via GUI widgets on the blogs, and it is this interactivity that distinguishes them from other static websites. In that sense, blogging can be seen as a form of social networking. Indeed, bloggers do not only produce content to post on their blogs, but also build social relations with their readers and other bloggers. There are high-readership blogs which do not allow comments, such as Daring Fireball.

Many blogs provide commentary on a particular subject; others function as more personal online diaries; others function more as online brand advertising of a particular individual or company. A typical blog combines text, images, and links to other blogs, Web pages, and other media related to its topic. The ability of readers to leave comments in an interactive format is an important contribution to the popularity of many blogs. Most blogs are primarily textual, although some focus on art (art blogs), photographs (photoblogs), videos (video blogs or "vlogs"), music (MP3 blogs), and audio (podcasts). Microblogging is another type of blogging, featuring very short posts. In education, blogs can be used as instructional resources. These blogs are referred to as edublogs.

On 16 February 2011, there were over 156 million public blogs in existence. On 13 October 2012, there were around 77 million Tumblr and 56.6 million WordPress blogs in existence worldwide. According to critics and other bloggers, Blogger is the most popular blogging service used today.

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Some of our brother Pastors and lay people have serious concerns about the propriety of this blog, that is, whether or not the fact that both WELS and non-WELS Pastors work together as editors constitutes a kind of fellowship in the Biblical and doctrinal sense, and therefore might be seen as unionistic and thus improper. I hope I have characterized the concern property. If not, I'm sure there will be someone willing to correct me.

To be fully honest with you, I must admit that when I first heard this concern I thought it was rather silly and nonsensical, and thus I pretty much ignored these ideas. However, they have been repeated now for over three years, and by some of our synod leaders. Which leaders is not important - you'll just have to take my word for it. But it now occurs to me that perhaps it is time for a more in-depth discussion of this concern. Simply put, is there such a thing as "blog fellowship," akin to Church Fellowship or Altar and Pulpit Fellowship; to wit, an amendment to the Galesburg Rule would be needed: "WELS blogs for WELS Pastors only!" (ditto for ELS, LCMS, CLC, ELDoNA, ACLC, etc....)   

For my part, very obviously, I do not believe there is such a thing as blog fellowship, nor do I believe that anyone should have any perception of such fellowship simply because I, a WELS Pastor, am an associate editor/moderator along with a non-WELS Pastor. 

[By-the-way, and as an aside, perceptions are queer birds, and probably fodder for a discussion of their own. When does a perception become slander? When does a perception become reality? Is perception enough to initiate church discipline? If so, why, and when and how much perception is necessary, and on who's part? Are those who hold a perception - however erroneous - just as guilty as those who may perpetuate said perception, if not more so? Is perception of a improper fellowship putting the best construction on a brother's actions and motives? As I said, another discussion for another time, but perhaps a very important one.]

I maintain that among the millions of blogs on the internet, that there is more than one where WELS and non-WELS (other that ELS) Pastors work together on various duties related to these blogs. In addition, I know of no concerns being raised about such blogs, either by rank-in-file Pastors in the WELS or WELS leaders, at least not to the extent as such complaints have been raised to me about IL. But, on both counts I invite correction.  

Now, I know there are many of my brother Pastors out there who read this blog but do not want to comment on it publicly out of concern they may be seen as supporters of IL, or, if nothing else, at the very least of giving a kind of tacit support and approval for this blog. Let's all agree that anyone who writes in with a comment on this topic shall be totally free from such aspersions, unless they themselves actually say something positive about IL in their comment; and even then it will not be held against them. There, I think that's fair.

So, with the definition above in mind; just what is a blog, theologically speaking? Is it a "ministry?" Is it "church?" Is it a kind of fellowship? If so, what kind, and why? If not, why not? May Pastors - or lay people, for that matter - who are not in doctrinal fellowship, work together on a blog that deals with religious and spiritual questions, and provides a forum for doctrinal discussions? Why or why not? Are perceptions of fellowship enough to prohibit such working together? In addition, is a blog the same as a theological periodical, or is it different? If it is the same, why? If not, why not? Should the same standards be applied to both, or not; why or why not?

Come on, let's talk about this, shall we? It is clearly on the minds of many. Let's get it out in the open and discuss it like humble Christians striving for peaceful, thoughtful, and constructive dialog!

I will be very disappointed if we don't get a lot of comments - especially from those who criticize me for my part in IL. I really do want to hear from you, and are very interested in what you have to say. All I ask is that you say it to me here on IL so we can discuss it openly in spirit of brotherly debate. Thank you!

Deo Vindice!

Pastor Spencer

13 comments:

Vernon Knepprath said...

Pastor Spencer,

There seems to exist a double standard. A public blog with pastors outside the WELS is fellowship, but a public conference on ministry with pastors outside the WELS is not? Questionable fellowship pratices (to put it generously) by WELS pastors have gone on with ELCA clergy (female pastors among them) in a very public way in 'Change or Die' Conferences, and when I raised concerns about these practices locally in my church, I was immediately judged by some WELS pastors as being judgemental of those 'Change or Die' WELS pastors. "This was not fellowship", they told me. IL is singled out for condemnation by leaders in the synod, while no public condemnations were made toward such events as 'Change or Die'. To be clear, WELS pastors were discussing matters of ministry with ELCA pastors in a public forum, in what many would 'perceive' as a show of fellowship and unity, and synod leadership is publicly mute on the issue. As I said, this seems like a double standard to me, and I can't fathom how it can be justified with those who practice it.

Mr. Joseph Jewell said...

"Blog fellowship" is clearly nonsense on its face, and a red herring besides, especially in this era of free conferences and the like. I have most often seen and heard it used as the "trump card" excuse for discrediting or ignoring the substance of any concerns raised. It is a blunt weapon used as a tool to shut down and silence discussion, nothing more (cf. the treatment of the young laymen and students involved in Ecclesia Augustana [http://ecclesiaaugustana.blogspot.com/2013/03/rusch-encouraged-to-take-your-name-down.html] by MLC authorities).

Furthermore, discipline in the name of this novel form of "fellowship" is only, ever, applied to those perceived as too "confessional" or conservative. One is free to pursue as many projects as one desires with more liberal or emergent Christians. It is, furthermore, hard to read this as anything other than part of a growing trend. What is the synodical embrace of NIV2011, after all, if not a re-alignment of the WELS away from those who treat the words of the Bible as the inspired Word of God (ELS, LCMS, southern Baptists, conservative evangelicals--all of whom quite easily rejected the NIV2011 as a substandard paraphrase, while we collectively wrung our hands and convinced ourselves we could swallow it) and towards those who do not?

Why all the concern over "blog fellowship" and none over "translation fellowship"? I am much more scandalized and ashamed by the fact that so many WELS leaders are so enthusiastic for a Bible that has been universally rejected by our confessional Lutheran brethren and cousins than I am about any level of blogging activity.

Tim Niedfeldt said...

I would agree wholeheartedly with Joe and Vernon, thanks for saving me some typing.

Blog fellowship is not Church. Synod is not even church. Synod is administration (and not that good of administration at that.) Taken to the extreme one could then express dismay at RSS feed fellowship if some article rolls by from a non fellowship source. Where does that nonsense stop. I am willing to entertain any Southeastern Wisconsin synod official over a cup of coffee and a Skillet at any greek family restaurant to discuss a sound rationale for how Blog fellowship should be enforced yet Time of Grace can do whatever the heck they want with anyone they want.

Tim Niedfeldt

PS: As a software developer, if I design a Mobile app with a product feed from CPH would that be Web Service fellowship? Would I be able to develop Open Source Lutheran software? ;)

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

No worries, Father Spencer! Those of us outside the WELS will continue to tolerate comments from WELS members. :)

And we certainly won't consider it to be any form of fellowship. Just a platform to discuss crazy stuff like the Lutheran doctrine confessed in the Book of Concord.

Joel A. Dusek said...

Rev. Spencer,

It is unfortunate that more WELS (and other sympathetic) pastors and laity don't participate in the conversation. My two favorite Lutheran blogs are IL and the BJS at steadfastlutherans.com. On BJS, run by confessional LCMS pastors, there exists robust debate and discussion of issues, as well as apologetics, sermons, and other confessional content. However, getting WELS folks to participate here seems to be like pulling teeth. I can't explain this, except to presume that the concepts of "WELS for WELS only", and "Our Beloved Synod" extend into the blogosphere. The Cult of WELS will not participate in things antithetical to the Cult.

The "blog fellowship" idea seems to be a particular tactic of those within WELS who don't want there to be any discussion or deviation from the WELS line. I do not believe this to be a new concept, but "blog fellowship" is a new way of slinging the arrow of "divisiveness". WELS is OK with debate but only at approved conferences, conventions, and symposia under the control of the bureaucracy. I believe that the academicians at the Seminary are the unofficially approved personnel to settle debates and once the debate is settled, none shall dissent; as we saw with the NIV2011, that includes the Synod President. Recall that the Seminary actually held a Symposium directed specifically at their "perceptions" of Intrepid Lutherans, although it was thinly disguised as a general talks on concepts of blog fellowship. Anything that deviates from the WELS approved methodology and debate processes is accused of being "divisive" and "not putting the best construction on everything", the dual hammers of 1 Corinthians 12 and the 8th Commandment. Dissent and disagreement, no matter how well presented, are not tolerated.

I don't know if there's a fix for this, as the problem is not with the blog, but the concept of dissent. It is likely an obstacle that simply needs to be powered through, confessional Lutherans must simply hold fast, not be intimidated, and continue the discussions. I am thankful for the information on IL (even Mr. Lindee's long articles!) and encourage everyone from laity to Synod President and even the eggheads at the Seminary to join the discussion, even if one doesn't agree.

Spenglergeist!

Joel A. Dusek said...

On a technical note, posting comments from mobile devices, such a iPhones, does not seems to be possible. Comments can be entered but not edited and when attempting to publish the security codes do not appear or are not accepted. Is there an admin option on the Blogger to allow posts from mobile?

e.p. said...

Do those with 'blog fellowship' concerns have 'Thrivent fellowship concerns' or 'Mark Jeske fellowship concerns'?

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I didn't think so :)

-philip

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

A reminder that anonymous comments are not allowed. Philip, please provide your last name next time. We also received another completely anonymous comment that we would happily publish if the commenter would supply his or her full name.

Gregory Jackson said...

I can verify that many blogs do follow hypocritical blog fellowship principles, because the American Lutheran blogs do NOT list Ichabod or mention the free Lutheran books I make available. But they list Church Growth publisher CPH and various other entities. Ichabod is the ONLY blog that includes eight volumes of Luther's sermons and most of the Book of Concord, plus links to many other Lutheran resources. I can understand why Paul McCain would not list Ichabod, because I have identified his plagiarism of Lutheran and Roman Catholic publications. So, Intrepids, do not criticize WELS for what you do yourselves.

Gregory L. Jackson - Happy To Be Ex-WELS

AP said...

I really do not even understand the concept of blog fellowship. It makes absolutely no logical sense to me. Of course, I went to a Jesuit university, so maybe I just need to enroll in Fuller Seminary, get a degree in Church Growthology, and then the mystery of blog fellowship will suddenly become clear.

Dr. Aaron Palmer

Anonymous said...

The lack of response from anyone defending the concept of blog fellowship is deafening. The general lack of response to anything raised by IL, "at least openly on the site", is telling. I think most Confessional Lutheran's still in WELS would like an open debate of what is going on within WELS. If not here, then where should the debate take place? In the lofty halls of Mequon? In secret councils of the "wise"? I cannot speak for all, but I would say most Confessional Lutheran's bear no malice but only want an open discussion of the issues. Convince us that what is being occurring in many places within WELS is in conformity with Confessional Lutheranism by reference to Scripture, the Confessions and sound arguement and we would rejoice and join with you wholeheartedly. But the lack of any open debate, leads individuals to supply their own answers which may or may not be true. Leading to the very thing which those who would not engage in the discussion decry will happen if they engage in discussion. So who, as a Shepherd, in Christian love is prepared to join the discussion?

Lee Liermann

AP said...

Well, Pastor Rydecki wanted a discussion of a pretty major issue, and look what happened to him. I think lots of other people in WELS--myself included--want open discussion at the highest level without fear of reprisal on a lot of issues in the WELS, but the night is dark and full of terrors, to borrow a phrase from one of my favorite books.

It is also hard to have a discussion about issues in the WELS when some (especially in positions of power) do not want to even acknowledge that there are issues that need discussing in the first place. I understand the desire to maintain unity. I want unity in WELS as much as anyone, but that unity has to be based on sound doctrine and practice, and we cannot just bury our heads in the sand and hope these issues go away. Indeed, failing to bring them out into the open will only make divisions among us deeper and harder to heal.

A.P.

Anonymous said...

A.P. I agree with your comments. The discussion needs to happen and soon before it is too late. Ignoring the problem should not be an option for our Synod Shepherds. Are we not sheep who need tending as well? Do they not have a responsibility to us and for us as well?

Lee Liermann

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