08 October 2009

Politics in the Church…

This is more of a question than a statement. After going to our circuit forum meeting and noticing that my Church “politics” differ from others in the circuit, I then started to ponder how politics are done in the church. We have bound ourselves to a structure, and a polity. That is fine and good but how do we stop this from running the way the church thinks, acts, and proclaims God’s great work to the people placed into her care and the world as whole. I am fine with others differing from me politically, but how can we differ from the way the church operates in Word and Sacrament due to our different political views? The way we structure ourselves, the way our polity manifests itself reflects our understanding of what the church is and how she is to work, operate, and function. How does the called and ordained Pastor be both Pastor(al) and political without becoming indifferent, cynical, or hyper-political in these matters while at the same time participating, and contributing to the discussion in Church politics?


BalaamsAss51 said...

Layman here.

Your blog entry reinforces a thought that I'vd had for a while. If it is only now that those on the confessional side "start" to ponder how politics are done in the church, it is already too late.

You are spot on when you say that our structure and polity grows out of our understanding of what the church is - and those who have a differring idea have been using the current structure and polity to change these things while the rest of us have slept.

The trouble with so many pastors is that they stay in confessional theory while others get down and dirty in the actual process of change. Than before you know it roles become reversed, the ones who used to be on the outside or fringe end up running the show while those who thought the status quo was the eternal status quo can only start scraching heads in astonishment.

Bottom line, the pastor who is not involved in the synodical process will be the pastor not involved with a synod at all.

Matt H.

Fr. Timothy D. May, SSP said...

Layman, or Pastor?

Hopefully, for the pastor there is more to the pastoral office than "politics," or even politics "first."

What is this "change" that is mandated? Each generation wants to replace the generation before it. Each generation looks down on the one that follows it.
What if the "change" is not really change but only of degree?

The structure and polity do indeed go to the understanding of what church is. This is an issue much greater than those changing these things while we are sleeping. It is our structure and polity, with historical precedent in the Reformation, that has opened the door for the outside or fringe to be the ones running the show. We can debate the 1970s, the 1930s, the 19th and 18th centuries and their devastating impact but it will not cover up all that was lost in the process when the Gospel was
joyfully re-discovered.

The constant attention to synod, polity, and structure arises out of our understanding of church, something which we need to re-affirm every three years and something which eats up our time in between.

The mice are indeed playing while the cat is sleeping but it is inevitable that those who love the process will soon control it. Others will be discouraged that while, involved in the process, things at home are neglected. Meanwhile the attention to the process only skirts deeper questions which those of reformation heritage either continually avoid or are easily distracted away from. No matter the value we place on the Reformation we ignore the 1500 years prior to our peril.

It is so easy to blame the pastors, isn't it? Well, of course, that is built into our structure and polity.

BalaamsAss51 said...

Pastor May,

You ask "Layman, or Pastor?". I don't know why you asked this. I made sure I said I was a laymen at the start of my post. If I am not supposed to post on this blog kindly tell me and I will return to just reading.

You said that it was easy to blame the pastors because it is "built in". If I may comment on that, in the first place I am under the impression that part of a pastors role/funtion/responsibility is to teach/point out both truth and error. I can't help but feel that pointing out error has been somewhat lax in the past. Secondly, the LCMS is composed of pastors and congregations. As a layman I am not part of the LCMS. I simply belong to a congregation that is part of the synod. Therefore it seems to me that any pastor has more influence than any layman.

The Gospel may have been "joyfully rediscovered" but it is close to being put on the back burner as far as I can see.

Anyway, those who ignore the politics may soon have to choose whether the LCMS is worth remaining or staying with. Actions and non-action both have consequences.


Matt H.

Fr. Timothy D. May, SSP said...


Thank you for responding and your clear comments regarding the roles of pastor and laity in the synod.

Involvement in the synodical process is truly a dilemma. Involvement pre-supposes public support for doctrine, practices and "new" directions, especially when one's voice is not heard. There is not enough time to address everything unless one is politically powerful. This process continues biannually (district) and triennually (national). The process and any substantial direction are further confused by whatever it means to re-structure or be involved in re-structuring.

This all leads back to the comment about structure and polity growing out of our understanding of what the church is.

I do disagree that theological or confessional "theory" must always be brushed aside for getting "down and dirty in the actual process of change."
First, "change" is a big word and must be defined. Second, what church is trumps any idea of how that is played out in terms of structure and polity. Maybe the real "down and dirty" work is
not the bylaws and resolutions and candidates which change from convention to convention but the eternal things that pastors are called on to administer for the sake of the Church.

Pastors need not put aside the work they are given to do to save any synod which may or may not last unless they are permitted also to do the work that the Scriptures and Confessions uphold for them to do.

The point I address in my last post is more of an historical one and suggests that the Reformation may have brought attention to the Gospel but, whether intentionally or not, it damaged any coherent understanding of what the Church is, something we are continually trying to correct and re-correct, define and re-define, at our conventions 500 years later.

Pastor May

BalaamsAss51 said...

Appreciate your comments.

I don't think I actually went so far as to say that anything (especially the valuable work of pastors) must "always be brushed aside" for politics, but perhaps the implication was there.

We must usually avoid both ends of a pendulums swing, either end will be too rigid and leave out too much. As well, the middle probably isn't worth much either. Isn't life fun?

I pray that the trend toward (dare I say "non-confessional thinking and practice") be retarded at all levels of synod.

Cathechesis, cathechesis, and more cathechesis.

Thanks for the talk. I'm off to study tomorrows Scripture lessons for Bible class - got to keep the Pastor on his toes!

Matt H.