Tuesday, June 10, 2008

What did Convention Accomplish?

In response to Laverne and Erik.

Laverne wrote:

Perhaps those are even more important - equipping and providing support for those of us at the convention for mission in our home churches - for that's really where mission is accomplished.

So perhaps we can say that if the convention (and in turn, the structure of the Synod) helps and facilitates the congregations in continuing their own mission, then there is a reason for these conventions, even if there isn't some profound and grand "accomplishment" directly from the convention itself.

That’s so true it causes me blisters. But what I heard underneath all this is the question: what is the role of synod in congregational life? How DO we relate to each other as an institutional church? What makes us a church family beyond the institutional level?

I struggle with these questions. I know we’re all Lutheran, but how that Lutheranism expresses itself among clergy and congregations is very different.

We have high-church Lutherans and American-style evangelical/charismatic Lutherans.

We have Marcus Borg-type Lutherans and Carl Bratten/Robert Jensen-style Lutherans.

We have clergy who snore in their clerical collars and clergy who wouldn’t be caught corpse-like with one on.

We have Evangelical Catholics who want a Magisterium to govern our doctrine, and we have Norwegian Pietists who resist anything smelling like papism.

And, yes, we have Lutherans who see homosexuality as a God-given expression of human intimacy, and we have Lutherans who see it as abhorrent to God and God’s Word.

And everything in between.

Yet, still, Lutherans.

Some may see such diversity as a strength, something to celebrate. It tells us that we are a thinking church, a living church..

Others may see it as a millstone, dragging us down to the ecclesial nether regions.

Either way, such multiplicity lobs a challenge at our Birkenstocks. How/Can we live together when we can’t agree on what Lutheranism looks like?

Does meeting in convention help us understand and live with those whose theology and approach to church life want to make us pull out our eyebrows?

Does synod convention help break down stereotypes to help us see other Lutherans, not as the enemy, but as confrères in mission?

Or does meeting in convention merely entrench existing divisions? When we meet, do we listen to others’ opinions or do we circle our partisan wagons, strategizing on how to beat the other side, parlaying parliamentary procedure to assure a desired outcome?

Or does it do both? CAN it do both?

That’s the challenge that’s lying at our toes. But that’s no surprise to anyone with open ears and even wider eyes. But it’s what you do with the challenge that counts.

How we meet that challenge is something we’re going to have to decide together. Along with a healthy dose of the Holy Spirit. Maybe that’s what synod convention is supposed to accomplish.

NB: Cross-posted at the Convention blog

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