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A blog of the Evangelical Lutheran Liturgy

What Should the Synod Do?

Rumor has it that Synodical-types lurk on Gottesdienst. That may or may not be true. But let's play a little game for them. Instead of our normal Gottesdienst bomb throwing complaints about what the Synod is doing, what could the Synod do to support, encourage, and help congregations and pastors?

The synod's restructuring offers an opportunity to not only streamline the Synod's corporate functions but also make the synod useful to congregations. So if you had the chance to reform synod, humanly speaking, what would you do?

Let's take the international question in another post. For now, what should the synod be doing in the United States? How should it do it?

Here is some stuff to get you started, with the caveats that these are my own ideas, not those of Gottesdienst, and that I don't claim to have thought all these through. I am willing to be talked out of them. So if you find them insulting, outrageous, etc, please explain what the problem is and understand that I my intent is not to hurt but to really consider not only what we ought to do but we might actually be capable of pulling off.

1. The President needs to continue, even amp up, his presence as the Synod's Theological teacher through writing, youtube videos, etc. His bit with the Litany last Lent was spot on. More like that.

2. The Lutheran Witness needs to continue, even amp up, its current effort at honesty and transparency. The October "issues" issue was the best LW issue of my lifetime. Don't tell us we're all united and everything is happy. Face reality. Give us Theological resources for addressing disunity and division. Etc.

3. CPH needs to rethink its mission. It should be taken back as a non-profit subsidized by synod. Hymnals and Catechisms should be "sold" at as near cost as possible. Grants should be created to help CPH give away hymnals and catechisms at less than cost. The point of the hymnal should be to unite the Synod in doctrine and practice not to underwrite a terrible VBS program that promotes contemporary worship. CPH execs should not be paid at the same rate as Zondervan execs but at district scale. The Catechism translation should be owned by the synod not CPH. It should be made available for reproduction, without cost, to anyone who is using it piously, without modifying it.

4. The Seminaries should be the main focus of synodical education and receive a  percentage of unrestricted gifts.As they are more fully funded, the seminaries should be asked to do more.

5. CUS should be re-evaluated. Perhaps they should be cut loose and take on their own debt. Perhaps the synod could operate one or two colleges. But teacher certification and continuing ed, as well as advanced degrees, could be taken over by the seminaries. Not only would this increase the depth of theological training of the teachers but it would also help re-establish camaradery between pastors and teachers.

6. Pastors need evaluation - the same as teachers. They should be visited by their circuit counselors on site twice a year. They should respond to a standardized test on doctrine and practice developed by the seminaries. The seminaries should also develop a large reading list. The pastors should report to the circuit counselor what they are reading from that list. Finally, they should report they number of visits they have made by category: evangelism, hospital/shut-in, and member.  

7. The CTCR should be de-funded and its work passed to the seminaries.

8. Campus Ministry needs support: money, materials, and manpower. This should be a priority - especially if CUS is cut loose.

9. Rural, small town, and urban congregations need support. In particular the synod needs to play the heavy. Some of these congregations need to combine as dual and triple parishes or into new congregations. Some of them need to close. Congregations have lifespans. There is no shame in dying. Rebirth only happens in those who have died. The synod needs to help these congregations get full-time, fully competent, fully trained pastors. They deserve that.

10. The synod needs to cut loose all forms of lay ministry and half-training of pastors. Those who are currently working in these ways should receive the training needed and be ordained. Ethnic minorities and poor people need solid, well-trained pastors just as surely as wealthy suburbanites. The racism of the LC-MS should be confessed and repented of. Ethnic minorities are not genetically predisposed to false doctrine or too weak for the rigors of serious theological education.

11. The districts are not needed. They are a level of bureaucracy that provides very little service for the money. The synod should be divided into four geographic regions. Each region should have approximately 30 "districts" of approximately 50 congregations each. Those districts would be served by volunteer district presidents, full-time pastors. The pastor's study or front porch would become the district office. He would provide oversight for 5 circuit counselors who would provide, as volunteers, not compensated, oversight over 10 pastors. The regional office would oversee the 30 district presidents and take care of paperwork, etc. They would be served by paid staff and a paid vice president of synod. These regional staffs would function very much the way that district staffs currently function but more closely tied to the national office, less territorial.

12. Discipline should be reinstituted. The synod cannot remove pastors from Office. But they must protect and guard the synod's name and reputation. They can remove men and congregations from the roster. They should remove those who teach false doctrine, refuse discipline, etc.

13. The Synod must establish boundaries for worship. The hymnal -as human as it is - is the obvious place to start. Regional VPs or district presidents could allow local customs. But local customs should be deliberate and well-thought out, established practices, not changing week to week. Local customs should be exceptions made for pastoral reasons. Human rite should not be mistaken for Divine rite but should be honored and obeyed for the sake of good order and unity. This one would "hurt" me. But I think it is the right thing.
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