Wow. Congregations Matter™®© is going all out with the slick, expensive, massive glossy postcard with the centerfold mailed out from a Pak-n-Ship in Naples, Florida, but on a Non-Profit Postage-Paid permit from Tomball, Texas. According to Pak-n-Ship:
Nice. And the Pak-n-Ship in Naples even lets customers drop the “suite” number that normally begins with “108-” to give the impression that this is an actual office suite and not just a mail drop. Of course, in marketing, it’s all about the sizzle.
At any rate, the main image on the postcard is a creepy, disembodied hand holding puppet strings over the words “SYNOD CONTROL?”. Nice sinister black, white, and gray imagery. And the N in “synod” has what seems to be a scratched-out crucifix on it. Very scary!
Within the centerfold are CM’s two smiling candidates looking very political-addish in white shirts and ties with the promise that these man “can reverse the current DISASTROUS course!.” Too bad this isn’t a TV spot where we could enjoy the sinister-sounding ominous music superimposed over a darked image of President Harrison contrasted with upbeat swelling strains when the angels of light (our candidates) are shown by contrast. Can the church be very far away from video political ads?
This is all very amusing as political progressives - in church and state - all seem to operate from the same playbook. In the political realm of the LCMS, we are even treated to Harrison Derangement Syndrome even to the point of progressives in the synod making it next to impossible to remove an open heretic from the clergy roster.
Of course, this postcard’s glossy, vulgar, overtly political grandstanding is a recent phenomenon in church history. Could you even imagine (see what I did there?) Ambrose of Milan or Augustine of Hippo putting up yard signs and going door to door with slim-jims? There is a good reason the image of the grinning, glad-handing politician kissing babies and making outlandish promises is repulsive to ordinary people.
While church politics has been around since the days of Cain and Abel, the modern use of marketing and psychological manipulation through the use of focus-group-driven graphic design and carefully orchestrated political argot is a new low in LCMS history. It is probably to be expected as a continuation of the white-trashification of our increasingly lurid and vapid culture seeping into our sanctuaries and chancels. This kind of base political action aping the very worst that the secular culture has to offer would have been shockingly déclassé to our ancestors. And while we are largely desensitized to the increasing Idiocracy in our political life and culture, there is still a remaining gag-reflex among some people of our synod.
The largely anonymous organization “Congregations Matter” is the latest cloak-and-dagger incarnation of the progressive hydra that wants us to “change” (the progressive mantra). They are the current generation’s well-heeled political machine, a refurbished gold-plated rotting revivification of the old LCMS progressive zombies of the mostly now-defunct (Deo gratias!) Renewal in Missouri (RIM), Jesus First, Daystar, Voices/Visions, and Ordain Women Now in the LCMS - the previous attempts to bring the LCMS more into line with generic American neo-Evangelicalism, if not the full-blown brand of ELCA “Lutheranism.” It’s all just the same slop reheated for a new generation. This is the aging Baby-Boomer “hippy wing” of the Missouri Synod, though our groovy guys wear ties instead of tie-dyes, and at least have the good sense not to sport ponytails.
CM even has a rare signed article by a district president that opens (I kid you not) with this:
Groovy. Well, at least he didn’t mention Viagra, man. Dude, why am I so hungry? Who brought these brownies to the potluck?
But thanks be to God that our younger pastors coming out of our seminaries are for the most part liturgical and hard-wired to reject this synthetic, inauthentic, rehash of tired old Woodstock-era ideals and spiritually-bankrupt Church Growth Movement garbage.
But at any rate, so as not to get bogged down in Congregations Matter’s alarmist rat-hole litany of character assassination of President Harrison, I’m going to just drive the stake through the heart of the vampire right here and right now. Congregations Matter is predicated upon a bald-faced lie: the Fake News narrative that Synod bureaucracy is oppressing our poor beleaguered congregations at the hands of our mustachioed fash dictator Harrison.
As point one in the glossy, unctuous postcard asks in the alarming orange background:
Wow! LOL. If you’re going to lie, you might as well make it a whopper. CM expects you to accept this uncritically. But come on! Our congregations are in a state of complete anarchy. Our congregations are not just autonomous, they are independent and unaccountable to anyone. Can anyone - be it a pastor or lay church worker or lay volunteer in any parish provide an example of the congregation wanting to do something but were prohibited by a bureaucrat in the Purple Palace? Our congregations are like wild horses galloping about the plains with not a bit or bridle anywhere in sight.
Look around! “Diversity” doesn’t even begin to describe our congregations. And Synod is utterly impotent to even require our congregations to use doctrinally pure worship and teaching materials. It’s anything-goes out there. Even if President Harrison wanted to be heavy-handed in parochial matters, he couldn’t. There is no enforcement mechanism for St. Louis to strong-arm congregations into anything. And they know it.
Our parishes are free to use the liturgy or not, have rock and roll and dancing girls in worship services, offer communion every week, or as infrequently as their hearts desire, our pastors and congregations are free to endorse women’s ordination, invite heretical speakers to their churches, ditch the historic vestments, rewrite or even omit the creeds, have confession and absolution or not, use any curriculum they want for VBS and Bible classes, follow the lectionary or ignore it, carefully instruct converts or just sign them up with no catechesis, practice open communion, deny the literal reading of Genesis 1-11, put women in albs and stoles at the altar, etc. The list goes on.
Even beyond the parish level, a person can even be the president of Ordain Women Now in the LCMS and remain on the roster as a commissioned minister. One can be on the board and remain on the clergy roster. One can publish papers endorsing false doctrine at their website and remain on the clergy roster (see here and here). The synod is a doctrinal a free-for-all and its practice is as unregulated as Mardi Gras on Bourbon Street. Seriously, it’s a full-blown free-range bacchanalia.
Really, what freedom do these neo-Jacobins lack? What cruel restraint are they suffering under?
I think we all probably know a pastor who has been unscripturally removed and treated to byzantine and authoritarian measures to remove him. But think about it. Did President Harrison play the dictator, or was it a district president, and to boot, one that would likely resonate with CM?
This goes beyond mere political disagreement and valid criticisms of leadership. This narrative of the “oppressed” congregations is a diabolical lie. It’s just not true at all. Even the name “Congregations Matter” calls to mind “Black Lives Matter” with the narrative of oppression.
This is all just plain nonsense. Any valid and appropriate criticism or difference of opinion that could be raised is invalidated by the foundational lie and the smarmy resort to the methodology of the world, the devil, and our sinful nature. Pastors and laypeople, take heart; take courage. You are entitled to your opinion and to express it. Call these anonymous rebels out for their hypocrisy and their lies. Don’t cower when the inevitable 8th Commandment and Matthew 18 cards are played. This is a public matter and every one of us was invited into the conversation when they sent us these postcards (I believe they were sent to all of our congregations).
I didn’t contact CM; they contacted me. They are the ones who started this controversy and got me involved. So I am. They invited my participation in the dialogue. So now they’re getting it. I’m calling Bubulum Stercus.
So, dear reader, do you want to know what this is really all about? Well, here it is. This is an article from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch from July 14, 2010 - fresh out of the Orwellian Memory Hole that Congregations Matter would like to keep under wraps. This is indeed the little boy pointing out that the anonymous hand-wringers and wannabe emperors at CM are naked as jaybirds.
So do you want to know where this restructuring to a more centralized synodical bureaucracy came from? They did it to themselves. They did it. Congregations Matter’s progressive wing of the LCMS wanted this, and they got it. They got everything they wanted at the 2010 convention.
Well, almost everything.
They did not get their guy with the power to push buttons and pull levers. For this was the same convention where President Harrison was elected, where President Kieschnick was defeated. The irony is too delicious. The hubris and the subsequent fall should have been seen by the progressive faction as a call to repent. And so the very structure that they sought (and now decry as “oppression”) is the very structure that they themselves handed to President Harrison - power that he opposed as a candidate. It is a bit like Haman being hoist upon his own gallows.
Seriously, read the article. It is illustrative, especially to those who may not remember what actually happened. And what actually happened is not the CM narrative. Like the phony “suite” at the Naples, Florida Pak-n-Ship, it’s all just political grandstanding and marketing: a glossy lie.
But there is one saving grace, one thing that I wish to compliment Congregations Matter concerning this postcard: nowhere is the name "Jesus” ever mentioned. Not even once.
And for something as distasteful as this, that is how it should be.