Saturday, February 20, 2010

LCMS Publishes a Booklet Summarizing Teaching and Practice in the Synod

In the mail this week I also received an additional book discussing doctrine, this one published by the Synod itself. Entitled This We Believe - Selected Topics of Faith and Practice in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, the preface notes that this work was commissioned by the president of the Synod as a "brief summary of the official position of the Synod on important matters of doctrine and practice" in response to numerous requests from members of synod for information where the Synod stands on various issues. 88 pages long and containing sections on dozens of topics ranging from Abortion to Worship Practices, This We Believe provides a much needed resource to the church and its leaders in addressing the many questions and inquiries of our members. The booklet also includes three appendices with the "Brief Statement," "A Statement of Scriptural and Confessional Principles," and "An Introduction to the Synod President's Report to the 2009 District Conventions." This author has yet to truly review the contents in detail, yet a quick look at the Table of Contents already reveals a wealth of material to use in Bible classes, meetings and private discussions. Many of the topics contained in the booklet have been topics of discussion on this blog, such as Creation/Evolution, biblical interpretation, homosexuality, admission to the Lord's Supper, ordination of women and unity in the Synod. However, many other topics of current interest are included also such as end-of-life issues, cohabitation, immigration, racism, lay reading of the Scriptures, and much more.

To order a copy of this book go to Concordia Publishing House. Although I received a complementary copy, the purchase price is $8.99. Their website describes the book as "a succint summary of what the LCMS has stated about 50 issues under discussion in the Synod and in society at large, either as official positions in convention resolutions and statements, or through writings in other resource."

For the Companion Document of this book containing the text of the referenced resolutions, go here.

DayStar Publishes a "Reader"

I recently received a copy of A DayStar Reader, dated this year and edited by Matthew Becker. As a follower of the website (although, as many will note, certainly not a supporter!), this volume was received with intrigue and curiosity as to the direction of this decade old movement. It seems odd, however, that the official DayStar Network site fails to note such a significant contribution. In fact, as noted before by the Northwoods Seelsorger, the site remains 'stuck' on Easter 2009, showing no new postings now for the better part of a year.

The volume appears to mainly contain an anthology of past articles previously published on their website with some possible new material and now offered in printed form with the purpose of spurring "the reader to further reflection." Dr. Becker describes this collection as "a kind of '95 Theses' for the contemporary LCMS." "As with those original sixteenth-century theses," Becker writes, "the desire is to encourage debate about matters that we think are important. We are publishing them here, not because we necessarily want to argue or to create disunity in the synod, but because we think these are matters that are directly related to the mission of the church in our time and place and that they therefore deserve our critical attention."

TheDayStar movement reasserts its mission here as recapturing the true spirit of the Missouri Synod while challenging narrow-minded views now outdated and perceived as detrimental to the future of the church. The ideal for a synod, they assert, is "unity in diversity," as opposed to those, Becker states, who "cling to the Pieperian monolithic ideal that is intolerant of even the slightest doctrinal variation." How one defines "the slightest doctrinal variation," of course, remains open to debate, as in the very next paragraph he also notes the DayStar community's ongoing interest in women's ordination. "Many in DayStar are troubled that the question of the ordination of women is itself apparently beyond open discussion in the synod," Becker writes. The articles published in the Reader openly call on the church to "rethink its position on this matter."

The area of "doctrinal variation" is again tested in the last section as additional authors once more challenge the Synod's position on Creation by extolling the seemingly irrefutable virtues of Darwinian Evolution. I find it interesting that while they plead for issues of longstanding doctrine to be open for change and debate, the area of Evolution is seen as settled. Challenging whether Evolution is even a valid explanation for the origins of the universe and of life is seen as anti-intellectual. So much for openness.

At the end of his introduction to the volume, Dr. Becker finally answers the question as to the origin and meaning behind their curious logo as seen at the beginning of this post: "When Dr. Stein asked the now-sainted artist Del Kaustermeier to create an identity for the online lisserv he suggested the design include a golden, cruciformed star set above a field of deep blue cyberspace. Del included a micro chip, also crossed with that cruciformed star, to symbolize how all of the Daystar messages (now over 100,000) are sent and received through the marvels of computer science." Interesting.

Dr. Becker finally notes that not all the contributors necessarily agree with one another on all the matters discussed in this volume. However, he also notes that this is a kind of reflection of the Synod itself. "Nevertheless, all of the authors here agree that there can and ought to be more room in the synod for discussing these and other contemporary issues in a more open manner, without fear of retribution for raising a perspective that might differ from the synod's official position." One should never close the door on discussion, even with those with whom we differ. However, does there ever come a point in the official church when Truth can be proclaimed without the need to question it one more time? The fear of this writer is that the direction that DayStar would take us is little different than what we see right now in the ELCA. As far as we can see nothing seems sacred and beyond debate within this denomination, even the Gospel itself. The lines Daystar would draw, if they would draw any at all, are simply those of a general Gospel, not so different than what those in St. Louis attempted to do back in the 70's. When the Early Church gathered in colloquium to debate matters of doctrine, their goal was not "unity in diversity," but a unified common witness that would stand against the ever changing tides of human sinfulness. We can only hope for the same, but not if the direction of Daystar is eventually adopted.

For those who would like to secure their own copy of this volume for review, the information inside the Reader suggests writing to

They Preach Health and Wealth While Marriages and Families Fall

Benny Hinn proclaimed the unlimited power of the Spirit and claimed to heal the masses. Crowds swelled worldwide to hear the charismatic speaker and watch his Pentecostal production as the money and fame flowed in unabated. Yet for all this seeming success the one thing closest to him has now failed. The AP reported today that his wife of 30 years recently filed for divorce citing "irreconcilable differences." His immediate family and friends are said to be "shocked and saddened to learn of this news without any previous announcement." Does this mean that they didn't see it coming, that there were no 'signs' of trouble in the marriage? Or does it imply that they assumed that with all their money and fame and Holy Ghost power that their marriage was beyond such a crisis? In an official statement from Benny Hinn Ministries as summarized by the AP, it is claimed that "Pastor Hinn faithfully endeavored to bring healing to their relationship but that these efforts were met with the petition for divorce that was filed without notice."

One can merely speculate on such observations, which would hardly establish the real reasons behind this event. Marriages are complex relationships subject to a myriad of forces and stresses. Many will deny trouble or ignore problems until it is too late to salvage the union, which may be part of the reason for the demise of the Hinn marriage. Yet one of the stresses they may have missed may have been the one thing they saw as their very success: money and fame. Did they feel that because of the supposed anointing of the Spirit on their endeavors that this exempted them from the normal temptations which the less spiritual wrestle with daily? More than one marriage has succumbed to sin's lure by the glitter of glamor. Unfortunately the Hinns are not alone in their world. The moral failures in the realm of televangelists remains a sad and proportionately significant blight on their witness.

Too bad the message all these years remained so out of focus on the fleeting and shallow treasure of earthly riches and neglected to concentrate on the matters of faith that truly mattered. Perhaps Mr. Hinn will now be allowed the opportunity to reflect on this and make those long overdue changes....