As one concludes a year it is always fun to look back and see the past twelve months in review. Often a lot happens and we forget. For me personally 2010 was a significant year filled with transitional events in my life and work. This blog reported one of them, namely my decision to enroll at Nashotah House and pursue graduate work in the Master of Sacred Theology (STM) program. I will begin 2011 back at the books, with hopes that this next year finds the completion of two more courses, leaving me with only one in 2012, along with the thesis.
Reviewing my blog articles, here are some of the highlights that stand out for me:
- 2010 seemed to be a reorganization year for the liberals of the LCMS. The original DayStar site was down and up and then gone, finally being replaced by another newer site, which in turn was transitioned to the newest Daystar Journal. Dr. Matthew Becker, a younger theologian than the old guard coming out of the 70's, is now the perceived leader for the future. He even launched his own blog site allowing his views to be quite public, causing a bit of a stir even in our sister church overseas. A new book, called the Day Star Reader was published and distributed widely in Synod. This volume reprinted many of the old articles from the former site. The old Voices/Vision site, a promotional site which pushed ultimately for the ordination of women within the Missouri Synod, also finally ceased to exist and was followed by a newer site called The Creator's Tapestry, named after a booklet released by the CTCR this past year on the role of women in the church. It also offers a companion blog site by the same name. The initial purpose behind the sites was aimed mainly at the Synodical convention this past summer, but seems to have had a longer goal in mind from the beginning. My perspective, after following these sites now for some months, is that although there is a new face on an old cause, possibly with newer leadership as well, I fail to see where they have gained any significant traction within the Synod as a whole. The change in the top leadership of Synod, reflecting the significant changes in the political landscape of the country as well, seems to bode better for a conservative, confessional shift, if anything. Even Jesus First appeared quite dormant following the convention. Although their voice is anything but gone, and even though they seem to be using the internet far more as a tool to reach a broader constituency, and even though the leadership may be renewed, my prediction is that, for now, they will remain merely a fringe interest, with little to no overall impact.
- The Synodical convention this summer was by far a major news event this year, bringing an unexpected upset in the office of the president. Rev. Matthew Harrison, the conservative/confessional candidate of choice, was given a decisive victory over Dr. Gerald Kieschneck, who had served for 9 years. Jesus First went all out, as usual, pushing its candidate, while trying to also demonstrate that Matthew Harrison was not the right man for the time. Even confessional/conservative folks such as me were greatly surprised, not realizing that the mood in Synod may actually be more to the right than I had suspected. Time will tell how the new administration fares with the divided landscape of our church body.
- I posted some articles on fellowship and the Sacrament, reflecting questions in my own parish and no doubt reflecting an issue of great continued importance for the Synod. If I had to identify the most important issues still to be resolved in the LCMS, it would inevitably involve the Communion Fellowship issue. What exactly should "Close Communion" be - just a loose fellowship of like-minded Christians, or a true and committed confession that unites people into a true fellowship? My blog posts certainly demonstrate which side of the fence I find myself.
- My classes at Nashotah allowed me a unique insight into the Anglican church, both here and throughout the world. I offered some posts examining the way this church body approaches theology and life in the church. Overall they seem to reflect conditions in other mainline church bodies, such as the ELCA, with remnants of conservatives still holding out, while the liberal contingent maintains the momentum of policy and practice. I was pleasantly surprised to discover these Anglo-Catholics this summer and was pleased by their devotion to a reverent liturgical life. I'm not ready to jump ship and become Anglican, however, and my studies at Nashotah are actually helping me to think more deeply about my Lutheran identity.
- This past year also brought about the creation of a new church body, the North American Lutheran Church (NALC), one of the results of the 2009 decision of the ELCA to officially embrace active homosexuals within their ministerium. While at Nashotah I became aware that similar events are also occurring in the broad Anglican communion. For Missouri such events have occurred, but at a more "micro" level, such as with the Evangelical Lutheran Diocese of North America (ELDoNA). As with the major mergers of past generations, our time seems to be more fracturing and realignment than consolidation. The days of the monolithic mainstream denomination are waning. A new era is upon us.
- Finally, 2010 brought two anniversary milestones in my life: 10 years at St. Peter Lutheran Church and my 50th birthday. I am not an idealist, but rather more of a realist by nature, so reflecting on these events, while bringing a genuine feeling of thanksgiving on the one hand, also reminded me that life, by and far, is also a messy affair with many struggles along the way. Nevertheless, we grow not by drifting through an uneventful existence, but rather through trial, where our convictions are tested and our character is defined. 2010 was certainly a defining year for me personally and professionally, and for that I am grateful. I believe I am entering 2011 stronger, yet well aware that I am not impervious to the evil that constantly assails us. I look to the year ahead with great hope and anticipation, yet always a bit wary of the next great struggle awaiting me. I pray that I will remain faithful and productive, and continue to grow as a pastor, a father, and a husband.