This past week I attended the 49th Rocky Mountain District Convention of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. Whenever LCMS Lutherans gather I always find it to be interesting from a sociological perspective. Group dynamics are always at work no matter the institution; no matter church or hardcore scene or government. But I find a consistency whenever I gather with my brothers and sisters in Christ who adhere to the LCMS label. And it doesn’t matter if it was during my time as a seminarian or as a pastor. No matter the “political” sway of the given group or of Synod at the time there is one thing that is apparent to me: we are so very insular and albeit Pharisaical. And honestly, it embarrasses me.
This time around the incident that made this very apparent to me was during the opening night of the Convention. At this time the Synodical President Matthew Harrison spoke to us about the present state of Synod and then took questions and comments from anyone at the Convention. Of course, a few people got up and made the usual and predictable statements praising the SP for his Confessional and Biblical fidelity which followed with the usual clapping. But then came the question and comment that made me embarrassed for my church body. It was a loaded question, one that everyone already knew the answer to but was asked to reconfirm, to resolidify, to bring praise and attention to what we believe and confess. A young woman asked the Synodical President if he knew about the recent Facebook group known as OWN (Ordain Women Now in the LCMS) and what his stance on this issue and group was. Before anything else, I want to say that our SP handled this question very well and I was impressed with the way he carried himself in regards to the other questions and concerns he received. But this one was just ridiculous because we all know where he stands on the issue especially considering that he helped put together and edit a book in regards to the issue of women’s ordination. After the SP was done answering the woman’s question she preceded by letting him know that she had been kicked off of the OWN Facebook page. With that statement most of the convention goers clapped along with a few cheers. And that’s when I felt embarrassed because it seemed so staged. Embarrassed because it doesn’t take a lot of courage to mention and applaud such things in a room full of people that one knows that they agree with. Embarrassed because these moments reveal how so very insular we really are. In these moments I always wonder about the outsider and what they would think coming into such an environment. How would they perceive us? Would they think we were Christians? There’s something here that is so very antithetical to the spirit of Christ. It’s a “Ra Ra Ra look how great we are” moment. The focus is not on Christ but rather on ourselves and more specifically our stance on an issue that is not nearly as primary as the Gospel itself.