Monday, September 07, 2009

A Free Synod?

Lots of questions about this from Bishop Spring's latest letter about the Lutheran CORE Convocation:
A free-standing synod, carrying out synodical ministries, apart from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Here is how I understand it, as I posted on ALPB Forum Online. Note, this is not definitive, but it is what I understand and will advocate at the Convocation.

Our problem as 21st century American Lutherans is that we hear the word "synod" and immediately think "denomination" or, worse, a sub-division of a denomination or "judicatory."

A "synod" is a gathering of pastors and congregations. That's it. A gathering of pastors and congregations for a particular purpose. "Synod Assembly" is like "The La Brea Tar Pits" (forgive the Southern California reference; it's a major historical site in Los Angeles: "la brea" is Spanish for "the tar pits").

If we wanted to be really precise about it, we could call the Convocation itself a "free synod," that is, a gathering that is open to anyone interested in the purpose of the gathering. It is "free" because it is not associated with, in this case any official gathering of the church.

So, a Free Synod of ELCA pastors and congregations is a gathering of ELCAers separate from the formal structures of the ELCA for a particular purpose -- in this case to provide support for those pastors and congregations in the ELCA who are conscience bound, by Scripture and Confession, to reject the errors of the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly and the ELCA's leadership.

That "support" happens primarily at the Free Synod, that is the gathering (something we seem to be forgetting of our ELCA synods), but since it must be on-going support (until the ELCA repents of its error) the Free Synod will likely have some sort of continuing existence to co-ordinate relationships with various ministries and missions, to provide common suggestions for alternatives to the anti-Gospel portions of the ELCA (such as curricula that will portray gay "families" or a pastor's "partner" as just another option, or liturgical/prayer resources that neuter the Lord God or emasculate the risen Christ, etc.).

A Free Synod within the ELCA enables those of us who reject the CWA's actions to stay together in mission to live out the mission that brought us together in the first place, the mission expressed in the Constitution of the ELCA, its synods, and congregations. (See my "Why Stay?," originally posted on this online forum, for why we want to do that.) A Free Synod of faithful ELCA folks would call upon the ELCA to return to its stated purpose. The CWA's actions specifically provide for our voice to be there, and we should challenge the ELCA's leaders to be true to their word is every way we can, and that challenge includes participating as fully as possible in official ELCA, synod, conference, etc. activities. (So, yes, it challenges us, too.)


Anonymous said...

I have only one objection to the idea of a synod remaining in the ELCA. Specifically, to advertise a congregation as an ELCA congregation is, to put it baldly, to live a lie.

How is retaining membership in the ELCA not unlike Lutherans of old retaining the Roman Catholic name and arguing that they were but a reform movement within the larger Church?

As I recall, at least they had the courage to change their name while insisting that their doctrine was Catholicism done truthfully.


Pastor Zip said...

Again, a Free Synod is not a "synod" as the word is used in the ELCA or in those synods that use the word as a demoninational designation (as, say, "convention" is used to describe the Southern Baptist Convention).

Again, Free Synod is a free gathering of pastors and congregations. It would not elect its own Bishop -- but hopefully a Bishop would serve as a "visitor" or "protector" (that is, be its Pastor). It would not sponsor the ordination of new pastors, nor would it operate its own seminiaries -- though it would mentor orthodox seminarians and pastors.

Again, those in the ELCA would continue to, as much as possible, participate in the life of the ELCA, "Synod Assemblies," etc. The Free Synod is above and beyond that participation. It is most definitely not "living a lie," but standing for the truth and correction of a confused church.