The ACELC Conference is throwing a lot of over my head yesterday, but I’m trying my best to keep it in perspective and not loose sight of why I’m there. I had to leave early yesterday, but here are my thoughts from the first day.
First of all, I am reminded of how blessed I am to be a part of a church body that hears Christ’s words on His Supper and carries them out-this meal that we share together, it is a sign of our heavenly inheritance. While other church bodies open up there tables as if they were free-for-all and probably would let a Muslim come to the sacrament, our church hears Christ’s word that this is his body and blood for forgiveness (and damnation to the sinner who partakes) and calls us to through examination before we eat the sacrament. Thanks be to God.
Dr. Detlev Schluz brought up a point that I (and our church body) often forget in our individual-centered culture: the fellowship we partake in at the Lord’s Supper is a communal fellowship that expresses the unity among believers. Having been a member of a congregation that was known for its in-fighting (much of it surrounding a principal who was abusing children), this is something that is more difficult for me to process. Just this Sunday, there was a person in Bible study who proposed an idea that I am completely opposed to, and I didn’t say anything to her, but now I am wondering if I should have found a way to speak the truth in love.
Second interesting point from Pastor Clint Poppe, whose presentation was drawn mostly from Walther’s works: the open question, which in Walther’s time was how the church dealt with some of their disputes. When a theological question arose that wasn’t dealt with the Scriptures or Confessions directly, it was declared an “open question”, free to debate until a council could rule on it. Walther stood up to this practice, and in essence said, “Listen, this practice of ‘open question’ is being abused to perpetuate false teaching and let error run wild. You can’t abuse to let your opinion run unchecked.” Thus, Walther said there were no open questions in regards to faith.
Hearing this, the first thing I thought of was the Facebook group Ordain Women Now (in the LCMS, OWN for short), a group that insists on open debate and bans people whose opinions they can’t refute (like two respected LCMS, one who has his own radio show and the other who works for Concordia Publishing House). I just marvel that these people in OWN think they can push women’s ordination for open debate, when all their opponents have to do is point to the scriptures first, past CTCR studies second, and most importantly, to the liberal denominations who ordained women forty years ago and have since ordained homosexuals, even in some cases admitting the connections, and also abandoned scripture in favor of a message of univeraslism and social gospel. If you ordain women, you can’t do it without saying the scriptures are wrong and opening padora’s box.
But back to conference. The odd thing about these Lutheran conferences is that all these pastors start their papers with a statement that their doctrine is God’s doctrine. Yes, it is God’s doctrine, but since it is such a mighty sword, don’t we have an obligation to use it with the mind that we can destroy relationships, and should only do so when absolutely necessary? I know that Jesus said that he didn’t come to bring peace but a sword, but this a part I struggle with: proclaiming God’s word and sharing doctrine, in a way that others can understand.
During the panel discussion in the afternoon, a pastor raised the question of how to deal with couples who were living together without marriage, a tough subject for the truth in our culture. I was talking about this with a friend who is the same age as me last year, and he said that this was a difference he sees in teenagers today (we graduated from high school ten years), where when we were in high school, half the students thought living together without marriage was okay, as opposed nearly seventy or eighty percent now. This is a hard topic for pastors to deal with, and they need our prayer.
Very excited for today’s time at the conference, which includes Divine Service tonight.