QUESTION & ANSWER SERIES WITH REV. DR. MAIER
REV. DR. MAIER:
I’ve been asked to articulate my priorities should I be elected as President of Synod. The priorities reflect my conviction that our most significant challenge we face as a church body is the lack of trust and accountability. To build trust and accountability my priorities would be the following:
• Continue a renewed focus on theology. Reading & understanding God’s Word and being able to articulate our theology in a corrupt culture is critical for Kingdom work.
• Center our best efforts on the outreach of local congregations into their communities, especially in urban areas through greater collaboration with Districts.
• Working collaboratively with the council of President as they empower pastors and congregation leaders to recognize, empower, and release the laity as the priesthood in their mission and ministry endeavors.
• Strongly encourage and employ collaboration with clergy and lay leaders from different demographic and congregational settings.
• Continue the advancement of international partnerships. Jesus prayed to His heavenly Father, “that they may be one, even as We are one.” (Jn. 17:11; Rev 7)
• Enhance our mission outreach by supporting greater cultural and ethnic diversity in our leadership.
• Develop new tools for transparency, tracking and communicating the financial processes of Synod and its related entities.
• Collaborate with the Concordia University System and the Seminaries to strengthen institutional health and mission focus; explore methods to reduce the cost of preparation for church work; develop paths for equipping laity for service in their congregations; and examine additional theologically sound and academically rigorous paths to ordination.
• Collaborate with Concordia Publishing House and artisans to reduce the expense of ministry and mission materials for local congregations and schools.
• Develop trust through new vehicles for conversation and fraternal debate on critical theological and practical issues that have been sources of division.
I look forward to answering more of your questions through this platform and others.
REV. DR. MAIER:
The challenges facing our Lutheran Church Missouri Synod are the result of a systemic problem. Where there is low trust in any system, there is accompanying high anxiety. Our LCMS is definitely a highly anxious system and this systemic anxiety has been present for at least a generation. However, the divide of distrust has expanded in the last several years.
Here’s a question to consider: was there any healing after the “battle for the Bible” that resulted in the SEMINEX split of the late 1960’s through early 1970’s? In the past two decades (2000m – present) have we worked graciously with one another during what some have labeled the “worship wars”? Even more recently do we approach conversations with fellow LCMS Lutherans “armed for battle” between ‘confessional’ and ‘missional’ as if these two positions are mutually exclusive of the other? We should not be unaware of Satna’s tactics and deceptions in trying to divide us.
Here’s where I see the “rub”. We have consistently sought to bring about a pseudo-peace through resolutions at synodical conventions where voting always creates a “winner” and a “loser” rather than understanding, collaboration, and reconciliation. This has led the synodical system to centralize authority as expressed in “Prior Approval” and as expanded in “Ecclesiastical Supervision” to the office of the Synodical President. These actions have not enhanced unity through trust, nor have they lowered anxiety. Rather, they have actually heightened the atmosphere of distrust and the resultant anxiety. Centralized authority is counterproductive in an anxious system!
The result is that our eyes are turned inward on ourselves. We have become cautious and apprehensive in mission and ministry, not trusting that the Gospel is still the power of God unto salvation. Our focus is on the avoidance of mistakes … rather than creatively delivering the re-creative Gospel to a world of people who desperately need to receive its message of life and hope found only in Jesus, the Christ. The result is continual decline and added anxiety, aggravated by the symptoms of lower engagement and lower financial support. Our focus has turned to survival rather than the call of Jesus to “Make disciples of all people.”
What is needed is perhaps counter intuitive. In order to break the systemic cycle of distrust and anxiety, …
• We must intentionally seek serendipity through experimentation at the local level of ministry among our thousands of congregations and well-trained church workers.
• Synodical leaders must listen more and speak less in regard to how our work of mission gets accomplished at the level of the local congregation and also abroad.
• There must also be clear and transparent reporting by the leadership of synod regarding finances and matters that effect all of synod in order to intentionally seek to build trust.
• Collaboration needs to be encouraged, pursued, and honored with and within the Council of Presidents. They should be examples of how brothers listen and learn from one another, even as they listen and learn from their pastors and congregations within their respective districts.
• Rather than seeking control and uniformity districts can become incubators of trust, collaboration, transparency and communication and begin to lower the anxiety.
Friends, it has taken us generations to get to where we are; and it will take time to restore our harmony as we sing our melody of mission.