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Self-destructive insanity.


Pondering self-destructive insanity

Not so long back, maybe a month or two, the LCA College of Bishops released a statement on future options for the LCA in the light of the quagmire of lunacy within the LCA over the issue of women's ordination.

The CoB gave three options.

  • Scenario 1: A single LCANZ synod, with one teaching and two practices

  • Scenario 2: A single LCANZ synod, with the current teaching upheld

  • Scenario 3: Multiple LCANZ synods – we can no longer stay together (we separate).

Now I don't really care either way. I have a leaning, but the truth is I think there are more fundamental issues at stake that lay unresolved, even unacknowledged, deep within the issue of ordination, much less what gender should be engaging it. These issues lay back in the unresolved tensions between the former ELCA and UELCA and they're understanding of the church and consequently, the public office of the ministry. Even more concerning is that while the LCA tears at the cancerous growth if irreconcilable differences is the fact tat the LCA is an ageing and dying church. It fits into the category social theorists and sociologists given it a terminal life span of 5 - 10 years if it doesn't act now to change its trajectory.

The tragedy of the current situation is the entrenchment of each side, drawing out the radicals who are intent of getting their own way regardless of the implications for the rest of the church. What is even more notable is that advocates from both sides lack the courage of their convictions to pursue their position regardless of the consequences.

One of the issues the CoB raised was finances and resources. While LCA congregations may be cash poor, struggling from week to week, most sit on property they own. The LCA sits on millions of dollars worth of assets. The LLL has a high rate of deposits and growing capital. The question is who benefits from this if the LCA were to split. Even more so, as we seem to have a training institution churning out more and more fundamentalist Pastors who think the Book of Concord is more important than the Bible, and the laity, by a healthy majority think women should be ordained without a great deal of Biblical rationale to validate the claim. If the LCA split, it would have a situation with lot's of congregations without a Pastor, and lots of Pastors without a congregation. The age of professionally paid clergy would unravel in the dust of a pro-ordination debate. That is of course if those clergy or laity stood by their theological position.

I actually think that won't happen. I suspect advocates from both sides lack the moral courage of their convictions to leave the LCA because of the financial implications. It would mean, which ever side left, they would also leave behind millions of dollars of assets that currently keep the LCA afloat. Pastors would have to find other income sources. Congregations would have to find alternative pastoral leadership.

But I think that is exactly what each side is pushing for. They want the other side to leave. They are more concerned about their financial security than their theological convictions. They lack the moral courage and personal integrity to embrace their entrenched views and pursue them regardless of the financial implications.

We shouldn't think this a strange state of affairs within the LCA. After all, there appears to be more historical evidence that the first Lutheran communities left Europe and emigrated to South Australia for financial reasons than theological. The level of so-called persecution didn't manifest as claimed, and the attempt of the state to impose a form of worship never really took off.

What, therefore, is even more concerning is the unstated agenda manifesting itself across the LCA. The radicals on either side have become nasty. It seems they are more intent of aggressively pursuing their agenda against their opponents to the level that these opponents will finally have enough and leave. The language, aggression, abusive and unchristian overtones displayed by both sides leads to this single conclusion. As neither side has the moral courage or theological integrity to leave under their own terms, they pursue an overt attack upon the other in a form of organizational bullying under the pretense of 'sustaining" the theological heart of the LCA.

It is so sad that the LCA has come to this point. Maybe it was an inevitability of union when forming the LCA where unresolved theological tensions were allowed to gnaw away like a slow growing cancer upon the heart of the church. Maybe it is a testimony of a leadership system that is broken and dysfunctional, bound by a bureaucratic limitation of redundant constitutional reform, lacking the ability to cast a vision and future amidst an inability to rectify and heal the cancer at the heart of the LCA.

I don't see any resolution to this until one side finally says they will leave. I just pray that happens soon so the church can refocus back on its core task of drawing people into a life-empowering relationship with Jesus Christ.

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