In the wake of another South Wisconsin District Convention less than a week removed from an extremely divisive state recall election, the contrast to me could not be more noticeable.
The state affair was a hot one, no doubt about it. Our SWD Convention, by contrast, was a relatively peaceful affair. (Indeed, the most peaceful convention in my memory, although that memory only goes back to 2003). I heard some of the delegates joke that it was precisely because we were fresh off such an angst-riddled season in our state. Everyone was exhaling and nobody had the will to argue and fight.
Probably true. Although there is something more at work, I believe. And as I ruminate on it I grow more and more excited about the full possibilities of what I think is actually happening.
I would like to believe that a pendulum is slowly swinging back to a very good place, both for the Church and possibly also for our society. It’s been joked that the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod is always 20 years behind society. Perhaps as one looks at our American society in the 21st century that’s not a bad thing. But I think the reality may be just the opposite.
The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod is 5-10 years ahead of American society.
“You’re mad, Tork!” (I can just hear it from the brother pastors who read this).
Real students of history know that there are few things more certain than death and taxes…and pendulum swings. All movements in history reach a critical mass and eventually lose forward momentum. Things swing back. History is probably best understood as the record of that unending motion.
As our sick society, with all its anger, shouting, and noise, swings out of control, there’s only one direction it can go…at least if it’s a pendulum. And perhaps it is true what President Harrison says when he says “we have what the world wants.”
In SWD, we had a potentially fracturous decision to make on Camp LuWiSoMo. As one who served as vice-chair of the Board of Directors of the District, I saw first-hand how the emotional dynamic of this decision was taking a toll on the Board. It was taking a toll on everybody. While there was a long discussion about it at the Convention, some of it quite passionate, the overwhelming will of the delegates of the convention was to bless a compromise between the BoD of the District and the BoD of the Camp. Everybody won…and our prayers continue for the success of the Camp.
Still, one thing remains true, we settled our most contentious matter peacefully, even hopefully. We reasoned it out together as a body and worked together to bring about the best result.
In other words, we did what our contemporary American society seems both unwilling and unable to do. Inside our tiny little political boxes, there is no room for compromise and working together anymore.
Hence I stand by my mad assertion. We, the church, are starting to move ahead of American society. The Gospel is ahead of the tremendous mess our society has made precisely because it rejected that Gospel. This, too, shall pass. The gates of Hades shall not overcome it [the Church]. History at least suggests that society’s wanton anger will break. It has to. Even the most stubborn can learn the lessons of both history and current events.
Our District Convention’s relative peacefulness was not merely a reaction to the anger of Wisconsin state politics. It was reflective of the mood of the Synod in general. It looks like we’re tired of fighting…and from the conversations I had at Convention I have every reason to believe I’m seeing that correctly.
Here in Wisconsin, the recall fervor waned and the anger of the situation was not enough to effect change. You can like it or not like it. My concern is what bigger lesson is to be learned from that, apart from politics. Anger and drum-beating cannot be sustained. They wear out. The Bible teaches this pretty forthrightly in a number of places. Our Synod’s battles too, rooted in anger, eventually wore us out. Reaching across the aisle and shaking hands, working together toward a consensus we can all live by, I believe our Synod is a much more peaceful place than it used to be. Nothing delights me more and I can see the relief on the faces of many. As one responsible for the Koinonia Project in South Wisconsin, I find it a high honor to play even a small part in continuing that process of healing. In fact, it’s downright humbling.
And we’re already ahead of the nation. The nation remains angry, unable to move forward, unable to fix its problems. And this is our opportunity. It’s a golden one at that. We can, as a church body and as Christians, live out our callings and blaze a trail for our society to return to its moorings. At peace with God and one another, we can show peace to a world which does not know it.
I must confess, I’ve never thought of our collective mission quite this way before, but I believe there is something to it. We have what the world needs. Our foreign church partners, an ever growing network, demonstrate that some parts of the world also want what we have. My prayer is that soon American society will want it too…and that we are the ones uniquely poised to help our society find its righteousness.