Tuesday, July 8, 2014
An Arbitrary Confessional Basis in the LCMS (Pt. 3)
What about the CCM’s response to Pres. Harrison’s second question?
The “opinion” of the CCM to this question further underscores that the synod is infallible: “Since ‘A Statement of Scriptural and Confessional Principles’ (1973) was adopted by the Synod (1973 Res. 3-01) ‘to be Scriptural and in accord with the Lutheran Confessions,’ it expresses the doctrinal position of the Synod. It derives its doctrinal authority not from the vote of the convention but from the Word of God, which it sets forth. Public contradiction to ‘A Statement of Scriptural and Confessional Principles is, therefore, in essence a violation of Scripture and thus Articles II and VI 1 of the Synod’s Constitution.’”
In other words: The synod adopted “A Statement.” “A Statement” sets forth the word of God. To be critical of “A Statement” is to violate Scripture and undermine the confessional basis of the synod.
Nevertheless, the CCM (again, rather grudgingly) acknowledges: “With the adoption of ‘A Statement,’ the Synod required ‘that those who disagree with these formulations in part or in whole be held to present their objections formally to those who have immediate supervision of their doctrine’ (1971 Res 5-24). Any dissent from the stated theological position of the Synod is to be brought to the Commission on Theology and Church Relations in accord with Bylaw 1.8.”
And that is what I have done. I met with a committee of the CTCR and shared my critique of “A Statement” with it. I’m not alone. Several hundred delegates to the 1973 synod convention registered their dissent from “A Statement,” as did several hundred (thousand?) more in subsequent weeks.
And the CCM’s opinion regarding Pres. Harrison’s third question?
“While the filing of dissent does not constitute a case for removal, the member is required to teach and practice in accord with Synod’s stated confessional position during the dissent process. If the member fails to honor and uphold the stated confessional position of Synod during the dissent process, the member becomes subject to disciplinary action due both to the violation of the doctrinal position of Synod and the offense against the other members of Synod created by such failure (Constitution Art. XIII 1). In such case it is incumbent upon the ecclesiastical supervisor of the member to exercise disciplinary action against the member who fails to teach and act within Synod’s stated confessional position, whether apart from or during the dissent process (Bylaws 2.14.4; 2.15.4; 2.16.4). The dissent process only allows a person to bring forth a contrary view to the stated position of Synod which the dissenter believes is supported by the Word of God (Bylaw 1.8.2). Those expressing dissent ‘are expected as part of the life together within the fellowship of the Synod to honor and uphold the resolutions of the Synod’ (Bylaw 1.8.1) and ‘to honor and uphold publicly the [doctrinal] statement[s] as the position of the Synod…’ (Bylaw 1.6.2 [b] ). The CTCR and ultimately the Synod in convention shall consider the dissent and shall render final judgment as to whether or not the doctrinal statement is in accord with the Word of God. While the dissent is being considered by the CTCR or the Synod in convention, ‘the consciences of others, as well as the collective will of the Synod, shall also be respected’ by the dissenter (Bylaw 1.8.2). The individual member does not have the freedom to decide what of Synod’s stated confessional position is to be honored and upheld and what is not. Once the dissent process has been concluded and if the stated confessional position of the Synod is not changed by the Synod in convention, the member is bound to teach and practice in accord with the stated confessional position of the Synod. If the member expressing dissent cannot or will not teach and practice according to the confessional position of the Synod, the only recourse left to the member is to resign from the Synod. Continuing to teach and practice in conflict with the position of Synod subjects the member to ecclesiastical discipline and finally expulsion from Synod.”
Out of the smaller corner of its mouth the CCM rather grudgingly acknowledges that the synod isn't infallible. But out of the much larger side of its mouth, the CCM speaks strongly against any kind of public dissent from the synod's majority decisions. Can't the CCM see the obvious contradiction at the center of its opinion?
If a member of the synod is convinced that some resolutions and statements of the synod need to be annulled or at least rethought and reformed, how could a member of the synod ever legitimately attempt to convince the synod to do so, if the CCM has now opined that any persistent public disagreement with a synod's resolution or statement is a violation of the confessional basis of the Synod?
While the CCM rather grudgingly acknowledges that dissent is allowed in the synod, it views dissent as an evil, since the decisions that the synod has made are the infallible Scriptural position. "The synod's resolutions and statements are the Scriptural position. They are to be obeyed unconditionally because they are the Scriptural position." Any attempt at convincing synodical members to rethink a theological issue or set of issues (that is, any attempt to follow the dissent process, as the synod allows, at least in principle), is now to be interpreted as a violation of the synod's confessional basis and an attack on Article II. An attack on the synod's resolutions and statements is an attack on Scripture itself.
Despite what the CCM opines here, this is merely a further example of how leaders in the synod view the infallible authority of the synod itself. This strikes me as idolatry.
Even if members of the synod disagree with me on the two issues of my dissent, I would think a large number (a majority?) of members would be troubled by these three opinions of the CCM. Do they not amount to a significant change to the nature of confessional subscription, one that is now quite arbitrary and subject to change? Do they not contribute to the idolization of the synod?