We live in tumultuous times in The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod. There are certainly benefits to belonging to the synod - such as access to our universities and seminaries to secure teachers and pastors, the various benefits packages for church workers, the idea of being in a fellowship (rather than being an independent little raft adrift in the ocean), and the venerable witness and historical precedent of those who came before us in affiliating with the LCMS - especially in its finest hours of preserving the Lutheran confessional witness in the face of 19th century unionism and the integrity of the Holy Scriptures in the face of 20th century liberalism.
Leaving the synod ought not be a decision to take lightly.
However, if a pastor and/or a congregation leave the synod, it would seem that one of the advantages is no longer having to deal with the headaches that synodical membership brings. For example, the LCMS worship wars, the political strife, the "anything goes" approach to certain matters in our synod (which are doctrinal and/or practical according to whom you ask) - such as the role of women, closed communion, and the nature of the office of the ministry. Leaving synod would mean no more fuss about whether to support Ablaze!(tm) or not, worrying about either supporting President Kieschnick or finding a candidate to run against him, having to take sides regarding the Board of Directors or the lawsuit against Kieschnick, the rancorous discussions within the CTCR and the CCM, etc.
In some ways, walking away from the synod would be liberating.
What I don't understand is why so many pastors leave our synod, and then spend the rest of their valuable days in the service of the Lord continuing to fight battles that no longer concern them? Christian News, for example, is filled with rants by former LCMS pastors that deal again and again with internal LCMS matters. Why do these guys even care any more? Shouldn't leaving have freed up their time to deal with more substantive matters? Heck, even more recreational time with the family would be an improvement.
Another example: I get e-mails from a former LCMS pastor whose church left the synod (with him leaving as well). Often, the e-mails have helpful announcements and such, but sometimes they are the pastor's personal editorials on internal Missouri Synod affairs - which no longer concern him. Why? I mean, why go to the trouble to leave and then continue working on your Missouri ulcer? For what?
Then there are former pastors who have left Lutheranism all together. One of them is a good friend of mine, a seminary classmate, and a man of integrity who could no longer serve as an LCMS pastor and joined the Orthodox Church as a layman (after having been compelled to violate his conscience on vicarage and having a very difficult first call in the LCMS ministry). Once he left, his former grumpy constitution went away. Even his voice changed. His constant stresses were no more. He told me he was so much more at peace, and never worries about who gets elected to synodical offices or what resolution gets passed. He spends his time trying to be a faithful lay Christian and family man. That seems like the right way to leave the synod.
Mind you, I wish he would have stayed in the ministry (he was a top-notch theologian and pastor) and in our fellowship. It grieves me that we are no longer in fellowship, but his conscience didn't permit him to remain a member of synod nor a Lutheran layman. He cut the apron strings, and never tries to tell us how to run our synod.
But there are other men who have left Missouri and are now either Orthodox laymen or priests. Many (not all, by any means) continue to argue, debate, write, react, and post to blogs about internal Lutheran and LCMS matters. They spend hours involved in LCMS squabbles. What's the point?
If my congregation ever decides to leave the LCMS (and I'm by no means saying this is even on the back burner), I certainly would not be reading CTCR decisions and spending hours writing retorts to synodical resolutions and decrees of the LCMS president. I would be lying if I were to say that no longer even reading such things wouldn't be a great benefit to changing affiliations.
There seems to be something terribly unhealthy about obsessing over an organization that you have left, and trying to impose your will upon it from the outside. If one's emotions and sentiments are that strongly attached, why leave? And if not, why the hand-wringing? Why not get on with one's life and vocation post-Missouri? Isn't there enough to keep an Orthodox priest or an independent Lutheran pastor busy?
Maybe someone can explain it to me.