Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Non-Reporter and Big Brother Ablaze!(tm)

A certain church convention of the future?


I just got the new Reporter, the national monthly "official" newspaper of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod.

A couple of things caught my eye.

According to page 11, there was a conference put on by the Women's Leadership Institute to promote women's leadership in the church, including: "technology, getting youth involved in ministry [sic], vocation, worship styles, spirituality, and outreach." Interesting, especially when juxtaposed with page 2 of the Ablaze!(tm) update insert highlighting the work of 4 long term missionaries (sic) in England, Germany, and Hungary. None of them are ordained, and, in fact, all of them are women. This, when pastors are being recalled from missionary fields.

Also interesting, on page 3 of the Ablaze!(tm) insert, there is a new congregation in the LCMS called "theAlley" (lower-case "t", no space, and upper-case "A") in which the benediction at the end of the service (sic) closes with "...Amen. Now hit the streets." The self-importance of this congregation is such that even the mighty English language must bow to its quirks. There are several sentences in the Reporter that begin with a lowercase "t" to accommodate the iconoclastic appellation of this heavily featured and funded operation. Page 4 of the insert highlights another "church plant" (sic) that, like theAlley, avoids any mention of being Lutheran. It's called "Mosaic" and is touted as a "worshiping community" that holds "celebration events."

Under the headline "Acts 1:8 offers outreach tips" (which made me want to respond: "well, that's mighty nice of the Bible, isn't it?), we're given an example of a church marketing strategy: give out free postage stamps on tax day. Of course, Acts 1:8 says nothing about gimmicks and giveaways, but rather testifies of our Lord giving the Eleven the authority to preach by virtue of the promised Holy Spirit, and telling them they are to be "witnesses" (Greek: "martyrs") to the whole world. And there is no gimmick or giveaway that corresponds to martyrdom. But hey, people need postage stamps and eternal salvation. So why not offer it as a bundle? I sold a lot of candy and goodies at Hollywood Video using this technique, so why should the Christian faith be any different than convincing people to buy microwave snacks?

But what I find extraordinary is not so much what the Reporter says, but what it doesn't say.

The most significant news event in the life of our church body over recent weeks has been the Issues, Etc. affair, in which a popular syndicated radio program (and podcast) of that name was suddenly canceled, five days before Easter, and two full-time employees (one a called pastor, and the other whose wife has serious health issues) were sacked. They were not told why, and they were urged to sign a gag order about the whole matter.

The response of the people of our churches has been phenomenal. More than 7,000 signatures were added to an online petition in some three weeks. People in every state and many countries around the world were outraged. Pastors, laypeople, and even prominent theologians from outside the Lutheran tradition weighed in. Blogsites and facebook groups were spawned. Freewill offerings in the thousands of dollars were raised for the two men who were fired.

David Strand, of the synod's Board for Communications Services, who carried out the firings, was swamped with e-mails. His response was a lot of bureaucratic doublespeak and a great deal of legal-ese and business-ese argot coming from the church headquarters. The president of the synod claimed no input of, but rather knowledge of, the decision, while the rest of the Board was not told the firings were coming at all.

An op-ed in the Wall Street Journal by LCMS congregation member and popular religion writer Mollie Hemingway showcased the conflict and brewing disunity in the LCMS. The president of the synod, Rev. Jerry Kieschnick, replied by denying that there is disunity in synod - which ran along with other responses which clearly showed the extant level of disunity that the president denies. The whole thing has a surreal, Orwellian feel to it.

The Board for Communications Services ran an ad seeking a replacement for the talk-show host who had been sacked, only to revoke it after a day of receiving outraged calls and e-mails, claiming the posting was a "mistake."

There was even a first-ever protest at the International Center of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod, as some 80 peaceful demonstrators carried signs (while employees were told not to speak to the media, to avoid the protesters, and barriers were even put up in the building). Pictures were taken of the demonstrators by synodical employees. For Lutherans, particularly conservative Missouri Synod Lutherans, to demonstrate is nothing short of extraordinary, as any casual listener of A Prairie Home Companion would be inclined to infer.

So, what does the Reporter have to say about all of this?

[cue the sound effect of crickets chirping]

No reporting in the Reporter. Not even in the letters to the editor - and I find it hard to believe that the editor suffered from a paucity of letters this month! Our church's newspaper should be called the Non-Reporter this month. Is this, as the evolutionists would have us believe, purely by accident, or was this by some top-down design?

Now, to be fair, there is an oblique reference to the situation on page three under the headline: "Kieschnick addresses unity, division in synod". And, as the title would indicate, the president is saying two things at the same time. As Father Duddleswell once remarked about fence-sitting, it's no wonder the human backside looks like it does.

So, it looks like the Reporter is destined to face the same decline as the mainstream media, especially the big newspapers, as technology makes it more and more difficult to control the flow of information via a central bureaucracy, whereby things that happened can be written out of existence and where things that are untrue can be given an official endorsement, along the lines of 1984.

But of course, Orwell never considered the role of bloggers in the neutralizing of Big Brother's monopoly on information. I don't think a lot of the dino-crats in St. Louis do either.

9 comments:

helen said...

I'm glad you are still in the Hollywood computer.
You keep telling truth about the Reporter
and you may need them.

You won't be the first, of course.

Family of Michael & Jen-Yi Paul said...

Thank you for your pithy and insightful summary.

Lutheran Lucciola said...

This is a fantastic article you wrote. Thank you!

The Rebellious Pastor's Wife said...

Isn't it amazing...absolutely nothing.

Do they really think this will go away?

Orianna Laun said...

Think it's time to go back and read Animal Farm, hm?

Chris said...

Depending on how bad this gets, and on how truly "Orwellian" it is...then Jesus had a great comment (though addressed to Jews at the time, not wholly without merrit today):

"You must be on your guard. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them. And the gospel must first be preached to all nations." - St. Mark 13:9-10

Keep speaking the Gospel...if they have a problem with that, they can take it up with Him.

Chris said...

Father,

Do you know of a website for "Mosaic?" The only church I can find that uses the language you say it uses is a non-denominational church of Baptist heritage.

Chris

Polly said...

My thoughts EXACTLY when I read this recent Reporter. Nothing Lutheran about it.

Flo said...

God bless you.

Please keep talking.

I feel marginalized by the higher ups since they have labeled as "hyper-orthodox" (vs. what, "hyper-heterodox"?) those folks who who value Lutheran theology as it was so eloquently expressed on Issue Etc.

Painful stuff.