Monday, June 11, 2007
LCMS committee recommendations propose lawlessness
I don't usually read all the mounds of stuff that come pouring in to delegates who have been elected to synodical conventions. So today I got Today's Business, which is the first load of information synodical delegates will need to use at the upcoming LCMS (Missouri Synod) convention in Houston (14-21 July 2007), and, as usual, I paged rather nonchalantly through it, and happened to come upon what I think may be a key issue at this convention: the relation of the LCMS constitution to the civil courts.
For the uninformed, one issue which has been hotly debated over the past several years has been the question of compatibility of LCMS rulings and bylaws with the laws of the state of Missouri, in which the LCMS is registered as a church body. There have been concerns raised by members of the Synod's Board of Directors that the Synodical President and the Commission on Constitutional Matter have overstepped their legal bounds in the application of their authority with respect to the Synod. This has resulted in the filing of a lawsuit which dragged on for a few years until it was finally settled out of court. But it was not really resolved. New allegations have arisen, and the issue still burns hotly.
Well, now comes this proposal by the ad hoc Resolution 7-02A Committee to change the constitution so that the controversy should be resolved internally, without recourse to the civil courts.
All this sounds well and good, in a sense. St. Paul's well-known warnings against lawsuits come to mind (the fact that Jesus First is constantly reminding us of them is probably the reason they come to mind so readily), and the case can easily be made that the recommendations of this committee should all be followed, to resolve this in a God-pleasing way.
I hate to rain on their parade, but could someone explain to me how lawlessness is God-pleasing? Embedded in the midst of tons of verbiage (honestly, I just happened to see this, without more than a five-minute skimming of this sleep-inducing document) is this little proposed addition: "Any issues relative to the applicability of the laws of the State of Missouri shall be resolved in accord with the provisions in the Constitution and Bylaws of the Synod."
Holy cow, just think about that, folks. Let me translate, if you need it: The Constitution of the Missouri Synod has legal precedence over the law of the land, in all things. And that's the definition of lawlessness. It says this: we get to say how we shall behave, and no government can say otherwise.
They'll argue, no doubt (as they already have), that the state cannot interfere with the church's affairs, and that, as St. Peter, we ought to obey God rather than men. But let's remember that St. Peter was not advocating anarchy.
This suggested constitutional change has me stunned. Do they really mean to say "any issues"? --Any issues at all?--"relative to the applicability of the laws of the State of Missouri shall be resolved in accord with the provisions in the Constitution and Bylaws of the Synod"? OK, just for the sake of argument, let's say the Constitution of the Synod should enact a provision permitting the confiscation of the property of a minister who is voted out of office by his congregation. What then? State law doesn't apply? Or let's say that a parish which votes to leave the Synod has to give its property to the Synod. Can't do that, you say? Our polity doesn't allow that? No, it doesn't. Not now. But what if that changed? What if some convention just voted the change in? Heaven knows, conventions have been known to do some pretty goofy things. So let's just go even further. Say the Missouri Synod became a weird, outlandish cult (I know what you're thinking, but let's be charitable here), and decided, like the Jim Jones group, to administer poisoned Kool-Aid to its people on retreat in Guyana, or even Perry County. And say they put that provision into a bylaw, by simple majority vote, in a simply goofy convention. Hey, "Any issues relative to the applicability of the laws of the State of Missouri shall be resolved in accord with the provisions in the Constitution and Bylaws of the Synod," so, I'm sorry, officer, you're just going to have to turn around and go home. Yeah, I know there are a bunch of dead people here, and you may think there's been a mass murder, but we have this bylaw, see, and it says, "Any issues relative to the applicability of the laws of the State of Missouri shall be resolved in accord with the provisions in the Constitution and Bylaws of the Synod."