The Spirit and conventions
Recently, you published a letter in which a pastor lamented the use of various election lists at the Synod convention (“Letters,” April ’04). He asked why we cannot simply trust the Holy Spirit to guide us. He said that we should conduct our convention elections like congregations do in the selection and call of pastors.
As I understand it, we are to test the spirits (1 John 4). We Lutherans have operated with the idea that the Spirit of God works through means, primarily through the Word of Scripture. Luther was upset by those who felt that the Holy Spirit worked directly on them, telling them what God was saying, or telling them what He wanted them to do.
In the normal call process, congregations rarely take the whole list of eligible pastors, pray to God for guidance and draw names from a hat. Such a procedure might make as much sense as the way we normally extend a call, but that is not how we do it.
We ask members for names to be submitted to the district president. He reviews the list, often deleting some names for reasons known to him, often adding other names. He puts both prayer and research into it, and sends the congregation a list of “qualified” names from which to call. He will also send their qualifications. Even then, congregations sometimes demand additional information, including a personal interview with several candidates. All this information is presented to the congregation, sometimes with their own call committee’s recommendation.
Only then is it put to a vote. We believe that all of this is the working of the Holy Spirit. If it is not, then we should rise up and demand that such procedures be banned at all levels. Instead, we find congregations often asking for even more information than they receive about the pastors they call to serve them.
So it should not be surprising that many delegates to the Synod convention actually want more information about candidates before casting votes. Perhaps publication of various election lists is filling a perceived need that the Synod’s nominating committees should address more fully. It might even be the working of the Holy Spirit through means.
Rev. Franklin H. Giebel
I wish that Pastor Mueller wouldn’t blame the Holy Spirit for all the messes into which our Synod has gotten itself over the years. Certainly, we ask the Holy Spirit to guide the election process in all of our elections. That doesn’t mean that we are not to be responsible for the candidates, and particularly for the characteristics of the candidates for office.
Indeed, let’s pray that the Holy Spirit would guide the election process. And then let us work toward that end as though it depends on us. Isn’t that what we do in other aspects of our church life? We pray for the lost — but do we then just simply sit back and do nothing? The adage is true: “Ora et labora.” Work and pray!
Rev. Earl W. Elowsky
I want to underscore what Pastor Andrew Spallek wrote in his letter in the March Reporter: It is true that individual contributions to congregations are increasing, but it is also true that the costs of basic congregational operations are increasing at an even greater rate than contributions. This means districts will receive fewer unrestricted dollars from congregations and will, in turn, send fewer unrestricted dollars to the national Synod.
These trends did not occur overnight, and they will not be reversed overnight. Pastor Spallek is correct in pointing out that maturing stewardship, motivated by God’s grace in Jesus, is the key to reversing these trends.
Many good resources are available to congregations to take their stewardship nurture efforts to a higher level. Districts have staff members to help them get more intentional in their stewardship efforts. The Congregational Stewardship Workbook is a basic, comprehensive resource to help congregations develop year-round and whole-life stewardship education for all ages. Sample bulletin sentences and newsletter articles are available free of charge to assist in holding up stewardship every Sunday and month of the year.
Information on the workbook and the free resources is available by going to the DCS-Stewardship Ministry Web site at www.lcms.org/stewardship.
Rev. Larry L. Reinhardt
LCMS Stewardship Ministry
“Letters” may be sent via e-mail to REPORTER@lcms.org or by mail to REPORTER Letters, 1333 S. Kirkwood Road, St. Louis, MO 63122-7295. Please include your name, postal address and telephone number. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.
Posted April 30, 2004