Friday, February 08, 2008

Lutheran Schools as Mission.

The new congregation we have joined is one of several that support a local Lutheran LCMS school. I have observed that this congregation seems to be at a point that they no longer wish to be a part of this conglomeration of congregations that support this school. I think that this is a two-fold issue for them. One of the folds is money, the congregation has to obligate for a certain amount based on how many families they have attending. This is a rather small congregation and as such this is a burden at times for them. The second issue I believe is a high level of doctrinal rigor that the school is perceived as not maintaining. Examples include the use of Willowcreek leadership materials for the staff, avoidance of specifically Lutheran Confessional statements and a general softening and mixing of the specific religious claims. I can validate this last one to some extent. When I made the initial call to the office to check on admissions I specifically asked, " Is there an emphasis placed on Lutheran doctrine and tradition?" To which the secretary pleasantly replied " Oh no, that’s never really discussed or study" My disappointment must have been apparent over the phone as she grew quiet and then tried to stammer something out. Clearly, the majority of calls she handles are from non-Lutherans inquiring about the school, as far as I could tell I was the first person who had expressed an interest in the opposite direction. In defense of the school, I am very pleased with the study materials that our kids were first introduced to, including a rather thorough history of Luther and the reformation for the 7th graders. Several obvious Lutheran art objects were also noted in the hallways and a great many of the teachers and staff are from Lutheran backgrounds. Still I feel that the aforementioned congregation probably has some legitimate concerns.
I am more concerned with the congregation having revealed its concerns of heterodoxy in the LCMS to the district. The congregation is signaling that it may be breaking with Missouri and as far as I can tell no one at the District level or higher has attempted to talk to the congregation. Why would that be, can the synod’s leadership no longer defend it’s actions or inactions from the scriptures? If the leadership were certain of its position why wouldn’t it try to correct a potentially wayward congregation? Surely that would be the loving thing to do. It leads me to believe that the district would just as soon not have the trouble that this congregation seems to be causing, based on it’s belief in scripture. An example is one of the other local LCMS congregations having a music service with one of the local charismatic (non-Lutheran charismatic that is) churches. This was brought before the district with the final arbitration being, it wasn’t worship. I’m okay with that, I think we should be finding opportunities to fellowship with other Christians, albeit with a critical eye as to ensuring it not occur in anything that the laity would construe as being Divine Service. I don’t think that level of scrutiny went on though, but hey we got a favorable review in the local newspaper and made it look like we were movers and shakers in the local church scene, how many times can a Missouri church say that, huh?
Enough side tracking, my initial thought though regarding Lutheran schools has been, why do we call them Lutheran if we aren’t’ going to walk the walk? I mean its not like anyone sending there kid there would seriously say, hey I don’t like all this Lutheran reformation talk that goes on! We say were Lutheran, let’s teach it! This line of thinking led me to ponder, why do non Lutherans send there kids to our schools anyway? Is it just because were not the Catholic school down the road. Although for many I do believe this is a big motivator. But many non-Christians also send their kids. I feel they do it because they perceive a better quality environment and scholastics. So in the best of Lutheran traditions I will ask "What does this mean?" It means that many people when given the chance would and do like to have their children associating with all these young Lutheran boys and girls, because they perceive a difference. That difference is the one that believers can present to their neighbors, workers and co-students. Ideally non-believers are attracted to the lives that our children and teachers are presenting as saved, sacramental, scriptural people. Don’t get me wrong, I know first hand that our children and teachers are sinners, and many times display the worst characteristics rather than the righteous ones. The point I’m trying to make I guess is that non-Lutherans may attend our schools and we need to seize that opportunity to proclaim the gospel to them, in the Lutheran tradition. What greater gift can we give these students and their families, than the correct interpretation, the Lutheran interpretation of the gospel? I believe our doctrines to be the clearest understandings regarding the Bible, sacraments, and nature of God. The men and women who established our synod also believed it. Let’s not throw away a golden opportunity that we have to use our schools as witnessing and instructional tools. I think that many times we have started soft-pedaling our doctrine for fear of turning off someone on our school rosters. How can this be, do we believe that our basic doctrine is so terrible that it cannot be presented in full light? If this is the case, how pitiful we have become. We shame the memory of all those 19th century Christians who left home, family and land at great expense to worship as their conscience and understanding of scripture dictated. Let us have but a fraction of that original courage and say, "Yes! We’re Lutheran, and we’d love to teach your children about it!"

2 Comments:

Blogger Frank said...

Been there done that. We used to have a “Lutheran” school here but it closed down. I remember a presentation they made promoting it to our council where when asked if they were teaching any doctrine at all and they said absolutely not because most students didn’t even know what a Bible. “Are you going to teach them what the Bible is?” was the next question. “No, that’s up to the parents. We’re only going to teach them Bible stories that we feel the kids absolutely need to know” No walking any walk there.

4:13 PM  
Blogger VirginiaLutherans said...

Welcome back! I have observed a similar tendency to avoid defending bad practice. I have also been reading the Book of Concord and the LC-MS is not matching up well at all. I hope the Synod turns around, but the heterodoxy is becoming a millstone. What has your church looked into for options outside LC-MS?

6:10 PM  

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