A Janus-faced Synod

There are words in English that mean two different things. For example, ‘bolt’ means both secure in place and to dart away. ‘Dust’ means to both remove material and spread material. ‘Trim’ means to both add and to take away. ‘Cleave’ means to separate and to adhere firmly. The technical term for such words is contronym. The popular name for them is Janus-faced words from the Greek god Janus that had two faces looking in opposite directions (Crazy English, 86-90).

The LCMS is a contronym. Pastor Robert Rojas, Jr. wrote a stirring editorial on how confessional Lutherans are not alone, and his evidence is startling. Based on the 2016 Synodical Convention results: 95% are in favor of our understanding of worship and liturgy. 83% support closed Communion. 97% supported the Biblical understanding of marriage. 91% support protecting women from being drafted (“We’re Not Alone: A Brief Summary of the 2016 Convention, posted July 29, 2016).

Is this the Synod you live, worship, or pastor in? Do these numbers reflect what is going on in your District, your circuit? I have pastored 4 churches in 34 years of ministry, and the majority of churches around me have always practiced open Communion.

Here’s where I get hoisted on my own petard. I wrote to the CTCR about 10 years ago – it’s on our website somewhere (I think) – that Synodical conventions represent only 11% of the parishes but 100% of the Synodical bureaucracy. That is true, so how did we get the above percentages?

Well, first, as I’ve said elsewhere, when the country is going liberal the LCMS convention in reaction goes more conservative. There was a definite sense in the summer of 2016 that the wheels were falling off the wagons of morality, marriage, sexuality, and society. I see these overwhelmingly conservative numbers reflecting a popular desire to put the brakes on the wagon.

Second, as one delegate told me, the convention was all orchestrated by the president’s office. He’s confessional, so the bureaucracy at the synodical level reflects that as well.

Does anybody think the 11% of the local churches and pastors represented at the last convention reflect what the 89% of the Synod at large believes, teaches, or confesses? Do a little casual web surfing. You will find that the majority of websites you happen upon don’t reflect the confessional positions the convention supported.

What now? If I have established that the LCMS is indeed Janus-faced, whoever considered being two-faced a good thing? Out of the same fountain can’t come both salt and sweet, says James 3:11. When both confessional and liberal positions are heard from the same synod, there are two fountains, two synods in reality.

The problem with this is that the bureaucracy at all levels refuses to admit this. So, they herd us into Communion celebrations at every level – circuity, district, synod – to celebrate a unity that doesn’t exist, and they know does not. This is sin on their part for which they will be held accountable as well as we who so let ourselves be wrangled.

The Scriptural, Confessional, faithful thing to do is to stop these unionistic communion service until we can do as St. Paul says, “speak with the same thing that there be no divisions among you” (1 Cor. 1:10). The pagan thing to do is continue to worship at the altar of Janus. We are contronyms to the core because what we do is both.

About Paul Harris

Pastor Harris retired from congregational ministry after 40 years in office on 31 December 2023. He is now devoting himself to being a husband, father, and grandfather. He still thinks cenobitic monasticism is overrated and cave dwelling under.
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