2012 SEPA Synod Assembly

Loyalty and the future of the Church

dog is not so sure1The Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (SEPA / ELCA) has become a disciple of Seth Godin, the leading authority on marketing and societal change with a voice on the web. They have quoted him to their congregations.

Seth’s blog today should interest them.

Confusing loyalty with silence

Some organizations demand total fealty, and often that means never questioning those in authority.

Those organizations are ultimately doomed.

Respectfully challenging the status quo, combined with relentlessly iterating new ideas is the hallmark of the vibrant tribe.

SEPA begs its congregations to innovate and change. When they don’t change the way the synod has predetermined that they SHOULD change, they close them down and claim their property.

Redeemer is a case in point. Redeemer was growing quickly when SEPA saw their longed-for chance at claiming our property slipping away. Bishop Almquist had made an attempt to close us and seize our assets in 1998 and backed off after two years. But he refused to work with us in ministry if we didn’t accept the part-time pastor he had chosen for us. His call or no call.

We continued to grow without his help.

SEPA has a mission plan for small churches. They call it triage — shoving the smallest churches to the side and waiting for them to die, while attention is spent on larger churches with more promising prospects for supporting the hierarchy. Property values and assets DO enter the equation. A small congregation is better off if it has no assets than if it has an endowment! Compare Redeemer’s story with Faith/Immanuel in East Lansdowne.

Bishop Burkat loves to call Redeemer “former Redeemer.” We are not sure if she means Redeemer of the 1960s, Redeemer of the 1980s, or the Redeemer she visited with a locksmith in 2008 and spent the last five years suing. We exist if only so we can be sued!

Or maybe she thinks because Synod Council voted to close Redeemer in 2010, never bothering to inform the congregation, that Redeemer is closed. We notice in the latest ELCA yearbook that we are still contributing to the national church! Sounds like we are open!

Synod Council does not have the power to vote congregations out of existence. They’d know that if they read their founding documents. We reserve our constitutional right to challenge synod council’s actions when SEPA can provide a fair forum for hearing a challenge. 

We recall very well our appeal in 2009 — which the Synod Assembly never voted on, substituting a vote about our property (not within their authority) when we were appealing Synodical Administration. Check the Synod Minutes and read the question that was voted on. It had nothing to do with our appeal!

Bait and switch. Then claim immunity from the law to pull it off in court.

Redeemer still exists in every way. Redeemer meets weekly — sometimes more often. Redeemer worships weekly —sometimes more often. Redeemer’s efforts to continue ministry— even as SEPA locked us out of the church we built and excluded us from all rights and fellowship within its fold—have grown our congregation in reach and influence despite persecution.

Redeemer is a vibrant tribe. We were always a viable, innovative congregation and our experience of the last five years has only made us stronger in innovation. We will relentlessly iterate our innovations for the good of all.

SEPA congregations are not powerless. They can still turn this around for the good of mission. But they have to respectfully challenge the status quo and demand peaceful reconciliation.

But what we’ve heard for the last five years is silence.

Redeemer is not closed.
Redeemer is locked out of the Church by SEPA Synod.

photo credit: WilliamMarlow via photopin cc

Mission Churches with No Web Site!!!

God is doing something new and the church is Out to Lunch. We are tempted to say Gone Fishing, but that might have theological implications that do not apply.

Redeemer Ambassadors always turn to the internet to plan our visits. We check service times, read newsletters and find out as much as we can before we visit.

We follow the process any newcomer to a neighborhood in 2012 would take when searching for a church home. They would Google their neighborhood and the word “church” to see what comes up.

Our search process reveals that neighborhood church seekers will have problems finding Lutheran churches.

Since we are looking for Lutheran churches, we start with the ELCA Trend Reports web site and use their Church Finder. We plug in 15, 20 or 25 miles for the radius and press the LOCATE button. Up comes a list. Then we click the link provided to each congregation’s web site.

We are now preparing for our 50th visit. We’d like to visit a nearby church tomorrow morning. Some of our ambassadors have afternoon plans. There are several possibilities. We’ll look for a church with an early service.

THIRTY of them have NO WEB SITE!

Several of those with no web site are mission churches under the direction of synodically appointed leaders. Note: These are just the churches in a 15-mile radius of East Falls.


We Google the name of one nearby congregation. Maybe they have a web site that isn’t listed in the national database. Great! They have a Facebook page. We check it. It has NO information beyond the church’s address.

Really, SEPA churches, what are you thinking? Are you serious about outreach? Are you part of your communities? Do you open your doors on Sunday morning and expect the neighborhood to flock there by magic?

A church can have a nice looking web site for an annual investment of $25 and no more than an hour’s set-up time. Facebook is FREE, for St. Pete’s sake! 13-year-olds know how to use it.

If you don’t have a web site, you are not serious about serving your community.

Most of these congregation’s have pastors who could set up a basic site and at least have a community presence.

Even Redeemer, the church that doesn’t exist according to SEPA and the ELCA, has a web site.

In the world of the ELCA, these churches, that are not serious about ministry, feel they have the right to take votes about the ministries of other congregations and gain from their actions. (They don’t have this right under governing laws, but that hasn’t stopped the churches and clergy of SEPA!)

God is doing something new in the Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod and many churches are not equipped to perceive it—much less take advantage of it!

We’d like to think they have Gone Fishing for Men, but the evidence is they are Out to Lunch.

photo credit: bobfranklin via photo pin cc

SEPA Lutherans Have A Second Chance

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is marking the commencement of Bishop Claire Burkat’s second term as bishop.

She and much of SEPA Synod have been jubilant at her reelection on the first ballot (by one vote) at May’s Synod Assembly.

Bishop Burkat refused to recognize one congregation which by SEPA governance was entitled to about five votes (a clergy vote, one male and one female vote, a vote as a predominantly black congregation and a vote as a multilingual congregation.)

The rest of Synod Assembly and the ELCA never questioned the edict and turned a deaf ear to our protests.

Other congregations were muscled out of existence before us, reducing the voting pool. One way to guarantee success is to intimidate or eliminate opposition.

Redeemer is not an authoritarian church and we have no idea how our delegates might have voted at the last four Synod Assemblies that have turned us away with no constitutional authority. Neither does anyone else!

We suspect that Redeemer’s five votes might have made a difference.

Redeemer, now supposedly excommunicated from Lutheran fellowship, remains loyal to the Lutheran Church. Even amid oppression, Redeemer has made a difference in the Lutheran presence in the five-county area. In court in 2009, Synod’s legal representation argued that Redeemer is the first of six churches they plan to close by force.

It would appear that a few congregations have been spared (for the time being) because of Redeemer’s stand.

We hope that in her second term, Bishop Burkat does a better job. This time we hope she leads good people in exercising the values the Lutheran Church teaches — love, compassion, gentleness, kindness, forgiveness, reconciliation, atonement and grace.

Everyone deserves a second chance.

SEPA Passes First Balanced Budget in Two Decades

At the recent Assembly of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Bishop Claire Burkat announced with pride that SEPA was adopting its first balanced budget in more than 20 years. It was formed in 1988. That’s almost its entire history.

The practice of budgeting and spending far more than they had any hope of bringing in through voluntary contributions from member churches was a very bad practice that 2×2 believes led to coveting the assets of smaller congregations. Large churches had the benefits of services from staffs they could afford only by relying on small churches giving up everything. This led to neglecting the needs of small congregations. Part time, revolving-door ministries wore down the lay people until they gave in. Several churches were forced into closure with assets going to the synod.

This is presented as good stewardship. We think it is squandering the lay people’s legacy and investments in their neighborhoods.

Constitutionally, there is no requirement that any member church contribute to Synod. There is also no constitutional requirement that congregations must designate assets to the Synod upon closing. Congregations may sell their property at any time and determine how the proceeds are to be spent. This is historic Lutheran polity. There are many stories of congregations voting to close and leaving nothing to their denomination. There is an expectation that remaining assets be used for some charitable purpose in keeping with the congregation’s mission and with the approval of the congregation, but Synods are not to be the determiners. The congregations are.

Bishops and Synod Councils are not given constitutional powers to vote congregations out of the ELCA without serious negotiation. This requires a vote of the congregation. Of course, in SEPA, if the congregation doesn’t vote SEPA’s way — you can always just declare things to be the way you want them to be. Let the people eat cake.

But thinking changed in SEPA. They were passing six-figure deficit budgets and relying on the sale of closed church properties to save the day. They placed the assets in what they called The Mission Fund. They dipped into this fund whenever their deficit budget hit the wall. Declining membership and giving in even the largest churches made this a regular occurrence.

Things have changed. SEPA’s finance committee objected to the practice of including projected sales of properties in their proposed budget. Kudos.

We like to think that Redeemer’s insistence on Lutheran polity helped turn the tide. It is very unfortunate that this new-found wisdom was at the expense of the East Falls faith community (and about six others).

Is the Lutheran Church (ELCA) becoming a cult?

martin%20luther%20sealLutherans are an accepted mainline Christian denomination. They can’t possibly be considered a cult, can they?

There is debate about what constitutes a cult as opposed to a religion. Some authorities refuse to use the word “cult.” Others believe the word appropriately describes religious groups with certain common characteristics.


Interestingly, both extremes agree on one point. Cults include religious groups that exist outside the law — including their own governing laws.


This was part of the court ruling in the SEPA/Redeemer conflict. The Pennsylvania Court of Appeals ruled in a split decision that the case brought against the congregation by the Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (SEPA/ELCA) could not be heard because of First Amendment separation of church/state. However a strongly worded dissenting opinion found that if the law is applied, Redeemer’s position is well-grounded.


The question for lay church members and all Lutherans is serious. How are we to function when our constitutions cannot be interpreted by the law and when leaders are immune from the law but do not hesitate to use their protected status and the law to attack church members?


We predict this will be a continuing problem in the Lutheran church.


As this conflict unfolded over a period of about five years, several other cultlike characteristics came to define SEPA’s leadership.


cultThe ELCA describes itself, its congregations, synods and agencies as interdependent. There is no hierarchy. Each expression is to be supportive of the other. These characteristics are not necessarily descriptive of every synod or every congregation. However, each characteristic we cite can be documented in the SEPA/Redeemer conflict. The following posts record some of what went on.

Showdown on Midvale Avenue

Our Response to Bishop Burkat

Menu Page: SEPA/Redeemer


  • Cults are control-oriented. Bishop Claire Burkat refused to work with Redeemer’s elected leaders, insisting on taking every issue directly to the congregation. This destroys constitutionally mandated congregational leadership structure. Redeemer insisted that she respect the elected leaders of the congregation as spokespeople for the congregation (which is why congregations elect leaders). Bishop Burkat replaced Redeemer’s leadership by decree — without meeting with either the leadership or the congregation to discuss this.
  • Isolation is used as a control tool. The pastor serving Redeemer in 2006 resigned with 10 days notice after a private meeting with the bishop. A year later, the pastor Redeemer hoped to call visited with the Bishop’s office and never returned to Redeemer. This gave Redeemer no clergy vote, voice or influence.
  • Cults make it difficult to leave. Redeemer passed a congregational resolution to withdraw from the ELCA, which is constitutionally allowed. According to the constitution, a request is supposed to activate a 90-day period of negotiation. SEPA responded by informing Redeemer it could not withdraw; it was officially “terminated.” The congregation would no longer have a vote or voice in any gathering of Lutherans.
  • Rights of members are not clearly defined.  Redeemer was told it had no right to appeal until a week before Synod Assembly in 2008. The cycle repeated in 2009. Throughout this process, Redeemer’s requests for appeal guidelines were ignored. The format for the appeal was provided just days before Synod Assembly. At the same time, Redeemer was told they could attend Synod Assembly ONLY for the purpose of the appeal—despite the fact that their delegate registrations had already been accepted.
  • Questioning leadership is discouraged. Redeemer’s attempts to communicate with the synod were ignored.
  • Cults treat the property of members as if it is their own. The whole purpose of the Redeemer conflict was to make Redeemer’s property synod’s property. Today, four years after the courts deeded our property to synod, Bishop Burkat can barely say  the name Redeemer. She calls us “former” Redeemer (although we never voted to close). She refers to our property as the land “once occupied” by “former Redeemer” as if we never purchased it, owned it, and built and cared for the buildings. In her mind our ownership of land seems to have been in trust — waiting for the day she wanted to claim it. Other SEPA congregations take note. If SEPA’s logic applies, you think you own your land. SEPA thinks you occupy THEIR land.
  • Cult leadership exploits vulnerable circumstances, even creating the illusion of crisis, with no attempt to address the problems. Although, SEPA refused to help the congregation find leadership, Redeemer was not in crisis. The church was growing and ready to call new leadership. Many congregations are under the false impression that Synod was financially supporting Redeemer. Other way around!
  • Cult leadership answers to no higher authority. Redeemer requested assistance from Bishop Hanson and the legal offices of the national church but were turned away. An attempt to talk to a Synod Council member (who are supposed to represent the congregations) was rebuffed.
  • Cult leadership employs deception. Synod-appointed trustees introduced themselves to Redeemer as “fact finders” not “trustees.” Redeemer was not informed it was under synodical administration for five months. Bishop Burkat came to a meeting announced for one purpose and had a locksmith hiding in a van behind the property.
  • Cult leaders use fear and intimidation. A Redeemer officer was warned to “get out while the getting is good.” The first resort of Bishop Burkat was a lawsuit naming individual church members personally. Add to this the pastors who “disappeared” after meetings in the bishop’s office. And then there was the Showdown on Midvale Avenue.
  • Cult leaders use character assassination. The story persists, first told by trustees in 2008, that Redeemer members tried to have the bishop arrested. This never happened. That was the beginning of the gossip against Redeemer leaders.
  • The lack of open debate is a sure sign of a cult. SEPA made all rules for the appeal forum. A mere 10 minutes was allotted for discussion, extended at the last minute by the bishop to 20 minutes. All of that 20 minutes was filled with pre-arranged speakers—more than doubling Synod’s presentation time. The first person to reach the microphones with a question was told “time is up.” Redeemer was not allowed to participate in the discussion. In three years, no active pastors have spoken publicly on these issues.
  • Events are controlled.  (See above)
  • The behavior of the leaders is excused no matter how harsh or harmful to members. Eleven volunteer lay members of Redeemer are threatened with the loss of their homes as the result of four years of litigation. No one in SEPA is asking if this harsh treatment of Redeemer church members is necessary or advisable.
  • Dependency on the group leader is encouraged. Analytical thought is discouraged. Redeemer was told in 2006 that they couldn’t do outreach ministry except through synod’s mission office, which would direct and control mission activity. There are no such rules in either the synod’s or the congregation’s constitutions. It is the mission of every congregation to do outreach ministry. Synod cannot possibly control them all! Or maybe they can! Our Ambassador visits reveal a high percentage of congregations have interim, bridge, or mission developer pastors, which report to Synod. There is a reason why Synods demand congregations work with a Synod Mission Office. It’s an underhanded abuse of the constitution. Once a congregation accepts help from a Mission office, they lose property rights. But congregations don’t know that until it’s too late.
  • Practical solutions are excluded in preference of a leader’s wishes. Redeemer has offered numerous compromises for peace and been ignored. There are many ways to resolve this conflict that would be in line with Christian teachings.
  • The use of loaded language. Bishop Burkat opened her only meeting with Redeemer representatives with a tirade using the word “adversarial” repeatedly. Most of the people present had never met the bishop before. The incessant and false re-telling of the “attempt to have the bishop arrested” is another example.
  • Cults promote the illusion of innovation. 2012 Synod Assembly rallying cry: “God is doing something new” without much evidence of any new thinking.
  • Excessive use of guilt. Members are never good enough. Their history is criticized. Their leaders are criticized. Their social connections are faulted. Redeemer knows all about this!
  • Leaders claim no responsibility. Members bear all the blame.
  • And finally . . . . Cults operate in defiance of the teachings of their scriptures. Lutherans should be practicing what we preach . . . love, compassion, reconciliation, forgiveness and atonement. Not in SEPA!

We’ve heard similar stories in at least three other ELCA synods, but we are not suggesting that all ELCA synods and congregations fit the above criteria. But some Lutheran entities have clearly lost their way.

There is cause for concern. We trust there is also hope.


Characteristics of cults were referenced from http://www.prem-rawat-talk.org/forum/uploads/CultCharacteristics.htm

Approving Failure—Par for the Church

2×2 has often commented on the Church’s ability to accept — even celebrate — failure. Ministries are allowed to exist in decline for decades, often with the same pastor, as things get worse and revenues dwindle until there is no more money to pay for failure or make long overdue changes.

It is inexplicable, but the Church follows the same pattern over and over. Year after year, budgets must be cut and services slashed, but we stick with the same leadership as if asking for better performance is a betrayal.

SEPA Synod just followed the familiar road. Six years of budget struggles. Six years of expensive law suits (all of which could have been avoided). Six years of decline. And SEPA Synod re-elected leadership on the FIRST ballot.

Were there no options? Was the mess too much for someone else to take on? Are people happy existing in failure? Do all the small churches in SEPA think that they are suddenly going to have more options and better accountability?

Or does everyone feel it’s hopeless—as some have expressed to us?

Redeemer has been denied a voice for four years (an issue we consider still open, since Synod Assembly never addressed our appeal on this issue). We have no voice in the Church by decree of the bishop SEPA reelected.

We will continue to watch from the outside as our ministry continues unrecognized by SEPA but effective all the same.

It doesn’t look like there’s much to celebrate for the next six years as ministry numbers will probably continue to decline across the board. We hope not! But . . . Lutherans have spoken. They like it this way!

One Last Word from the Church You Love to Hate

The Annual Assembly of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America convenes this Friday.

In 2009, the SEPA Assembly voted to allow Bishop Burkat and SEPA to take Redeemer’s property. The vote was in defiance of their own governing rules. Someone should have challenged the constitutionality right there and then.

But they didn’t. They followed the crowd.

The vote dealt with nothing but property. Bishop Burkat interpreted the vote as permission to do anything she pleased with Redeemer. She had already declared us ineligible to vote with NO constitutional authority. This part of our appeal was ignored by Synod Assembly.

She used the vote about our property to justify a personal and vindictive attack on Redeemer members. Lesson learned: Speak up for what you believe in SEPA/ELCA and have your livelihood threatened. (In East Falls, we call it the SEPA Inquisition.)

SEPA clergy and congregations remain silent. Bullying works.

And so, with no vote of the congregation and no discussion, an entire congregation was excommunicated from the ELCA and SEPA Synod. “Get out and hand us the keys.”

At least the remaining congregations know what will become of them if they dare to challenge leadership. The pattern is well documented. Your clergy will disappear. Your calls and letters will go unanswered. There will be a knock on the door. You’ll be locked out. It’s legal now, because no one spoke up. Any individual in the Church who dares to protest will have their lives turned inside out and upside down.

No one is doing a thing to stop it.

Synod Council has been ineffective at representing the congregations they serve. They fell in line behind the bishop early on. They have been hiding behind her skirts ever since.

Redeemer is still an active worshiping congregation, despite the abuse. We still have faith that Lutherans will speak up. It’s a Lutheran tradition, after all.

Redeemer’s ministry will continue regardless of the strength of SEPA’s backbone.

Redeemer is not closed. We are locked out of God’s House by SEPA Synod — its bishop, its Synod Council, its Synod Assembly and all its congregations and clergy. Shame!

Will  SEPA Synod 2012 make a difference? Probably not.

The people of East Falls will always be the people the Lutherans of SEPA turned away.

God is doing something new . . . with Redeemer, East Falls

SEPA has a new website for congregations to share ministry initiatives. SEPA has been ignoring Redeemer ministry initiatives for years. We doubt our contributions to their website would be recognized.

We’ll share them here.

Please keep in mind that the initiatives we list are in addition to the work every church does — planning worship, caring for the needs of congregants, and witnessing our faith.

God has been doing something new at Redeemer for a long time. 

Ministry to and by immigrant community. God has been reaching out to immigrants through Redeemer for nearly 16 years. How is this new? There are two traditional methods of reaching out to ethnic communities.

  1. Have separate worship services with separate leadership, creating a community within a community.
  2. Have one size fits all liturgical offerings.

Redeemer’s approach differed because we worked hard to unite new church members with older community members. We could write a separate entry for many of the techniques we integrated into our community life. It has been a broad-based comprehensive outreach effort. It was successful. The congregation was growing (probably at the fastest rate of any SEPA congregation) when SEPA Synod Bishop Claire Burkat (sensing that a long-desired wish to control our property might be slipping away) declared, “White Redeemer must be allowed to die; black Redeemer…we can put them anywhere.”

God is doing something else new . . 

Community involvement.  SEPA Synod locked Redeemer members out of God’s House and kept the doors locked for nearly three years. Meanwhile, Redeemer has found new ways of maintaining our worship life. We’ve built on our existing relationships with the community. An offer of free meeting space has strengthened our connections with the local theater club. We have become more involved in the East Falls Community Council. At a recent Community Council meeting we sat and listened to SEPA Representative Rev. Patricia Davenport tell the community they are interested in having a Word and Sacrament church here. Meanwhile they haven’t a clue as to what to do with the property they took from us — that was being used as a Word and Sacrament church with a vibrant ministry.

God is doing something new . . 

Ambassadors Program. Without a church home, Redeemer representatives began visiting other churches, learning from them and sharing with them. This has broadened our traditions . . . even as SEPA calls us closed. We are seeing the common challenges of small churches and are gaining an  advantage in finding ways to serve small faith communities.

God is doing something new . . . 

Internet Ministry. We experimented with our web-based ministry with great success. We are still collecting ideas and implementing initiatives through our website and watching very carefully how the site is viewed and what problems are most on readers’ minds. We are challenged to find ways to respond to the needs we discover . . and they are very interesting.

God is doing something new . . .

Worldwide mission impact. Redeemer is in conversation with church leaders from all over the world, using the internet to grow ministry. We believe our work will have widespread influence in the regional church and worldwide among Lutherans and interdenominationally. We will create a strong base of support for initiatives that will help small churches. We believe it is possible to fund small ministries through initiatives that compensate for the challenged offering plate.

God is doing something new . . .

Justice. Redeemer is learning the cost of standing for what we believe in and are learning the weaknesses of Lutheran government. We are in conversation with other small congregations struggling with their cash-strapped synods. We hope our experience will one day make the church we love (despite its attacks on our members) stronger. We envision a church active in mission in new ways with renewed vision for a new generation ministering to a changing world.

God has more work cut out for us . . .

Reconciliation. We hope that one day SEPA Lutherans feel powerful enough in God’s love to reconcile with us. That too will break new ground.

SEPA was stronger with Redeemer than it is without us.

“I have the power.” Where have we heard that before?

God created many small things, including small churches, with enormous power.

Today’s scripture from John 10:18 says (Jesus speaking of giving his life), “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again.”

The words sound familiar to Redeemer. Bishop Burkat was heard to say four years ago at a gathering in Chicago, ELCA headquarters, “I have the power to close that church and I intend to close it.”

Within two days she came to Redeemer supposedly for a “mutual discernment” meeting. She brought with her a lawyer, a sizable posse of support which had not been announced as coming. She also had a locksmith hiding behind the property out of sight.

Constitutionally, Bishop Burkat doesn’t have the power to seize congregational property. That’s clearly spelled out in Synod’s Articles of Incorporation.  We’ve been pointing this out to SEPA clergy for three years.

Bishop Burkat is getting away with her interpretation of her power because no one dares stop her. Why?

The courts have said they do not have jurisdiction in intrachurch disputes. Four years of costly legal maneuvering and the case was never heard. Courts want church people to solve their own problems.

Church people operating under the structure of the ELCA seem to be unable to do this. We can guess that they fear the vindictive treatment received by the members of Redeemer who dared to challenge Bishop Burkat. It has been horrific, but SEPA congregations don’t want to be bothered with nastiness.

The latest judge in four years of courtroom drama pointed out to Synod that there are legitimate constitutional questions. The split decision favoring their position isn’t a “slam dunk” for Synod. Two judges agree with Redeemer’s position to the letter. That should interest SEPA Lutherans. A good number of you are no larger or stronger than Redeemer.

Good Shepherd Sunday is a good time for SEPA Lutherans to ponder how power within the church is meant to be used. Jesus used his power sacrificially. Bishop Burkat uses power for monetary gain and prestige.

It is Lutheran polity for the various arms of the church to work together, as interdependent equals. In Lutheran polity, leaders are servants. That’s true in Chicago, in Mt. Airy and in every congregation. There is no power — save that of the Gospel — in Lutheran polity. It’s time for us to insist on that.

And the courts have told you — it’s our job, not theirs.

photo credit: Creativity+ Timothy K Hamilton via photo pin cc

In Search of Wisdom in the Church

We are reposting some information which has a permanent home on the 2×2 web site on our Proverbs Page.

SEPA Synod Assembly convenes one week from tomorrow. We always hope that as a body, Lutherans can improve their policies and services to the many small congregations which make up their membership. As long as small churches are seen as prey to fund Synod’s budget shortfalls — limiting services (for which all contribute) to the clergy and larger churches — there will be inequity and injustice within SEPA.

The cannibalism of the church must stop for the good of all. 2×2 has visited 44 SEPA congregations. We’ve seen many of them facing challenges with little hope for help from the denomination they joined in the 1980s. Many feel alienated and wary of involvement with SEPA.

This is a weakness that can be fixed!

The Lutheran Church was founded by a man who called out to the Church of his era to end policies that took advantage of weakest members. Any Lutheran who claims today that leadership cannot be challenged is denying this proud heritage.

We hope that someday the many members of SEPA Synod will muster the fortitude to right the wrongs against Redeemer and other small congregations that have been victimized by intentional neglect (which Bishop Burkat terms “triage”).

The prevailing “wisdom” must be challenged.

We collected some wisdom from the heritage of our members—all of whom have been locked out of the Lutheran church and denied representation at Synod Assemblies for four years. The first section is a collection of proverbs from Africa—the majority membership of Redeemer. The last entry is a very old tale from the tradition of our European heritage. Enjoy!

A shepherd does not strike his sheep.
For lack of criticism, the trunk of the elephant grew very long.
When a king has good counselors, his reign is peaceful.
The powerful should mind their own power.
A clever king is the brother of peace.
The house of a leader who negotiates survives.
To lead is not to run roughshod over people.
A quarrelsome chief does not hold a village together.
Threats and insults never rule.
He who dictates separates himself from others.
A leader does not listen to rumors.
If the leader limps, all the others start limping, too.
Good behavior must come from the top.
An elder is a healer.
One head does not contain all the wisdom.
A leader who does not take advice is not a leader.
Whether a chief is good or bad, people unify around someone.
The cow that bellows does so for all cows.
A powerful leader adorns his followers.
True power comes through cooperation.
The chief’s true wealth is his people.
Where trust breaks down, peace breaks down.
If you show off your strength, you will start a battle.
A leader should not create a new law when he is angry.
What has defeated the elders’ court, take to the public.
It is better to be a lion for a day than a sheep all your life.
If your only tool is a hammer, you will see every problem as a nail.
Do not call a dog with a whip in your hand.
Leaders who use force fear reason.
To agree to dialogue is the beginning of peaceful resolution.
If two wise men always agree, then there is no need for one of them.
If you feast on pride, you will have no room for wisdom.
When the village chief himself goes around inviting people to a meeting,
know there is something very wrong going on.
Other people’s wisdom prevents the king from being called a fool. 
Force is not profitable.
Do not light a fire under a fruit-bearing tree.
In times of crisis, the wise build bridges.
It is easy to stand in a crowd; it takes courage to stand alone.
Be sure you stand on solid ground before you stretch out to grab something.
Be a neighbor to the human being, not to the fence. 
Calling a leader wise does not make him wise.
A leader who understands proverbs reconciles differences.

Of course, there are a host of proverbs in the Bible!

We have one remaining proverb/parable from the tradition of our European members. Some little child should speak up and say, “This is sheer foolishness.”


And so the Emperor set out at the head of the great procession. It was a great success. All the people standing by cheered and cried, “Oh, how splendid are the Emperor’s new clothes. What a
magnificent train! How well the clothes fit!” No one dared to admit that he couldn’t see anything, for who would want it to be known that he was either stupid or unfit for his post? None of the Emperor’s clothes had ever met with such grand approval!

But among the crowd a little child suddenly gasped, “But he hasn’t got anything on.” And the people began to whisper to one another what the child had said till everyone was saying, “But he hasn’t got anything on.” The Emperor himself had the uncomfortable feeling that what they were whispering was only too true. “But I will have to go through with the procession,” he said to himself.

So he drew himself up and walked boldly on holding his head higher than before, and the courtiers held on to the train that wasn’t there at all. — Hans Christian Andersen