What is this?
It’s a reform proposal for the LCMS.
Who are you?
I’m Lincoln Winter, pastor of a tri-point parish in Southeastern Wyoming and Northern Colorado. I’ve been in the LCMS my whole life: graduated from LCMS grade school, high school, university, and seminary. I’ve served as a pastor in the LCMS for 22 years. My interest is actually NOT administration – it’s catechesis. You can see my work here: teachthesethings.wordpress.com. I also have a blog, which you can look at here: predigtamt.wordpress.com. This proposal isn’t about me. It’s about steps our synod must take in order to move forward and stop getting blindsided by every crisis that comes our way.
Why publish this as a webpage instead of working through our synod’s regular procedure?
Because any proposals for serious reform are either omnibussed into obscurity, or rewritten to encourage the status quo. The status quo can not continue. We’ve lost two Concordias. Another major restructuring of the International Center is in process. Does anyone seriously think that’s the end of it, or that either of those things solve our problems?
Are you going to be publishing recommended resolutions?
Why not write resolutions?
Because resolutions for reform go through floor committees and are converted into studies. The studies report back three years later, the committee is thanked for their work, and that is the end of it. We had a district reform committee in 2010. It resulted in no reforms to district structure. We’ve had committees to study the name of synod – the name did not change; the nomenclature of the synod – the nomenclature did not change; the procedure for electing delegates – that did not change, etc.
Similarly, we have had synod officers who wanted to change the election of the President – it changed. They wanted to change the election of the Vice Presidents – it changed. They wanted to change the structure of the IC. It changed. They wanted to change the synod to have regional representation on the Preasidium – and we do.
Like it or not, reform proposals from the grassroots generally fail. Reform proposals from synod officers usually succeed, insofar as any reforms have succeeded in our synod.
If the goal isn’t resolutions, what is the goal?
To get our synod officers on board with major reforms before we hit a wall.
Selma closed in 2018. Portland in 2020. We don’t need a study commissioned by the 2022 convention, to report back with recommendations for implementation to the 2025 convention, to be implemented over a three year period ending in 2028, by which time they will have been forgotten, not implemented. How many of our schools will be left? How much more damage will there be in all areas of our Life Together by then?
We have time to fix some of these problems – maybe, and even then, only just. Unless someone in a position of authority is willing to take on the mantle of reform, any reforms will die long before they are implemented, and if they are implemented it will be long after they are useful.
I am calling on the leaders of our synod to take up these reforms now.
What if no one takes up the mantle of reform?
Unless and until a leader in our synod takes up the cause as his own, nothing will change.
I have no idea who that man is. I pray it is President Harrison. If he does nothing, there will be continued cuts to the corporate structure when the money runs out again, and there will be more closures of Concordias. The business model we currently follow will end – either because we took the initiative to do something about it and solve the problems, or because the problems overwhelmed us and stripped us of our worldly ambitions and pretensions. The synod can not be maintained as is. Cracks have begun to show, not in the walls, but in the foundations of our humanly devised structures.
Do you really think this will work?
I don’t have any illusions about the chances of this being adopted or implemented at this point. I know that if we want a path forward, instead of continuing down our current unworkable path, we need to return to first principles: Scripture and the confessions. A specific structure may not be mandated in scripture, but the principles scripture sets forth have been too long neglected and ignored in favor of more worldly ideals. That can not succeed.
If you don’t think this will be adopted, why bother?
I am optimistic about the word of God. It will continue. Christ’s church will continue. Perhaps at some point our situation will become dire enough, or enough of our worldly practice will have been stripped away, that the synod will be amenable to considering the ideas presented here as a way to rebuild and reconstitute the synod according to the word of God and in keeping with a more scriptural understanding.
This shares a title with President Harrison’s paper from 2008. Are you running for office?
I am content serving in my parish for as long as I am able. I love the people and am honored each week to bring them the Word of God.
This is not intended as a campaign platform. It is an attempt to give our synod leaders a roadmap for reform – to light a fire and see if it spreads.
Were you asked to do this by some shadow group?
No. This work is my own. I’ve actually recommended a lot of this over the years as I’ve looked at one problem or another. I’ve gathered that work into one place, revised and expanded it. It owes a lot of its scriptural and pastoral focus to President Harrison’s original “It’s Time” from 2008. But somewhere along the way, those ideas got lost. It’s time to find them again.
Are you available to travel for speaking engagements to discuss your proposal?
I serve a three-point parish, 135 miles end to end. Free time is not a large part of my schedule, and desire-for-travel is already fulfilled each Sunday. I would say I will do so as my schedule allows, but that pretty much means no.
I am willing to discuss the ideas, but finding the right forum in these uncertain times would be difficult. It you are serious about it, email me through the contact page, and we’ll see what we can arrange.
Can I reprint some or all of this?
This is offered freely to the church. Use part/all/any of it as you see fit.