Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Why Do They Not Swim the Mississippi?

Why is it that we hear few accounts of Lutheran pastors going Baptist or Pentecostal or Presbyterian? I know they do. I've heard accounts...but one must listen closely and dig a bit to find them.

I don't think that many Lutheran pastors covert to become Methodists or Presbyterian or Pentecostals because they don't have to. They can "convert" by using Bible studies, worship styles and everything and do it right in front of everybody and few will notice or care. In fact, this has already happened on a large scale when one considers how many non-Lutheran Bible studies, VBS programs, worship resources, and evangelism programs are used everywhere in the Synod. A Lutheran can be as Methodist or Pentecostal as they wish and the only thing that would be lacking is a connection with ecclesiastical structures within these other confessions. If it is really important for an otherwise Methodist-Lutheran pastor to be under the authority of a Methodist Bishop, then he will have to leave. But Methodist Bishops do not usually advertise the necessity of being under their authority that often.

So here's a toast to all who do leave to form a new Pentecostal congregation or Baptist or Independent! I'm sorry that you and I don't agree. I'm sad that you no longer affirm the Truth we confess within the LCMS. But, from the bottom of my heart, thank you for having integrity and following your conscience, for being honest with everybody.


  1. Rick Serina said...

    Wouldn't "swimming the Mississippi" be reserved for those who join the Missouri Synod from elsewhere?

    Then again, I can't think of many definitive geographic locales for the Methodists, Baptists, or Pentecostals? Maybe that is part of their problem of rootlessness.

    I guess any river leading to Aldersgate would make one a Methodist and any river leading to Asuza Street in L.A. would make one a Pentecostal, but Baptists are a bit more difficult to figure. They would probably say they are "swimming the Jordan" since John the Baptist was purportedly the first Baptist, after all.

    Rick Serina
    Trinity-Albany (TX)

  2. Rev. Benjamin Harju said...

    When one swims to become a Baptist, do you think a camel-hair bathing suit is required? A box lunch of locusts and wild honey? I'm sure those swimming to Baptist-ism have to swim some part of the journey fully immersed under the water, right?

    But do the Pentecostals actually swim? Shouldn't they actually walk across the Mississippi - scary storms not withstanding?

    Aren't there any good stories about people swimming the Elbe, besides the one where the LCMS sends missionaries to Wittenberg?

  3. Mike Baker said...

    Not only do you have to be fully immersed (maybe with a holy snorkel or something), you also would have to be old enough to know what you are doing. Parents who swim the Mississippi would have to leave their children on the bank until they figured it out on their own.

    I am seeing a big alter call on the side of the river where everyone joins hands and sings a few bars of "I Have Decided to Swim the Mississippi" in order to give potential swimmers an opportunity to be properly motivated.

    I am sure on the other side they are formulating "small swim teams" designed to reach nonswimmers and encourage them to come across. After all, once you swim your purpose is to coach others. You've already swam all you need to swim. I mean, it's not like those people are going to start swimming all by themselves.

    As for a lack of overt Lutheran converts to American Protestantism, one could argue that the ELCA is working as we speak to meet our quota in that department.

  4. Randy Asburry said...

    I think you forgot to point out the double standard at work here, Pr. Hall (at least explicitly ;-).

    Plenty of pastors have already swum and continue to swim "the Mississippi" as you aptly put it. Plenty of pastors are continually "forsaking their ordination vows" for the mess of pottage to be found in other theological systems (via hand-crafted, non-Lutheran liturgies, non-Lutheran Sunday School curricula, non-Lutheran VBS materials, etc.).

    And yet I'm not hearing the laments - either in volume or shrillness - of "forsaking their ordination vows" nearly as much! Hmm. I wonder why?

    Oh, I've got it. It's because they continue to remain in our midst and on our synodical roster. That's the ticket!

    Anyway, you make a very good point regarding "swimming the Mississippi." When the voices that shrilly cry "They forsake their ordination vows" start applying their critique consistently, even internally, to those within the Synod--those who remain yet have indeed forsaken the Lutheran confession for the pottage of Evangelicalism--then I might consider giving them some credence - maybe.

  5. -C said...

    Thank you for acknowledging the elephant in the room ... or on the web, Pr. Asburry.

  6. Christopher D. Hall said...

    Good point, Randy. Perhaps McSomeone makes a distinction between those who simply degenerate into being Protestant, and those who, for lack of a better word, regenerate? As if slipping down the slope is so usual it's hardly noteworthy, but those who get off the slope entirely are more worthy targets?

    Or perhaps it's that McPeople refrain from attacking those on the Roster, but those who leave the Roster are Voegelfrei? If this is the case, then we may commend those certain McLambasters for at least showing some refrain.

  7. Rev. Benjamin Harju said...

    Actually, Chris, such people do also attack those on the Roster. Among some there seems to be a cookie-cutter standard of purity, and if one doesn't appear pure enough, then McCarthy and the Spanish Inquisition team up to handle it in their customary fashion.

    I suspect such McPeople (as you say) chase after whom they do because these are the only ones interested in carrying on the conversation. The methobapticostals don't seem to engage in conversation with such people. I expect the people you refer to would be equitable in their lambasting, given the chance.