The MNN District Convention began today. Dr. Joel Lehenbauer, the Executive Director of the Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR) is the Bible study leader and Rev. Matthew Harrison is the convention essayist. Both were very good today. They both talked about the book of Acts (Acts 1:8 is the Convention theme verse), as Dr. Lehenbauer talked about Jesus’ ascension and what that means for His Church, and Rev. Harrison talking about the Church as a “mouth-house” (e.g., as her members bear witness and pray).
Pres. Donald Fondow was re-elected by a wide margin, and the other three incumbent vice-presidents were also re-elected (Rev. Dan Abrahams, Rev. Kirk Lee, and Rev. Paul Cloeter). Nothing very controversial came up in floor committees, except for the issue of term limits for district officials and staff. The original resolution was to eliminate all term limits, but a substitute resolution was introduced to level term limits across all offices to 12 years. The debate centers around whether those who seem to be especially suited to their offices or especially popular should be able to be elected over and over again; or, whether a fresh perspective should be mandated after a certain amount of time. Some suggest that term limits exhibit a lack of trust and an essentially negative perspective. On the other hand, perhaps there are those who should leave office, but no one wants to cause hurt feelings. That will come up for a vote first thing in the morning.
The Floor Committees with the most resolutions are Floor Committee 3 (Board of Directors/Administration) and Committee 1 (Mission/Evangelism/Stewardship). Most of the resolutions seem to be rather innocuous and automatic ‘yes’ votes.
But it is unfortunate that some of the resolutions from Floor Committee 1 quote Matthew 28:19a without the rest of 19 and 20. The so-called “Great Commission” is not “Go and make disciples of all nations.” That’s not even the whole thought. The best translation would be something like, “Going [or, "after going"], therefore, disciple all nations [by] baptizing them into the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to keep all things which I commanded you. And, see, I am with you all the days until the completion of the age.” The main verb is “disciple” or “make disciples.” The going, the baptizing, and the teaching are all participles that modify the main verb. But we have the habit of making the “go” into the main verb, and everything then modifies that “go.” (That is, if we even remember that there is anything about baptizing and teaching in this passage.)
The point is that the Church makes disciples by baptizing and teaching, and those disciples are made wherever the Church goes (insofar as she is Christ’s Church). The Great Commission is to make disciples, not to go; and disciples are only made by baptizing and teaching. If we don’t talk about baptism and teaching, then we’re not saying everything Jesus says–which means we’re lying about what Jesus says.
Happily, the Floor Committee decided to add the rest of verse 19 and the 20a to the first resolution. Hopefully that will happen with the other resolution that cites Matthew 28.
Things will likely become a little more contentious tomorrow, with the debate about term limits, as well as the resolutions on the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Synod Structure and Governance (see here if you want more info. on that).