I would have thought when you use the Google to search for I.P.L., you’d find a bunch of entries for Interprovincial Pipeline. Being from the prairies, IPSCO and IPL were among the most visible industries not associated with wheat. Nope. First up: Indian Premier League. I played cricket in high school. There isn’t much I remember about cricket, but I do remember this: you can’t play cricket without balls.
In our case, the ailing and dysfunctional ABC District has its own IPL; the Interim Pastoral Leader. I suspect he’ll need some of the same equipment required for cricket.
The news is out today, but five days ago on the 25th of June, the Synod’s board of directors gave its stamp of approval to Rev. Nolan Astley as the Interim Pastoral Leader for ABC District. The announcement itself isn’t the subject of this piece though. What’s interesting is Rev. Astley’s first official communique to the churches of ABC District.
Rev. Astley admits he doesn’t have a master plan on how to deal with the spiritual chaos in ABC District. He does have two goals though. They are to “be out among the people of the District,” and to listen. I’m sure he’s going to get quite an earful. And he should. The people of this district and the church at large have been largely silent, though not always by choice. We need to speak up.
The question is, aside from the day to day pastoral supervision of pastors and congregations, what is the IPL position going to do for the church? There’s a hint in the title of the role itself: Pastoral Leadership.
Early on in the District’s bankruptcy fiasco we were told that “mistakes were made…we erred on the side of the gospel.” Which is another way of saying, “Jesus made me do it.” And that’s just not cricket. It’s bad theology. The gospel is Christ crucified and resurrected for the forgiveness of sin. Full stop. I don’t remember any chapters on failed real estate investments in confirmation – though I did miss one Thursday night class, so I guess I can’t rule it out altogether.
Let’s put the misappropriation of the gospel aside for a moment. Let’s face the facts: we’ve been a dishonest church. We call ourselves the Lutheran church, but we barely know what that really means. In fact, in some circles – like fivetwo.com – the goal is to not appear Lutheran at all. Our current District President (elect) is a proponent of fivetwo.com, and yet in the LCMS fivetwo is a theological step-child – and it’s becoming something of a parallel synod. There’s serious debate and growing division in LCMS about it. Here in ABC District, quite the opposite.
The starting point for any restoration project is to go back to the beginning. Getting back to the Word, and how our doctrines are illuminated by the the Lutheran Confessions, will shed light on what ideas – what wrong ideas – have lead us astray.
Rev. Astley knows it’s going to be ugly. It’s probably going to be loud. At times it may not even be civil. But civility isn’t as necessary as honesty and truth, because truth and honesty are what we’ve been lacking in the Pacific West from long before the vague news of the insolvency hit (remember, this was called a “sufficient cash flow shortage” at the start).
Cricket test matches at the highest level can run six hours a day for between three and five days. There are tea breaks, and meal breaks so everyone can gather their breath. The job of the IPL is going to be the same; long, drawn out, excruciatingly boring, with punctuations of excitement. Our faith, given to us by the Holy Spirit, is the thing that brings us together in synod – as we walk together. If we do the difficult, uncomfortable things now, the whole church will benefit.
The church’s worldly riches have been stripped bare. Now is the time for leadership to return us to our one, true faith. As boring and as difficult as it might be, it’s time for everyone to get ready for game day. This isn’t a spectator sport any more.
Andreas Schwabe is editor and publisher of SolaGratia.ca, and an Edmonton-based multimedia & communication strategist and producer. His focus for SolaGratia is on administration, governance, and issues of faith. For clients, he writes or produces just about anything.