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'Sufficiently motivated' ordinary chaps!

by Jaynan Clark Egland (President, WordAlone Network)

June 27, 2003

One more synod assembly is behind all the folks of the Eastern Washington-Idaho Synod. As usual, it was a well-planned and executed gathering. There was an ample amount of work to be dealt with. However, the pre-assembly packet included no resolutions submitted by the WordAlone Network members. There seemed to be a prevailing spirit of “what’s the use!”

Contrary to that “down-draft,” so to speak, three resolutions were submitted to the reference and council committee before the assembly deadline. All three were action items dealing with issues very close to the heart of the Network: ratification of constitutional changes, lay presidency and the “Admonition for the Sake of the True Peace and Unity of the Church”.

I observed that it wasn’t organization, training or clever planning (though each would have been helpful!) that brought these issues to the floor where they experienced healthy and heartfelt debate, but the faithful efforts of a few confessional Lutherans committed to the reform and renewal of the ELCA. The whole experience and events on the assembly floor reminded me of an article I read in the June 2 edition of Newsweek. The article was entitled, “Fifty Years of Conquering Everest.

It celebrates the 50-year anniversary of Sir Edmund Hillary’s historic arrival at the top of Mt. Everest, at its peak of 29,028 feet. Now at 83 years of age, Hillary returned for the observance of his conquest. Exhausted from his flight, he faced a climber who was just returning from reaching the summit one hour earlier. Thirty-five others had reached the top the day before; and an estimated 400 climbers will top-out this year alone. Most are just ordinary people seeking an adventure, looking to accomplish something “big” in their lifetime and willing to take the risks.

Hillary is quoted as saying, “You don’t have to be a fantastic hero to do certain things—to compete. You can be just an ordinary chap, sufficiently motivated.”

As the slopes of Everest are stomping grounds for many an ordinary chap, sufficiently motivated, so have been our assembly floor and those of other assemblies across the church.

In some synods, resolutions for reform and renewal that were thought to have little chance of being adopted, managed to pass. They did, because there were a few people who wanted to make a difference. They were willing to take the risk, venture out and reintroduce the voice of confessional Lutheran Christianity to those assembled to do the business of the church.

The resolution for ratification passed here; lay presidency is now a decision rightfully returned to the local congregations to decide upon and manage “for good order” among their own people. Action on the “Admonition for the Sake of the True Peace and Unity of the Church” has been postponed to allow for further study and will be an important item of business at the assembly next year.

All very good news for the present and future renewal and reform of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

The vision, imagination and many sufficiently motivated chaps are within and affiliated with the WordAlone Network and these folks, in their “ordinariness,” are just who God is calling today to do his day-to-day work of reform. The concluding paragraph of the above referenced article is haunting in it’s application to our present challenges in the church:

We can’t wish none of this had happened. Yet each of these triumphs of the spirit, the will, the body. . . has chipped away at the mystery. For 50 years, we’ve been replacing the visionary with the merely factual, the achievable with the merely buyable. Until at last, we’re where we are now. Except in imagination, we can never go back. Then again, except in imagination, most of us were never there in the first place.

Just imagine what can be accomplished over the long haul if God so wills it. In 50 years will there be an anniversary in the church remembering the efforts of each of you as you set out in a spirit of adventure, challenging “what is” for “what might be”? Risky endeavors for such ordinary chaps! Are you sufficiently motivated?