Sunday evening through Tuesday afternoon, I was at the Tri-Synodicial Fall Conference where clergy from all three Iowa synods, Southeastern, Northeastern, and Western, gathered together to worship, fellowship, and study. The theme for our gathering was “GOSPEL ETHICS ROOTED IN THE LUTHERAN CONFESSIONS.” The event was held in West Des Moines.
The first evening was all about fellowship. We ate dinner at Faith Lutheran in Clive. Then we had some fun with our bishops during a hilarious round of Jeopardy. Of course, Bishop Burk had the best sense of humor! (Even though Bishop Preus won with 0 points.) After our laughs subsided, then we joined for evening prayer. This reflective time of candlelit prayer guided our time with God. Finally, we split into our synods. Bishop Burk told us about the prayer concerns in our synod. The entire evening was a great mix of old friends and new friends, of good laughs and peaceful contemplation.
The second day of the conference was another full day. After a brief devotional, we listened to Dr. Per Anderson. His main emphasis was on forming a “community of moral deliberation,” a fancy way of saying that congregations need to discuss important ethical questions. Dr. Anderson also shared a study about the millennial generation. This study had very negative results, and the young pastors in the room, including me, were offended by his remarks. I won’t go into that here.
The second lecture was by Dr. Cynthia Moe-Lobeda. She talked about different perspectives on neighbor love, including references from Martin Luther and the Bible. Clearly, our love for our neighbors is rooted in God’s love for us and expressed in many levels of society. Christ has freed us from death which also frees us to love our neighbors. Dr. Moe-Lobeda showed us how we have suffered and benefited from injustice in our own society. We all became a bit uncomfortable as we thought about all of the injustices that we benefit from. For example, many of the pastors attending the conference have mutual funds that benefit from companies that offer undervalued wages.
After Dr. Moe-Lobeda’s lecture, we had a three-course lunch in the hotel. I sat with a variety of pastors from all three synods. We shared many of our greatest joys and challenges in ministry.