A surprise awaited ten St. Paul members as they arrived at Memorial Lutheran Church in Houston on Friday, 10 November for a two-day Issues, Etc. conference. The conference featured nationally recognized leaders presenting topics on the interaction of Christianity and culture.
Mollie and Mark Hemingway (of The Weekly Standard, the Federalist, and Fox News), Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse (the Ruth Institute), Pastor Bryan Wolfmueller (Table Talk Radio, and author), Pastor Todd Wilken (Issues, Etc.), Rod Dreher (the American Conservative), Pastor Ted Giese (the Lutheran Church-Canada, movie reviewer), and The Rev. Dr. Scott Murray (head pastor, Memorial Lutheran Church, and 2nd Vice President, LCMS) presented in their areas of professional expertise.
The Hemingways’ topics included “Making the Case for Religious Liberty”, which addressed the manipulation of media and the legal system by secularists in ways that are resulting in the loss of religious freedoms for the Christian church and for Christian individuals in businesses and schools; “Making the Case for Christians Engaging the News Media”, served as encouragement to be aware of what is being done through the news and entertainment media and to counter media malfeasance in coverage of religious topics.
Dr. Morse described in “Making the Case against the Sexual Revolution” how incremental changes orchestrated by totalitarian ideologies have resulted in the changes we have experienced in societal attitudes concerning the value of life, relationships, and gender issues in this country.
Dr. Murray provided extensive factual information about the value of marriage and its central role in shaping families, which are the basic structure of a healthy culture.
Rod Dreher’s “Making the Case for the Benedict Option” describes his proposal to grow a uniquely Christian culture to counter the prevailing secular culture through communities of faith that emphasize literacy and intellectual development and build lives to restore structure, discipline, and order in western culture.
Pastor Wolfmueller’s “Making the Case of Jesus for You” used the format of “The Gospel is a Surprise; The Gospel is a Word; The Gospel is a Promise” to make real to us that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is not an impersonal subject for discussion, but is the key personal temporal and eternal influence in our lives.
Pastor Giese’s analytical commentary was the featured subject of the Issues, Etc. live broadcast, as he juxtaposed Christian and secular worldviews as represented in movies.
An interesting, modified round table discussion brought together the presenters to discuss a variety of topics such as
- reliable sources of information in the world of media,
- postmodern attempts to do away with objective reality, and the resulting tension between that and a Christian worldview,
- detecting the exercise of control/power in politics and the media, and its effects on the church,
- winning the legal battles, but losing the culture,
- how to think as a Christian and how to teach children to think as Christians,
- Luther’s clarification of the relationship among family, government, and church,
- neo-gnosticism in American culture,
- some ways in which our immersion in technology has resulted in it overriding the mind and body, with spiritual implications.
Corporate worship was a regular feature of the conference, with Compline, Morning Prayer, Divine Service, and a Paul Gerhardt Hymn Sing which was led by the Rev. Dr. Christopher Ahlman, a recitalist and presenter at the St. Paul, Austin, worship conference in September.
The surprise developed when some of the St. Paul members in attendance (who had previously surprised each other when learning that each planned to attend) exited the church after the live broadcast of Issues, Etc. and in mutual surprise met Pastor Nuckols and several other St. Paul members and elders as they arrived for the conference. St. Paul, Austin, likely had the second most attendees after the host congregation itself.
Consensus among those attending the conference was that it was a great way to spend two days, expanding one’s understanding of the meaning and practice of Christian faith in a culture that seems to be increasingly ignorant of Christian doctrines and practice, and being built up in the faith by corporate worship, fellowship, and discussion of productive ways to increase our knowledge and practice of our Christian beliefs/worldview.