ACELC: A Loving Challenge to the LCMS

Greetings in Christ, our One and Only way to salvation. Church of God – people of faith in Christ – recall your baptism and fight the good fight. Use this gracious gift He gave us to contend for the One True Faith.

ACELC – what is it and why now? Is your congregation one of the many in the LCMS that seems to be standing alone? Have your congregational members been asked or even pressured to support district or synodical programs that appear foreign or sound methobapticostal? Well, we understand and while we acknowledge that the struggle is not new within the LCMS, nonetheless it has certainly intensified and gotten worse. Have you or do you know someone who has visited a sister LCMS congregation and the service was unrecognizable? You probably came away from there with a sense of not being fed spiritually, even though the church sign out front had “LCMS” displayed and there may still have been a cross in the Sanctuary (behind the big screen of course!). You are NOT alone, and many have asked, where did my grandfather’s church go? Many parents have sent their children off to college, without a place for them to worship that remotely resembled their church roots.

Permit me to introduce you to the “speed bump” known as ACELC (Association of Confessing Evangelical Lutheran Congregations), an organization of confessing Lutheran congregations that hold to the One True Faith. ACELC members love our erring brothers and sisters to the extent that we are willing to expose Synod’s errors.

On July 15, 2010, the ACELC mailed a letter to each LCMS congregation telling them about our concerns and asking for their support. The letter included a document called “A Fraternal Admonition” that lists the errors that need to be addressed. Here is the link to the ACELC web site; you will find the letter and Admonition document there.

We cherish our strong liturgical history and grounding in the One True Faith. We do not want to lose this gem that has been given to us by our loving God in Christ. If you are so inclined to join with us, congregational membership in ACELC is available to you, as we are one in faith and God has called us to His service. Feel free to join us at our upcoming constituting convention in Kansas City, MO. As we march forward in unity let us with one voice speak the truth in love, praying the errors of our synod be corrected.

Please don’t let the church that God has called you to serve turn into another ELCA. To keep us on track, it will take good solid confessional laymen to be involved. What we experienced in the 1970’s (with seminex) when the laity helped turn the synod back from it’s liberal thinking is rare and is not likely to happen again. I am not calling the laymen of the church to become theologians, but some may as a result of the struggle – God Knows! The LCMS has many solid confessional Pastors, teaching the laymen pure doctrine, properly dividing between law and gospel, and administering the sacraments rightly. We must listen to their message; it is divine, confessional and Christ centered.

We do not need the gimmicks that are ablaze throughout the LCMS; they are fleeting and will not last the test of time. We need only One message as we are justified by faith in Christ, for Christ’s sake. As our past President Barry said, “Missouri – keep the message straight and get the message out.” Isaiah 55:11 states “so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” This we can trust, by the power of the Holy Spirit for it is Gods Holy Word.

Also dear laymen, support the solid confessional pastors who continue to teach the truth, as they are facing some very tough times in this wayward Synod. The old evil foe would destroy them and their message if he could. People of faith – recall your baptism and fight the good fight; use this precious God given gift in Christ, our One and Only way to salvation.

In His Service,
Carl Pigors

Printable version of this letter
ACELC Letter to Congregations
ACELC Website
ACELC Definition of Confessional Lutheranism (Short Version)
ACELC Definition of Confessional Lutheranism (Long Version)

About Norm Fisher

Norm was raised in the UCC in Connecticut, and like many fell away from the church after high school. With this background he saw it primarily as a service organization. On the miracle of his first child he came back to the church. On moving to Texas a few years later he found a home in Lutheranism when he was invited to a confessional church a half-hour away by our new neighbors.

He is one of those people who found a like mind in computers while in Middle School and has been programming ever since. He's responsible for many websites, including the Book of Concord,, and several other sites.

He has served the church in various positions, including financial secretary, sunday school teacher, elder, PTF board member, and choir member.

Norm has been involved behind the scenes in many of the "go-to" websites for Lutherans going back many years.


ACELC: A Loving Challenge to the LCMS — 247 Comments

  1. There’s an excellent article written by Pr. Robin Fish on his blog “Fish Pond” which I think fits here. I will post some of the article and invite you to read the whole thing. We have to remember that with the election of Pr. Harrison, theological liberalism didn’t simply evaporate and disappear.

    I have been reviewing the recent convention of the LC-MS with others by telephone and emails. Some of the things that were proposed for our Synod did not happen, and I think that is good. There is reason to hope for good things in our Synod, mostly because we have a gracious Lord and I expect good from Him. The elections at the convention also cheered me, but not as much as they cheered others. I have seen good men elected before, and when they are gone, the Synod is found to have deteriorated step by step during their tenure, in spite of their very fine work. The forces that want to see our confession altered never rest, and sometimes the warriors for the truth relax their guard when good men are in place, expecting them to do all the heavy lifting. That expectation is not always met.

    I understand why warriors relax at times. They get tired of doing battle without relief. They face the accusations of being negative and cranky and critical all of the time. I know because I have been hearing that about myself since I was ordained. It does get tiresome. I have also seen good men, comrades in arms in this great effort, turn suddenly and abandon the battle, sometimes turning to the “dark side”, to use a Star Wars analogy. It is always amazing, and disappointing, and sobering, and sorrowful when that happens. From time to time we all long for a break in the battle, but the truth is that the break in the battle comes at the casket, not at the election of the ‘right man’ to the office. God will tell each of us when it is time to relax and set aside our vigilance.

    I remember the days after the Seminex thing and the supposed ascendancy of the conservatives under Jack Preus. I heard many an old war-horse say that we had finally won and now we could rest and get back to “gospel ministry”. I heard a lot of young, new to the battle pastors saying the same thing — as though contending for the faith and confessing Christ were something other than gospel ministry. Of course, Jack Preus changed a bit, apparently concerned that too rigorous a stand would split the Synod, and he was not about to have that happen on his watch! Then he pointed out his chosen successor, the meek and mild Ralph Bohlmann, and we were off to the races again. One can never set aside vigilance without setting aside faithfulness.

    Now we are being treated to criticism of the vigilance of one element of the conservative coalition by another, and some talk of optimism, cautious, of course. I have been in this Synod and in the struggle for faithful confession of Christ within her ranks for just over thirty years. I have watched how things go, and have studied our history a little, going back to the days of Walther and Pieper and Pfotehauer, and I have found absolutely no cause for optimism. As I said, I have hope, but that is because of our gracious God, but optimism seems a little out of touch.

    I expect good things from President Harrison. He is a good and sincere man and a Christian. He seems like the sort who is not the least ashamed of being Lutheran — a sort of theologian and leader that has been in short supply in our midst for a long time. I am praying for him and his team and our Synod daily.

    I am also aware that the men and women of Jesus First, and similar organizations in our Synod, have not given up and thrown in the towel. They have a vision for the future of our Synod that will not be set aside by them or easily denied by the Synod. Their sympathizers still hold many positions in our Synod, and they often sit in the seats of education where they can recruit new supporters and foot-soldiers. We are way too far down the path described by Krauth (on the progress of error in the church) for this battle to be done with quickly, and those who stand on the other side of the divide from me have come too close to dominance to give up and go away. source

  2. OK, my last shot:
    01) OK, another group, so go for it. Join the NICL’s, BJS, Jesus First, Consensus, CHMfC, etc. Discussion is good, keep going but do support the new electorate.
    02) But do not (I pray) label guys like me who have no affiliation with a group, but my group is Synod and the Lutheran Church which I committed to at my ordination (like all of you).
    Too many groups then build a web presence and list the member pastors and congregations who are confessional or contemporary, etc.. This has occurred in a site that says who is “liturgical.” The only place I want to be is on the LCMS web directory as a Lutheran Church, then you can pick apart my Churches by my practices. You may hold me to the Bible and Confessions I promised my life on.
    03) Perhaps we can change the bad by making all the Churches truly study the good and proper doctrinal truths.
    04) Be careful before you label another pastor or Church as “bad.” Do your homework first.
    05) I am an eternal optimist and believe things are not as bad as some say. Three years ago, many were ready to jump ship, look what has happened; some good, some (not sure just yet).
    06) Yes, infighting may occur but I truly hope we all have a vision of bringing others to the foot of the cross. You know, if places like Sanctuary 10/10, or “The Alley”, neither of which I have gone to yet (but I did send some members to check out 10/10); if they in their practice bring a lost soul to Christ (even though I am not up on what they do in style perhaps, or even like the style), is that so bad? OK, many of you have just branded me “heretic.” But look into these places before we jump to conclusions. Look into the hearts of the men doing things that initially appear to be contrary to what we do. Worship does change a bit over time, but our God does not. As a side, my middle son would brand all the Churches as heretics who use “you” in the Lord’s Prayer as opposed to “thy.”

    I think in the end, we are closer than what we think.
    07) And yes, when those things that cross the line occur, we must stand firm and rebuke; and we know what they are.

    But it has been a feisty discussion and my next post if ever will be about a good cigar and a beer.

  3. Whatever comes from all of this (and, hopefully and solely by the Grace of God, all good is the result), always remember that when we ‘shoot our wounded’, we first hit ourselves in the foot, then in the heart. Walk the extra mile to avoid the damage of “friendly fire”.

  4. Thanks everyone for using your “last word” wisely. We have a long way to go. We walk by faith. We do not know exactly how the Lord will lead us to a purer proclamation of the Gospel and administration of the sacraments but the spirit of the last dozen or so comments is a great sign of the good things to come despite the different paths that have been chosen. And we thank God for the great sinner Harrison who is leading our beloved LCMS.

    BTW – Johannes, no snipe taken. I have great respect for you and appreciation for the pearls you continously drop on the BJS blog.

    BTW 2 – For those of you who have not spoken your final word, fire away.


  5. God bless the work of this group who would point out error in our beloved synod! God bless those who would confess error and receive forgiveness! (That would be all of us.)

  6. Brothers:

    It’s too bad that this conversation is wrapping up now, since I am now only seeing the last 150 posts or so. I was going to encourage all to discuss the issues that have been raised by the ACELC paper, rather than any possible motive that may or may not have contributed to this group, and also rather than any possible outcome that may or may not happen as a result of its publication.

    Honestly, I found many of the issues raised in this paper very helpful and precise statements against real errors that are currently dividing the LCMS. It expresses the desire to uphold a unity based on the pure doctrine of the Scriptures and Confessions. It speaks against unionism and syncretism. It rejects the toleration of Arminian and Reformed theologies of worship. It seeks to clarify the historic Lutheran teaching on the office of the Ministry. It warns against a common practice where congregations have a “hire and fire” mentality for their pastor, and that he is their “at will employee”. It confesses that evangelism relies on the power of the Holy Spirit who works through the Word, and not on man’s zeal for doing evangelism. These are issues that need to be discussed.

    One more thing I was hoping to do was engage in some conversations. Bryce Wandrey, I’m glad you chimed in and I would like to discuss the issues you raise, perhaps when BJS starts the next thread on the ACELC. I agree with your quote from von Balthasar that we cannot dismiss doctrinal arguments merely out of hand. I also have not had time to look at your Luther Genesis quote in context, so I would like to look at that. But at the same time, there is much more to the roles of Adam and Eve before the Fall that we should discuss. As a former classmate of yours, you and I sat through many classes together and have at least a common experience to draw from that may help us in this discussion.

    In Christ,
    Rev. Robert Mayes
    Fullerton, NE

  7. The issue is not the “issues being raised” it is the behavior and conduct of the “raisers of the issues.”

    Calling for congregations to “join an association” around issues of doctrinal dissent is, in my view, schismatic behavior. Simply because some may perceive those calling for it to be “the good guys” doesn’t make it any more appropriate than it was when E.L.I.M. was formed in the early 1970s, or the DayStar network circularized the Synod with its “Reader” recently, or JesusFirst called for people to join their bunch.

    I see little value in all the energy put into setting up, starting, and organizing new groups, organizations, ministeria, and all the other things we’ve seen in recent years.

    As one wise person noted on my blog site:

    You know – I have a slightly different approach to “fixing” the synod. Let’s not even try. How about we just be faithful where we are at? Instead of the grand crusade, the gathering together into a mighty band – how about simply on our own, in our own pulpits and parishes, why don’t we just be faithful, and teach in patience? How about in our circuits, we speak to those who are slightly wonky in doctrine or practice with the same love and patience we have for those in our congregation who don’t see the fullness? The Synod will never be “fixed” by a vote, a group action, a mass of people saying, “Thou shalt!” Rather it will be simply done by patience and teaching. If you encourage good teaching and patience – excellent. If you encourage victory, or all things hinging on you – I think you miss the point.

    The hubris and bombastic tone of the communication from the ACELC group is really offensive. Another commenter on my blog pointed this out when he wrote:

    “Brothers and sisters, if you really want an orthodox Lutheran church body for your children and grandchildren…and especially if you want that church body to still bear the name The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, then band together with your comrades in the ACELC and let us help Matt Harrison address the very issues which are tearing our Synod apart!”

    You’re painting those who may in large part agree with you into a corner. You’re saying, “We started this organization and if you really love confessional Lutheranism, you’ll join it.”

    The implication of your statement is that those who don’t chose to become a part of your organization do not “really want an orthodox Lutheran church body for [our] children and grandchildren.”

    You’ve prepared some documents and purchased a website. That doesn’t mean that you speak for me as an individual or confessional Lutheranism as a whole.

  8. @Rev. Paul T. McCain #208

    Dear Rev. McCain,

    I am very saddened by your response toward those forming the ACELC. You have repeatedly impugned the motives of those who sincerely seek to address the errors that have divided this synod for so long. Hubris? Bombastic tone? Schismatic? These are strong words. Please go back and read your entrance onto this line of discussion.

    The first accusative statement is “appointing yourselves to be the admonishers of synod.” In another post you write: “what’s wrong with this picture is that you are running when you have not been sent. You are assuming duties you have not been given. You are presuming to speak and act for others when you have not been given that task. The hubris in your approach is overwhelming and it is a pity you can’t realize it.”

    Many of your concerns raised here could have been dealt with in a much more fraternal manner. You jumped to many conclusions. A few well intentioned questions could have alleviated a lot of speculation and false accusations. You raise questions that have answers. You have a right to ask “who sent you?” But that question first requires a question for you. “Who sent you to be the “admonisher” of the ACELC? Or are you self-appointed?” Who do you presume to speak and act for? Those who agree with you on your blog? Those who are apart of your cyber community, which would include me? By the way I very much enjoy your blog and find many useful things there.

    No more does the ACELC presume to speak for “confessional Lutherans” than I’m sure you do for those who follow your blog, or other endeavors. Just as you invite people to join your community we also invite others to join us in a cause we believe in and hope can serve a beneficial role in addressing the errors that divide our synod. You may disagree with our approach. It wasn’t arrived at lightly, but one congregation who went through the dissent process, that which the synod has established for the purpose of disagreeing with it, was never allowed to be heard by the convention. As we enter the same process, it is our hope that many congregations will have a better chance at being heard. I do not want to belabor these points here. They have already been addressed in previous posts.

    However, I will ask if you even considered how offensive the statements and the implications made by those you quoted from your blog over to here might be to those who are sincere in both this cause and for fraternal discussion…especially after you mention the “hubris and bombastic tone of the communication from the ACELC group”?

    The issue here is not your questions being raised, but your behavior and conduct, doing the very thing you accuse others of. This is not helpful, on either side.

    I for one say, as a brother in the ministry, that you do have a right to question, raise concerns, and go and discuss your concerns and disagreements with those you disagree with. We invite that discussion. But your responses have repeatedly impugned the motives of ACELC and spoken falsely about our cause and intent, without the benefit of the doubt, even admonishing us to just leave the synod and form a new church.

    A much more fruitful and constructive outcome could have come from this. And maybe it still can. But let us approach one another as brothers. Temper our responses. Bridle the Old Adam that wants to jump in and make mischief, and dialogue toward as fruitful an end as possible. It just might prove beneficial in preparing us all for the discussions we all desire to have happen as a synod in addressing what divides us.

    And Rev. McCain, I for one would like to have a little more Scriptural and Confessional basis for your concerns. That way I can consider more seriously the concerns you posted. At this point they stand more as your opinions. Thank you for your patient consideration.

    Humbly in Christ,

    Rev. James Gier

    might prepare us for the talks

  9. @The Revd Bryce P Wandrey #137

    ““[N]o one should think he can quickly and offhandedly dispose of the questions posed here. True, the obtuse think they can be done with these questions without prior encounter with them.”

    How does this apply to something we have been trying to deal with in a number of different ways for over a decade. That is not long in terms of the Church, or maybe even of Synod, but neither can it be said to be “quickly and offhandedly,” or “without prior encounter.”

    And yes this advice does seem a bit odd coming from someone who bolted for the Anglican Church, though you have every right to offer it and are welcome to do so.

  10. @Rev. Paul Beisel #145
    “you need to do so with the consent and support of all if you want to make something happen.”

    Pastor Biesel, could you please tell us how that would work or what that would look like?

    All of what cohort? The 54%? The LCMS? The church militant? The church triumphant? All the Scriptures?

    The truth is, such efforts are never begun, let alone “successful”–unless like the congretation formerly under Pastor Gier’s pastorate, several equally acceptable possibilities (according to our confessinof Scripture) are thrown into a drawing and it is agreed that the lottery shall prevail.

  11. Jim, et al.

    If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen.

    When Bolland gathers his little group of supporters and you appoint yourselves to be the admonishers of The LCMS, don’t whine when you are admonished yourself.

    This comment from Luther applies to you guys:

    If you want to know which dog has been struck, it is the one who cries out. Therefore, you are accusing yourself , if you grumble, and are defaming yourself. As Cicero says, when vices are rebuked in general terms, whoever becomes angry at it shows himself to be guilty. Whoever cannot bear it when unbelief is rebuked along with the fruits of unbelief, he is most certainly the dog who has been struck.

    (Martin Luther, sermon of June 7, 1545, in Luther’s Works, Volume 58, forthcoming from Concordia Publishing House in November 2010).

  12. @Rev. Paul T. McCain #149
    “Here is a blog post on this matter:”

    And, please Rev. McCAin, where are the comments not particulalry in agreement that pose civil and reasoned challenges to your position?

  13. @Larry Peters #151
    “not some sham of a conversation but the honest confrontation of authority, diversity, confession, and practice. Teach, learn, discuss — all well and good. It is the form of this ACELC and its tone that are detracting from what is said to be their goal and purpose.”

    Sham? How is this not exactly the honest confrontation for which you ask? How is this not teaching with a goalof learning together through discussion?

    Once again this sounds like every pastor’s nightmare, “It’s not what you say pastor. It’s how you say it.” As if ANY call to repentance is EVER going to be worded in a way that is going to sound good to those who don’t want to hear it–or those who don’t want you to further upset sinners lest they never come back to church again?

  14. @Rev. Paul T. McCain #157
    > You are presuming to speak for or with our newly elected president when that is not yours to do.

    My moderator rejected comment for the Cyberbrethren post in which the above point was also made:

    > You are presuming to speak for or with our newly elected president when that is not yours to do. You are violating the process we have agreed to follow in our church body when it comes to expressing dissent. <

    Actually, this is not true as I understand it, Rev. McCain. If I am not mistaken, and I do invite correction, only a district president can initiate the dissent procedures. In line with what you have written above about access, which ironically is addressed in the ACELC document, it is highly unlikely any district president is going to initiate anything of the sort based upon a couple lowly pastors or congregations submissions.

    I do not speak for the steering committee or signatories of the document, though I was involved in the earliest stages, so again I invite correction. But as I understand it, the timing of this is such that it is an invitation to congregations (who actually just happen to hold authority over any elected official of synod) to meet in March to further discuss these things and form some sort of unified effort to present these NOT to President elect Harrison as an agenda, but to the praesidium within the dissent process we have in the LCMS.

    So, bottom line, nothing is really going to happen until spring of 2011. However, we have to prepare sometime, right? How long should we wait, anyway?

    Finally, as to charges of being schismatic, the points presented actually delineate the schism already extant in Missouri and are a call to unify under that which is supposed to unify our synod–the Lutheran Confession of Scripture and even the LC-MS constitution to which we all subscribe.

  15. I’m curious! Does 217 post set a record for all topics posted previously?

  16. @Rev. Drew Newman #179

    It makes the acronym it longer, but perhaps in light of the discussion here it would be advisable to modify as follows:

    An Inexhaustive Association of Some but not All Confessing Evangelical Missouri Synod Congregations.

  17. @Rev. Paul T. McCain #212
    “If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen.”

    @Rev. Paul T. McCain #214
    “Kurt, you seem to be laboring under a misunderstanding that you have a right to propagandize for the ACELC effort on my blog. You don’t.”

    Thank you, Rev. McCain. I shall cease laboring now. No further comment is necessary.

  18. STOP!!! Everyone just STOP! This is soooo ridiculous!! On so many levels. Just stop. Step away from your computers, and go have a beer. Smoke a cigar.

  19. Rev. Paul Beisel :
    STOP!!! Everyone just STOP! This is soooo ridiculous!! On so many levels. Just stop. Step away from your computers, and go have a beer. Smoke a cigar.

    Amen, and amen! Thank you Pastor Beisel. It’s embarrassing!


  20. @Rev. Kurt Hering #218
    @CS #227

    …wait. I’m confused.

    So you are saying that the current LCMS is guilty of the false doctrines and crimes of the Roman Catholic Church during the middle ages and that its methods of reform are so absent that a Reformation Era style response is warranted in this case?

  21. Let me try to summarize what I’m hearing from *many* faithful Lutheran pastors who are responding *very* negatively to the communications they are receiving from Richard Bolland and his supporters:

    (1) Raising issues of concern among us for fraternal discusssion?

    (2) “Admonishing” the entire Synod with a letter?
    Not so great.

    (1) Proposing things to talk about together going forward?

    (2) Calling on people to “join” their “association”?
    Not so great.

    (1) Expressing dissent within the fellowship of their peers?

    (2) Spreading “charges” in a circular letter?
    Not so great.

    (1) Raising issues objectively?

    (2) Claiming to be doing this to “help” the President-elect?
    Not so great.

    (1) Discussing the issues?

    (2) Going after individuals?
    Not so great.

    (1) Asking questions for discussion?

    (2) Making demands and veiled threats?
    Not so great.

    (1) Conversation about important topics?

    (2) Calling for congregations to join an association for the purpose of dissent?
    Not so great…that is schismatic behavior.

    In other words, just because Richard Bolland and some others are angry, fed up, frustrated and otherwise intent on making sure that *their* positions are the ones that everyone agrees with, gives him, and nobody else, the right, duty or calling to set themselves up as an “association,” hold a “constituting convention.”

    There are far better ways to go about all this.

  22. @Mike Baker #228
    “…its methods of reform are so absent that a Reformation Era style response is warranted in this case?”

    By observation, lcms hasn’t had a “method of reform” for at least a decade.
    Resolutions by congregations, circuits, districts could be and were “pocket vetoed”.
    “Decrees” that theoretically could be reversed by action of the convention were never allowed to be brought up before the convention.
    DRP is notable for its “gag order” going in, I’m told. So I’ve not been told much else.
    (But enough, you’ve all been here.)

    Things are going to be messy for awhile in that people will be allowed to speak about these things. The Rev. Paul T McCain will not be able to “edit” everyone’s blogs as efficiently as he does his own, to suit his perception of the way things should be done, so us pewsitters will read some of the discussion.
    (That’s so last decade, PTM!)

    I pray that all of you will be working to support the leadership elected, which has dedicated itself to working under the Word and the Confessions.
    (That will be a nice change from innumerable by-laws.)

    We had all better talk less and pray more, for our leadership, ourselves and all the faithful in the world.
    Lord, have mercy!

  23. @Helen #230

    So you do think that the level of persecution and tyranny in the LCMS is equal to that of the European church prior to the Reformation?

    Another two questions:

    If there are no methods of reform, how did Pr. Harrison just get elected President?

    Is it just that there are no methods of reform at all or is it that they don’t move fast enough in your opinion?

  24. I beg the moderator’s patience,

    It appears that Rev. McCain has disregarded the moderator’s instructions for one last post. If this continues I would ask the moderator’s permission to put up a final post explaining why all Christians and especially pastors have the right and the obligation to admonish false doctrine, and to explain exactly why the ACELC is NOT schismatic. But I will not do so without permission.

  25. @Helen #230

    > By observation, lcms hasn’t had a “method of reform” for at least a decade.

    Without a supported, formal process that works, all that’s left is apathy or revolution.

    More congregations should be posting theses such as the ones we are discussing.

    The establishment of formal sub-synods is what’s questionable. They’re free to start their own church body (they had better be free to do that, with their own property!) — or not.

    Reformation is something that has to continue until the last day. The Confessions are a true exposition of Scripture, but they aren’t Scripture. To categorically imply that our Confessions have addressed every possible error is to assign them the status of Scripture (and I am not saying that anybody here is doing that).

    New statements that rise to the level of confessions could be needed now. Has any man out there been given the stuff by our Lord to do this?

  26. Brothers and Sisters,

    Paul McCain is completely off-base with his errant claim that the actions of the ACELC are schismatic. They are dead wrong for the following reasons:

    1. A schismatic group is a group of Christians who break fellowship when there is no doctrinal reason for doing so. The ACELC is not breaking fellowship with anyone. Rev. McCain wishes to redefine schismatic to mean: Any corporate action within The LCMS that he doesn’t agree with.

    2. A group which breaks fellowship over doctrine is not and cannot be schismatic because they are breaking fellowship over doctrine. The ACELC is concerned about doctrinal error and confessing for pure doctrine against error. Such an action cannot be schismatic.

    3. The defense of the true of pure doctrine is never schismatic and is, in fact, the very opposite of schism and, seeks unity.

    Frankly Paul’s unkind and inaccurate labeling of the ACELC as schismatic is not only inaccurate, but unnecessary and unwarranted. I really am disappointed in this illogical, unchurchly, and wrong conclusion.

    Now, about being “Self-appointed Admonishers” as Rev. McCain has claimed respecting the ACELC:

    St. Paul writes to Pastor Timothy:

    “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2Ti 4:2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 2Ti 4:3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 2Ti 4:4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.”

    Also, St. Paul writes:

    ” I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. Rom 16:18 For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. ” (Please note this instruction is given to the congregation at large, but would especially apply to the pastor.)

    Scripture does not assign only to Synodical bureaucrats the responsibility for admonition. Scripture and our Confessions clearly assign that obligation to every Christian and especially to pastors when their flocks are being impacted by error. The ACELC is simply attempting to correct the very obvious doctrinal errors in our Synod and to bring about unity. That simply can’t be schismmatic. Consider the following from our Lutheran Confessions:

    Since, therefore, bishops have tyrannically transferred this jurisdiction to themselves alone, and have basely abused it, there is no need, because of this jurisdiction, to obey bishops. But since the reasons why we do not obey are just, it is right also to restore this jurisdiction to godly pastors [to whom, by Christ’s command it belongs], and to see to it that it be legitimately exercised for the reformation of life and the glory of God. (¶76)2 Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope 274] Thus you see that it is summarily forbidden to speak any evil of our neighbor, however, the civil government, preachers, father and mother excepted, on the understanding that this commandment does not allow evil to go unpunished. Now, as according to the Fifth Commandment no one is to be injured in body, and yet Master Hannes [the executioner] is excepted, who by virtue of his office does his neighbor no good, but only evil and harm, and nevertheless does not sin against God’s commandment, because God has on His own account instituted that office; for He has reserved punishment for His own good pleasure, as He threatens in the First Commandment,-just so also, although no one has a right in his own person to judge and condemn anybody, yet if they to whose office it belongs fail to do it, they sin as well as he who would do so of his own accord, without such office. For here necessity requires one to speak of the evil, to prefer charges, to investigate and testify; 275] and it is not different from the case of a physician who is sometimes compelled to examine and handle the patient whom he is to cure in secret parts. Just so governments, father and mother, brothers and sisters, and other good friends, are under obligation to each other to reprove evil wherever it is needful and profitable.

    Large Catechism, Eighth Commandment

    284] All this has been said regarding secret sins. But where the sin is quite public so that the judge and everybody know it, you can without any sin avoid him and let him go, because he has brought himself into disgrace, and you may also publicly testify concerning him. For when a matter is public in the light of day, there can be no slandering or false judging or testifying; as, when we now reprove the Pope with his doctrine, which is publicly set forth in books and proclaimed in all the world. For where the sin is public, the reproof also must be public, that every one may learn to guard against it.

    Large Catechism, Eighth Commandment

    We believe, teach, and confess also that at the time of confession [when a confession of the heavenly truth is required], when the enemies of God’s Word desire to suppress the pure doctrine of the holy Gospel, the entire congregation of God, yea, every Christian, but especially the ministers of the Word, as the leaders of the congregation of God [as those whom God has appointed to rule His Church], are bound by God’s Word to confess freely and openly the [godly] doctrine, and what belongs to the whole of [pure] religion, not only in words, but also in works and with deeds; and that then, in this case, even in such [things truly and of themselves] adiaphora, they must not yield to the adversaries, or permit these [adiaphora] to be forced upon them by their enemies, whether by violence or cunning, to the detriment of the true worship of God and the introduction and sanction of idolatry. 11] For it is written, Gal. 5:1: Stand fast, therefore, in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not again entangled in the yoke of bondage. Also Gal. 2:4f : And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage; to whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour, that the truth of the Gospel might continue with you. 12] [Now it is manifest that in that place Paul speaks concerning circumcision, which at that time had become an adiaphoron (1 Cor. 7:18f.), and which at other occasions was observed by Paul (however, with Christian and spiritual freedom, Acts 16:3). But when the false apostles urged circumcision for establishing their false doctrine, (that the works of the Law were necessary for righteousness and salvation,) and misused it for confirming their error in the minds of men, Paul says that he would not yield even for an hour, in order that the truth of the Gospel might continue unimpaired.] 13] Thus Paul yields and gives way to the weak as to food and [the observance of] times or days, Rom. 14:6. But to the false apostles, who wished to impose these upon the conscience as necessary things, he will yield not even in such things as in themselves are adiaphora, Col. 2:16: Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy day. And when Peter and Barnabas yielded somewhat [more than they ought] in such an emergency, Paul openly reproves them as those who in this matter were not walking aright, according to the truth of the Gospel, Gal. 2:11ff 14] For here it is no longer a question concerning external matters of indifference, which in their nature and essence are and remain of themselves free, and accordingly can admit of no command or prohibition that they be employed or omitted; but it is a question, in the first place, concerning the eminent article of our Christian faith, as the apostle testifies, that the truth of the Gospel might continue, which is obscured and perverted by such compulsion or command, because such adiaphora are then either publicly required for the sanction of false doctrine, superstition, and idolatry, and for the suppression of pure doctrine and Christian liberty, or at least are abused for this purpose by the adversaries, and are thus viewed [and are believed to be restored for this abuse and wicked end]. 15] Likewise, the article concerning Christian liberty also is here at stake, which the Holy Ghost through the mouth of the holy apostle so earnestly charged His Church to preserve, as we have just heard. For as soon as this is weakened and the ordinances of men [human traditions] are forced upon the Church with coercion, as though it were wrong and a sin to omit them, the way is already prepared for idolatry, and by this means ordinances of men [human traditions] are afterwards multiplied and regarded as a divine worship, not only equal to the ordinances of God, but are even placed above them. 16] Moreover, by such [untimely] yielding and conformity in external things, where there has not been previously Christian union in doctrine, idolaters are confirmed in their idolatry; on the other hand, the true believers are grieved, offended, and weakened in their faith [their faith is grievously shaken, and made to totter as though by a battering-ram]; both of which every Christian for the sake of his soul’s welfare and salvation is bound to avoid, as it is written: Woe unto the world because of offenses! Also: Whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in Me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea [Matt. 18:6, 7]. 17] But it is to be especially remembered what Christ says: Whosoever therefore shalt confess Me before men, him will I confess also before My Father which is in heaven, Matt. 10:32. 18] However, that this has always and everywhere been the faith and confession, concerning such indifferent matters, of the chief teachers of the Augsburg Confession, into whose footsteps we have entered, and in whose Confession we intend by God’s grace to persevere, is shown [most clearly] by the following testimonies drawn from the Smalcald Articles, which were composed and subscribed in the year 1537: FORMULA OF CONCORD, SOLID DECLARATION, Article X

    If you want us to be ashamed of this Scriptural and honest effort its just not going to happen.

  27. It seems to me that the ongoing controversies in the LCMS largely hinge on how different people distinguish doctrines and practices that require concurrence for unity from “open questions” that need not be divisive. What guidance can we follow to determine where exactly we should draw that line? If pastors and theologians sincerely disagree about whether a particular teaching is clear in Scripture and/or the Confessions, is that in itself evidence that it is an adiaphoron?

  28. @aletheist #236

    > If pastors and theologians sincerely disagree about whether a particular teaching is clear in Scripture and/or the Confessions, is that in itself evidence that it is an adiaphoron?

    I think the problem is how we deal with adiaphora. It has to be in total good faith, or it can skirt with lawlessness. The law can’t save us, but to have no law is harmful.

    For example: ‘the color of the carpet’ was often cited as something appropriate for the church voters to decide (as to imply that they really have no authority, therefore anybody can go).

    But, the color of the carpet actually matters. Why is red used often? Why would some colors in some cases, or certain patterns, not be a good idea? Colors are significant in worship settings.

    Just one example, and in intention irony, the one that was used to ‘prove’ that you could do anything you want in some cases. What we want is never pure, therefore we can never do anything we want, in this life.

  29. aletheist :If pastors and theologians sincerely disagree about whether a particular teaching is clear in Scripture and/or the Confessions, is that in itself evidence that it is an adiaphoron?

    I don’t think we can conclude from disagreement that a teaching is an adiaphoron, and I don’t know that disagreement could be evidence of such. As Luther stated, “Doctrine is heaven… there is no error in doctrine… therefore we do not permit the slightest offense against it….. But by the grace of God our doctrine is pure; we have all the articles of faith solidly established in Sacred Scripture. The devil would dearly love to corrupt and overthrow these; that is why he attacks us so cleverly with this specious argument about not offending against love and the harmony among the churches” (Martin Luther, from his 1535 lectures on Galatians as quoted in John Pless’ “Handling the Word of Truth”).

    We can be wrong with our ideas about God’s word, but there is no error in doctrine “established in Sacred Scripture.” If there is disagreement over doctrine we know somebody is wrong, because it sure isn’t the Scriptures. I would add that attempting to form “unity” around disagreement is not the unity of the faith spoken of in the Scriptures, nor in our Lutheran confession—for clarification I don’t think you have argued that point.

    Anyway, good men can disagree on doctrine, but that doesn’t make the Word of God any less important in some parts versus others. Ultimately we are handling the very words of God and it is important to get it right.

  30. @Mike Baker #231

    1. Insofar as no one has been able to disagree without suffering for it, yes.

    Think: Wally Schultz; Martin Noland; PT McCain (who might be more congenial if he were head of CPH); the sainted Kurt Marquart, dishonored in death; Issues Etc. [a miscalculation we can be thankful for!] and add in all the many I’ve omitted, down to the parish Pastor whose congregation was encouraged to replace him because he wanted to remain Lutheran (many of those).

    2. I remember the Rev. Harrison sounding somewhat surprised himself!

    3. Nothing has been reformed yet. If the election had gone the other way, we’d just have one more loyal Lutheran without a job (as he was, on Monday) to add to the list! It will take many prayers and a lot of hard work to ensure that that result is not just postponed three years.
    So this is not the time to go back to sniping at each other, skilled as we are at it!!!

  31. @Helen #239

    1. Wow…… I honestly didn’t expect that. I had thought that all of the passionate WWLD (What Would Luther Do?) rhetoric was just upset people using figures of speech to try to communicate their point. I didn’t think that anyone actually saw the situtation in terms where being in the LCMS was actually the same as being in the middle ages under the tyranny of the Pope. I just never thought that people equated even the worst examples of conduct within the LCMS with things like indulgences, a complete absense of the gospel across the entire church, abductions, book burnings, the Inquisition, the seizure of property, and being burned at the stake. I’m floored.

    2. That didn’t response answer the question. If there was no recourse and all avenues of traditional redress were impossibly closed, he would not have gotten elected. Surprise at his election only indicates that many confessional Lutherans are at least partially blinded by defeatism. Defeatism does not make situations better. It appears that it’s not that confessional Lutheranism can’t win and make progress through the system. It’s that there are allies among us who just assume that we can’t win and make progress based on past bad experiences.

    3. But my very point is that the election DIDN’T go the other way. A step was made in the right direction using the system that is in place. There are people who are saying that that can’t ever happen ever which means we need to start being drastic. Well what can’t ever happen ever just did in at least this case. It is really easy to be a martyr when you ignore all your victories and focus only on your defeats.

  32. Jim Pierce :

    Anyway, good men can disagree on doctrine, but that doesn’t make the Word of God any less important in some parts versus others. Ultimately we are handling the very words of God and it is important to get it right.

    Yes, but what do we do when good men disagree up-front on whether a particuar issue is doctrine or adiaphora? How do we settle the matter then?

  33. Mike Baker #240
    “But my very point is that the election DIDN’T go the other way. A step was made in the right direction using the system that is in place. There are people who are saying that that can’t ever happen ever which means we need to start being drastic. Well what can’t ever happen ever just did in at least this case. It is really easy to be a martyr when you ignore all your victories and focus only on your defeats.”

    The elections at the convention has all the appearances of a house cleaning, somewhat like the sentiment of the US citizenry at this time. How many incumbents were reelected? That should tell a large portion of the story. That is why some solid folks were elected and some very shakey folks were elected. There doesn’t seem to be a reason other then not voting for incumbents. If the elections were a sign of confessional resurgency, only the confessional candidates would have been elected. The sweeping out of incumbents may be a good thing, but now the work comes to the fore, the correction of error and the teaching of Lutheran theology.

  34. @aletheist #241

    I don’t mean to sound overly simplistic with the following response, but if somebody is claiming a teaching is doctrine binding upon us all, then we check that claim against the Scriptures. They may be right and we need to repent. If their assertions are not supported in Scriptures, then perhaps they should repent? What we do know is that good men do disagree, but somebody is wrong. We can only settle the matter through repentance and listening to God’s word. As long as we are in this world, we will always have conflict. That fact is both unsettling and humbling to me. Unsettling becasue I would like to have perfect unity around doctrine this side of heaven. Humbling because I could be wrong and must always turn to Scriptures and ask God to bring me to repentance and to help me to listen to His Word. However, we must always stand firm in what we know is the truth and continuously confess it.

    I hope the above is helpful to some degree.

  35. @Mike Baker #240

    > If there was no recourse and all avenues of traditional redress were impossibly closed, he would not have gotten elected.

    In the past, there were authoritative means of addressing issues at lower levels than super-macro level of a convention vote. Those (doctrinally authoritative seminaries; adjudication instead of formal, forced reconciliation; authoritative congregational voters; more?) need to be restored.

    The convention is the last line of defense, and even the ability to address issues there has been progressively thwarted. Very few resolutions can be dealt with, and almost none that would challenge the current administration are allowed any hearing.

    A proper system of governance pushes authority ‘down’ to the ‘right’ extent. There is no way a central authority can handle everything that comes up.

    For whatever reason, members of our society have allowed more and more authoritarian behavior in the church and in the civic realm. There’s a little bit of recent pushback in both arenas, but the narcissistic and despotic spirit that animates some ‘leaders’ won’t be driven out easily or without strife.

  36. Jim Pierce :
    I don’t mean to sound overly simplistic with the following response, but if somebody is claiming a teaching is doctrine binding upon us all, then we check that claim against the Scriptures.

    Absolutely, but what would really be “overly simplistic” is expecting everyone else always to come to the same conclusions that I have. Does anyone honestly think that the matters in dispute today are 100% crystal clear in Scripture and the Confessions?

    Jim Pierce :
    We can only settle the matter through repentance and listening to God’s word.

    Amen to that. Praise God that President-Elect Harrison agrees, as well.

    Jim Pierce :
    However, we must always stand firm in what we know is the truth and continuously confess it.

    The challenge is differentiating “what we know is the truth” from what we believe is the truth, but might be wrong about.

  37. @Mike Baker #240

    Mike, do you always skip the first sentence when you read?
    I qualified my response and commented accordingly.

    “Insofar as no one has been able to disagree without suffering for it, yes.” –hej

    You added in all the other circumstances peculiar to the 16th century.

    [BTW: “Book burning” is out of date.
    These days the desire to block all blogs has been heard though.] 🙁

    There are too many too long posts here to continue. 🙂

  38. @Pastor Tim Rossow #204

    Per Tim’s comment in comment # 204, we gave a chance for final words on this subject and are now closing comments on this thread.

    Also, per other comments, the system really isn’t set up to hand this many comments on any one post, and that is impacting the load time for this post. I think 247 comments is indeed a record on this, but we’ve been near 200 in the past.

    It’s been pointed out that we had one thread with 475 comments ..

    Norm Fisher