Steadfast Office — Theology, not Politics

And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. (Matthew 28:18-20) NKJV

Jesus’ words in verse 20a are important to His Church on earth. Any church body should be mindful of it.  An honest question about it may be: has the LCMS kept this verse in mind? Do we teach all things? Do we need to repent? As the Psalmist laments, How long O Lord? Lord, have mercy upon us.

Recently, while attending the Minnesota North District Convention, another brother under the yoke of Christ came up to me and said, “This isn’t about theology. It’s about politics.” My stomach ached. I was sick. I asked him, “Are you kidding me? We are churchman gathered together to talk about the Church. Since when does politics dictate to the Church?”

I may be naive. I may be ignorant about many things. There are a few things however I am confident about.  One thing I know for sure is that I believe Jesus is the Christ the Son of the living God. I know that the One I confess to be Lord is the same One who called and ordained me into His holy service to teach His people to observe all things [He] has commanded. I know it’s about theology. It has to be. If the Church is all about politics, then what are we doing with the Holy Bible and the Lutheran Confessions? If it’s all about politics, then these precious books are nothing more than books with mere common words written on their pages.

The Church must be about theology. If Church is about politics, it becomes a business.  That would make everyone in this “business” we call church nothing more than businessmen who are directed by politics. When I was confronted with the reality that the LCMS is not about theology but politics, my conscience was burdened.

How can I, as an under-shepherd of the Good Shepherd, teach them all things He has commanded us when it’s not about theology? I began to think that’s probably why we got ourselves into the situation we’re in today; it’s because of politics. The LCMS got herself into trouble because she cast aside the Word of God and the Lutheran Confessions and replaced these things with politics which has resulted in By-Laws, open communion, contemporary worship, dancers, screen, projectors, women preachers and teachers, etc.

On that fateful day, April 16, 2012, when I was told that the Minnesota North District Convention is not about theology but politics, I came to the realization that The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod will never repair the wrongs she has committed and continues to commit.

IT’S TIME! for reformation! IT’S TIME! for confession and absolution. IT’S TIME! that NO means NO once again in the Church. IT’S TIME! to return to the command of Jesus that we, the Church be about theology and teach them all things He has commanded us.


Associate Editor’s Note:  With this post we introduce Pastor John Wurst, who will be writing occasionally in a category called “Steadfast Office” where he will work on matters pertaining to the pastoral office.

Pastor John F. Wurst was born in Walled Lake, MI. He served 21 years in the US Naval Service retiring A.D. 2001. He studied at Detroit College of Business, earning his BBA in Management A.D. 1997. In 2003, he then began his studies toward ordination into the Office of the Holy Ministry at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, IN. He served a summer vicarage at St. James in Archbold, Ohio and a second vicarage at St. John + Bingen in Decatur, Indiana. Pastor Wurst now serves the Christ at The Lutheran Church of Christ the King in Duluth, Minnesota. He is married to Tamara. He has two step-children, Amanda and Benjamin and also two grandchildren, Evelyn and Dominic.


Steadfast Office — Theology, not Politics — 30 Comments

  1. I came to the realization that The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod will never repair the wrongs she has committed and continues to commit.

    Isn’t this true of all individual Christians also?  Is there some other visible church organization that is doing a better job?   Thanks.

  2. John,

    Thank you for your questions. To your first question, I am not an expert on how the other denominations function. There may be some one on list or inthe Church who might help us understand the functions of the other denominations.

    As for question 2, every organized body is going to have some semblance of error because the people in every organization is ade up of sinners. I am not saying Missouri will ever be perfect. I am saying that Missouri will never repair her wrongs because she will never repent and confess her sins.

    Missouri could and can change her ways. She will only do it when she returns to using her theology which she “confesses.”

  3. One thing I’ve noticed since having my eyes opened to divisions in our synod, is sadly, that the theology where we differ in, is expressed in the politics of our synod. It is just the way it works. We don’t want to be political, but when the two connect? When who is elected matters so much because of theological beliefs……..Yes, getting back to the Word, repenting, and teaching ALL that He commanded is very necessary, because that can make it so we become more united, so that it isn’t about politics. (as much any way)
    I was at the MNN convention, and I didn’t think it about politics at all. I must have missed something. I had thought there would be much more contention than there was over the things like “Closed communion”. What was the political part? The district had to elect people for the boards.

  4. One thing I’ve noticed since having my eyes opened to divisions in our synod, is sadly, that the theology where we differ in, is expressed in the politics of our synod.

    Kari, you’re correct. Politics entered the Church because man disagrees with the Word of God. The first time someone wanted something contrary to the Word, the Church should have stood her ground and said no. If the reason or group of persons persisted, he/they should’ve even disciplined.

    Elections can be should be based only on theology. The candidate only has one platform; furthering te Gospel of Jesus Christ, which first mandates upholding the Word of Fod and the Lutheran Confessions.

    As for the MNN District Convention, the resolution on Closed Communion was written theologically but then, because of disagreement, politics took over. Personally, there should’ve been no debate on that resolution because, in all reality, the resolution never should have been written. The reason we are still debating the Word of God and the Lutheran Confessions is because of politics and te lack of theology.

  5. Do you mean the resolution should never have needed to be written? It was a resolution to say “Closed Communion”, not “Close Communion”, right? Or do you mean when people tried to amend it to make it sound nicer?

  6. I think you’ve got it! EXACTLY! The whole discussion occurred because of politics. The doctrine of the LC–MS already confesses CLOSED communion.

  7. Welcome pastor wurst, I look forward to reading your posts & thank you for your contributions to BOJS. My church is in the MN north also so I look forward to posts from a MN north pastor 🙂

  8. I can understand your frustration – but politics is now and always has been part of the church. It always will be. Even if the debate were not about something as significant as open communion there would still be politics. This is a result of the church doing and participating in things that are not directly commanded or forbidden by the Word. Forbidding any type of political process to allow the church to voice differing opinions and reaching some type of agreement usurps the confessions just as much as open communion – if not more so. Because in so doing the authority of the church, the definition of the church being the congregation of believers is destroyed and instead replaced by a dictator or emperor who decides what the church will do and how it will be conducted in all things.

    Such a position completely undoes the entire reformation.

    Open and earnest debate is what should be encouraged and fostered – especially when someone in the church is suggesting or sponsoring error. Only then can it be called out and shown for what it is. If the people who know the truth get mad and storm out in a huff because someone else is questioning it – then the worst possible outcome just occurred. The truth is not aired, the Word is not allowed to be spoken – which defends itself better than any theologian ever could, and worst of all, the Word is not given to the erring party – which is the only effective means by which they will be corrected.

    The truth can withstand questioning. It has won out before and it will do so again. We are just called to proclaim it. Salt and light is what the LCMS needs now and that is what it needed in 1870. Otherwise, the counter-reformation is right – we claim to believe in Sola Scriptura, but in fact practice Semper Schismata.

    The old man can’t be converted, and the new one doesn’t need to be. It’s annoying when that old man shows up at denominational conventions. Unfortunately, he’s in the pulpit alot too.

  9. @Kari #6

    Sadly I have come to realize that the pastors really shape their congregations, which is fine if their theology is sound but in a lot of causes it is not. You could go to different LCMS churches in my area and find different services at each one. I know we all have worldy things we like about our churches like the design of the sanctuary, the altar, etc but when you have a hard time recognizing if a church is LCMs or elca then there is a problem.

  10. Pastor Wurst,
    First of all I took note that you briefly worked at St. John – Bingen in Indiana. That was where I did my field work during my second year at Ft. Wayne under Pastor Luther Rusert. What a wonderful congregation.
    Secondly, and to your point, it is sad that politics does play a part in the agenda of the church. But sometimes people are quick to give something a “politics” label so that they do not have to address an issue scripturally. One could say the issue with the University Lutheran Chapel here in MN South is over the District Officials treating this as a business item verses those who see it as a theological issue. The reasons for selling the property are upcoming expenses and maintenance. The reasons for maintaining the property is a mission field in the midst of a secular university and a congregation that serves this mission. The twist is that those wanting to sell the property raise the banner of good stewardship while labeling those for keeping the campus site as being political. How ironic.

    Pr. Thomas Queck

  11. Joe, Thank you for your comments.

    I do understand that there are politics in every organization. Politics gets people elected. Politics forms and grows organizations. However, in the Church, there is no room for politics when it comes to doctrine; administration maybe, but not doctrine.

    Let’s say you bring to the table your concern about communion. For instance, and only as an example, you feel it is your right to commune with your children who are Baptists. Immediately and without reservation, the answer would be no. You would then be further instructed in the teachings of the Lutheran Church and called to repent. Engaging in debate so you can be heard is one thing but caving to your desires which are contrary to the Word of God and teh Lutheran Confessions is wrong. That’s doing it the theological way.

    The political way would find compromise after the debate and write a By-Law to put into action the newly devised plan of action.

    While on this subject, I will also say, that all matters of doctrine must be decided by a unanimous vote or the change doesn’t take place, providing the change was in accordance with teh Word of God and the Lutheran Confessions.

  12. Everybody sins through the act of toleration. Everyone is guilty. And, all you have left is a business. Everyone working for those retirement packages.

  13. @Pastor John Wurst #17
    That sets up a huge impasse. Either I am sinning because I am acting contrary to God’s Word or I am sinning because I am tolerating those who are acting that way. If I continue to act contrary to God’s Word I am sinning against God and taking advantage of my more tolerant brothers in Christ while refusing to repent. If I am a tolerant brother and I continue to repent and ask God’s forgiveness for my toleration, I end up treating grace cheaply. So who blinks first? This is a stand-off where apparently one side refuses to repent and the other keeps falling back on cheap grace. Does the tolerant side continue to stand with guns drawn, hoping the unrepentant side finally sees their error and repents? or does the other side stand fast in their unrepentant ways until the tolerant side finally says, “Enough is enough” and walks away?

  14. With respect, I would like to ask Pastor Wurst to clarify his accusation:

    “Everybody sins through the act of toleration. Everyone is guilty. And, all you have left is a business. Everyone working for those retirement packages.”

    Is he asserting that everyone serving, in any capacity, throughout The LCMS, is sinning, and guilty of sin, and working only for a retirement package?

  15. @Rev Thomas Queck #15
    Rev. Queck, I assume you are treating the reasons for the District’s sale of ULC in a devil’s advocate manner (as in, “they say that…”). While the District has claimed that they are selling the chapel as a matter of stewardship, that is clearly not the case. According to ULC’s website, the chapel and her ministry cost the District almost nothing. According to the District’s treasurer, MNS is in good shape financially. The money from the sale of the chapel will be directed toward new spending, not current budget needs. Clearly there is far more than issues of stewardship behind their actions. Is it political? Certainly. Is it theological? Also certainly. Is it because of stewardship? Almost certainly not.

  16. Rev. McCall, I need to clarify my statement.

    Looking at any situation,. whether a parish, District, or the LC-MS as a whole, if a situation comes up that is contrary to the Word of Good and the Lutheran Confessions, and a person does nothing about it, then they are just tolerating the sinners actions by scratching their ears.

    If theology is done, then the ears don’t get scratched. If the person or group persists in their desires, then further action, theologically, is needed.

    The day is upon us, the LC-MS, to stand up and say no to those who want things that are contrary to the Scriptures and the Confessions. The day is upon us when discipline must be used.

    I don’t think this is the “take a stand with guns drawn” scenario but I do think this is a “take your stand and draw your Sword (of the Spirit)” and prepare to fight the goodd fight of faith.

    I am not talking about the color of the carpet or anything like that. I am talking about doctrinal issues. If the wrong-doers persist, then they should be disciplined. Our Lord is clear on how to handle all this; use Matthew 18. The Word is very effective.

  17. Rev. McCain, thank you for your request. The sinmple answer to your question is no. I posted some thoughts of clarification to Rev. McCall. I hope they help you as well.

    I am referrring to all people, especially the pastors and church workers, that when they desire things that are doctrinally impure, they are sinning. When they speak out against the Scriptures abd Confessions to aid and assist others to get their desires that violate Scripture, then they are not only tolerant of the others sin but also are sinning.

    If people working in the LC-MS do not stand up ande defend the Scriptures and COnfessions, then they are not working theologically but politically. When one is only about politics, then one is only working a job and working for retirement benefits.

    This post is about doctrinal issues. It is about dealing with doctrine theologically versus politics. If one does not stand against false doctrine, then one could be said of living in toleration of sin and working for a paycheck and retirement. Again, I am not talking about the color of the carpet or issues like that. Doctrine is settled theologically, not with politics.

  18. @Pastor John Wurst #21
    Forgive the gun analogy, I’m from out West and tend to think in terms of gunfights. 🙂
    So I guess where I am at with your statement is, what if I follow Matthew 18 with my sinning brother who is teaching or practicing false doctrine. Take for instance the church Pr. McCain wrote about, Lakepointe, AR. Clearly engaging in altar and pulpit fellowship with a Baptist “minister”. I say something. He refuses to repent. His DP refuses to tell him to repent. Now what? If I remain in “fellowship” with him by virtue of our shared membership in synod, does that mean I am still tolerating such behavior? or do I or he need to leave?

  19. I actually loved the gun analogy. You drew a picture that I and the readers could understand. Nicely done.

    You have identified the very thing I am writing about. When politics take over the wrong never gets corrected. You are correct. If you follow Matthew 18, then the offender should be put out of the Synod. The process Jesus His Church is not a difficult process.

  20. @Pastor John Wurst #24

    The reason the impasse persists is because each “side” seeks to control the authority and power associated with the bureaucracy attached to the denomination. The “winner” gets the prize, whether it is the presidency, control of the synod bureaucracy, influence over the seminaries, etc. This is the natural progression of denominationalism, now being hurried along by the speed of communication in the modern world. The resulting outcome is “micro-denominations” tailored to the vast array of confused theologies apparent today, e.g. the recent exodus of some congregations from ELCA to a newly formed denomination that is comfortable with women pastors as long as the are not in homosexual relationships.

    If there were no governing body (the synod and its associted assets) the solution would be simple. After presenting the erring individual or group with the gospel and the opportunity to repent (perhaps numerous times) and having it rejected numerous times, the faithful would dissolve the fellowship. Matter settled. From the standpoint of the faithful, the erring were put out of the church, even if it was the faithful who walked away from the unhealthy relationship.

    The trouble is, no one seems willing to walk away because doing so may result in relinquishing property, prestige and power that are all attached to a fellowship that was not divinely instituted but manmade. Are these things so vital to the kingdom that they are irreplacable?

    Ongoing “toleration” results from the desire to retain the power associated with the assets and name of the synod. This is the realm of politics and it defines the situation in which we find ourselves. Where would we be if this had been the attitude of the synod founders? And why do we fool ourselves into thinking fellowship exists when it is already broken?

    Those who are faithful must ask what is more important – assets and earthly power or faithfulness to the truth of scripture?

    The erring will ALWAYS fight to retain the worldly – the physical power and control. Only the faithful are capable of starting over fresh with the confidence of God’s grace and with the Holy Spirit as the wind in their sails.

  21. @Rich #26
    This is why the ACELC simmered down after Harrison was elected, because they had the “power” now. So then the real question for confessional, faithful churches and pastors becomes, “Why are you staying?” If faithfulness to God’s Word is important above all else we sure aren’t acting like it is. The LCMS and our foolish notions of fellowship, our pensions, our property, etc. instead are what are most important. Lots of food for thought from this post.

  22. @Rev. McCall #27
    This is why the ACELC simmered down after Harrison was elected, because they had the “power” now.

    I don’t think ACELC got any “power” from Harrison’s election. They did acquire the hope that their concerns might be given a hearing, instead of brushed off or actively opposed in St Louis.
    But a lot more has to change before confessional Lutherans are in danger of achieving “power”!

  23. It is interesting to see that Fort Wayne not St Louis produced the Lake Pointe. Of course the guys he trains are all from St Louis. Link to article where he had the Baptist preacher.

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