A Pastor’s Resignation Letter – A Warning for the LCMS, by Pr. Rossow

Below is a letter of resignation from a pastor in the LCMS. It came our way and we feel it is important news for our readers and a helpful warning for us all.

By publishing this letter we are not endorsing the action of this pastor. We do not claim to know all the ins and outs of this situation but we have experienced enough doctrinal foolishness in the LCMS to recognize a warning shot when we see one. We completely understand his frustration and can imagine all that he says to be the case with maybe one exception. This pastor says he found no confessional, brotherly support in the LCMS. That has not been our experience. Are there large pockets of little or no support? Yes, and Pastor VonMehren was apparently in one of those but there also larger pockets of great support and we hope that the posts on this website are proof of such.

We are glad to see this pastor not lay his frustration entirely at the doorstep of President Harrison, Like Pastor VanMehren we are pleased with the leadership and work of President Harrison. Thanks to President Harrison and his team good things are happening in the LCMS to restore purity of doctrine and faithfulness of practice. The pace may not be the same pace as you or I might pick. Some of us would want things to happen faster and some even more deliberately than the current pace but overall, we are being steered in a good direction.

So we submit for your edification and as a warning shot over the bow of the battleship Missouri the heartfelt and accurate letter of a frustrated, former LCMS pastor. May this letter further egg us on to uphold pure doctrine and faithful practice.

Pres. Matthew Harrison
Int’l Center, LC-MS
1333 South Kirkwood Rd.
St. Louis, MO 63122-7295

22 May, 2012

Dear President Harrison,

Hope all is well with your family, health and your service to Christ’s people. I write to inform you of a decision that I have been compelled to make by both circumstances and conscience, a decision that will bring delight to my current and past district presidents, as well as my current and past circuit counselors. I am moved to tender my resignation from the clergy roster of the LC-MS effective the date of this letter. As with the painful eventuality that many have the misfortune of experiencing, a divorce, the end of a slowly dying marriage, I grieve; not for what was, but for what should have been.

I have served in the LC-MS for 15 years and I have finally had enough of, on the one hand, the open heterodoxy in both word and practice that is not only tolerated, but promoted and encouraged in the LC-MS. On the other hand, I tire as well from being treated worse than a heathen infidel by those who deceitfully claim to be “servants of servants.”

I was recently forced to resign from a parish I served for 8 years, Emmaus Lutheran, Redmond, OR for no reasons. I was charged or accused of absolutely nothing, not a single reason was brought to my attention as to why I needed to resign. Even when directly asked, those responsible for this travesty would just shrug their shoulders and give no response. Yet, when it happened, my district “servant of servants”, with no reason given, no communication attempted or made, no letter, no phone call, no email, no contact whatsoever, put me under discipline effectively terminating my career.

The circuit meetings I have attended have been nothing but a shameful waste of time. Not only do the pastors not engage in any theology, casuistry or brotherly support or admonition, several seem to delight in nothing other than sheer buffoonery. I do not exclude the circuit counselors (“circuit clownselors”).

There still has been no indication that Missouri recognizes the public sin of Dr. Benke, nor that it ever will. Faithful pastor’s have no friends in Missouri. They and almost exclusively they take their career and Calling in hand caught between the all too frequent viciousness of goats in their own congregations and the lying hypocrisy of other “brothers” and their “servants of servants” in their district offices. It has been and is open warfare against faithful shepherds as those whose father is the devil work to subvert and destroy them.

The Holy Ghost indeed calls and gathers sinners into His Christian church. Unfortunately, they then begin industriously building their Towers of Babel a.k.a. institutions (synods). They then begin serving “the company” rather than Christ. All with the best of intentions of course. Missouri is the victim of her own “success.” Too many pastors have purchased their peace and retirements with obsequies service to “the company.” On the other hand, too many in the pew agree, eschewing any semblance of honor and respect for the Holy office and the catechesis that should be coming from it. Added to that is the aforementioned deceit and treachery of “ecclesiastical supervisors.” I suppose if monies to district came through and at the pleasure of pastors rather than congregations, there would be a sudden and drastic turn of affairs in the relations between pastors and district presidents. Then, all the “company men” would stand in gaping wonderment, declaring gleefully, “Look at what the Spirit did; the Spirit, O the spirit!” In the meantime, Missouri gladly ignites itself and would have gone down in flames had you not have had the God blessed faith, integrity and spine to put out the blaze.

I do thank God for you and what God has and is doing through you. Ever since the first  Emmaus Conference you attended with the presidents of the WELS and ELS I have led my then congregation Emmaus in prayers every Sunday for all three of you. May God bring about a (what needs to be) massive upheaval of renewal and restoration within Missouri.

All of the sins and folly I have described herein that I have seen and experienced within Missouri appears to be starkly absent in the ELS which I am colloquizing into. Brothers are not shy of either supporting or admonishing one another; they actually do theology at their Winkles and act respectably. The Lutheran Confessions are actually known, believed and put into practice. There are no parasitic district offices and little to no “company” (at least as far as the local pastors and congregations are concerned) to lure men away from Christ and into the service of “the company”; they issue no grey flannel suits like Missouri does.

Again, to the delight of my district presidents, past and present, and my circuit counselors, past and present, I bid Missouri a sad but free adieu.

May god continue to forgive me my tongue which is all too often too sharp and for a faith that is all too often weak and insufficient with a patience that is at times entirely absent. May He also give to you and those working with you His continued blessing of strength, courage, integrity and health, both you and all your family’s. God’s blessing!

______________________

Pastor Randy VanMehren
Grace Lutheran Church
4125 SW Salmon Ave
Redmond, OR 97756

cc: Mr. Paul Linneman
Mr. Peter Pagel
Pastor Randall Ehrichs
Pastor Doulas Fountain
President John Moldstad
Pastor Steve Sparley
Pastor Glen Obenberger
Mr. Warren Schumacher
Mr. John Luther

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, LCMSsermons.com, 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.

More of his work can be found at KNFA.net.

Comments

A Pastor’s Resignation Letter – A Warning for the LCMS, by Pr. Rossow — 64 Comments

  1. It appears Rev. VanMehren is headed to the ELS. Here is a comment made in the ELS President’s newsletter a few months ago:

    Redmond, Oregon
    A number of the members of Grace Lutheran in Redmond, Oregon (located in the middle of the state), gathered on Sunday afternoon, March 25, 2012, in order to meet with Pres. Moldstad and to learn more about the ELS. Pastor Randy VanMehren (pictured fourth from the back right; his wife Robin is second from the back right) is an LCMS pastor who is seeking to join our synod by colloquy. The date for Rev. VanMehren’s colloquy is being set for June 13, 2012. Information for the colloquy should be sent to the office of the president.

    end of quote from ELS President’s newsletter

    His congregation, Emmaus, appears to have gone through some real struggles over the past ten years, with baptized membership declining from a high of 120 baptized and 98 communicants to its present low of 41 baptized and communicant members, with only 28 people regularly attending worship on a Sunday morning, according to last year’s statistical report.

    No matter what the reasons, such a drastic decline is generally a sign of a highly conflicted and stressful situation, and acutely so for any pastor who has to go through this.

    I pray Pastor VanMehren now finds peace and joy in his ministry in the ELS.

    It is interesting to note that his letter is dated May 22, but he had met with the ELS President and Grace Lutheran Church already on March 25, 2012 to discuss leaving the Missouri Synod.

  2. He mentions Benke, but this is also the district and DP that provides political cover for Matthew Becker….

  3. Well I hope he enjoys being in a Synod that is in full fellowship with WELS. WELS is no different than the LCMS when it comes to tolerance of heterodox practice and theology and has the same incompetent DPs. I suggest all orthodox Lutherans form a new body and leave the corporate managers in their money and success driven corporations. If there is dissension among the ranks, they’ll burn you at the stake using copies of the Confessions.

  4. Someday, we will wise up and make our DPs accountable to someone other than a triennial convention that the DP himself controls.

    Until then, pastors and congregations will continue to be mistreated. TW

  5. “Someday, we will wise up and make our DPs accountable to someone other than a triennial convention that the DP himself controls.”

    At first I misread this and I thought it was “we will rise up …” I was picturing a militant confessional revolution. But perhaps it would be better “to wise up.”

  6. Ryan,

    Great line about “burning you at the stake with copies of the Confessions.”

    I do think the ELS and WELS are a little better off than the LCMS. It is probably the case that we will never be able to escape the problems “money and corporate managers” that you cite.

  7. “parasitic district offices.”

    Wow. What good is synod leadership if the districts function completely independent of synod. I suppose Pastor Harrison can be a good influence, but synod cannot force a district to do anything it does not want to do. What a shame that all (or at least most?) LCMS pastors will not criticize the LCMS districts out of fear of retaliation.

    What percentage of LCMS pastors are leaving the LCMS for the Roman Catholic church, the Eastern Orthodox church, or for another Lutheran denomination?

  8. Yes, the ELS exercises church discipline.

    It exercises so much church discipline that ELS President Moldstad can order congregations to depose a faithful pastor who would not bow down to the Wauwatosa idol.

    For their part, the congregation, who up to that time supported their pastor, meekly complied, because the synodical president has a greater authority, given to him by God, by virtue of his call to the office of Synod President, which, though it be indeed an office invented by man, is granted divine authority and power by virtue of the formless ministry doctrine of the WELS.

    And as for the brotherly support – all those brethren stood by and watched it happen, and most did absolutely nothing, for fear they were next.

    The ELS is no haven. The grass is not greener on the other side.

  9. Pastor Diers #17: Do you mean to say that the OLCC is the answer? How does the OLCC doctrine of the Ministry differ from that of the “Loehists” in the LCMS, ELDoNA, or the Augustana Ministerium, given the writings of the former pastor of Resurrection, Sioux City and your own “Who May Teach in the Church?” as quoted by Prof. Brug in his THE MINISTRY OF THE WORD, pp. 310-311?

  10. This is sad but is it representative?   Mutual encouragement works both ways.  Was Pr VanMenren friendly with his brother pastors?  Some folks just may have a confrontational personality.

    Also, aren’t there pastors/congregations from other synods who transfer to the LCMS?  I wonder what is the transfer in/out ratio.

  11. No synod is the answer, Warren. The answer is faithfulness to the Word of God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ, even if it means being made an outcast.

    I was entirely unaware of Brug’s use of my paper. I see he has never read my paper. All he had is a caricature of my paper, via selective the quotes incorporated in the late K. K. Miller’s paper which accused me of legalism. If Pr. Brug was actually interested in the position of the OLCC, you would think that he would have made some attempt to contact me about it, rather than relying upon Pastor Miller’s horrendous hack job of a paper which mischaracterizes our position at every opportunity. If Brug is going to quote my paper, he should have had the courtesy to actually request a copy from me. As it stands, what he writes in his volume Ministry of the Word is a horrible mischaracterization of our position.

    I see that Brug likewise condemns the E. A. W. Kaehler paper, “Does a congregation have the right…?” At least I’m in good company.

    The former pastor of Resurrection, Sioux City is a man, now deceased, named Timothy Daene. To my knowledge, he has never written on this subject. You must have him confused with someone else.

    Our position, by the way, is in every way identical to that taught by the bulk of the confessionals in the LCMS. I agree with every word I have heard Todd Wilkin speak about lay preaching, sermon reading, etc. I agree with the Gottesdienst guys. I agree with ELDoNA on this issue.

    As for the Loehe bait, I’m not biting. You read my paper on the office of Bishop. You know where I stand on the grades of the ministry and the distinction between human and divine offices.

  12. @John Rixe #19
    As a member of Emmaus, I can say that no one took the decision lightly–it was based solely on Scripture and not by our own feelings or thoughts. Please know there are two sides to every story.

  13. “This is sad but is it representative?”

    Not to be rude, but thanks for the laugh. Seriously, I personally know at least 20 pastor’s that could (or have) written parts of that letter, especialy with regard to the portion regarding District and Circuit interaction.

    The LCMS polity allows the office of District President to be abused. While not all abuse the office, many, many, many do. The history and notes of District Conventions might as well be written in advance of their actual dates. DP’s control the committees, chair the floor actions, stack the overtures the way they want, begin numbering other overtures in double digits or turn them into an omnibus to be reviewed by the DP.

    The LCMS may not be Roman catholic, but it has given the power of the pope to the office of DP aka Bishopric. (And you might also say that since the are called to a contrived office the first five letters of that title are inaccurate)

  14. Dr. Robert Preus (1924-95)…

    “The new reconciliation process [Pittsburgh, 1992] does not allow for due process. Therefore, it is divesting a poor person of what I think is one right that you ought to have in the church. Obviously, you don’t talk about too many rights in the church, because we as Christians are servants and we have obligations, not rights that we’re always claiming for ourselves. But I do have a right not to be accused without proof. And I have a right not to be thrown out of a parish or to be disciplined unless it’s proved that I’ve done something wrong. And the present position of our Synod-for a district president has the right to suspend a person from the ministerial office before that person has been proven to be a false teacher or an ungodly person, is an ungodly situation in itself. I don’t like people being railroaded out of the ministry! Due process is essential to any type of reconciliation, adjudication process. And they don’t allow for it. That has to be changed.”

    “Dr. Robert Preus Presentation”
    September 9, 1995

  15. Pastor Diers #20-21: So not even your own OLCC is a viable option for someone leaving the LCMS? Gosh, that’s quite an admission…

    If Prof. Brug misquoted you on page 311 of his book, will you contact him about those misquotations and ask for their removal? With reference to the quotations cited by the late Pastor Miller with reference to Resurrection, Sioux City, are you claiming that the late Pastor Daene did *not* write them or that they were *not* available at Resurrection, Sioux City when Pastor Daene was pastor there?

    I’m sorry, but I don’t remember reading your paper. Can you link it to this forum so that it can be seen? Will it tell us how you differ in your own doctrine of the Ministry from the “Loehists”?

  16. Pres. Harrison took office in 2010 and it appears that this letter is dated May 22, 2011.

  17. Warren Malach :
    Pastor Diers #20-21: So not even your own OLCC is a viable option for someone leaving the LCMS? Gosh, that’s quite an admission…

    Warren, thankfully the other readers of BOJS, should they care to read my off-topic post, will see right through your twisting of my words. We’re done here.

  18. @John Rixe #19

    The forced resignation of LCMS pastors is happening all around us. Not for preaching or teaching false doctrine, not for living a scandalous lifestlye, and not for refusing to perform the duties of the call. Rather, any and every reason for the pastor “not being a good fit” is seen as an option for the congregation to “give the pastor an opportunity to resign in exchange for a generous severance package.”

    For an excellent treatment of the subject please see Rev. Scott Porath’s essay “The Unbiblical Removal of Pastors.”

    http://www.acelc.net/page/2011_conference_papers

    As for evidence of these happenings in the LCMS please see:

    http://www.acelc.net/page/acelc_admonition__errors_documents

  19. you are not alone-it is like a cancer-there are more pastors than you think on the receiving end of this process of foolishness and dishonor to the Lord.President Harrison has a huge mission before him to lead 35,plus 2.5 million back to truth in doctrine and practice as per God’s commands and not political and financial expediency perhaps?!?!. A call to correct and rebuke and respect the Office-and solely Word and Sacraments and not the Canon Law of polity and psychology and church growth—-let’s start here as we repent and prepare to meet God to give an account

    Yes,there are always answers found only in HIS TRUTH! for the 35 plus 2.5 million

  20. @“LC-MS Quotes” #24

    This is what I think is most important. Sure we can kill off SMP and Lay ministry, close our communion, etc. But if we have no enforcement capabilities, then rank congregationalism will still rule. “synod is advisory, we will do whatever we want.” This needs to be at the top with the other critical doctrine issues we have.

  21. Brothers:

    This indeed is a very sad situation, but one that is all too common. I know many men who have been pressured into writing letters like this, and some who were close until the point when God called them to a new church at the 11th hour. I highly encourage you all to read the papers encouraged in post #28.

    What is further sad is that the Nebraska district in convention this year had a great opportunity to try to speak to this issue, and instead voted on a resolution the floor committee “combined” by making it say the complete 180 degree opposite thing. Instead of calling on our DP to communicate with pastors when antagonists call him and want to run him out, and to show greater defense to those pastors, the district voted to support the COP’s study of two documents, Guidelines and Counsel for Called Workers and Congregations when considering Resignations from their calls; and Guidelines and Counsel for Congregations and Called Workers when considering Removal of Workers from their calls.

    In Christ,
    Rev. Robert Mayes
    Beemer, NE

  22. Greetings

    I currently attend Emmaus Lutheran Church-LCMS in Redmond, OR. My attendance there goes back to 1995, well before the arrival of Randy VanMerhen. During that time, I’ve served as Sunday School teacher, had multiple positions on the Church Council (Secretary, Vice President, and President) and worked many years on the Elder Board.

    While this little church has been in decline, it remains steadfastly liturgical and orthodox. Until the new LSB, we were a TLH 5 & 15 congregation. Many of our struggles have been because of the installed pastors from 2003-2011.

    I get angry reading Randy’s letter because it paints an incomplete picture of the situation he created for himself. I will not break the 8th Commandment here but Randy’s abandonment of his Call was well documented and over many years. His behaviors, habits, and practices were not in accordance to that of a Lutheran pastor. When finally confronted, he was provided the due process of the Circuit Councilor, which he indignantly refused.

    Randy’s desire to join the ELS is nothing new…He talked about how things would be better if we switched synods. He even invited an ELS pastor from Coos Bay, OR to a congregational meeting in 2006 for this purpose.
    I thank God for the solid members of the Elder Board and Church Council at Emmaus that finally confronted Randy and forced some pastoral discipline. While having a pastor fall away from his Call is sad, I count his colloquy into the ELS as benefit to the LCMS.

  23. A CSI analysis of this pastor’s resignation letter shows some serious problems. The writer reveals some unintended misanthropy. Not all church problems deal with doctrine and practice.

    Norman Teigen, Layman
    Evangelical Lutheran Synod

  24. Dr. Robert Preus (1924-95)…

    “We simply have to get back to what a pastor is. He is not a manager. He’s not a C.E.O. He’s not a coach of a football team that you can fire if he doesn’t win enough games. You can’t fire a pastor if he doesn’t make enough converts. You can fire him if he doesn’t make enough calls. You can fire him if he doesn’t preach the Gospel. You can fire him if he’s an adulterer. But you can’t fire him for non-growth or because you don’t like his personality. People confuse these things. They invent doctrinal reasons. But the reason isn’t often really doctrinal.”

    “Dr. Robert Preus Presentation”
    September 9, 1995

  25. @Rev. Clint K. Poppe #28

    …but I have run across a very few individuals whose personalities seem to indicate they are unsuitable to be a parish pastor.  On the other hand, I have run across many, many laymen whose personalities indicate they are unsuitable to be voting members.     🙂

  26. Dr. Robert Preus (1924-95)…

    “There’s no sinless pastor. You haven’t got the Lord Jesus Christ up there preaching to you every Sunday. And if you did, you wouldn’t like Him any better, probably, because of the message.”

    “Dr. Robert Preus Presentation”
    September 9, 1995

  27. @Warren Malach #25
    It is really ironic, when you consider it, that the Wauwatosan doctrine of the ministry leads to a ranking of the ministry. As Pr Diers pointed out, the president of the ELS, by his authority construed through the WELS understanding of the office of the ministry, forced a congregation to fire their faithful pastor. He charged him with no false doctrine, but only with “sowing seeds of discord among brethren.” When one takes a formless view of the ministry, one necessarily develops ranks within the ministry. When one denies that Jesus actually instituted specifically the pastoral office in instituting the ministry, one by necessity, creates a hierarchy, replacing divine institutions with man-made authority.

    Wait, are we talking about Wauwatosa or Loehe? Shoot, I can’t remember! Could you help Pastor Diers and me understand the distinction? I’m sure he would be interested in this as well.

  28. I’m curious to know what ever came of the pastors and congregations that followed Rolf Preus out of the ELS? Did they ever form a new church body? Anyone have any information?

  29. @Rev. Clint K. Poppe #37

    Please see the Clergy Confidential string. 

    “You’ve probably heard it a hundred times, but I’ll make it a hundred and one. Know your people. Visit them. Spend time with them. Listen to them. Do pastoral anthropology on them. Hang out with them in their homes and gardens, their businesses, barns, and garages. I won’t use that awful “relational” word the bureaucrats like to toss around, but like it or not, believe it or not, want it or not, pastoral ministry is a people business.”

  30. Rev. McCain,

    They formed the ACLC: http://theaclc.org

    However, Rolf is no longer with them. Rolf left and joined the Lutheran Church Canada, so that he could enter into fellowship with the LCMS again.

    The ACLC is presently in fellowship with ELDoNA.

  31. @Rev. Larry Wright #22
    “The LCMS may not be Roman catholic, but it has given the power of the pope to the office of DP aka Bishopric. (And you might also say that since the are called to a contrived office the first five letters of that title are inaccurate)”

    Pastor Wright, were you a military chaplain? 🙂

  32. I have a hard time keeping up with the ever expanding alphabet soup of micro-denominations, each clamoring that they are the “real” Lutherans.

    I’m sorry, my cynicism is showing.

  33. A member of that congregation (at least they say so) has left a comment on the Facebook post of this blog entry. I’m Just pointing it out if it has gone unnoticed.

  34. Post it here, we have no idea where to go look for “the Facebook post of this blog entry.”

  35. Below is the text of the Face-book post copied and pasted in its entirety.

    At this point it appears to be a case of he said, she said. In other words, before passing judgement, be certain you have the full and complete story.

    Danna Koessel Schriner I am a member of the church, Emmaus in Redmond, Oregon and would like to clarify that our church dismissed Randy for Scriptural reasons. He was counseled for years about these problems in effort to help him through with no resolve until our congregation was down to a handful of members. Emmaus remains a confessional church that is grounded on the Word and Sacraments.