5:2 Trying Even Harder To Be Non-Biblical and Non-Lutheran

I have written a few articles on a Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod movement called FiveTwo. This movement is anti-Scriptural at its base, though the founder, Bill Woolsey, and his followers would object to that description in the strongest terms.

I’m not in the LC-MS. The reason I’ve written about them is that the fact that they are allowed to exist as part of a nominally Confessional Lutheran church body means that people will see them as a legitimate and approved expression of Confessional Lutheran Christianity. After all, if they are part of the largest self-identifying Confessional Lutheran synod in the U.S. then what they teach must, by implication, have the approval of that denomination.

The danger extends not only to the Confessional Lutheran members of the
LC-MS, but also to other, smaller, Confessional Lutheran Synods: like the E.L.S., W.E.L.S., C.L.C., and the whole alphabet-soup.

Why? The danger of this leaven is its appeal to the flesh of any member of a Confessional Lutheran synod who, struck by the Law of God and his or her own guilt sees the marketing appeal and propaganda of success which FiveTwo projects–all as if it were a Confessionally Lutheran sanctioned movement.

The reason I haven’t written more articles on this group is that it would appear a personal obsession and reek of vindictiveness. It’s not because they have been shy of putting out many articles full of bad theology and heresy. Quite to the contrary, the FiveTwo Facebook page and their website put out a continuous flow of false teaching reminiscent of the Dragon’s vomit trying to drown the Church in Revelation 12.

When a Confessional Lutheran pastor takes his vow of ordination he subscribes unconditionally to the teaching of Scripture as it is confessed clearly and scripturally in the Book of Concord. The words of this subscription are found in the closing paragraph of the Solid Declaration of the Formula of Concord:

Since now, in the sight of God and of all Christendom [the entire Church of Christ], we wish to testify to those now living and those who shall come after us that this declaration herewith presented concerning all the controverted articles aforementioned and explained, and no other, is our faith, doctrine, and confession, in which we are also willing, by God’s grace, to appear with intrepid hearts before the judgment-seat of Jesus Christ, and give an account of it; and that we will neither privately nor publicly speak or write anything contrary to it, but, by the help of God’s grace, intend to abide thereby: therefore, after mature deliberation, we have, in God’s fear and with the invocation of His name, attached our signatures with our own hands. [SD XII:40, emphasis mine]

I would like to present one example among the many available, of their failure to abide in Scripture, and of their teachers’ failure to keep their ordination vow.

The article is by Robin J. Dugall, and was posted December 30th, 2014.

The article is titled “The Spiritual Disciplines and Students.”

FiveTwo posted this article, and FiveTwo is a part of the LC-MS. So who is Robin J. Dugall? He is Adjunct Professor of Religious Studies at AZUSA Pacific University and Sr. Pastor of Peace Lutheran Church, Monroe, Washington.

It is difficult to find it on the web page, Peace Lutheran Church is a member of the LC-MS. Though, at this point they seem to have removed the most overt references to “Lutheran” in their website: calling themselves “Peace @ Monroe.”

So, who or what are the theological sources and foundations for Pr. Dugall’s article?

  1. A quote on the “Spiritual Disciplines” from United Methodist preacher Kendra Dean.
  2. A quote on the value of “historic practices” from the CEO of Lifeway Ministries, Southern Baptist Conference member, Thom Rainer.

Dugall’s article is just over 1,000 words long. In this article he advocates the advantage of using the historical Spiritual Disciplines in training youth.
Dugall writes against using “dumbed down” versions of the Spiritual Disciplines. He cites Rabbi Heschel on the spiritual value of every good deed a person does to redeem the world. Dugall then closes by recommending in the highest terms and quoting from Mark Yaconelli’s book Contemplative Youth Ministry.

In these 1,000+ words the reader is never directed to the teaching of Scripture or the Sacraments as the basis for spiritual growth for youth (or anyone). This is contrary to Scripture and our Confession of the faith. We confess as Scripture teaches:

1] That we may obtain this faith, the Ministry of Teaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments was instituted. For through the Word and Sacraments, as through instruments, 2] the Holy Ghost is given, who works faith; where and when it pleases God, in them that hear 3] the Gospel, to wit, that God, not for our own merits, but for Christ’s sake, justifies those who believe that they are received into grace for Christ’s sake. 4] They condemn the Anabaptists and others who think that the Holy Ghost comes to men without the external Word, through their own preparations and works.[AC 5]

These so called “Spiritual Disciplines” are the pop-theological language and categories of Don Whitney [Southern Baptist Theological Seminary] in his book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, Dallas Willard especially his book, The Spirit of the Disciplines,  and J. I. Packer [wrote the foreword to Whitney’s book].

The consistent theme of these works is that the Christian must make some kind of preparation, abstinence, work, or meditation in order to become closer to God or more God like. I reiterate AC 5.4 where we swear that we as Lutheran pastors will

condemn the Anabaptists and others who think that the Holy Ghost comes to men without the external Word, through their own preparations and works.

But, far from condemning such notions, Dugall backs up these false teachings with these words of Rabbi Heschel:

Let them be sure that every deed counts, that every word has power, and that we all can do our  share to redeem the world in spite of all absurdities and all frustrations and all disappointments.

 Dugall has crossed over from the semi-Pelagianism of Whitney, Willard, and Packer into advocating full works righteousness as the basis for so called spiritual discipline or growth in teaching youth.

The citation and recommendation of Yaconelli is also very disturbing.

So who is this Mark Yaconelli? From the bio on his own website:

Mark Yaconelli is a writer, speaker, retreat leader, spiritual director, community activist, youth worker, storyteller, disco dancer, husband, and father. He is the co-founder and program director for the Center for Engaged Compassion at Claremont School of Theology which seeks to heal broken people and communities through contemplation, creativity, and compassion.

Also read about the Claremont School of Theology here.

From Yaconelli’s interview on Youth Ministry and Spirituality Project:

Individuals within these congregations who sensed a calling to ministry to young people established spiritual formation teams that functioned as intentional spiritual communities engaged in personal sharing, contemplative practices, discernment, and ministry with the youth of their congregations. The teams were especially encouraged to expose youth to the contemplative dimension of Christian faith through engaging and mentoring them in a variety of spiritual exercises such as lectio divina, meditation, healing services, the Jesus prayer, chanting, the Ignatian awareness examen, and meditative singing.
[Interview pdf, p. 2, bottom]

What word’s does Dugall emphasize from Yaconelli?

Rather than handing young people statement of faith, we give them space and tools to recognize and act with the One who is beyond all theological formulations.

So, now, go back to Dugall’s article and read it, understanding what the backgrounds of these sources are. Notice that Dugall’s position on this way of teaching youth not only does not involve the authority of Scripture, but is explicitly anti-Confessional.

About Pastor Joseph Abrahamson

Pastor Joseph Abrahamson serves Faith Ev. Lutheran Church, Clara City, Minnesota (E.L.S.). He and his wife, Mary, have 10 children. Pastor Abrahamson is a graduate of Bethany Lutheran Theological Seminary, and of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Department of Hebrew and Semitic Studies. He has served on the Faculty/Staff at Bethany Lutheran College teaching Religion, Linguistics, Archaeology, and Self-Defense; and was on Staff at the University of Wisconsin as an Information Processing Consultant (Computer Geek) while doing graduate work in Semitics. Pastor Abrahamson served Clearwater Lutheran Parish (ELS) from 2001 to April 2015.


Comments

5:2 Trying Even Harder To Be Non-Biblical and Non-Lutheran — 69 Comments

  1. Another question: If a pastor believed that he was an apostle, refused to enter into discussions that questioned his teachings or authority, and referred to any dissenters as “haters,” wouldn’t that make him the oppressor?

  2. @J. Dean #48
    Discipline question: if this is brought up to the DP, and nothing is done, is it possible to bypass the DP and go to a higher authority with concerns?

    You can appeal to God. Some have suggested the “imprecatory psalms”.

    From what I’ve read here, the COP has rigged it so they are the highest “authority”, although I’m sure that was not the intention when these “assistants” were first proposed.

  3. Dear BJS Bloggers,

    With preparations for Advent, Christmas, funerals, and two lectures, I have not had much time to analyze what is going on with these Five-Two people. So I really appreciate all the work that you bloggers have done here in investigation and analysis of this group.

    Issues, etc. recently published a soundbite from Pastor Woolsey, and it even made “Soundbite of the Year (click on here: http://issuesetc.org/2015/01/09/4-issues-etc-soundbite-of-the-year-1915 ). You should listen to it, if you have not heard it before.

    Without doing further investigation myself, but simply analyzing that soundbite, I’d say that Five-Two Leadership has a couple of obvious problems.

    1) Attitude: Why does Woolsey call some LCMSers “oppressors,” when such LCMSers simply expect their ordained brothers in Christ to live up to their sacred vows to God and their pledges to their brothers? This is called “playing the victim,” but it doesn’t “play well in Dodge.” Maybe I am misunderstanding the referent of the term “oppressors.”

    2) Lay Pastors and Preachers: Although I am not sure exactly what the Five-Two practice is, it definitely seems to be contrary to LCMS Constitution Article VI.3 “Regular call of pastors, etc.” What that regular call is can be found in the bylaws section 2.5 (page 56 in 2013 Handbook). Violation of this bylaw is why four district presidents were removed from office by LCMS President J.A.O. Preus ca. 1976. I think this area, by itself, is reason for discipline–or at least to investigate whether such is necessary.

    3) Accountability: It seems like Five-Two wants a different accountability than that provided by the LCMS. I think this is due to the “accountability movement” among non-denominational churches. But that is ridiculous when applied to the LCMS. Non-denominational churches and their pastors need accountability because they don’t have denominational affiliation. LCMS already has accountability built into its polity, and always has.

    If Woolsey and company want a different accountability, that means they want a different denomination. They are always free to leave and take their assets with them (LCMS Constitution VII.2). Why don’t they start their own denomination if they are unhappy with LCMS polity? I don’t get it–maybe I am missing something in their train of thought.

    CFW Walther, in his great treatise “The Duties of an Evangelical Lutheran Synod,” in his Fifth Theses states:

    A fifth major duty is that it [a synod] strive for peace and unity in the truth in its midst, and therefore it sees to it: a. that all members are mutually submissive; b. that each bear the other’s burden in brotherly love; c. that no unnecessary disputes arise and are continued whether they have to do with doctrine or practice.

    Then under point a. he writes: anyone who joins a synod knows in advance, “I am now becoming a member of an organization that is charged with the responsibility of supervising church affairs; I am also joining an organization that operates with a specific system of regulations, for without regulations it could not exist.” . . . even though Christ did not command any synodical regulations, He did command that we love one another and that we look out not for our own welfare, but for the welfare of others. . . . when you realize that love for the kingdom of God requires you to obey the regulations of Synod, you dare not act in violation of them. Thus you are falsely invoking your freedom.

    (quotes from recently released book: C.F.W. Walther, Church Fellowship, Walther’s Works [St Louis: CPH, 2015], 316-317).

    By the way, I noticed in the same treatise, in the same book by Walther, his Thesis I.C that a faithful synod “supervise the confessional faithfulness of its members” (pp. 259-263). Here Walther talks about visitation. This is one of the things that President Harrison emphasized early in his presidency. I remember him doing a series on it on his blog “Mercy Journeys.” This led to the bylaw revisions in 2013 and the renaming of Circuit Counselors to Circuit Visitors.

    Our Council of Presidents have been working on this area of visitation, which was lacking for so many years in the LCMS. The new district presidents coming into office will know that is an integral part of their job–and this is progress.

    All for now. A blessed Epiphany to all!

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  4. Dear BJS Bloggers,

    This blog-thread at ALPB “Your Turn” might be useful for those investigating the Five-Two group:

    http://www.alpb.org/forum/index.php?topic=5739.0

    It discusses the exit of Hosanna, Lakeville from the ELCA to the LCMC and the present issue of the “retirement” of its founding and senior pastor. There seem to be some parallels with Crosspointe and Five-Two.

    The comments by the bloggers are worth considering–most are from ELCAers, at least one from an LCMCer, a Roman priest, et.al. They reference “Community of Joy” in Phoenix, which was I think the first mega-church in the ELCA with Evangelical overtones. They also note how Hosanna was a member of both the LCMC and Willow Creek Association; just as many LCMS congregations also are in the Willow Creek Association.

    The issues surrounding mega-churches are affecting all denominations, not just Lutherans; but Lutherans have a keener eye for critique of mega-churches than many other Christians, since we are theologically oriented and have a better definition of the pastoral office.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  5. helen :@J. Dean #48 Discipline question: if this is brought up to the DP, and nothing is done, is it possible to bypass the DP and go to a higher authority with concerns?
    You can appeal to God. Some have suggested the “imprecatory psalms”.
    From what I’ve read here, the COP has rigged it so they are the highest “authority”, although I’m sure that was not the intention when these “assistants” were first proposed.

    Why does everyone go directly to the district president? Those pastors also have to answer to their congregations, and those congregations to their leaders. Go talk to their church councils or boards of elders. (May not help, but you should try it first)

  6. Pr. Noland,

    My experience of LCMC congregations is that they are mostly motivated differently from LCMS congregations which are embroiled in some of these enthusiast methods and organizations.

    Nearly all the LCMC congregations are refugees or expatriots from the ELCA. Those congregations that had a will to remain faithful to Scripture while their church body descended further into heresy, began casting about for ways to survive together against aggressive ELCA leaders. They also grew very dubious of the ELCA seminaries, which churned out new heretics at alarming rates.

    As a result of poor catechesis for decades, and yet trying to remain faithful as best they knew how to Christ and His Word against the ravages of unfaithful leaders and seminaries, some (perhaps many) fell victim to enthusiasm.

    To my observation, LCMS congregations and leaders have no excuse for willfully wondering off into enthusiasm. We have wonderful seminaries, and our Synod is not coercing heresy from the top down. To my thinking, our pastors and congregations who willfully chase these errors out of freedom are infinitely more culpable, than the poor souls taken captive in their ignorance.

  7. @Tim Schenks #4
    Go talk to their church councils or boards of elders.
    (May not help, but you should try it first)

    Two possibilities:
    It’s been tried first.
    It may be an Elder or Council member asking.

    Or three: the church officers may be “rubber stamps”.

    [I did assume that “in house” attempts had been exhausted.]

    The next person to appeal to should be the CC?CV.
    But it has happened that Elders ignore the CC’s advice
    (and the DP didn’t back it up either.)

  8. @Tim Schenks #5

    Why does everyone go directly to the district president? Those pastors also have to answer to their congregations, and those congregations to their leaders. Go talk to their church councils or boards of elders. (May not help, but you should try it first)

    Tim,
    I am assuming your question was rhetorical but it deserves a good answer. (or at least an attempt at one) And I am grateful for your sound direction. I hope some may be encouraged and edified by the following:

    Many Christians in their daily walk of faith practice their confession to the Apostolic witness and testimony differently than their confession would otherwise lead them. Big news flash there.

    It very much comes to light in situations like this. It is really God’s Word which is revealing our sin and shows that we trust more in an organization of man to solve our internal problems rather than trusting God to accomplish His will through His Word even if it absolutely contradicts our human understanding or time table for accomplishment. Our flesh led on by the World and the Devil always wants to find a “better” way.

    Side bar comment – This also directly relates to the issues inherent to 5/2, CGM, Emergent, Missional, ad nauseam.

    It takes a very wise and skilled (gifted by God) pastor, elder(s) or layperson(s) to apply the Law AND Gospel clearly to these situations when the propensity of many on boards and councils is to trust in ones human reason, or the collective understanding, and run to the District (Law only) for help. The District and it’s officials have their place but not for righteousness before God and men.

    A wise and patient servant of God can be of tremendous help in such circumstances. May the precious Word of God go forth and produce such men!

    Peace in Christ,
    Noye

  9. Noye,

    Notice the second bullet below that comes from FiveTwo’s website.

    https://www.fivetwo.com/about/why-we-exist/

    FiveTwo states:

    Entrepreneurs
    •Men and women who enjoy doing and starting new.
    •Especially involving the generative offices of Ephesians 4: Apostles, Prophets, and Evangelists.
    •Must partner with the shepherding and teaching offices once up and running.

    It appears that FiveTwo believes that the offices of apostle and prophet have been restored or continue to exist today.

    Amy

  10. @Amy #10
    Amy, thank you for the link and comment. I really do appreciate it. I find myself a little behind the curve in learning all the interesting and creative ways this garbage has spread so far and wide in our beloved church body and how easily it has taken root. Makes me want to wretch. But I’m a quick study and have benefited much by all the wonderful people on this site and their God given understanding of His Word. I’m glad to have you all as fellow concerned sisters and brothers in Christ.

    I am persuaded from Sacred Scripture that the Apostolic Office still exists today although the Apostles themselves are not visibly physically present. Yet the authority Christ bestowed to them remains in and with that Office. This is the basis for the Office of the Ministry. The Pope usurps that authority to himself just as the bullet point does.

    (I don’t presume you were thinking otherwise unless you tell me so specifically.)

    It seems as if a decades old corrupted understanding of the Great Commission is permitting ages old Roman Catholic (and other) heresy to gain significant foothold. The bullet point you highlighted in bold will lead everyone who accepts it to at minimum become prideful and arrogant, worse theologically enthusiastic and charismatic, or ultimately to become an unprofitable narcissistic oppressive pope. In other words, the power of God to proclaim His Word, profitably save sinners and produce good works comes immediately to me (the individual) outside of the working of the Holy Spirit through Word and Sacraments of Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

    Again, thank you for the link.

    Peace in Christ,

    Noye

  11. From 5/2’s website:

    “Why We Exist
    FiveTwo exists to fuel a movement of sacramental entrepreneurs who start a variety of spiritual communities that create baptized followers of Jesus from lost people.”

    Only the Spirit of God working through Word and Sacrament does this.

    This group is heretical at its core! (But that has been stated before elsewhere I think.) Like I said, behind the curve. 🙂

    Noye

  12. @Noye Balmer #11
    Noye,

    Thank you for the response.

    Yes, I fully agree with your description of the Apostolic office. My concern is that FiveTwo’s description of entrepreneurs usurps the authority to the individual and may suggest that new apostles and prophets are being generated. The bullet reads:

    “•Especially involving the generative offices of Ephesians 4: Apostles, Prophets, and Evangelists.”

    The word “generative” means:

    1.Having the ability to originate, produce, or procreate.

    2.Of or relating to the production of offspring.

    Why the word generative? Perhaps I’m missing something.

    I do not think you’re “behind the curve.” It seems that we are all continually learning of new “interesting and creative ways this garbage has spread so far and wide in our beloved church body and how easily it has taken root.”

    BJS has been a real blessing to my family. We are constantly learning and are so thankful for the many pastors who have a passion for teaching and are willing to answer an endless stream of questions.

    Peace in Christ,
    Amy

  13. @Travis Ferguson #28
    Travis,
    Let not your heart be troubled! You are not alone in your frustrations, but I truly believe that with God all things (even a conversion from hostile bloggers to loving Christians!) are possible. Pray without ceasing, continue your studies, and carry into your daily walk all the things that you wish to see changed. God bless you, and stay safe!

  14. @Srsly? #14

    I think all of our hearts (and minds) should be troubled anytime false teaching is allowed in the door. Can you please let me know where you stand on issues like laymen preachers and secular songs during service? I think we need to establish what is exactly the real issue. Thank you.

    Randy

  15. @Amy #13
    Amy,
    I am grateful for your effort in pointing out to me the term “generative”. I took passing note of it but didn’t really consider the implications until now. I think the distinction of “being an Apostle” vs. being able to “create Apostles” is significant. I will ponder on the Word regarding this and 5/2.

    Thanks for sharpening my iron. 🙂

    Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.
    Proverbs 27:17 King James Version (KJV)

    Noye

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