Three Simple Steps to Move Forward with the Matthew Becker Case, by Pr. Rossow

There are three things that I see need to be done to move forward with the Matthew Becker case and in the following order. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the matter in the comment section below.

  1. President Harrison needs to begin the process of expelling President Linnemann from the LCMS for allowing a false teacher in his district.
  2. If that fails then President Harrison needs to call a special synodical convention to consider the expulsion of the false teacher Becker.
  3. If that fails and Harrison has not yet left the synod as he said he would if it cannot expel such a false teacher from its midst or if steps one and two continue through the summer of 2016 then the regular convention needs to change the procedure for expulsion but really, by that point things will really be too late in my opinion.

There is an entire article in the synod by-laws, eight pages long, giving President Harrison the authority to initiate the process to expel a district president. The first step includes collegial conversation to try to get the sinner to repent. If that fails then a panel is convened for a hearing to expel. (There are other steps. I am providing a summary.) The bylaw referred to is 2.15 (click here for the LCMS Handbook). A PDF version of the DOC file available on that page (titled “2013 Handbook (Updated Nov. 19-20, 2014)”, named 2013_Handbook_January_12_2015_v2.doc) is available here.

Because of our lack of bishops and our democratic oriented polity there are a lot elections that go on in the process. The accused is judged by a panel of three.  President Harrison gets to elect a District President to serve on the panel, the accused gets to elect one and a Synod Reconciler is elected by a blind draw to get the third voter on the panel. Each district has several Reconcilers and it is from this pool that the Reconciler is chosen.

So the odds of Matthew Becker being expelled from synod hinge upon that third person. The synod is essentially 1/3 liturgical and traditional, 1/3 church growth oriented (the use of psychology and sociology to determine the felt needs of church consumers and using those felt needs to redo church to match them) and 1/3 a blend of both. Pretty much 100% of the first group would vote for expulsion. Probably 15% of the growthers would vote for expulsion. (A noticeable amount of people in this category oppose women’s ordination and cling to Biblical inerrancy for Fundamentalist reasons and not necessarily Lutheran reasons. My guess is it might be as high as 15%.) In the third group I would say it might as high as 30% who would vote for expulsion. You might think it would be 50/50 but this group is the tolerant group that likes some liturgical stuff but tolerates the growther ideas of psychology and sociology. You do the math. If you add up my figures you have a slightly less than 50% that Becker would be expelled. But it still might work and it is the one positive thing within the bounds of our polity that President Harrison can initiate.

It raises an interesting question however. Why would we still want to be in this church body and call ourselves a synod (walking together) if somewhere around 50% of us do not see this as a problem for synod? That’s a question for another day.

Will President Harrison make use of this tool? He has been very hesitant in the past to take any action that might make any group of the synod like him less. But, for all we know President Harrison has already met President Linnemann to get him to repent and he may have already started the process in 2.15. If he has I wish he would announce it. He has that authority according to 2.15. Section 2.15.7.8 gives him the discretion to announce to the synod that this is going on if he thinks it is a matter of synod unity. I think that it is. It is synodical disunity when these things go on in secret and behind closed doors.

If that fails all is not lost. It is then time for President Harrison to use his authority according to Article VIII of the Constitution and call a special synod convention for the purpose of addressing this issue. He will need 2/3 of the District Presidents to agree with this.

This certainly is a lot of work for one single false teacher but if anyone thinks either one of these two tactics are a waste of time then they do not see the urgency of having a false teacher unchecked in our midst. After all, President Harrison said he will not stay in such a synod. Of course If he leaves that is the signal for all confessional folks to follow him and form a new synod with greater guarantees (there is no absolute guarantee in a sinful world) of peaceful proclamation of the Gospel without false teachers in the fold.

If both of these steps fail and if President Harrison has not left the synod then I suppose we could work at the next convention to amend the Dispute Resolution Process (DRP) but I really do not see what that would change. I have asked several people how that would change things and what they would propose to change and have not gotten much of a substantive answer.

So there’s the way forward. It will help us be Scriptural and shun the false teacher or if it fails it tells us the LCMS is dead. That is OK. I love it dearly but it is not the Una Sancta and at that point it would not be reflecting the Una Sancta as it should.

Tell me where I have gone wrong. Have you got a better idea? I would love to hear it but don’t waste my time saying that you want to do nothing until the next convention and then boldly change the DRP. That is not the problem and besides, that allows for the false teacher to be in our midst way too long. We need decisive action now.

About Pastor Tim Rossow

Rev. Dr. Timothy Rossow is the Director of Development for Lutherans in Africa. He served Bethany Lutheran Church in Naperville, IL as the Sr. Pastor for 22 years (1994-2016) and was Sr. Pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran in Dearborn, MI prior to that. He is the founder of Brothers of John the Steadfast but handed off the Sr. Editor position to Rev. Joshua Scheer in 2015. He currently resides in Ocean Shores WA with his wife Phyllis. He regularly teaches in Africa. He also paints watercolors, reads philosophy and golfs. He is currently represented in two art galleries in the Pacific Northwest. His M Div is from Concordia, St. Louis and he has an MA in philosophy from St. Louis University and a D Min from Concordia, Fort Wayne.


Comments

Three Simple Steps to Move Forward with the Matthew Becker Case, by Pr. Rossow — 49 Comments

  1. If it all fails and Matt Harrison leaves, are you prepared to leave with him?
    Will your congregation come along? [How many others?]

    If you are not… why do you want to be rid of Matt Harrison?

    What don’t we know here?

  2. Good questions Helen.

    Let’s be clear that I would never be speaking about Matt Harrison leaving if he had not brought it up. I am only reacting to his own words.

    My point in the post is to describe a positive, confessional, even constitutional way forward. The Matt Harrison thing is secondary.

    I can’t speak for my congregation and since I can’t speak for them it is important to be careful what I say.

    My congregation, after 9 months of study, is on the verge of joining the ACELC. (Our elders approved it unanimously a year ago but our voters wanted more study so we set up a weekly study group on it.) At this point the last thing they and the ACELC want is a new synod and I rarely speak about it but on occasion I do. This Matthew Becker thing and the Matt Harrison Facebook post has certainly taken everything to a new level.

    I personally am not looking to see if Matt Harrison leaves. What I would say though is that if he left it would embolden pastors and laity to take a hard strong look at leaving.

    It’s funny that when most people talk about leaving the LCMS they talk about all the wrong things. They talk about the fear of losing pensions and buildings (seminaries and colleges). In the big picture these things are not the one thing needed. The one thing needed is the Gospel in its purity. The strongest, most unified days in the LCMS were probably when our seminary was in a log cabin. The fancy buildings and pension funds have helped to ruin us.

  3. @Pastor Tim Rossow #2
    It’s funny that when most people talk about leaving the LCMS they talk about all the wrong things. They talk about the fear of losing pensions and buildings (seminaries and colleges). In the big picture these things are not the one thing needed. The one thing needed is the Gospel in its purity. The strongest, most unified days in the LCMS were probably when our seminary was in a log cabin. The fancy buildings and pension funds have helped to ruin us.

    I can agree about the fancy buildings (and the unmentioned fancy salaries and perks that go with them). But I’ve seen pastors and their wives living very close to the bone because their pensions didn’t match the inflated reality of their old age. [Being not far from the end of work, perhaps I am more conscious of that possibility than you are.]

    And for that matter, pastors’ families being in that state because they were unjustly “thrown under the bus.”

  4. And let us pray the First Petition and its meaning.

    Hallowed be Thy name.

    What does this mean?
    God’s name is certainly holy in itself, but we pray in this petition that it may be kept holy among us also.
    How is God’s name kept holy?
    God’s name is kept holy when the Word of God is taught in its truth and purity, and we, as the children of God, also lead holy lives according to it. Help us to do this, dear Father in heaven!
    But anyone who teaches or lives contrary to God’s Word profanes the name of God among us. Protect us from this, heavenly Father!

  5. Pr. Rossow,

    In addition to what you’ve articulated, I would like to see the bully pulpit used more often, and in greater coordination with faithful members of the COP. For example:

    — President Harrison could begin to specifically reference the published works of heretics like Becker, and condemn them in writing and speech.

    — Since there are far more false teachers in the LCMS than just Becker, he could start with the lists of contributors to Daystar and 5/2. Their public published works are enough to condemn them, and putting both the doctrines and their purveyors in the public spotlight will help draw the lines clearly for laity and clergy alike.

    — President Harrison can prepare these public dialogues with his faithful COP partners, and the combined authority of their analysis and preaching would carry a lot of potency in the pews. Perhaps add to this cadre our best seminary minds.

    I’m sure this would have the effect of declaring open war against the heretics in our midst, but at least the battle would be in plain sight. There would be nowhere to hide from that glaring light, and we would see whether or not Missouri still has enough fidelity to win the day.

    All of this could be done by preaching and teaching, referencing only published works and their authors. It wouldn’t root out everyone, but it would hit the kingpins, and flush out their most ardent defenders.

    It’s time for a reckoning in the house of Missouri, and that must begin by publicly confronting the enemy in our midst. My opinion, for what it’s worth.

  6. Brad,

    Yes! Good point. He should have been teaching for the last five years on true doctrine and practice.

    I am speaking from experience. I was called 22 years ago as the Sr. Pastor of the church I am at now. It was a thorough-going growther church with small groups, a mens group that went to Promise Keepers, a strong Gideon’s group and a group of leaders and staff who listened faithfully to the local evangelical radio station.

    I started teaching and being firm on things and now 22 years later we are one of the strongest confessional churches in the synod. It took a lot of teaching, a lot of pain, and a lot of drawing the line. It is not easy but if you are firm, loving and intentional it can be done.

    Harrison has wasted 5 years! I don’t get it. You are right. Use the bully pulpit.

  7. @Pastor Tim Rossow #5
    Harrison has wasted 5 years!

    Pastor Rossow,
    That’s not fair!
    You know, very probably better than I do, that the convention which elected Matt Harrison also turned the structure of LCMS inside out, in ways he opposed, and then handed him the mess! The IC had to be reorganized before anything else could be done and that was not an “overnight” job! A whole term could reasonably be expected to be “wasted”.

    After that, yes, I also hoped for more attention to things at home and got the adventures of Collver. But Pastor Rossow, if you are going to keep harping on what you think should have been done and when you think it should have been done, you come across as petulant and hurting your own cause! For your own sake, man, [and “Missouri’s”], get over it!

    Matt Harrison has done something now! You wanted it done.
    Support him, instead of looking back in one article after another
    at “last year” or “last term”. Let’s see some real suggestions that
    are helpful, not just, “Yea, Matt, let’s you and him fight!”
    [“We’ll sit on the sidelines and criticize.”]

    You say you have a confessional congregation, after 22 years. Did you really reform every thing in the first three, or the first five, years? Did you have another Pastor on board all that time, saying publicly, “He should have done it my way.”? [I bet not!]

    Do you think it’s easier to turn the “Battleship Missouri” around?
    It’s been going the wrong way longer than 22 years, and half the crew doesn’t think they need to do the job they signed on to do. [They’ll paint the deck but only if they can choose the color (when they aren’t drilling holes in the hull).]
    Is the other half going to sit on a life boat and complain?

    I think I’ll have to “give you up for Lent”
    and pray you’ve acquired more sense by Easter.

    You want a “useful” suggestion?
    Start working now [or maybe yesterday or last year?] 🙁
    on knowledgeable delegates for district convention, and better DP’s, if it can be done. You won’t know unless some real work (by laity and clergy) is put into it. [“Last year” would have been a good time, but now is not too soon!]

  8. @helen #6
    “Do you think it’s easier to turn the “Battleship Missouri” around?
    It’s been going the wrong way longer than 22 years,”

    I agree with the difficulty in this but it should be pointed out that Pr. Rossow working with a congregation 22 years is different. No one is being led astray in that congregation in those 22 years by the pastor.

    The synod is a different matter. The legion of false teachers are leading sheep astray as Matt Mills so eloquently pointed out in a thread last fall, I believe. I know no one wants to be a “bull in a china shop,” but in some instances the shop is on fire and there’s children stuck in there. The fireman might not have all his gear at the moment, his “protocol” may forbid it, but the right man who understands need knows no law will put his life on the line to get them out. (at $200k+/year for a theologian, that’s actually not a lot to ask)

  9. There is no “case” anymore. There was a finding. It’s done. Time to move on. The horse is dead.

  10. I spoke with president Harrison recently and he informed me that option #1 is something he could do, but he would be frustrated with it because there would be no guarantee of the outcome he and many of us would desire – and so he could end up spending a lot of time, energy and $ for option #1 with no positive results. His plan (he may change his mind) for now is to speak about the M. Becker problem at various upcoming District Conventions (as he did freely at the recent ND District convention) and let everyone know how broken our current system is when it comes to allowing the Synod president to exercise doctrinal discipline over those under his authority. His hope is that we can change the whole thing at the 2016 Synod convention. Until then, he needs our prayers and support. What he does NOT need is someone saying: “If I were you I’d do x,y & z right now and if you don’t then you are not being faithful.” President Harrison is handling a very frustrating situation as best he can. Yes, this means a false teacher will remain on our roster for several months yet – but hopefully that can change big time after the 2016 convention.

  11. Mushrooms and other fungus only thrive out of the sunlight. President Harrison holds the bully pulpit so maybe he should preach to shine some light on them. Since this is a public matter by its nature and much of the public is either spuriously or intentionally uninformed of the matter, Pres. Harrison should use the official organs of synodical communication to make everyone aware of Mr. Becker’s false teaching (with documentation), a sin against the Second Commandment, and why the ruling of the dispute resolution Board was wrong and sinful (sanctioning sin against the Second Commandment). He should then charge Becker with his sin to his pastor and the congregation where he holds membership, since it is his pastor on behalf of Christ and the congregation who is charged by the Lord to retain or remit his sin, not Pres. Harrison (he could also level charges of supporting false doctrine [2nd Commandment] against the dispute board members with their congregations). If the public facts are as indicting as what’s been posted by folks on this board, and his pastor/congregation does not excommunicate him, then the congregation must be dealt with with respect to their roster status and excluded from synod as a heterodox church who no longer publicly confesses and exercises the Office of the Keys (Mt. 18; John 21; I Cor. 5 — note this text — Pres. Harrison would be like St. Paul advising the Corinthian congregation as to what she should do with an open and impenitent sinner).

    Our founding fathers in the original Constitution were clear in their differentiation between synodical remedies (roster/acknowledgement of fellowship) and congregational remedies through the Office of the Keys. It seems to me where our system has skewed the original system, is that roster decisions (through synod/dispute boards) no longer will consider sin and violations of doctrine (normed by Scriptures) as reasons to effect roster decisions, leaving the norm to be the Constitution and politics. That’s the error that needs to be resolved and if resolved, the structures used to enact the process will be rallied to their right use, regardless how those structures are proposed and implemented.

  12. Pr. Rossow – please cite a specific reference to an objective determination – the result of an LCMS authorized procedure and consistent with Matthew 18 – that Dr. Becker is a false teacher.

  13. There comes a time when it is necessary to act even if the odds of winning are slim. Too often I have heard, this is not the right time to make our move, we must wait until…. But when the next opportunity comes, nothing happens as we wait for yet a better time. Look at how concession after concession has been made in congress regarding constraining the budget.

    So option #1 might not produce the desired results, so we don’t use it for fear of failure. But wait. We can attack it in the 2016 convention. But perhaps then the chance of success will be low so we seek a more opportune time. And the problem goes on and unabated.

    If there is going to be any chance of correcting the problem and removing those who have violated scripture and their vows, then the issue must be brought to the attention of every congregation. I would hazard a guess that most congregations don’t have a clue as to what is at stake. It seems that the issues must be brought into the light and widely discussed before the convention, and preferably before district conventions.

  14. @John Mundinger #12
    “An LCMS authorized procedure” is not the only legitimate mechanism for “an objective determination … that Dr. Becker is a false teacher.” After all, the only thing that it can actually determine is whether Dr. Becker should be expelled from Synod membership, in accordance with its Constitution and Bylaws.

    Every Christian has the duty and authority to identify false teachers in accordance with the objective criteria of Scripture, along with the BoC because we accept without reservation that it is a true and unadulterated exposition of Scripture. Those who still believe that longstanding LCMS doctrinal resolutions are fully consistent with Scripture and the BoC will obviously consider someone who publicly argues otherwise to be a false teacher.

  15. @Pastor Tim Rossow #2

    Thank you Pastor, for clarifying that the ACELC has no desire or intention of forming a new synod! Like President Harrison stated, we too, the pastors and congregations in the ACELC, have no intention of walking away from our vocations. We simply want our beloved synod to return to Lutheran doctrine and practice and have proper church discipline administered by those given that charge.

    Clint

  16. I’m not certain if this is the place to bring this up, but it is well known that not all of the District Presidents are on board with President Harrison; will he be making it a point to speak to those district conventions where the district leadership may oppose him?

  17. Helen,

    This post is about three things that can be done to address the situation.

    Did my church turn around in three five years? Yes. I will give a brief history below but first, that is not my point.

    I am not looking for Harrison to turn the LCMS around in 3-5 years. I am looking for him from day one to address false teaching and practice and to use the authority given to him by us to dos so. He totall botched Newtown and as a result we still have an erring pastor in our midst and even worse, that erring pastor has become a star on the LCMS liberal conference trail. Harrison spoke clearly and muddled on Newtown and left us with a heritage of syncretism.

    Now in the fifth year we have Harrison using the bully pulpit but only after a courageous pastor brought charges against Becker. How long would it have gone on had this not happened? How long was President Harrison, who told me face to face two and a half years ago that in short order the Becker situation would be handled, going to wait to do something. I would say based on his track record, indefinetely.

    I don’t know if the LCMS can be turned around in 3-5 years but I expect that a confessional president will do everything he can to put an end to the blatant false teaching in the synod.

    So, how did it go in my church?

    Year One:
    -Put an end to the small group program that had started about three years before I got there
    -Put an end to day school teachers preaching in the Divine Service
    -Put an end to the Men’s Group advertising trips to Promise Keepers
    -Church Growth DCE see the writing on the wall and leaves church work
    -Constant preaching and teaching about being a confessional Lutheran

    Year Two:
    -Hired a liturgical Music Director
    -More preaching and teaching on right doctrine and practice
    -Cut back the contemporary services by one half

    Year Three:
    -Cut out contemporary service all together
    -Began a lay certificate school of theology for members with a set curriculum of Bible classes built around Scripture and confession
    -Called a staunchly confessional day school principal

    These are just a few of the items. All through the first three years we built a new 5 million dollar church and school. When I arrived the church and school were fighting over who got to build first. I worked with LCEF to secure a loan so that we could build both. That loan was paid off seven years ago, thirteen years early.

    That is just a summary. There is much more.

    Too many “I” statements. God did it all.

    So the point is you have to address the false teaching and practice head on and proactively from the get go. I did not do that in my first call and I learned a valuable lesson for my second call, the one described above.

  18. Joel B.,

    Working through the local congregation is another helpful and proactive step to take. I do believe though that the Synod President can only deal with the District President and not go directly to a parish. So in your fine proposal I think it will have to be Harrison dealing with DP May (Indiana) and the May dealing with Becker’s pastor. If May does not do anything then it is between Harrison and May.

    I think since Becker’s membership is still with the NOW District it all may be moot to deal with the situation in Indiana which is why I suggested it take place through Linnemann.

  19. Todd Wilken or anybody else,

    It sounds like changing the DRP has been some sort of proactive plan of President Harrison. Has he written about his concerns with it? He has had five years to fix it. Has his plan been presented somewhere on how it will be fixed so that we do not have this problem? Again I also ask, what exactly will fix it?

  20. Pastor Tim Rossow: Put an end to the small group program that had started about three years before I got there

    Just curious – was there something specific about that particular small group program that was problematic, or do you believe that small groups are inherently wrong (or at least inappropriate) in general?

  21. Jon,

    Teaching the Word publicly is the call of the pastor and teaching it in the home is the call of the Father.

    When a mix of people from different families get together and someone other than the pastor is teaching, there are people being taught by someone who does not have authority over them to do that.

    So yes, small group Bible studies, not led by the pastor are inherently wrong. It is totally outside the way in which Jesus and his apostles talk about administering the Word to the people.

  22. James Kusko,

    I agree totally. In the end it will probably only show how broken this synod is and I am OK with that. I hope it doesn’t. I hope it ends in expulsion of DP Linnemann but either way something is gained.

    I am trying to understand the attitude of those who don’t hold President Harrison to some past or immediate action.

    I remember in the days of the Yankee Stadium event I thought that a lot of people were being too extreme. There was talk of leaving the synod because we had an entire district being led by a closet universalist and we were doing nothing about it. I was very concerned about it but I was not thinking about leaving the synod over it.

    Now that we have a confessional president my thinking has changed, particularly since I have had a lot of interaction with him. Newtown was a disaster. Until now we have not heard the president speak boldly about the doctrinal division in our synod and for the life of me I do not know why he didn’t announce that he was bringing charges against Linnemann. I am even more disappointed that I am now hearing that the grand solution to this is to change the DRP process. The answer is cleaned up bureaucracy?

    If I ran my parish like this, not addressing false teaching with swift and clear action, it would be a nightmare.

  23. Jon Alan Schmidt :
    @John Mundinger #12
    “An LCMS authorized procedure” is not the only legitimate mechanism for “an objective determination … that Dr. Becker is a false teacher.” After all, the only thing that it can actually determine is whether Dr. Becker should be expelled from Synod membership, in accordance with its Constitution and Bylaws.
    Every Christian has the duty and authority to identify false teachers in accordance with the objective criteria of Scripture, along with the BoC because we accept without reservation that it is a true and unadulterated exposition of Scripture. Those who still believe that longstanding LCMS doctrinal resolutions are fully consistent with Scripture and the BoC will obviously consider someone who publicly argues otherwise to be a false teacher.

    Agreed. And, every Christian has the duty to follow the protocol, established by Christ, for dealing with the errant brother. Presumably, the protocol, established by its constitution and by-laws, is that manner by which LCMS has codified its commitment to follow Matthew 18.

    Also, note that our Lord instructed His disciples to treat the errant brother as a “tax collector and sinner”. And, our Lord provided us a model for dealing with tax collectors and sinners – He embraced them. He did not pronounce them anathema.

  24. The more I think about it the more I realize that the LCMS is worth less and less of my time and energy. It doesn’t really matter what synod does with Becker and his promoters. There are plenty more people where they come from to fill their ranks and most of them are a lot more sneaky and less discernible (which is even more dangerous.)

    Pastors and laymen have to look out for themselves and for their brothers, shepherds and sheep who really hold to the Lutheran Confessions. Don’t assume a guy with LCMS behind his name is Lutheran. Find a faithful congregation if you can and support synod where you must, but realize that your support for synod is a crap shoot. Part of your offerings will go to support faithful ministries and another part would be more faithfully deposited in your local Johnny on the Spot.

    While watching ourselves we can and must keep fighting to correct erring members of the synod as long as we are going to in some way be joined with them, but don’t expect a synod of people walking together to be faithful. It’s a man made invention. It’s a man made institution. It’s a corporation of people and congregations seeking to help their neighbors and themselves. This corporate appendage is not the Church. It does not hold the Office of Keys and Confession. It’s purpose is to help the Church in its Word and Sacrament ministry, but it itself does not have a Word and Sacrament ministry. We as Christians are called to be the Church, not the synod. We need to watch ourselves, stay away from false teaching and false teachers, point out when we see false teaching that will harm our neighbor, and place our real love, affection, energy and time in Christ and His Church.

  25. @Pastor Tim Rossow #22
    I appreciate the straightforward response. Where do you think that we should draw the line between “public teaching” (AC XIV) and “mutual conversation and consolation of brethren” (SA III IV)? Did Jesus only have a family in mind when he talked about two or three gathering together? Must all Bible classes also be taught only by the pastor? Is there any legitimate way for him to delegate such teaching to others, while maintaining appropriate supervision over them?

  26. @John Mundinger #24
    Again, we accept the BoC without reservation as a true and unadulterated exposition of Scripture, and it directly addresses a situation like this in LC I:284 (emphasis added).

    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.

    As with the Pope in Luther’s day, Rev. Becker’s doctrine is also “publicly set forth in books and proclaimed in all the world.” It is thus not just appropriate, but necessary to reprove him publicly, “that every one may learn to guard against” his false teaching.

  27. @Pastor Tim Rossow #19

    You present a false alternative: Either one offer a specific list of changes to the DRP, or we must support your demands of Pres. Harrison.

    Tim, please consider the possibility that your determination to blame Pres. Harrison and portray him as having wasted his tenure thus far has blinded you to the genuine progress toward Confessional fidelity that has occurred in the last five years.

    TW

  28. Jon,

    Don’t make it so difficult. Ask a third grader who her teacher is that teaches her and who her friends are that she hangs out with. That’s the difference.

    If you do not know that difference between teaching and conversation I do not think I will be able to help you. Consult a dictionary I guess or ask the third grader I mentioned above.

    We have a pastor led Bible class almost everyday of the week at our church. There is room in each one of them for more students and if we run out of room we can move to the gym or to the sanctuary and with our six studies a week handle 3,000 people a week in our pastor led classes so there really is no need for anyone to gather around the word without a pastor there.

  29. @Pastor Tim Rossow #30
    There is no need to be condescending; my questions were sincere. If it really is as simple as distinguishing between teaching and conversation, then a small group should not be problematic as long as the participants are discussing the Bible together as friends, rather than one of them instructing the others about it.

  30. Jon,

    Not so fast Athanasius.

    This is not a matter of me being condescending. It is a matter of you are being sophomoric. We get your type all the time on the website. People like you love to base arguments on semantics, like to throw out all sorts of skeptical questions and rarely present any sort of positive contribution.

    Have you ever read the Table of Duties in the Small Catechism? It is the preachers vocation to teach and the hearers vocation to learn.

    Can Christians discuss things of the Holy Spirit? Of course. Should we set up groups for them to do that? No, that is not Scriptural. Besides, what exactly would that Small Group be like? Once there is discussion, there will be questions, and there is no teacher there to lead and guide the “discussion.”

    There have been two times when these sorts of groups arose in the church and both of them were Romantic eras of emphasis on the self and emotion. I am speaking of the era of Pietism and the highly Romantic era of the 1960’s-80’s known for anti-authoritarian, every one a minister narcissism.

    By the way, I have never heard of small groups devoted to chatting about the word. True to form you have invented a scenarios to simply confuse issues.

  31. Pastor Tim Rossow: This is not a matter of me being condescending. It is a matter of you are being sophomoric. We get your type all the time on the website. People like you love to base arguments on semantics, like to throw out all sorts of skeptical questions and rarely present any sort of positive contribution.

    Are these words directed at me, along with the comments that followed? I want to make sure before I say anything in response.

  32. @Todd Wilken #28
    Tim, please consider the possibility that your determination to blame Pres. Harrison and portray him as having wasted his tenure thus far has blinded you to the genuine progress toward Confessional fidelity that has occurred in the last five years.
    TW

    Thanks, Tod Wilken!
    I hope Pr Rossow hears better when you tell him!
    “Coulda,woulda,shoulda” just wastes band width.

    ‘Yesterday is gone.
    Tomorrow has not yet come.
    We have only today.
    Let us begin.’ –Mother Teresa

    Pastor Rossow, I congratulate you on all you did in your congregation! Sounds great! I sincerely doubt it was accomplished by spending all your time telling the congregation how bad they’d been till you came. Rather, you moved forward with programs and building!

    Now, put the sniping aside [It makes you look bad, not Harrison.] and devote your time and energy to what you can do to help Synod move back to Lutheranism. It needs every real Lutheran’s help!

    Pr. Scheer,
    If we let Mundinger continue to muddy the waters here,
    people will begin to think he’s a Lutheran.
    [Perhaps attach “elca” to every post,
    so people know where he’s coming from.]

  33. @Todd Wilken #28
    “blinded you to the genuine progress toward Confessional fidelity that has occurred in the last five years.”

    You have a lot more visibility on this than some of us laypeople. We tend to get headlines like the Newtown apology, the Kloha endorsement, the Nov 2014 LW article, this great recent facebook post, and blowing off Vanessa’s (I think it was her) good and sincere questions. To a lesser extent, we see the Koinonia project as DOA after reading the documents.

    I don’t approach church and churchly things like a business, but at some point one has to ask what you’ve gotten for 5 years and ~$1 million – in salary alone. Managed decline or true progress?

    I don’t envy Pres Harrison. He has a tough job. Yet in the words of the great prophet Hyman Roth, “…this is the business we’ve chosen!”

  34. @Pastor Tim Rossow #18
    Tim; Procedurally you are probably correct; however that avenue of thinking is precisely the problem I was trying to identify in my original post. The major issue is sin and the office of the keys that would either free or bind Becker to his sin (at his congregation). If synod and its processes (not mandated by the Lord) interfere or delay the office of the keys (mandated and publicly confessed to be vested in the local congregation) then we ought to be rid of Synod as being of the Spirit of Antichrist. My original post indicated the two tracks that could and should be pursued and we’re all so bureaucratic that the Constitution is more important to us than the Scriptural mandates. Besides, public sin requires no process; merely condemnation as per Paul in 1 Cor. 5 and then expulsion by Synod at one level and congregational excommunication at the other; Synod publicly in the World and the Congregational binding in heaven. Are we really still Waltherian in this? It’s clear in the original Synod Constitution; no one can understand the present Constitutional process.

    In my opinion, the problems in Synod are not top down problems, but they reflect problems that are rampant below. Congregations have despised carrying out their local responsibilities to discipline to such a degree that it is unthinkable to resort to it. This problem goes all the way back to seminex when heresy was dealt with exclusively at the synodical /roster level while the office of the Keys was never employed as the remedy. We should not wonder why our synod is gravitating away from voters assemblies to top down polity. Vacuums beg to be filled.

  35. “Why would we still want to be in this church body and call ourselves a synod (walking together) if somewhere around 50% of us do not see this as a problem for synod? That’s a question for another day.”

    For another day? What better day than today is there to address the fact that Becker is simply the tip of a decades-old iceberg? Even if the LCMS is successful in expelling him from its midst, there are countless others of his ilk that plague the body. When 50% of a body is necrotic, it is terminal. The LCMS is already dead in the water. Today is exactly the day to deal with this question. “Choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

  36. I’m intrigued by the journey you took, from being a formerly self-admitted church-growther, to your position now as an ardently Confessional pastor. Was that shift triggered by experiences which you had in the churches you served, or was it more reflective of a shift which occurred in your own thinking – which then translated into a Confessional focus in the congregation? Based on the success which God has had, through you, I think you can make a strong case for the idea that Confessional-minded churches can grow, qualitatively and quantitatively. The notion is “out there” that Confessional-minded churches do not grow quantitatively because their pastors spend more time crafting doctrinally perfect sermons, studies, papers, and blogs – than they spend with people, engaging the culture, and sharing the gospel. What you are citing in the congregation you serve, ought to challenge that commonly held stereotype. That’s awesome!

  37. Pr. Rossow,

    Just to be clear, is it your position that to have a small group ministry is to go against Scripture and therefore is to engage in false doctrine?

  38. Athanasius,

    It is a practice and not a doctrine. Small Group Bible Study taught by lay people is a practice outside of the theology of the administration of the Word from Scripture and therefore I would call it a false practice. It is also outside our Confessions since it contradicts the Table of Duties from the Small Catechism and of course Article XIV of the AC.

    Small Group Bible Study led by laymen is based on the false theology of “everyone a minister.” It is also just plain silly. It is like me stepping outside of my vocation and trying to fix your car or do your by-pass surgery, etc.

  39. @Rev. Joel R. Baseley #38
    I think what you’re saying is right on. The solution to having a true synod is to only include pastors and congregations who are willing to carry out their God given responsibility of practicing the office of keys and confession. How can two congregations walk in synod if one is bound by Scripture to apply the lesser ban or excommunication to the unrepentant and the other is open to unfaithfully welcoming the unrepentant to their altar?

  40. @Pastor Tim Rossow #30

    >> Ask a third grader who her teacher is that teaches her and who her friends are that she hangs out with. That’s the difference.

    Now, that seems captious. Can Jon ask an adult college student who is part of a study group if she learns from her (more advanced) peers?

  41. Gregjgrose,

    I am like our third graders – I don’t know what “captious” means.

    We do not base practice on what works. That is called Pragmatism. We base practice based on the revealed Word of God.

    What kind of study group are you talking about? If it is a study group for a theology class then that seems appropriate.

    If it is a college Small Group Bible Study that is not led by a pastor then it is outside of the way Scripture and Confessions tell us the Word is to be administered.

    I will go back to the third graders again. They understand the difference between a teacher and talking amongst themselves after class about the subject. Yes, they may even learn something from each other but that is not a formal thing.

  42. Pastor Tim Rossow: This is not a matter of me being condescending. It is a matter of you are being sophomoric. We get your type all the time on the website. People like you love to base arguments on semantics, like to throw out all sorts of skeptical questions and rarely present any sort of positive contribution.

    I am still wondering whether these words were directed at me. If so, then I want to apologize for giving that impression. I said that my questions were sincere, and I meant it. Contrary to the unfortunate interjection from Athanasius, I am not trying to “win” anything here; I am just trying to understand. I will leave it to others to decide for themselves whether my many comments on the site in recent days and weeks – including our exchange with Nathan about the third use of the Law, and some rather extensive arguments in favor of the historic liturgy and Biblical creation – constitute “any sort of positive contribution.”

  43. Our Synod often is hindered by those who hide behind congregationalism to enable parishes to walk to the tune of their own drummer. Our Districts have cultivated the idea of being semi-autonomous representative bodies instead of Synod in that place. Our people and our pastors resist every hint of centralization or hierarchy so that the avenues open to the Synod President are more constrained than we admit. The odds were stacked against any church body throwing off the lure of liberalism and yet we elected a confessional conservative as President, who used the authority and precedent of the reorganization of Synod proposed by others to strengthen the confessional integrity of our mission work. He has used his bully pulpit well and effectively. He was worked behind closed doors to confront and call to account those who would push or allow a drift into modernity and liberalism. He has surrounded himself with honest confessional Lutherans of great personal integrity and deep commitment. He has been burned a time or two when people exploited a poor choice of words or a comment made with less clarity than it might have been. He has learned and does not make the same mistakes twice. Honestly, we are in better shape now than in the last forty years. Things are happening — not as quickly or easily as Pres. Harrison would like or his critics want but the church does not drift into this position quickly and it will not recover our confessional and doctrinal and liturgical integrity in 3 years or 5 years or even 10 years. We have to have a longer view and work more effectively both now and in the years to come. Impatience and a quickness to prejudge outcomes only plays into the hands of those who would wrest the Synod from her historic confession and identity. Come on people, now is not the time to raise our hands in despair. Now is the time to pray, to work to elect people of confessional commitment and theological integrity, and to join ranks before the cause.

  44. @Pastor Larry Peters #47

    Pr. Peters,

    Couldn’t have said it better myself. Your name is on my growing list of “What’s Right with the LCMS.”

    With seasoned, mature and thoughtful pastors like you (and you are but one) in the LCMS, the future of Confessional Lutheranism is bright.

    TW

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