What to do in the congregation concerning the LCMS?

LCMS_corporate_sealSo with the news of the LCMS inability to deal with one of its most flagrant dissenters since the 1970s, it is sure to be an issue that the people of God need to learn about.  One of the best things about the seminex time was the increase in laity knowing the issues and the truth of the matter.

So what can be done locally in the parish?

There will be some to suggest the political avenue: candidates, elections, resolutions, memorials, etc.  This is fine, but it is not the congregational answer.  It is also the answer which continues to show limited success since the system itself is starting to get in the way of faithful church practices.

I would suggest bringing the issues of the LCMS into your parish in the form of special Bible Studies.  A few months ago I began this in my parish.  Do we talk the dirt of the LCMS?  No.  We have gone through the Constitution, which allowed for plenty of teaching of our theology, what it means, and what it looks like.  Have we discussed aberrations and violations of the Constitution (like the clause about exclusive use of doctrinally pure hymnals?), yes, but the tone of the studies does not have to be “rainy day”.  There are some really good things to teach about when you teach about the LCMS.  Our history, our theology, our practices all come up.  Face it, the laity are not ignorant on these things.  They travel, they have family in the LCMS in other places.  They see the mess and experience it firsthand.  They can sense the dissonance when publications like the Lutheran Witness teach good stuff while other publications from RSOs teach other stuff.  They can sense that something just doesn’t quite fit.

One of the most helpful things in the discussion has been the ACELC study documents.  They point out some of the issues certainly, but they also collect the Scriptures, the Confessions, and stances of the LCMS on these issues.  It is a great repository of our confessional teaching that relates the teachings to our practices.  They teach what we have believed and still believe.  The ACELC video “If not now, when?” is also helpful as an overview of the ten issues the ACELC has identified to address.

One thing that I have remembered to remind the people of through this is that our Lord Jesus Christ is ascended to the right hand of the God the Father Almighty.  This has meaning as we look at the Church on earth.  He who was crucified but is risen also now rules over all things for the good of the baptized.  It is easy to get wrapped up and bound up into Synodical intrigue and the mess of ecclesiastical unsupervision that goes on, but that often leads to the temptation to despair.  Despairing in Christ is no good at all.  Despairing of your trust in princes is good (even ones who wear collars and claim churchly office), for Christ is still Lord of His Church (this is a Lutheran belief, if you want to trust a man, try the papists).

Pastors – take the extra time to teach more.  Teach the few who will come.  Teach the many.  In season and out of season.

Laity – take advantage of the time to be taught.  Show up. Listen.  Ask Questions.  Lutheran teachings are still treasures for the soul.

One warning I would issue – in your teaching make sure to not overstress the issues at hand.  From seminex we got a whole bunch of folks who believed that THE Lutheran distinctive was an “inspired, inerrant” Bible.  While we believe this, it is not the center of what we confess.  From this overemphasis, there were some who used that as a litmus test for joining churches and found fellowship with churches like the Assemblies of God possible.  A contemporary example would be overemphasizing liturgy to the point that people think Eastern Orthodoxy is a good option.

So have your studies.  Talk it out.  Teach.  Learn.  Pray.  Encourage.  Warn.  Rebuke.  These are good things.  And whatever happens, know that Jesus Christ is Lord.  The Evangelical Lutheran Church still gets its life from Him.

About Pastor Joshua Scheer

Pastor Joshua Scheer is the Senior Pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Cheyenne, Wyoming. He is also the Editor-in-chief of Brothers of John the Steadfast. He oversees all of the work done by Steadfast Lutherans. He is a regular host of Concord Matters on KFUO.

Pastor Scheer and his lovely wife Holly (who writes and manages the Katie Luther Sisters) have four children and enjoy living in Wyoming.


Comments

What to do in the congregation concerning the LCMS? — 23 Comments

  1. What do we do?

    This is as scandalous as the Benke dissent at 9-11

    Congregations need wisdom and encouragement from our confessional Pastors. Yet our Pastors struggle with the need for support as well. Some feel very forgotten by the Synod.

    Your post is very much appreciated.

    pax

  2. “So with the news of the LCMS inability to deal with one of its most flagrant dissenters since the 1970s…”

    Why? Why can nothing be done!?!?!

    See, this flagrant rebellion boggles me. How can a professing LCMS pastor brazenly defy established LCMS doctrine and NOT be thrown out???

    As I said in another thread, this is akin to me violating my terms of employment as a teacher and not getting fired for it. How can that happen, unless it’s simple unwillingness to do the right thing!?!?

    Does it take a petition of outraged parishoners and laymen to get something done???

  3. We should not forget that Becker’s “dissent” and rebellion as an LCMS clergyman has been enabled by his District President, Paul Linnemann: http://locator.lcms.org/nworkers_frm/w_detail.asp?W18573

    It is Linnemannn who has intentionally protected and shielded Matthew Becker for all of these years, and he will continue to do so until he is ousted. But Linnemann won’t go on his own. Being a district president is his career, and it is no different to him than a career in secular politics or the corporate world. Linnemann does not see himself as a servant of Christ and His Church. Linnemann does not view himself as accountable to Jesus Christ, let alone to any of us.

    CU-Portland is also under Linnemann’s supervision as a DP. Linnemann is also protecting CU-Portland’s sodomy club: http://www.cu-portland.edu/campus-life/clubs-organizations

    https://www.facebook.com/groups/668772776485531/

    Linnemann personally described the “Unity Club” as “a safe place for its students to learn and to engage the Gospel” in an e-mail published in the March 10, 2014 issue of Christian News.

  4. J. Dean: See, this flagrant rebellion boggles me. How can a professing LCMS pastor brazenly defy established LCMS doctrine and NOT be thrown out???
    As I said in another thread, this is akin to me violating my terms of employment as a teacher and not getting fired for it. How can that happen, unless it’s simple unwillingness to do the right thing!?!?

    The difference is that it is not actually a condition of membership in the LCMS to adhere to its doctrinal statements – only to “accept without reservation” both Scripture and the BoC, which Rev. Becker still claims to do. See my (likely very unpopular) post in the other thread. Please do not shoot the messenger here, either!

  5. I honestly am so very disheartened by this. I would actually be more encouraged if I saw this turn into a huge split, since it would at least be evidence of life….

  6. Nicholas :CU-Portland is also under Linnemann’s supervision as a DP. Linnemann is also protecting CU-Portland’s sodomy club: http://www.cu-portland.edu/campus-life/clubs-organizations
    https://www.facebook.com/groups/668772776485531/
    Linnemann personally described the “Unity Club” as “a safe place for its students to learn and to engage the Gospel” in an e-mail published in the March 10, 2014 issue of Christian News.

    And it looks like CU-Portland’s “Unity Club” also has a Facebook page with their original name, the “Gay-Straight Coalition”: https://www.facebook.com/groups/349425765099328/

  7. @J. Dean #10
    Perhaps, but then membership becomes contingent on something that can be altered or revoked with a simple majority vote at a convention. I think that there are good reasons behind the current distinction between a confession that never changes (Scripture and the BoC) and a doctrinal position that is subject to change (resolutions about current issues).

  8. Pastors – take the extra time to teach more.  Teach the few who will come.  Teach the many.  In season and out of season.

    Good advice but keep the message constructive.  I like what Mrs Hume has been saying recently about doing this for our kids.

    “Hope and a positive agenda wins out over anger and reaction every day of the week,” – Jeb Bush

  9. “My OWN hopes and dreams are centered around my children, and their children someday.

    I hope and dream (and work for) a Lutheran church in America that they will attend, that affirms the Scriptures without apologies, that teaches Luther’s Small Catechism, that continues to preach and teach all the wonderful doctrines we know and benefit from, and that worships in harmony with that teaching. I hope and dream that the LCMS will be that church, and in my opinion, it is that church now.”  – Pr Noland

    @John Rixe #12

  10. @J. Dean #14
    Not sure I follow. The majority votes at conventions establish the Synod’s doctrinal position, not the disposition of any particular case. Thus the Synod’s doctrinal position is always subject to change at the next convention; its confession is not.

  11. Jon Alan Schmidt :
    @J. Dean #14
    Not sure I follow. The majority votes at conventions establish the Synod’s doctrinal position, not the disposition of any particular case. Thus the Synod’s doctrinal position is always subject to change at the next convention; its confession is not.

    So what can be done then? This certainly is not an adiaphoric matter; when you start chipping away at what Scripture says on one issue, you open a Pandora’s box for other issues as well.

  12. J. Dean: So what can be done then?

    That depends; what is the objective? We are never going to root out all false teachers in our midst; most of them are far more subtle than Rev. Becker. I think that we mainly just need to focus on continuing to proclaim the divine truth for the honor of Christ and the consolation of consciences; live out our own vocations, and let others live out theirs. After all, the gates of hell will never prevail against His church.

  13. Jon Alan Schmidt :
    @J. Dean #10
    Perhaps, but then membership becomes contingent on something that can be altered or revoked with a simple majority vote at a convention. I think that there are good reasons behind the current distinction between a confession that never changes (Scripture and the BoC) and a doctrinal position that is subject to change (resolutions about current issues).

    Jon Alan Schmidt :
    @J. Dean #14
    Not sure I follow. The majority votes at conventions establish the Synod’s doctrinal position, not the disposition of any particular case. Thus the Synod’s doctrinal position is always subject to change at the next convention; its confession is not.

    You are mistaken. Doctrinal Statements cannot be passed by a simply majority. Nor can they be adopted by a single convention. LCMS Bylaw 1.6.2 lays out the very detailed and drawn out process of establishing a doctrinal statement, which must ultimately be ratified by at least 2/3 of the congregations who vote on it within a six-month window. So theoretically, it could be approved by only a single congregation, but it is doubtful that such a thing would happen.

  14. @Reverend Mo #18
    I was not mistaken – just talking about doctrinal resolutions, rather than doctrinal statements.

    I am actually quite familiar with the detailed and (intentionally) onerous requirements for the latter, but the fact of the matter is that the process has never been implemented since it was added to the Bylaws in 1977. In other words, the LCMS does not have any doctrinal statements as defined by the current Bylaws – not even the Brief Statement or A Statement, since those were both adopted by simple majority convention votes, just like any other doctrinal resolution.

    Therefore, at least for the time being, the doctrinal position of the LCMS consists entirely of its doctrinal resolutions. I would probably be comfortable with making it a condition of membership to teach in accordance with doctrinal statements, once the Synod actually has one (or more), since the only difference from an amendment to the Constitution is that a simple majority convention vote is sufficient at that step, rather than 2/3 being required.

  15. Jon Alan Schmidt :
    @Reverend Mo #18
    I was not mistaken – just talking about doctrinal resolutions, rather than doctrinal statements.

    I must have been confused when you said:

    Jon Alan Schmidt :
    The difference is that it is not actually a condition of membership in the LCMS to adhere to its doctrinal statements – only to “accept without reservation” both Scripture and the BoC, which Rev. Becker still claims to do. See my (likely very unpopular) post in the other thread. Please do not shoot the messenger here, either!

    To which J. Dean replied:

    J. Dean :
    @Jon Alan Schmidt #6
    Perhaps it should be.

    To which you replied:

    Jon Alan Schmidt :
    @J. Dean #10
    Perhaps, but then membership becomes contingent on something that can be altered or revoked with a simple majority vote at a convention. I think that there are good reasons behind the current distinction between a confession that never changes (Scripture and the BoC) and a doctrinal position that is subject to change (resolutions about current issues).

    So you actually started this line of conversation (which was, in fact, your first comment on this thread) by saying “doctrinal statements,” and you didn’t even mention “resolutions” (not doctrinal resolutions, but just “resolutions”) until a parenthetical aside at the conclusion of post #11.

    So you were mistaken in what you wrote, even if you do actually know the difference.

  16. Jon Alan Schmidt :
    @Reverend Mo #20
    Ah, I see it now. I meant to say “doctrinal position” in that first comment. I humbly acknowledge my mistake and accept your correction!

    I am glad that we got that straightened out! 🙂

    Because wording is so important, it is not helpful to say “doctrinal position.” In fact, under LCMS Bylaw 1.6.2, the phrase “position” is only used in reference to “doctrinal statements” (1.6.2(b)).

    “Doctrinal statements set forth in greater detail the position of the Synod….”

    The section on doctrinal resolutions refers to “the confessional position” of the Synod, but the word “position” appears by itself only in reference to doctrinal statements.

    It is more helpful to refer to doctrinal resolutions (1.6.2(a)) and doctrinal statements (1.6.2(b)).

    By the way: Church bylaws suck.

  17. Hmmm….I don’t believe we can vote on doctrine. It was settle in the Holy Word of God. The real question is, where is the LCMS in relation to the Word of God?

    Nothing like the sophistry of the Pharisees and false teachers. Grrrr!

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