Lutheran, Yet Ashamed of the Gospel?

Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services (LIRS) receives substantial support from the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. It is a partnership that needs to be terminated for the sake of the LCMS’s declared mission to “make known the love of Christ”, and to preserve the integrity of the LCMS’s third “mission priority” which is to “perform human care in close proximity to Word and Sacrament ministry”.

LIRS performs human care, but it has abandoned even a pretense at doing it near Word and Sacrament ministry. What is the point of “saving” people if it is not for the application of Luke 12:5? What exactly is Lutheran or even Christian about LIRS that the LCMS should continue to support it by lending it personnel, and giving it money, time, and recognition?

Examining LIRS’s literature leaves only the conclusion that it has evolved into a pillar of American civil religion. It invokes vague religious ideas, but despises non-universalist dogmas. Its faith is the generic faith of “faith initiatives”, “inter-faith dialogue”, “faith communities”, “faith-based” activities, “faith for justice”, etc etc etc. The organization’s President even uses the parting salutation “in faith” in her communications. Which faith? That amorphous faith that is everything yet nothing, and hangs its hat at Sojourners.

LIRS survives at the unique intersection between church and state that is actually celebrated not only tolerated; where they embrace to make heaven-on-earth in the image of man. Like most civil religions, the American version’s chief doctrine is salvation by and through the state, mediated by the persons and institutions approved by the power elite.

LIRS long ago became one of the anointed institutions of American civil religion underwritten with tens of millions of dollars of government funding. That has not stopped it from dipping into the collection plate of ill-informed, but well meaning, Lutheran congregations. Indeed, Benjamin Franklin would no doubt approve this erasure of the formal and material principles which Lutherans are supposed to confess:

“…I never was without some religious principles. I never doubted, for instance, the existence of the Deity; that he made the world and govern’d it by his Providence; that the most acceptable service of God was the doing of good to men; that our souls are immortal; and that all crime will be punished, and virtue rewarded either here or hereafter. These I esteemed the essentials of every religion; and, being to be found in all the religions we had in our country, I respected them all, tho’ with different degrees of respect, as I found them more or less mix’d with other articles, which, without any tendency to inspire, promote or confirm morality, serv’d principally do divide us, and make us unfriendly to one another. This respect to all, with an opinion that the worst had some good effects, induced me to avoid all discourse that might tend to lessen the good opinion another might have of his own religion; and as our province increased in people, and new places of worship were continually wanted, and generally erected by voluntary contribution, my mite for such purpose, whatever might be the sect, was never refused.”

Illustrating the LIRS lurch into civil religion, look at the matrix below in which we reviewed all the most recently available annual reports published by LIRS. LIRS confesses nothing we might recognize as Lutheran dogma, never mind Romans 10:8-15. You will not find LCMS mission priorities reflected in anything LIRS says and does unless you agree that stripping away Word and Sacrament fulfills the mission.

LIRS Annual Report Keywords

To ensure that we were not being unreasonable, we also looked at the images used in the LIRS annual reports in case they were used instead of words to convey Lutheran identity specifically and “Christian” identity generally. Unfortunately, they convey the same story of human care absent Word and Sacrament ministry.

LIRS Annual Report Images

The LIRS annual reports have developed an increasingly secular flavor that simply mimics the output of most any organization in the immigration / refugee government-NGO complex. The pinnacle of its rebellion has been to embrace an alternative Gospel (welcoming the stranger) and a different Jesus (the refugee who needs to be saved).

The Gospel is the proclamation of repentance for the forgiveness of sins in Christ’s name. The Gospel is not being kind to immigrants, refugees, and “the other”. Jesus came to fulfill God’s promise to save us from our sins, not to be an example for our felt needs.

However, at LIRS the only sins you will read about are “harmful immigration laws”. The only repentance you will encounter is “community-based interventions”. The only salvation offered is “resistance against repressive laws” (we have no illusions about that Bishop’s views on resisting abortion laws). LIRS even has its own sacraments: grace, relationship, acceptance, forgiveness, and community.

At this time when the LCMS is dealing head-on with apostatizing individuals and institutions, it is also time to call LIRS and its leadership to repentance. If it remains impenitent, then the LCMS has an obligation to sever all ties with it.


Lutheran, Yet Ashamed of the Gospel? — 20 Comments

  1. Works righteousness permeates our culture so we would be wise to eat our Lords words: be wise as serpents and gentle as doves”

  2. Great article. Once again, no “checks and balances” within the Bureaucracy of the LCMS to see if there are issues with this organization. Instead, you’ll hear at the next convention a presentation about the great work this group does and how much $$ LCMS, Inc. gave to such a group. After the presentation, you’ll see pat-on-the-back, hand shakes, smiles,…

  3. Waiting for a verbal repentance is idiotic. They have a track record of “SOCIAL JUSTIOCE”. Just pull the plug now and walk away from this group and its goal of undoing our immigration laws as is our unconstitutional Obama.

    They violates both the left and right kingdom ON OUR DIME. Get out now. JUST PULL THE PLUG.

  4. Tim Wood, you are such a blessing to our church! Thank you for another eye-opening article. We all need to start putting the pressure on our delegates to get rid of this blight!

  5. And then there is Lutheran World Relief. When I was still in ELCA bondage, I discovered that funds for LWR were being used to support Planned Parenthood and pro-abortion lobbyists. Don’t even get me started on Thrivent…

    LCMS needs to cut ties with all these apostasy-accommodating pan-Lutheran organizations. Maybe half of our congregants have family members in ELCA, so LCMS pastors don’t want to “rock the boat” and possibly lose offended giving members by speaking up against the Ex-Lutheran Cult of Apostasy and her sycophant parachurch organizations. But whom are we to please, man or God?

    Seeing the LCMS’ middle management’s wink and nod for Matthew Becker spreading his false doctrine makes me wonder? Is the LCMS really a Confessional Lutheran church, or just the ELCA dressed up with an orthodox paper confession?

    Thanks again to BJS and all those who stand with Jesus Christ to help stem the tide of heterodoxy in our Synod. Synods come and go, and I know that a Confessional remnant of Lutheran Christians will always exist, and that there will be a place to gather around Word and Sacrament Scripturally and Confessionally.

  6. From:

    “Have a look at a recent Form 990 for Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services, page 9. They had income in that year of $31,653,748 and, of that, you, the taxpayers of America, gave them $30,376,568. Their CEO makes $204,186 in salary and benefits. Where is the ACLU? No separation of church and state here! The church is the state!”

    This person argues that the church is the state. I would argue that in this case the state is the “church.” When 96% of your budget comes from the government you are beholden to that government. I see why this lobbying and advocacy group cannot proclaim the Gospel. Their main funder will not allow it.

  7. So, why does LCMS President Matthew Harrison support LIRS? Why does the Rev. Bart Day? Why do any of the LCMS clergy and lay directors of LIRS support LIRS?

    Why is LIRS in political alignment with the Obama Administration and Leftists and Progressives of every stripe?

    Even more importantly, where are the LCMS District memorials or resolutions to get the LCMS out of LIRS?

  8. Robert,
    I imagine they support LIRS because they have compassion for refugees, legal or illegal, and see this as an agency with a foot in the government door which can better help them help the needy. From a human perspective, LIRS is a crafty way for citizens to download money from the government in order to help these people. LIRS annually collects an amount of money from the feds equal to almost half of the LCMS Inc.’s annual budget. The churches by tying themselves to this organization may see an opportunity to gain access to these souls at a fraction of the cost, thanks to Uncle Sam. But of course LIRS cannot itself proclaim the Gospel because it’s operated at least 95% at the behest of Washington bureaucrats. Hopefully the LCMS and her members will not find themselves operating at the behest of Washington bureaucrats as a result of their ties to organizations like this. Nevertheless, I pray some confessional Lutherans will take the opportunity to foster some of these children and adults and that the Holy Spirit will use His Word and Sacraments to and bring them into the Church and/or keep them in it.

  9. @Pastor Prentice #12 Hi Pastor

    The latest refugee Sunday package underscores the problem with LIRS which has in fact split the baby in order to serve two constituencies. Please compare the LCMS “kit” with the ELCA version – scroll down to “Resource Library downloads”.

    Secondly, please examine the sermon notes prepared by LIRS and which are supposedly fit for preaching from Lutheran pulpits; just disappear the lectionaries.

    It’s a cynical insinuation of a “refugee” narrative into the text, with the tiniest smidgeon of gospel and heapings of law.

    They have resorted to dressing up the pig for the LCMS, but the message does not change the facts on the ground – ELCA theology dominates LIRS’s mission, identity, and raison d’être.

  10. I just stumbled upon this when doing a search on LIRS and LCMS. I have personally run a local ministry for refugees and immigrants that is LCMS Lutheran for the past 8 years. I’ve watched it grow from a couple folks to 100 coming to learn with us every week! There are many here that are forgetting how the gospel is shared. Love first…through deed…and in word at every natural opportunity. Ministries caring for the foreigner need to be very cautious how pushy they are about faith. If you knew me, you’d know that I am passionate about evangelism and have led both foreigners and those born in the states to Christ. I, myself, became a believer when I was 19. If LIRS hits the drum beat too loudly that they are Christians, those new to Jesus will be scared off before they even get to know us…and the good news. How about a little 1Corinthians 13 reminding us that if we don’t have love we are a resounding gong? Love takes time. Trust takes time. If LIRS had blasted all over their materials that people were becoming Christians, those with initial resistance would flea before the Holy Spirit and Christian love could crack it’s way in.

  11. @Jessica #14 Dear Jessica

    Please could you show me from Scripture and the Confessions where we are told to put Law & Gospel in the back seat, and start with love and deeds?

    Many thanks

  12. @Jessica #14

    Jessica, thank you for your loving work of both caring for those in need and sharing the Gospel with them. However, I think you missed one key sentence in the original post: “LIRS performs human care, but it has abandoned even a pretense at doing… Word and Sacrament ministry…” That’s the concern here. You state that you are “passionate about evangelism…” LIRS is not. It has no concern for evangelism, thus it should not be receiving Synodical support

  13. Tim, you asked Jessica, “Please could you show me from Scripture and the Confessions where we are told to put Law & Gospel in the back seat, and start with love and deeds?”

    The following excepts from the LCMS document Responding in Love: Theological Guidelines for Human Care Ministry may be helpful to you, although I suggest reading the whole document (it’s only nine pages) before commenting on the excepts:

    2. Relation of Word and Deed
    Five distinct but inseparable elements of the church’s mission are: witness (marturia), service (diakonia), fellowship (koinonia), education (didaskalia) and worship (leitourgia). The unifying factor of these elements is Jesus Christ, who is their source and center. He is present and active and made known as His people carry out the various aspects of their ministry. All five elements include both word and deed. The verbal communication of Christ makes explicit what may only be implied in loving deeds and relationships. Unspoken testimonies to Christ through caring deeds provide vital preparation and support for the spoken Word. Without deeds, our words about Christ may seem abstract and unconvincing. Without words about Christ, our loving deeds may be ambiguous and misunderstood. 1 Cor. 13; 1 Peter 3:1-16; Luke 10:8-9. See also James references above. LC II 9.

    4. Priority
    Human care ministry is the companion and complement to the verbal communication of Christ.
    It may not be regarded as an optional or marginal activity of the church. When we Christians are serious about helping others, we stimulate interest in and add credibility to our spoken and written testimonies to Christ. When the world is unimpressed by what we say, it may be because our actions do not illustrate or support our words. Human care ministry should have high priority on the Church’s agenda.

  14. How do we get the LCMS away from the apostates and heretics. Liberalism will find its way into the foundation of Biblical churches if we dont do anything.

  15. @LW #11

    Going back to something LW pointed out, if you want to have a say as to what message an organization proclaims or how it raises its funding you have to support that organization. I am not so sure that the right answers is always to just “cut them off.” We may need to look in the mirror first.

    In other words, if an organization is begun in the name of the Lutheran Church to provide a specific outreach mission, and then said church does not provide adequate funding for that organization, you cannot get upset when that organization then has to hold its hand out to the federal government, which is going to hamper its ability to proclaim the gospel.

    When I was a kid, my family and I routinely volunteered at this little soup kitchen called the Lutheran Cooperative Feeding Program. At first this place survived on donations of food and money to cover operating expenses, and they provided a wonderful outreach ministry. But after many years of inadequate support, they ended up having to rely on state and federal funding. As a result, they had to drop the Lutheran out of the name of the organization, and had to limit the way they engaged in evangelism. It wasn’t for lack of asking the local churches for support. So who is to blame? Are the people running the soup kitchen trying to obey Jesus’ call to observe the second greatest commandment at fault? Or is it the church who failed them? Its a rhetorical question, but its something to consider.

    And while I agree, the primary role of the church is to proclaim the gospel, works are part of proclaiming the gospel. James tells us this in his epistle, exhorting us to live Holy lives that people around us would take notice and praise our God. Show me your faith without works, and I will show you my faith by my works. We see the same types of exhortations in the Gospels, particularly Matthew in the sermon on the mount, Paul’s epistles, 1 Peter, etc. Proclaiming forgiveness of sins and ministering through the sacrements are only the beginning of the gospel, not the end of it. As Paul proclaims in Ephesians: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not of your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” God has a purpose for us which extends beyond merely being saved.

    Forgive me if I have used this as an opportunity to make a bigger point. Maybe LIRS should undergo spiritual discipline, I don’t know. But I am also alarmed by the cavalier willingness to sever ties without looking deeper.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.