Is Missouri Lukewarm?

Is bloodshed too high a price to pay for doctrinal purity?

Is bloodshed too high a price to pay for doctrinal purity?

Has fidelity to the institution become more important than doctrine in the Missouri Synod?

There are deep doctrinal divisions in the Missouri Synod today, divisions which are particularly evident in worship practices.

Pr. Winter is correct: we do not agree on the authority of the word of God, the power of that word to do what it promises, the place and nature of the sacraments in the life of the church, the role of male and female in the church and world, the nature of humanity itself, the doctrine of original sin, etc. Rather than acknowledge these breach in our fellowship, Missouri appears content to continue in her dialogueolatry.

How can we exclude anyone from the Sacrament when we are in fellowship with those who openly promote syncretism? Or those who promote the ordination of women, homosexuality, the errancy of the Bible, the historical-critical method, open communion, communion with the Reformed, evolution, and more?

The Church has been blessed with countless martyrs who gladly shed their blood rather than compromise their confession in the smallest matter. What sort of witness are we giving to the world by our lack of concord in Missouri? Will doctrinal concord ever become important enough again in Missouri that we are willing to break fellowship over it? Tolerated error ruins our witness. Will pastors or congregations ever be removed from the Synod for teaching false doctrine, or do we only do that for sins of the flesh? Is doctrine really decisive for church fellowship in Missouri, or is it about alignment with the right institution?

“And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation.

“‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’” (Revelation 3:14-22)


Is Missouri Lukewarm? — 37 Comments

  1. “Will pastors or congregations ever be removed from the Synod for teaching false doctrine, or do we only do that for sins of the flesh?” Having been in a congregation that lost it’s pastor over removing divisive congregants and the spurious lies that were spread about said pastor, I’d say the Synod has it’s own rules on who they oust and who they keep. It from my experience they oust mostly those pastors that are confessional. I’ve been there, and I’ve seen it done to a wonderful Pastor who had not committed any of the “sins of the flesh” but was teaching Christ crucified to people who did not want to hear they were sinners. The outcome: a pastor who has gone to be an independent Lutheran pastor and a church of the LCMS that no longer exists because God “spit” that church out of His mouth.

  2. As previously mentioned on another thread, the measure of an orthodox Synod is how it deals with error and ultimately removes it if no repentance is forthcoming. Missouri has repeated failed this test since 1945, and it is only getting worse. After nearly six years of concerted effort by the ACELC, not a single identified error has been addressed. Conclusion: Yes, Missouri is lukewarm and yes, the synod simply does not have the will to address error and remove it. And yes, the LCMS is a heterodox church body. I wish that it were not so, but it has become increasingly clear that it is.

  3. I might suggest that about the only thing that will spur on the LCMS to correct her errors would be if a lot more congregations joined the ACELC’s effort and perhaps the LCMS will realize that it simply has to respond to our concerns. Encouragement to join!

  4. “The Judge Is At the Door”, was written by an Australian German Lutheran pastor in 1899 in his commentary on the book of Revelation, Der Richter ist vor der Thur!, by Rev. J.F. Peters, who served as the pastor at Murtoa, Victoria, Australia. In the 1960’s it was translated into English by an American lady, Helma Stenske. In 1989 it was republished in Australia by Rev. Bryce Winter of the Evangelical Lutheran Congregations of the Reformation (ELCR) with a few corrections with the approval of Helma Stenske. It was published at Kingaroy, Queensland, Australia and the quotation is found on page 53 of that publication:

    “However, the words of [Rev. 3:10] nevertheless contain a serious truth, namely the Church of the Reformation will have to pass through the fiery trial of the last great temptation, a temptation which consists of a general falling away from faith. And this falling away will take place in particular in the Church of the Reformation, that church which has the word of “His patience,” namely that word of the cross, that pure Gospel.
    “At that time the true Church of the Reformation, which is called the Lutheran Church, will be but a small body. Large masses will bear the name Lutheran, but in name only; namely, there will be a great deal of talk about Luther and his works … yet Luther’s spirit and interpretation, his faithfulness to the Truth, his zeal to retain God’s honor only, his courage to confess this, these will not exist or be known, yes, there will be no desire to know this. On the contrary, those who will immovably insist on clinging to the whole truth as Luther taught it will be despised, they will be reviled as being destroyers of peace, troublemakers, and schismatics.
    “In Luther’s days it was the Pope who did this … However, in the last days, in that hour of great temptation, this time the true evangelical Christians will not be branded schismatics by the Pope, but by those who carry the name Lutheran. This will be a time in which the “Lutherans” will not be satisfied to leave the old confirmed teachings as they are, but they will nevertheless cling to the name Lutheran, and this will help to fill the measure of confusion, through which untold numbers of weak Christians will be offended, since the so-called Lutheran Christians will separate into many factions, but nevertheless calling themselves brethren. We are now living in these sad days, the days which are portrayed to us in the picture of the congregation of Laodicea.
    “When here we speak of the Church of the Reformation which we see pictured in the congregation at Philadelphia, we are not referring to that church body which carries the name of Luther, but to all real believers among that despised body of true believers, including the many innocent souls who are scattered here and there among the sects, namely as our Confession says: Those who walk in simpleness of heart, who do not understand correctly, and who would, if they were properly instructed, come to the Church which holds the truth, who therefore worship at the feet of the body of true believers, at the feet of the Church of the Reformation.
    “It was Luther who prophesied that it would get so bad that the true word of God would in time be found only in the homes. That time is at hand, and we may yet live to see the day that the Church of the Reformation, namely the Church of the true doctrine, will not be found in any external body or synod named Lutheran.”

  5. “I shall rather use it and, by the grace of God, use all the energy I have to call this Synod to fidelity to correct this situation.”

    Matt Harrison

    President Harrison has not done so and should be the first held to account. However, issues concerning doctrine ought to brought up, from within, and with passion so that we may, with a discussion of proper doctrine, supported by scripture, confront those challenges and bring the discussions into each congregation. If we have unquestioned obedience, nothing will be learned. If we simply toss out those in error, how have we progressed from the papacy? We should accept challenges, rise to them, and lovingly correct. Where that fails, we can say we’ve done as we ought to do.

    To date, as far as I am concerned we have not brought these discussions out into the light of day and put them to the congregations to the degree necessary to inform them of what is at stake. How can you expect these challenges to be taken seriously by people whose depth of involvement is largely a one day experience, each week? What are you doing to share with congregants across the country so that they know what to ask their pastors? to that end, you are next being called to task. This site is a tiny platform.

  6. Fidelity to the institution = better job security

    But instead of calling it what it is we’ll continue down this broken road ‘together’ under the banner of so-called ‘love’ and cast the blame of division on those seeking truth.

    Those who Consider Rebuking Missouri often find themselves Considerably Reduced in Mission struggling for the Chance to Return to Ministry.

    We are, indeed, Consumed by Riotous Mediocrity!

  7. Faith in any beaurocratic institution, be it situated in Rome, Constantinople, or St. Louis, is an ill fated affair. They are necessary expressions of congregations attempting to walk together, of pastors and people trying find ways to live together and work together, but in the end they are human constructs where money and power are congealed which lure to themselves the darker passions of men.

    To my mind, lamenting the corruption of a beaurocratic construct is like pining for the corruption of Conress. Either get busy fixing it, tearing it down, abandoning it, or living with it. Those are about the only courses of action I can perceive relative to a beaurocracy.

    Of course, I think our problem of inaction is related at least in part, to a difference of opinion about whether it should be fixed, destroyed, abandoned, or lived with. The sizable majority appears to be in that last category, with the first category in a distant second… and a few statistical stragglers in categories two and three. Until enough people decide to simply stop living with the mess, there will be no substantive change. It’s a humanly constructed system in a humanly constructed mess. We’ll either fix it, or we won’t– and the culpability for whatever we do will be entirely our own.

  8. If you have ever spent a Summer in St. Louis Missouri,
    then you know it is not lukewarm. Instead, it is hot
    and humid. They have condition 90 days, when the temp
    and humidity are both in the 90’s.

  9. @Pastor Dave Likeness #9

    They have condition 90 days, when the temp
    and humidity are both in the 90’s.

    Been there. But what does that excuse? The IC is air conditioned. [We weren’t, in the 50’s]

    Is Missouri Lukewarm?

    We have to ask?
    Lukewarm and cooling, as far as Christian doctrine is concerned. In another generation, ***A at the present rate of decay. {You don’t have to believe me. Where’s 5/2? And who’s the newly elected head of the COP?}

  10. Anyone care to explain to me what the COP is?

    If the LCMS is a heterodox church body, then are there any large Lutheran church bodies that would not be considered to be heterodox?

    Serious question, thanks.

  11. In other words, are there any large Lutheran church bodies that are officially bound to the liturgy, the sacraments, and the confessions as a prerequisite for membership in the church body?

  12. @Mike #11

    The COP is the Council of Presidents. It consists of the synodical Praesidium which is the the President, 1st VP, and the 5 regional VP’s ranked 2-6. It also consists of the 35 District Presidents. So there are 42 members in total. Generally, the DP’s elect leaders from themselves, and they act as a Board of sorts. Nominally they carry out and coordinate the synodical directives out to their districts. (but politics messes that up badly) One of their chief tasks is to assign seminary graduates after the seminaries certify them for public ministry, basically giving them their first calls.

    Some of us are disappointed/concerned/harsher adjectives in that the COP has elected leaders that are viewed as more liberal and anti-Matt Harrison.

  13. It is my understanding that “heterodox” concerns adherence to doctrine, not liturgy. We have Augustana, Smallcald, the Creeds, and the Catechisms as doctrine, correct? As I understand it, clergy is pledged to those confessions and they are members of synod, by oath. Congregations are members by choice. So, as long as the congregation opts to membership, has qualified clergy, and the clergy adhere to the confessions, there is no heterodoxy.

    We have already gone through innovation in the move from Common Service Book, to TLH, to LW, to LSB and there have been variations and additions in the settings. We’ve added since Luther laid out the formula missae and Deutsche Messe. Apart from some general agreement by a council in MO acting as the Vatican and saying “this new book (LSB) is good”, there is no liturgical authority. “Nor is it necessary that human traditions, that is, rites or ceremonies, instituted by men, should be everywhere alike.” (AC VII)

    Is it anyone’s contention, here, that the boundaries of “everywhere”, with respect to the LCMS, is the entire USA, all of the ILC, all Lutheran bodies, each District, each circuit, each State? Where are your limits? Liturgy is essential but we have already, in practice, agreed that it can and ought to change and that it does not have to be uniform across time and space. If there is only “this book is good” from the offices in MO, that’s not sufficient authority to mandate liturgy. The LCMS is not instituted by God.

    I say this as one who never felt it necessary to leave pg.15 but find value in the newer forms. I have issues with contemporary liturgies and am not satisfied that Methodist hymns like Amazing Grace that contain heterodox subtexts should be in our churches.

  14. Friends,

    There is no official subscription to the use of the historic liturgies and offices, however, in the first Constitution of the LCMS it specifically references worship as striving for the greatest possible degree of uniformity in the congregations of the Synod. Additionally, the Synod always adopted in convention the official hymnals of the Synod. It is only a rather recent novelty that has brought about the worship of innovative worship forms largely borrowed from the Reformed tradition. Going further back into history great care was given to have uniform hymnals and liturgies whenever possible. At the very first meeting of the Pennsylvania Ministerium (the first in the U.S.), the first thing they did was to adopt a uniform and common liturgy for the congregations of the Ministerium.

    The theological basis for this is essentially two-fold: 1.) Unity in worship best reflects the very nature of the God we worship who is unity itself, and 2.) The pictures of heavenly worship given us in Revelation 5, 7, 11, 19, etc., in which God’s people speak with one voice and you will find not a hint of personal preference, or personal license or resort to Christian “freedom”. The whole purpose of Christian worship is to bring us out of this world and into heaven as best we can because our earthly worship is joined with the heavenly kingdom as we sing every Sunday…”With angels and archangels and all the company of heaven we laud and….”.

  15. Though it may be good, uniformity doesn’t seem much of a priority nowadays.

    “If you include all the varieties and possibilities that CPH provides for Sunday morning worship, every bit of which has been through doctrinal review and carries the imprimatur of Synod, there are thousands and thousands of liturgies.” – Gottesdienst Online

  16. @Rev. Richard A. Bolland #16

    I think that you’re referring to: “Encourage congregations to strive for uniformity in church practice,but also to develop an appreciation of a variety of responsible practices and customs which are in harmony with our common profession of faith”

    To me, that could be read as each congregation should have a uniform practice and Synod should check in to see if they do. The wording is weak – “encourage” “responsible” “customs” “harmony”. These are far cries from the what’s expressed so often, here, for people to be in lock step. I don’t expect “mandate” or “enforce” but it will take teaching and guidance. You know, activity, to make a change.

    As a kid in the early ’70’s, I remember the students coming around from Concordia telling our parents about the goings on and all those folk guitar services (“we are one in the Spirit…”) Where are the liturgical counter-revolutionaries teaching the value of tradition, face to face, congregation by congregation? If not a mandatory change, why not a program of sermons and topics for everyone to work with. Something, anything.

    I truly appreciate that value in what’s being said, but it’s all talk. No sincere aspect of church is all talk.

  17. John,

    Everything the Church does flows out of our worship. Worship is the central activity of the Church. If we don’t get worship right, we simply won’t get anything else right. Furthermore, the divisions the LCMS has in its worship are simply the most divisive issue in our church body and from poor worship comes false doctrine, unbiblical practice, and theological confusion. This is a critical issue for our Synod and deserves our attention.

  18. I respect your opinion, but I think it is an opinion that’s not widely shared.  I’ve never been to “poor worship” in the LCMS although I’ve heard of some strange, isolated practices from reading this website.  In spite of maybe a few outliers, I believe LCMS worship is Gospel centered.  Of course this has been discussed in hundreds (thousands?) of prior comments. 🙂
    I do endorse synod approval of all worship material.

    @ Pr Bolland

  19. @John Rixe #22

    I do endorse synod approval of all worship material.

    That should not be equated with “Synod should endorse all the aberrant worship material being used these days” but I’m afraid that’s the way things are going…. 🙁

  20. Please give examples of this approved aberrant worship material.  It seems to me that efforts (including ACELC) should be focused on removing this specific material from the approved catagory.


  21. @Rev. Richard A. Bolland #21

    “If we don’t get worship right, we simply won’t get anything else right”

    Need to remember that in worship we receive from God and that our liturgy is proclaiming that which we receive: Forgiveness, Mercy, Word, Faith, Intercession, Body and Blood. We carry all this out with us into the world, Sunday should recharge us to enter the mission field in our daily lives.

    So much of this conversation seems to hint that worship is something we do – the words and the gifts come from God to us. We merely provide the setting for the proclamation. I agree that this setting should be correct and unified to a much greater degree. What I don’t hear is a practical approach or a method of doing this within the context of our organization.

    If anything, I would like to hear the dissenting voices, the theology and reasoning behind non-traditional forms in order to stimulate a serious dialog rather than a lament.

  22. Dear BJS,
    I toss this out, because the thread is going down the worship path. I was out of town on holiday this weekend and attended a fellow LCMS Church. It was noted as a “blended worship.” No clue what that “really” means, but I went (it was that or WELS / ELCA); and “duh”, you know what I chose.

    Well, here is the biggest take away. And “blended” was really contemporary, they did away with the other two services, they only have one now.

    The problem with worship differing is this, to the outsider, I was not sure this was a Lutheran Church. Of course I know from where I sit, and the name was Lutheran on the sign, but the worship was not “blended” but to me, “bland”.

    As a Karate practitioner, I go to a Shotokan Dojo, and no matter where I am at, Shotokan is the same all over, perhaps some differing training aspects.

    Yet the core of the problem is the joy of our polity, each congregation can “do their own thing”. Yes, the theology that was the underpinning of the Church I attended was still “of the LCMS path”, the worship setting was different. My District does not mandate what I am to do, I do what I want within what I feel are proper and good.

    It is not like the Roman Church that publishes a misselette (not sure the spelling) that I must follow. Yes, freedom has it’s inherit problem.

    So some may ask, “did I commune?” Of COURSE! I need it! Would I make this my Church home if I stop being s pastor, no.

  23. @HL #25

    If anything, I would like to hear the dissenting voices, the theology and reasoning behind non-traditional forms in order to stimulate a serious dialog rather than a lament.

    Here are a couple of great comments, HL, which I found helpful.

  24. @HL #25
    Dear Richard,
    In reality, if it was up to me, I would simply proclaim Torah, “read the scrolls”, command my people to “fear the Lord”, walk with Him and His ways…and when we fail, we look to the cross and the final sacrifice via Christ’s atonement…break bread (and sup wine) then go walk again.

    In reality, I may have a congregation of a few. Solid with God, but a few.

    Now I do use LSB, the historic liturgies (updated a bit of course in LSB) of our Lutheran heritage to deliver “the goods”, the Law (both Law and Gospel) to my people. The liturgy does hold us together as Lutherans, and it does enhance the strengths of us, that drives away all the wrong heresies of the past.

  25. So Pastor Prentice, what happens whenever you die, retire, or take a call elsewhere? What will the heterodox Synod you belong to do to make sure that a guy as faithful as you stays at the helm? What missionary manipulative self-study will convince them that they need to be more missional, relevant, and inclusive as a congregation? You see, it does matter what kind of Synod you belong to.

  26. @Rev. Richard A. Bolland #29
    Dear Richard,
    Good questions.
    01) When I die, I go to heaven with my Lord.
    02) If I retire, I still have a few Churches I can call my home in the area. Worst case, I simply “fear the Lord” and as my heart has been His at Baptism many years ago, I keep it for my Lord.
    03) Take a call, well, I offer what I have to the flock, Law and Gospel and all that the Lutheran Church has to offer, Word and Sacrament.

    As for where I truly go, the Lord called me, He will send me away when he desires. And whatever he does, He is still my Lord.

  27. @Rev. Richard A. Bolland #31
    Dear Richard,
    Then for those other pastors, I pray the good Lord will provide, in spite of us humans messing things up. A Synod is only as good as the good men (and women) running it. And in the end, or whenever God pleases, He will fix things up or correct as needed.

  28. God works through means….those means, in this case, are His called shepherds. I pray the number of faithful undershepherds willing to protect and defend Christ’s flock continues to grow–the efforts of the ACELC is most assuredly numbered with those faithful few.

    I, too, have faith that God will provide for me and my family……though it would be foolish for me to quit my day job and trust that manna (and mon-AY!) will fall from the sky.

    Lord, Have Mercy; Christ Have Mercy; Lord Have Mercy.

  29. FWIW. I know you are a faithful Shepherd @Pastor Prentice #33 and that you have persevered through much lately–remain strong, sir.

    You make a great point, “….Synod is only as good as the good men (and women) running it.” << This is most certainly true!!!

  30. @Rev. Richard A. Bolland #29

    These are troubling questions for any pastor who loves his people, and wants to prepare them for the time that he will no longer be there to tend them. My tact is to educate the laity as much as they are willing to bear, in what they should expect from a pastor. This accomplishes at least two things:

    1) They can hold me accountable, if I should do or say something stupid

    2) They can use good, biblical discernment when evaluating their next shepherd.

    To my humble observation, while having a more solid Synod would be a welcome and grand luxury, catechesis is the way we prepare our people to survive in times of plenty or times of want. I know that like the Apostles, when faithful shepherds move on, the wolves will attempt to infiltrate the flock. My goal is to give them what they need to both identify and dispatch them, should they have need to do so.

  31. A couple of our members complained about the contemporary worship they encountered at a sister LCMS congregation while traveling across the country.

    I asked them if they got up and walked out, or said anything to their pastor. They said no, they just sat there and endured it.

    That is how CW has spread throughout the LCMS.

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