LCMS Resolution 12-07A: Is This Dissent?

DissentIt didn’t take long for the quips to fly regarding the just-passed LCMS Convention Resolution 12-07A, “To Clarify Definition of Dissent.” This circularly humorous question was posed on Facebook:

Can I dissent on Facebook with Resolution 12-07A, adopted 684 to 244 at the 2016 National LCMS Convention? Or does the resolution itself prohibit it? Asking for a friend.

I started out thinking this was going to be a serious post, but I’m sorry, even though I love you guys, there’s no way I’m spending my entire weekend reading through a stack of Synodospeak for a 1,500 word post. It’s just not happening. So instead, I created the following handy flow diagram on the evolution of 12-07A so you can spend your weekend reading. (Never mind that it took longer to get it right than if I’d just read all the references in the diagram, which I pretty much did anyway.) You can affix it to your refrigerator door with the Walther magnet that was previously holding the Christmas card from Aunt Minnie.

Disclaimers: Apologies in advance for poor penmanship. My second grade teacher won’t be happy. CAUTION for fellow Germans – flow chart may contain humor.

12-07A

For those of you that aren’t yet familiar with 12-07A, it essentially draws up in Resolution form what was already codified by Commission on Constitutional Matters (CCM) Opinion 13-2665 in 2013, titled “Fellowship of Peers.” The text of the Resolution is reproduced below. Pastors are nervous for obvious reasons. Nobody wants their ecclesiastical supervisor monitoring their online behavior. According to the discussion of the Resolution while it was being debated, there’s little reason to be alarmed, unless you’re pushing false doctrine. Both President Harrison and District President John Wille indicated that there would be no witch hunt. The main point is that doctrinal dissent should be discussed starting with a group of appropriate peers, not in the BJS comments section. Advocating for women pastors is out of bounds in a public forum; discussing semper virgo is fine. If you’d like to view the video feed of this Resolution being debated at the Convention, it occurred in the afternoon session on Wednesday, July 13, available here. The relevant discussion begins at the 2:46:00 mark.

 

To Clarify Definition of Dissent

RESOLUTION 12-07A

R65 (CW, pp. 306–307)

Rationale

“The Lutheran Church has always affirmed the right and responsibility of expressing dissent from teachings and practices believed to be at odds with God’s Word” (Commission on Theology and Church Relations on p. 6 of its 2006 report, “CTCR Response to Expressions of Dissent [2004–2006]”). Accordingly, the Synod has established an agreed-upon procedure for dissent which respects both the dissenter and the Synod.

When, then, a member of the Synod in such forums as “blogs, Facebook pages, and email pages publicly teaches and advocates that a doctrinal position of the Synod as stated in a resolution of the Synod is in error and does not use the Synod’s dissent procedures, he/she/it may no longer be honoring and upholding the Constitution, Bylaws, and resolutions of the Synod and could thereby be subject to a charge of false doctrine” (CCM Opinion 13-2665).

Given the development and expanded use of such electronic media by members of the Synod, often to call into question matters of doctrine and practice, at times attempting to excuse such conduct as conversation “within the fellowship of peers” (Bylaw 1.8.2), the Synod will do well to expand its bylaw section on dissent with the following changes developed upon consideration of the opinion by the Commission on Constitutional Matters in its August 2013 meeting (Opinion 13-2665).

Therefore be it

   Resolved, That Bylaw section 1.8 “Dissent” be expanded to address current concerns by adding additional wording:

PROPOSED WORDING

1.8 Dissent

1.8.1 While retaining the right of brotherly dissent, members of the Synod are expected as part of the life together within the fellowship of the Synod to honor and uphold the resolutions of the Synod.

1.8.2 Dissent from the doctrinal position of the Synod as expressed in its resolutions and doctrinal statements is to be expressed first within the fellowship of peers (that is, with those who are competent to evaluate the issue critically) and then brought to the attention of the Commission on Theology and Church Relations before finding expression as an overture to the Synod in convention calling for revision or recision. The discussion among the fellowship of peers is to be conducted privately and confidentially among those who are competent rather than a public forum. While the conscience of the dissenter shall be respected, the consciences of others, as well as the collective will of the Synod, shall also be respected.

1.8.3. This right of brotherly dissent does not allow a member of the Synod publicly to teach or practice contrary to the established doctrinal position of the Synod. Any such public teaching shall place in jeopardy membership in the Synod.

About Scott Diekmann

Scott is a lifelong LCMS layman. Some of his vocations include husband, dad, jet driver, runner, and collector of more books than he can read. Oh, and also chocolate lover. He’s been involved in apologetics for over a decade, is on the Board of Regents at Concordia Portland, and is a column writer for the sometimes operational Around the Word Journal. He’s also written for Higher Things Magazine, The Lutheran Clarion, and has been a guest on Issues Etc. as well as the KFUO program Concord Matters.

Comments

LCMS Resolution 12-07A: Is This Dissent? — 23 Comments

  1. In reading the resolution it is only in the first step that the dissent is to be private. Once it goes to the CTCR and then to a Synodical overture it becomes public. But you still cannot teach or practice contrary to the doctrinal position of the Synod.

  2. Resolution 12-07A made three significant changes to Bylaw 1.8:

    1. It inserted the phrase,”doctrinal position of the Synod,” and gave it a quasi-definition (“as expressed in its resolutions and doctrinal statements”) which is inconsistent with the definition of “doctrinal position of the Synod” elsewhere in the Bylaws. The phrase is not present in the Articles of the Constitution.

    2. It added the requirement, “The discussion among the fellowship of peers is to be conducted privately and confidentially among those who are competent rather than a public forum.” CCM Opinion 13-2665 defines, “A fellowship of peers recognizes the common bond held by those who hold membership in the Synod.” Even laymen with theological doctorates, published thological books and articles would be excluded from the CCM’s definition of “fellowship of peers. This is in direct conflict with Thesis X on the Ministry, in Kirche und Amt, which is a doctrinal statement of the LCMS. While they still have (for now) their right to sit on church councils, the laymen are having their right to participate with the clergy in initial discussions about doctrinal positions of the church body blocked by the CCM opinion and the added Bylaw restriction.

    BTW, ironically, later in the Opinion, the CCM made an historically ignorant comparison between the relationship of Luther and Melanchthon and the relationship between C.F.W. Walther and Dr. Carl Eduard Vehse.

    3. A threat to synodical membership was added, which was in addition to that expressed in Article VI and Article XIII, in that now “publicly to teach or practice contrary to the established doctrinal position of the Synod [whatever that is]… shall place in jeopardy membership in the Synod.”

  3. The heavy handed way in which this is written will cause the LCMS to sink into liberalism. It silences dissent which means we will have no idea who the liberals are until they are in power. After a closeted group of liberals seize power they will use this resolution to destroy their opponents. You write laws in a way to make sure they cannot be abused by evil men if they are in power. The LCMS failed in this regard. If you dont believe me research the rise of other liberal denominations. They used bylaws like these all the time.

  4. Thanks for posting the actual language of this resolution, Scott.

    I can see why, on it’s face, so many folks supported it. The Synod has a right, as a collective of freely associated congregations, to determine what constitutes the terms of membership in the Synod. People (individuals, congregations, clergy, etc.,) are free to accept those terms or reject them– to be members of the Synod, or not.

    However, what alarms me in this resolution and revised by-law language, is at least two-fold: 1) the continuing penchant for secrecy within bureaucratic process, and 2) anthropomorphising the bureaucratic entity of Synod as something which requires sensitivity, accommodation, and protection.

    To take the latter first, any ecclesiastical bureaucracy is at best a necessary evil in a fallen world– the politics of sinner/saints will always be a blight in the Church Militant, and must be constantly minimized and hemmed in. It’s not like we don’t have enough historical and contemporary examples of ecclesiastical bureaucracies which waste tremendous amounts of money, abuse their power, and fatten their politicians with the gleanings of their people. This bureaucracy is not a person– it is what people do. As such, it does not deserve the protections of people. Rather, people ought to be able to criticize it ruthlessly, chain and restrain it with vigor, and always press it down to be servant of the people from whom it emerged (and by whose generosity is exists.)

    As for the former, secrecy is an ally to the bureaucrat and the scofflaw, not the people at large nor the pursuit of Biblical Truth. The penchant to make things private, to remove them from the view of the public, is ultimately an effort to give more power to the bureaucrats over the people (as this “competent” group of peers will presume to handle all that doctrinal messiness which the masses shouldn’t trouble their pretty little heads about.) A Confessional Church is one which makes bold and public witness of the Truth– where they are right, and where they are wrong, they are clear for all to see and debate. Truth does not flee from the public square, but rather illumines it. Why would anyone wish to hide the conflict between Light and Darkness, Truth and Error, from the public view, unless they really didn’t have faith that the Light and Truth of God’s Word will win every single one of those contests?

    For whatever good the convention may have produced, this resolution is more than troubling. Rome established during her first two Vatican Councils that they would tolerate nearly anything, so long as all the warring and disputing factions played nice with each other under the supreme government of the Roman Pontiff. This resolution seems to make the same proposition, only substituting a bureaucratic monstrosity for the Pope and his Magesterium. Rome’s fundamental confessional and constitutive premise is submission to the Pope. It seems the LCMS’s newly established fundamental confessional and constitutive premise is submission to the Synodical bureaucracy. All other doctrinal or practical issues are secondary to the reverence given to by-law driven process.

    This to me, is a tremendous sadness.

  5. @Marcus #3

    I suspect you are spot on, Marcus. I’ve never known a theological liberal who didn’t love the opportunity to slither into bureaucratic power, and then use it to exterminate conservative opposition from it’s newly acquired institutional high ground.

  6. @ Carl Vehse #2

    Could it be possible that you are breaking the sentence in apart wrong?

    You read it as “doctrinal position of the Synod” defined “as expressed in its resolutions and doctrinal statements”. This reading removes the modifier doctrinal from resolution thus making all resolutions binding. And as you say this is inconsistent with other definitions of “doctrinal position of the Synod”.

    But, could it be read making “doctrinal position of the Synod as expressed in its resolutions” one thought? This is then synonymous with “Doctrinal Resolutions” but more descriptive. This reading would bring the bylaw in line with the conversation on the convention floor where the president Harrison defines “doctrinal position of the Synod” as “Article II and Article VI, especially article VI”.

    So the more correct reading would be:

    Dissent from the;

    ‘doctrinal position of the Synod as expressed in its resolutions’

    and

    ‘Doctrinal Statements’

    Regarding number 3 – Prior to this resolution and corresponding CCM opinion was publicly teaching or practicing contrary to the Doctrinal Resolutions and Doctrinal Statements grounds for eventual removal from synod? This change in wording is simply a clarification and reminder of the rules that were already in place.

    Regarding number 2 – Is it necessarily a bad thing to shield the weaker among the laity form the discussions of false doctrine? Would giving up a little and trusting your confessional pastor to fight the good fight on your behalf be a terrible thing, for the sake of the weak among us? That is his job you know, “He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.” Titus 1:9

  7. Scott Diekmann: “Advocating for women pastors is out of bounds in a public forum;… “

    At least on Lutheran lists. On Lufauxran lists like ALPB, it’s one of their regular meals. 😉

    “… discussing semper virgo is fine.”

    That depends. A LCMS member advocating or teaching semper virgo as a pious opinion (or that it’s not so pious) is fine. A LCMS member advocating or teaching semper virgo as a doctrine is teaching false doctrine.

    As another example, a LCMS member advocating or teaching a pious opinion against cremation is fine (The LCMS has no doctrinal position on cremation itself.) However, since God through Scriptures does not declare cremation as a sin, a LCMS member who advocates or teaches (or publishes books claiming) that cremation is a sin and that anyone who is a party to the cremation of a person needs to repent, in effect blasphemously presumes to speak for God what God has not spoken. That person, even if he were, say, on the Board of Directors of Concordia Publishing House, should be held accountable by his “fellowship of peers” for false teaching contrary to the doctrinal position of the Synod.

    Synod bylaws should be written by a confessional Lutheran administration with the forethought that someday such bylaws may be used by a less-than-confessional Lutheran administration.

  8. This resolution deals with dissent from the doctrinal position and resolutions of synod. Those positions are expressed in resolutions.

    If you’re going to spew on the Internet teaching contrary to the doctrinal positions of the synod, you can’t go back and claim you weren’t teaching it publically but were just having a fraternal conversation in a forum of peers.

    This was the claim made in the Becker case, that his blog and posts were just musings trying to start an open conversation about doctrinal positions and not his public teaching or confession of the matter.

    The resolution (really, the CCM opinion) elevates the public social media streams to the level of public papers, published journals, articles, sermons, and classes.

    Want to have a discussion about the doctrinal position of the Synod? Use a private medium like direct email or a social media account with privacy settings limiting the audience vs. a public one.

    It’s like pastors (or whomever) who use Facebook to vague-book about controversies or complaints in their congregations and then wonder why their parishioners are all upset. After all, it was just a personal musing on their Facebook page, not a newsletter article or a sermon, right?

    Could this resolution be abused? Yep. but it was the CCM opinion that established it. To overturn the concerns raised here would have taken a resolution to overturn 13-2665, not just voting down 12-07A.

    Someone should write a resolution about that for Tampa, 2019. Or, make a formal request of the CCM to clarify.

  9. As another example, a LCMS member advocating or teaching a pious opinion against perconfirmation admission to the Lord’s Supper is fine (The LCMS has no doctrinal position on at what rite is required before a person is admitted.) However, since God through Scriptures does not declare the Rite of Confirmation is required, a LCMS member who advocates or teaches (or writes blog posts claiming) that perconfirmation admission to the Lord’s Supper is a sin equal to open communion and that anyone who is a party to the admission needs to repent, in effect blasphemously presumes to speak for God what God has not spoken. That person should be held accountable by his “fellowship of peers” for false teaching contrary to the doctrinal position of the Synod.

  10. It would not be surprising if the CCM were to issue additional verbiage (including grammatical clarifications) on the revised wording of Bylaw 1.8, as well as other bylaws where the phrase, “doctrinal position of the Synod” is used. Let’s pray they do a better job than the bylaw version that was produced for and passed by the convention.

    Here’s a sermon by C.F.W. Walther on what the laity may give up and what they need to retain.

  11. @Rev. Philip Zielinski #8: “Could this resolution be abused? Yep. but it was the CCM opinion that stablished it. To overturn the concerns raised here would have taken a resolution to overturn 13-2665, not just voting down 12-07A.”

    But the CCM’s opinions about the doctrinal positions of the Synod can certainly be discussed here in preparation for 2019, although overturning a CCM opinion at a Synodical Convention is like walking on Sea of Galilee. One time when it looked like sufficient votes would be there to overturn an opinion the CCM recanted it before the motion could be made at the convention.

  12. @Andrew Wachter #9

    Actually, your substituted verbiage is fallacious. If, as repeatedly reminded, you had read the posts on the topic of early communion, which were given to you in response to your query, you would have seen that Scripture, the Lutheran Confessions and the doctrinal position of the Synod all oppose early (pre-confirmation) communion as being a form of open communion. Sadly, early communion, like licensed lay deacons acting as pastors, was passed by a majority of 50%-ordained delegates at previous conventions. Currently the Synod’s position on early communion contradicts its own doctrinal position.

    And paedocommunion is just the lowest rung of the “How low can you go?” early communion limbo bar.

  13. @Brad #4

    @Brad,

    That is an excellent summary of the potential for abuse that this resolution could cause.

    For those that think “oh well nothing can go wrong because the intention of this resolution is to protect us from the liberals like Becker and make it easier to take action when false teaching comes up” Please understand my concerns do not come from a place of ignorance. Here is my story,

    I was a theological liberal in college and about to go to a United Methodist seminary for ordination as a pastor until God in his loving mercy saved me. I know how liberalism operates because I have insider knowledge. By-laws like these set no limits on their use and make the ultimate arbiter not the confessions and the Bible, but the “doctrinal positions of the Synod.” This means that liberals only have to chip away at publicly stated doctrinal positions of the synod. They change the language of these positions to a more vague and inclusive position then they can begin using this by-law to begin purging the bureaucracy of conservative opposition. This is exactly what began happening in the UMC in the late 80s early 90s. They had a left-leaning theological incompetent laity (which fits my experience with the vast majority of LCMS laity) so they just began to slowly change things in the official positions then used by-laws similar to resolution 12-07A to purge conservatives from leadership. Fast forward, 20 years and the UMC has basically done away with any concept of Biblical Christianity. I am sure you could drill a hole with the Wesleys and Whitefield because of how fast they are now spinning in their graves.

  14. @Marcus #13

    Your experience is not so far removed from my own, Marcus. Those of us who have lived through, and by the grace of God survived, the devastation of theological liberals, have a peculiar vantage point from which to observe these things. I’ve been hearing from various sources lots of celebration and self-congratulation at all the conservative victories from this convention (Issues, etc., included) and I can’t understand how so few can see the precarious trajectory of the Synod.

    It’s like listening to a young Chess student playing against a master, congratulating himself on taking his mentor’s queen… blindly ignorant that he just placed himself three moves from checkmate.

  15. @Brad #14

    Very well stated, Sir. Far too many, with good intentions no doubt, have decided to make legalistic bylaws their primary method of argument and “go-to” text for defending the faith.

    It’s as if we, the LCMS, are in a never ending quest for that perfect and pristine-air tight set of bylaws to defend the faith. Some get downright giddy when many of them are drafted. Methinks Scripture and the Confessions are quite sufficient if we, and most importantly leadership, would just have the intestinal fortitude to use them instead of legalistic bylaws.

  16. @Brad #4

    I agree there is something wrong with Synod tightening the screws on dissent and requiring use of official channels only. If this bylaw is so harmless and we can take District President John Wille’s word for it that there will be no witch hunts (his words, not mine) then why not get rid of it altogether?
    Calls for transparency, Sunshine laws, and The Freedom of Information Act – all are ways to protect of the citizenry from concentrated power within the bureaucratic apparatus of the Kingdom of the Left. Within the Kingdom of the Right, we can expect certain adverse behaviors to be carried over from the former, the most common of which is the organization’s tendency to begin to focus on survival and growth instead of the original mission, which was guided and informed by the Holy Scriptures and the Confessions and not by carefully crafted bylaws.

    If men were angels, no government would be necessary…. the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.
    James Madison, The Federalist No. 51

    I think the LCMS should have a public reputation second to none for disputing doctrinal controversies regularly. Let all the sects be the frog floating in the kettle of water slowly heating to a boil. We should air our dirty laundry in public as a witness and a testimony to our determination to uphold our doctrine among ourselves; that we’re not afraid to call each other out when wrong things are being taught anywhere in Synod. Now more than ever in what is becoming an outlandish culture of death, hedonism, and nihilism we must let the world see us struggle with each other over the chief articles of faith. The New Testament is replete with warnings of false teachers who are on the inside, wolves in sheep’s clothing who ingratiate themselves in the Church and infect untold minds and inflict untold damage. Why, for example, do so many “Lutherans” believe God used macroevolution to bring about his creation? Why do so many “Lutherans” despise closed communion? Why do so many “Lutherans” have an open mind when it comes to ordaining women and installing them in the Office of the Holy Ministry? Why have so many “Lutherans” not been taught about all the implications of original sin and the order of creation? If the general public sees the LCMS taking itself seriously enough to have vigorous and rigorous open debate then we shall have by definition proclaimed the Gospel to the world. I say give clergy and laity more latitude to discuss the issues, not less, and the Synod will grow healthy and ruddy.

  17. @J. Dean #17

    So under this resolution would 5/2 be considered a dissenting group?

    Under the wings of at least two DP’s, (one considered fit to run for SP!), it’s more likely to become one of the “things not to be criticized”. 🙁

  18. “So under this resolution would 5/2 be considered a dissenting group?”
    J.Dean asks a very good question.

    Also, if 5/2 is found to be in violation of this resolution, will there ever be public rebuke from the Synod? Consider the dangers of allowing 5/2 to continue down it’s current path unchecked and without public rebuke.

    From the 5/2 website.

    “By roughly 2050 AD, FiveTwo will have catalyzed a movement of 10,000 Sacramental Entrepreneurs who launch start-ups that result in 1,000,000 baptized Christians.”

    How many sheep have already been indoctrinated by their false teaching?

    Consider also that in the Mid-South District (just one example) there are two training sites for church planting. One is LakePoint, where Greg Bearss is lead pastor. The other is The Point, with lead pastor Matt Peeples. Both pastors are part of Five Two. Bearrs was one of the 9 LCMS pastors who founded Five Two.

    Public rebuke is key if sheep will be saved. It’s clear that the rebuke will not come from Mid-South District President Paavola. Will Synod leadership take public steps to save those lost to this indoctrination?
    Slow, gentle correction and private rebuke certainly would not be the answer. This dangerous movement is moving far too quickly.

  19. @Amy #19

    Public rebuke of 5/2 might upset the money flow to Synodical offices, and they have six figure salaries and expense accounts to maintain, don’t ya know…

    [insert Helen Lovejoy voice] Won’t someone please think of the bureaucrats!

  20. @Amy #19

    “By roughly 2050 AD, FiveTwo will have catalyzed a movement of 10,000 Sacramental Entrepreneurs who launch start-ups that result in 1,000,000 baptized Christians.”

    Anyone remember the grandiose calculations which launched ABLAZE?
    (Anyone remember Ablaze, besides the woman who bought a T-shirt?)

    I really wonder which direction the money is flowing, Brad.
    How long would “5/2” last if districts weren’t subsidizing them (with money from faithful Lutheran congregations).

    [When are you going to stop buying the rope for your own “hanging”? I have had enough.]

  21. @helen #21

    Helen,
    Didn’t some in the LCMS use the D. James Kennedy system of evangelism a few years ago (decades perhaps) going door-to-door asking unsuspecting people in the neighborhood the question, “If you died tonight, where would you spend eternity?” It seems to me I’ve met a few people in LCMS churches over the years who said that they participated in that program. I don’t remember whether it was said that many were brought into Word and Sacrament fellowship by those means, but if the system was effective, why was it abandoned for other programs? If not many became churched from that system of evangelism, why does the church keep looking for the next novelty or innovation in evangelism? Can you speak to how this compares to Ablaze? I’m all for confessing the faith and witnessing to the Gospel but in the context of vocation and not going door-to-door or doing street corner preaching. It reminds me too much of tent revivalism and I’ve seen too many disingenuous evangelist preachers who were more confrontational exhibitionists than anything else. I guess they fancied themselves to be John the Baptist.

  22. @Mark #22

    I recognize the name, but don’t recall doing “Kennedy evangelism” so I can’t help.

    When I came to Houston in the 70’s, there was a program going on called “I found it!” which all the churches were supposed to be doing. [The main thing I remember is that bumper sticker, because people were proposing counter comments like,”I never lost it”.]
    If any of the churches gained members, I don’t remember being told.

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