Letters to the Editor: A Tale of Two Synods

December 11th, 2012 Post by

Subscribers to the magazine Lutheran Witness, the official magazine of the Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod, are no doubt aware of recent improvements to that periodical. From clean and sharp graphics to new authors, Lutheran Witness has been putting out some high-quality material.

The September 2012 edition, for example, gave a frank look at the “State of the Synod,” citing membership numbers and trends, the status of the synod’s financial position, education enrollment figures, and all sorts of other facts and figures that most members of LCMS congregations wouldn’t ordinarily know. And again to the credit both of Synod and of Lutheran Witness, both the good and the bad were published.

The October 2012 issue was of a different sort than most. Titled simply, “Questions,” it was an issue dedicated to answering tough questions that Christians frequently face. Each question took roughly a page to answer and they covered many of the most-asked questions that pastors get from parishioners: closed Communion, the ordination of women to the pastoral Office, the intrusion of athletic tournaments into the spiritual lives of families (an incredibly timely question, in my opinion), cohabitation, gun control, and several others. I was personally elated to see that in each case, the answer reflects a Lutheran understanding and comports with the Church’s teaching on the issue at hand (assuming the issue is old enough to date back that far) through the ages.

The letter from Managing Editor Adriane Dorr to the reader at the beginning of the issue correctly noted that these questions might elicit unpopular answers and raise uncomfortable discussions. Nonetheless, the issue is certainly worthy for use by Lutherans who are looking for answers to their questions.

In the most current issue of Lutheran Witness, the Letters to the Editor regarding the October “Questions” issue were published. You can read them at this link. If you want a frank and real look at the state of synodical doctrine and practice, these letters speak volumes. The letters, though not incredibly numerous and not very long, reflect in painful detail the vast chasm that separates the Synod into two: those who value Lutheran distinctives of doctrine and practice, and those who don’t. This post won’t reproduce them all in their entirety (but you can view them at the LW website even without a subscription), but a few telling letters should give a clear idea of the two synods who are operating under the same name:

First, there were some who were glad to see this kind of clarity and boldness:

The recent October issue was simply the best issue I have ever seen. There is a fresh breeze blowing through the Missouri Synod: It is honesty. Finally, we’re addressing things and stopping the institutional mindset that wants to pretend as though everything is okay when it isn’t. Perhaps, the honesty and compassion shown by your magazine can be a model for all of the Synod. If so, we might become a bit less dysfunctional and inwardly turned.

Rev. David Petersen
Fort Wayne, Ind.

My initial skepticism at an issue filled with “onepagers” was quickly overcome when I discovered that these brief Q&A articles, like the Spirit’s similarly terse letters to the seven churches, each put forward a call to repentance and a call to Faithfulness–a call to hold fast and ever more firmly, in this tempestuous sea of cultural vicissitudes, to what our Lord has given, and thus to receive the crown of life–and gladness. From stem to stern, there is something here for each of us, to bring us again as whole people, religious and secular, to Jesus for forgiveness and renewal. And that is good. I deeply appreciate a Witness that challenges me and my flock in this way and turns us to the Scriptures and to the Lutheran Confessions for more, for life in the Word of Jesus.

Rev. Dr. John W. Sias
Colstrip, Mont.

Then, there were those who seemed a bit disappointed that the magazine entitled Lutheran Witness might publish answers that are, well, Lutheran:

If I were an NFL official, I would give the October Witness a 15-year penalty for “piling on.” Every snotty, hair-splitting policy and practice with which I have struggled in my 75 years as an LCMSer–all in the same issue! I can deal with one at a time, but all in one issue? What were you thinking?

and

It was with great disappointment and sadness that I read the letter (Lutheran Witness October 2012) from a member of a Lutheran church that had refused communion to her sister, a professing Christian.

Tied to man-made rules that do not serve Christ’s commission to us as followers of the Word, intelligent people turn away, as I did. Professional spokesmen for our faith (pastors and synodical hierarchy) create, mandate and wrap rules and regulations around their minds and hearts. They seek a God so small that He can be manipulated to do what they consider right within the church.

Thank God, I am a member of an LCMS church that is vital, growing and welcomes people to the Lord’s Supper. Our churches should reach out to everyone seeking forgiveness, solace and hope as they search for a church family in which to grow and flourish in the Christian faith.

Then there are those which need no commentary, except to say that they come from rostered LCMS pastors:

While Rev. Meissner gives a fine LCMS answer to the question of why a woman’s sister (not a member of an LCMS congregation) was not permitted to partake of Holy Communion at her LCMS congregation [October issue], the answer fails to recognize that the decision to commune a non-member is not so cut and dry.   Membership in an LCMS congregation is not the only factor that determines if a person is of the same confession that we are and is, in fact, in unity with us.  Many of my members have had children baptized, confirmed and married in the LCMS and yet now worship with their spouse in another church body.  Should they be denied Holy Communion at an LCMS table when they come home to visit?  To answer a hasty, by-the-book “yes” to that question seems to put a higher stress upon the visible unity of one’s denominational affiliation than on the invisible unity of one’s faith.

and

The October issue of the Lutheran Witness is the most biased and one-sided issue of the official publication of the LCMS I have ever seen.  Where is the “other side” of these practices, also biblically-based, for consideration of the readers?  The impression given is that these answers to questions define who the LCMS is in practice, when recent conventions would indicate these answers represent about 51 percent or even 50 percent of the Synod, and a great number of pastors and congregations see things differently.

The October Witness can result in some serious damage to many people who do not find themselves in lockstep with these positions but are part of the LCMS.  Now we pastors have to clean up the mess.  Why not present a balanced approach that recognizes godly differences and yet emphasize that we are still one.  Or are we still one?

and, lastly

In the October issue, Sandra Ostapowich offers a truly strange reason for excluding women from the pastoral ministry. It sounds more like a rationale for male privilege than for servanthood. The reasoning is without a shred of basis in Scripture. For half a century as an ordained pastor I never felt, or heard another pastor say, we were “sacrificing” such a freedom or doing women a favor by relieving them of this pastoral responsibility. Perhaps it’s time for us to reconsider the exclusion of women from the pastoral ministry. (emphasis added)






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  1. Jim Hamilton
    December 11th, 2012 at 12:49 | #1

    Why do people insist on holding membership in a confessional Lutheran church body if they don’t believe, teach, and confess orthodox Lutheran doctrine? This seems extremely obvious to me, but maybe I’m missing something. If you don’t agree with the doctrines of a church body, then don’t join it. If you’re in a church body and you don’t agree with the doctrines, then leave it and find one you do agree with.

  2. December 11th, 2012 at 12:51 | #2

    2 Timothy 4:

    2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; 4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. 5 But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

  3. revaggie
    December 11th, 2012 at 13:36 | #3

    Part of me wonders if there was some mailbox stuffing? I bring this up because of the number of contrary letters that came from the same geographical region.

  4. helen
    December 11th, 2012 at 13:51 | #4

    Many of my members have had children baptized, confirmed and married in the LCMS and yet now worship with their spouse in another church body. Should they be denied Holy Communion at an LCMS table when they come home to visit? To answer a hasty, by-the-book “yes” to that question seems to put a higher stress upon the visible unity of one’s denominational affiliation than on the invisible unity of one’s faith.

    What the pastor who wrote the above would include, if he were entirely honest, is that his sister is married to an elca preacher. His announced intention to commune them was accompanied by an invitation to any of the members who didn’t like it to “find the door”, which several of us did.
    “Family unity” trumps congregational unity for him, I guess.

    [With 90+ % of my family in the elca, I have learned that we don’t have a unity of faith. For that, you have to believe the Bible.] But he did me a favor, in a roundabout way. I now have two Pastors, both of whom grew up outside the LCMS. (One went to Fort Wayne seminary after deciding that elca was not his church any longer). They both know what they believe, and no, I did not try their patience by asking an “exception” for a former LCMS family member when she came to visit.
    I would not commune at that “open communion” LCMess church either.

  5. helen
    December 11th, 2012 at 13:57 | #5

    @revaggie #3
    Part of me wonders if there was some mailbox stuffing?

    Possibly. Or possibly we have a district that is not lcms. Perhaps it should be removed from the roster en masse. Any confessional congregation could apply for membership in a neighboring district. [Why not? CG “plants” across district boundaries have been reported.]

  6. Pr. Duane Meissner
    December 11th, 2012 at 14:23 | #6

    I received a lot of initial criticism for my article on closed communion in the October issue, but after some back and forth correspondence with many I was glad to see that most came to recognize at the very least that our practice flows not from self-righteousness or hatred but from a genuine love for people and a desire to remain true to God’s Word. Putting the best construction on each other’s motives is critical for successful communication. I, too, am thankful for the excellent work of the Lutheran Witness, and hope to see more of these honest conversation starters in the future.

  7. Kari
    December 11th, 2012 at 14:45 | #7

    This is very sad, but shows the truth of how divided we really are.
    Lord have mercy!

  8. December 11th, 2012 at 14:46 | #8

    An interesting observation:
    Those who are on the roster that took issue with the October Issue graduated from Concordia St. Louis prior to the walkout.

    While I am certain that the division in our Synod isn’t limited to that cohort of Seminary grads, it is very telling to take note of when and where those “leading the charge” went to Seminary.

  9. Jason
    December 11th, 2012 at 14:50 | #9

    Let’s give credit where credit is due…

    “If I were an NFL official,…” Carol Emmans, Osseo, Minn

    “It was with great disappointment…” Marjorie Flados, Harlingen, Texas

    “While Rev. Meissner gives a fine LCMS answer…” Rev. John C. Stennfeld (SL 89), Austin, Texas

    “The October issue … is the most biased…” Rev. Ty Miles (SL 64), Portland, Ore

    “In the October issue, Sandra Ostapowich…” Rev. Arthur Simon (SL 56), Bowie, Md.

    Depending on what people further know about the ones who wrote these PUBLIC statements, maybe we can take them with a grain of salt, maybe we should view them seriously. Back watching the video of the Q&A from the Northwest District Convention with Pres. Harrison, it proves interesting about how some seem to know so little aobut our Confessions, or feign ignorance. No matter what, it calls for better catechesis. Hey, didn’t Pres. Harrison say that?…

  10. Jason
    December 11th, 2012 at 14:54 | #10

    @Rev. Matthew Lorfeld #8

    Exactly my thoughts. The class of 1974 may get all the headlines for walking out, but one must realize that the classes leading up to that infamous event were also taught BY THE SAME PROFESSORS. Sorry to be so cynical, but yes, that background does shed liglht and explain things. Like I say, your milage may vary…

  11. December 11th, 2012 at 15:03 | #11

    Jim Hamilton :
    Why do people insist on holding membership in a confessional Lutheran church body if they don’t believe, teach, and confess orthodox Lutheran doctrine? This seems extremely obvious to me, but maybe I’m missing something. If you don’t agree with the doctrines of a church body, then don’t join it. If you’re in a church body and you don’t agree with the doctrines, then leave it and find one you do agree with.

    +10.

    If you don’t agree with the stance of a church or a synod, then leave it. To attempt to stay and “reform” it according to your own personal preferences is selfish, divisive, and unscriptural.

  12. Greg
    December 11th, 2012 at 15:24 | #12

    There’s been more than one mention of (paraphrase) “if you don’t believe what we teach, then go away.” I’m extremely torn on this idea. I used to embrace it whole-heartedly. And I agree, I feel, with Dean that it’s not for the individual to reform the church to their personal needs. Yet I remain concerned about the way these ideas are conveyed to the people that leave in droves. I’ve always comforted myself with believing that I’m wiping the dust off my sandals… That in the ark with the last who are saved… That THEY are part of the crowed that closed their hearts and Jesus didn’t go chasing after them.
    Yet, it is all with no small amount of mourning. I guess this was just more of a lament in general. But it’s something that upsets my spirit tremendously. Especially as God desires all to be saved – I watch people push away from God- and get pushed away. I dunno. A bit lost here.

  13. December 11th, 2012 at 15:30 | #13

    I tried to control myself and really attempted to refrain from posting this, but I found the urge impossible to resist. These letters to the editor prove beyond a shadow of doubting precisely what the ACELC has been literally pummeled on more than one occasion for pointing out – namely, that we are living in a fiercely divided Synod.

    Yet, I have to ask the question, with just about everyone realizing that this division exists, why are so many reluctant, perhaps even opposed to, speaking openly about it, and more importantly doing something about it instead of sitting in our private chat rooms on the Internet and complaining about it amongst ourselves?

    Dare I say it? Now, not later, is the time to join the efforts of the ACELC to turn the good ship Missouri around . . . Is there ever a bad time to confess?

  14. Johan Spenglergeist
    December 11th, 2012 at 16:03 | #14

    @Greg #12
    Greg, I can relate. Earlier this year I left the synod into which I was born, raised, confirmed, and remained even after my pastor father resigned his call. It is certainly a difficult, heart-wrenching decision. I am thankful that I live in an area with several Lutheran churches from which to chose, and have found a Confessional LCMS congregation. I appreciate the LCMS’s view that the local congregation, not the Synod hierarchy, is supreme, although we can see that this has led to a variety of LCMS congregations. I would take this over the collectivism – bordering on cultism – of the folks in Milwaukee. I am an independent, orthodox, confessional Lutheran.

    The attitude of “believe what we teach or go away” can be applied in the centralized bureaucratic way of the WELS, where Synod is supreme, but if there is no common external belief, you get the “anything goes” mentality of the ELCA. LCMS will have to contend with this among its congregations, but a clear common statement of belief is essential. If a person does not hold that belief, one should be welcome to leave, not booted out or un-lovingly dismissed.

  15. December 11th, 2012 at 16:27 | #15

    Duane, your article regarding the biblical practice of close communion was quite timely, as my deacons and I (i.e. “elders) are in the process of coming up with a clearer communion statement for our guests and members. I was going to use Dr. Barry’s pamphlet from his “What About…” collection (which is also well written). But, found your article to be just the right length and breadth needed for our purposes. Appreciate your work!

  16. jb
    December 11th, 2012 at 16:51 | #16

    Drew –

    It has been many, many moons, my Brother.

    I, like you held back from responding. The quality of LW, not to mention the great stuff McCain and company are pumping out at CPH, are worth some serious rejoicing.

    Remember that against which we wrestled back in Sem! Synod has taken a decided turn back to the “ancient paths” – and it behooves all of us not only to rejoice, but to use such a turning for what it is – a grand opportunity.

    Having said that, of course there are those who wish to split or divide us! Such has been the case since Peter told the Lord he would never permit Jesus to be put to death. That ended badly for Peter, as it will for the deniers.

    To use a sports analogy, when we at lowly A2 (Ann Arbor) played Eastern Michigan in baseball, we were nothing but podunk Lutherans playing an NCAA Division I University. We weren’t even supposed to be on the same diamond with them. But we stood our ground and were never embarrassed either year I was there. We geared up for them ole sons to our best efforts. They had to fight. We didn’t win, the games, per se, but they knew they had to do something serious – we weren’t about to be pushed around.

    The Church has been like that from the very beginning.

    To see – at this point – what is really a late date for both of us, having lived through the ’70’s and 80’s – to see our Synod still come out so openly as a confessed bastion of orthodoxy, despite every fault, puts the lie to the critics and tells those who confuse exclusivity with orthodoxy that “ya gotta step out into the arena.

    That’s where the game is played.

    The letters to the LW editor, especially those negative regarding the Una Sancta, speak for themselves. They make open profession of their unfaithfulness. Let them spout. I remember Rush’s old saw about liberal Dems – we need to preserve them so folks will really believe that there were once dinosaurs in our midst.

    Name a denomination or fellowship that isn’t divided. If there is one that is not, it means Lucifer no longer considers them a threat to his false, misleading kingdom. That the Ole Ship Missouri still has a dog in the hunt that is really pissing off the evil one, speaks volumes to the goofs spouting 1970’s bell-bottom theology. We are really getting their goat, to mix metaphors, but we are. The exclusivists can primp and preen about purity, but I am of the Church Militant, and at war, and will only realize the Christus Victor when the archangel blows his trumpet and with a shout the Lord shall descend.

    Till then, I shall lock and load and look out! And rejoice I have company in the foxhole!!

    jb (Jeff Baxter)

  17. December 11th, 2012 at 17:24 | #17


    “The October issue … is the most biased…” Rev. Ty Miles (SL 64), Portland, Ore
    “In the October issue, Sandra Ostapowich…” Rev. Arthur Simon (SL 56), Bowie, Md.

    It is so sad to think of all the poor souls these false teachers have been allowed to lead away from the cross of Christ for so many decades — in the name of the LCMS! I’m glad we are no longer looking the other way, no longer crying “Peace!” when there is no peace. Perhaps now the sheep being misled by these wolves in shepherd’s clothing will read in LW contradictions of what their pastors teach and start to realize they are being led away from Christ by their own pastor.

  18. December 11th, 2012 at 17:28 | #18

    @revaggie #3

    You wrote:

    Part of me wonders if there was some mailbox stuffing? I bring this up because of the number of contrary letters that came from the same geographical region.

    I don’t think so. The sad fact is that the letters (especially the negative ones) are a fair representation of the opinions of many “life-long-Lutherans” in the LCMS. Those opinions are the result of a failure to teach and practice our confession. Sadder still, those opinions are reinforced and cultivated by a remnant of pastors who have no interest in teaching or practicing our confession.

    TW

  19. jb
    December 11th, 2012 at 17:29 | #19

    @Pastor Ted Crandall #17
    Yea!!!

    Amen!

    We have a Synodical organ – Lutheran Witness – taking the deniers to task!

    For many years such was not the case. “Bout time!

  20. jb
    December 11th, 2012 at 17:51 | #20

    @Todd Wilken #18
    Fr. Wilken –

    I would call your attention to my post above in response to my former classmate Fr. Newman.

    While I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment you expressed, I choose to rejoice in those pastors who DO openly confess what we as LCMS’ers and those in unity with the Church of all ages have always confessed. The “real” remnant” are those who remain faithful. We are among those who – rather than say “sad to say” . . . rejoice! You and I and many others are out there – the “true” remnant – we don’t have to shake the dust off our sandals, but are slowly building, or re-building, Churches that “get it.”

    I harbor no illusions about our opposition, but I realize he is satanic incarnate, and I was myself baptized into the antidote.

    We will almost never seem to win the war this side of the veil – but Our Lord calls us to persevere to the end. And you and I call our flocks to do likewise. Neither you nor I nor District nor Synod is the master of the Church’s destiny, and while we are called to point out the many and sundry threats to our well-being in Christ, we are not “sad to say” cases awaiting some sort of gloom and doom situation.

    As my best buddy in the world next to my bride puts it, “We are already of the eschaton, we are just playing out the string!” Of course! Christ has come – our celebration of Advent every year, Christ has died (Lent and Good Friday), Christ has risen (Easter), and Christ WILL come again – our final Advent hope and prayer and realization!

    Let the skeptics scoff. The “sad fact” – in reality – is that any of us lets the skeptics think they are getting to us.

    We know better, and I, for one, refuse to give them the first bit of crediblity by recognizing they somehow threaten what I do.

    They do not. Pax . . .

    jb

  21. Richard Lewer
    December 11th, 2012 at 18:13 | #21

    Praise God for the new Lutheran Witness. Praise God for the new administration. Let’s make sure they continue for many terms of office.

  22. December 11th, 2012 at 19:14 | #22

    @jb #20

    JB,

    I wasn’t whining about being persecuted, or about not “winning.”

    These fact that these false teachers are poisoning the minds of the laity is sad and tragic. I can’t brush it off as unimportant or act like it isn’t happening. Ignoring them won’t make the problem go away.

    TW

  23. Pr. Duane Meissner
    December 11th, 2012 at 19:21 | #23

    @Rev/Dr. Vernon E. Wendt Jr. #15
    So glad it was helpful! Peace +

  24. jb
    December 11th, 2012 at 19:57 | #24

    Fr. Wilken –

    I am certain I avoided the “whining” – i was not accusing you of such . . .

    We don’t have to win since we have already “won.”

    Not did I say that the luciferian types will not always be active among us – to the contrary – I admitted that implicitly.

    What I said was, and it bears repeating – “We have already won!”

    We have. Back to my sports analogy from earlier – I live somewhat near Houston. The Texans got creamed last night by the Patriots. The Texans’ record was unassailable – they had every stat in the league in their favor – like the modernists and the HC crowd and the “happy clappers” as Marquart used to call them . . .

    And they still got their posteriors waxed by a team who stuck to the basics, spoke kindly all week leading up to the game, and let their actions speak for themselves.

    We in Missouri have always seemed to have thin hides since the “walkout” – and I have never had a cogent explanation as to why we do! We get it. We have the doctrine and the Una Sancta (or you and I are liars), and I simply refuse to give the heretics one ounce of wriggle room, if even to bitch about them.

    Pimples on a pig’s ass. They keep stealing the show from those on our side, by portraying us as “this or that.” Horse manure. I tangle with them like I do with a Baptist or Catholic – like a dog not quite sure – teeth bared, yet ready to be friends – to offer the Gospel.

    I by no means will give an inch, but I see no need to give that inch, nor would I expect anyone else – members or collared – in the foxhole with me as Church Militant to do so.

    You used the term “whine” – I did not. Of that, I have never been accused. Other, less laudatory terms perhaps, but never “whine.” Dude, we know how this ends! WE HAVE ALREADY WON!

    Yes, we have souls to save, but, ya know, few of the new souls I have the gracious opportunity to lead to Christ, even have a clue as to Missouri’s battles. They are glad that I, as my newest member put it, gave them a whole new perspective. And oddly enough, each time that happens, my perspective grows away from a shoulder-slumped admission of the devil’s “imagined” victories, to the ULTIMATE victory which all of us already share.

    Poisoning of the laity will happen . . . it has always happened – our OT texts of the last months make that clear. But you and I as Shepherds need not share said poison, but instead, BE and OFFER the XP as the antidote.

    It is often a thankless task in this world of sin and despair and death. You and I will die, but bar the Lord’s return before we physically die, we both know sin and despair and have been put by to death the same Lord precisely, and it is that where we are to be to prevent both.

    As I recklessly told my Circuit last year, we are the little Dutch boy with our fingers in the dike. I know you know that! I know your finger is in the proverbial dike as is mine. But my friend – John 16:33 prioritizes things – does it not?

    We are the “over-comers.” Aren’t we? The false prophets, like the poor, we shall always have among us.

    Fact of life, and part of the job description, ain’t it?

    Pax – jb

  25. December 11th, 2012 at 20:20 | #25

    @jb #24

    JB,

    Sorry, I can’t simply dismiss the problem.

    TW

  26. jb
    December 11th, 2012 at 20:37 | #26

    Fr. Todd

    I am not dismissing the problem, either, however . . .

    I shall not for myself, nor permit my flock best the Lord enables me, to become victims.

    But I take John 16:33 to heart. The heretics have already lost and we have won. We need to at least act the part.

    And if you, my friend, cannot dismiss the problem . . . that is not my affair.

    That is your call .

    Pax – jb

  27. Jim Hamilton
    December 11th, 2012 at 20:47 | #27

    I’ve had three pastors at the 2 LCMS churches that I’ve been a member of. All three of these worthy gentlemen are very orthodox. I thank God for this because I was not raised Lutheran and was very ignorant of the correct doctrine when I began attending church in my mid-twenties. Had I been unfortunate enough to stumble into one of these LCMS churches where the pastor took a “relaxed” view of doctrine, God knows where I would be now (and, more importantly, where my wife and daughter would be). I guess what I’m saying is that these false teachers, even if they believe that their motivations are good, are doing a terrible thing. They simply cannot be tolerated. They must be fought for the sake of the laity that are being damaged by them.

  28. December 11th, 2012 at 20:48 | #28

    @jb #26

    You wrote:

    And if you, my friend, cannot dismiss the problem . . . that is not my affair.
    That is your call.

    That is right. TW

  29. wineonthevines
    December 11th, 2012 at 20:56 | #29

    One thing I wish that all LCMS pastors would agree on: There is no such thing as an “emergency communion.”

  30. jb
    December 11th, 2012 at 21:13 | #30

    Fr. Todd –

    Although we are on the very same side, I recognize that from whence you cometh. I shall leave matters at that. Erring on the side of the Gospel was the very hardest lesson I have ever had to learn, but as my newest member put it in Bible Study a few weeks ago: “I have had to learn the Gospel all over again.” Yes, indeed.

    Jim – false teachers will be among us until the Lord returns. Many among us waste valuable time and efforts trying to refute those who refuse to be refuted, rather than be vigilant in our witness to the Lord Jesus in Word and Sacrament and Divine Worship.

    It is a tough call to move beyond what the heretics say and be faithful to what we know to be true and certain, and leave those of the devil to, well, the devil.

    Now were I called by the Una Sancta to be what Father Harrison must be – of course – I would very much pay attention to such matters. And he, and others, are very much paying attention to matters in ways our beloved Synod has not seen in decades. To that end we are greatly blessed. Their efforts are showing through, blessedly.

    But all of that means I, like every other pastor, have the freedom and (dare I say – “glory’) to teach the very same thing your three pastors taught.

    I remember Wally Degner in my exegetical class shaking his head at things said off the wall, and asking: “Now Brethren what can we say to that?” He, like the other esteemed scholars of the Kingdom at whose feet I was privileged to sit were, of course, apologists, but they were so in light of the Gospel – because they knew who the enemy truly was.

    Pastors never ever seem to get things right, that is the nature of what we do. But we endeavor to pierce the veil and see what we are really trying to say. There are tares in the field of wheat and were I to deny such, I would be a liar. But I am far more concerned about the wheat! I am to nuture their growth, not complain about the weeds.

    Not in my job description.

    Pax – jb

  31. ralph luedtke
    December 11th, 2012 at 21:16 | #31

    we would do well to clean out the barn of theological milk toast cc’s and dp’s re:doctrine and practice-so the confessional theology can be shared w/o leaders threatening pastors in various ways when they protest cg in districts among many other shameful stands in some districts WHERE DP’S TALK EX CATHEDRA as they destroy faithful missionaries and their families as we shall call them out for sin and arrogance in apathy and indifference and expediency while souls are congs are dying-and they know who they are-Enough!!!!!

  32. Jim Hamilton
    December 11th, 2012 at 21:25 | #32

    @jb #30

    I don’t agree with you. I don’t think ignoring false teachers in our pulpits or simply accepting their presence is appropriate. These people are dangerous and should be combated. Your free to ignore false teaching if you want, but that’s not the course that I would choose.

  33. jb
    December 11th, 2012 at 21:26 | #33

    Ralph –

    And such was the case exactly . . . when?

    The entire history of our beloved Synod is one of controversy, and the Gospel going to battle against the real enemy.

    To imagine there was a “golden age” is a false, misleading dream.

    My friend, we are the Church Militant (Ephesians 6:12). Glory comes later. In the meantime, we are to lead the flock to green pastures and to lie beside still waters, and it is up to shepherds to do so. Being always agitated against the devil (false doctrine) is to give that ole son far too much of the due he imagines to be his. Again . . .

    Not in my job description. Jesus said “Feed My Sheep.”

    Yes. Lord.

    Pax – jb

  34. jb
    December 11th, 2012 at 21:39 | #34

    Jim

    Be very careful of your accusations, because I said nothing of which you said I said. I also did not say such folks are not dangerous, nor that it should not be combated. And you are way off base about my ignoring false doctrine.

    What you have said is patently untrue.

    But it is also clear you did not read what I wrote. When you do, you will have the weapons in hand to fight the false doctrine, the dangerous heretics, and and the devil.

    Until then, Matthew 18:15-18 applies. We are far too quick to shoot or eat our own selves in the name of holiness or doctrine or “being pure” – and far less inclined to see the very same in ourselves in our accusations.

    And Jim, if you hold to what you say anyway, then I am happy to likewise disagree with you. I have no need, nor desire, to prove my “orthodoxy” to you – I have done so in arenas you could not imagine, so on that end, I wish you well.

    Pax – jb

  35. Eric Ex Cathedra
    December 11th, 2012 at 21:59 | #35

    Greetings and acclamations to the Rev. Dr. (of EE) John Sias.

    Many a steak, guacamole, and beer I have shared with him to put a finger in the eye of pietists (repentance be upon them!). Great letter as always John. As a young Lutheran layman, I am always shocked at the vapid whining of the ‘Jesus first’ types. It’s bad enough that the state of catechesis of laymen is abysmal in the LCMS, but when “Lutheran” pastors blather on about the supposed “considerations” and “complexities” of whether to commune LCMS traitors, non-LCMS relatives, and other Christians who don’t confess the True Visible Church on Earth, it’s a load of garbage (Luther would use a better and stronger term).

    All I can think of is Jesus talking to Nicodemus and saying: “You are Israel’s ‘teacher,’ and you do not know these things!?”

    Did you ever read the Bible or the Lutheran Confessions? Oh wait, didn’t you swear allegiance to their validity during ordination?

    Or, as one of my heroes, Dr. Evil said, “Why must I be surrounded by frickin’ idiots!?”

    I am sure I am guilty of some horrid manifest sin of “prideful unlovingness” with this post. So in the spirit of the season, I vow to follow the example of our beloved church father, the blessed St. Nicholas: The next LCMS pastor that argues against the Bible and the Lutheran Confessions after having been patiently corrected and reasoned with, I will be punch in the nose.

    Merry Christmas,

    Eric ex Cathedra (my heart’s 3 sizes too small, too!)

  36. #4 Kitty
    December 11th, 2012 at 23:22 | #36

    The letters, though not incredibly numerous and not very long, reflect in painful detail the vast chasm that separates the Synod into two: those who value Lutheran distinctives of doctrine and practice, and those who don’t.

    Indeed, “There is a misty plot afoot so subtle we should be criminal to cling to old respects and ancient friendships.

  37. Phillip F.
    December 12th, 2012 at 01:50 | #37

    A lot of people say the liberals should leave, but Walther himself says in his “Counsel to Remain in a Corrupt Church: Make Them Throw You Out!” precisely that (At Home in the House of My Fathers, 180.) We’re all products of the true Lutherans not walking out prior to Seminex in response to the false teaching in the Synod. If the liberals truly hold their position to be correct, then no less than Walther counsels them to stay until they’re thrown out. Those of you old enough and the predecessors of the rest of us didn’t leave under Harms. Why should we expect the liberals to leave of their own accord? To think we’ve won irrevocably in the LCMS is foolishness. There’s no reason for them to leave simply because Pr. Harrison will likely remain Synod President for the foreseeable future. We can throw them out. We can wuss out and wait for the liberals to die off. Or we can sell out and just accept it. But to think the liberals would is foolishness. To think they should leave is to ignore the history of our synod.

  38. Jim Hamilton
    December 12th, 2012 at 05:19 | #38

    @jb #34

    This seems like a pattern with you, jb. You tell people to not worry about false teachers in the church because we have “already won.” When people disagree with you about that, you go on a rant about how you’ve been misquoted and you’re don’t have have to prove how orthodox you are and on and on. Sir, I have no idea who you are or what you believe. I can only respond to what you’ve written. I don’t agree with what you’ve written. I’m sorry if you feel that you have been misunderstood.

  39. December 12th, 2012 at 05:23 | #39

    jb :Many among us waste valuable time and efforts trying to refute those who refuse to be refuted, rather than be vigilant in our witness to the Lord Jesus in Word and Sacrament and Divine Worship.

    Pastor, you make it sound like we must choose only one and cannot possibly refute error while preaching the Gospel. It isn’t just for the sake of the wolves in shepherd’s clothing. Even when they will not repent, we must also consider the sheep they’ve led astray and not ignore the false teaching, but refute it. Our Confessions teach the truth positively, then drive the point home by offering examples of what the truth is not . Jesus set that example when he taught, “You have heard it said… but I say…”

    Not in my job description.

    I know you would not refuse to feed a lamb just because she belonged to another shepherd, but that is what you sound like when you say it’s not your job. In addition to feeding them pure Gospel, should we not also intervene when we see the lambs being poisoned? Where in your “job description” does it say to come here on Steadfast to refute what you see as errors?

    “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.”

    (Large Catechism, 8th Commandment, 284)

  40. David C Busby
    December 12th, 2012 at 05:40 | #40

    @Jim Hamilton #1 The LCMS liberals I have conversed with seemed to be determined to stay and seemed to believe they had a right to LCMS membership (despite not believing what we believe, teach, and confess) because of a parent, grandparent, etc. that had been LCMS and perhaps started a church. My impression is that they saw LCMS membership based on birthright not belief.

  41. Jim Hamilton
    December 12th, 2012 at 05:57 | #41

    @David C Busby #40

    That’s an interesting point. I’d not thought of that.

  42. December 12th, 2012 at 07:14 | #42

    After reading through the various responses to this, I have to say that while I agree with Pastor Baxter (it was good to know that you had not fallen off the planet since I hadn’t heard from you in years), I think it has to go further than our own parishes. I am not consumed by a desire to rid our Synod of all false teachers, but then neither do I think I can just be content to know that my parish is being well fed and nurtured. Were I to drop dead tomorrow they would enter into the call process and might end up with one of these guys as their pastor. I have people in my congregation now who have told me that we should not be so concerned about the errors being taught by others, but only be concerned with what goes on here. When I mention the fact that it’s a possibility that one of these men could be called to replace me when I leave it gives them pause . . . I’m just sayin’

  43. rev. david l. prentice jr.
    December 12th, 2012 at 07:41 | #43

    @wineonthevines #29
    It is called “pastoral discretion”. We have to answer to God for any such times, even ones in an emergency if that be the case.

  44. rev. david l. prentice jr.
    December 12th, 2012 at 07:44 | #44

    @Rev. Drew Newman #42
    Then take charge and build some direction for the day you do prepare to leave and help them in their call. Help them know what they need and how to get it. Work with the Holy Spirit.

  45. Jim Hamilton
    December 12th, 2012 at 07:57 | #45

    @Rev. Drew Newman #42

    The prospect of my own faithful pastor leaving our church concerns me for the very reasons you have suggested. I have no reason to think that our pastor intends to go anywhere, but, after all, that’s really up to God. It’s troubling that a new pastor might very well be a liberal who takes a “sophisticated” approach to orthodoxy even though he is a rostered LCMS pastor.

  46. Rev. Jordan McKinley
    December 12th, 2012 at 08:40 | #46

    Great article, Pr. Hinton! I would like to add that YOU are among the Scriptural and Confessional contributors to the Lutheran Witness, and I appreciate your confession of faith.

  47. Rev. Josh Osbun
    December 12th, 2012 at 09:30 | #47

    Jim Hamilton :
    @jb #34
    This seems like a pattern with you, jb. You tell people to not worry about false teachers in the church because we have “already won.”

    In all fairness, JB never told anyone not to worry. Those are your words, not his.

    What JB has said is good. Especially in post 16 he did not call upon us not to worry. He exhorts us to stand firm in the face of opposition, never backing down because of this simple truth: we have already won. That is very different than “don’t worry.” He is not dismissing the evils that are out there. He is simply trying to bolster the confidence of those who have to fight this fight day in and day out. Here is your confidence: we have already won. Now stand firm and don’t give an inch. That’s what JB is saying.

    Both you and Rev. Wilken have interpreted his words incorrectly.

    And as much as I wish there were no strife among us, JB is right in that we should rejoice over this, for so they persecuted the prophets before you (Matthew 5:11-12). So also, divisions are necessary so that those who are genuine might be recognized (1 Cor. 11:19).

  48. December 12th, 2012 at 09:33 | #48

    From the letters:

    Why not present a balanced approach that recognizes godly differences and yet emphasize that we are still one.

    I feel like I’m taking crazy pills after reading that one! “Godly” differences? As in, God is honored, glorified, and pleased when we disagree on doctrinal matters? Well geese, what can we do to encourage more theological diversity within the LCMS? How about we invite a local synagogue into altar fellowship? How’s that for a godly difference? Emphasize that we are still one? But not in doctrine. We can be one in any other way, but not in what we believe. We are one because we have the same logo?

    From another letter:

    recent conventions would indicate these answers represent about 51 percent or even 50 percent of the Synod

    Oh, I get it! It’s wiki-theology! Let’s all vote on what to believe and truth shall be whatever we can agree upon. Don’t like a doctrine? Vote against it, and it shall become optional!

    I am a member of an LCMS church that is vital, growing and welcomes people to the Lord’s Supper

    …because the presence of Christ obviously goes where the numbers are.

    The October Witness can result in some serious damage to many people who do not find themselves in lockstep with these positions

    The brainchild for all liberal double-speak. Nothing hurts their feelings more than disagreeing with them. Oh the damage we have caused by being honest about what we believe instead of acquiescing to their new ideas. When will we ever repent of our conviction?

    I suppose the Book of Concord is too one-sided for these folks as well. What on earth even attracts them to be a part of the LCMS? Was it the free T-shirt?

  49. helen
    December 12th, 2012 at 10:00 | #49

    @Todd Wilken #22
    These fact that these false teachers are poisoning the minds of the laity is sad and tragic. I can’t brush it off as unimportant or act like it isn’t happening. Ignoring them won’t make the problem go away. –TW

    Many of the people who need that LW issue most will never see it. They aren’t encouraged to subscribe. In similar fashion, many pastors no longer teach the catechism. When challenged, they say, “You may understand it, but most of these kids won’t.” (!) [What is confirmation for, but to teach “these kids” to understand it?]
    So the younger generation is wide open to every sort of un Lutheran practice… they’ve never learned what being Lutheran means because their pastors didn’t care to tell them.

  50. December 12th, 2012 at 10:05 | #50

    @jb #33

    You wrote:

    To imagine there was a “golden age” is a false, misleading dream.

    Has anyone on this thread said anything about a “golden age”? No.

    Being concerned about false teaching and practice isn’t yearning for a golden age that never existed. Is part of what a faithful pastor is called to do:

    Romans 16:17
    I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them.

    1 Timothy 4:1-7
    Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer. If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths.

    1 Timothy 4:16
    Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.

    1 Timothy 6:3-5
    If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.

    1 Timothy 6:20-21
    O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge,” for by professing it some have swerved from the faith.

    2 John 10-11
    If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.

    TW

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