The Clear Choice – A District President Comments on the LCMS Election

June 8th, 2013 Post by

falsedicotomyI received in my inbox an email circulating among delegates to the 2013 LCMS convention. The writer of this email (a district president) articulates his impressions of three nominees for synod president, including the incumbent Matt Harrison. The email’s author is quick to set up a dichotomy from which he argues “two distinct paths” the synod can choose to go down depending upon who is elected synod president. According to this DP both paths taken “are best understood in the way they relate to our current culture.”

The first path, which presumably represents the current synod president, is one which puts the synod into conflict with the culture at large. As the email’s author states, those on the “first path” (representing Matt Harrison) “sees the church as reacting against the culture – making a defense for the Gospel before those with whom we disagree.” On the other hand, those on the “second path” (represented by Rev. David Maier according to the DP writing the email) are those who “sees the church as seeking to engage the culture in conversation in an effort to introduce more people to the love of God in Jesus Christ – making a witness for the Gospel to those who don’t know Him yet.” For the writer of the email the choice is clear. The dichotomy he sets up is one where Matt Harrison embodies a reactionary synod acting against the culture at large, versus a synod which is engaging and permeable to the culture around it. What interests me, for the sake of this article, is the later distinction.

What does it mean to say that the synod should be engaging “the culture in conversation”? This whole idea of “seeking to engage the culture in conversation” is one laden with the sort of thinking coming out of the Church Growth wing of the synod. The idea of engaging the culture is one of being permeable to it. That is, those promoting this “second path” envision a great exchange transpiring between the Church and the pagan culture it is in “conversation” with. The question becomes what then should the Church receive from this great exchange with the culture around us? After all, this interchange of information, ideas, and thoughts transpiring through the “conversation” implies that the Church adopts something from the culture. Otherwise it looks impermeable, reactionary, and at conflict with the culture. Importantly, what is the LC-MS supposed to be adopting from the culture around us in order to look like a real stakeholder in “the conversation”?

compromiseThe implication with the dichotomy set up by the DP is that those on the “first path” aren’t willing to let go of, or back off of, their apologetic responses to the culture where the Church and the culture really are in conflict. For example, do we want a synod that remains silent in light of the mass murdering going on in America via abortion? Should we stop speaking about the sin of homosexuality, and so-called “gay marriage,” because that puts the synod into conflict with half of the culture willing to tolerate such sin?

Is it being suggested with this “second path” that we must compromise the pure Gospel in order to “engage the culture in conversation”? This sort of notion that we must give up something in doctrine and practice, or make our doctrine more appealing to the pagan culture around us, misses a critical point. The pagan culture around us is dead in sins and they hate God. The cross is foolishness to them and it always offends them when preached in its purity. Of course, these facts don’t mean we should not be involved with the cultures in which we live. Obviously we aren’t to become monks. We are after all in the world, but not part of it. By the way, the Church is commissioned with the proclamation of the Gospel and not in holding a conversation with the pagan culture. See the difference?

I will conclude with what I have written in other articles, which doctrines must we make “permeable” (compromise) to the world around us in order to become “all things to all people”, or to “engage in the conversation”? How about this idea? Why not be faithful to the Holy Scriptures and our Lutheran Confession to the extent that along with Martin Luther we can say,

hereistand“Unless I am convinced by proofs from Scriptures or by plain and clear reasons and arguments, I can and will not retract, for it is neither safe nor wise to do anything against conscience. Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen.”

Rather than be so worried about what the pagan world thinks about the Church and its doctrine, let’s stand firm and lovingly pronounce the Gospel in its purity to the world around us. Jesus has given us the message to deliver and it is solely up to God the Father who He draws to His Son through the preaching of the Gospel. To paraphrase the words of a past synod president; how about getting our doctrine straight and getting the message out? I believe the clear path to take is the one where we as a synod are faithful to the pure Gospel given to us by Christ and we fearlessly deliver that pure message to the culture around us.






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  1. Rev. McCall
    June 11th, 2013 at 11:40 | #1

    @Carl Vehse #50
    “Two roads diverged in a synod, and I, I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”
    -Robert Frost (with a slight adaptation) :-)

  2. Carl Vehse
    June 14th, 2013 at 13:52 | #2

    Another DP has sent a two and a half page letter this month to his District Convention delegates.

    To no one’s surprise, California-Nevada-Hawaii (CNH) District President Robert Newton also uses Linneman’s “distinct path” talking point when he notes that “President Harrison and his administration have chosen to lead our Synod down a road quite different from the one CNH is traveling.”

    Newton claims that Pres. Harrison “mistakenly paints a battle scene in which the church, beseiged by spiritual and temporal forces, must withdraw from the field, raise the drawbridge and fortify our church walls in order to protect what we hold dear – our Christian doctrine, sacred traditions, and religious liberties.”

    There seems to be a sense of desperation in the mixed metaphor accusations – “chosen to lead our Synod down a road quite different” or “raise the drawbridge and fortify our church walls.”

    Newton then hypes the nomination of one who champions the posture embraced by CNH.

  3. Jason
    June 14th, 2013 at 14:09 | #3

    So we have DP Paul Linnemann’s letter, stumping for Meier. (Northwest District)
    District President’s email

    ALPB is just reporting of another DP, Bob Newton, is pulling the same stunt. (Callifrnnia-Nevada_Hawaii)
    District President’s email

    My parents send me news from where I grew up in North Dakota. that district does a newsletter as an insert to the Lutheran Witness. Here is how DP Jim Banack describes life in the LC-MS, talking about visitation, almost channeling Pres. Harrison.
    District News insert

    At my district’s convention orientation, we were presented part of Florida-Georgia’s newletter. Another more informative and well put together article. No endorsement, just the facts. DP Greg Walton leads there. The capsules are on pages 6-15. Pretty much everybody in the East-Southeast Region can use this.
    Lutheran Life

  4. Jim Pierce
    June 14th, 2013 at 15:03 | #4

    @Carl Vehse #2

    The letter by DP Newton is absolutely shameful; more so than the email sent out by DP Linnemann. Both men have misrepresented Matt Harrison in their campaign letters and thereby broken the 8th commandment.

  5. helen
    June 14th, 2013 at 15:09 | #5

    @Jason #3
    So we have DP Paul Linnemann’s letter, stumping for Meier. (Northwest District)
    District President’s email

    ALPB is just reporting of another DP, Bob Newton, is pulling the same stunt. (Callifrnnia-Nevada_Hawaii)
    District President’s email

    Check the postmark.
    A few years ago advisory letters were being sent out, ostensibly from a “fellow delegate” in your own district.
    All of them were sent from the same Post Office in Missouri.

  6. helen
    June 14th, 2013 at 15:12 | #6

    @Jim Pierce #4
    The letter by DP Newton is absolutely shameful; more so than the email sent out by DP Linnemann.

    I didn’t see your piece here, Jim. Apparently I must give them points for originality (?) this time.

  7. Jason
    June 14th, 2013 at 15:46 | #7

    @helen #5

    This is just the tip of the iceberg, the ones I know about, and are very recent. I am not a pastor, so I don’t get to see everything, and even then, most of that will be confined to New Jersey. I wouldn’t doubt if there are more shenanigans going on. To be fair, I think there are a number of DP’s who favor Harrison. Depends on who broadcasts their toughts and how widely. Linnemann and Newton are flat out campaigning. Banack hasn’t that I’ve seen, but would seem aligned with Harrison and current LCMS direction. (what ever that means) Walton didn’t splach his name over his district’s newsletter, and it was more informative and didn’t feel like it overtly endorsemnt anything. Depends on if you read subtlies into it. I just linked a sampling of what I could easily find on the internet. What’s it like in Texas? (or do I really want to know?)

    still your friend, Jason

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