Being Steadfast Includes Being Vigilant: Preview of the LCMS Convocation on Structure, by Pr. Tim Rossow

Being steadfast in part means being vigilant, i.e. keeping watch. For the next three days it is crucial for steadfast laymen (and pastors) to keep watch on what is going on in St. Louis at the synod’s third theological convocation being held August 18-20 at the Airport Marriot. This year’s theme is the relationship between theology and church structure.

Over the course of the convocation, this website will be providing information and commentary along with  links to other sites. Today’s link comes from from the vigilant folks over at More on that below.

These convocations in the past have been attempts to bring together various viewpoints, even factions within the synod. In my estimation they have not accomplished much  toward that end  mostly because they have been based on the interesting but ultimately  innefective dynamic of “discussion.” The point has been to bring people together in the synod  to talk about things  in hope that such talking would unite us. I have seen no significant improvement in   unity in the synod since these convocations began.

This year’s convocation goes beyond that by being the vehicle by which the synod committee on Structure and Governance will present its preliminary proposals for change in the synod’s structure. (If you have note read it yet, click here for the synod’s description of the convocation.) Because these proposals may change the balance of power in the synod, granting more power to the office of synodical president and may grant more power to larger congregations over smaller congregations, and since such changes could further the church growth movement within the LCMS (a movement that states that the Word of God needs to be supplemented by sociological and psychological tactics in order to be more effective), it is crucial that we be vigilant and steadfast in being aware of what is going on at this convocation.

For many of you, this may be your first introduction to synodcal politics. You may be hesitant to dive into this pool but it is a necessary part of being steadfast. We will not make synod politics the main emphasis of this blog but for the next few days it will be necessary. There are things being presented in St. Louis that may  have a large  impact on how things get done in the synod.  Congregations may bury their heads in the sand and try to ignore synod politics but each congregation is a member of synod and it would just not be right to ignore what is happening concerning the structure and organization of the synod.

We recomend you start by reading this post at (Consensus is a group that has been vigilant about synodical politics for years  and includes on its board our own blogger Pastor Klemet Preus.) This post will help you to learn about  what principles the synod was founded upon and what sorts of changes are needed to help keep the synod a scriptural and confessional denomination.

We have a few more posts on the convocation waiting in the wings. We will be getting them out as the convocation unfolds over the course of the next three crucial days in LCMS history. For now, read the above linked post and  remain steadfast, which means remaining vigilant!

The Reverend Dr. Timothy Rossow

Editor of the BJS Website

Administrative Pastor, Bethany Lutheran Church, Naperville, Il

About Pastor Tim Rossow

Rev. Dr. Timothy Rossow is the Director of Development for Lutherans in Africa. He served Bethany Lutheran Church in Naperville, IL as the Sr. Pastor for 22 years (1994-2016) and was Sr. Pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran in Dearborn, MI prior to that. He is the founder of Brothers of John the Steadfast but handed off the Sr. Editor position to Rev. Joshua Scheer in 2015. He currently resides in Ocean Shores WA with his wife Phyllis. He regularly teaches in Africa. He also paints watercolors, reads philosophy and golfs. He is currently represented in two art galleries in the Pacific Northwest. His M Div is from Concordia, St. Louis and he has an MA in philosophy from St. Louis University and a D Min from Concordia, Fort Wayne.


Being Steadfast Includes Being Vigilant: Preview of the LCMS Convocation on Structure, by Pr. Tim Rossow — 26 Comments

  1. Supplement the word of God to make it more effective?! I know God wants our help (in his fashion) but I sincerely doubt he needs it. If he can raidse up children of Abraham from stones, I’m sure his word is as effective as it needs to be. How amazingly presumtuois and arrogant! If one wanted to organize a protest, by lay people, of these types of events, where would he go to begin to organize it? I thought about picketting the convocation in St. Louis, but didn’t know how to reach any mass of lay people, and lets face it, one guy protesting is a crackpot. You need sufficient numbers to be taken seriously. I think the clergy of our synod need to raise awareness, then stand back and let the lay people organize and take action. We form a larger body, we have more money and rescourses, and nobody’s going to run us out of our congregations and black-ball us from our vocations because of it. The synod has very little leverage to use against us (I think – if I’m wrong, please dis-abuse me before I get to far down this road). Thanks for keeping us informed. If any other lay people want to join me in this, I’d appreciate your help.

  2. It’s interesting that Dr. Leonard Sweet is one of the speakers. Is that the same Dr. Sweet that wrote “The Gospel According to Starbucks?” What is Dr. Sweet’s speaking fee, I wonder?


  3. Did I read correctly that “Walther” will be summoned by President K DURING the communion service? He will speak on structure and policy during Divine Service? That seems a tad irreverent, but that’s just me.

  4. Synod’s idea of “discussion” is the same as a former pastor of mine. “This is the way it’s going to be. It doesn’t matter if you think it’s un Scriptural or just don’t like it. Go along or don’t let the door hit you on your way out.”

    Confessional Pastors are often offered the same advice these days!

    The one thing we can be sure of after a conference with the likes of Leonard Sweet is that the “Violet Vatican” isn’t planning to make the lcms more Lutheran!

  5. Summoning the Walther?

    I can’t help but think of 1 Samuel 28:3-20.

    Will Walther be allowed to speak in his own words, or will the Task Force have something scripted for him?

    Pres. K should be careful, Walther would make a formidable opponent in 2010.


  6. Funny, Todd, I thought of that passage, too. I’ve heard that “Hannibal” Frederich does a good Mark Twain and a decent Luther. Wasn’t aware he was animating my family, and certainly not for Pres K. It may be worth a visit to Trinity and the Sem on Tuesday.

    (And here I thought I’d effectively gotten away from the borderline disorder known as “historical reenacting.” *sigh*/*grin*)

  7. Leonard Sweet is a “methodist” who has absolutely no concept of whom Christ really is, and what Him being who He really is has to do with the “Body of Christ”, and any collective organization (Synod) through which the right preaching and teaching of Him who is the Head of this “Body” is to take place. Our current Synodical leadership is, as is proven by what they did to Issues, etc, is concerned about one thing; Public Image, not the gospel. It is more important that people “like” Jesus. Like the Doobie Brothers said it. “Jesus is Just Alright with Me”. That is what this restructuring is geared toward.
    OK, my rant mode is now off. But, it is still true.

  8. Whoops! Sorry! This 60’s radical brought into the truth should have known better! It is “by” me, not “with” me. Gotta remember; it’s about me (synod), not God!

  9. Gentleman,
    as a layman, I stand in gross awe at what is going on, and feel helpless to combat it on the larger scale. Do we ride the wave and see where it takes us, or is there actually something we can do?

  10. KRC

    I’d encourage any laity to speak up because as far as many of these Synodicrats are concerned, laity just don’t care about correct theology or synodical politics. That’s why they believe that they can get away with a lot of this uh…stuff (had to check my fingers/tongue for a minute there). I’m always amused to see how they react to a theologically educated lay-person because it scares them to death. The last thing that they want is a properly catechized laity because they know that they will never get their agenda through. That’s one of the reasons that they were so scared about the reader’s edition of the Book of Concord.

  11. Just for those who might not be familiar with Sweet let me provide a couple quotes…

    “A globalization of evangelism “in connection” with others, and a globally “informed” gospel, is capable of talking across the fence with Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, Muslim–people from other so called “new” religious traditions (“new” only to us)–without assumption of superiority and power. One Caribbean theologian has called this the “decolonization of theology.”~It will take a decolonized theology for Christians to appreciate the genuineness of others’ faiths, and to see and celebrate what is good, beautiful, and true in their beliefs without any illusions that down deep we all are believers in the same thing” (Leonard Sweet, “Quantum Spirituality” pp.130-131).

    “The power of small groups is in their ability to develop the discipline to get people “in-phase” with the Christ consciousness and connected with one another.” (ibid. p. 147)

    Leonard Sweet is a pan-theist who has embraced New Age mysticism. For Sweet we are all on the same path, Hindu, Muslim, Christianity, Buddhism… these are all religions that equally have the “spark of truth”. Take notice of what Sweet states about people “in-phase” with the Christ consciousness and connected with one another”. This is the old jargon of New Age philosophy.

    So, here we have synod paying a heretic to speak at our convocation over theology and church structure. It was just in January that Terry Dittmer (LCMS National Youth Director) had well known Emergent guru Dan Kimball speak to our youth workers, at a symposium in Texas, about reaching out to youth.

    We have a female pentecostal pastor leading worship at a the Texas District Youth convention.

    Are these sort of events coincidental, or are they evidence of a concerted effort by leadership in the synod to move the LCMS into 21st century synergistic practice and doctrinal baloney?

    Please forgive me if I am overstepping my bounds. I know I am a relatively new confessional Lutheran, but I can smell theological horse manure and I am not happy to have its stench in my nostrils!

    Please join me in continued prayer for our leadership.

    Jim Pierce

  12. Wake up and smell the double-mocha-chocha-latte-frappe-cappuccino people…. the Synod is sinking. This sort of “function” is EXACTLY the kind of thing that was held in Phoenix a few years ago… solid theologians tried… but were drowned out by the “isn’t this just great” crowd. Sorry to be a cynic. I was there.

  13. Jim Pierce wrote: “Please forgive me if I am overstepping my bounds. I know I am a relatively new confessional Lutheran, but I can smell theological horse manure and I am not happy to have its stench in my nostrils!”

    You’re not overstepping your bounds. It is horse manure you’re smelling. The only thing that can be said positively for the synodical leadership is that they seem to have a heart for the lost. Unfortunately, they couple that with practically zero discernment in regard to theological matters. Being relevent & pragmatism have become their gods. That is what drives their theology, such as it is.

  14. #1 Eric, I’m a lay person who is also very concerned about the slope synod is sliding down. There are many people just becoming aware of it. It’s up to us, all of us lay people to find other lay people who care about our Lutheran theology and will talk to others. Then we can do, who knows what? Suggestions, please? Write letters, make phone calls, make certain your curcuit gets a good delegate in 2010, and maybe it should be you! We need to be willing to spend some time on this. It is our future (and past)they’re messing with. Don’t they realize the Lutheran faith is a special faith, and we really should not want to be like everyone else? We’re special? Is that too conceited? Or prideful? We need to dare to be Lutheran!(BTW, Did you see the wives will also be joining Luther and Walther?)Hmmmm. Not that wives aren’t important assets to their husbands.
    Horse manure, Jim? How about male cow manure?

  15. Just one more reiteration of something I posted in response to a previous blog entry on BJS:

    The Three Walls Preventing Reform of the LCMS

    “On the Reform of Our Own Christian Estate: A Historical Review of Luther on Dissent and Reform”

    A Catechism on the Dissent Process in the LCMS

    State of Confession, Trinity Lutheran, Herrin, IL

    BTW, do check out the Augustana Confraternity:

  16. Here’s a quote from the church historian, Philip Schaff, that may inspire any laymen in his desire to assert themselves:

    “When John the Steadfast became sole ruler, after the death of Frederick (May 5, 1525), he announced to the clergy that in the future the pure word of God should be preached without human addition, and that all useless ceremonies should be abolished.”

  17. From
    Christian A. Preus

    “a. This fundamental purpose of the Synod is currently reflected in Article III of the Constitution which lists the 10 objectives of the Synod. These 10 objectives emphasize that the reason for the existence of the Synod is to strengthen, aid, encourage, and protect the Congregations and their Members and the Pastors and other professional church Workers. ”

    In order for the Synod to begin to fulfill these purposes it must first STOP:
    1. weakening congregations by advocating syncretism, unionism and the
    Theology of Glory.
    2. taking resources to build a bigger bureaucracy while scolding its members for being unfaithful stewards.
    3. demoralizing congregations by making power grabs over them in the name of “success”, legal protection and public image.
    4. spiritually harming its members by promoting and inviting false teaching and teachers from heterodox faiths while firing faithful Lutheran theologians.

  18. Here’s an interesting quote from Leonard Sweet from a magazine interview :

    “[RM:] But the church in the last hundred years hasn’t changed much.

    [LS:] And that’s the reason it’s been dying. It’s been feeding off fruit that’s decaying and rotten; nobody wants to touch it except for a few die-hards that have grown used to the rancid odor.”

    Do you think the “few die-hards” he refers to are those who practice traditional, historic Christianity? And what of the “decaying, rotten, rancid fruit”? Could this be the traditional, historic liturgy? Can you believe a respected theologian would use such language to refer to worship practices that are based entirely on the Word of God?! And the LCMS invites him as a featured speaker?!

    The more I read his quote the more offensive I find it to be. I wonder what part of the “unchanging, dying” church he thinks is “decaying, rotten, and rancid”. Maybe it’s Confession and Absolution? The Kyrie? The Gloria? The Prayers? The Readings? The Hymns? The Lord’s Supper?

    One thing’s for certain, he’s not going to win a “Steadfast Pastor of the Month” award any time soon!

  19. If Jim’s quote is accurate (and I have no reason to believe it’s not) then Leonard Sweet is obviously a heretic who will be challenged in his false teaching and told to repent. Right?

    I have no problem with having academics speak at our Concordias in an academic setting in which they will be challenged. Why do we like this guy so much?

  20. Rich:

    If Leonard Sweet equates unchanging with dying, deacaying and rotten, he must have a very dim view of God himself who is the ultimate in unchanging (in a steadfast kind of way). I like to think (and confess) that since God IS steadfast and unchanging, so should our relationship with him (read doctrines, confessions, worship, etc.) be steadffast and unchanging. The world, which is satan’s realm, changes. If we change to accommodate it (and him) aren’t we moving futher from God? I’m just a layman, but that’s how I see it.

    I’m new to this type of forum, so I’m unsure of what is concidered proper etiquette, but if any of you fellow laity want to help me try to organize to spread the word to the sleeping giant that is the congregant membership within the LCMS, please feel free to e-mail me at [email protected]. I’m trying to see if there is any genuine interest in forming a protest organization to try to force the synod back onto a confessional path.

    Wow, thats sounds much too radical to me. I can’t believe that’s were we are, but I don’t see any other way to save our synod. I’m not trying to be discouraging, I’m just trying to find an appropriate course of action. Our faithful pastors can only do so much within the constraints of their office. We can do so much more. Please prayerfully concider this plea, and respond according to your conscience, even if it is to disagree and offer chastisement. Maybe this is the wrong road to take, but I don’t see another.

  21. Obviously some concerted action is desirable. I’m hoping a website/organization (BJS?) steps up and becomes THE MAIN clearinghouse for this information and future activities.

    I hope we don’t have all kinds of splinter groups all over the country duplicating efforts and working at cross purposes.

    Any ideas from you veterans of the wars?

  22. Eric and Jim,

    I am a pastor so maybe you do not want me involved in this but here is my two cents worth.

    Jim – you are correct, we do not want alot of splinter groups. BJS is doing what it can to bring groups together which is why we have the “Confessional Groups” section on the “Regular Columns” page. So far we are pleased that we have several different types of groups posting on the site and hope it will grow.

    Eric – I would suggest that a good starting point is to form a BJS group in your congregation or if you do not have enough members in your congregation that would support such a group, we will try to help you connect with other confessional laymen in your area to get a regional group started. For information on starting a group see the “Organization” section of this site.

    The real key to political change in the synod is to get confessional delegates to the synodical convention. That is not so easy to do. In the next few weeks we will be putting out more information on this site about how the synod is organized and what can be done by the average laymen to make a difference.

    Of course political change is nothing if it does not come from real heart, mind and will change brought about by the pure Gospel. Even if we do not mount a charge strong enough to return the synod as a body to the truth, we can rest assured that in our little corner of the world, we have held to the pure Gospel. May God bless that little corner so that it can grow and influence a broader group.

    Thanks for letting this pastor have his two cents. The synod is strongest when we have laity who understand the scriptures and confesions so it is good to see this sort of discussion going on. We confessional pastors stand ready to keep teaching and preaching the true Gospel (as you say Eric – the one that does not change) to you so that Christ’s word might govern His church.

    Pastor Rossow

  23. So, LutheranLucciola and/or anybody else? Did you attend the worship service? Reports? Did Kieschnick in fact “call down Walther”?

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