Speaking of Homosexuality, What is the Role of District and Synod Leaders in Keeping the Unity of Doctrine and Practice? By Pr. Rossow

In the first six months of the existence of the Brothers of John the Steadfast website I have spent more time in the synodical handbook than in all my previous twenty years of service in the pastorate combined. (Please pray  for my sanity.) The situation at Bethlehem – Renton, Washington makes one ponder what the official role of the  district and synodical presidents is, in such a matter.


Before getting to that specifically, let me offer some general impressions of the Synodical Handbook. For my doctorate I did some work with the original constitution of the LCMS and I am struck by two things with our current constitution and handbook. Over the years it has become unduly complex and it has become less rooted in Scripture and more beholding to rules and procedure. This is one of the reasons Pastor Wilken and others have taken to referring to the LCMS as LCMS Inc. The original constitution of the synod was simple and clearly based on the authority of Scripture. Over the years the old, simple, straight-speaking LCMS constitution has been slowly eroded with language that is simultaneously  more bureaucratized and legalistic while being more mushy and tolerant. Despite this new complexity and tolerance, there is still plenty of clear guidance holding the district president and synodical president accountable to address a situation such as  Bethlehem, Renton.


Let me do one more bit of preparatory work before turning to the handbook itself. We need to be clear on exactly what the situation is at Bethlehem, Renton and what needs to be done.  Here is the situation. Bethlehem Lutheran Church, a congregation of the LCMS has included on its website in the biography of its music director the fact that he is the former artistic director of the gay and lesbian choir of Seattle. There was also a link from the congregation website to the music director’s personal website which includes more gay and lesbian promotion. (This link was removed after we broke this story.)


There are two problems here. One is that an LCMS website is promoting this sinful behavior. As one of our readers commented, it would be like having a parish nurse list in her experience, work at an abortion clinic. Now of course, if this experience was portrayed as former activity that has been repented of then great but that is not the case on the Bethlehem website. We can think of no reason why artisitc direction of a gay and lesbian choir should ever be touted on an LCMS website.


The second problem is that we now have a sister congregation that has a promoter of sexual immorality  conducting the music for the Divine Service. St. Paul says:


11  But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. I Corinthians 5:11


If this had never become public then there would not be a church issue. Of course there are people serving in the ministry and in other positions that lead secret lives of sin. There is nothing we can do about this unless they become public.  But when such a sin becomes public, then it must be dealt with by the church. The situation in Renton, Washington is such a situation. Of course I am a sinner and you are a sinner, but we have repented of our sins and seek to forsake them. That is different than someone who, as in this case, openly and continually promotes the sinful behavior.


Now to the notion of supervision in our synod.  Here is what the synodical handbook says about District Presidents (p. 17).


7. The district presidents shall, moreover, especially exercise supervision

over the doctrine, life, and administration of office of the

ordained and commissioned ministers of their district and acquaint

themselves with the religious conditions of the congregations of

their district. To this end they shall visit and, according as they

deem it necessary, hold investigations in the congregations. Their

assistants in this work are the circuit counselors, who therefore

shall regularly make their reports to the district president.


So it looks as though President Schumacher of the Northwest District needs to be a “visitor” and make a call on Bethlehem, Renton.


And here is what the handbook says  about the duty of the synodical president (p. 15).


1. The President has the supervision regarding the doctrine and the administration of

a. All officers of the Synod;

b. All such as are employed by the Synod;

c. The individual districts of the Synod;

d. All district presidents.

2. It is the President’s duty to see to it that all the aforementioned act in accordance with the Synod’s Constitution, to admonish all who in any way depart from it, and, if such admonition is not heeded, to report such cases to the Synod.

3. The President has and always shall have the power to advise, admonish, and reprove. He shall conscientiously use all means at his command to promote and maintain unity of doctrine and practice in all the districts of the Synod.


So President Kieschnick has a duty to step in and restore the unity of doctrine and practice in the Northwest District.


We have a crisis of supervision in the synod. We can do all the restructuring we want but if we do not maintain the unity of doctrine and practice in the synod then we have nothing. District Presidents and the Synodical President are responsible for maintaining Scriptural doctrine and practice amongst us. May presidents Schumacher and Kieschnick do just that.

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.


Speaking of Homosexuality, What is the Role of District and Synod Leaders in Keeping the Unity of Doctrine and Practice? By Pr. Rossow — 14 Comments

  1. I think the answer to everything you have written is self-evident in the lack of response, and failure to acknowledge or address the situation by those in an oversight capacity.

    Anyone who can’t see the handwriting on the wall for the LCMS, and where this synod is headed, needs to get their head out of the sand.

  2. Pr. Rossow,

    I haven’t had time to follow all the discussions on this issue, so forgive me if any of these questions have already been answered. This is mainly a question of procedure. I don’t have much hope that this erring pastor/congregation will be dealt with appropriately by the powers that be, but I am wondering what evidence we have that the district president or circuit counselor have not begun a process of visiting and admonishing this pastor/congregation. Would such activity necessarily be public knowledge before any outcome is achieved? What is the time-frame in which such action would practicably take place? When would potential discipline become public knowledge? I hope it’s faster than it would have been in the Apostle Paul’s day. Does the Synodical Handbook have anything to say about these questions of mine?

    Above all, I pray for this unrepentant homosexual and all the members of this congregation (and readers of their website) who have been mislead by this church’s errors. First and foremost, we must be concerned for the salvation of the lost. That, I believe, is the primary object of admonishing those in manifest sin. Thank you, Pr. Rossow, for dealing publicly with this public sin.

  3. Good questions Erich,

    Certainly, prayers for the individual are most important.

    As far as I know the handbook does not give specifics on the time frame. I know in my own personal pastoring, I err on the side of the Gospel and speak the truth in love in order to win the brother or sister over.

    Since this is a public situation, common sense says that the church owes a word or two from its supervisors. We do not need any details, but in a situation like this the pastor (in this case the DP and the SP) need to affirm that promoting homosexuality is not acceptable in the church and to simply let us know that they are working on the situation. Neither of those simple responses has been given to us.

    How is it in Michigan today. It is -6 here in Naperville with 20 mile an hour winds so probably about -30 wind chill.

    Pastor Rossow

  4. The other thing I forgot to mention Erich is this.

    If there were such a public thing at the congregation I serve, I would not be responsible to give all the details but I would be responsible to assure the congregation that the matter in question was indeed ungodly and that it was being addressed. I would not have the luxury of silence.

    Pastor’s Schumacher and Kieschnick have the Pacific Northwest and the synod as their congregations and are responsible to assure us that this is inappropriate behavior and that they are dealing with it accordingly.

    Pastor Rossow

  5. Thanks, Pr. Rossow. If I understand correctly, we don’t know for certain that there is no visitation going on, but we do know that they are not handling this as openly as they should be.

    It is currently 5 degrees here in Southern Lower Michigan with wind gusts of up to 40 mph – lots of blowing and drifting snow, and dangerous below-zero wind chills. However, the sun is out at the moment, so I’m happy! The main reason I hate winter in Michigan is that we have so little sunshine.

    We’ll be in the middle of a 3 week vacation to Florida when you have the first BJS National Conference up here in the snowy North.

    Keep safe and warm! I’ll tip a cold beer on the Gulf beach on Treasure Island to remember you guys on February 13th.


  6. Pastor Rossow,
    Not all of us from Michigan will be fleeing the current wrath of God. Unlike certain “snowbirds” who chase after the southern sun, we shall remain and struggle with our current affliction. Hopefully, we should free ourselves from this snow prison by February in time for the BJS Conference on the 13th and 14th.

  7. Erich,

    I remember the I-75 shuffle to Florida from my days in Dearborn. I may be going to Naples for a few days right after the conference to play some tennis with my “old man” friends who winter down there.

    I also remember those sun-less winter days. Optimistiaclly speaking, from this day forward it only gets better for the next six months with each day growing longer and longer.

    Pastor Rossow

  8. Dennis,

    I look forward to meeting you at the conference. The ToothDoctor has spoken highly of you.

    Pastor Rossow

  9. I agree I think there are issues with this regarding repentance and church discipline, especially since there is no indication that either has or will take place.

    The disturbing thing is that since they are condoning these thoughts and opinions of someone who is clearly impenitent what message does this send to Christian and unbeliever?

  10. Let us not only pray for the synod to again give us a church body in step with biblical commands, but let’s not forget to pray for this poor man or woman who is perhaps involved in homosexuality. I lived as a homosexual until becoming a Christian nearly nine years ago and let me tell you it’s a living hell. God doesn’t tell us not to do something because he’s a kill joy; it’s because he knows what hurts us and to hurt his creation is sin. Although it is a tremendous struggle to leave and some of us will always deal with that temptation, I wouldn’t trade my life now with it for anything, may God strengthen me to stand and may he help this poor person.

  11. I spoke with a District President a while back, and he felt that one of the greatest problems in the LCMS is that District Presidents fail to discipline those whom they supervise when discipline is warranted.

  12. Bill,

    God bless and preserve you! While virtually all the experts tell us it is not possible for a homosexual to stop being a homosexual, you are proof that with God all things ARE possible. ANd you are exactly right: the Law is given to us as a blessing, as limits that protect and help us. It was not just some arbitrary, taken-from-thin-air decision by God to forbid murder, adultery, theft, etc. How happy we are when we live in the bounds God has set for us!

  13. Pastor,
    I am confused. Now that the link is off the website. Is it your/our responsibility to continually “punish” this group. I am unclear are we helping or are we arrogant.
    Help me to understand why this is helpful.
    Thank you.

  14. Catherine,

    There are at least three issues here: 1) the link to the music director’s persoanl website, 2) the audacious act of putting the music director’s experience with the gay and lesbian choir of Seattle on their website and 3) the fact that an open gay activist is leading the worship in Christ’s church.

    The first one has been dealt with. For that we are grateful. Now at least two more issues remain.

    We are not being arrogant, merely faithful to God’s word. Was Jesus being arrogant when he overturned the tables in the temple? Was Paul being arrogant when he told the Galatians they were foolish?

    I hope you will let me know if this is helpful or not.

    Pastor Rossow

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