On Tuesday I introduced you to a troubling situation in the Minnesota South District of the LCMS. There is a new congregation in the twin cities in that district named The Alley. It was started by Pastor Dean Nadasdy’s church, Woodbury Lutheran Church. This oddly named church (see Tuesday’s post) has received Ablaze money from the synod but cannot get into its sponsoring district (Minnesota South) because it does not comply with its policies. The Minnesota South District has a policy that all of its new mission starts must have the monicker “Lutheran” in their name and must also practice Lutheran forms of worship by consistently using the Lutheran Service Book.
These are good policies that help a district exercise its God-given responsibility to supervise the doctrine and practice of its congregations. No man-made policy is mandatory for salvation but by promoting Lutheran identity and practice, both of which are Scriptural and God-pleasing, the Minnesota South District is faithfully doing its duty to God to insure that His children are kept within the bounds of His precious Gospel.
The reaction to this story from members and/or supporters of The Alley church has been strong. You can see their comments by clicking on Tuesday’s post. (Note particularly comments 8, 12, 21, and following for a lengthy discussion of this matter.) Their position is that in order to attract new members they need to jettison the hymnal. They also assert that it is legalistic to require the use of a Lutheran hymnal in a Lutheran congregation. Both of these claims are false. Hymnal using congregations regularly attract new members and requiring the use of a particular hymnal does not threaten one’s salvation by grace alone in Christ (legalism) but instead upholds that salvation. These policies would not be necessary were it not for churches like The Alley that overstep the bounds of Lutheranism. The Minnesota South District is trying to curb the rampant false teaching that goes on in LCMS congregations today that use all sorts of heterodox materials in their congregations. The suggested reading list on The Alley’s website is a classic example of this. There are four books featured there. None of them is from our denominationally approved publisher Concordia Publishing House. None of the books is by an LCMS author. All of them are by heterodox teachers.
Once again I am getting off the main subject. The point of today’s post is to detail the interaction between The Alley and the Minnesota South District (MNS). In 2007 the MNS budgeted money for the Alley as a new mission start sponsored by Woodbury Lutheran Church. (By the way, Woodbury Lutheran Church gave over $200,000 to missions in 2007 and less than 5% of it went to the LCMS. The other 95% went to missions sponsored by Pentecostal and Evangelical groups.)
In December of that year the MNS Board of Directors passed a resolution which required that all subsidized English Speaking congregations be required to use the LSB in their service consistently. Another resolution was passed that required all Mission congregations to provide proof that they were practicing closed Communion.
At the February 2008 meeting of the MNS Board of Directors a concern was expressed that a 1995 resolution of the LCMS required the name Lutheran to be used by our congregations and that “the Alley” apparently did not have Lutheran in its name.
At the May meeting of the MNS BOD the Board approved the constitution and by-laws of “The Alley Lutheran Church.” At the same meeting the BoD “postponed action on the application” of “The Alley” for membership in the synod.
At the September meeting of the MNS BoD adopted a resolution which said in part, ‘Resolved, that the Board grant funds only to those congregations and subsidized ministries that fulfill 1995 Synod Resolution 3-13A.”
LCMS 1995 3-13A says:
Resolved, that all congregations and mission stations in our Synod boldly profess in their official title and/or name that they are “Lutheran”; and be it further
Resolved, that all congregations and mission stations of our Synod state in their materials (bulletins, newsletters, etc.) that they belong to The Lutheran Churchâ€”Missouri Synod; and be it finally
Resolved, that all LCMS congregations gladly proclaim our great doctrinal heritage to a world that needs the clear proclamation of the truth;
At that September meeting the BoD again postponed a decision until its December 2008 meeting.
At the December meeting the BoD voted against accepting “The Alley’s” application for membership in the LCMS.
It was then discovered that The Alley had received an Ablaze grant.
It was also pointed out that while “The Alley” had changed its name to “the Alley Lutheran Church” there was no indication on their church sign, on their website or in their bulletin that they were actually Lutheran church.
The last time the MNS district declined to accept a congregation into the synod, and this was at its convention, that congregation went to the English district and got accepted.
This situation magnifies one of the acute problems in our Synod that the Ablaze program has brought to us. It is an odd day and age in which the Lutheran church needs to pass motions to require their congregations to include the word “Lutheran” in their name. Why is this? It is because the name Lutheran is viewed as a stumbling block for people to join the church. It is because the church has been affected by the same liberal and secular tendencies that are showing up in our culture. The 1960’s and 70’s brought a spirit of anti-authoritarianism and unbridled freedom to our culture and it has made its way into the church. If you read the comments of the supporters of The Alley you will note this spirit of anti-authoritarianism and unbridled freedom. “Don’t make me use a hymnal. You cannot require me to do that. I affirm the independent spirit of this church, etc.”
The church is also drinking deeply of the well of informality, another product of the 1960’s and 70’s. Personally I like informality. As I write this post I am reclining in my favorite leather chair, my cat is laying on my outstretched legs and the business channel is on in the background. Here’s to informality! But when I enter the presence of the Holy God to confess my sins, receive His word and eat and drink His body and blood, my personal desire for informality is best set aside.
It is an odd world in which mission congregations can get Ablaze $$$ and yet clash with their sponsoring districts guidelines that are in place to insure that their members are fed the pure Gospel of Jesus Christ. We call for more supervision in the disbursement of Ablaze funds. Until that happens, supporting Ablaze is giving money to undo Lutheranism’s historic and incessant dedication to preaching, teaching and spreading the pure Gospel of Christ.