Pastor Stefanski Checks in from Sri Lanka with a Question about The Alley from Persecuted Lutherans

(Editor’s Note: Pastor Erik Stefanski is in Sri Lanka teaching the faith. He took the time to weigh in on The Alley issue commenting on one of our psots. Apparently it was a point of discussion amongst Sri Lanka Lutherans. After offering clarification on our assertion about the use of Lutheran worship materials in the synod – you can see the full comment here– he offers the following set of questions from the Sri Lankan Lutherans.)

The Lutheran Church in Lanka wants to know why any Confessional Lutheran would fund a ‘mission’ that is not outwardly identifiable as Lutheran and seems–in the midst of some good statements about Man’s relationship to God and peace with God being made only in Christ Jesus–to avoid the cross and the means of that cross being attached to the Christian in Holy Baptism and the fruits thereof being given us again and again in the Body and Blood of Jesus in the Lord’s Supper. The LCL website is still in its infancy, but they intend to have a better, clearer, more cross-focused doctrinal statement than what has been posted on the BJS site, [The Alley statement of faith] also avoiding some distinctively Calvinistic terminology and the confusion of whether the victory was won on Good Friday or on Easter.

Why is it, they wonder, that they suffer and starve to be Lutherans amongst the Buddhists (who are pushing a new anti-conversion law through parliament), while those who wish to practice in a way that does not lift up the pure Lutheran doctrine are given the ‘mission offerings’ of faithful Lutherans so that they may do so.

If someone can give me a good answer to that by Sunday at midnight, I’ll check for it during class tomorrow and present Pres. Raja Fernando with the official answer to ‘why this is good and right’. (Note: we are studying Luther’s “Theology of the Cross”–basically, giving them more tools with which to comprehend what all they have suffered and continue to suffer–so they actually already know the answer.)

It’s 3:05 pm on a lovely afternoon in Minuwangoda, where northern Europeans are doing what they do so well in Sri Lanka…i.e., proving that they should wear more clothing when they swim!


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.


Pastor Stefanski Checks in from Sri Lanka with a Question about The Alley from Persecuted Lutherans — 6 Comments

  1. I do not have a good answer to their question. I don’t support spending mission money this way and do not support the theology or practice of Ablaze! tm. I am not in a position of authority to speak or make decisions for the LCMS or for my fellow Lutheran brothers, but as a member of an LCMS congregation all I can say is I’m sorry for the offense this poor theologic practice causes to our brothers in Lanka.

  2. This question makes me want to tear my clothes and beat my chest. Why do we misdirect funds away from worthy missionary opprotunities wherein the Church is operating in poverty and persecution towards the filth that is being taught, implicitly or explicitly, at the Alley.

    I am so ashamed. God have mercy, Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy.

  3. I think the answer is within the question. A true Confessional Lutheran would not do this.

    A CLINO (Confessional Lutheran In Name Only) would.

    Please correct me if I am failing to put the best construction on this.

  4. Thoughts on CLINO:

    Dear Dave,

    I agree with you wholly about the theology and practice of the Alley. I agree with you utterly that it is a shame to our church when we give mission dollars to fund man-centered gatherings of people that abuse the name Church, and teach false doctrine. That is terrible.

    For that reason, I am all the more certain we should NEVER use a term like CLINO, or any other epithet of the sort. If we are going to confess the true doctrine rightly, let us remember that we cannot by own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ or come to Him. And so we should not put any emphasis on the sincerity, the verity, of the person who is a “true lutheran” or a “nominal lutheran.” That is the essence of pietism; it is the opposite of what God says; it’s the contradiction of our confession.

    When we decry the false teaching of the Alley and the false teachers who lead it, we are not talking about the persons. It is precisely not a Sin to point out their doctrine in public, their confession in public, because to do so is what the 2nd Commandment tells us; to do so is what Christians in love do: “look out, there’s false doctrine, it’s going to get you!” False doctrine is dangerous, and we have the freedom and duty to condemn it; that’s one of the way we love our neighbor, and let the name of God be hallowed among us.

    But the people who do these things, they are deceived. They have darkness; they are lead astray, they are sheep with false shepherds. Let’s not forget that these people who are led off by these false teachers (Rom. 16:20; 2 Tim 1), they’re sheep. They have false shepherds.

    Christians look at Confessions, and say, “Amen this is true” or “that is false; God has not said this.” Pietists ignore doctrine, looking instead at life, and say, “you really mean it”, or “you don’t really mean it enough.” It’s true they have all kinds of legalisms like not drinking, smoking etc. But what makes a pietist in the end is this: a pietist is someone who trades doctrine for morality and looks for “the sincere people” instead of the “true doctrine.” A Christian looks only at the true doctrine, and doesn’t take it upon himself to point out the people. Only Jesus points at people (via ACV).

    Don’t become so zealous for the Truth, that you become a pietist. Love your neighbor; condemn false doctrine. Confess Jesus; say nothing about your brother, but explain everything in the kindest way.

    Jesus didn’t say “CLINO”, neither can we.

  5. Jesus didn’t say “CLINO”, neither can we.

    Jesus didn’t say “Trinity,” either.

    Seriously, I understand your point…but you did the same thing that you accuse David of. How? ‘CLINO’ is not necessarily a statement of whether the one so designated is sincere, but of whether one’s doctrine lines up with one’s claim.

    This is similar to the error that springs from Tappert’s translation (pardon my working from memory here) of recteglaubiger with ‘true believer’ instead of ‘right believer’–i.e., putting an emphasis on the fides qua creditur, when the emphasis was intended to be on the fides quae. When one accuses, say, Jerry Kieschnick or (more) Sam Nafzger of being a ‘CLINO’ (or something similar), this is not speaking of their faith or sincerity, but that what they claim to be is not, in fact, what they are.

    OTOH, please do keep ‘looking for pietism at every turn’, because it is always there creeping up in us and will, indeed, overtake us of we do not constantly die to it with all other sins and evil desires.

    EJG (waiting for the buses to bring the pastors to the Tamarind Tree)

  6. The Lutheran Church in Lanka is amused by the lack of an answer to her query.

    These men humble me daily.

    They have not had the educational advantages that I have had, and they are struggling to be faithful in all things even as they learn more comprehensively what all that entails, but they so badly ‘trump’ me in what they do and suffer and are willing to do and suffer that it forces me always to remember that it is only by the grace of God in Christ that I am what I am…that it is His using me and not my doing at all that makes me of any worth to His Kingdom. What I mean is, these pastors basically give up their homes to the Church, building on to house more worshipers. Thus, Lamb of God in Udugampola has an addition to the pastor’s home–namely, the CHURCH–under construction, so that it can hold everybody who comes to worship (including the 70+ children in this ‘100% Buddhist’ neighborhood in Gampaha), and Holy Trinity in Batticaloa finds its pastor now sharing his family’s home with 15 orphaned boys until such time as a home can be built for them (they already have a girls’ home for tsunami and war orphans; Batticaloa is in Tamil territory and many have lost parents in the LTTE’s rebellion against the government). Would I be willing to give up my living space in such a way?

    If you would, please remember the computer teacher (husband of the English teacher) at Lamb of God (I’m sorry, but I can’t recall his name exactly), whose foot was badly injured during construction on Tuesday, and who was to have some surgery done on that foot today.

    EJG (glad he’s on doxcycline, because the mosquitoes have just started going nuts!)

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