A New Column: Checking In from the ELS, by Norman Teigen

(Editor’s Note: Norman Teigen’s posts will be archived on the Regular Columns page under the heading “Checking in from the ELS.” The ELS   –  The Evangelical Lutheran Synod – is a small confessional synod headquartered in Mankato, Minnesota. We here at BJS hope that at least in some small way Norman’s columns will bring confessional Lutherans together. He is not officially representing the ELS so his posts should not be taken as such. For more on the history of the ELS click here.)  


On Realignment, by Norman Teigen


Realignment is “a new arrangement or organization.”   Within the past day or so I have come across the term in two different contexts. The first context was a story on BBC television news about the need to realign the United Nations. The United Nations charter has been unchanged for 60 years.   The countries in power at the end of World

War II, France, England, China, Russia, and the United States wrote the charter to reflect the realities of the time. Now there is a call for the United Nations to reflect the presence of other countries, like Germany, Japan, Middle Eastern countries, in the formal organization. A compelling story can certainly be made for such a realignment.


The second rearragement   called for was a realignment of churches, specifically Lutheran churches.   The idea is that “synods” are obsolete, that the reason for their existence has long passed. I am a member of a synod, the Evangelical Lutheran Synod. I have been a member of only one other synod in my life, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.


My ties to the LC-MS include a 15-year membership in an Iowa District West congregation.   While I was in the military I knew and worshipped with Missouri chaplains.


My father was a 1930 graduate of Concordia-St. Paul and a 1935 graduate of Concordia-St. Louis.   He was recognized honoris causa by Concordia-Fort Wayne.   He received great encouragement   from Missouri when he wrote his book on Chemnitz.   Sadly, the ELS would not recognize his   contribution to theological knowledge and even tried to

stop the publication of the work.


Missouri offered aid and support to the Evangelical Lutheran Synod in the little synod’s early days.     Sadly, the ELS terminated relations with Missouri in 1955.   I remember the time.   I was washing dishes in the Bethany cafeteria (Bethany College and Seminary, Mankato, Minnesota) at the time as a teen-ager and knew that a mistake had been made.


Back to the realignment idea.   One Lutheran blogger said that the synods should just dismantle themselves.   He, for one, would choose to join the Roman Catholic tradition.   Others, he said, might join one of the various evangelical circles.   Others would regroup in the shattered trenches of Missouri, Wisconsin et al and try to preserve something that had been long lost. (There was no mention of the ELS in this post.   We are too small to be noticed.)


So, that is where I am.   A mostly life-long member of the ELS with a feeling of gratitude for Missouri.   A family member once said to me: “Thank God for the Missouri Synod.”


In the weeks ahead I will write more about this.


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.


A New Column: Checking In from the ELS, by Norman Teigen — 14 Comments

  1. From what I can determine, we could replace LCMS with a website listing congregations in fellowship. Maybe add a ranking or tagging system so congregations with poor practices can get flagged (e.g., * denotes frequent violations of AC XXIV; 1 Cor. 14:29). That would be more oversight than presently exists.

  2. “One Lutheran blogger said that the synods should just dismantle themselves. He, for one, would choose to join the Roman Catholic tradition.”

    A LINO perhaps, but hardly a Lutheran, in the confessional sense.

  3. While the ELS isn’t perfect, there is much good there. Sadly, for LCMS pastors, unless one brings a parish with him, there isn’t much opportunity for confessional LCMS pastors looking at the ELS. Many parishes, also, would have trouble addressing the issue of women’s suffrage in the ELS, WELS fellowship. But perhaps there, the larger question is suffrage, as someone once put it to me.

  4. Norman Teigen,
    I have greatly enjoyed your father’s book on Chemnitz and the Lord’s Supper. I had to get a copy through ILL back before it was available on Logia’s website, but it was worth the effort. I think it’s a must-read for pastors and laymen and women alike.
    Bethany Tanis

  5. Hi Norman. I like your post. I’m curious as your comment the breaking of fellowship. Why was this a mistake? Wasn’t Missouri tolerating false doctrine? I wasn’t alive at that time so I dont know all the details but I’d love to know more.

  6. A synod that removed Rolf D Preus (and others) for no scriptural reason has got its own share of problems.
    “My way or the highway” seems to be a popular idea among synodical leaders, all stripes.

  7. Maybe synods aren’t a bad idea. Maybe what’s bad is when synods fail/refuse to follow their own ‘rules’ and allow congregations, pastors, their schools and seminaries to do whatever they wish. Then, when the folks who follow the ‘rules’ complain, they are the ones who are branded as the problem. This is ‘cool’ because no waves are raised, and no boats are rocked and everyone ‘gets along’. No synod seems to be immune from this.

    Is it ok for a synod to remove pastors and congregations when the Word is properly taught and the Sacraments rightly administrated while permitting congregations to appear to be practicing evangelicalism?

  8. Rev. Frahm,

    I have a quick question regarding women’s suffrage in regards to the WELS. When you are told by someone that the issue is women’s suffrage in the ELS and for that matter the ELS, are you condoning women’s suffrage?

  9. I would agrre with Helen entirely especially since Pastor Preuss has the Scriptural position and those who disfellowshipped the ACLC churches do not . It appears that the left foot of fellowship is being practiced by the ELS and WELS. The WELS church I went to now has felt needs preaching and a hip, trendy, lively, contemporary worship. this is the way WELS is trying along with ELS to press an agenda like Ablaze.

    WELS also has some theological views that could be considered leaning feminist. I guess this is so they will have the growth they have been looking for. Allow me to say this though further growth is not going to be realised even if they decide to let women vote or distribute the Sacrament.

  10. For IDAY:

    The Reverends Rolf, Daniel, Klemet and Peter’s last name is: Preus, NOT Preuss.

  11. Illustribus:

    I’m addressing posting #11 by lDAY — March 16, 2009.

    The writer said: “WELS also has some theological views that could be considered leaning feminist.”

    Please give us the specifics about those feminist-leaning theological views which you say the WELS has. If what you say is accurate, then we in WELS have a big problem to clean up. If what you say is not correct, then your statement is either made in ignorance, is a simple mistake on your part, or is a violation of the 8th Commandment. Putting the best construct on your statement, I’ll begin by assuming that you simply made a mistake. Nevertheless, in this public forum such a mistake must be identified as such and corrected.

    There is NO feminist-leaning theological view in WELS which anyone believes will result in growth in our churches. Nor are we in WELS about to make any decision to allow women to vote in our voters’ assemblies, nor in our church councils, nor at our district or synod conventions, nor on any of our school boards, nor on or in any authoritative body which would involve women exercising authority over men.

    On the contrary: We in the WELS see the Missouri Synod, ever since 1969’s Denver convention, demonstrating the increasing influence of feminism by first allowing women to vote in the parishes, then allowing them to be elected to serve on church councils and school boards, then allowing them to serve as voting delegates to conventions, then allowing them to be elders and presidents in their own congregations, etc. This path leads only one direction, since women with suffrage will never vote to disenfranchise themselves. The LC-MS will never be able to walk out that door now that they’ve walked through it. And this will be a permanently divisive obstacle between WELS and LC-MS.

    Whose fault is that? This is what happens when you give up on a correct, faithful and consistent exegesis and application of the Bible passages – which, incidentally, are the EXACT SAME passages involved in the matter of women’s ordination.

    We in WELS have watched with sorrow the LC-MS go down that road, the same road pioneered among American Lutherans by the LCA and ALC. We have read the stories of LC-MS girls who wanted to be pastors but whose synod would not allow them, so they went off and got ordained in ALC & ELCA congregations. Some have even been allowed, once ordained, to preach in their home LC-MS congregations. (Herman Otten has documented several of these situations over the years.)

    Women do vote in the WELS – in every parish! If you don’t believe that, attend any Ladies Aid meeting. Our ladies love to vote. But when it comes to exercising authority over the man in the church, God’s Word is quite clear. Sure, we in WELS do have a few laypeople who think women should be allowed to vote on the council, school board and voters assembly. We may even have a very few who would not oppose women’s ordination. But I assure you that there is no theological or any other kind of movement within the WELS towards those ends. Such individual opinions, when discovered, need to be addressed on the parish level on an individual basis by evangelical Lutheran pastoring.

    And we do practice doctrinal discipline in WELS (as opposed to Missouri, where it seems that only the conservatives get disciplined – and usually for urging church discipline against the liberals).

    Finally, let me assure you that there is no movement or sympathy in WELS for allowing women to distribute the Sacrament. That is such a red herring! This subject has been discussed in WELS merely as a hypothetical case of casuistry. Since the issue involved is male headship/authority, there should be no problem IN AN ALL FEMALE CONGREGATION for a woman to serve as pastor, preaching and administering the Sacraments. But show me that congregation! It’s not real. Its hypothetical. I don;t think it’s generally wise to set forth this thesis because it can be so inflammatory and is easily misunderstood as if we were going to start ordaining women to administer Holy Communion. With our exegesis of Scripture, that is not going to happen. We do see that as a distinct possibility, however, in the LC-MS since Missouri long ago gave up the correct use of the Bible passages on male-female role relationships.

    We in WELS really worry about Missouri. At this point, little surprises us anymore when we see the increasing inroads of feminism in the LC-MS. Whenever feminism rears its ugly head in WELS, it is dealt with and put down – usually rather quickly.

    I encourage anyone interested in this subject to read the Rev. Dr. Nathan Pope’s book _Feminism: Understanding and Balancing its impact on Marriage, Family, and Church_ (Milwaukee: Northwestern Publ. House, 2003). Note especially pp. 177-245.

    In Christ,
    David G. Peters
    Pastor, Trinity Ev. Luth. Ch.
    Union Grove, WI

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