Should there be Politics in the Church? Wrap-up of our Mass E-mail, by Pr. Rossow

Should there be politics in the church? This issue came up in a few responses to our mass e-mail. Before getting to that issue, here is a review of the e-mail.

If you  haven’t seen the  e-mail you can view it here.  We sent out about 6,000 e-mails. We sent it to every rostered worker in the LCMS (pastors, teachers, DCE’s etc.) and to each church and school e-mail address. We only had 200 people request that they be taken off our mailing list. We also received a few comments from some of the more noteworthy liberals and church-growthers in the synod. I guess we touched a nerve with them. We got a few responses with the old worn out argument that we were being disruptive and political.

So, should there be politics in the synod? That is the wrong question. There is politics in the church, especially in a synod like ours that has chosen to have elections and votes and include the laity in those votes. Where there are two or more people living and working together you have politics. Politics is merely a description of how those people function as a group. If you are still not convinced consider this potential scenario in the LCMS.

Imagine there are two leading candidates for the presidency of the LCMS. Imagine that candidate A holds false teachings or embraces practices that are harmful for the church and that candidate B  is orthodox in his doctrine and encourages practices that promote the Gospel. Now imagine that you are the only one who knows about the false teachings and practices held by candidate A. Should you alert the other members of synod about this before they vote or should you decide to not act in a “political” way and just keep silent and let the false teacher be elected. That is a no brainer.

Even if the choices are not that extreme, it still behooves us, because we have elections, to know what the candidates stand for. Even if we did not have elections, we still need to know what our leaders believe and teach and if they are found lacking, we need to work through the system (politics) to address the situation.

With a polity like we have in the LCMS, we need the pastors and the lay people to be informed so that they can practice good politics. We had numerous people send us thank-yous for our e-mail because it helped them to be more informed. We encourage you to keep checking this website each day for the new posts that will help you stay informed so that we can have a more godly synod.

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.

Comments

Should there be Politics in the Church? Wrap-up of our Mass E-mail, by Pr. Rossow — 24 Comments

  1. Isn’t “We shouldn’t participate in politics in the church” a political statement? Doesn’t the statement describe a means of dealing with one another and advocate one side over the other?

  2. Pr. Rossow,

    Thank you for all the hard work you and many others do to keep us informed.

    God bless you as you enter the holiest week of the Church Year!

  3. Gentlemen:

    For some time now you have poured out your strong feelings of negativism against our synod; whether warranted or not. It seems you have had no reaction from the synod. Is one able to wonder: are your allegations based, or merely personal feelings?

    In any case, the Bible teaches that if a man does wrong, you rebuke him along with another. If the man does not change his ways, you basically move on without him. If none of you can move on, then why don’t you leave the synod and practice your personal interpretations somewhere else? Why, you may even be able to start Seminex #2! Then you could run all things as you see fit.

    Otherwise, why not try and do what the synod stands for–go and preach the Gospel. Stop trying to bully those of us who stand with our beloved synod!

  4. DK,

    That is a good point. It’s like the people who criticize others for being critical. What gives them the right to criticize? I guess they think they are above it all and the right to make that determiniation.

    TR

  5. One of the most fascinating aspects of the Lutheran Reformation was the astonishing intricate politics that moved through all its phases. Pope, princes, bishops, emperor, Islam, “heretics,” wars, lots of money and golden roses. It’s the water in which we swim, dirty or clean.

  6. “Moe” –

    Your post is quite curious. I sincerely can’t wrap my mind around it. Would you mind helping me out here?

    1 – You write that the ‘gentlemen’ here (does that exclude Mollie?) pour out ‘strong feelings of negativism against our synod’. How do they do that? I don’t see it.

    2 – How does a reaction or lack of reaction prove the validity of a charge? Certainly writers here have expressed serious concerns about the actions of some leaders within our synod, but how would a lack of public reaction to a charge make one question a charge itself? I don’t understand.

    3 – It appears you are refering to Matthew 18, when you talk about what Scripture teaches. This is good. Encouraging and admonishing and building up one another with God’s Word is what this site is all about. But why would you give synod such a short time to reform? This website has been up less than a year. Synodical change happens slowly. Why would you ask the good folk who write for this website to give up and ‘move on’ when they have only begun to bring these offenses to light?

    4 – More importantly, why why would you leave out the step outlined in Matthew 18:17 – If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”

    The time may come when confessional Lutherans may indeed need to ‘move on’ and let the LCMS be as a Gentile and a tax collector – i.e. anethema to those who follow in the way of Christ. But right now, we’re just at the step of telling it the church.

    What if the Church is listening?

  7. DK,

    You ask, “If the man does not change his ways, you basically move on without him. If none of you can move on, then why don’t you leave the synod and practice your personal interpretations somewhere else?” This is unscriptural. Matthew 18:17 clearly teaches, “And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” Excommunication is not for the purpose of damning sinners, but the strongest measure by which an erring brother can be restored. It is not bullying; it is an act of love.

    You also say, “Is one able to wonder: are your allegations based, or merely personal feelings?” The answer is no; as the Brothers have shown, the allegations find basis in the Scriptures and the Confessions. Please bear in mind the words of C.F.W. Walther, “Those who want to see the Synod to continue under all circumstances, regardless of whether that would harm the kingdom of Christ are not being led by the Spirit of Christ but by the spirit of selfishness.” This means that as we “walk together,” as the word “synod” implies, we must NOT agree to disagree, limping between two opinions. If the scripture and confessions are right, choose them. If human contrivance is right, choose that, and don’t pretend to walk with us. I pray that God would guide the Synod again to doctrinal purity so we can preach the Gospel without a monkey on our back or an elephant in the room.

    Christe eleison.

  8. DK, please pardon my previous comment misdirected toward you. I actually agree with your assessment of the situation. My criticism is actually directed toward “Moe.” (And Phil, please forgive my envy of your eloquence.)

  9. What Moe also forgets or choses to overlook is that it does not devolve upon those who hold to the historic, Biblical, Confessional position of the LCMS to leave. It behooves those who have departed from said Biblical Confessional position to leave instead of undermining the Synod & changing it into something it never intended to be. If someone, say a synodical president, doesn’t like our grandfather’s synod, then perhaps he should leave & go somewhere that more suits him instead of destroying his grandfather’s synod.

    However, it’s also obvious that Moe is a troll & as such deserves to be treated as one. Because no matter how well & cogently & Scripturally you answer him, he’s not interested in any of that. Although I’m sure he’d be crying hard enough the opposite way if a confessional president got elected & said to those who practice false teaching & follow practices that are inimical to the Gospel, why don’t you get out. I’m sure Moe would then go ballistic & start crying about how mean such a person was.

  10. Moe #3,

    You do not address any of the issues raised here. Could you please answer specifically:

    Can we have gay activists serving in our congregations?

    Should our Concorida professors be asked to remove thier names from a peition that supports an avowed terror bomber and proponent of a humanistic philosophy of education?

    Should the synod take interest earned from donations for mercy gifts and use it to prop up other failing budgets?

    Should the board of directors be harrassing innocent synod members with legal action?

    I am intersted in your answers to these questions. That is what this is all about. It is not about standing by our synod no matter what it does.

    TR

  11. Moe said, “If none of you can move on, then why don’t you leave the synod and practice your personal interpretations somewhere else?”

    My response is that I am a layman who is a member of a faithful Lutheran congregation which is a member of the LCMS. This congregation does not intend to leave the LCMS, so why would I leave this congregation and thus the LCMS? The way I understand it the LCMS does not have control over congregations. The LCMS simply exists because certain Lutheran congregations have chosen to join together as a synod with a common confession. These congregations have also decided to pool some of their resources to help train and support pastors, send out missionaries, help the needy, etc..

    The only people who should ever need to leave the LCMS are pastors, congregations or members of congregations who no longer hold to the Lutheran Confessions which systematically teach the one true faith given in Scripture.

  12. Moe– I say this in Christian love; it appears that you see the Synod– its organization, its structure, the “organization”– as the Church. This can be a very dangerous notion– it seems to border on “my synod right or wrong.” Is this correct, or have I misunderstood you?

  13. Even if we did not have elections, we still need to know what our leaders believe and teach and if they are found lacking, we need to work through the system (politics) to address the situation.

    Unfortunately, such is not being done.

    More unfortunately, the system has now become such that it cannot be done.

    That is, the only real attempt at fixing things is through the election process, not through the process of proffering charges and proving that this one or that one is a false teacher. That fact makes BJS and others ‘look political’…but the LCMS in convention has made it all but impossible to fight false doctrine in any other way. To bring charges, one first must elect a district president who has a clue doctrinally, as well as the will to get himself in trouble with the rest of the DPs by signing off on your charges. Until then, you are stuck with ‘playing politics’ to get a change of leadership that actually wants to adhere to Scripture and the Confessions.

    At the same time, one has to wonder at the amount of time and strength spent on ‘reforming the synod’ and the overwhelming desire of some to stay in a church body that has determined its course to be the opposite of what it should be. Scott’s quoting of Walther was apt: “Those who want to see the Synod to continue under all circumstances, regardless of whether that would harm the kingdom of Christ are not being led by the Spirit of Christ but by the spirit of selfishness.” On the basis of what Walther says, I want to agree with the liberals: think of the time that could be spent proclaiming the Gospel and doing works of mercy if you Confessional folks in the LCMS weren’t having to expend your time, money, and energy on fighting the false teachers that rule your synodical bureaucracy and institutions and the liberal or misinformed pastors and laity who will out-organize, out-persuade, and out-vote you in convention after convention,

    Don’t get me wrong: while you are in Missouri, you have no faithful choice but to fight against such things, but the idea that a faithful congregation and pastor should forever remain in the LCMS while it declines to ELCA-level and beyond, always fighting against those with whom one IS in Pulpit and Altar Fellowship is simply ridiculous, contrary to the needs of and mission of Christ’s Church, and completely out of step with Walther understood both about synods and about Communion Fellowship.

    (Always remember, in accord with synodical self-definition, as long as you are in the LCMS you are in Communion Fellowship with every LCMS pastor and congregation. Remember, too, that your ‘good’ district president has co-officiated with Jerry Kieschnick and David Benke at the Lord’s Supper at a synodical convention and will do so again next year if you re-elect him this year. None of them has the wherewithal to say, “No, I cannot be in fellowship with an errorist like you.” None of them.)

    EJG

  14. EJG,

    I forget, and wonder if you would be so kind as to remind me. What body-politic are you currently in fellowship with? And then, also, do you believe that that body holds pure confessional unity according to the BoC of 1580 in all articles?

    Thank you for your time in answering what I know I have seen you state elsewhere.

    RevFisk

  15. I forget, and wonder if you would be so kind as to remind me. What body-politic are you currently in fellowship with? And then, also, do you believe that that body holds pure confessional unity according to the BoC of 1580 in all articles?

    I am in the process of joining the Evangelical Lutheran Diocese of North America, which I imagine will be complete before their diocesan synod, which starts on 14 May 2009.

    Yes, in everything that I have seen the pastors of this body put forth (several of whom I have known since the 90s, some since the 80s), they teach and practice in conformity with Scripture and the Confessions in all points.

    Also, structurally, they avoid the downfalls of the Roman form of episcopacy, the state-church model, and the popularity contest system to which Walther’s experiment has finally devolved. They have shown both the willingness to practice discipline of erring pastors and the evangelical tenor in which such discipline should take place. The only thing they lack, at present, is a demonstration of the resolve to remove an erring bishop/superintendent and remain united…but I’m not going to ask Pr. Heiser to teach some false doctrine just so that we can prove that the system works! 😉 Unlike the LCMS, where pastors got the snot beat out of them for daring to challenge an erring DP and SP, at least the ELDoNA Charter prescribes a procedure for rightly removing one in error.

    I’m happy to comment further, but I think it should be somewhere other than under this thread, as I do not want to derail it from the main points. My post, above, is simply intended to indicate that accusations such as those made against BJS will continue to be made and that they will look right because the proper means for dissent and for discipline have been removed from use by the actions and inaction of the synodical convention and its chair (who specifically refused to consider or to allow the hearing of official dissent in 2007. That, and the fact that while I understand the need to fight while in Missouri, I cannot understand those who refuse to consider the fact that if they don’t ‘win’ politically’, it is wrong (scripturally) to remain in fellowship with those who teach and practice error.

    Thanks,

    EJG

  16. Though, it does not deal with ecclesiastical politics, which is something that I very well may have to rectify.

  17. *gasp* you don’t use Wittenberg Trail? tsk tsk.

    Well, I will try to, I think i have just been invited to post it at lcmspolitics.org, but I can’t register, I keep running into an error.

  18. Hmmmmm, I am now published on BOJS. I feel like Mollie Z. I would be surpirsed if anyone took the time to slog through that work, but if anyone does, please let me know what you think.

  19. *gasp* you don’t use Wittenberg Trail? tsk tsk.

    I don’t believe in subdomains.

    When it becomes Wittenbergtrail.com, I’ll reconsider; as long as it is just another part of ning.com, likely not. (Similarly, I prefer bloggers who spend the dollar per month that allows me not to have to type in extra stuff to get to their blogs. I don’t care for ning.com, and I really don’t care for facebook and myspace, but with the latter, at least, I’m not looking at a subdomain as if it were the domain itself.)

    Yeah, I’m peculiar that way.

    EJG

  20. It is perfectly acceptable to criticize somebody for being critical when the critic’s criticism arises from a failure to put the best construction on something.

    I think that happens a lot in these political fights. It is as if, since they are also Lutherans, we don’t need to give them the same courtesy would would normally give. Yes, sometimes acts need to be criticized, but we need to take care to ensure we do so out of love and that we show love in how we criticize.

    That being said, I think the e-mail was fine.

  21. Yes, folks, we must try hard to avoid the impression that we learned “civil discourse” from ***usFirst. That is the last place to find a good example of it.
    (“Anon”s are usually second last, IMHO.)

    God bless!

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