Reflections on The Alley or On which Hill should we die? by Klemet Preus

It has been suggested that those in the MNS district were pretty dumb to oppose the membership in the synod of a congregation born of an Ablaze covenant church and promoted by both district and synodical establishments. Maybe we should have let it go knowing that the other side would bring out its big guns and blow us to smithereens. A better strategy, perhaps, would have been to protest things more charmingly, be willing to lose, work more closely with president Seitz, the DP, possibly wait a few years and get someone more like-minded into the office of president. Work with that guy and move the church more gradually.

I actually believe this strategy probably is more effective and maybe even more churchly. I truly do wish that the DPs were regarding as bishops so that they would lead with word and theology rather than convention orchestration. And I believe that it is unwise to oppose the DP who is typically cherished in any given district. Ours certainly is.

But having said that let me respond and please forgive any defensiveness. Our Board of Directors was asked to welcome into membership a congregation which:

  1. Practiced open communion.
  2. Refused to use the name Lutheran despite a 1995 synodical resolution which requires it.
  3. Refused to use any books which would identify the congregation as Lutheran such as any hymnal or catechism.
  4. Confessed the faith with a statement that contained no positive references to Baptism or Holy Communion. Look here.

We postponed the decision in order to give the DP a chance to address the concerns about closed communion.

The district president, who, to his credit, holds to the practice of closed communion, had conversations with the pastor of the Alley and convinced him to exercise greater caution in administering the Lord’s Supper. He responded favorably to the issue of closed communion with a caveat.

In his report back to the Board the DP said that the Alley was holding its service of the Sacrament separate from the service of the word with the announcement that people should talk to the pastor before they commune for the first time. This satisfied the board and I personally thought that the solution on the part of the Alley was very smart. That will be the topic of a future blog. Unfortunately the DP also reported to the Board that the sacrament was being celebrated four times a year. This alarmed us even more given not only the Bible and the confessions but another 1995 synodical resolution which says, “Our Synod’s 1983 CTCR [Commission on Theology and Church Relations] document on the Lord’s Supper (p. 28) and our Synod’s 1986 translation of Luther’s Catechism both remind us that the Scriptures place the Lord’s Supper at the center of worship (Acts 2:42; 20:7; I Cor. 11:20, 33), and not as an appendage or an occasional extra.”

Various members of the board were frustrated that the question of open communion was resolved by dramatically decreasing the frequency of the sacrament. That also will be the topic of another blog. Later we discovered that the sacrament was celebrated 12 times a year with four of these celebrations being separate meals. You can judge if communion monthly is in the spirit of the 1995 resolution.

There remained the thorny issue of the name Lutheran.

But that can wait until my next blog.

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

Reflections on The Alley or On which Hill should we die? by Klemet Preus — 17 Comments

  1. A better strategy, perhaps, would have been to protest things more charmingly, be willing to lose, work more closely with president Seitz, the DP, possibly wait a few years and get someone more like-minded into the office of president.”

    Destroying the organizational structure of the Missouri Synod and subverting it into an episcopist polity is not the solution; it is a complete capitulation to the heterodox opposition.

    It also would require the shredding of Walther’s Kirche und Amt as our Synod’s definitive statement under Holy Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions of the Synod’s understanding of church and ministry, and adopting a more Loeheist (and heterodox) view.

    The idea – if we play nice and help support heterodoxy, heterodoxy will in return then help our Synod become orthodox – is ludicrous.

    Confessional pacifism is not and never has been an option.

  2. Walther:

    Moreover, preachers of the right character remember that the Church is not a kingdom that can be built up in peace; for it is located within the domain of the devil, who is the prince of this world. Accordingly, the Church has no choice but to be at war. It is ecclesia militans, the Church Militant, and will remain such until the blessed end. Wherever a Church is seen to be, not ecclesia militans, but ecclesia quienscens, a Church at ease, that – you may rely on it! – is a false Church.

    Moreover, an honest preacher knows that he is also a pastor, i.e., a shepherd. Of what use, however, is a shepherd who leads the sheep to good pasture-grounds, but flees when he sees the wolf coming? The occasion that is to test his caliber is when he must go to meet the wolf that wants to devour the sheep. That means to fight for the kingdom of God.

    Lastly, an honest preacher knows that he is to be a regular sower of seed. Of what use is it for him to sow good seed and then to look on while another sows the tares of false doctrine among his wheat? Soon the tares will outstrip the wheat and choke it.

    The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel, p. 266-267

  3. “I actually believe this strategy probably is more effective and maybe even more churchly. I truly do wish that the DPs were regarding as bishops so that they would lead with word and theology rather than convention orchestration”

    -I think that you’ve hit the nail on the head of a very basic psychological issue in the Synod. As much as I love our Missouri-Synod, from the outset, it has had a decidedly worldly look with Presidents and District Presidents, Vice Presidents, etc., instead of Bishops and Archbishops. Often we have seen our Presidents and DP’s indeed conduct themselves as if they were CEO’s of a worldly organization, and CEO’s more interested in flashy and trendy marketing than a quality product in the very words 1980s “Greed is good” sense. This is distressing, because arguably, our product IS inherently the best, the real deal, the very Truth of God. This is not to say that Bishops always act more Bishoply. See the abuses of power in the Roman church and the indiscretion of the Lutheran Confessions and the Word of God in the ELCA for examples of that. We, however, are the Confessional Synod, and Bishops acting as Bishops with the true Word are what God intends for his church. Perhaps if we had simple wording differences, our Presidents and DP’s would act more like Bishops and Archbishops in the best Lutheran tradition, simply by implication.

  4. We can certainly debate the merits of various forms of polity, but to describe episcopal polity as “heterodox” is itself as heterodox as infrequent communion or hootenanny worship services.

    The LCMS is in full altar and pulpit fellowship with several Lutheran bodies around the world that have episcopal polity, the threefold ministry of bishop/priest/deacon, and even apostolic succession (e.g. Kenya, Sudan, Russia, Latvia, Lithuania). We are in full communion with these bodies based on the fact that there is no doctrinal differences with these bodies.

    Polity is an adiaphoron. Whether we have a congregational system (with its loose oversight that has given us abominations like the alley) or an episcopal system (which is the expressed preference of the Lutheran confessions) makes no difference at all in and of itself.

    But what would make a difference is for our DPs to see themselves as churchmen rather than businessmen. In that sense, the miter and cope is far preferable to the ball cap and Ablaze!(tm) polo.

  5. Rev. Beane is right. The type of polity is not nearly as important as where the polity gets its authority. If its authority comes from anyone but Christ alone it is of Satan and we should flee from it like from a burning building lest we become consumed in it.

    Right now a lot its members are trying to figure out if this synod still finds its authority in Christ. If the answer isn’t yet clear it surely will be in the days to come.

  6. “Whether we have a congregational system (with its loose oversight that has given us abominations like the alley) or an episcopal system (which is the expressed preference of the Lutheran confessions) makes no difference at all in and of itself.”

    It is not the congregation system that has given us abominations like the alley, but the unfit CEO/CGM wannabe synod officials who permit such abominations. An episcopist system would no doubt produce similar popish, Stephanite, or Loeheist officials who permit other abominations. However they will get to produce such abominations while wearing their mitres and sitting in gestatorial chairs, while the laity’s responsibility is reduced to kissing rings.

    Of even more concern is that changing to an episcopist polity would convert the synod into a church, rather than a synod. Based on C.F.W. Walther’s Kirche und Amt, this would be an abomination. Ignoring and failing to teach (if not outright rejection of) the understanding of church and ministry as explained in Walther’s book is a contributing factor to the disgraceful actions we see from the Violet Vatican.

    In fact one might reasonably wonder whether it is the deliberate neglect of teaching Walther’s understanding of church and ministry within the synod, whether on the left or right, that has led to the poor performance of district and synodical delegates in voting for a number of ridiculous resolutions. Should we trust those who have failed to teach such understanding, and who make up half the delegates now, to have total and complete charge of the synod?

  7. Carl, who elects those CEO/CGM wannabe synod officials? Isn’t it the congregations? Aren’t we getting the kind of leadership that 50.1% of the congregations of synod want?

    These CEO/CGM types didn’t just materialize out of thin air one day into various synodical offices & start implementing a episcopal system. And if we end up with guys wearing mitres & croziers they won’t just have beamed in from somewhere. They will be there because congregations have voted them into power! You can’t have your cake & eat it too, of laying only the blame on those in power & not on those who put them into power through a system that the LC-MS has always followed.

  8. They will be there because congregations have voted them into power!

    George, you forget that 50 percent of the delegate votes come from the clergy… as do 100 percent of the CEO/CGM wannabe synod officials.

    Both pastoral and lay delegates need to do a better job in carrying out their responsibilities. It isn’t just many of the lay delegates who are off in liberal la-la land electing officials and approving bad resolutions.

  9. Carl, I didn’t say that only lay delegates were voting for bad resolutions & la la officials. I said congregations. Last I knew that meant laity & pastor together. Plus, even though 100% of the CEO/CGM synod officials are clergy, they wouldn’t be there unless they were the preferred choice of the majority of delegates, both laity & clergy.

    Plus, I agree that both pastoral & lay delegates need to do a better job of carrying out their responsibilities. But here’s the rub, what if some don’t & they have a majority? All you can do is try to educate people & confess the faith & do what you can do while realizing that voting, whether it’s split between clergy & laity or all laity is only going to get you so far.

  10. “I agree that both pastoral & lay delegates need to do a better job of carrying out their responsibilities. But here’s the rub, what if some don’t & they have a majority?”

    If I thought it was all the lay delegates along with only a handful of renegade clergy delegates who were doing the bad voting then I might consider changes in the convention representation.

    But Missouri Synod history (see Zion on the Mississippi and Uncertain Saints), not to mention Walther’s Thesis X, on the ministry, indicate the representation (and synod polity) should remain.

    And there should be a lot stronger objections raised by both clergy and laity on the tomfoolery in the alley and elsewhere in the synod. Of course, the last time (’91) I tried to get an SP suspended for heterodoxy, the CCM pulled an opinion out of its collective keister to stop his ecclesiastical supervisor from acting.

  11. Destroying the organizational structure of the Missouri Synod and subverting it into an episcopist polity is not the solution …

    It’s sad that I can tell who wrote the post before I ever reach the person’s name.

  12. Brothers and Sisters: Most of the garbage going on in our synod is the product of the Baby Boomer generation, those who went through the educational system in the 60s and 70s when so many other theological problems plagued the LCMS. Though a Boomer myself, I came to the LCMS later in life and didn’t go through seminary until after the turn of this century. As such, I’m confident that the vast majority (but certainly not all) of the men turned out from both St. Louis and Fort Wayne in recent years are far more scriptural, confessional, liturgical, and sacramental in their thinking than those who are currently in the zenith of their careers in the synodical and district leadership today–which coincides with our current theological nadir.

    We certainly must not surrender in the short term, dear friends, but neither should we attempt to squander our limited combat power in battles we cannot win. Rather, we should fight what is militarily known as a “delaying action” to deny the rapid advancement of currently-superior opposing forces until such time as reinforcements of fresh troops can arrive in the battle area. Catechize locally, inform broadly and factually (with less emotion and rancor), mentor and encourage strong young men and women who understand the current issues and will faithfully move the synod back in the proper direction in the years to come.

    One of our biggest weaknesses is our own impatience and a driving desire to win the battle in our own lifetimes/careers. That’s Satan appealing to our egos, to have to satisfy our desire to having “done something” to “save the synod” so we can point to having been “on the winning side”. We already ARE on the winning side, being on the side of the Word. The saints of old often didn’t see the fruit of their faith and their labors in their own lifetimes, either. Quit fretting and wringing your sweaty hands and bemoaning the possible impending death of the synod–Christ’s Church will prevail.

  13. “Brothers and Sisters: Most of the garbage going on in our synod is the product of the Baby Boomer generation, those who went through the educational system in the 60s and 70s when so many other theological problems plagued the LCMS.”

    It started earlier than the 60s and 70s and goes at least as far back as “A Statement of 44” or the ecumenical efforts with the ALC starting in the late 1930s (see Moving Frontiers, Carl S. Meyer, ed., CPH, 1964, 524 p).

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