A Glaring Example in North Wisconsin of What Happens When We Turn to Evangelicals for Parish Insight, by Pr. Rossow

The October 2009 edition of the Northern Herald of the North Wisconsin District (NWD) includes an edition of the Parish Paper that encourages the acceptance of women pastors. This is a big problem but before we get too bonkers about this let me put the best construction on this (which is still going to be quite a wobbly house) and then offer a measured critique. You can view this faux pas by clicking here and turning to page 12 of the Northern Herald.

I am convinced that the President of the NWD does not endorse women’s ordination and my guess is that he may have a fairly conservative view of the role of women in the church. Reports that I have heard from the north woods are that he is a fairly middle of the road sort of guy theologically. My guess is that the district has subscribed to the Parish Paper and puts it into the monthly district newsletter without much thought or maybe even without even reviewing it. That is tragic for two reasons: 1) articles in the Parish Paper typically approach the church from a purely sociological position which at best does not support a law/gospel, sacramental and Christ-centered approach and at worst actually contradicts such a view and 2) sometimes the Parish Paper endorses false doctrine as is the case with this issue on women’s ordination.

The issue that I want to raise here is more global. If no one in the North Wisconsin District office is endorsing women’s ordination then that is not the issue, although any fair-minded person would admit that by default they are in some small way endorsing it by printing this issue of the Parish Paper without any warning against its heretical content. But again, that is not the issue I want to raise here. The issue I want to raise here is that this is a glaring example of what happens when the orthodox church turns to the church growth movement for advice.

I doubt that the mis-publication of this article will spark a movement towards women’s ordination  up there in the conservative north woods of Wisconsin. (I would bet though that more than a few doctrinally challenged laymen turned to their spouses and said “Honey, did you see this? Maybe  a woman pastor isn’t the worst thing in the world after all.”) But what worries me more is the countless bits of advice that the Parish Paper has purveyed over the years to LCMS laymen and pastors that are not as drastically heretical as women’s ordination but slowly, and almost imperceptibly have been eroding the scriptural theology of divine monergism in our churches and replacing it with the man-centered theology of the church growth movement. The Parish Paper has been distributed in my district (Northern Illinois) for years. It is amazing that our district presidents peddle this stuff and I hope that this issue on women’s ordination wakes us up to the way in which our leaders have allowed false doctrine and practice into our synod via the front door.

One of the original church growth gurus is Lyle Schaller who is also the founder of the Parish Paper. I actually know Mr. Schaller personally. He lives here in Naperville. I have met with him a couple of times. He is a very kind,  unassuming  gentleman. He is a layman who has looked at the church  with the eye of a businessman and sociologist and is actually one of the more tame church growth analysts. He is a Methodist and so theology is not high on his hierarchy of needs and that shows up in his writing and that is precisely the reason that Lutherans ought not to be promoting his material. The church is theological at its heart and core. God’s word is the only power that we have to grow the church. When we start to think that sociology or psychology can help us grow the kingdom of God we have sacrificed the power of God to the power of man.

There may be an innocent thing or two that we can learn  from guys like Lyle Schaller but if there is one thing I have learned in twenty joyful years under the yoke of Christ, it is this. One hour of extra scripture study on sermon or Bible study preparation in any given week is more profitable for the cause of Christ than 25 hours of reading church growth theory. I stopped reading guys like Schaller about 15 years ago or so and ever since, I have become far more confident preaching the straight-forward Word of God as law and gospel. I find myself being more apostolic than “missional.”  Where I used to waffle on the  Biblical doctrines so challenged by modern culture (role of women in the church, closed communion, worship, inter-Christian relations) like President Kieschnick does, I now find myself  humbly and confidently relying on the truth of God’s word and speaking openly, clearly and without compromise on these matters.

Why are out districts promoting things like the Parish Paper? Instead of reading Lyle Schaller,  Rick Warren and Bill Hybels, we ought to be reading John Kleinig, Kurt Marquart,  Klemet  Preus, Martin Chemnitz and Luther. I pray  this glaring example of  accidental promotion of false doctrine in our synod may move us away  from the omnipresent pop culture church and towards the apostolic and churchly approach of our grandfathers.

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 Glaring Example in North Wisconsin of What Happens When We Turn to Evangelicals for Parish Insight, by Pr. Rossow — 15 Comments

  1. This is unbelievable! A two page article, not just some little blurb. And, as it looks to me, the only thing The Parish Paper has in the district’s newsletter. Has anyone contacted the NW district about this?

  2. “Coeditors: Herb Miller, Lyle Schaller, Cynthia Woolever – http://www.TheParishPaper.com

    Doesn’t anyone in the North Wisconsin District (NWD) ever check out the names of the coeditors of a monthly electronic newsletter before they pay for a subscription using congregational contributions to the district?!?

    Whoever made the decision on The Parish Paper subscription insert, and under “The buck stops here!” concept that would include NWD President Joel A. Hoelter and Northwest Herald Editor Robin Madson, should immediately:

    1. Cease putting the insert in the Northwest Herald,
    2. Cancel the The Parish Paper subscription,
    3. Apologize profusely to Northwest District members, and to their ecclesiastical supervisors, for this utter lapse of judgment, and
    4. Warn other potentially gullible officials in LCMS Districts and seminaries about subscribing to The Parish Paper and the like that promote such ecumenicrap© as Dr. Woolever’s article.

  3. While on the subject of church inserts, how widespread in the Missouri Synod churches is the use of paid subscriptions to pan-denominational services and magazines providing sermon aids (e.g., preprepared sermon themes, text filler, powerpoint slides, and sermon-related video clips, etc.)? For any laypeople, does the cost for this show up in Church Council budget discussions?

  4. Carl Vehse,

    Just to clarify things a bit: it is the North Wisconsin District (not the Northwest District) — I probably caused that confusion by writing NW District; it was the Northern Herald (newsletter of the North Wisconsin District) and not the Northwest Herald (again, this probably was because I used “NW District” rather than spelling out “North Wisconsin”). Sorry to cause confusion!

  5. We must be reminded that the LCMS sends out each month in their “newsletter” “Focus on the Worker” articles that have, to my knowledge come from any place in the LCMS. They are of the physicological nature and tend to be Pan-Lutheran. Because I subscribe to the electronic editions of such things as “The Reporter” I am also automatically going to receive this focus on the worker. It is my understanding that those that can, are attempting to make it separate so one can un-subscribe from this non LCMS speech. To its credit, it is stated with each edition that the sources are not LCMS. However, if anyone is following this writing you would see that challenges are ablaze in it!! To date I have found nothing of value for a good Lutheran!

  6. Oops! Yes, I should have written “Northern Herald”, not “Northwest Herald”, and “Northern Wisconsin District,” not “Northwest District”.

  7. So what’s the big deal? This has been going on for a long time in other districts. If you read something on Transforming Churches would you get just as upset? Or Natural Church Development? Church Growth–TCN–NCD–Women Pastors–Homosexual pastors living in committed relationships–that’s the way to grow the church. And, as we know from the 2007 Convention, “A revitalized church is one that is continually making new disciples that make new discipltes.” We’ve got to grow, GROW, GROW!!! Theology, doctrine, dogma, creeds, liturgy–they just get in the way of real growth!! C’mon, get with it–this is the 21st Century, already.

  8. Just when I think I couldn’t be surprised or offended more, BLAM! another GI blues post comes. AND THIS IS MY STATE AND THE DISTRICT OF MY MOTHER! Why is it, that the “roles of women in the church” are defined & redefined OUTSIDE SCRIPTURE??? Look what tolerating “feminism” in the church has done, to both It & us girls. The saddest thing about all this, training us for “leadership roles” in the church, women like me, who have A FOUNDATIONAL LUTHERAN BIBLICAL VIEW of our roles (both inside & outside the church) are looked on as PARIAHS. A woman, thinking & embracing (HONORING) on her role as defined by God Himself, is looked down in IN HER OWN CHURCH. When did NO stop being good enough? Here’s a thought, start training PARENTS of little boys, who show a gift in discernment, shepherding, & Scripture & Luther, and TRAIN US WOMEN how to TRAIN OUR SONS FOR THE DIVINE SERVICE. Don’t “train” me to be an “elderette or pastorette” teach me to be like Rachel, Ruth, Hannah, Sarah! Peter taught it, why can’t they?

  9. “But,” the argument goes (or at least the one I have heard), “Lutherans are not writing anything new. We need to read what others are writing and then ‘filter’ it through our Lutheran theology.”

    But what happens when the filter does not work or is not applied? What of those who do not have the theological training (b/c they did not receive church worker training or they rejected their confessional training or they were simply not properly catechized) to recognize error as they should? Then, by default (if even by accident), we become guilty of teaching false doctrine. For that matter, if we allow even “filtered” false teaching into our official publications, we end up commingling error with truth.

    Truth: this lie is truly a lie, namely, that “you can find some truth in everything.” Tell that to the student who does not know how to take a True or False test (if anything is untrue in the statement, then the statement is false). Tell that to the person whose child has just ingested “slightly contaminated” (with lead) paint on their child’s or grandchild’s made-in-China toy. Tell that to the chemotherapy patient whose “mix” got weakened or mis-mixed by the pharmacologist. The exact same thing is true of water, pain reliever, food, pet food, and even the gasoline and oil which you put in your car. This is not rocket science. Plain and simple logic reveals the answers we need.

    How many souls will be harmed as we continue to believe society’s lie that “there’s a little bit of truth in everything?!” This is a lie from the devil, and I pray to God that all our leaders will publicly declare it to be the lie that it is.

  10. Pastor Wollenburg,
    Thank you so much for saying what you did in post #10. It is almost word for word what my better half said, the night we decided to leave LCMS for WELS. It makes me drop a tear or two, to think we had to leave, to protect our sons from false teaching, WHICH THEY WERE MOST CERTAINLY BEING TAUGHT!
    The ship was righted, the knots untangled, and they are being taught STRONG SCRIPTURE & DOCTRINE (always were here at home). But, it still stings when we think we had to leave to keep them on the narrow way. This is all just so very sad, to so very many. May the Lord forgive those who teach this drivel to the little ones, and those of us who train them up, i.e. we Mum’s.

  11. I contacted President Hoelter via email. Rather than try and parse his response I’m quoting it:

    “The article in question in the October NORTHERN HERALD did indeed slip past me. I can lay the blame at the feet of our editor, but as President I bear the responsibility for what is printed and disseminated in the District. Neither the North Wisconsin District nor I approve of or condone the ordination of women to the pastoral Office. Our Synod has spoken clearly and forcefully on the issue and the North Wisconsin District supports the Synod’s position. Please accept my apology. I will be speaking with the pastors of the District at our Fall Conference that begins tomorrow.”

  12. Interesting that something like the parish paper can just be slipped in by the editor. It was an entire two page spread. Second, his defense is ridiculous. “Synod says, and I agree with synod.” It’s the same like we get from the SP. As long as synod (in convention) is against it, so am I. We need District Presidents who are pastors and theologians, not whipped politicians and leadership gurus. This buck passing is getting tiring.

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