The LCMS in Her Own Words – Comfort Dog Installed as Staff Member in Northern Illinois Parish, by Pr. Rossow

In addition to my editor’s blog, when I have time, I make an entry in the “The LCMS in Her Own Words” column. The Northern Illinois District recently publicized the following:

Dedication Service at St. John Algonquin for LCC Comfort  Dog Butter  

Butter DedicationSunday, January 10th, LCC Comfort Dog Butter was dedicated as a staff member at St. John Lutheran Church, Algonquin by Pastor William Stroup. Pete Imlah also spoke. St. John will continue to use Butter as a Bridge into the community to share the Compassion and Care of Jesus Christ. Butter has served for the last six months as an LCC K-9 Parish Comfort Dog with St. John, visiting shut-ins, hospitals, school kids, community and youth group events. Butter has been certified to work at Good Shepherd Hospital and is close to certification at Sherman Hospital.

We have poked fun at the comfort dogs before. As we said in the past, we are not opposed to animals bringing comfort to people. What we question is using church resources (time and money) for such things and more importantly, associating  canine comfort with “the compassion and care of Christ.” This is simply further evidence that the institutional church is drifting away from its Augsburg VII life in word and sacrament. Comfort dogs are not the work of the church. They are the work of any other non-profit but are not the work of the church.

By the way, there were no details released on the  installation liturgy. One wonders  if  it may have gone  as follows:

P: Do you accept the canonical books of the Old and New Testament to be the inspired and inerrant word of God?

B: (“Butter”) “Woof.”  

P: Do you accept the Unaltered  Augsburg Confession, The Apology to the Augsburg Confession and the other confessions in the Book of Concord to be the true exposition of the word of God?

B: “Woof.”

And so forth and so on…

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.


The LCMS in Her Own Words – Comfort Dog Installed as Staff Member in Northern Illinois Parish, by Pr. Rossow — 71 Comments

  1. @johannes #49


    As you quoted, the dog is described as “a bridge INTO the community to share the compassion and care of Jesus Christ,” which I understand to mean that the dog is a medium by which PEOPLE are able to show Christ’s love (emphasis added).

    Do you not agree with how I understand it? How is it that so many here interpret all of this in the most negative of ways? These are our brothers and sisters in Christ! The dog was, in an admitted mistake, described as a staff member, though the mistake was promptly corrected. Some interpret the photograph to say that the dog is a staff member, but they seem to be overlooking the fact that the dog is a dog and not a person. Silliness? I guess. Mocking the faith? I truly don’t see it.

    @Carl Vehse #50


    I will be as clear as possible.

    Your words:

    “it seems to be more than a simple ‘misprint,’ as it is commonly defined.”
    “the LCC’s visual and descriptive images that treat the comfort dog like a staff member speak for themselves.”

    1. Do you believe LCC President Hetzner was lying when he described the article’s title as a misprint?

    2. If so, would you please explain your thoughts on why anyone would lie about something like this?

    3. Have you contacted anyone from the LCC staff about this specific issue, rather than doubting the explanation of the misprint on this website from behind a pseudonym?

    4. If you have not contacted the LCC staff about this issue, why not?

    Also, the quote you pulled from my last comment was, ironically, a misprint.

    Here’s what I meant to say: “I apologize that you felt this way.”

    I was (and am) sorry you felt that I was intentionally misrepresenting your words, so I explained what I was doing, and offered an apology for my words, given the reaction they brought out of you. Your accusation was very serious, so I wanted to explain myself and apologize. I hope it makes sense now.

    I think your suggestion for Pastor Rossow’s article’s title is an excellent step forward. I hope he takes it into consideration.

  2. @Rev. Jack Gilbert #51
    The article as corrected sans “staff member” still sends the wrong message. If the people are the bridge, as you understand the article, then why not say so? And, as I said, even with the above correction, it’s hard to see how the faith is not devalued. I don’t see how it elevates the Gospel.
    I think I’ve said enough on this subject, and there’s no sense our going head-to-head on this any longer. We have an honest difference of opinion, and I don’t wish to escalate the discussion. I’m thankful that we have expressed differences in quite low decibels. The best I can say is that the article was, well, unfortunate. I wish it hadn’t been written. And I’m willing to leave it at that.

    Johannes, the mellow

  3. Rev. Jack Gilbert :
    @johannes #49
    Here’s what I meant to say: “I apologize that you felt this way.”
    I was (and am) sorry you felt that I was intentionally misrepresenting your words, so I explained what I was doing, and offered an apology for my words, given the reaction they brought out of you. Your accusation was very serious, so I wanted to explain myself and apologize. I hope it makes sense now.

    Pr. Gilbert, a suggestion from someone who as probably already had to apologize more times than you will in the rest of your life:

    Apologies are about causation, not about result. I am not “sorry that you feel that way,” but “sorry that I made you feel that way,” or, if unintended, “sorry that I made you feel that way; it was not my intent, but rather, I wished to say…I didn’t realize my words would come across that way…etc.”

    For those of us who were in the LCMS when Orval Mueller was president of the Southern District, especially, our understanding of a real apology and an ‘excuse me while I bulldoze your home for the second time’ is ‘somewhat developed’. We do well to understand that you may not have thought through the impact of the words used in an apology, and we do well to understand that you are without the same context, fairly new in the Ministry and in ‘Synodical politics’, and will have trouble understanding someone questioning the sincerity of your apology when you know that you offered it sincerely. Toss in an admission of causation of feelings and your explanation of what you meant moves in the reader’s mind from ‘excuse making’ to ‘demonstrating repentance and an attempt to understand the issues’. Again, I have way too much experience with this for any single lifetime.

    As to the issues of this thread: LCC is a good organization, and while Pr. Rossow’s earlier conversation seems not to have produced much of an effect, that may well be because a single conversation often doesn’t weigh well against the day-to-day operation of the organization. I would, therefore, encourage Pr. Rossow and the other Confessional Lutheran pastors of NID to get to know Mr. Hetzner better and to make yourselves available to him regularly as aids and advisors. I think you’ll already find him kindly pre-disposed toward you, as I’m sure he remembers that in LCC’s efforts during the Katrina aftermath it was the Confessional folks who pitched in the most, both with regard to funding and with regard to time.

    In short, there are ‘enemies’ out there–those who are working against Christ from inside His churches–but we ought not make enemies our of friends who need some ‘fine tuning’. (This is comparable, in some ways, to the attacking of Todd Wilken that went on in another thread, that devolved into a rejection of what the Confessions teach by those so doing.) In this thread, several have suggested better ways to say what comfort dogs do, etc. Go with that; the task is not simply to point out error, but to bring a solution; you have it, so do it.



  4. Rev. Gilbert,

    I do not know that LCC Pres. Hertzner described the phrase, “staff member,” in the LCC website as a “misprint” because the unquoted word, misprint, was Rev. Meissner’s description of whatever Hertzner had said to him over the phone. But regardless of who used the word, “misprint,” I have stated the use of the phrase “staff member” in the BJS title is reasonable because of 1) the photograph, and 2) the LCC’s descriptions of comfort dog uses.

    “I apologize that you felt this way.”

    This revised sentence makes no sense because you do not know my feelings nor can you apologize on my behalf for what I felt. You do attempt to clarify what you mean in your next sentence:

    “I was (and am) sorry you felt that I was intentionally misrepresenting your words, so I explained what I was doing, and offered an apology for my words, given the reaction they brought out of you.

    Your sentence here refers back to what I said in #45, but again you misrepresent and distort what I stated. In #45 you misrepresented what I wrote earlier when you claimed I “take issue with the list of responsibilities given to the comfort dog.” Here, you again state what you claim I felt although I mentioned no such feelings. Furthermore in the above sentence you add the assertion that I felt your misrepresenting was done “intentionally.” I have neither stated nor implied such a motivation.

  5. After reading this and several other recent threads on BJS, I make the following offer:

    Anybody want to join the CCC–Cantankerous Curmudgeon Club? There are no dues, no secret handshake, no password, no uniforms, t-shirts, badges, blazers, or entrance exam.
    Smiley faces are strictly prohibited. Pr. Rossow and Scott Diekmann are charter members, and will receive their membership cards in FW at a special ceremony in Don Hall’s. You’ll be glad to know that the membership cards are made of very perishable material, so that you have something to “mudge” about when they disintegrate.

    As President pro tem, I hereby certify all bloggers to this website as eminently qualified. By special dispension (not dispenser) the first 100 members will receive a CCC water bottle in a choice of liturgical colors–Penitential Black, Repentant Red, Backsliding Blue, and Contemporary Chartreuse (the last is quasi-liturgical, of course). If none of these colors appeal to you, we have a plentiful supply of Confessional Clear. Sorry, no white or green. These bottles are specially designed with a wide bottom (like Johannes) so that they are tip-resistant. It is my understanding that straws can be found in the dispenser in the Lobby (oops, I mean Narthex).

    Johannes the Grump, President

  6. @Carl Vehse #54


    I apololgize for what I have said, which gave the impression of misrepresentation. I have been trying to understand your viewpoint, and did not present my words well enough.

    I strongly encourage you to discuss your disagreements regarding the article and photograph with the LCC staff, rather going up against it here at BJS from behind a psuedonym. Your complaints here solve very little.

    I don’t think the dog looks like a staff member, because it just looks too much like a dog, and I know that dogs aren’t people and therefore can’t be staff members at churches. I do think the article of this title should be revised to reflect the admitted mistake and correction. Thank you for your time, and I hope you understand my views on this issue.

  7. “I have been trying to understand your viewpoint”

    Well, Rev. Gilbert, I have stated it four times:

    #42: Rev. Rossow made a valid point with regard to using “staff member” in the title
    #45: I agreed with Rev. Rossow’s use of “staff member” in the title
    #50: So, Rev. Rossow still makes a valid point in using “staff member” in his BJS title
    #54: I have stated the use of the phrase “staff member” in the BJS title is reasonable

    “I strongly encourage you to discuss your disagreements regarding the article and photograph with the LCC staff”

    What disagreements?!? My comments have stated my agreement with Rev. Rossow’s use of “staff member” in his BJS title.

    “I don’t think the dog looks like a staff member”

    Neither do I, but along with business cards, an appointment schedule for confidential meetings, and as Rev. Rossow described, “a pastor bringing a dog up to the altar and in his paraments installing it, dedicating it as staff, or whatever he did. He placed his hands on the dogs head,” the comfort dog is, in numerous ways, treated like a staff member. Thus, for the sixth time, Rev. Rossow’s use of “staff member” in his BJS title is reasonable.

  8. Johannes,
    You crack me up!!!!! So, is there a sub club for women or do we get the honorable mention membership?
    Dutch the Dastardly Dim

  9. Jim,
    Johannes couldn’t possibly use this image. You do not appear cantankerous, let alone curmudgeonly enough. Why?…your smiling! A black & white pix, with a gentleman, of well, said years, & lost teeth, to enable, said position is required.
    Jim, you are just to content & much to “smiley” for the club logo.

  10. Dutch. You are hurting my feelings here. Just pretend that I am not smiling and that I am pasty looking, etc. In fact, that could be a tooth on my chin in the picture… right? One can only hope to be the poster man for the Cantankerous Curmudgeon Club. What an honor that is.

  11. Sign me up for CCC. Unfortunately, there are churches “out there” which do literally have animals (mostly dogs) on staff. Some even have special worship services for animals. Just the photo gives the impression of such and becomes nothing more than another gimmick. Better to UTILIZE the comfort dog than to brag/promote about it. (I know as I have a service dog who also serves as a “comfort dog” in our congregation)

  12. @Dutch #62
    After I get done Photoshopping Jim, he won’t look all that pretty. You’re gonna love it.

    The women’s branch is called “Hermudgeons”, Dutch. I’m torn between Ma Kettle and Cruella Deville for a picture, though.


  13. Johannes,
    Go with Ma Kettle! She is the ultimate “her-mudgeon” but, hey, she had a wee bit o’ common sense, & a rapier wit (way before Foxworthy or Engvall).
    Cruella Deville, had no boundries, was the ultimate CEO, and didn’t like dogs much.

    Let’s not forget, behind every curmudgeon, is a her-mudgeon.

  14. @Rev. Craig Meissner #20

    Pr. Meissner,
    Thank you for deciphering LCC as “Lutheran Church Charities”.
    I read the lead and then came in at the end as I sometimes do to see if anything has been added. (Quite a bit, in this case) I noted that the thread was off topic but wondered how “Lutheran Church Canada” got into it.
    Thanks for clearing that up!

    I second the nomination of Ma Kettle. People are often called “curmudgeons” simply because they have tried to introduce a wee bit of common sense.

    [Cruella had none; Curella was a mefirst person.]

  15. Helen,
    Well done! Ya even used the term, “wee bit”. Good show!
    Have a bit of care, next thing ya know, you’ll be using the term “girlies”! A wee bit of Scotch/Irish in that one, but oh, tis a beautiful language, is it not?

  16. Jim,
    I’m so sorry I hurt your feelings, not really, but one does have to make amends. I esteem you far to much, to envision the picture you painted, on a lapel button or poster, ew…website! Good grief, a tooth in your chin?! What comments you’ll get at C.B?!

    No one, in the club, should be said “poster child” for said club. Anonymity is key, and well, no matter what they do to that picture, it’s out of the box, so to speak.

    Go with a hand drawn, we have so many here, with such talents, in that area. I am most sure, someone can draw something, rather appropriate and convincing.

    Her-mudgeonly speaking,
    Dutch the Dry Kettle

  17. I think it should be “Comfort Dog, Butter.” Without the comma, I actually thought “Comfort Dog Butter” must be a rap singer like “Snoop Dog Snoop.” (At our parish today we had a “comfort pig.” She was divided into equal parts of Brat, Italian, Cajun and Polish sausage. She gave her all.)

  18. Sounds to me like the comfort dog is doing the work of the deaconness. But if you think about it, if a child who meets Butter bugs his/her parents to go to the same church as Butter or ask them to start going to church and the parents agree, isn’t that a good thing. Dogs and cats have been shown to speed healing for people in the hospital and uplift those in nursing homes. Maybe we judge too fast. God did give us the animals and we are to take care of them, sounds like Butter is being taken care of. From my opening statement you think I don’t know what I think. You’re right, after writing this stuff, I’m thinking the Deaconness should do what Butter is doing, and take Butter along as a physical bridge.
    @Kiley Campbell #9

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.