An Hour with the Bishop, Hope for the LCMS, by Pr. Rossow

My District President invited me to his office the other day because he had some concerns with the BJS website. Things got a little heated once or twice,   more on my side than on his, to the bishop’s credit, but overall it was an amicable meeting and a  helpful exchange for both of us.

Before continuing, let me give a little background on my district president, in my opinion. He has a strong church growth background and tends to favor that when it comes to programming in the district but he is greatly respected by the “confessional” pastors of the district because he takes time to genuinely listen to us and has not treated any of us unfairly nor even come close to such.

I have been in the president’s office a few times with other brothers to discuss concerns in the district and have been amazed at how the bishop has been able to spend 90% of the time listening and 10% of the time talking. Even on this visit, the purpose of which was clearly oriented towards his talking to me, I would have to say that he listened more than he talked.

The details of what we discussed are private and really are not the point of this post. Suffice it to say that we each learned important perspectives from each other and I came away with a greater commitment to publishing the truth and only the truth on this website. That leads me to the first of the two points that this post is about.

First, I was impressed that the bishop’s main concern was for me. He is concerned about my spiritual well-being. He is clearly not on a witch hunt, scouring the BJS website looking for points of attack against me. He has noticed some things on the site that  bothered him because he thought that they might indicate a lack of respect for the truth on my part and on the part of our writers. As I said above, I came away with a greater commitment to publishing only the truth on this site. He and I still disagree on what is and isn’t true on this site but he did a great job of providing pastoral supervision to this lowly editor and hopefully such supervision will contribute to guarding my soul all the way to eternity. I did however, tell him that he had to get in line for the role of guardian of my soul since my “recovering pietist” mother has already taken the time to make sure I am not riding any high horse with the success of this blogsite.

My second point has to do with the hope for the LCMS. I am growing convinced day by day that the LCMS is looking favorably on Matt Harrison. My time with my bishop illustrated perfectly what Harrison has proposed in the document “It’s Time.” I do not know where my bishop stands on the LCMS presidential election but I can say this, he approached this touchy issue between me and him with care and listening. That is exactly what Harrison is proposing for the LCMS – gathering together key players from each “side” in the LCMS and hashing things out like a family. The bishop and I did not come to complete agreement on BJS matters but we are a lot closer than when the meeting started and most importantly we respect each other and will continue to work on this and other issues so that there can be harmony in the church.

Is my bishop ever going to be the Lutheran I would like him to be? Am I ever going to be the Lutheran my bishop wants me to be, for example, more committed to the Ablaze programs he espouses? Probably not, in both cases, but I am convinced that our district president has grown in his understanding of and openness to traditional, liturgical, Confessions-reading Lutheranism and I hope that he can see that I am not opposed to missions but only opposed to making it the over-arching principle of the faith. The final outcome on the BJS matters between my bishop and me may not be totally settled yet but the “It’s Time” sort of approach that was taken has made a solution we can both commit to much more probable. I really hope the delegates to the national convention will give this “It’s Time” approach a chance to be used on a synod-wide level for the next triennium.

It was a great hour with the bishop. It gave me some hope for the LCMS. All the credit for that goes to the bishop. Our hour together was a helpful model of how we can all move ahead walking in synod in the LCMS.

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.


An Hour with the Bishop, Hope for the LCMS, by Pr. Rossow — 119 Comments

  1. mbw – you missed the point. Each congregation can have a different form of congregational polity – but with regard to Synod polity and the congregations participation in it – they must all agree or there is no Synod. Its not a split or ejection its just that your no longer agreeing to be part of the same organization.

  2. @Pastor Tim Rossow #99

    I probably should have left out the question of excommunication, because it’s a separate question.

    Here’s the real conundrum, as I see it at the moment. I will quote myself:

    > So, in a synod where some congregations change their practice (and belief?) from one way to the other (the two ways being hierarchical, and not hierarchical), there would be a split, based on something that Scripture does not command.

    The non-hierarchical churches would have a legitimate complaint against the separating (or expelling) hierarchical ones. Their complaint would be that of an unnecessary division. A division based on something Scripture does not command. It would be un-Scriptural to split a church body based on something Scripture does not command.

  3. @Joe #101

    > Its not a split or ejection its just that your no longer agreeing to be part of the same organization.

    Joe, if churches that were in synod agree to separate, that is a split.

  4. @Joe #101

    > mbw – you missed the point. Each congregation can have a different form of congregational polity

    Joe, every time I refer to congregational polity in this discussion, I mean exactly and only congregational polity with respect to what they consider a synod to be. I am in no way referring to matters strictly internal to a congregation.

  5. mbw,

    In #102 you argue in a circle against yourself. Overall you are arguing for some sort of congregational autonomy. But then you say it would be wrong to split a synod over an adiaphoran. But if congregations are autonomous then synods can be split over anything. It just does not matter. A synod is just a man made thing. You are very much caught up in your undies and I for one am not interested in sorting them out.

    Let’s all get back to the original post here. Everyone, please limit future comments to whether or not you agree that my meeting with the ______________________ (fill in the blank to your own liking) is a sign of hope for the LCMS or not.


  6. Thank you Pastor, for bringing this back to the original post.
    Hope for the LCMS. I think, if this meeting, offers hope for anything, it is that dialogue, between each other, is possible. More than that, it is possible to begin & end that dialogue as proper brothers should.
    Hope does, so they say, spring eternal.

  7. @Pastor Tim Rossow #105
    “Let’s all get back to the original post here. Everyone, please limit future comments to whether or not you agree that my meeting with the ______________________ (fill in the blank to your own liking) is a sign of hope for the LCMS or not.”

    I think it is a sign of hope for the LCMS, because I am sure the two of you shared the Word of God with each other, and the Word has power.

  8. Dear Pastor Rossow (comment #104 and original post),

    I do think that your meeting with DP Gilbert is a sign of better days to come. Why is this?

    I think that you and DP Gilbert had an effective meeting because you both took each other seriously, and respected each other. It helps that both of you have worked in the same district for awhile, and that you know each other outside of official encounters.

    But the main factor that is encouraging is your age range. You are both middle age, and about eight years apart, by my guess. That means that, just by natural social instincts, you will respect each other.

    Part of the problem that has really hurt out synod over the last thirty years, or so, is that the younger clergy and oldest clergy have not respected each other. If they don’t respect each other, then they won’t sit down and listen to each other; and they are unlikely to have good relationships, too.

    I think the disrespect worked both ways. The older clergy, who graduated from seminary from 1953 to 1973, were dominated by men who had aligned themselves ideologically with the higher critics and liberal theologians at the Saint Louis seminary. When that leadership group left, the 53-73 cohort was suspicious of anything coming out of either seminary after 1973. They always bad-mouthed Fort Wayne, which became a seminary in 1975, but they were really suspicious of ALL clergy who graduated after 1974, from EITHER seminary.

    You and DP Gilbert are both post-1974 Saint Louis graduates, so there is no “watershed divide” between you.

    I think that the younger clergy, not knowing any of the older cohort personally (in the vast majority of cases), also became suspicious of the older clergy when they were trained at the seminaries. They just wrote them off as “liberals,” and did not treat them as brothers in the faith and the cloth.

    Of course, there were exceptions in both the older and younger clergy to this characterization, but even if the “disrespecters” were not in the majority in either group, there were enough of them to make life miserable for everyone. I can say that some of us in the younger cohort tried to follow Paul’s counsel to Timothy in I Timothy 5:1, but I think we were a minority.

    Now, we are at a point in the synod where the younger cohort (1974 and after) not only have the majority, but they are also rising to positions of leadership at all levels at the synod. Your DP Gilbert is a case in point. DP Maier of the Michigan District, one of the largest in the synod, is another case in point. I believe he is my age. All the deans and department chairs at the seminaries are now our age, or younger, Pastor Rossow.

    I can say, personally, that my biggest disappointment in serving the LCMS for over twenty-five years is how many clergy of the older cohort treated me like I was a high school student, even in recent years. It wasn’t like I was looking for respect, but neither was I expecting animosity just because I believed that the Bible is God’s Word and the Lutheran Confessions their best explanation. I can also say that the greatest blessing I have had were the professors and older pastors who treated me like a son! And there have been many of those! Too many to mention in this blog.

    I think that the LCMS now has a “workable” future. Not because of your meeting with DP Gilbert (that’s just evidence), but because our Lord has been gracious and answered many of our prayers for real unity in our church. It’s time!

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  9. @Rev. Thomas C. Messer #87

    > First of all, I am not a little milder now, since I wasn’t less mild before. Really, what does that even mean?

    Rev. Messer, I am sorry for the implication there. Please forgive me.

  10. Thank you, Pr. Noland, for the comments on pre and post ’74 clergy.

    Only a few years ago, St Louis seminarians here with their choir sneered at me when I said I had a son who had graduated from Ft Wayne. (I bought their tape anyway but I was hurt… and surprised!)
    If theirs is a prevalent attitude, we have a problem of disrespect between the “younger groups” of the two seminaries that we don’t need either!

    How do you say that Ft Wayne “became a seminary” in 1975? That’s when a seminary which was originally in Ft Wayne moved back there from Springfield, I have been taught. Is that only CTS legend? Or are you being disrespectful of a history going back to Wyneken?

    Pr. Rossow, if you have a DP “trained in church growth” who will listen with mutual respect to a Pastor preaching confessional Lutheranism, that’s good. If we got off the non Lutheran bandwagon and had Lutheran DP’s all round, that would be better.

    [Sorry to be cynical, but I’ve lived too long in Texas. How much of the “mutual respect” is because you have the support of a larger congregation? We don’t have many of those left under confessional shepherds here.]

  11. Helen

    Yes, the seminary currently at Fort Wayne does go back a long ways. I believe that, in fact, it graduated its first pastors before the seminary currently at St. Louis.

  12. Concordia Theological Seminary was established in Fort Wayne, IN, in 1846, a year before the Missouri Synod was organized. The seminary was moved to St. Louis during the Civil War, then to Springfield, IL, in 1875, before moving back to Fort Wayne in 1976.

    It wasn’t until 1849 that Concordia Seminary was set up in St. Louis, however Concordia Seminary was founded in 1839 in Perry County (a few decades ago I visited the original log cabin structure in Perry County) before it moved to St. Louis. It is considered the second oldest Lutheran seminary after the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, which was founded in 1826.

  13. But, if I am not mistaken, the Perry County seminary was really a prep school; none of its first students were seminarians (in the current sense of the word).

  14. Dear Helen,

    To clarify my comment #109, when the older clergy have sneered at “Fort Wayne” they were not referring to the Fort Wayne Senior College, which they held in the highest respect. Nor did they sneer at “Springfield,” who were men their own age. “Fort Wayne” was, indeed, the continuation of the Springfield seminary, which had also existed at the Saint Louis campus, and originated in 1845 (?) in Fort Wayne. The older clergy could sneer at “Fort Wayne” because they knew it meant clergy who had graduated from there since 1975, thus they were all younger cohort clergy (even though many were second career and in their 30s, 40s, or 50s when they began ministry).

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  15. On its website Concordia Seminary claims:

    Concordia Seminary was founded in 1839 in [Altenburg] Perry County, Missouri, by a group of emigrants from Germany. In 1849 the preparatory division and the school of theology of the young institution were moved to St. Louis and relocated on a site at South Jefferson Avenue and Winnebago Street.

    There was no information on the CSL website about seminary students graduating from the Altenburg seminary and receiving calls as pastors to congregations.

    However I did find some information on a Concordia Seminary-Altenburg graduate, Franz Julius Biltz (1825-1908), who, as a 13-year-old orphan, was brought from Germany to Missouri with the Stephanites, despite a protest from his legal guardian in Germany, along with his half-sister, Louise Voelker. Louise was one of several women who later confessed to adulterous affairs with Bishop Martin Stephan.

    Franz Biltz attended the Altenburg log-cabin school and seminary, was presented as a theological candidate at the 1847 Missouri Synod organizing convention, and graduated in 1848. He was ordained as pastor on March 12, 1848, at Trinity Lutheran Church in Dissen (Friedheim), MO. In 1860 Rev. Biltz was called to St. Paul Lutheran Church, in a small Missouri community which, as part-time postmaster, Rev. Biltz named “Concordia.” Rev. Biltz served for a number of years as Western District President, and in 1883, Rev. Biltz helped found St. Paul’s College (which my father attended).

    In addition to Rev. Biltz’s accomplishments, one of his sons later helped found St. John’s College in Winfield, KS. One of his daughters married Rev. Martin Luther Wyneken, the son of Friedrich Wyneken, and another daughter married Rev. Ferdinand Gerhard Walther, son of C.F.W. Walther.

  16. @Carl Vehse #114
    “It is considered the second oldest Lutheran seminary after the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, which was founded in 1826.”

    Hmmm… Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Pomaria, SC in 1830, doesn’t count? And I’m not sure about a few others as well.


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