Recent Unscriptural Decisions in the ELCA are the Product of “Efficiencies” Similar to the Proposed LCMS Structure, by Pr. Rossow

Many people have scratched their heads and wondered how the largest American Lutheran denomination, the ELCA, could violate Scripture so blatantly by approving actively gay and lesbian pastors in their church. The primary reason is that they forsook the inerrancy of Scripture in the last century. That is the theological explanation for it. The political explanation is a little different and should put the fear of God in the LCMS delegates next month at convention. The political explanation is that the ELCA operates with a convention model very similar to the model proposed by President Kieschnick’s Task Force on Structure and Governance.

The ELCA church wide assembly has fewer than a 1,000 delegates. That’s a small number for denomination of 4 million members. And those delegates are not elected through ELCA congregations but selected by the hierarchy. The political cause of the recent apostate decisions of the ELCA assembly are due to the small number of delegates and the bureaucratic manner in which they are selected. The proposals by President Kieschnick’s Task Force would do the  same thing in the LCMS. The Task Force proposes for the LCMS a smaller number of delegates (650 which is nearly one half of the current 1,250) and that they be chosen by the district convention and not by the congregations and circuits (see pp. 27-31 of the proposals). In addition to this, President Kieschnick’s Task Force, in Proposal #18, is encouraging the LCMS to get rid of the boards elected by the people and replace them with commissions that report not to the convention but to the president. This is a drastic change that puts governance in the hands of fewer people and puts the LCMS in harms way.

When viewed historically, the Task Force proposals reflect the narcissistic arrogance of the “me generation” that does not want to participate in church and wants to let someone else do it. The Task Force is trying to streamline the governance of the synod, which is fine, but they are doing it by truncating the democratic model that has characterized the LCMS and has been its strength. The delegates to this summer’s convention should resist approving a new structure that lets “someone else” do it. Caving in to that pressure will not make the LCMS stronger but will make it weaker and risk the same type of manipulation that has gone on in the ELCA church wide assemblies of recent years.

Why are we changing what is not broken. For over 150 years the LCMS has been a leader in crucial areas such as missions, worship, doctrinal instruction, parochial schools and the like. We have gotten there with a grass roots governance model based on the average person in the pew knowing Christian doctrine and caring about his synod. The Task Force proposals put the power in the hands of a much smaller group that is not elected by congregations in circuit caucus meetings but by the districts in convention.

We are not opposed to saving money and increasing efficiency. Efficiency can come by cutting out spending and programs. We are opposed to efficiency that comes by putting control in the hands of very few which increases the opportunity for manipulation and decreases the number of grass roots voices of Scripture 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.


Recent Unscriptural Decisions in the ELCA are the Product of “Efficiencies” Similar to the Proposed LCMS Structure, by Pr. Rossow — 24 Comments

  1. This is true but there is more. As I read it there will be more direct employees of the synod ( forget the # of the item ) making up that smaller share. Notice the hesitation to vote on blue ribbon recommendations before its known who the president is. That is because some don’t want to offend the one they’ll have to work with later.

    The other part is the new supermajority requirement to condemn certain things ( again I don’t have the issue # handy ). While there have been some historic issues with 51% forcing the synod into positions that weren’t shared by all the other side is equally disturbing.

    What I fear will happen is that the liberal parishes, and they are out there, will come up with new ways around existing condemnations of the current “social” issues relating to ordination and marriage. These then will not be able to be stopped because they can’t garner the super majority required. So what will follow, I fear, is an era of “toleration” and “80% agreement” in the name of unity.

  2. @VincentL #1

    “What I fear will happen is that the liberal parishes, and they are out there, will come up with new ways around existing condemnations of the current ‘social’ issues relating to ordination and marriage. These then will not be able to be stopped because they can’t garner the super majority required. So what will follow, I fear, is an era of ‘toleration’ and ‘80% agreement’ in the name of unity.”

    I can see that happening. An era of “toleration?” Only “80% agreement” (if that much) “in the name of unity?” But Vincent, we are ALREADY perfectly united, right? We are “ONE” Synod, or so we are told, as we just agree to disagree (like that church-body whose headquarters are in Chicago). With agreement like THAT, our synod can really go places:
    “If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.” Psalm 139:8 NKJV.

  3. Regarding the ELCA voting structure, I heard recently the argument from a Blue Ribbon supporter that the Blue Ribbon proposals require 2/3 majority vote on doctrinal changes…so that we don’t have happen in the LCMS what just happened in the ELCA.

    It was pointed out to him that the ELCA’s vote on gay pastors was passed 676-338, which is 66.6%.

    I don’t know if the argument registered with him, oddly enough. Amazing, the power of LCMS Exceptionalism. It puts people under a spell. The ELCA is a perfect lesson and warning as to what happens when doctrine, practice, and voting structure are changed, yet many refuse to see the same incremental changes in the LCMS.

    I just don’t get it.

  4. The leadership of the ELCA achieved their agenda for change only by disenfranchising the ELCA laity.

    What possible reason could the current leadership of the LCMS have for disenfranchising the LCMS laity?

    It comes back to a question I asked on another thread: What does President Kieschnick intend to do with the unchecked power he is asking for?


  5. @Todd Wilken #4

    “What does President Kieschnick intend to do with the unchecked power he is asking for?”

    We need only look at what has happened during his era of checked power for clues:

    1. Yankee Stadium
    2. Firing of Wallace Schultz from Lutheran Hour
    3. Ablaze! tm
    4. Untold $’s to consultants
    5. Firing of Pastor Wilken and Jeff and cancellation of Issues, Etc.
    6. New model of non-Lutheran charismatic or emergent LCMS new starts like the Alley
    7. Female authority over men in some LCMS congregations
    8. TCN
    9. Blue Ribbon Task Force for control of synod.
    10. Unbiblical Church Growth principles
    11. Growth of open communion practices
    12. Marginalization of “grandfathers church”
    13. No change in working arrangements with heterodox synods.
    14. Change in teaching from pastor as shepherd or servant to pastor as leader or administrator
    15. Little or no oversight over doctrinally erring district presidents and pastors
    16. Little synodical doctrinal teaching or discussion
    17. LCMS district youth gathering with non-Lutheran worship services and worship services with female pastor worship leader
    18. Growth of and support of non-Lutheran worship practices
    19. Lack of support of seminaries and seminarians while creating non-seminary track to becoming a pastor
    20. Diminished confessional unity
    21. Lack of transparency and poor communication by synod
    22. Fewer ordained missionaries
    23. Marginalization or condemnation of faithful confessional Lutheran pastors
    24. Law suits threatened or carried out against several laymen in LCMS congregations by the incorporated synod
    25. Outrageous fundraising costs and expenditures by LCMS institutions.

  6. @wrl #3

    “Blue Ribbon proposals require 2/3 majority vote on doctrinal changes”

    I admit I may have fallen from the turnip truck just this morning, and it could very well be that I remain ignorant of current procedure, but it is alarming to me that we speak in terms of changing doctrine. It is quite acceptable to many in Synod to say we’re only changing practice, but doctrine? Doesn’t doctrine come ultimately from God? If so, then does He at least get a minute or two at the mike?

  7. “What has destroyed liberty and the rights of men in every government that has ever existed under the sun? The generalizing and concentrating of all cares and powers into one body.” –Thomas Jefferson

    Or, one man…


  8. @Henry Bimpage #5

    It’s all about a bigger tent.

    The common thread in your list is that K supporters want a sort of fundamentalist ecumenicalism and a top-down structure to enforce that ecumenicalism, which they say can be achieved without compromising doctrine. It’s the common thread when I talk locally to K supporters…they don’t like the bickering between denominations and think the Methodists and Presbyterians and Baptists should all get together for the greater good, or to fight Islam. They used to say it about ELCA, but gay pastors crossed the line (as if not believing the Bible didn’t cross the line). Common phrase is “There won’t only be Lutherans in heaven.” They’re like the Gideons…they just want to pass out the Bible with other Christians and not discuss doctrine. Ecumenicalism also solves sentimental family issues on communion Sunday.

    Centralization of power is a lesser evil to these folks than denominational bickering. Which is astounding considering that the majority of the K supporters I know are very anti- big government and pro-states rights. But even more astounding is that they’ll buy the words “congregational” and “de-centralized” if they are repeated enough and circled enough.

    Confessional Lutherans say “we believe this because Scripture says so” and “we condemn this because Scripture says so.” Today’s pampered generations want “no judgment”, and particularly don’t like criticism of others’ theology. As our culture becomes increasingly narcissistic, it overvalues others opinions because it wants to be liked. At the core of narcissism is the terrifying, terrible secret of not knowing who we are.

    Today’s Christians don’t understand how you can dialogue with people you don’t fully agree with and still firmly maintaining your beliefs and positions. Pastor Wilken does it all the time on Issues etc. with Calvinists, Catholics, etc. The vast majority of Lutherans today do not know how to do this, or feel it is wrong to do so.

    They believe the LCMS is exceptional, but that the Lutheran Confessions are not.

    They just don’t seem to like Lutheranism very much.

  9. @wrl #10

    This is very insightful post.

    > they don’t like the bickering between denominations and think the Methodists and Presbyterians and Baptists should all get together for the greater good

    The pope already has this angle covered.

  10. Thank you to Henry Bimpage and wrl for your very insightful thoughts.

  11. I received some words of wisdom early on in the ministry: watch out for those who never attend Bible class but always go to voters’ meetings.

    I realize that much of what goes on in convention is administrative, and that a lot of time is spent on updating bylaws and rules of order, but it’s a little sobering to ponder how little thought (or theological consideration) will go into decisions that will have serious theological repercussions on our fellowship.

  12. Rev. Keith Reeder :
    @wrl #3
    “Blue Ribbon proposals require 2/3 majority vote on doctrinal changes”

    Old joke:
    Man, to friend: Our marriage works perfectly. I decide the major issues, she decides the minor ones.
    Friend: Who decides what is major, and what is minor?
    Man: Oh, that’s a minor issue.

    Who decides what’s a doctrinal change?

  13. In the early days of the Synod [and I don’t remember how long it lasted] doctrinal matters were debated until everyone reached concensus and there was a 100% vote for the matter. When the constitution, by which we now govern our lives, states that all matters of doctrine shall be decided by the Word of God and yet are always decided by a majority vote–to me it says that God’s Word is subservient to man’s word!

  14. Wichita. 1989. Vote on the Doctrine of the Holy Ministry. UnScriptural office of the “lay ministers” established. New theology and practice by majority vote.

  15. @johannes #17

    You are correct it is a bit over the top. It was perhaps a poor attempt to show how the LCMS has strayed from God’s Word to the word of man. We have gone, in many ways, from the theologically driven church body, to a “thing of the moment” driven church body. We have given up so much of the clear Word of God for the unclear word of the corporate world, the unclear word of a “futurist” [whatever that may mean] the unclear word of the business model. All this in an attempt to make good again the good ship LCMS. The good ship LCMS is sinking not because we have fewer people then before, not because we are not growing new congregations, not because of any of the man made rules. We are sinking because in many ways we have become no different than the other church bodies around us. So why would someone want to become a member of an LCMS congregation with contemporary worship when the Baptist congregation does the contemporary worship so much better.

    Already 28 years ago while on vacation my family and I left worship because when the Communion service began a woman in a white robe came out to help with the distribution. I waited to see if she was just a member of the altar guild appointed to refill, but no she was taking around the bread/body of the Lord!! So we left.

    So if this explanation does not smooth over the rather abrupt comment made above, than Norm remove both and we can continue with some different thoughts.

  16. @Rev. Roger Sterle #20

    At the 2004 Houston Convention, when different Communion Stations were set up in the hall, as I suspect happens at all conventions, women were used to carry the blood from one station to another as was needed, as I suspect happens at all conventions when one station needs more than another.

    But what you had were, ipso facto, Women Communion Assistants.

    The women were mixed up with the men and both were involved as Communion Assistants.

    Now how this practice effects the functions(ings) of the Office. both the Office and it’s function has been discussed generally on other threads, but what is determinative of these practices, i.e., women involving themselves in more of the functions of the Pastoral Ministry, is that of the Incremental Paradigm of Women’s Ordination.

    What I mean by this term is, by increments, women doing more functions of the office of Pastor, Lectors, Communion Assistants, Presidents of Congregations, Liturgical Assistants, etc., we by the Incremental Paradigm will come to the decision that they do most all things
    anyway, so what is to keep them from having the office as well, they defacto, do the Office anyway!

    Such is the Incremental Paradigm to Women’s Ordination.

  17. @Rev. Roger Sterle #20

    Well said, Rev. Sterle. You and I are on the same page–I regret not having the theological astuteness to stand up and shout, “STOP!” at some of the abberations I have witnessed in the LCMS over the years. And in some cases, I took part in them. As the mental lights began to go on, and I (and others) stood up and tried to counter the erosion of our doctrine and practice, we soon became known as resident curmudgeons–a sometimes lonely vocation.

    It’s been more than half a century since grade school, and the warnings against taking God’s name in vain, but those lessons go deep. Today, it’s not uncommon to hear “jokes” about God from the pulpit, and many of us old-timer curmudgeons shudder–we should confront such things.

    I should not have even made comment #8 above. It seemed clever at the time, and I second your “motion”–if the moderator/webmeister wishes to remove our respective comments, he has my permission.

    Thanks for your reasoned and well-spoken comments.


  18. Well, if all this is true then get ready for women pastors and homosexual pastors who are willing to be monogamus. All in the name of Unity we will go Apostate. Nah, I would hope not. God Forbid.

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