Welcome, Zion Lutheran of Mission Valley

I just saw this brief story about a celebration planned at Zion Lutheran Church in Mission Valley, Texas, Sunday. The reason? They’re joining the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. With more than 90 percent approval, members voted to separate from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America last year.

The Rev. Mike Couchman, Zion’s chief minister, said the decision to leave their original denomination was a difficult one, and he admits the divide is bittersweet.

“We’re sad we had to do it. It could have been any issue, it didn’t have to be a gay issue,” Couchman said. “Essentially the ECLA said, ‘We know what scripture says, and we’re voting to overturn it.’ We feel like we didn’t leave the church; the church left us.”

After seeking several alternatives, Zion settled on the Missouri Synod and formally began the process of transitioning in June.

The article says that the Rev. Michael Newman, mission and ministry facilitator for Area C, Texas District of Missouri Synod, will officiate. Paperwork will be signed and Couchman will be “installed into the Missouri Synod” (that’s how the newspaper puts it — I’m not sure if that’s how we’d say it or not) by the Rev. Wayne Schueler, Circuit 31 counselor for Area D Texas District.

All that to say a hearty welcome to this newest member congregation!


Comments

Welcome, Zion Lutheran of Mission Valley — 68 Comments

  1. @Carl Vehse #46

    Not everyone comes to the Missouri Synod at birth. Reading the comments on this thread, could cause the most devoutly confessional Lutheran to avoid the LCMS.
    The congregation of Zion has made a choice to affiliate with the LCMS and we can assume they did so for a reason. Rather than condemning them with pithy criticism for their suspected lack of theological purity, perhaps we could welcome them as brothers in Christ and provide positive guidance on the proper distribution of the Sacrament and other tenets of confessional Lutheranism should they display uncertainty.

  2. @Carl Vehse #46
    I found this article from Carl Braaten about the ELCA dated last year when it all started. Interesting insights. http://lutheranspersisting.wordpress.com/carl-braaten-the-aroma-of-an-empty-bottle/

    arl Braaten: The Aroma of an Empty Bottle
    I attended the 2009 Church Wide Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Often voting members and visitors would ask me, “How did we get to this point?” They were referring to the sequence of votes in which a majority voted in favor of resolutions bearing on standards for ordained ministry that no Lutheran Church had ever considered before, let alone approved. How could the ELCA embrace a new doxy, indeed, a heterodoxy, that contravened what the leading theologians and presiding bishops of its predecessor church bodies — the American Lutheran Church and the Lutheran Church in America — had unanimously taught?

    I can not imagine that the decisions of the ELCA would have happened under the leadership of Dr. Frederick Schiotz (ELC), Dr. Malvin H. Lundeen (Augustana), or Dr. Franklin Clark Fry (ULC). They would not have happened under the leadership of Dr. David Preus (ALC) or Dr. James R. Crumley (LCA). The ELCA decisions would find no support in the theological writings of Dr. Martin Heineken, Dr. Theodore Tappert, Dr. William Lazareth, or Dr. John Reumann who taught generations of pastors at the Lutheran Seminary in Philadelphia, nor in those of Dr. Warren Quanbeck, Dr. E. Clifford Nelson, Dr. Herman Preus, Dr. Kent Knutson, Dr. Roy Harrisville, or Dr. James Burtness, professors at Luther Seminary in St. Paul. These names are a mere sampling. We could list scores more from Wartburg Seminary, Trinity Seminary, and Southern Seminary.

    The theologians who founded, edited, and wrote for the leading Lutheran journals, Lutheran Quarterly, Dialog, and Lutheran Forum carried forward the sturdy traditions of Lutheranism. There were differences among them, to be sure, but to my knowledge none of them deviated into the kinds of heresies and heterodoxies now rampant and tolerated in the institutions of the ELCA. Thus the question is understandable, “How did we get from there to here?” Why is confessional Lutheran theology unravelling in the ELCA?

    Many will, of course, deny that there are any profound theological problems troubling the ELCA which threaten its unity. Everything seems to be in order. There was no lack of Lutheran slogans and clichés flying around the mikes at the Convention Center in Minneapolis. Bishop Mark Hanson voiced them well, as did most of the speakers. The Lutheran lingo reminded me of the phrase Erik Petersen coined to describe modern German Protestantism in its defection from the doctrinal theology of the Reformation; it’s “the aroma of an empty bottle.” There’s not much left of the original Reformation. The Lutheran “solas” can be used as slogans to mean the opposite of what the Lutheran confessors intended. In the current circumstance they are the tell-tale clichés of “gospel reductionism.”

    I will leave it to smarter historians than I to explain how it happened that the ELCA could slide so quickly down the slippery slope of liberal Protestantism. Meanwhile, I would hazard two suggestions. First, Lutheranism may contain within its origins the seeds of its own instability. When the first Lutherans lost the magisterial authority of the Roman Catholic Church, it had no sure authority to put in its place. The solas sounded good in theory, but it finally comes down to who who has the authority to interpret and apply them in changing times. In the history of Lutheranism the locus of official authority has been wandering all over the place. In the ELCA final authority lies in the hands of a quota-selected majority of lay members who could, if they chose, decide to merge with the Moonies or Mormons, just as they have decided in favor of altar and pulpit fellowship with Methodists and Moravians. Far-fetched? Not any more than the decisions taken at the 2009 Assembly in Minneapolis. In the church the leaders are supposed to be successors of the apostles and not echoes of majority opinion.

    My second suggestion is that the ELCA has succumbed to the same ailment as liberal Protestantism. What is that? Modern Protestantism is an amalgamation of historic Christianity and the principles of the Enlightenment, its rationalism, subjectivism, and anthropocentrism. The underlying assumption is the neo-gnostic belief in the inner-dwelling of God, such that everyone is endowed with the inner light that only needs to be uncovered. The light of truth does not shine through the Scriptures and the Christian tradition as much as through scientific reason and individual experience. This is what happened in Minneapolis: appeals to reason and experience trumped Scripture and tradition, punctuated with pious injunctions of Lutheran slogans and clichés. The majority won. And they said it was the work of the Spirit, forgetting that the Holy Spirit had already spoken volumes through the millennia of Scriptural interpretation, the councils of the church, and its creeds and confessions.

    Bishop Mark Hanson repeatedly assured the ELCA Assembly that for Lutherans, our unity is in Christ alone, and not in our “agreements or disagreements.” That is a false use of the “solus Christus.” Our Christian unity does lie in our agreements. That is what Nicaea was all about. That is what the Augsburg Confession was all about. Lutherans do not accept the sectarian slogan: no Creeds but Christ! Our unity is in Christ, to be sure, but according to the Scriptures and according to the Creeds and Confessions. Orthodox Christians affirm their unity through the use of liturgies and creeds, and if we share no agreement on these, then in fact we are not one in the same communion.

    Frank Senn wrote in his recent book that Lutherans have enough “solas” to form a whole choir. It’s time that Lutherans quit using these slogans, born in the heat of controversy, as a fig leaf to cover up their loss of orthodox Christian doctrine.

    Carl E. Braaten

  3. “Frank Senn wrote in his recent book that Lutherans have enough “solas” to form a whole choir.”

    Braaten makes some valid points, but where is the one sola that is missing in this choir: sola scripture–the authority of scripture? His arguments could be used against the ordination of women, too. But without the authority of scripture they are hollow.

    j

  4. Carl Braaten: “I will leave it to smarter historians than I to explain how it happened that the ELCA could slide so quickly down the slippery slope of liberal Protestantism.

    The E_CA was never an orthodox Lutheran church body; the E_CA was incorporated already in a full speed slide down the slope of liberal Protestantism.

  5. @Carl Vehse #54
    August 24th, 2010 at 09:03 | #54 Reply | Quote Carl Braaten: “I will leave it to smarter historians than I to explain how it happened that the ELCA could slide so quickly down the slippery slope of liberal Protestantism.”

    The E_CA was never an orthodox Lutheran church body; the E_CA was incorporated already in a full speed slide down the slope of liberal Protestantism.

    Is this the same Carl Braaten who wrote a seminary text with Robert Jenson…
    which text quite probably “greased the slide”?

  6. In 2000 at the age of 27 I left an ELCA seminary and transferred to “begin again” at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne. Leaving behind friends and family for the sake of Christ is never easy, and it wasn’t for me. But I like to remind people that I might have joined the LCMS earlier than I did if it wasn’t for the way I was treated by some.

    One group of people that made me question joining the LCMS said “Why leave to join us? The ELCA is great!” They were a minority, but they still exist in our church body.

    The other group were the ones whose only defense of their church body was “Join us or go to hell – your choice.” As a Lutheran, who believed firmly in salvation by grace, I wondered if I was trading one set of theological errors for another.

    Thank God there were many – Rev. Matt Harrison, Rev. Dr. David Scaer (!), Deaconess Pam Neilson and my wife among them who treated my questions with respect but didn’t shy away from proclaiming the Truth.

    While in my “in-between state” I once quipped that “The ELCA is all heart and no brain – the LCMS is all brain and no heart.” Sweeping generalizations, of course. It is not “loving” to deny someone the truth. Neither is it smart to succumb to self-righteousness when grace is at the center of your entire belief system.

  7. Glad you came, Pastor! [I am amused at the (!) after Scaer; he seems to be an acquired taste. My son spent his first 14 years in NJ and puzzled Scaer by not being “scared”. But I think you were “immunized”, too?] 🙂

    Both my current Pastors moved to lcms as adults, as I did. Most of our relatives and former friends are still in elca… (or reading the Sunday paper instead, in all too many cases). Sometimes I wonder if you have to “come in from the cold” to know what is valuable in the faith!

  8. @Carl Vehse #59
    I know he is rostered ELCA or E_CA, but he is also a large critic of them and it is interesting to see the dynamics at work. We would not agree with all of his points, but there are some that are right on the money. Look up this article:

    http://www.lutherancore.org/pdf/Braaten-critique-of-ELCA.pdf

    It truly outlines the problems in the ELCA although we could add a few more.
    I am only posting this because I believe the reasons for staying in a heterodox church are extremely complicated.

  9. Mission Valley is essentially in the middle of nowhere Texas, between Corpus Christi, Victoria, and San Antonio. The people in this part of South Texas have little to no patience for the kind of stuff that was happening in the ELCA. We should welcome them and help them as they become a sister congregation in the LCMS. We need to try not to strain at gnats.

  10. @helen #56
    “Is this the same Carl Braaten who wrote a seminary text with Robert Jenson…
    which text quite probably “greased the slide”?

    Short answer: Yes.

  11. Just got back from a home visit. Aren’t Lutheran schools wonderful?

    The father of the family I visited is an LCMS pastor and the church is starting a mission -outgrowth of the already existing church- in the next town for a number of people who have left their ELCA church, but who think the drive to the closest LCMS church is too far away.

    Very encouraging news.

    My father is the Carl Braaten fan, but left the ELCA many years ago after he left the Orthodox church and has since gone back to Orthodoxy. complicated

  12. @johannes #61
    “Is this the same Carl Braaten who wrote a seminary text with Robert Jenson…
    which text quite probably “greased the slide”?

    Short answer: Yes.

    I heard he had “got religion” but it’s a little late for elca, isn’t it?

  13. {Sent too soon}

    I’ll read the link above and see what Braaten has to say.
    Our Pastor told a story last Sunday of a woman who finally was baptized at 80 after her family had been talking to her for three generations.

    And of a friend who went through college and seminary with him, then abandoned the church…. and has not since responded to anything sent to him.
    I guess we never know, though, how long it might take.

    Or how much repentance and amendment can be done at the 11th hour….

    Wish I could hear that Jenson had remembered his mentor and repented!

  14. “First, Lutheranism may contain within its origins the seeds of its own instability. When the first Lutherans lost the magisterial authority of the Roman Catholic Church, it had no sure authority to put in its place. The solas sounded good in theory, but it finally comes down to who who has the authority to interpret and apply them in changing times. In the history of Lutheranism the locus of official authority has been wandering all over the place.”

    That seemed plausible to me, too. However, I just finished reading The True Visible Church by CFW Walther in which he addresses this issue quoting Luther extensively on how it is more likely that a church would be corrupted by false teachers than by congregations. Also he points out there is enough straightforward easy to understand material in the Bible that most Christians would be able to understand and which cannot be challenged by clever “interpretations” of other passages. He says it better than I am.

    I have just started Walther’s The Form of a Christian Congregation. Very clear and easy to understand.

  15. @Johannes #55
    Yes: Carl Braaten does consider himself a liberal, albeit of an older strain. This quote is from a depressing article by Joseph Bottum, “The Death of Protestant America: a Political Theory of the Protestant Mainline”, originally in First Things, (it’s posted at a Roman website and is well worth the read: http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=8381) in which Mr. Bottum cites a letter from Carl Braaten to Mark Hanson, as an example of the descent of the ELCA into liberal Protestantism and Bottum wrote:

    “The letter is, in fact, a long litany of loss: disjointed, heartfelt, flailing; a bewildered catalogue of all the things Braaten thought mattered. He carefully lists his antique political credentials (“I am a life-long political liberal. . . . My wife and I opposed the unjust war against Vietnam”) — as though that would give him standing.”

    A couple of other items:
    I heard Carl Braaten lecture and state he was considered a “wunderkind” (excuse my bad German),a wonder child, when he was at the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago. He was cutting edge.

    At a favorite used book store I would peruse the religious section (btw: they never had, for instance any Luther or C. S. Lewis, but alot of death of God theology etc) and lo and behold a book by Braaten and his wife on eating healthy, circa the ’70s…”guilt-free food” as it is called nowadays. (I know minor point but so “relevant”)

    He so wanted the ELCA to have the unBiblical and non-confessional doctrine of “episcopal succession” as if that would save the ELCA: a “teaching magisterium” (I heard, read and discussed this ad nauseam in my evangelical catholic circles). If memory serves, he fully supported the Episcopal agreements.

    Is Rev. Braaten a liberal? Another posting here has a link of Braaten critiquing the ELCA at via Lutheran Core, and I quote from the article:

    “But the Bible is not primarily about faith, not primarily about the faith of the patriarchs and prophets and evangelists and apostles. The Bible is about God, the mighty acts of God, the word of God. Faith is a human response to the initiative of God, to the divine indicatives and imperatives, the words of the law and the gospel of God inspired and transmitted to us through the Old and New Testaments, which we call Holy Scripture. And to encumber our reading of the Bible by traditional Lutheran insights is to shortchange our understanding of God’s Word. That may sound strange for a Lutheran theologian to admit, but the truth is, reading the Bible that way is a sectarian thing to do, no better when Lutherans do it than Baptists or Pentecostals. We understand, don’t we, that Lutheranism
    began only in the sixteenth century, less than five hundred years ago, whereas Christians
    were reading the Bible centuries before that.”

    Rev. Braaten is liberal to the CORE.

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