Meeting at Concordia – St. Louis is Set for Next Week, by Pr. Rossow

The meeting I spoke of last week as been arranged. I will be travelling to St. Louis next week to meet with President Meyer and various faculty members to discuss my criticism of the use of small groups and contemporary worship at the St. Louis seminary.

I do not think it is prudent to give more details about the meetings at this point frankly because I do not want the message over-shadowed by the medium. The emphasis needs to be on the matter at hand and not on the people discussing the matter. This is what it is and no more. I am a pastor who has seen in the last few years a drift in the LCMS away from the historic, liturgical, reverent approach to the Divine Service and an embracing of non-Lutheran (and thus non-Biblical) piety. I have been fortunate and blessed to get some attention to these matters through this thing called the Brothers of John the Steadfast group and website and have now been graced with a generous invitation by Dr. Meyer to discuss these things. I think we disagree on them, but maybe we do not. That is what is to be seen. By the way, all the credit for this meeting goes to Dr. Meyer. I see myself as a commentator and annoying gadfly buzzing around the hind quarters of the synod. Dr. Meyer has taken steps to raise my musings to the higher level of fraternal discussion.

I do not want to underplay the importance of this visit. This blogsite has certainly gotten quite a bit of attention and readership. (We are now approaching three million down-loads in just two and a half years of blogging.) I am not trying to ignore the fact that this has become a public matter – and it should be because the seminary has been making all these changes in broad daylight and without any opportunity for input from us in the synod which is why so many of us were surprised and shocked that there is now alternative worship and a small group program at the St. Louis seminary. I also understand that having made this a public matter I now owe the public explanations and reports. (I ask your patience with me as I continue to figure out exactly what the public nature of this animal called the BJS blogsite is all about and how to handle it responsibly.) Those reports will be forthcoming next week. In the meantime, I would like the visit to be as quiet and behind the scenes as possible so the focus can stay on the matter at hand and not on the meeting. Dr. Meyer may see the visit as more open and public. That is fine and is his prerogative. I am his guest. I am also a concerned member of the LCMS who will keep dogging this matter to the end.

Please join me in praying for a visit and for discussions that serve the Lord and His Gospel. More to come soon…

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.


Meeting at Concordia – St. Louis is Set for Next Week, by Pr. Rossow — 66 Comments

  1. I am finishing up
    “Heaven on Earth: The Gifts of Christ in the Divine Service” and I get it now! 🙂

    It is a good book that explains the Divine Service well.

    @Pastor Tim Rossow #37
    “It’s similar to liberal heart, conservative mind, i.e. be ready to love and have mercy at all times but let your mind decide when mercy is simply Gospel reductionism. Too many in the LCMS have liberal minds and conservative hearts, i.e. they are tolerant but mean and crafty.”

    Nice statement!

  2. @Helen #50
    Since Faith Oakville is not my fieldwork church and I have never been there, I can’t exactly comment on what they worship, only that I assume they do, in fact, worship GOD. Of course, for all I know they might very well begin all their prayers with the phrase, “O most powerful and huge numbers eleven and eighty-nine!”

  3. @Andrew Strickland #51

    @Concerned Seminarian #53

    Re “worships [numbers], ‘Concerned Seminarian’ said it!

    IMO, it is sloppy thinking at best but may be truer than you would like to believe.
    Lutherans are supposed to have three SERIOUS reasons for dismissing a Pastor.
    “Transforming churches” suggests that a man move on if attendance doesn’t rise by a certain % per year [definitely not one of the three]. 🙁
    Yes, I think we do have “numbers cult”, Andrew.

  4. Concerned Seminarian :@Jason #46
    I personally would not be too concerned about how the pastor preaches as long as what he preaches is still from the Bible and consistent with Lutheran doctrine.

    My pastor does have a good energy, and I do appreciate that he pulls qutoes from the Bible. His seromons maybe have a feel of a Bible study. What I do not like is his seromon are social gospel. We are we doing? how are we reaching out into the community? WHen are you going to reach out to your neighbor? Why haven’t you done so yet? Did you know we have and are creating programs at church for you to plug into to be a good Christian?

    Um, where is Jesus? Where is our atonement of sins through His death? As Lutherans, yes we are Biblical. But we are also Christocentric. And I’m sorry, but having one throw away sentence about how God Sent Jesus for us, does not make it a Lutheran sermon. That is trying to get by on a technicality. If I wanted to hear so much about myself, I can watch Joel Osteen on the TV. And every couple of months, the name of Jesus isn’t even mentioned, my pastor gets so excited about the work we can do for God.

    So to get back to the thread topic, that is my concern. What do we teach pastors? Do we help them understand what the message truly is? Do we show them how to preach the Gospel clearly? Do we encourage them to keep faithful to the truth? Do they learn how to pray for the Spriits guidance, and not to just help them find proof texts to validate the opinions?


    “Okay, I heard back from my niece’s husband who stayed on to do his STM after receiving his MDiv last May.

    He tells me that these groups grew out of last winter’s campus wide reading of Bonhoeffer’s “Life Together.” He says:

    The conversations that resulted showed that the campus wanted to improve its sense of community. It’s not that there was no community at all, but we wanted to bring the campus together and offer opportunities to build community among and abroad the entire campus community – not just a faculty group, a staff group, residential students group, married with kids group, etc.

    He also wrote this about chapel:

    The worship life of the seminary community is essential in order to form such said community. The small groups meet three times a term (that’s about once every 3.5 weeks). Chapel is still held daily from 11-1140ish, with Eucharist on Thursdays. An evening prayer service (Service of Light or Compline) is held three nights a week, and Matins is held in another smaller chapel a couple times a week in the early morning. Within a regular three week cycle, we have chapel/service of prayer (morning or evening) almost 30 times and we meet for small groups once.

    And ends with this:

    In his book “Life Together” Bonhoeffer makes the point that true community can’t be designed or constructed, it can only come in and through Jesus Christ. This is what takes place as the hearts of sinners are washed clean and conformed to the will of the Father in the proclamation of His Word and the administration of His Sacrament in chapel. The small group meetings are one avenue in which us sanctified-sinners are able to practice what our Savior models in being community for each other (care of our neighbor whomever he may be).

    Another student at St. L stated that they study Scripture from the Sunday’s lessons. ”

    I can’t believe that they are using Bonhoeffer’s neo-orthodoxy as a premises for any occasion.

    1. He believed that “God is teaching us that we must live as men who can get along very well without Him. The God who is with us is the God who forsakes us.” Bonhoeffer also believed that the concept of God as a “supreme Being, absolute in power and goodness,” was a “spurious conception of transcendence,” and that “God as a working hypothesis in morals, politics, and science … should be dropped, or as far as possible eliminated” (Letters and Papers from Prison, S.C.M. Press edition, Great Britain: Fontana Books, 1953, pp. 122, 164, 360).

    2. He believed that mankind had become of age and no longer needed religion, which was only a deceptive garment of true faith; he suggested the need for a “religionless Christianity.” To Bonhoeffer, “the Christian is identified not by his beliefs, but by actions, by his participation in the suffering of God in the life of the world” (Letters and Papers from Prison, S.C.M. Press edition, Great Britain: Fontana Books, 1953, p. 163). Thus, Bonhoeffer’s final writings have given impulse to Marxist theologians sponsoring “liberation theology” and to others wishing to promote a worldly social gospel.

    3. He refused to discuss the origin of Christ, His relationship to the Father, His two natures, or even the relationship of the two natures. Bonhoeffer was adamant in his belief that it was impossible to know the objective truth about the real essence of Christ’s being-nature (Christ the Center, pp. 30, 88, 100-101).

    4. He questioned the Virgin Birth, and in reality denied it (The Cost of Discipleship, p. 215).

    5. He denied the deity of Christ; he advocated that “Jesus Christ Today” is not a real person and being, but a “corporate presence” (Testimony to Freedom, pp. 75-76; Christ the Center, p. 58).

    6. He denied the sinlessness of Christ’s human nature and further questioned the sinlessness of His earthly behavior (Christ the Center, pp. 108-109).

    7. He believed that Christ exists in three “revelatory forms” — as Word, as sacrament, and as church. From asserting that Christ is the church, he followed that all persons in the church are identical with Christ (Christ the Center, p. 58; The Cost of Discipleship, p. 217). This amounts to pantheism!

    8. He believed that Christianity is not exclusive, i.e., that Christ is not the only way to God (Testimony to Freedom, pp. 55-56).

    9. He was a prominent figure in the early ecumenical movement, as evidenced through his associations with the “World Alliance for International Friendship” (a forerunner of the apostate World Council of Churches [WCC]), Union Theological Seminary, and Visser ‘t Hooft (who later became the first General Secretary of the WCC) (Testimony to Freedom, pp. 22, 212, 568). Bonhoeffer also reached out to Roman Catholics, prefiguring the broader ecumenism that blossomed after Vatican II in the mid-1960s.

    10. He was a practical evolutionist (No Rusty Swords, p. 143), and believed that the book of Genesis was scientifically naive and full of myths (Creation and Fall: A Theological Interpretation of Genesis 1-3).

    11. He adhered to neo-orthodox theology and terminology concerning salvation (Testimony to Freedom, p. 130), was a sacramentalist (Life Together, p. 122; The Way to Freedom, pp. 115, 153), believed in regenerational infant baptism (Letters and Papers from Prison, Macmillan, pp. 142-143) as well as adult baptismal regeneration (The Way to Freedom, p. 151), equated church membership with salvation (The Way to Freedom, p. 93), and denied a personal/individualistic salvation (Letters and Papers from Prison, Macmillan, p. 156).

    12. He placed little or no value on the Old Testament –“… the faith of the Old Testament is not a religion of salvation” (Letters and Papers from Prison, S.C.M. Press edition, Great Britain: Fontana Books, 1953, p. 112).

    13. He denied the verbal-plenary inspiration of Scripture, believing that the Bible was only a “witness” to the Word of God and becomes the Word of God only when it “speaks” to an individual; otherwise, it was simply the word of man/men (Testimony to Freedom, pp. 9, 104; Sanctorum Communio, p. 161). To Bonhoeffer, the Bible was meant “to be expounded as a witness, not as a book of wisdom, a teaching book, a book of eternal truth” (No Rusty Swords, p. 118). He also believed in the value of higher criticism/historical criticism, which is a denial of the inerrancy and authenticity of the Bible (Christ the Center, pp. 73-74).

    14. He had no faith in the physical resurrection of Christ. Bonhoeffer believed the “historicity” of the Resurrection was in “the realm of ambiguity,” and that it was one of the “mythological” elements of Christianity that “must be interpreted in such a way as not to make religion a pre-condition of faith.” He also believed that “Belief in the Resurrection is not the solution of the problem of death,” and that such things as miracles and the ascension of Christ were “mythological conceptions” as well (Christ the Center, p. 112; Letters and Papers from Prison, S.C.M. Press edition, Great Britain: Fontana Books, 1953, pp. 93-94, 110).

  6. @John E #56
    In the atmosphere in which Bonhoeffer was raised, educated, and fought against it is no wonder that some of his thoughts, beliefs are not orthodox. He found little good at Union. If you look what the German church was doing under Hitler and what he discovered at Union it is no wonder that he questioned the usefulness of the church.

    I do not agree with everything he said, but given the circumstances he was involved in, it is little wonder that he said some of the things he did.

  7. Just read your article Pastor Rossow. It is disappointing to me.

    When you say “embracing of non-Lutheran (and thus non-Biblical) piety” you basically estrange and condemn all other Christian worship as non-biblical. Personally I would think that holding this view is in itself non-biblical.

    It would seem that the astute theological minds of this website would recognize that if the form were so important Jesus would have told us about it.

    However, to be positive and in line with what I believe our president wants – and our synod needs – I am thankful that you and Pres. Meyer will sit down and discuss, talk, argue, and then bless one another. My prayers are with you.

  8. @John E #57 After reading the list I have had some people point out that it is more of a fundementalist list, which it probably is since I was in a hurry to post it and didn’t read it thoroughly. Bad choice.

  9. Bo,

    Here is what I mean. I am using generalities. Lutheran = Biblical for me. Pentecostal piety is unbiblical beacuse it is based on emotion. Calvinist piety is unbilblical because it is based on the glory of of God over and above his mercy. Roman piety is unbiblicial because it is based on works righteousness, etc.


  10. @Johannes #34

    @Jason #33

    Thanks, I read both your posts. Hmm, not sure if I can classify myself as a curmudgeon, but I guess I have my moments. As a classical musician, maybe some would call me that just for their not understanding how a classical musician thinks. I’ve been Methodist, Presbyterian, charismatic (in order to hang out with my peer group) and my wife has been Baptist and Presbyterian. Been there done that and I’ve experienced plenty of CW in churches where I’ve been hired to play and where I felt it wasn’t worship but instead was a CCM concert.

    @Karl W. Gregory #17
    One of those churches had a CW group meeting in the Schlafly Brewery in Maplewood, for a time, which was just around the corner from my church, an established but struggling LCMS church. It only served to further undermine a divided congregation that was opposed to this gathering. The group eventually was discontinued.

    My wife and I would love if our church stayed a traditionally Lutheran church. It’s only three blocks from our house. There is a fabulous pipe organ and a fine building – it just needs solid believing Lutherans. With the younger generation seeking something deeper, if it were up to me, the congregation would put up a sign outside announcing the Divine Service and the time.


  11. Andrew Strickland :@Helen #50 I did not know there was a numbers worshiping cult! I know many Lutherans seem to also be statisticians, but numbers worshiping? Wow!

    All you have to do is look at some of the pronouncements from Synod Inc and some of the districts in the past several years. The whole TCN program is based on numbers, as is NCD (Natural Church Development). Numbers are important, and I would not go so far as to call it number-worship, but there is an inordinate focus on numbers.


  12. @Johannes #63
    I guess I never thought of it that way. While I teach a lot of numbers, statistics seem to make my eyes glaze over and I do not pay that much attention to them. I guess that would make me a menace at council meetings. 🙂


  13. Thank you for your clarification Pastor Rossow. Would it not be accurate to say that even though other denominations move away from a Lutheran focus they are still Christian? When discussing different denominations’ emphases in doctrine and practice, I highlight why we disagree with them, but I steadfastly maintain that they are brothers and sisters in Christ.

    I applaud the seminary’s willingness to introduce alternative worship forms. Not everyone is wired to worship with a Germanic formal liturgy. Why not have our best training center explore how to sanctify these alternative forms?

    I recognize that this particular website favors a traditional liturgy, but I would challenge the readers here to expand the vision of what worship can be in various congregations.

  14. Andrew Strickland :@Johannes #63 I guess I never thought of it that way. While I teach a lot of numbers, statistics seem to make my eyes glaze over and I do not pay that much attention to them. I guess that would make me a menace at council meetings.

    OK, here’s a little quasi-statistical curmudgeonly numbers excercise for you, complete with a Lutheran question:
    Fact: Unrestricted giving to Synod and some districts has been steadily declining for several years.
    Fact: Per capita giving (based on attendance) has remained almost constant during the same period.
    What does this mean?
    What is to be done?
    Stewardship program?
    Evangelism program?
    Get more information? (Explain)
    Other? (Explain).

    I hope this does not have a glazing effect on your eyes or make your head hurt. On the other hand your answer(s) could result in potential menace at your next council meeting.

    Have fun.

    Johannes (believe it or not, there is a connection to this thread).

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