ACELC Conference — Ecclesiastical Supervision, by Rev. Dick Bolland

The ACELC has posted all the papers from their recent conference here.

We have reproduced the Rev. Dick Bolland’s paper (#2 below) and welcome your comments.

All papers can be reached at the following links:

  1. Introduction to the Conference – Rev. Jim Gier
  2. Ecclesiastical Supervision – Rev. Dick Bolland
  3. Communion, Unionism & Syncretism – Rev. Brent Kuhlman
  4. Divine Service & Liturgical Offices – Rev. Rick Sawyer
  5. Service of Women in the Church – Rev. Robert Wentzel
  6. Office of the Holy Ministry – Rev. John Wolrabe
  7. Unbiblical Removal of Pastors – Rev. Scott Porath
  8. The Church’s Mission & Evangelistic Task – Rev. Clint Poppe
  9. Pure Doctrine – Rev. Daniel Preus
  10. History & Background of the ACELC – Rev. Dick Bolland



by Rev. Richard A. Bolland, Senior Pastor, Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Kansas City, Missouri

The Convening Conference of the Association of Confessing Evangelical Lutheran Congregations
Trinity Lutheran Church, Kearney, Missouri
March 1, 2011


Dear brothers and sisters in Christ.  It is a distinct honor to address this gathering of Missouri Synod Lutherans who think so highly of Holy Scripture’s pure doctrine and that doctrine’s practice that you are willing to go to the trouble and expense of coming to this Convening Conference of the Association of Confessing Evangelical Lutheran Congregations here in Kearney, Missouri.  People supportive of the ACELC’s work come from coast-to-coast and border to border and many of them are here today to listen to some of our Synod’s brightest lights and most expert theologians and pastors to talk about the errors and concerns which have sadly divided our Synod. I am humbled to be in the company of the speakers who will follow my time with you and I only pray that what I have to say is worthy of your consideration.

We gather here not for the purpose of accusing individual pastors or congregations of aberrant practice or even of holding false doctrine, but only to point out the difficulties we face and the issues which divide us so that we might rightly, Scripturally, and Confessionally address, study and seek to resolve them under the Word of God and our Lutheran Confessions.  This resolution has an end in mind – that is to restore the unity that this 164 year old, venerable Synod once knew.  With our founding Synodical Fathers, we wish to strive for uniformity.

If we confess that God is truth and that He cannot err, then we must also insist that such a holy and righteous God cannot reveal contradictory truth.  God simply cannot participate in multiple choice doctrine, nor can He be pleased if His holy Bride, the Church, is divided into factions, contradictory practices, and political parties. As St. Paul has said:

“I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.  

(I Cor. 1:10, In In our Lord’s high priestly prayer in the Gospel of St. John that same appeal to such unity is made crystal clear when He says:

“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. (Jn. 17:20-23, ESV)

With our Lutheran Fathers as well, today we – who bear Luther’s name – must confess that the Christian faith is the Lutheran faith and the Lutheran faith is the Christian faith.  With the confessors of the Augsburg Confession it is precisely this unity which must be sought in the same spirit about which they spoke in the Preface:

“If the other electors, princes, and estates also submit a similar written statement of their judgments and opinions, in Latin and German, we are prepared, in obedience to Your Imperial Majesty, our most gracious Lord, to discuss with them and their associates, in so far as this can honorably be done, such practical and equitable ways as may restore unity.  Thus the matters at issue between us may be presented in writing on both sides, they may be discussed amicably and charitably, our differences may be reconciled, and we may be united in one, true religion, even as we are all under one Christ and should confess and contend for Christ.” (AC – Preface, 9-10, Tappert.)

This statement could easily serve as a purpose statement for the ACELC.  Our concerns are completely theological, not political despite many who have chosen to read into our documents what we did not say nor imply.  Simply put we want to address error, study those errors under God’s Word and our Lutheran Confessions and ultimately resolve these errors so we may be united in one, true religion.  The writers of Augsburg thought no differently that the honorable men and women of the ACELC.

This cursory review of the nature of the unity of the Christian faith and the absolute necessity for that faith to be expressed with one voice, one doctrine, and (as much as is humanly possible), to practice that doctrine in unity, brings us to the first area of concern – ecclesiastical supervision.



Without ecclesiastical supervision, error has it way in the Church.  Until our Lord returns, there will always be error in the Church.  This is true because the Church is made up of sinners – clergymen who are sinners and laity who are sinners.  We tend to prove our status as sinners on a regular basis!  Therefore, there must be a way to correct sinners who fall into false teaching and, therefore, sin.  Broadly put, this is what ecclesiastical supervision attempts to do.

Someone really needs to do a doctoral dissertation on the history of ecclesiastical supervision beginning with the Early Church Fathers and also from the beginning of The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod.  It is a work that cries out to be done and promises much help as we study this necessary activity of Christ’s Church.  For our purposes today, we will limit our survey to a history of the LCMS and then only in a rather cursory way.

Such churchly supervision is necessary because the Church is comprised of sinners who do not always listen to the Word of God and prefer to say either more or less than Scripture actually says.  Despite the sacred vows of ordination given before God and His people pastors are tempted to “reread” holy writ to meet their own ends, often with the best of intentions, but not always.  It is precisely to this sinful reality within Christ’s Church that God’s Word provides copious warnings regarding false prophets, false shepherds, and false teachers.  As St. Timothy writes:

“Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared,” (I Tim. 4:1-2, ESV)

“Practice these things,[pure doctrine] immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. (I Tim. 4:15-16, ESV)

So also St. Peter warns:

“But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed.  (II Pt. 2:1-2, ESV)

And again St. John:

“Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God.  Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works. (II Jn. 9-11, ESV)

Who is to make these judgments and on what basis?  Do such Scripture passages (and many others like them) enjoin us to exercise ecclesiastical supervision of one kind or another?

First, a word about the fancy sounding term “ecclesiastical”.  In the Greek this term comes to the English rather unscathed from ecclesia it is a term which is frequently translated “church” or “assembly”.  So ecclesiastical supervision is simply “churchly supervision”.  The question is who is to exercise supervision in the Church?  The short answer is everyone.

Second, in the proper sense the Church exists whenever the Word of God is taught in all its truth and purity and the Sacraments are administered in accord with Christ’s institution.  These “marks” of the Church are also her mission.  This, of course, means that there must be someone who rightly teaches and administers.  This person is the rightly called pastor.  Wherever the Church is there will be pastor and people.  It is to this truth that St. Paul writes to Titus:

“This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you.”  (Titus 1:5, ESV)

Likewise St. Luke says:

“And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed. (Acts 14:23, ESV)

So also in Acts 20:17 we read that Paul addresses the congregations in Ephesus by calling together the elders of those congregations and saying to them:

“Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.

(Acts 20:28-31, ESV)

And again St. Peter writes:

“So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you,”  (I Pt. 5:1-2b, ESV)

So it becomes very clear from Holy Scripture that the primary responsibility for pure teaching and right practice resides with the rightly called pastor of each and every congregation.  This is precisely why pastors must undergo such stringent and prolonged education in preparation for entering into this divinely instituted and demanding office.  The pastor must be able to rightly understand and interpret Holy Scripture, because only Holy Scripture is the source and norm of all faith and life in the congregation and in the Church at large.  This is why it is critical that pastors have an understanding of the original languages so that all things can be measured rightly against the Word of God.

It is with this demanding but proper requirement of preaching and teaching rightly that the Rite of Ordination requires all pastors to take solemn vows before Almighty God and His people:

“Do you believe and confess the canonical books of the Old and New Testaments to be the inspired Word of God and the only infallible rule of faith and practice?

R:  Yes, I believe and confess the canonical Scriptures to be the inspired Word of God and the only infallible rule of faith and practice.

Do you believe and confess the three Ecumenical Creeds, namely the Apostles’, the Nicene, and the Athanasian Creeds, as faithful testimonies to the truth of the Holy Scriptures, and do you reject all the errors which they condemn?

R:  Yes, I believe and confess the three Ecumenical Creeds because they are in accord with the Word of God.  I also reject all the errors they condemn.

Do you confess the Unaltered Augsburg Confession to be a true exposition of Holy Scripture and a correct exhibition of the doctrine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church?  And do you confess that the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, the Small and Large Catechisms of Martin Luther, the Smalcald Articles, the Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope, and the Formula of Concord – are also in agreement with this one scriptural faith?

R:  Yes, I make these Confessions my own because they are in accord with the Word of God.

Do you promise that you will perform the duties of your office in accordance with these Confessions, and that all your preaching and teaching and your administration of the Sacraments will be in conformity with Holy Scripture and with these Confessions?

R:  Yes, I promise, with the help of God.” (The Rite of Ordination, Agenda-Lutheran Service Book, pp. 165-166.)

The call of a pastor/shepherd is essentially two-fold:  First he is to feed the sheep under his care. This he does by rightly preaching and teaching only in accord with the Word of God and the Confessions.  He also feeds his sheep through the rightly administered Sacraments which also must be accomplished in harmony with the Word of God and the Lutheran Confessions.  Second, it is the calling of the pastor to protect the sheep. And what is he to protect them from?  False teaching and false teachers.  These twin evils divide the Church and move the congregation away from unity into disunity,  away from harmony into discord.  But such false teachers do not usually come to us overtly.  Rather, they are covert.  This is precisely why our Lord gives us warning concerning them:

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” (Mt. 7:15, ESV)

Such men look good, but they are not what they seem.  They sound good, but they tell you lies with just enough truth to help you swallow the lie they are selling to you.  It is of such men that our Lord conclude by saying:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” (Mt. 7:21-23)

Ecclesiastical supervision by the pastor in the context of Christ’s congregation is known as  Church discipline and is a necessary check to maintain the unity of the flock.

It shouldn’t be so, but sometimes pastors themselves stray from their vows and are in error.  Often with the best of intentions pastors want to achieve certain goals or promote numerical growth, (for example), to such an extent that theology needs to be “adjusted” so as to enable things to be done that were not previously understood as right doctrine or faithful practice.  Who, in the congregation then, is to exercise ecclesiastical supervision over the called minister of the Gospel?  Answer:  The laity.

Here I must be bluntly honest with you.  Most heresies and aberrant practices find their way into the Church through those who occupy the pastoral office.  Sometimes it is just laziness on the part of the pastor to retain and keep fresh what was learned at the seminary.  Some are pressured by other pastors or their own lay people to be “more flexible”, or to “have a “wider reading” or “interpretation” of both Scripture and the Confessions that is more in keeping with whatever prevailing cultural norms may be prevalent at the time.  Some just want to keep peace in their own congregations and so give in to things in which they should remain firm.  Whatever the reason, false doctrine and errant practice happens among pastors.

The only corrective for error is the truth!  Someone must point out the truth to the errant pastor.

In a sermon delivered by first Synodical President, C.F.W. Walther he said:

“Wherever and whenever the pure doctrine has been heard, opponents have arisen.  Satan has never been able to leave the church in peaceful possession of its heavenly treasures.  The church therefore has ever had to use God’s Word, not only as food for the soul, but also as a weapon in unceasing warfare against false teachers…Christ says in his sermon on the mount, where not only disciples, but also a great multitude were present, “Beware of false prophets … Ye shall know them by their fruits.” This admonition by the Son of God shows us plainly how entirely false the principle is that the preachers should teach and the hearers only listen, that the shepherds should lead and the sheep only follow, that the clergy should resolve and the congregation only acquiesce. No, when Christ calls upon his hearers to beware of false prophets and to know the true and the false by their fruits, Christ thereby seats all hearers upon the seat of judgment, placed the balance scale of truth in their hands, and bids them confidently execute judgment on their teachers.” (The Sheep Judge their Shepherds, A Sermon by C.F.W. Walther)


To this point I have been speaking of ecclesiastical supervision in the pure sense of the term, that is within the Church proper – the pastor and his congregation.  When we get beyond that realm into that of a man-made Synod or church body, then we are not speaking of the Church proper but of earthly organizations who do not so much exercise churchly supervision as they do “membership” supervision.  This does not make such an endeavor of less value or  less necessary, but it is different in its focus while its goal is the same:  To correct error and to unite in truth under God’s Word and our Confessions.

In the midst of the controversy surrounding the so-called, “Battle of the Bible” during the 1970’s within our own Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod.  Reverend Professor Kurt Marquart said of the laity’s roll:

“And not only pastors, as the divinely appointed teachers of the church, but also the people of the Synod have a right, if not a duty, to follow the conversation and to take part in it – for their own spiritual fate and that of their children is at stake.”  (Marquart, Kurt E., Anatomy of an Explosion, Concordia Theological Seminary Press, 1977, p.1)

Another way in which ecclesiastical supervision has taken place in our Synod often found a primary locus at the circuit pastor’s conferences or “winkles”, (a quaint old German term mean “corner” – as in a gathering of local pastors in the local area.)  These are often the events (normally monthly to this day), in which area pastors brought matters of casuistry to his brother pastors.  Without violating confidentiality, situations that pastors are dealing with in their parishes are brought to the winkle seeking the advice of the brothers.  Often, (especially in the past), when something one pastor was doing seemed questionable or outright wrong, it was the pastors of the winkle which sought to counsel the brother and correct his error.

Still today, our winkles should be engaging in this activity but unfortunately we now have whole circuits which are engaging in questionable practices supporting one another in their error and, if any faithful pastor in that winkle attempts to raise his voice, he can be accosted by the brothers and out-numbered.  Despite the risks some pastors in such a situation still attempt to raise a righteous voice but are often told they are “narrow-minded” or “ultra-orthodox” or “Liturgical Nazi’s” or some other unkind epithet which seeks to demean or marginalize the faithful pastor.  Until we sit down and do the hard work that the ACELC is attempting to accomplish and actually resolve these issues, the ecclesiastical supervision aspect of the local winkle conferences remains somewhat broken, depending on the circuit.

When The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod was formed in 1847 it was specifically the task of the President of the Synod to visit each and every congregation of the Synod and to provide ecclesiastical supervision for them, their pastors and teachers.  Obviously, as the Synod quickly grew this method of ecclesiastical supervision became unworkable.  Before long districts began to form and the need for “visitors” increased.

C.F.W. Walther, in his essay, Duties of an Evangelical Lutheran Synod, said:

…we must remember:  Such offices [visitors] are especially important for the future.  If we fail to set up such offices now, when, by God’s grace we are all united, then untold harm can result therefrom.  Now is the time for us to hold fast to such established practices so that they will be there when at some time false spirits have insinuated themselves.  For such arrangements are not for the zealous, who are on their knees day and night that they may be found faithful; they are rather for those who get weary and exhausted with teaching, keeping watch, praying and doing research.  The devil can again blow out the whole light for us, and unity may turn into such Babylonian confusion that we are appalled.  Therefore we must do all we can to ward off such danger.”  (C.F.W. Walther, “Duties of an Evangelical Lutheran Synod”, Essays for the Church, Concordia Publishing House, vol. II, p.21)

Exactly what is a “visitor”?  Today the counterpart is the Circuit Counselor.  Today, such men serve the pleasure of the District President and are considered officers of the Synod.  My own circuit counselor is a good man who takes his visitation duties very seriously and has visited with both the pastors and the various Boards of Elders in each congregation of our circuit during this past year.  He makes sure that our winkles are well-planned and well-attended.  He also ensures that the serious business of casuistry gets done in our winkles and that there is scheduled time for study of the Scriptures and our Confessions.  Many other circuits are not so fortunate and some of those elected to be Circuit Counselors have often forgotten the “visitor” roots of their position.

Obviously, if a circuit is to be a good circuit it must have a pastor who is willing to serve as the circuit visitor who, himself is faithful to Holy Scripture and to our Lutheran Confessions not only by vocal affirmation, but in the actual carrying out of his pastoral duties in a faithful way in his own parish.  In some circuits I personally know the overriding qualification for serving as the Circuit Counselor is to ask, “Who hasn’t done this yet?”  Obviously, if a visitor is to be a good ecclesiastical supervisor, he must also be the most faithful, knowledgeable pastor in the circuit.

Today Circuit Counselors are the extended hands of elected District Presidents and represent him in the local circuit.  Thus when the Circuit Counselor visits the congregation or pastor it is the District President who is visiting.  As the 2007 Bylaws of our Synod put it:

“The district president shall, in accordance with the Constitution of the Synod, in his ministry of ecclesiastical supervision visit the congregations of the district….He shall come to the pastor and the congregation as a brotherly advisor, reminding them of the joy of serving in the mission and ministry of the church…In his visits he shall include fraternal discussion in regard to worship and Communion attendance; participation by the congregation in missions and the work of the church at large; the congregation’s evangelism and education endeavors; its cultivation of sound stewardship principles; all aspects of compensation for professional church workers; the need for maintenance of purity of doctrine the strengthening of the bond of Christian fellowship; and the provision of resources, opportunities, and assistance so God’s people can grow in their faith, hope, and love.”  (Bylaw 4.4.4, 2007 Handbook)

“Each district president, in accordance with the Constitution of the Synod, shall supervise the doctrine, the life, and the official administration on the part of the ordained or commissioned ministers who are members through his district or are subject to his ecclesiastical supervision, and shall inquire into the prevailing spiritual conditions of the congregations of his district.” (Bylaw 4.4.5, 2007 Handbook)

As you have the opportunity to examine the ACELC’s series of “Evidence of Errors” documents either in your conference materials or from our website you will find example after example of errors that have, for the most part, not been adequately addressed and resolved by means of ecclesiastical supervision.  For instance:

  1. While binding CCM opinion # 0202309 of January, 2003 which authorized immunity of virtually any and all actions by a Synodical worker if he had previously received his ecclesiastical supervisor’s permission was corrected by the 2010 Synodical Convention, the opinion itself was actually upheld and past wrongs done were not corrected.
  2. A congregation in Westport, CT, which blatantly engages in various so-called Charismatic errors remains uncorrected.
  3. Many, many congregations throughout the LCMS also engage in every manner of error respecting the practice of admitting non-Lutherans or Lutherans who are members of church bodies with which the LCMS is not is pulpit and altar fellowship to their altars frequently without correction.
  4. While falsely criticizing the ACELC for becoming an association of congregations which is a “Synod within the Synod”, no criticism is found of the more than 69 congregations who have joined in a non-Lutheran association of congregations known as the “Willow Creek Association” whose materials are frequently in error.  This is true despite the clear statement in the Constitution of the LCMS which states that as a condition for acquiring and holding membership in the Synod:

    “2.  Renunciation of unionism and syncretism of every description, such as…c. Participating in heterodox tract and missionary activities.”  (Article VI – Conditions of Membership, 2007 Handbook, p. 13)

  5. Additionally, ecclesiastical supervision within the LCMS has taken an odd turn with binding CCM opinion 04-2387 which authorizes ecclesiastical supervisors to meet or not meet with any individuals who may actually be in the proper channels of the congregation’s own governance structure and may even exclude the pastor from such gatherings at which they may discuss the ministry of the pastor without due process nor even the courtesy of being able to defend one’s self.  For a Synod which describes itself as “congregational” and its relationship to congregations as “advisory” that is strange indeed.  Thus, the unbiblical separation of the sheep from their shepherd is sanctioned and meeting with disgruntled conventicles within the congregation is approved.

These examples of errors, and many others, are not difficult to discover.  You need only spend a few hours on the internet to see the plethora of errors both doctrinal and practical publicly posted in every district of our Synod.  But to point out what is already public error brings an amazing level of criticism to any who dare do so as the good folks of the ACELC Steering Committee have discovered.  Suddenly it has become those who alert to the error who are the bad guys rather than the errorists themselves!  Holy Scripture teaches otherwise:

So you, son of man, I have made a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. If I say to the wicked, O wicked one, you shall surely die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked person shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, that person shall die in his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul.  (Ezekiel 33:7-9, ESV)

To paraphrase Barry Goldwater, Diversity in error is no virtue, and unity in pure doctrine is no vice.

For example, consider the case of Rev. Fredrick Niedner, professor at Valparaiso University, Valparaiso, Indiana.  On July 12, 2001, Rev. Niedner had chosen to participate in a joint worship service at Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral (Episcopal), in Kansas City, Missouri.  The celebrant for the service was Rev. Susan R. Briehl of the ELCA and the Lord’s Supper was given to all in attendance regardless of denominational affiliation.  Rev. Niedner assisted in the distribution.  During the adjudication proceedings Rev. Niedner indicated his belief that the present “close(d) communion” practice of the LCMS was of relatively recent origin rather than an ancient practice of the Christian Church.  When asked about the LCMS’ 2001 decision in convention declaring the ELCA to be no longer an orthodox Lutheran church body, Rev. Niedner declared his disagreement with the decision and had no problem participating with a female clergy person of that church body.  He also affirmed his belief that women should be permitted ordination into the pastoral office.  When asked if he would stop this kind of behavior, Rev. Niedner indicated that he would do it again and that he did indeed participate in a similar service just recently at Valparaiso University where once again the presiding minister was a female clergy person of the ELCA, named Barbara Berry-Bailey.

Clearly Rev. Niedner had violated and intended to continue to violate the fellowship practice of the LCMS as outlined in Article VI of the LCMS Constitution.  Yet no further action was taken and Rev. Niedner remains on the clergy roster of the LCMS and is a professor at Valpariso, Indiana.  Why has Rev. Niedner not been removed from the clergy roster?  Plainly this case illustrates the seeming inability of ecclesiastical supervision to come to a rational and biblical conclusion and has completed failed to do its job.  I would simply ask:  If Rev. Niedner can’t be removed from our clergy roster, then what can an errant pastor do to be removed?

Brothers and sisters in Christ we in the LCMS have been told that the degree of doctrinal unity we currently enjoy is vastly superior to that of most mainline Christian denominations.  While that may be true we must ask how those other denominations got to be as error-prone as they are?  Did such departure from orthodoxy happen all at once?  No, it did not.  It happened as it always happens – incrementally.  By one neglected error at a time the road to heterodoxy is traveled.  What prevents such a wandering from the truth?  Proper ecclesiastical supervision in both the proper sense (between the pastor and the congregation) and in the membership sense – within man-made structures like Synods and denominations, must occur if the LCMS is  to regain and retain its status as a truly orthodox Lutheran church body.

I have been told by a sitting district president that doctrinal differences in the LCMS are only about at 10 percent level while that of other denominations can be describes as being at 40 percent level.  I would kindly suggest that the reason the other church bodies have become so theologically corrupt is that no one exercised proper ecclesiastical supervision when the problem was only at the 5 percent level.

The bottom line with respect to ecclesiastical supervision is that our failure to deal with error in our current situation has permitted error to flourish in our congregations and has resulted in the deterioration of our unity in doctrine and practice as we now see it.  Further, if our neglect of proper ecclesiastical supervision at every level continues at its current pace, then we should regard with horror what we may well become.  We need only to observe what has transpired within the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to understand that error has no limit but continues to erode truth until the truth itself is lost altogether.



Disputes within church bodies and within congregations are a sad reality and obvious evidence that we are sinners all.  The fact that the Synodical Handbook has dedicated 13 pages of fine print just to outline the procedures for Dispute Resolution, (let alone the copious pages of Commission on Constitutional Matters Opinions and Commission on Theology and Church Relations findings that have sought to clarify what the 13 pages of fine print said), bears witness that we now have a system of dispute adjudication which does not work very well, often resolves nothing and whose conclusions are not always enforced.

Simply put the Dispute Resolution Process (DRP) as we now have it is poorly designed, ungainly in its functions, time-consuming in its procedures and ineffective in resolving much of anything.  Most significantly, the DRP has jettisoned the Holy Scriptures and our Lutheran Confessions as the fundamental instruments and norms of faith and life together as a Synod and substituted a man-made Constitution and Bylaws in their place.  As a result, the DRP no longer has the confidence of the rank and file members of the Synod.  It is a broken system that seems to be incapable of being fixed.  As we have observed it over the years we have discovered that the DRP rarely seeks to settle disputes as much as it seems to accommodate disparate views.  It should be understood that not everything should be reconciled.  Some things simply need to be settled under God’s Word and our Confessions.  There is no legitimate way to reconcile error with truth!

Why do we have the DRP?  One can possibly make the case that the previous adjudication system was also not very good.  But then that was reasonably predictable given that attorneys were part and parcel of nearly every phase of its procedures.  That is usually a sure sign of a broken system!  Surely it would have both expedited and made the former adjudication procedure more effective if the participation of lawyers was not permitted until the entire procedure was completed and then, if thought necessary, take the final decision of the adjudication procedure to court.  While the former Commission on Adjudication had its problems it was head and shoulders over the current DRP.  The DRP is yet another example of the imposition of a business model from corporate America being foisted on the Church as though the Church had no way to settle disputes in accord with Holy Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions, and the ways of the business community were infinitely wise.

Can you imagine the Reformation Fathers during the days of Martin Chemnitz determining that the best way to settle the many and complicated disputes which were extant in the Church of their day would be to establish a process of dispute resolution like that now currently employed by our Synod?  Hardly!  Those men of God knew what to do in order to unify the Church and to come to God-pleasing decisions:  Submit to the Word of God and the Lutheran Confessions.

The process utilized by the churchmen who wrote the Formula of Concord was churchly to the core, biblical in its foundation, and Confessional in its conclusions.  It is a model that desperately needs to be emulated today in The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod.  I hope and pray that President Harrison’s efforts to recreate a Formula of Concord-like process to redress our errors finds much success and it is one of the ACELC’s greatest hopes to supplement and assist the Koinonia Project effort precisely to achieve those ends.  We want to be part of the solution and not part of the problem.

Indeed, I would suggest that the carrying out of President Harrison’s proposed Koinonia Project bears strong evidence that the DRP simply can’t handle the job!  Something else must be done if we are to settle our disputes in a God-pleasing way.

With the DRP gone is the opportunity for individual laymen, individual pastors, and individual congregational members of the Synod to act in their rightful and biblical roles to bring charges against another errant member of the Synod.  Instead, the DRP has become a system of adjudication of the district presidents, by the district presidents and for the district presidents.  It has conferred upon these men a status within the Synod which was never originally intended for them, and subjected the adjudication of disputes to political machinations essentially mixing the balance of power between judiciary functions of the Synod with executive functions of the Synod.

And we ask:  How well has the Dispute Resolution Process worked?  Let’s examine the evidence.

In the ACELC’s “Evidence of Errors – X. Dispute Resolution Process”  document you will find the case of Rev. Tim Tolar and the faithful members of Star of the North Lutheran Church in Kenai, Alaska.  Here is a case of unlawful meetings, unethical involvement of district officials, threatening the utilizing of the local police to use force to physically remove the rightfully called pastor from the pulpit.  From there it got much worse!  Rev. Tolar and the faithful were forced out of their own church building.  The Dispute Resolution Process was utilized and after more than a year the DRP Review Panel found in favor of Rev. Tolar and his flock, but the Northwest District President took no action to enforce the decision.  Instead officers of the Synod and the errant group of the congregation attempted to bring civil suit against Rev. Tolar and those who worshipped with him.  Even though counseled that Rev. Tolar and his flock would prevail in the courts, they chose to settle out of court and subsequently both Rev. Tolar and his flock left the LCMS and formed a new congregation – St. Luke Lutheran Church, Kenai, Alaska.

Since the DRP found in favor of Rev. Tolar, why wasn’t the Northwest District President removed from his office for failing to attempt to enforce the ruling of the DRP?  Why wasn’t the errant Star of the North congregation removed from the membership of the Synod for defying the DRP ruling?

Consider also the case of Trinity Lutheran Church, Herrin, Illinois, and their pastor Rev. Michael Henson.  Having been convinced that our Synod had permitted theological error to become tolerated within our church body they brought their concerns to the Synod following the 2001 Synodical convention.  They were told to wait until the 2004 convention to see if the matters might be rectified.  They were not and in January of 2005 Trinity, Herrin entered into a State of Confessions in order to bear witness to these errors.  At the same time they did follow the Dispute Resolution Process in order to call the Synod back from their six identified points of error.  For six years Rev. Henson and his congregation wrote letters, delivered papers, and published articles.  They submitted overtures to their district convention and to the Synodical convention.  The final step in the Dispute Resolution Process is to submit overtures to the Synodical convention seeking the judgment of the Synod regarding their concerns.  Thus, they submitted ten overtures to the 2007 convention in Houston, Texas.  Due to floor committee actions to either decline or completely rewrite Trinity’s overtures this final appeal was effectively denied.  Finally, on August 19, 2007, Trinity Lutheran Church, Herrin, Illinois severed their association with the LCMS.

These are only three examples of the failure of the Dispute Resolution to bring justice or to consider error and adequately address it.  More are available in the ACELC documents for your review and they are not at all exhaustive.



A church body that cannot exercise appropriate ecclesiastical supervision is asking to become a heterodox church body.  As part and parcel of ecclesiastical supervision a functional and effective means of adjudicating error must be in place.  At the present moment in our Synod’s history it is my opinion that we have neither.  What the ACELC is proposing is to bring the matter of ecclesiastical back to its foundation.  Bring it back to a pastor and his flock.  That can happen if the errors that the ACELC has enumerated for the Synod become the object of broad-based, Synod-wide discussion and study.  These errors deserve to be studied at every congregation in our Synod by both pastors and laymen.  Top-down dictates cannot and will not change congregations at the local level unless the local level understands the issues that are tearing our Synod apart and understand what God’s Word and our Confessions actually say concerning them.

Pastors in every congregation need to have the intestinal fortitude to address these issues understanding that if they do not, then the unity of our Synod can only further deteriorate.  We cannot wait for things to filter down from above.  We have absolutely no guarantee that the current leadership of our Synod will be retained at the 2013 Synodical convention.  One man didn’t get our Synod into this mess and one man isn’t capable of getting us out of us.  We need pastors and laymen who love purity of doctrine more than they love not rocking the boat either at the congregational level or at the Synodical level.

At the Synodical level ecclesiastical supervision can happen when those charged with the membership aspect of ecclesiastical supervision are willing to do what is necessary to remove errorist pastors and errorist congregations from our Synod and not a minute sooner.


Will it be easy?  Obviously not!  Will resistance be encountered?  Absolutely!  Error does not give way easily!

Rev. Dr. Hermann Sasse, writing in the aftermath of the horrific Barmen Declaration of 1934 which formed a false union between Lutherans and Calvinists affirming the worse of the Prussian Union of 1817 wrote of the Church in Germany:

“To this we pose the following question:  Under what circumstances and how long then can orthodox Christians in general remain together in one church with Arians and Pelagians?  According to the basic principles of our church we would answer that erring brothers should be borne in love in the hope that they will repent and return to the truth, but that false doctrine must not be tolerated.  If false teachers have found their way into the church, they must be opposed.  This struggle must also be waged against a church government which protects false teachers and thus makes itself a participant in their evil works.”  (Hermann Sasse, “Union and Confession”, The Lonely Way, vol. 1, p. 281)

To paraphrase Sasse, under what circumstances and how long then can orthodox Lutherans remain together in one Synod with error and errorists?  Like Sasse, we long to bear with those who have strayed from the truth so as to have them repent and return to the truth, but such false doctrine cannot ever be tolerated, let alone affirmed.  As it was with Sasse so it is with us.  False teachers must be opposed and if necessary we must struggle within our own church body to rectify error or face the fact that if the LCMS continues to fail to resolve our errors under God’s Word and our Lutheran Confessions, that we will certainly become a heterodox church body if we are not already.


About Norm Fisher

Norm was raised in the UCC in Connecticut, and like many fell away from the church after high school. With this background he saw it primarily as a service organization. On the miracle of his first child he came back to the church. On moving to Texas a few years later he found a home in Lutheranism when he was invited to a confessional church a half-hour away by our new neighbors.

He is one of those people who found a like mind in computers while in Middle School and has been programming ever since. He's responsible for many websites, including the Book of Concord,, and several other sites.

He has served the church in various positions, including financial secretary, sunday school teacher, elder, PTF board member, and choir member.

More of his work can be found at


ACELC Conference — Ecclesiastical Supervision, by Rev. Dick Bolland — 32 Comments

  1. ———How’s this for Ecclesiastical Supervision!!??##

    Pastor Accused of Denying Communion to Churchgoers Who Didn’t Give Tax Refunds

    Published March 17, 2011


    Members of a small Baptist congregation in Texas say their pastor denied them communion after they refused to give him their tax refunds, reports.

    Parishioners at the Houston Unity Baptist Church claim the pastor, John Goodman, asked members of his congregation to hand over their tax refunds to the church.

    “He said for all those who are getting a tax refund, ‘How many are you are going to give it to the church?'” said one church member, who spoke to the station on condition of anonymity.

    Goodman has admitted to denying his congregation communion but said he did so because church members overall have failed to support the church financially — like giving money toward its new parking lot. He said only four or five members of the church actually donate, and he called the rest of his congregations “devils,” reported.

    “I asked if there were any other members, which I know it is, that got income tax money. I ask if they would like to contribute it over here to the new parking lot,” Goodman said in an interview with the station.

    Read more:

  2. I do not see anything from this group that is false. Their words are wholesome.

    There is no rational expectation that any large number of the pastors and members of our synodical churches are going to listen to them.

    They are called political because their true words can be reasonably expected to result in their separation from the heterodox synod.

  3. “rightly, Scripturally, and Confessionally”
    “under the Word of God and our Lutheran Confessions”
    “under God’s Word and our Lutheran Confessions”
    “in conformity with Holy Scripture and with these Confessions”
    “in accord with the Word of God and the Confessions”
    “in harmony with the Word of God and the Lutheran Confessions”
    “of both Scripture and the Confessions”
    “under God’s Word and our Confessions”
    “for study of the Scriptures and our Confessions”
    “to Holy Scripture and to our Lutheran Confessions”
    “in accord with Holy Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions”
    “to the Word of God and the Lutheran Confessions”
    “God’s Word and our Confessions”
    “under God’s Word and our Lutheran Confessions”

    and, and, and …

  4. Alan,

    And other than submission to the Word of God and our Lutheran Confessions how do you propose we might resolve these issues?

    Ultimately the Synodical administration must decide if we will resolve our differences in doctrine and practice theologically or we will fail to resolve them due to a misguided effort to resolve them by bureaucratic means. Dick Bolland

  5. Rev. Richard A. Bolland :
    And other than submission to the Word of God and our Lutheran Confessions how do you propose we might resolve these issues?
    Ultimately the Synodical administration must decide if we will resolve our differences in doctrine and practice theologically or we will fail to resolve them due to a misguided effort to resolve them by bureaucratic means. Dick Bolland

    You appear to be relying on the power of the Word only. If that is what you are doing, God help you. You will be accused of being political, but you should have a Plan B if the synod won’t listen. I don’t see any humanly-reasoned scenario where that will happen.

  6. Pastor Bolland

    You gave examples in your paper of long standing errors that have yet to be dealt with i.e. the Pastors or professionals not receiving discipline.

    Here is another example 3 years in the making …..

    Being close to the last step in the Synodical process, which is establishing a panel review to deal with an errant Pastor our Sec. has injected himself and is denying such a panel. Not only is this not biblical or confessional it is unilateral and an act of malfeasance. Pastor Bolland you have identified the problem but where is the solution? With actions such as the Sec’s is it any wonder outside, secular lawsuits are all that is left to us. Two DPs, a synod approved outside mediator team and now the Sec. are hijacking the process to protect one of their own. Sec: “it is sad that sometimes we can not arrive at reconciliation but in this case we have not and I can see no reason to continue.” We are now asking him why he thinks he can unilaterally stop the panel and why would not disciplinary remedies and manging damages be a result as well. It is true that the process may not leave the complaintants and the Pastor singing Kumbaya but does that mean that acts of bullying, blatant lying, lying/gross exaggeration regarding his accomplishments and qualifications, creating a hostile environment for our staff, stealing time and goods, negligence, misuse of funds, doctrinal error, etc. still not be dealt with? The pastor refuses to deal with these issues, our mediator says “we have failed to reach his heart” and yet we are stopped from having the panel process? Our research has shown that this Pastor was asked to leave a congregation 20 years ago, his previous congregation forced him out as well and when he exited our parish he lied on his application for a position at Grace Place and was let go and yet we cannot establish a panel to design the proper discipline and handle remedies needed for abused parishioners? This is painful and now that we know the extent to which this “biblical/confessional” church body is willing to go to avoid discipline why should we stay around and be a part of it or send in our dollars to support it? If you have any insights or can direct us to someone inside the synod to help us it would be much appreciated. As it is if Sec. does not reverse himself a pro bono law firm is ready to step in and sue the synod and several of us will act as complaintants in that realm. I can tell you that the Synod will be shamed in public and awards will be extracted from it that could cripple it. If that happens it will be the fault and only the fault of all the “shepherds” who have been involved in this process from day one and have deigned to turn their back on the problem. It seems the Synod believes only in a form of forgiveness that excludes discipline and consequences. Although the Pastor did not sexually abuse anyone the process of dealing with his offences is very “Roman Catholic” and the law firm that dealt with the RCs may soon deal with the LCMS.

    Aside from the pure arrogance and avoidance of this process our professionals appear to be clueless to the facts of the world and are far less skilled and far less shrewd than the pagans, not to mention spineless as well. Most of us here no longer provide a Pastor with our trust, they must earn it and demonstrate why it would be well placed in them. Just the sight of a collar around here gives one the hee bee gee bees. Thankfully we have all had some great shepherding, assertive Pastors in our day and know they still exist out there. But their number is getting very small in the LCMS.

  7. Mames,
    Your story saddens me. But it does not surprise me. It is obvious to almost everyone that the ecclesiastical suppervison/dispute resolution system in the LCMS is broken. I have witnessed over the years DP’s who protect “favorites” who commit gross vilations of the pastoral office. While at the same time these same DP’s go after faithful pastors who push back against the DP or one of his “favorites”.

    What needs to be done immediately is for a group of confessionals to meet and begin crafting resolutions for the next convention to do a complete overhaul of the dispute resoltuion process and make sure that ecclesiastical supervison takes place. (I am not talking about the type of ecclesiastical supervison of SP Kieschnick with DP Benke)

    In general I am not in favor of civil lawsuit in church matters. However, if the facts are as you related then this would be an instance which begs for a civil lawsuit. Sad to say it might take a lawsuit in which the LCMS is forced to pay out to get this type of arrogant action to stop.

  8. I want to be clear that none of us want a secular suit but as it looks it may come to that. Although I believe a reorder of our process would be done FIRST laymen must not be intimidated by these so called holy men and hold them publicly accountable. WE are doing everything we can to get this done in house but if leaders are corrupt what can we do? Maybe HARRISON

  9. mames :I want to be clear that none of us want a secular suit but as it looks it may come to that. Although I believe a reorder of our process would be done FIRST laymen must not be intimidated by these so called holy men and hold them publicly accountable. WE are doing everything we can to get this done in house but if leaders are corrupt what can we do? Maybe HARRISON

    I would be careful about slander. That whole part of the thread should probably be deleted by the site owner. (((removed)))

    The entire DRP is a mistake and a huge error, but one of the conditions of the Dispute Resolution Process when you chose to use it is that you agreed to maintain confidentiality and not publicize the proceedings. Your comments in this thread doesn’t put you in a very good light.

    What does the Dispute Resolution Process have to do with the behavior of your pastor? The congregation deposes a pastor, not the Synod. If you have a problem, charge him under due process with one of the three Scriptural reasons that call for the dismissal of a pastor and let your voters assembly decide. If he’s not guilty of one of the three reasons (false doctrine, immoral lifestyle, incapacity/inability/refusal to perform the duties of his office), then you’re going to have to suck it up and get on with your lives.

    As membership in Synod is voluntary, a lawsuit isn’t going to work.

  10. Timothy C. Schenks :

    If you have a problem, charge him under due process with one of the three Scriptural reasons that call for the dismissal of a pastor and let your voters assembly decide. If he’s not guilty of one of the three reasons (false doctrine, immoral lifestyle, incapacity/inability/refusal to perform the duties of his office), then you’re going to have to suck it up and get on with your lives.

    If only it were that easy. Pastors by their personality will attract certain types of people into the congregation as members. And others leave during a transition because of the change in leadership. It happens. Add to the fact that many think you can’t discipline ro say no or anything untowards, so the chances of *negative* votes just won’t add up. Kind of an example, when we calling pastors at my previous church, the first guy I had such grave misgivings about. Some others were uneasy about him, too, but after the fact in conversation, pretty much all of the stil voted yes. (130? – 11, my wife and I two of the dissenters) Way to vote your conscious…. Just because he is titled a pastor in the LC-MS does not guarantee he will follow a Lutheran path. Harrison is spot on when he mentioned 40 years of poor catechesis. I think too many laity have lost good thinking ability.

  11. Schenks,

    Yes and when the process is violated by the Sec. the all bets are off. Did I mention that the Pastor in question has already violated confidentiality even from day one of our “confidential” mediations? Confidentiality has become a cloak for the Sec and this pastor to hide. They do not have to maintain but we do? Not fair and not biblical and definitely not Pastoral. Besides other than mentioning the name of Our Sec. who has openly violated the process no one else has been mentioned by name. The Grace Place issue is an open issue and not part of the initial process. BTW Grace Place was warned to do their due diligence before hiring this, this, person but they did not listen and had to let him go a year later. They embarrassed themselves in the process. Our Synod is lousy with clergy who can’t take advice nor keep their mouth shut when they should and they seem to have no problem manipulating the facts and process. AND the secular group we are working with have throughly vetted this case and have assured us that if we follow the internal process and no remedies are achieved then they can in fact take over and put this in front of a jury. Secular juries have no sympathy for way ward clergy. The last case they won was for over 350 million against a non denominational group with at Pastor behaving the same way as ours. I appreciate your concerns but you are dead wrong on this confidentiality issue. Throughout this process the only folks who have maintained confidentiality have been the laymen while the clergy abuse it daily. We cannot be expected to just sit and take it without defending ourselves. The laymen involved were faithful to confidentiality but we just can’t sit by and be used like this by our so called “shepherds”. Unsuspecting future victims deserve to be protected and we have a responsibility to do so unlike the two previous parishes and two previous DPs who allowed him to land here.

  12. Mr. Mames, I have deep empathy for your situation, by your account you and your fellow parishioners have been foully abused. Unfortunately, we all sin in our vocations as President Harrison stated in his remarks following his installation as President of Synod. I pray that you do not have to bring a lawsuit against Synod, District, et cetera, but then you must do as you see fit. I would like to offer a couple of suggestions for you and anyone else in these situations. Prayer, but not any prayer, but intercessory prayers.
    First pray TLH Hymn 260,

    “O Lord, Look Down from Heaven, Behold”
    by Martin Luther, 1483-1546
    1. O Lord, look down from heaven, behold?And let Thy pity waken:?How few are we within Thy Fold,?Thy saints by men forsaken!?True faith seems quenched on every hand,?Men suffer not Thy Word to stand;?Dark times have us o’ertaken.
    2. With fraud which they themselves invent?Thy truth they have confounded;?Their hearts are not with one consent?On Thy pure doctrine grounded.?While they parade with outward show,?They lead the people to and fro,?In error’s maze astounded.
    3. May God root out all heresy?And of false teachers rid us?Who proudly say: “Now, where is he?That shall our speech forbid us??By right or might we shall prevail;?What we determine cannot fail;?We own no lord and master.”
    4. Therefore saith God, “I must arise,?The poor My help are needing;?To Me ascend My people’s cries,?And I have heard their pleading.?For them My saving Word shall fight?And fearlessly and sharply smite,?The poor with might defending.”
    5. As silver tried by fire is pure?From all adulteration,?So through God’s Word shall men endure?Each trial and temptation.?Its light beams brighter through the cross,?And, purified from human dross,?It shines through every nation.
    6. Thy truth defend, O God, and stay?This evil generation;?And from the error of their way?Keep Thine own congregation.?The wicked everywhere abound?And would Thy little flock confound;?But Thou art our Salvation.
    Hymn 260 ?The Lutheran Hymnal?Text: Ps. 12?Author: Martin Luther, 1523?Translated by: composite?Titled: “Ach Gott vom Himmel, sieh darein”?Tune: “Ach Gott vom Himmel”?1st Published in: Enchiridion?Town: Erfurt, 1524
    Another prayer to pray is one of the Imprecatory Psalms. Imprecatory Psalms are those those psalms that contain curses or prayers for the punishment of the psalmist’s enemies. To imprecate means to invoke evil upon, or curse. Psalms 7, 35, 55, 58, 59, 69, 79, 109, 137 and 139 all contain prayers for God’s judgment on the psalmist’s enemies.

    Psalm 7:1–17 (ESV)
    1 O LORD my God, in you do I take refuge; save me from all my pursuers and deliver me, 2 lest like a lion they tear my soul apart, rending it in pieces, with none to deliver. 3 O LORD my God, if I have done this, if there is wrong in my hands, 4 if I have repaid my friend with evil or plundered my enemy without cause, 5 let the enemy pursue my soul and overtake it, and let him trample my life to the ground and lay my glory in the dust. Selah 6 Arise, O LORD, in your anger; lift yourself up against the fury of my enemies; awake for me; you have appointed a judgment. 7 Let the assembly of the peoples be gathered about you; over it return on high. 8 The LORD judges the peoples; judge me, O LORD, according to my righteousness and according to the integrity that is in me. 9 Oh, let the evil of the wicked come to an end, and may you establish the righteous— you who test the minds and hearts, O righteous God! 10 My shield is with God, who saves the upright in heart. 11 God is a righteous judge, and a God who feels indignation every day. 12 If a man does not repent, God will whet his sword; he has bent and readied his bow; 13 he has prepared for him his deadly weapons, making his arrows fiery shafts. 14 Behold, the wicked man conceives evil and is pregnant with mischief and gives birth to lies. 15 He makes a pit, digging it out, and falls into the hole that he has made. 16 His mischief returns upon his own head, and on his own skull his violence descends. 17 I will give to the LORD the thanks due to his righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the LORD, the Most High.
    Mr. Mames, do you have access to the book “Grace Upon Grace” by the Rev. Dr. John Kleinig, if you do please look at the last chapter, the Hidden Battle, it would be helpful for you and others.
    My last comment for you and others would be to find a father confessor and confess any sin that is troubling your conscience and most importantly receive absolution for the sin that is troubling you, it will be very beneficial for you. If I may give a personal example for you. Almost four years ago my former parish ran me off, I resigned the Divine Call, which in itself is sinful, but I have received absolution for that, BTW. After this time I thought I was over it, but then I saw one of the chief proponents of my resigning and her husband at a conference and all of the rage and anger swelled up in me that I thought was over, but it was not. Satan was finding a chink in the armor that God has given to me. The evil one was attacking again! However, I was very fortunate because the District was providing two pastors for confession and absolution, to which I availed myself.
    After I was absolved by the Pastor, who stands in for Christ, I was entirely relieved of my sin of hatred and I was able to look at the people who had hurt me with care and compassion. Moreover, I was able to say hi to them, even though the wife ignored me. I pray that they would avail themselves of Confession and Absolution, also.
    Mr. Mames, I will pray for you and your congregation,
    Your Brother in Christ,
    Pr. Stuart Burt
    Asst. Pastor, Grace, Grand Island

  13. Pr Burt

    I do not think you understand the extent of the problem. This Pastor must not be allowed to stay in the Synod as a result of his extended behavior regardless if whether he is penitent or not. Forgiveness must be given but so must consequences. If my son were to kill someone while intoxicated behind the wheel, he would be repentant but he would also have to receive consequences even as I would continue to love him. I would not try to intervene to prevent him from enduring the consequences of his actions. In this case the level of damage this pastor has inflicted is so deeply offensive on a spiritual and pure human level that leaving him on our roster would be a blatant act of defiance to Mat 18.

    Also I do believe that Pastors can be wrongly accused but in this case the evidence and witnesses are overwhelming against the Pastor who remains impenitent and defiant.

    The one thing needful here is for Pastors and leaders to do what Gods Word directs in Matt 18 and begin to treat him like a pagan. Maybe then he will understand what he has done to so many. BTW how do we treat pagans, just as we would any other lost sinner, with love and The Gospel. “What we have here”… is a willful failure to do what God demands. When we do not follow his Word we only end up hurting ourselves which is why he demands in the first place.

    Prayer is our half of the conversation and we have done a mountain of it but God expects us to act according to his Word not to just pray and hope for the best.

    lf you were guiltless of the accusations of some of your members I ache for you. I am glad that you understand running away was not the answer. Maybe, growing up, I got used to “MEN” of the cloth and now I see cowards in Pastoral clothing. I too remember a case where a pastor was accused of serious bad behavior. Our then sainted DP intervened and used his considerable influence to fix the situation. The Pastor was removed from parish duty and went on to become one of the best Chaplins in our District. That was a time when our shepherds were men and willing to carry the cross of self discipline and to discipline each other as needed. BYW I am unsure as to why resigning the office of the Holy Ministry is a sin. Many got in for subjective reasons and should leave. The Pastor in question here is fond of telling how he wanted to be a Pastor since the first grade! I seem to remember that most of the called men in God’s Word initially had to be dragged into the office. At any rate I do not understand why it would be a sin.

    I have a dear Father confessor who is just as upset about this as we are and doing what he can to help expedite this in a Godly fashion. I have for the greatest part been able to hold my temper but when Pastors act like children and cowards in the face of their oversight responsibility then I am capable of getting just as coarse as Luther.

    Thank you for your Pastoral response.

  14. If the time has not come to finally stop “agreeing to disagree”, then when? Must we wait until more women than men are attending Seminary? Must we wait until we declare fellowship with the UCC? Must we wait until the disagreements are all gone because our Synod is no longer a Christian organization? When, O Lord will you raise up clergy and laymen to defend your Church?

  15. @John #18
    Really?! Maybe when Christ makes hid triumphal return, but in the meantime, I don’t think it is unreasonable to expect that the men who have CHOSEN to accept their calls at least TRY to fulfill them honestly and honerably. Yes, we know that we are ALL sinners, even our Pastors, but open and unrepentant sin shouldn’t be accepted among us from anyone, whether they are Pastors, laity or synodical officials. Whether or not the errors noted in the ACELC documents rises to such a level may be a matter of debate, which as I understand it, is where they have left the matter, but we cannot allow the synod to use the DRP to cloak and protect those who deserve to be removed from their positions, as Mames asserts that they are. Lamely excusing it as a result of Pastors being called from the ranks of sinners is an insult to us and to the office, and is not worthy of our Christian faith.

    Submitted in the spirit of true Christan love,
    Eric Ramer

  16. Eric, exactly! Law and Gospel not Gospel alone

    All are capable of sins of weakness and sins of the will. When dealing with sin God always is ready to forgive and open the gates of heaven BUT He still requires temporal consequences as He did with Moses, David and the thief on the cross. A recent example is one of our teachers from Michigan who sexually abused children has been forgiven but he still sits in a Federal prison. All were forgiven but left to deal with the consequences of their willful sin. This is discipline 101 but it seems our leadership is content to forgive and neglect the required consequences which are demanded by God for the order of this temporal realm. Although I consider myself a highly educated lay theologian I should not be the one who has to point this out to those who have received elaborate formal training; no what is lacking here is tenacity and a willingness to do what must be done. WE laymen are a fault for letting some of these weak minded men in authority to get away with this. As the dearly departed Dr. Marquart and Luther himself once said, and I generously paraphrase, “we must not allow the church to be run by the clergy, the call comes from the congregation not the other way around.” The laymen owe our called Pastor all respect and honor as they are a wonderful gift from God but when they deviate from God’s words and ways they must accept the consequences even as we must. The LCMS still has many wonderful Pastors but even these wonderful Pastors must demand accountability from each other and too often the good stand by and do and say nothing. Checkout Gods view of men who stand by and do nothing – it is not pretty.

  17. @Eric Ramer #19

    Eric – in theory, I agree with you. And, as you correctly noted, whether the fraternal admonition sets the standard is still open to depate. And, unless and until that metter is resolved, go apply it as THE standard as the ACELC, could also be characterized as an example of open and unrepentant sin, sin against the eight commandment, incorrect application of the Office of Keys and inconsistent with Christ’s teaching about how to work with a brother whom you think has sinned against you.

    Also submitted in the spirit of true Christian love.

  18. John:

    Again, you seem to miss the point. One has to wonder if it is deliberate disembling.

    The ACELC is is not calling out individuals or individual congregations for PRIVATE sins. They are pointing to PUBLIC PRACTICE and saying “this appears to be contrary to scripture as our confessions interpret it. Why is this being allowed? Let’s engage in public debate to determine if our obsevations are correct and if discipline and correction are appropriate and required.” No one is pretending to be “holier than thou;” they are only safe-guarding proper doctrine and practice within our synodical family, which as I see it, is the very definition of familial Christian love. How does that violate the 8th commandment? If the error (notice I’m not calling it sin, as that may still be a matter of discussion) is public, then the querstioning, debate and rebuke (if it comes to that) should be public as well, shoudn’t it? These matters must be handled openly and publically so the entire church body can receive the benefit of a proper confession of the issue of doctrine. At least that’s my humble layman’s opinion.

    Eric Ramer

  19. @Eric Ramer #22

    Around the issue of how do we handle these concerns GOD has already made it quite clear.

    The confidentiality aspects of our process only works if all comply, not just most or many bit all. Last night we determined that our former Pastor is again violating confidentiality in an effort to gain sympathy from well intentioned but highly misinformed and woefully doctrinally and theologically immature supporters of his. One of the common practices of correctly accused Pastors to use is to rally the weaker of the herd around him. SOoo…publicly handling via the panel is vital.

    BTW and as an aside this using of the weakest among us is often done by CG advocates creating an atmosphere of us versus them. The CG Pastor then intimates that advocates of fuller liturgy are out of step and uncaring ( the sin of judging motives). Some literature of how to do CG advocates just such a method and indicates that “sometimes you will lose some in order to create the new CG culture”. I believe these ideas are drawn from Dewey and his socialist controlling approach to public education. Dumbing down by not teaching vital info such as in our case weak Cathetics is also part of the process. (lack of teaching the constitution in our secular setting) The LCMS is starting to produce some real narcissist Pastors as they see themselves as CEOs and no longer as shepherds and leaders. But don’t get me started… 🙂

    May the Lord, Our Savior and dearest friend raise up active laymen and authentic Pastors that we may more faithfully spread His Word and God deeply bless those wonderful Pastors among us and give them courage and wisdom as we deal with our serious divides.

  20. @mames #23

    Don’t get ME started…. 🙂

    You descibed the situation I felt and observed in my former congregation, and read about from Rick Warren’s types of materials. CEO, TCN, consolidation of power, using business models for policy governance.

    Since I am drawing for other threads already, Alan Hirsch’s book concerns me, but watching a video presentation of him is way more palpable. I like how he takes digs at CGM and seeker sensative. But one thing I liked that he said was 1st Commandment and having Jesus as Lord of all. Jesus, the Gospels, the Bible gives us many tools that we need to gather together. He said that if we rely more on secular solutions, then they are now idolatrous, being more important than God in our outlook. There were a couple of nuggets I got out of my class.

  21. Any institution that does not consider the Word of God as paramount in any and all of its deliberations can only become corrupt. Such an institution may retain its name and structure and even its membership, but once a churchly institution resorts to attempted resolution of theological issues by means of bureaucratic manipulation, then such an institution has truly lost its way.

    The ACELC is desperately attempting to speak to our Synod as Christian brothers and sisters should speak to an erring brother or sister. That can only be properly done by considing the Holy Scripture and our Confessions in the light of our current difficulties. Yet many are unnecessarily upset with the ACELC effort precisely because we have not engaged the very means by which the corruption has been aided and abetted – the DRP.

    What really seems to be troubling some within our Synod is that the ACELC is publicly pointing out that our system of ecclesiastical supervision is quite broken and dysfunctional as Mames experience has illustrated. What a surprise that our district presidents don’t like that.

    What is the solution? Clearly, the implementation of the proposed Koinonia Project is evidence of the failure of our current ecclesiastical bureaucratic structures to resolve the issues afoot in our Synod. As I pointed out in my paper, if they had been working well, then the Koinonia process would have been unnecessary. Clearly it is necessary as is the work of all of us to ecourage the clear identification of our errors, broad-based study and discussion in every congregation of the Synod and at pastor’s circuit conferences, and finally a God–pleasing resolution to these issues so that our unity in doctrine and practice echoes the unity of the faith we believe, teach, and confess. Rev. Richard A. Bolland

  22. @Rev. Richard A. Bolland #25

    Thank you Pastor Bolland – I remember God’s word when He said “having only the form of Godliness”. I would expect all Christians especially Pastors and Professional leaders to accept criticism and learn from it in stead of simply rejecting it. Self examination is critical for growth even if that criticism may come from a jack ass it is still necessary to compare to God’s word to see if you are in alignment with it. Whatever happened to admitting you are wrong? Do our leaders think they are infallible, if so they are in the wrong church body, they should go east to Rome. Our experience here teaches that they do in deed see themselves as the final arbiter rather than God’s Word. I pray it does not take a fiscal house cleaning to teach a lesson but it may in fact come to that and the outcome will be on their conscience if they still have one. I know that sounds bitter but after 3 years of this absolute head in the sand, CYA, protect a brother in the cloth mentality we are due a little righteous anger.

    BTW we have a circuit here with a Circuit counselor who is an admitted serial adulterer. How does that happen? The other Pastors in that circuit should be ashamed of themselves and after his repeated offenses he should be off our roster. SO our situation is not unique in this district or others for that matter.

  23. @Eric Ramer #22

    Eric – whether public or private, if you are calling the individual engaged in the practice, rather than the practice, per se, Christ’s instruction is clear – the matter is private.

    If you are talking about “error” rather than “sin”, standards defined by the Office of Keys do not apply. Please stop using that kind of logic to justify ACELC’s behavior. And, if you are calling for dialogue about the practices that you question, it is premature to refer to those practices as “error”.

  24. @John #27

    When private council does not correct the sin then another is to be brought in and finally the church and if necessary, excommunication. So there is a path from as private as possible to fully open as necessary. Matt 18

    Error and sin is defined as being out of step with God’s Word and that can be defined long before dialog begins. One’s willingness to acknowledge their error or sin is a mark of Christian maturity. Unwillingness to confront someone who is acting contrary to God’s Word is cowardice and a deep lack of love. Unwillingness to accept constructive correction from Gods Word is defiance against God and self destructive. Our Father does indeed discipline those whom He loves and has called to be His own – and it’s just plain stupid not to accept His correction! But we are stupid sometimes aren’t we? :).

  25. @mames #28
    Mames – Eric said that we were talking about “errors”, not about “sin”. He also said that these are matters for open discussion. There is not yet agreement that this really is a matter of sin, discipline based on God’s Word, etc. etc.

  26. @John #27
    You wrote”Eric – whether public or private, if you are calling the individual engaged in the practice, rather than the practice, per se, Christ’s instruction is clear – the matter is private.”

    Can you elaborate on this more? I’m not sure I understand it to be so clear cut. I’m not theologically trained, so I may be wrong (is that a sin? 🙂 I’ll accept your assertion that error and sin are synonymous). Who is the individual sinning? The Pastor? The congregation as a synodical member? Who is the individual being sinned against? Each member of the body of Christ seperately? Members of Synod? Are the admonitions of sin and error in the Pauline epistles private? they are by some standard, but if so, how is the fraternal admonition, made within the synodcal community and less so? Doesn’t a proper confession require that the entire body of Christ be warned/informed? How is this different from Luther pubkically admonishing the Cathjolic Church/Papacy? If you see someone publically behaving in a mmanner that endangers themselves and others, say a preschool teaxher leading his class down the sidewalk and heading into traffic, is it wrong to shout out “Stop! Watch out!” Especially if your sibling/child/friend in in his class? What about shouting to the kids, if you can’t get his attention, or to bustanders that may be closer and can help?

    I hadn’t given this a great deal of thought, so I’d like to hear more from you on this. Also, I’d love to hear some learned third party response.

    Thanks for your thoughtful response.

    Eric Ramer

  27. @John #29
    Violation of your ordination vows by heterodox verbal doctrinal espousing and writings is in fact sin not just error. Orthodox Lutherans have always understood that a little leaven spoils the whole loaf. Luther stood on one word, “is”, precisely because converting “is” to “represents” is placing man’s reason above the Word of God, a sin against the first commandment. He was correct and the Zwinglian sin has blossomed into full blown double predestination, Arminianism and enthusiams of many forms.

    AS regards a Pastors conduct, verbal abuse, creating a hostile work environment, trying to run a congregation by sinfully declaring your “call” as irrevocable, leading a group to unseat your current board of directors, side stepping your congregation’s constitution to encourage your own CG agenda is sin.

    A few may question whether or not we can agree that these things are sin but to deny that they are is a sin in itself and an act of self delusion.

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.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.