Great Stuff Found on the Web — 1st V.P. Mueller Talks Plainly about the Koinonia Project

There has been a lot of talk about the Missouri Synod’s Koinonia Project, not all of it helpful or well-informed. The head of the project, First Vice President Herb Mueller, Junior often contributes to the President’s Office blog “Witness, Mercy, Life Together.” Here is his most recent post in which he talks plainly about the Koinonia Project and where it is heading.

From wmltblog.org:

 


 

Currently under development through the Office of the President of the Synod, the Koinonia Project is basically intended to draw the members of our Synod closer together in our confession of God’s Word.  Just that statement alone begs the question – why is the Koinonia Project needed?  What are the issues?  What’s the real problem?

Some would say, “If only ‘they’ would behave themselves as Christians,” (whoever “they” are!), “our problems would be solved.”  Or, “the real problem is those pastors who…” and you can fill in the blank with whatever you think is the malady.  Indeed, the Task Force on Synodical Harmony (whose report you can access at www.lcms.org/koinoniaproject) has identified a number of issues, both behavioral and theological.  Everyone, it seems, will have their list of reasons why our Synod experiences conflict in our life together.  In the Koinonia Project concept paper, also at www.lcms.org/koinoniaproject, we list a few of the obvious theological issues, not to be exhaustive but simply illustrative.

The point is, most people can identify at least some of the problem.  Of course, it is also true that how each person (including myself!) evaluates the issues and conflicts will be colored by his or her political biases and expectations.  No one should be surprised by this.  It’s been part of our life together for a long time.  In fact, this phenomenon is one of the clearest examples of the need for an effort like the Koinonia Project.  It’s also the source of some misconceptions about the project.

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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, LCMSsermons.com, 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 KNFA.net.

Comments

Great Stuff Found on the Web — 1st V.P. Mueller Talks Plainly about the Koinonia Project — 35 Comments

  1. I see no effort here mentioned to do the discipline necessary to correct or remove those who are in behavioral or theological error. This reads like a PC form letter from a federally cowed HR department in the secular world. BTW in the area of behavioral and theological public expressions that are heterodox or otherwise in error we are NOT all guilty. That old ploy of we all have sinned does not excuse the need for discipline. This is a disappointing start given that it comes from a source that by now, with all his years of experience and with the hope many placed in him, should know better.

    Am I the only one who sees a parallel here between the secular RINOs and these spineless leaders?

  2. Mames – how do you propose to identify those in theological error before completion of the proposed synod-wide studies?

  3. Mames – We didn’t crawl into this hole in one day, one year or even one decade. It’s a lot easier to fall into a hole than to crawl out of that hole. While some are ready to leap out of this morass, others may choose to lend a ear and hand to our fellow Lutherans who are struggling and need our help. I suggest we all pray for our President and the koinonia project.
    Pax,
    Dennis

  4. mames, that third paragraph was particularly unconvincing.

    And we can expect more of this talk at least until the pilot groups become “active” (maybe) in the Fall, at which time they will be putting out their own talk like the current Koinonia post. As you concluded, it’s all underwhelming.

  5. How many of these problems would be avoided if all persons involved would abide by their ordination vows?

  6. @mames #2

    > Am I the only one who sees a parallel here between the secular RINOs and these spineless leaders?

    Why are you complaining anonymously on a blog and not leading all the masses who so desperately need your leadership?

    I don’t appreciate your calling these pastors, who are laying themselves on the line to bring our synod back on track, ‘spineless’. Take it back.

    M. Whitener

  7. I didn’t see anything in this “project” that concerned dealing with those who teach contrary to The Holy Bible and or the Lutheran Confessions.

  8. @mbw #7

    My name is up front – Mike ames, Rochester Michigan. I have been in the thick of this for over 4 years and can tell you plainly that many of us here are fighting this but when you get nothing but cliched, smart assed answers from “godly” DPs and other leadership who themselves are guilty of many of these public sins it gets exhausting. Even the DRP has built in opportunities for the offender to wiggle away. But we do not give up because exhausting you is a big part of their method; they just want you to go away and not hold them accountable. Belittling your lay status is also another approach but many of us here have a better grasp on our confessions than they do and can adeptly use a lexicon. How can we weed out some these pasotrs asap? PAY ATTENTION TO THE EVIDENCE PROVIDED BY YOUR LAY FOLKS DON’T TRY TO COVER UP OR BURY.

    It is so frustrating to get these kinds of responses because once one finally faces the fact that a Pastor CAN INDEED be a nasty person and a promoter of false doctrine the next step is to flush it out in the open where YOU become the bad guy. “That Pastor could not possibly be guilty of anything, after all he’s a Pastor” is so often the response to the allegations even in the face of hard evidence.

    I you would like names and data that can be provided if anyone in this Synod really cares.

  9. @Dennis Peskey #4

    Trust me my knees are bleeding from prayer. I have no problem waiting on the Lord but when He tells us exactly how to handle these situations and the leadership refuse His direction I hold them responsible and have no patience for it.

  10. @mbw #7 TRUST ME WE HAVE MATT 18. WE DO NOT NEED ANOTHER PROCESS; processes are often avoidance techniques thus the spineless comment. If you had experienced the lack of faithfulness due to PC concerns in our Synod you would not be saying this.

  11. @mames #10

    > 4 years

    mames, 1 Peter 4:12. I’ve been at it a lot longer than you. Others have been at it a lot longer than me. Pastor Harrison is not proposing a new process like DRP. He and his VPs are putting things in writing for something more like a one-off ‘process’ so that it will be done decently and in good order.

  12. @mames #12

    Also mames you seem to assume that what the president is going to do here is contrary to Scripture in some way. Unfortunately, as flawed as DRP is, not very many people will listen to you if your only tactic is to demand a rollback to some prior time in history [pre DRP / pre 1969 / pre 1945 / …] You have to restate things. You can restate faithfully or less so. You actually have to have a ‘conversation’ going with actual souls, so stating is not enough.

    To approach an issue pastorally, making correct proclamations is only part of your job. You are doing to care about each damned sinner actually hearing and understanding. You are never going to corrupt the message, but you are going to engage with people.

    This executive office is going to restate and converse faithfully. They know their doctrine and practice and have well proven it.

  13. @Young Blood #6

    > How many of these problems would be avoided if all persons involved would abide by their ordination vows?

    Many, but how do you get there?

    [youtube tNfGyIW7aHM 450]

  14. I don’t know if all the comments above come from within or without the LCMS. I can tell that many of the comments come from wounded people. Please don’t judge current attempts at koinonia based on past hurts. Telling everyone something is a failure as it begins only shows your bias from the start, and your unwillingness to participate in a constructive way.

    I, too, have “written off” fellow pastors in the LCMS – to my SHAME. It shows an unwillingness in ME to be reconciled, a greater sin than those I think others have committed. If I am unwilling to allow the Word of the cross be applied to others, I don’t believe it myself.

    I don’t think it is being unfaithful to God to begin this process by accepting that everyone currently within the LCMS should be included. Including everyone is not agreeing with everyone. If I believe someone should not be in the LCMS for some reason, I should be willing to speak to that person about it, and then listen to his response. I also understand that I am not the one who gets to decide these things.

    One of the things that we will find out with the Koinonia Project is who is willing. From the comments above, it is clear that some are not not. I am willing to participate, not because I think those who are leading it or the “program” is perfect, but because I am willingly a member of the LCMS and want good for her.

    I pray for our leaders, not label them as PC or CEO minded.

    I hope that those who are not members of the LCMS and feel they must critically comment on these issues, get over it and shut up. Go plow in your own field.

  15. @Rev. Anthony Bertram #18
    I’m a lifetime insider. You assume these folks want to be reconciled. Not the case. Many are in your face about their behavior and could not care less what anyone thinks let alone their fellow LCMS Pastors. This is not about hurt it is about implementing Matt 18 to its natural conclusions. No new program will help an eclair spine do what God has told him to do. Lets not confuse love and reconciliation for abdication of responsibility. Lets also not confuse forgiveness with lack of consequences and discipline. I hope I need not remind our Pastors that the care of the flock is their responsibility and failure to do so incurs judgement. Yes that is Law but Law is also a part of Gods Word. I am not talking legalism just prudent application of Matt 18 as required.

    I too pray for these folks but do not ignore what it is we are dealing with. If you find it distasteful to call a thing what it is then you become part of the problem.

    Those of us who have followed Matt 18 to the point of telling the church only to see the church do absolutely nothing, allowing errant pastors to leave ( some by actively marketing themselves instead of following the call process – and shame on those congregations and DPs that enable this) and do their damage somewhere else know of what we speak. If you would like a list of names and situations we here in this District can fill you in. It is much longer than you would imagine and the violations are not minor or matters of taste or personality they are severe and damage not only our people but our mission. After numerous conversations with our DPs, Pastors and mediators it becomes clear that they intend to do nothing and have the most degrading attitude to anyone who even respectfully disagrees with them – especially when they are proven wrong by our antiquated ( yes thats right thats what one Pastor called them) confessions. Many of us have never been treated this badly even out there in the pagan world. So save you naive, ill informed diatribe for someone else. I am convinced that if you had encountered the number and depth of issues personally you would not find this an issue that requires patience. We here are confident that God is impatient with us.

    Having been blessed with dynamic, active, faithful, shepherding Pastors of deep dedication the fact that we allow and have allowed this God displeasing and dishonoring nonsense is inexcusable.

  16. Words just words. Be a hearer and doer of the word. I am glad Harrison et al are taking some action but believe me the evidence is already there in many situations and if we simply apply The Word we can jump on these quickly.@mbw #15

  17. My quick analysis of what the Koinonia project is shaping up to be, for what it’s worth. The project as it stands winds up being 1) a chance for everyone to talk about what they believe and why they believe it, 2) God’s word acting in it’s capacity to both teach and divide, where it will become clearer who is actually on board and who isn’t.

    When I hear statements from Mike Mames and others, saying things like they say, that words are not enough… God’s word is always enough. It would seem that, for a significant portion of this Synod, God’s word is no longer enough. The gathering power of God’s word is coupled with dividing power of God’s word. If the people of this Synod actively participate in this, God’s word will do what our Father intends it to do. If at that point you want to enact Matthew 18, great! But by then it will be utterly clear who is who.

  18. I do often wonder whether LCMS laymen are wasting their time visiting Lutheran websites and blogs to learn about church politics. Does the LCMS really give a hoot what the laymen think. I think not.

    The only people who can make changes for the good of synod will be the pastors. The pastors function as independent contractors of LCMS, Inc., so what incentive will they have to speak to one another about harmonizing belief and practice. I don’t get it.

  19. @Wallenstein #22

    Speaking vocationally, I see nothing wrong with the fact that pastors take the lead in ddiscussions of doctrine&practice and our life together as the Missouri Synod. They are the called and ordained servants of the Word. Where the vocations and professions of the laity permit thoughtful participation in the synod-wide discussion of doctrine&practice, such involvement edifies the body of Christ.

    Directed by the Holy Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions, those people (both pastorate and lay) most directly involved in the Koinonia roject discussions will have the best interests of our synod in mind. Okay, I’m an optemist. Our Lord Jesus is the captain of the ship and, through His Word, He continues to give us–His Church–His sustenance in our life together. Of course, He does this often despite oourselves. May He give our synodical leadership clarity along with genuine concern as He, through His Word, directs the plans for the Koinonia Project.
    ur Lord Jesus Christ has promised that the gates hell will not prevail against His Church. (Matt. 16:18) And, such gates include the false teaching, liberal trendiness, and heretical practicianers. So, I trust that both pastors and layity will, in their vocations receive due opportunity to participate in the Koinonia Project. May our gracious Lord grant it!

  20. I have written the SP and recommended that he begin the Koinonia Project by reproducing and mailing to every ordained minister a copy of Luther’s Preface to the Small Catechism. If you are not familiar with it, have a look….. http://www.cph.org/t-topic-catechism-preface.aspx
    It’s also on pp. 246 – 252 in the latest edition of the SC from CPH.

    Rudy

  21. @Walter R Wagner #24

    As much of an optemist as I tend to be, I agree. Communicating the confession of the Christian faith must always involve serious catechesis. Luther’s assessment of many congregations in his day still holds true with heterodox congregations today. And, because we are in a time of confession (FC SDX), ecclesiastical supervision in matters of doctrine&practice is key. I am concerned about how this will play out in circuits where individual congregations err and are supported by other congregations that err in doctrine&practice.

    Not only would emphasizing the preface to the Small Catechism be great for pastors, it would also be a great reminder to teachers of every subject in our synodical schools as well–from the elementaries to the sems.

  22. @mames #9
    I understand that frustration.

    To do wrong is not considered troublemaking. To say that wrong was done … that is considered troublemaking. That right there is the social mechanism. The skill needed is standing for truth that remains true by methods that take account of the social mechanism. Not an easy assignment.

  23. According to the report referenced by VP Mueller, the dividing issues are framed primarily as “practice”, not as “doctrine” (p. 3). The problem then is not heterodoxy or heresy. The number one issue is simply our inability to deal with “diversity.” The previous administration of Synod framed the issues pretty much this way.

    I’d like to ask: is that really so? Are we merely divided by different practical issues? As the report concedes, the practical issues adduced — admission to the Lord’s Supper, worship, women in the church, the ministry — are really also doctrinal issues. So, as “some” are quoted in the report, there is perhaps also “unhealthy doctrinal diversity” in our church.

    In general, here Luther’s distinction between doctrine and life would be helpfully resurrected: doctrine should be sound and undivided because it is not ours but God’s; our life of love will always be lacking. While no concessions can be made in doctrine, many concessions will have to be made in the area of life and love — we are still sinners, after all.

    However, when reading the report, it seems that not only is this distinction not made; the main issue are shortcomings in the area of love. Also VP Mueller throws “behavioral and theological” issues into one pot — but they don’t belong in the same pot!

    Finally, the opening distinction between unity (faith in Christ) — concord (confession) — harmony (love and peace in our life together) seems problematic because it makes doctrinal unity a goal that needs to be achieved by us (e.g., “towards a Lutheran theology of worship” on which we can all agree).

    Yet for Luther, and the Lutheran confessions, it seems that the unity of doctrine is given with the unity of God’s Word of the bible.

    In his classes, Dr. Marquart warned his students about separating “unity” and “concord” from each other, as that separation was a favorite of Seminex professors.

    Along these lines, I wonder: what does the report mean when it says that the church’s unity cannot be “seen” and then quotes Eph. 4:4 — one Lord, one faith, one baptism? Is the “faith” spoken of there merely the fides qua by which we believe the gospel? Is it not also the oneness of the confession of that faith (fides quae)? Does the unity Paul speaks about tolerate varying confessions regarding the Lord’s one baptism, or the two natures of the one Lord Christ?

    What does it mean in this context that the Confessions, and Luther, speak of the marks of the church (Augsburg VII): pure preaching of God’s Word and proper administration of the sacraments? Where do they speak of being “united” with those who “believe in Jesus” but hold a different confession / are members of churches with deformed marks of the church? How do we know where Christians are if the marks are absent or severely deformed?

    All in all, it seems before we can put together what’s broken, let’s define the problems correctly. Then the solution will present itself, by God’s grace.

  24. Holger Sonntag :
    According to the report referenced by VP Mueller, the dividing issues are framed primarily as “practice”, not as “doctrine” (p. 3). The problem then is not heterodoxy or heresy. The number one issue is simply our inability to deal with “diversity.” The previous administration of Synod framed the issues pretty much this way.

    The last thing I want to do is to suggest that numbers make right. However, if two successive sets of leaders, coming from different poles of our church body, are saying the same thing, perhaps you should give some thought to the possibility that they are correct.

  25. @David Hartung #28

    If they are right — and they might be right — what’s BJS all about?

    Getting us used to all the practical diversity around us that’s emanating from all the doctrinal unity among us?

  26. @Holger Sonntag #27

    According to the report referenced by VP Mueller, the dividing issues are framed primarily as “practice”, not as “doctrine” (p. 3). The problem then is not heterodoxy or heresy. The number one issue is simply our inability to deal with “diversity.” The previous administration of Synod framed the issues pretty much this way.

    Define “diversity”, please.

    In academia, recently, it seems to mean “accepting of alternate lifestyles”… on the lines of the elca.
    Is that what we envision as right for the LCMS? [I think the previous administration did, as witness the increasing/improper leadership roles given to women in the congregation, for one thing. That was the beginning of the downhill slide in elca.]

    Or are you only talking about acceptance of “baptist” styles of worship in place of Lutheran liturgy!? IMO, to do that is to admit a difference in doctrine as well as “practice” because those practices emanate from an understanding of Scripture which is doctrinally wrong by Lutheran standards. [That, along with feminine terms for God, also has elca roots.]

    If you are “only”using those practices to “bring them in and grow the church” it is false doctrine. Word and Sacrament “grow” the church. [I have heard the sufficiency of Word and Sacrament denied by CG proponents.]

    IOW, if VP Mueller said what he is quoted to have said (I haven’t read the whole thing) I believe he is not understanding what is going on ‘in the trenches’.
    Or he is “snowing” us.

  27. @helen #30

    Good questions, Helen. The word-choice “diversity” is the Koinonia project’s report’s not mine. I think it’s one of those weasel words Christians do well to avoid.

    When it comes to worship, just to look at one prominent topic, it seems that the report suggests that it’s a loving thing to accept diversity (within what limits?). If I understand Luther on worship right then he’s saying that the loving thing to do would be to avoid diversity and stick with uniformity.

    So — we can talk a great deal about “love” and such. But so long as it’s not clear what love is, concretely and specifically defined by God’s Word of the bible, it’s all just worthless prattle that is only used to send people on guilt trips for allegedly “unloving” behavior.

    That’s why, in general, we should start with doctrine: do we all still believe, teach, and confess the same things? I understand that many people find that tedious, because as church history goes on, and heresies become more and more sophisticated, you’ve got to go into greater and greater detail. But as Dr. Marquart pointed out, dogmatics textbooks only have to be so thick because the heretics have become more and more subtle over the centuries.

    That’s why it’s good and proper to summarize the unchanging faith from time to time in new confessional writings that address what’s hurting the faith today. Luther, by the way, saw as the main task of a church convention the defense of the unchanging faith and the unchanging good works against innovative aberrations.

  28. Here’s the specific text on “diversity” from Task Force for Synodical Harmony Report, 3/2/2011, p. 3, under the topic of “Aspects of the Present Disharmony in Synod”

    Inability to Deal with Diversity. While most (not all) presenters agreed that our church is blessed with amazing concord in matters of doctrine, all recognized that we see diversity among us in practices. These practices relate to such issues as; admission to Holy Communion, worship substance and style, the Office of the Public Ministry and the role of laity, and the service of women in the church. Some of these practices are closely tied to our doctrinal beliefs—hence a concern among some of our presenters about unhealthy “doctrinal diversity” in the Synod. Others are simply a matter of tradition and preference. Holding high the values of preserving uniformity and tradition, we have not learned how to address diversity among us—whether it is perceived to be “doctrinal” or “non-doctrinal.” The same difficulty with diversity is apparent in the lack of inclusion in leadership positions experienced by women, ethnic minorities, and the young.

    The identification of weasel words and phrases in this hodgepodge is left as an exercise for the reader.

  29. @Carl Vehse #32
    “The same difficulty with diversity is apparent in the lack of inclusion in leadership positions experienced by women, ethnic minorities, and the young.”

    Thank you for the quote.

    It is not necessary to have women in the chancel or on Elders to have “diversity”.

    Ethnic minorities should have a chance at leadership, but as they are qualified, not because they are “ethnic”. [Technically, I am an “ethnic minority” in LCMS; nobody owes me an office I can’t fill properly.]

    “The young” will inevitably grow older. Let them do the tasks of “the young” until then. Some congregations are quite able to accommodate anyone who wants to work. [Notice, I did not say “dance down the aisle in gauze as part of the “worship service”, as apparently happened in a neighboring congregation last weekend.
    [I may have maligned “the young” by suggesting they were the ones doing it.] 🙁

  30. @Holger Sonntag #31
    Good questions, Helen. The word-choice “diversity” is the Koinonia project’s report’s not mine. I think it’s one of those weasel words Christians do well to avoid.

    When it comes to worship, just to look at one prominent topic, it seems that the report suggests that it’s a loving thing to accept diversity (within what limits?).

    So in an article devoted to Koinonia… coming together… we are already conceding that it’s OK to be divided? That’s really what “diversity” means.

    If the “going in position” is to approve of division, what is the point of all the palaver?

  31. helen :

    “The young” will inevitably grow older. Let them do the tasks of “the young” until then. Some congregations are quite able to accommodate anyone who wants to work.

    Luther quotes 1 Peter 5:5-6 on “the young” in the Small Catechism’s Table of Duties. I don’t read there much about “leadership” but much about humility and submitting to those who are older. Ooops.

    Is that now practice or doctrine or both? Is demanding “leadership” positions for the young not just buying into current social movements, such as youth culture etc., that are not in accordance with God’s Word? I’m confused, Koinonia folks! Help me out.

    Also, my question is: why do we get so worked up about leadership “in the church”? The last time I checked, most of a Christian’s life takes place outside the church. Let’s focus on lovingly serving our neighbor in our vocations in daily life, not “leading” in the church. That’ll keep us busy enough. Besides: Many problems in the church will go away then.

    As Luther put it: “Let each his lesson learn with care, and all the household well shall fare.”

    It seems the underlying problems are again doctrinal-theological ones: doctrines of vocation and sanctification and good works and church. If we’d all agreed here, then we might not be “diverse” when it comes to “practice.”

    I’m just sayin’ …

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