Letter to the MN South District Board of Directors by Rev. Mark Preus

This letter came across to my wife’s facebook, and then when I finally joined facebook (I held out until now) I was able to see it too.  This is from a good friend (and distant relative) who has suffered alongside of me in a car accident, the Rev. Mark Preus.

 

September 14, 2011

Faith Lutheran Church – Wylie, TX

 

Dear members of the MN-South District Board of Directors,

 

It is with great fear and trepidation that I am writing this letter.  It is a letter asking you all to repent of your recent sin against God when you obtained the property of ULC by a show of right and closed your hearts to their pleas for mercy and charity.

The Bible is clear that you should not covet your neighbor’s property.  Luther explains the meaning very well, “We should fear and love God so that we do not scheme to get our neighbor’s inheritance or house, or get it in a way which only appears right, but help and be of service to him in keeping it.”

The building which you have voted to sell was built for University Lutheran Chapel.  It has housed University Lutheran Chapel for more than sixty years and so it belongs to them.  The congregation relies on this property and depends upon it.  They have taken care of it and used it to extend God’s gracious call of forgiveness to poor sinners in need.  To argue that the property doesn’t belong to them is to ignore the entire purpose of the property and the existence of Christ’s congregation there.

It is not yours to sell.  Of course you can show us your right to sell it, but this would be breaking the 9th commandment, which prohibits you from getting your neighbor’s property “by a show of right,” or “in a way which only appears right.”  The fact that so many of you, including pastors who teach the ninth commandment to our children, have neglected this commandment does not lessen your guilt in this matter.

I beg you not to minimize the severity of this sin against your brothers and against God.  For all your concerns about money and for all your thought on how some 3.2 million dollars could be used to advance God’s kingdom, you have not listened to countless pleas from your brothers and sisters.  You have closed your hearts to the poor when they cried to you.  You have not had patience with them, who have even offered to raise money to buy the building from you.  You have instead trusted in a model of ministry against which your brothers in Christ have protested because it places a greater emphasis on humanly devised ministry than the office which Christ established.  You have taken from a congregation the house that was theirs, and you have taken from the children of the congregation and District the inheritance that was meant for them.

In short, you have not acted in love.  This cannot go unpunished.  Even if our synod and brother pastors are complacent in their duty to rebuke you, God will not forget this.  I earnestly beg you to repent of this sin and try to make amends before it is too late.  How will you render an account for these actions when you ignored the prayers and fervent desires of your brothers and sisters in Christ?  Will you argue that you were not warned?  Will you argue that you thought you were doing the right thing?

But we call the Law a guide for a reason.  It tells us clearly what we ought to do and leaves us no excuse on the Day of Judgment; and for those who despise it, God will not be complacent in taking up the cause of his children.  He is on the side of those against whom you have sinned, no matter what good intentions you think might make up for your coveting your neighbor’s property.  I must have hope that his Word is a hammer and so is strong enough to break your hearts into repentance for this offense which you have committed among us.

I know that he can do this because I myself have experienced the unbelief of my heart broken by God’s constant requirement of me to love my neighbor.  Finally, when I see in the light of God’s holiness how I have harmed not only my neighbor, but the God whom I am to love in the person of my neighbor, then I am terrified; I am left without excuse and all the excuses that others made for me and I made for myself crumble and leave me naked and ashamed before the God to whom I must render an account for the things done in my body, whether they be good or bad, including scheming to get my neighbor’s inheritance.

And so I hope and I pray that God would move your hearts to repent of your covetousness and neglect of your neighbor.  I consider myself, lest I also be tempted, and acknowledge my own doubting and worrying about money, which is idolatry.  But as we sing, “Cast every idol from his throne, / The Lord is God, and He alone,” so let us turn our hearts to God, asking him to forgive us for our sins against our neighbor and looking for ways to make amends to our brothers and sisters in Christ.

 

Sincerely your brother in Christ,

Pr. Mark Preus

About Pastor Joshua Scheer

Pastor Joshua Scheer is the Senior Pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Cheyenne, Wyoming. He is also the Editor-in-chief of Brothers of John the Steadfast. He oversees all of the work done by Steadfast Lutherans. He is a regular host of Concord Matters on KFUO. Pastor Scheer and his lovely wife Holly (who writes and manages the Katie Luther Sisters) have four children and enjoy living in Wyoming.

Comments

Letter to the MN South District Board of Directors by Rev. Mark Preus — 136 Comments

  1. @Pr. Don Kirchner #98

    Thanks for that caution. I should clarify that I don’t like the use of lawsuits generally, and particularly not in church matters. I have tried to steer clear of suggestions of legal action that others have made. Rarely do they comport with Matt 18 or 1 Cor 6. And they turn over jurisdiction of the church to the state, which is loathsome. The delaying action I was suggesting had nothing to do with that, and was probably a bad idea for the reason given by John Rixe.

  2. Let’s try that again.

    I was surprised to read your response, Rev. Baker. It seems you want simply to dismiss the concern raised.

    For whatever reason, you seem be putting yourself forward as the judge and jury concerning conversations about Lutherans and the law, but when several friends of mine mentioned that you had left Concordia Publishing House, that is, simply abandoned your call to serve there, it made me think that you are probably not in the best position to be lecturing your fellow Lutherans on obeying the law and being mindful of duties under the law.

    I did notice you simply dodged the questions, trying to dismiss them.

    I think they are important questions for you to address. Will you?

  3. @John Rixe #104

    I disagree, John Rixe.

    First, BJS comment streams go everywhere, based on what I’ve been reading around here recently.

    Second, when Rev. Bakker put up his comments, and started lecturing people about the law, I wondered why he felt himself qualified to do so, in light of what he has done.

    Relevant to the sale of the property? Maybe not. Relevant to Rev. Bakker’s remarks? Absolutely!

  4. @T. R. Halvorson #102

    > they turn over jurisdiction of the church to the state, which is loathsome.

    It is always time for moral and doctrinal clarity on the thing. I’m with Mark Preus on this. He has taken a very clear and historically-significant stand. If you’ve ever suggested the “E” word (evil, as per Fisk) or the “S” word (sin) in specific church matters, you may know the kind of spiritual and temporal war that will be unleashed on you. The fact that we all regularly confess that we are indeed evil doesn’t stop them. Pastor Preus knows what he is doing; his admission of fear and trepidation is striking and much to the point. God help him, and us. He has taken a shot that will result in shots back at him. Is the synod leadership with Pastor Preus, or is it going to leave him high and dry?

    There’s also a time for appealing to Caesar. A church body that would deny this is doing evil.

  5. Former Anglican #95

    Agreed. I have given and am encouraging everyone I know to do the same. I know that the online energy for Issues, Etc. helped motivate some on the side-lines to get involved in prayer, action, and giving $$$.

  6. @mbw #107
    @Jason #108

    Yes, Paul, as a criminal defendant, after being convicted in the trial court, appealed to an appellate magistrate, namely, Caesar. The fact that he appealed does not transform him from defendant to plaintiff. He was not the initiator of the judicial action. The plaintiff was.

  7. @T. R. Halvorson #110

    Well, if a Lutheran is breaking into my house, I might have to shoot him, or call Caesar’s 911 service. If the same person is stealing my money, I might have to turn him in to Caesar. If the same person is trying to sell my flock’s building (were I a pastor) I might have to tell Caesar about it, if I think it would be effective. If the district is not doing anything wrong, what are we all complaining about here?

  8. @mbw #111

    If the district is not doing anything wrong, what are we all complaining about here?

    They are doing wrong, but so far no one has shown me anything in what they are doing that is cognizable by the state.

    Here’s a thought: why no competitive bidding? As fiduciaries, don’t the Directors of the District have a trust obligation to maximize the net sale proceeds? Why just take the one offer? The trust obligation might be something cognizable by the secular courts, but so far no one has shown me that they are breaching it. They could be. I just don’t know, and wish I did.

  9. This whole thing is a mess. The silence from the district is not helping. Pastor Kind is doing what he should be doing. The glee that some have taking in their sarcasm to prove a point is maddening. It is bad enough that it may be true without some wishing it.

  10. @T. R. Halvorson #112

    > Here’s a thought: why no competitive bidding?

    There are so many similarities to another recent sale. What is this playbook?

    If the district/synod finances the deal, the whole thing will be essentially identical.

  11. then prove it. How can you know his call or the Holy Spirit’s actions? Unless you are willing to throw it all out here, you cannot make blatant accusations.

  12. @melancthon #117

    Prove it? Sure…

    He abandoned his called position at Concordia Publishing House.

    He left to begin teaching at a local commuter college.

    My point is that Robert Baker is in no position to be giving people little lectures about the law or their duty under it.

    What part of this don’t you understand?

  13. What I don’t understand is why you persist in your logical fallacy of the argumentum ad hominem.

  14. Just because something make be legally done does not mean that it is proper for a Christian so to do. Just because I can make a legal claim to something does not mean that I ought. We have made an idol of our rights and an idol of the Law, using it as the false god to protect our selfish and wicked desires that ignore the needs of our neighbor.

  15. @James Schmidtke #118
    So because he sinned he cannot give a lecture on the law and their duty. That Is like my pastor not being able to preach law and Gospel because he has broken God’s law.

    Robert Baker has every right to call attention to it.

  16. @melancthon #121

    Even if you are right about Robert, how does establishing that help University Lutheran Chapel? How is it even on the topic of this thread?

    If we want to help ULC, let’s not weaken ourselves by controversies amongst ourselves that might have some importance, but have nothing to do with ULC. I have supported many things Robert has said, but I could not agree with his analogy here. To show the flaw in the analogy, it is only necessary to talk about the analogy, not about Robert himself.

    Besides, Robert would like to be, and could be, an ally, and a great one, of ULC. Let’s don’t kill him off in friendly fire.

  17. @mbw #1
    Hi all,
    I too would like to voice my frustration over not only the sale of KFUO fm but also about the firing or otherwise eliminating of most of the radio personalities on the am station as well. This is politics and has no business happening in a Christian institution. Instead of being divisive, especially at a time when it’s obvious that the LCMS is losing membership, we should be united in pursuing the Great Commission and in building each other up in the Lord. We are losing our membership to other denominations, not to mention the cults like Mormonism, and instead of joining together to work toward building God’s kingdom, we seem to be given over many times to building our own little fifedoms, which benefit nobody and only hurt the church. It is absolutely no surprise to me that the Mormons point at our difficulties and those of other churches and use them as proof to their membership that they are the one true church.

    Folks, we need to get back on the right path.

    In Christ,

    Art Vanick
    http://www.solomonspalding.info

  18. Did the synod sell the church because they are financially strapped and looking to sell anything worth a few bucks to help keep them afloat? Are there other synod-owned assets that could quickly be liquidated?

    A nice building next to a big university is the ideal for many church growth people. This seems more like a move of desperation to me. Are there other things being cut or sold?

  19. “To have a right to do a thing is not at all the same as to be right in doing it.”

    -A Short History of England, Ch.10 GK Chesterton

  20. @Joe #125
    Joe, the Minnesota South District decided to sell the property through its Board of Directors. The District Treasurer reported to the Pastor’s Conference in May that the District is not in a financial crisis. They did not approve the sale in order to keep themselves afloat. They approved the sale so that they could, as they claim, expand campus ministry in the District. They plan to expand campus ministry by offering $5000 annual grants to congregations who reach out to students.

  21. @Pr. Don Kirchner #119
    Let me try to explain.

    Robert Baker puts himself forward as some kind of judge of comments here, and yet, in his own life, he has chosen to abandon his call as a pastor to teach at a commuter college.

    You can play all the “logic” games you want, makes no difference.

    I’ve heard from several people who are shocked at how he simply walked away from his call to teach at the commuter college.

    You can say whatever you want, Pastor Don. Makes no difference to me.

  22. @Arthur Vanick #124

    Art, thanks for commenting. Thanks also for your research and publications exposing the true history of Mormonism

    http://www.amazon.com/Who-Really-Wrote-Book-Mormon/dp/0758605277

    Unlike KFUO-FM, which did generate positive cash flow for a long time (its record ad sales were $100,000 in one week in 2007, before the global financial crash; it had over 200,000 listeners in typical week) and had very significant latitude in lowering costs that could have been exercised in the recent years when it did lose a small amount, KFUO AM 850 always needs a subsidy from the synod to keep going. The station raises a decent amount of money, but can’t cover all of its own costs. Mostly what has happened now is that it will lose considerably less money. Its director now is a MO synod pastor. I cannot be happy about anyone getting fired, but KFUO AM is a different situation. And, it’s still on the air! and must remain so.

    My understanding is that KFUO is the only Lutheran radio station in the world. Every day there is a Bible study led by one of our pastors. Many men who are well respected here and throughout the synod have been guests on the air.

    KFUO AM 850 can be heard globally 24 hours a day via its Internet streams. Visit http://kfuo.org. Also, you can tune in on iTunes player. Navigate to Radio -> Religious -> KFUO AM 850.

    Classic 99 is available 24 hours as well: http://classic99.com/

    I heard you on KFUO a few weeks ago and hope you will return soon.

  23. I think everyone here knows where I stand on the sale of the ULC property, but I here I simply wanted to come to the defense of Rev. Baker. As Robert Baker’s former supervisor, I can say, without hesitation, that he served at CPH faithfully and honorably. His decision to pursue another vocation is, frankly, nobody’s business.

  24. Thank you, Pastor McCain. I think (and I’m sure you know this) that the way employment is handled for those on the roster who are “called” to RSOs can lead to misunderstandings such as these. But hearing from you, his supervisor, that Pastor Baker’s departure from CPH was NOT an abdication of call or anything else to write home about to Walther (or Chemnitz) is all the clarification needed.

    Now, back to the matter at hand!

  25. Until someone tells me that the 3.2 M gained from the sale is going to be contributed to a trust the interest of which will be used alone for campus ministry, I will probably wonder as much about the Second Commandment as the Ninth. Because on the face of it, this looks like someone needs cash pronto. This presents questions about representations of the motivations for the action more than anything.

    Just .2M will pay the little grants for campus work that have been promised -for several years. So what is the need and plan for the 3M? Are there MN parishes in desperate straights with LCEF? Is the district itself in need of an infusion of cash? Does the district have LCEF debt? Anyone here know the LCEF officer in MN South? He is someone who would know.

    Suppose a couple of the large parishes in the Minneapolis area that pay between five and ten thousand monthly to LCEF are in trouble and this money could pay off a debt in exchange for a lien held against their property -held by the district of course? No, I know nothing, like Shultz on Hogan’s Heroes. I’m just saying you don’t sell an asset like this in the dead of night for a low price if you don’t need the cash.

    Before someone accuses me of breaking the 8th Commandment, I want to point out that this *is* putting a better construction on the event than even its defenders have (Namely the “it’s legal” defense).

  26. @Jim Strawn #135 : “Before someone accuses me of breaking the 8th Commandment, I want to point out that this *is* putting a better construction on the event than even its defenders have”.

    Jim, talking about publicly available facts of the ULC sale is not breaking the 8th Commandment. However conjecturing (“I know nothing”) on the motivations behind the sale (“this looks like someone needs cash pronto”, “Suppose…”, “I’m just saying… the dead of night… if you don’t need the cash.”) is different.

    Martin Luther writes about speaking what is provable, what is not, and smelling a roast in paragraphs 269-272 in his Large Catechism explanation of the 8th Commandment.

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