“We Have to Try” – a perspective on the Koinonia Project from presentations made to the Wyoming District Pastors Conference

I had the privilege to sit and listen to First Vice President Mueller discuss the Koinonia Project with Pastors from the Wyoming District (the first day also included teachers and deaconesses too).  Here are some of my thoughts about what was presented:

 

The honesty of VP Mueller was wonderful to hear.  He acknowledged the problems that really do exist.  This is a dramatic change of pace from the “we agree on almost everything” celebrations that have been so common in the past.

A thought I had in regards to this is “what stage of heresy are we at in the LCMS?”  This goes back to something that C.P. Krauth taught in regards to error and the church.  Krauth taught that error first seeks tolerance, then it seeks equality, then it seeks dominance.  My personal opinion is that we are at stage two and I think the move to stage three has been halted for the moment.

Problems with practice were not just downgraded to regional differences, but actually used to reflect differences in belief.  Lex Orendi, Lex Credendi was held up and taught.  This means that we again can strive for uniformity in practices rather than shucking them in the name of diversity and freedom.  VP Mueller stressed that you can’t separate doctrine from practice, and that the diversity of practices in the Synod is reflective of differing beliefs.  He did say that a number of practices can be faithful to doctrine.

I was slightly concerned about the last statement within reason.  That statement could be used (and most likely will be used by many libertines with no love for their neighbor) to allow for anything.  It is something to be watchful for.

More than just a presentation on another program or movement in the LCMS, this was presented with the Scriptures in their original language.  It was refreshing to see VP Mueller up there as comfortable with his Greek NT as our Synod President is (and a bit humbling for those of us whose Greek is less polished).  Scripture was presented to show that first and foremost, Christ is the source and primary koinonia that we have.  Also helpful was that VP Mueller classified the efforts of the koinonia project in terms of building “concord” again.  He acknowledged God’s role in establishing unity, and also in bringing about a positive result of this project (concord among our pastors, laity, and congregations).

VP Mueller also tied into a lot of history into his presentation, and in general how the Lutheran Church in the past dealt with divisions is being used by our current administration to come up with a blueprint for the Koinonia Project.  In particular two processes were used to help explain how this all is going to work.  The first example is the process that led to the Formula of Concord, and the second example is that which settled the Predestinarian Controversy in the LCMS.  Both of these examples will be helpful.

I thought this reference to history further exemplified the administration’s commitment to the catholic church of all time.  I was concerned however in that the Predestinarian Controversy, the division began to be addressed almost right away.  The divisions in the LCMS are 50-100 years old now (the fruit of “if we don’t look at it, it is not there” churchmanship).  VP Mueller stated that after years of study and deliberation around the Word of God and the Confessions only 1% of the pastors in Walther’s day were still in favor of the erroneous position.  It would be a wonderful gift of God if such a large consensus could be found after the years of study in the Koinonia Project.  Another difficulty is that there are more than just one issue that divides the LCMS today.  All of this makes for a very difficult time for this project (VP Mueller even said that it will likely by 10 times harder than we can even think).  With God all things are possible.

In light of all of these challenges, which have been so long left to no action or only political action, our Synod is going to in a directed effort sit down with the Word of God and try once again to be blessed with concord.  It is time for this sacred task to be undertaken, and VP Mueller believes that this is what God is calling us to do at this time in order to be faithful to His Word and our confession.

The recent report on Synod Harmony stressed that many of the issues were personal ones primarily and the theological issues were secondary. VP Mueller rightly reversed this.  There are personal issues, but they are secondary to the theological issues within our Synod.  This was also refreshing to hear since too many times in congregational and synodical things divisions are merely represented as personality differences.  Many genuine theological rifts are masked under two men who are jerks with each other.

VP Mueller also stressed that this project is not meant to generate more resolutions to convention.  He said that even from his experience this is a bad way to handle the divisions, and it does not bear fruit, only more divisions.  I applaud him for this, although I am not sure if such an attitude can prevail in our highly politicized Synod.

There are a few things to watch out for in this whole matter that I can tell.  One of the pastors at the conference rightly made the comment that the divisions in our Synod can be found at the level of the Council of Presidents and asked that they go through this process first.  I don’t think that they are going to be going first, but it would be very helpful for the entire COP go through this at the same time as the pilot districts (Northern Illinois, South Wisconsin, and Nebraska).  With recent situations going on in our Synod, it is quite clear to everyone looking on honestly that there are very different theological brands of men among the District Presidents.

This causes concern as the minutes of the 1881 Synod Convention in settling the Predestinarian controversy declared this:

“While that Synod was profoundly grateful that each of its district presidents adhered to the Theses, it admitted that it would be a totally different situation if there were presidents who sided with the opponents.  By the grace of God, the minutes state, without a single exception, they were faithful and firm to a single man on the Theses.  In view of this, the Synod was assured of the total confidence that the presidents, as the shepherds of pure doctrine, would exercise the responsibilities of their office according to the Word of God.” (from August Suelflow’s Servant of the Word, CPH, 132)

Another pastor noted that the Wyoming District would like to be involved, but that the level of Concord in our District doesn’t allow us to participate in the way that the other districts are.  I thought it would be a good idea for the Wyoming District to go through a District to District Pilot Project with our neighbor, the Northwest District.  That effort would keep with the general spirit of this project and also have representation from each side of the major theological divisions in our Synod.

I am also concerned that in this process the “norms” of the Lutheran Church will not be used to their fullest extent.  Not only does Scripture define our doctrine and practice, but also our Confessions (they are a normed norm, normed by the Scriptures and fully acceptable to be used among Lutherans to teach and discuss doctrine and practice).  There is a great emphasis on Scripture, but we need not reinvent every wheel here, but the Book of Concord should also be used in this project.  As they are the only correct exposition of the teachings of Scripture out there that we have all agreed to, the Confessions will undoubtedly be used in the Koinonia Project.  The only caution will be in how they are used (remember that the ELCA holds up the confessions too, only as a historical confession with limited importance on specifics for this time).

I am also concerned that the spirit of ecumenism will invade this process and that the goal of real concord will be so hard that we will accept only a veneer of it (the error of the Ecumenical movement of the twentieth century).

The project does need to have a point where final action may need to be taken.  There is a real concern that these fraternal conversations will go on and on without resolve or concord.  At some point, errorists need to be asked to be honest and follow their convictions, whether those convictions lead one to LCMC, NALC, ELCA, WELS, Orthodox, Catholic, Willow Creek, or whatever.  I am afraid there may not be enough character left in man for them to do this.  I hope I am wrong and that everyone will agree that parting of the ways in some cases may be the best option for all involved.  Many people are worried about the project being a smokescreen either for a witch hunt/purge on one side or continued empty confession on the other.  These concerns reflect the divisions and how in the past they have been handled.  But this effort is to be theological and historically speaking, with honest conversation around the Word of God and our Confessions.  Perhaps the concerns reflect bad consciences which are afraid actual concord may be found.  The Word will do as it does, either creating repentant sinners or hardened ones – the outcome of that is the business of the Holy Spirit.

 

There are many things that I would ask the readers to include in their daily prayers (and possibly for pastors to include in the weekly prayer of the Church as well):

Pray that the Koinonia Project would be faithful to God’s Word.  In this I can see several temptations which will come to all of those involved:

  • Temptation to compromise when the Word is clear
  • Temptation to declare peace when there is no peace (Jeremiah 14)
  • Temptation to rely further upon political action
  • Temptation to continue in impenitence (pray for the repentance of those in error)
  • Temptation to continue with empty confessional agreement w/o any practical agreement
  • Temptation to despair and become discouraged with such a hard task
  • Temptation that this is our job to do, denying the Holy Spirit’s role in this.

In closing I will quote something from H.C. Schwan that VP Mueller pointed me to:

“What has kept us together until now was not our Constitution, as good as it is, nor the personality of those who bear the highest synodical offices.  No, it was something radically different, something which God Himself has given to us.  This was the unity of spirit and faith.  We remain together outwardly because we are one inwardly.  Because of this, districts, congregations, and individuals can never be careful enough in whatever they are doing to maintain the bond of unity.  Even though they may have the best intentions in undertaking certain items, if these are not properly thought through, and are not properly considered on the backdrop of love to others and with due respect to the welfare and furtherance of the whole [this unity cannot be maintained].  As long as we by God’s grace remain one in heart and soul through the Word and faith, our bond of fellowship at the continued existence of the Synod will not be seriously challenged.  If this [spirit] is ever lost, then no constitution will coerce those who rebel, and the resulting cooperation will be of no value.”  (from Suelflow’s Servant of the Word, CPH, 133)

It would be nice to hear the same statement made at some future LCMS Convention…

             May God grant us repentance and spare us from reaping what we have sown.

 

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

“We Have to Try” – a perspective on the Koinonia Project from presentations made to the Wyoming District Pastors Conference — 179 Comments

  1. I can get more personal than the above commenters! Here the word of the Lord:

    “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net which was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind; when it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into vessels but threw away the bad. So it will be at the close of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous, and throw them into the furnace of fire; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.

    And again Very Personal:

    “Not every one who says to me, `Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” “For many are called, but few are chosen.”

    IXOYC

  2. The forebearance and Christian love shown by those who are currently attending ULC MN even to those who have attacked their church has been consistent and very impressive, in the face of almost unspeakable provocation. We should be no less careful in our speech; if for no other reason than to follow their Christian example while we advocate for them. It’s very difficult at times, but if they can do it, so can we. And as good Lutheran Christians, we should.

  3. “The forebearance and Christian love shown by those who are currently attending ULC MN even to those who have attacked their church has been consistent and very impressive, in the face of almost unspeakable provocation.”

    Very true words indeed! Which makes the action all that more heinous! The truth is I still can not fully wrap my head around how MY LCMS could kick a Congregation of God’s children out of their CHURCH and sell a Church Building that did not even really fully belong that district! A vital campus to boot! What kind of crazy is that! Please! Paid for and built around 1946 by the faithful Children on the LORD GOD! I have seen how my Heavenly Father can judge……Now.

    Sometimes He will not wait. Fact.

    In the final analysis God will work things out:

    And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,[a] for those who are called according to his purpose.

    IXOYC

  4. Our God, our help in ages past,
    Our hope for years to come,
    Our shelter from the stormy blast,
    And our eternal home.

    Under the shadow of Thy throne
    Thy saints have dwelt secure;
    Sufficient is Thine arm alone,
    And our defense is sure.

    Before the hills in order stood,
    Or earth received her frame,
    From everlasting Thou art God,
    To endless years the same.

    Thy Word commands our flesh to dust,
    “Return, ye sons of men:”
    All nations rose from earth at first,
    And turn to earth again.

    A thousand ages in Thy sight
    Are like an evening gone;
    Short as the watch that ends the night
    Before the rising sun.

    The busy tribes of flesh and blood,
    With all their lives and cares,
    Are carried downwards by the flood,
    And lost in following years.

    Time, like an ever rolling stream,
    Bears all its sons away;
    They fly, forgotten, as a dream
    Dies at the opening day.

    Like flowery fields the nations stand
    Pleased with the morning light;
    The flowers beneath the mower’s hand
    Lie withering ere ‘tis night.

    Our God, our help in ages past,
    Our hope for years to come,
    Be Thou our guard while troubles last,
    And our eternal home.

  5. Who is John the Steadfast?

    “From this history, we learn that the first “confessors” and defenders of the Lutheran church were laymen. Their spiritual heirs should remember that the Lutheran church cannot survive without laymen who also confess and defend this faith. John the Steadfast met his Savior on August 10, 1532.”

  6. @John Rixe #150
    Direct personal accusations of “lack of concern” for students in a public forum are pretty serious. ”By this all men will know you are my disciples.” ??

    John Rixe:
    If you can find a quote from Monte Meyer expressing concern for Lutheran students’ religious life, (preferably the life of confessionally oriented students), I will apologize here in this public forum.

    Acts 20:27-29
    English Standard Version (ESV)

    …27for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. 28 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. 29I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock;…

  7. @helen #158

    “Thanks Mike.  I really appreciate the level of angst over this – shoot, I feel it as well.  I don’t want anyone to lose their building.  It’s a royal pain to plan on what to do next.  I actually like Pr. Kind and the ULC – he’s been very gracious to me and I pray that their church and ministry lands on their feet.  I have absolutely NO control on what the District will do – in fact, I made a suggestion about selling more properties which didn’t seem to get a very warm reception.  

    We live in difficult times – and since MN South District is not responding to questions – I’m going to stand up and try to shed some light from my opinion – and perhaps defend myself from some of the shots I’ve taken since everything blew up at the Joint Spring Pastor’s conference in Brainerd.

    It’s been a LONG summer!!  

    Again – I hope and pray that people just calm down and that the ULC figures out how they can continue their valuable ministry.  The CLC is a completely different entity since we just have college students and no members – we are much more flexible for that reason.  We’ll be fine!”  – Rev Monte Meyer, CLC Campus Pastor, ALPB Forum 9-20-11 

  8. Therefore, that means I have no concern for them. Really now? You want to stick to that statement?

    And do you really want me to prefer the life of confessional oriented students – when over 80% of the campus is functionally unchurched? Really? Why not care for as many as possible – so that some might hear the good news of Jesus and be saved.

    I could say the same thing about you and your hyper concern over buildings. I know Pr. Kind cares about his students – yet all we hear about is the building. I don’t come to the conclusion that he or the ULC only care about the buildings…

    You can’t be as evil or as obtuse as you write.

  9. Brothers and sisters in Christ Please do read and study the above. Oh how it applies!

    Walther Reformation Sermon and Prayer
    October 29th, 2011Post by Pastor Joshua Scheer

    O my beloved Lutheran partners in faith, confession and struggle, do not allow yourselves to be misled when on every side those are accused of lovelessness who refuse to abandon the struggle to retain the pure teaching of our Church. Keep in mind that this teaching is, as our text says, the faith “which was once for all delivered to the saints. “It is therefore not our possession, which we have authority and license to give away. It is rather God’s possession, of which we, are only stewards, so that we should preserve it, not only for ourselves, but for all of Christendom, yes, for the whole world, and hand it down in its purity to 1he generations to come. On the Last Day God will therefore say to us in regard to the pure teaching of His Word, which has been entrusted to us Lutherans, “Give an account of your stewardship!”

    IXOYC

  10. @Mark Huntemann #161
    No one is accusing another of lovelessness for refusing to abandon any struggle.
    However, we are encouraging each other to walk in a manner that is worthy of our calling, and to speak the truth in love.
    I’ve been called to repent here and done so, fairly recently, and was grateful for it. It didn’t stop me from participating faithfully in a necessary struggle, but rather enabled me to see better how to go about this in a way that better keeps the 8th commandment.

  11. Monte Meyer

    “And do you really want me to prefer the life of confessional oriented students – when over 80% of the campus is functionally unchurched? Really? Why not care for as many as possible – so that some might hear the good news of Jesus and be saved.”

    With all due respect We can and should provide for BOTH!

    “You can’t be as evil or as obtuse as you write.”

    Even if the statement were true,{“do not allow yourselves to be misled when on every side those are accused of lovelessness”}……………………

    The sword you are wielding is very dangerous. Beware lest you are destroyed by the wielding.

  12. Children of the Heavenly Father have such a hard time in this world!

    As my mentor says so Truthfully:

    “If you see me in error, please use God’s Word to rescue me from it!”
    Rev. Joel R. Baseley BA, MS, MDIV

  13. The Eighth Commandment.

    Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

    What does this mean?–Answer.

    We should fear and love God that we may not deceitfully belie, betray, slander, or defame our neighbor, but defend him, [think and] speak well of him, and put the best construction on everything.

  14. Thus you see that it is summarily forbidden to speak any evil of our neighbor, however, the civil government, preachers, father and mother excepted, on the understanding that this commandment does not allow evil to go unpunished. Now, as according to the Fifth Commandment no one is to be injured in body, and yet Master Hannes [the executioner] is excepted, who by virtue of his office does his neighbor no good, but only evil and harm, and nevertheless does not sin against God’s commandment, because God has on His own account instituted that office; for He has reserved punishment for His own good pleasure, as He threatens in the First Commandment,-just so also, although no one has a right in his own person to judge and condemn anybody, yet if they to whose office it belongs fail to do it, they sin as well as he who would do so of his own accord, without such office. For here necessity requires one to speak of the evil, to prefer charges, to investigate and testify; 275] and it is not different from the case of a physician who is sometimes compelled to examine and handle the patient whom he is to cure in secret parts. Just so governments, father and mother, brothers and sisters, and other good friends, are under obligation to each other to reprove evil wherever it is needful and profitable.

  15. @helen #158

    I’m not looking for a public apology, Helen.  I’m just suggesting that personal comments be exchanged by email.  Blessings on your day.

  16. Thus we have now the sum and general understanding of this commandment, to wit, that no one do any injury with the tongue to his neighbor, whether friend or foe, nor speak evil of him, no matter whether it be true or false,

    unless it be done by commandment or for his reformation,

    but that every one employ his tongue and make it serve for the best of every one else, to cover up his neighbor’s sins and infirmities, excuse them, palliate and garnish them with his own reputation. 286] The chief reason for this should be the one which Christ alleges in the Gospel, in which He comprehends all commandments respecting our neighbor, Matt. 7:12: Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.

  17. Monte Meyer

    Our Lord spoke volumes about money. The Gospel Quotes go on and on.

    While obviously Our Lord was only concerned about His Children, He used money as a very powerful temporal symbol.

    While the ” Lutheran Satire on ULC ” //steadfastlutherans.org/?p=813

    Is a reflection of what I am saying, I feel in a very substantial way what you have done for the power of money says all that needs be said.

    The money trail and the Gospel trail have parted ways.

    IXOYC

  18. @Mark Huntemann #169

    Pastor Meyer is not on the MNS District Board of Directors nor directly involved in the decision to sell campus properties.  Please read his quote in Comment 159.     ” … I don’t want anybody to lose their building…I have absolutely NO control over what the District will do.”

    Pastor Meyer didn’t do anything for the power of money.
     

  19. “Pastor Meyer is not on the MNS District Board of Directors nor directly involved in the decision to sell campus properties. Please read his quote in Comment 159. ” … I don’t want anybody to lose their building…I have absolutely NO control over what the District will do.”
    Pastor Meyer didn’t do anything for the power of money.”

    I am aware of that but he has taken on responsibility and defense of the action:

    “And do you really want me to prefer the life of confessional oriented students – when over 80% of the campus is functionally unchurched? Really? Why not care for as many as possible – so that some might hear the good news of Jesus and be saved.
    I could say the same thing about you and your hyper concern over buildings. I know Pr. Kind cares about his students – yet all we hear about is the building. I don’t come to the conclusion that he or the ULC only care about the buildings…”

    I found this while reviewing.

    He apologized for the comment below:

    “Helen, give me a break. Nice attitude…. You have even less of a clue than I thought previously.
    I’m done – I was sincerely trying to offer options.”

    Just maybe he should think his comment over as well :

    “You can’t be as evil or as obtuse as you write.”

    IXOYC

  20. @Monte Meyer #160
    Pastor Meyer,
    The aim of Lutheran missions is Lutheran congregations. The question of whether Lutheran doctrine and practice will sell on your campus is not yours to ask. So serve the faithful, because they are in a vulnerable place, because our God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, loves them, because their parents are paying your salary if nothing else. Give them what we all need, forgiveness, life and salvation. The dichotomy you set up is frankly fatuous. You are never going to get and keep new sheep by neglecting the ones God has given you. Care for your sheep, and let the unchurched see a tight loving group of students, being consistently taught, loved and forgiven, and leave the results to God. God has promised to use this ridiculous set of means to grow His church. Please believe Him Pastor.
    Pax Christi+,
    Matt Mills

  21. A MIGHTY FORTRESS IS OUR GOD

    A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
    Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:
    For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
    His craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
    On earth is not his equal.

    Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing;
    Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing:
    Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;
    Lord Sabaoth, His Name, from age to age the same,
    And He must win the battle.

    And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
    We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us:
    The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
    His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure,
    One little word shall fell him.

    That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth;
    The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him Who with us sideth:
    Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
    The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
    His kingdom is forever.

    Alternate translation:

    A mighty fortress is our God, a trusty shield and weapon;
    He helps us free from every need that hath us now overtaken.
    The old evil foe now means deadly woe; deep guile and great might
    Are his dread arms in fight; on Earth is not his equal.

    With might of ours can naught be done, soon were our loss effected;
    But for us fights the Valiant One, whom God Himself elected.
    Ask ye, who is this? Jesus Christ it is.
    Of Sabbath Lord, and there’s none other God;
    He holds the field forever.

    Though devils all the world should fill, all eager to devour us.
    We tremble not, we fear no ill, they shall not overpower us.
    This world’s prince may still scowl fierce as he will,
    He can harm us none, he’s judged; the deed is done;
    One little word can fell him.

    The Word they still shall let remain nor any thanks have for it;
    He’s by our side upon the plain with His good gifts and Spirit.
    And take they our life, goods, fame, child and wife,
    Let these all be gone, they yet have nothing won;
    The Kingdom ours remaineth.

    This song has been called “the great­est hymn of the great­est man of the great­est per­i­od of Ger­man his­to­ry” and the “Bat­tle Hymn of the Ref­or­ma­tion.”

    This hymn was sung at the fun­er­al of Amer­i­can pre­si­dent Dwight Ei­sen­how­er at the Na­tion­al Ca­thed­ral in Wash­ing­ton, DC, March 1969.

    http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/m/i/mightyfo.htm

  22. @Mark Huntemann #171

    Agreed, Mr Huntemann.  Help me encourage folks to exchange personal comments, accusations, etc, using email.  On this blog they are kind of boring and distracting (like my comment right here).

  23. “Agreed, Mr Huntemann. Help me encourage folks to exchange personal comments, accusations, etc, using email. On this blog they are kind of boring and distracting (like my comment right here).”

    Yes and no.

    I think each person has to be led by the Holy Spirit as what needs to be said and in what context.

    I have just defined the eight commandment. That defines one of the major rules to be led by.

    As I have said and mean!

    If you see me in error, please use God’s Word to rescue me from it!

    Your comment defines a serious problem I have addressed elsewhere on Steadfast Lutherans.

    This is NOT an academic cold discussion.

    I feel strongly that it was just this “spirit” that lead to the actions that are taking place with boards and Synod committees.

    God’s Children are being hurt.

    ICOYC

  24. @Mark Huntemann #174
    Thanks Mark. I and a few pastors/circuit counsellors did write the admissions folks at both sems as I was approaching my 20-year USAF retirement, but neither sem would accept a candidate w/ a practicing Roman Catholic wife (LC-MS kids notwithstanding.) Probably for the best, I don’t think I could handle the endless board meetings!

    Helen,
    I appreciate your Amen as well.

  25. Whether a congregation or pastor remains a member of the LC-MS or not, *trying* is a matter of what one confesses–including who is admitted to fellowship at the altar entrusted to their oversight, along with what confession in every article of doctrine that belongs or does not belong to the body of Christ they bring with them as articulated in our Lutheran confession of the one holy catholic and apostolic faith.

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