Wyoming District Convention Report

I had the opportunity to be a delegate to the Wyoming District Convention this past weekend.  It was a good convention with relatively no controversy at all.  The majority of resolutions were passed by a unanimous vote (including one attempting to correct TAALC [memorializing recognition of broken fellowship if they do not correct their errors], one asking Synod to restore AC XIV, one asking for Synod to return to our former (and biblical) understanding of women’s roles in the church [rescinding the controversial 2004 resolution], and one asking Synod to firm up on closed communion [get our nomenclature and practice right], and one asking Synod to restore the historic usage of Circuit Visitor instead of counselor).  Unanimous, without much debate at all, and most amendments were received by friendly amendment by the resolution committee.

The Synod business presentation was done by 5th VP Rev. Dr. Scott Murray.  He also taught on the subject “We believe, teach, and confess the Office of the Holy Ministry”.

The Wyoming District is focused upon pure doctrine and parish visitation.  Harmony and unity result when such focus is made.  That harmony and unity make for an excellent witness to the rest of the state, including an active mission to Native Americans, a very active campus ministry, four excellent classical-based elementary schools, and a new church plant this past year.  Another benefit of this District is its size, which allows for a fraternity among pastors [during one of the evenings I think around 1/3 of the District pastors were in one hotel room enjoying Lutheran beverage] and helps foster good study and discussion.

I had previously served in the MN North District and attended their 2009 convention witnessing emotional debates and arguments over things like using Synodically approved worship materials (including Creative Worship) [something already required by our Constitution].  I am not sure any of the resolutions were unanimous there.  I also attended the 2010 Synod Convention.  That also saw very little agreement and much debate and argument.  What showed at Synod Convention was a Synod deeply divided, the result of years of widespread doctrinal indifference.

When I was asked in a handout for what kind of focus the Wyoming District should have over the next three years, I responded with “exporting Wyoming to the rest of the Synod”.

 

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

Wyoming District Convention Report — 81 Comments

  1. @helen #49

    There are many thousand ELCA members (I have some in my own family) and congregations whose orthodox beliefs mirror LCMS. They choose to stay and fight rather than leave.

  2. @John Rixe #52
    They choose to stay and fight rather than leave.

    Since Minnesota South elca last week voted against gay marriage, I can believe that some of them are not buying what Higgins Road is selling.

    All my Lutheran relatives but one stayed in elca and I don’t see much fight in them.
    They’ve had a woman in the pulpit at my home church. (It’s rural; they were probably told to take her or be vacant, but the previous generation would have opted to be vacant.) My cousin the Pastor’s wife can hardly object to the philosophy, considering how much of it they’ve adopted in her family; her complaints if satisfied wouldn’t solve their real problems.

    When deciding about communion, you have to consider the confession of the church the person belongs to: if he believes in the Real Presence, he shouldn’t be attending a reformed congregation 50 weeks a year. If he belongs to elca, sorry, we are not in fellowship with elca. The Pastor might make an exception in a bona fide emergency, but as Prof. Kurt Marquart told us on this subject, having to drive a half hour to find the appropriate pastor is not an “emergency”.

    Missing a Sunday or two in a denomination with a history of quarterly communion is probably not an emergency, unless the Pastor is called to the ER.

  3. “When deciding about communion, you have to consider the confession of the church the person belongs to: if he believes in the Real Presence, he shouldn’t be attending a reformed congregation 50 weeks a year. If he belongs to elca, sorry, we are not in fellowship with elca.”

    I agree that’s LCMS policy but is it doctrine?   Nearly half of LCMS doesn’t believe that’s Biblical doctrine.  Please see comment 43.

  4. @John Rixe #55
    It is doctrine. What is called open communion was introduced by the Reformed Churches because they do not believe that Christ’s body and blood are present. Those who had faith receive the body and blood and those who didn’t don’t – that is that – it is merely a memorial meal showing one’s obedience to God. So it doesn’t matter who comes, since it will help the believer and do nothing for the unbeliever.

    As Lutherans, closed communion comes from the doctrine that Christ’s body and blood are there regardless of the person’s faith, and that it can be either received to their benefit (by believing) and also to your judgement (unworthy reception). The Lord’s Supper is meant to be used responsibly as a tool for the care of souls – which means for people under your care as a pastor. When a congregation joins Synod it also assumes a trust that other sheep of other congregations of the LCMS have been properly taught and so forth so that a visitor under another LCMS pastor’s care can be given the Lord’s Supper in your own parish. The big issue with this is that the trust is long gone (and for good reason). Some have chosen to operate on a more “selective fellowship” level rather than going by Synodical membership.

    A number of churches have opted for the in between of open and closed communion (half-way open communion?) which has some form of restriction on completely arbitrary means (baptism, agree with these five points, blah, blah blah). This option is not Lutheran either, but resembles some sort of hybrid Lutheran-Reformed (or Union) view. FUNNY AND SAD THAT SO MANY IN THE LCMS PRACTICE THINGS THAT OUR ANCESTORS MOVED ACROSS THE WORLD TO AVOID.

    ALSO – agreement in beliefs is not just about the Real Presence, but agreement in ALL beliefs, all of the articles of the faith.

  5. @John Rixe #55

    My last sentence is unclear.  It should be:  Nearly half of LCMS doesn’t believe formal LCMS membership is a Biblical doctrine requirement for communion participation.

  6. @Pastor Joshua Scheer #56

    I don’t think it’s that simple.   Can you even find two Lutherans who agree on ALL articles of faith?  Where do you draw the line:  women ushers?  women voters?  Creative Worship?   screens?      Some folks seem to think male acolytes is an article of faith.   My uninformed personal preference is the halfway open blah-blah-blah option described in comment 46.

  7. @John Rixe #59
    I have found such Lutherans, so yes it is possible. Drawing lines? No, but the cases you bring up are a whole lot different than communion fellowship. Communion fellowship deals with something instituted by our Lord Jesus Christ (not ushers or voters). The worship one gets a little closer. Screens? Not sure on that one, depends on why they are there and what they would be used for.

    Your personal preference is out of line with your congregation’s membership in the LCMS. If that is your congregation’s stance on it, then they are out of line with their membership in the LCMS.

    My personal preference is to give out the Lord’s Supper to everyone (I don’t like telling people no) – BUT I am not welcome to conduct my ministry based upon my personal preference, but based upon the institution of Christ, His teachings as found in His Word and faithfully confessed in the Book of Concord.

  8. @John Rixe #61
    I think the District to which I belong actually cares to visit and check in on things, offering correction when necessary. I know my circuit has discussions on matters of doctrine/practice all of the time, and when our congregation receives its visit from the Circuit Visitor he does inquire about communion practices, confirmation practices, Sunday School, and all kinds of stuff.

    Your point is very true – oversight only works if it is done – and sadly I don’t think my experience in Wyoming is very common across the LCMS.

  9. @Pastor Joshua Scheer #62

    Thanks again for taking the time to discuss this stuff.  It’s very informative to me in understanding and appreciating the confessional position.   Hope this provides some benefit to other readers, but I think just about everyone else seems to understand and accept your views already. 🙂

  10. @John Rixe #63
    No problem. It helps for me to go over these things from time to time as well. The goal would not only be your understanding and appreciation (which are fine wordly things), but your agreement in confession (which is a fine churchly thing).

    These discussions bear great fruit, especially for those who just watch on. I often receive emails from private individuals who are very thankful for the statements and discussions here at BJS.

    As far as everyone else understanding and accepting my views, I am not always so sure.

  11. @John Rixe #63
    If it helps at all, Montana DP Terry Forke wrote a great paper on the practice of closed communion that is available on the MT District’s website. He does a good job explaining the practice of closed communion and might be worth a look if you get a chance.

  12. A visitor (a “seeker”) to our LCMS congregation this morning said a mouthful: “In my research I was trying to figure out what the ELCA, UCC, Episcopal, Reformed and all the rest that are in fellowship had in common. I finally realized it was this: They don’t believe the Bible.”

  13. @Pastor Ted Crandall #67

    The leadership and the public pronouncements of these groups often indicate unbelief of some important Bible teachings.  It’s hard to make a blanket judgement that individuals members “don’t believe the Bible” especially in regard to the plan of salvation.

  14. @John Rixe #68
    “It’s hard to make a blanket judgment that individuals members “don’t believe the Bible” especially in regard to the plan of salvation.”

    Who made that judgment? We were observing that the public confession of these heterodox Christian churches includes a lack of belief in the whole Bible. No blanket judgment can be made about individual members of any church, heterodox or orthodox, regarding their personal faith. I’m sure there are hypocrites in the LCMS who really share the doctrine of the ELCA, and I’m sure there are individual members of the ELCA, the Roman Catholic Church, the UCC, etc. who believe the orthodox faith DESPITE the public confession they make by joining these heterodox groups. We can’t see their faith; we can only see the public confession they make by their choice of what church to join.

    What we can be sure of, though, is that the individual members — by their choice to be members — are publicly confessing the doctrine of the organization to be their own. Only God can know what is in the heart. We can know only their public confession.

    You are absolutely correct that many individuals in the ELCA still believe the whole Bible, but the church they have chosen to join does not. On the other hand, the LCMS still believes the whole Bible, but some of its members, some in positions of leadership, do not.

    Do you see now why admission to the altar is based on public confession, not personal faith? Only God can judge the heart; we can see only the public confession.

  15. @Rev. McCall #66
    I may have to edit mine…

    In an attempt to put the responsibility for division in the church right smack where it belongs — on those who choose to reject the orthodox faith — I wrote this:

    Communion Statement
    We welcome everyone to join us and fervently pray for unity in the Christian faith, that we may celebrate that unity together in Holy Communion. Our Lord has given His Body and Blood for you, for the forgiveness of your sins, and He invites to His Table those who trust His words, repent of all sin, and set aside any refusal to forgive and love as He forgives and loves us. Those who are not yet instructed, in doubt, or who hold a confession differing from that of this congregation, and yet desire to receive the Sacrament, are asked to wait until they do confess the same Christian faith. Please speak with the pastor about receiving instruction to learn the faith, in order for you to make an informed decision about joining us at His Table. Again, we welcome everyone to join us and fervently pray for unity in the Christian faith! (For further study, please see Matthew 5:23 ff., 26:26-29; Acts 2:36-42; 1 Corinthians 11:17-34.)

  16. @Pastor Ted Crandall #70

    Your points are well taken.   Many LCMS congregations who practice the halfway open blah-blah-blah policy lean toward personal faith rather than public denominational confession as criteria.  A personal visit with the pastor should always be vigorously encouraged.

  17. @helen #31

    I wish I could give you names, but that would not be fair. I expect that at least one of them may post a response on this particular thread.

    I don’t understand your last question.

  18. @John Rixe #39
    “You feel the half that voted for Pastor Kieschnick all practiced false doctrine? So funny.”

    I was at those three conventions and, based on the comments from the floor on most issues, I would have to say that many of the delegates didn’t know false doctrine when they heard it. In fact, it took that convention to open my eyes. That is not to say they “practiced” false doctrine. I know at least two very “solid” lay delegates who regretted their votes in 2001.

    I suggest a reading of “The Three Missouri’s” by Dr. David Adams of CSL. Perhaps our moderator has it in the BJS archives. It appeared in LOGIA some time back, and I will find the reference and post it. I have it in Word format and if anyone wants to read it, I can email it to them. Norm can act as our intermediary.

    It’s also important to differentiate false doctrine from error. There’s plenty of that around, too.

  19. @Win #74

    “The Three Missouri Synods,” by Dr. David Lee Adams. LOGIA Forum, Volume XV, No. 2, Eastertide 2006, p. 62. He identifies them as follows: (1) Traditional Missouri, (2) Moderate Missouri, and (3) Neo-evangelical Missouri.

    A well-reasoned, non-polemical, and even-handed analysis. His final conclusion: That the next conflict “…is between those who wish to uphold a Reformation understanding of evangelical Lutheranism and those who would promote a form of American Evangelicalism with a Lutheran veneer.”

  20. FUNNY AND SAD THAT SO MANY IN THE LCMS PRACTICE THINGS THAT OUR ANCESTORS MOVED ACROSS THE WORLD TO AVOID.

    @Pastor Joshua Scheer #56

    That’s because what I have been seeing is the lack of teaching of the history of the Church and The reformation. You have to know where you came from as a people / synod to get it. Some do / many don’t.

    As far as the Wyoming district…..

    I have a fond memory traveling through Wyoming coming back to St. Louis from Yellowstone several years ago.

    My wife and I were coming through Lander WY. and it was a Sunday. We asked the Lady at the hotel desk where the Lutheran church was located.

    She was so excited and said “Why you are in luck today. The Episcopal church and the Presbyterians and the Lutherans were having a combined service for Pentecost.”

    I said “Missouri Synod Lutherans?”

    She said “Oh them. No they are on such and such street.”

    I figured that we were ok going there for church.

    My only regret was that we did not stay at the church for the picnic they had planned that day.

    John

  21. @Pastor Joshua Scheer #58
    @John Rixe #57
    “It may not be a biblical requirement, but it is the one required when a congregation joins the LCMS.”

    Really? The LCMS has a *bylaw* governing who receives the sacrament?

  22. @R.D. #77

    Synod has approved in convention a doctrinal position which stands in direct opposition to unionism. From “A Brief Statement of the Doctrinal Position of the Missouri Synod” adopted by Synod in 1932 and available here http://www.lcms.org/page.aspx?pid=415.

    “On Church Fellowship. – Since God ordained that His Word only, without the admixture of human doctrine, be taught and believed in the Christian Church, 1 Pet. 4:11; John 8:31, 32; 1 Tim. 6:3, 4, all Christians are required by God to discriminate between orthodox and heterodox church bodies, Matt. 7:15, to have church fellowship only with orthodox church bodies, and, in case they have strayed into heterodox church bodies, to leave them, Rom. 16:17. We repudiate unionism, that is, church fellowship with the adherents of false doctrine,as disobedience to God’s command, as causing divisions in the Church, Rom. 16:17; 2 John 9,10, and involving the constant danger of losing the Word of God entirely, 2 Ti. 2:17-21.”

    I suppose you could opt to pretend communion fellowship isn’t church-fellowship. But that would be a bit of a reach.

  23. We practice unionism when we administer communion to persistent error ists who are members of lcm s in “good standing” which includes any unrepentant sinners absolved by permission of the ecclesiastical supervisor. We practice sectarianism when we do not admit to our altar those who teach and confess as we do, but who happen to be of the w/els (with their congregation not falling into the error of those bodies). We practice triumphalism when we appeal to synod as the authority established through resolutions when the scripture and confessions suffice. On the one hand we cite resolutions, ctcr statements, etc when it suits us but then we ignore the votes on wmen’s roles, or any other mischief the synod decides to do in a given convention. A house divided cannot stand, and that includes synodical triumphalism.

  24. Perhaps confessional LCMS congregations should leave the LCMS for the AALC.

    Comparing the AALC to the LCMS is like comparing a mild rain to a devastating hurricane. Which church body is friendlier to confessional Lutheranism? It appears that the LCMS is A LOT more dysfunctional than the AALC.

    For further reading:

    http://www.alpb.org/forum/index.php?topic=4486.0

  25. While I do not engage in conversations here, I do want to answer the general question, and respond since I have been linked, and referenced. (without anyone telling me I was being attributed. It is my practice to speak to someone face to face, and offer opportunity to address questions when I am inclined to such personal attribution. Apparently that is not the practice here. It seems more comfortable to talk “about them”) So addressed I reply.

    First, I leave those in Wyoming to address their perspectives and issues. I can say, The AALC is definitely more irenic than LCMS in looking at these challenges. Yet, the focus and concerns are often not any different than those seen here.

    To the congregation that began the question, it should be known that the community has walked a path. She has been shepherded in that walk by ordained pastors, and has now issued a call which was accepted by a well trained ordained Lutheran pastor of The AALC. To this extent the protest resolution of Wyoming, and insult at no returns to their phone calls, to questions outside their jurisdiction, was misplaced. In fact this congregation is more traditionally Lutheran as of this summer, than many, many LCMS churches. Perhaps WD should turn her attention there?

    The AALC/Wyoming issue is thus, off the table using the well focused spirit and practices of our body. The LCMS questions remain. I would hope those here would ponder that reality.

    I was indeed in LCMS for over 25 years, studied with Deacon and DELTO Ft Wayne curriculums, including passing classes with Ft Wayne Professors. In LCMS I did indeed support and encourage SMP. As a body, The AALC has CTS Ft Wayne students and graduates. They did not fail any classes taught by FtW teachers. My confession has not changed in my move to The AALC, to accept congregational calls there. I remain in close fellowship and friendship with many in the LCMS ministerium, and TAALC and LCMS pastors continue to faithfully share pulpits and altars.

    The church in question walked a faithful path. and is now faithful in this matter, as of this summer … even by standards here, and the Wyoming District’s. The LCMS continues meanwhile with its tensions, and practices. The question remains whether the Wyoming District’s resolution accomplished anything edifying? I would witness here, the answer is clearly “no,” beyond injuries with unknown motivations, that it seems to many, perhaps may go beyond simple encouragement to faithfulness.

    I would ask that you please not kick puppies, just because you can, when it is the big dog across the street, that is bothering you? That is the image left on this subject, for many of us.

    A simple pastor of The AALC
    TV

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