A Pastor’s Resignation Letter – A Warning for the LCMS, by Pr. Rossow

Below is a letter of resignation from a pastor in the LCMS. It came our way and we feel it is important news for our readers and a helpful warning for us all.

By publishing this letter we are not endorsing the action of this pastor. We do not claim to know all the ins and outs of this situation but we have experienced enough doctrinal foolishness in the LCMS to recognize a warning shot when we see one. We completely understand his frustration and can imagine all that he says to be the case with maybe one exception. This pastor says he found no confessional, brotherly support in the LCMS. That has not been our experience. Are there large pockets of little or no support? Yes, and Pastor VonMehren was apparently in one of those but there also larger pockets of great support and we hope that the posts on this website are proof of such.

We are glad to see this pastor not lay his frustration entirely at the doorstep of President Harrison, Like Pastor VanMehren we are pleased with the leadership and work of President Harrison. Thanks to President Harrison and his team good things are happening in the LCMS to restore purity of doctrine and faithfulness of practice. The pace may not be the same pace as you or I might pick. Some of us would want things to happen faster and some even more deliberately than the current pace but overall, we are being steered in a good direction.

So we submit for your edification and as a warning shot over the bow of the battleship Missouri the heartfelt and accurate letter of a frustrated, former LCMS pastor. May this letter further egg us on to uphold pure doctrine and faithful practice.

Pres. Matthew Harrison
Int’l Center, LC-MS
1333 South Kirkwood Rd.
St. Louis, MO 63122-7295

22 May, 2012

Dear President Harrison,

Hope all is well with your family, health and your service to Christ’s people. I write to inform you of a decision that I have been compelled to make by both circumstances and conscience, a decision that will bring delight to my current and past district presidents, as well as my current and past circuit counselors. I am moved to tender my resignation from the clergy roster of the LC-MS effective the date of this letter. As with the painful eventuality that many have the misfortune of experiencing, a divorce, the end of a slowly dying marriage, I grieve; not for what was, but for what should have been.

I have served in the LC-MS for 15 years and I have finally had enough of, on the one hand, the open heterodoxy in both word and practice that is not only tolerated, but promoted and encouraged in the LC-MS. On the other hand, I tire as well from being treated worse than a heathen infidel by those who deceitfully claim to be “servants of servants.”

I was recently forced to resign from a parish I served for 8 years, Emmaus Lutheran, Redmond, OR for no reasons. I was charged or accused of absolutely nothing, not a single reason was brought to my attention as to why I needed to resign. Even when directly asked, those responsible for this travesty would just shrug their shoulders and give no response. Yet, when it happened, my district “servant of servants”, with no reason given, no communication attempted or made, no letter, no phone call, no email, no contact whatsoever, put me under discipline effectively terminating my career.

The circuit meetings I have attended have been nothing but a shameful waste of time. Not only do the pastors not engage in any theology, casuistry or brotherly support or admonition, several seem to delight in nothing other than sheer buffoonery. I do not exclude the circuit counselors (“circuit clownselors”).

There still has been no indication that Missouri recognizes the public sin of Dr. Benke, nor that it ever will. Faithful pastor’s have no friends in Missouri. They and almost exclusively they take their career and Calling in hand caught between the all too frequent viciousness of goats in their own congregations and the lying hypocrisy of other “brothers” and their “servants of servants” in their district offices. It has been and is open warfare against faithful shepherds as those whose father is the devil work to subvert and destroy them.

The Holy Ghost indeed calls and gathers sinners into His Christian church. Unfortunately, they then begin industriously building their Towers of Babel a.k.a. institutions (synods). They then begin serving “the company” rather than Christ. All with the best of intentions of course. Missouri is the victim of her own “success.” Too many pastors have purchased their peace and retirements with obsequies service to “the company.” On the other hand, too many in the pew agree, eschewing any semblance of honor and respect for the Holy office and the catechesis that should be coming from it. Added to that is the aforementioned deceit and treachery of “ecclesiastical supervisors.” I suppose if monies to district came through and at the pleasure of pastors rather than congregations, there would be a sudden and drastic turn of affairs in the relations between pastors and district presidents. Then, all the “company men” would stand in gaping wonderment, declaring gleefully, “Look at what the Spirit did; the Spirit, O the spirit!” In the meantime, Missouri gladly ignites itself and would have gone down in flames had you not have had the God blessed faith, integrity and spine to put out the blaze.

I do thank God for you and what God has and is doing through you. Ever since the first  Emmaus Conference you attended with the presidents of the WELS and ELS I have led my then congregation Emmaus in prayers every Sunday for all three of you. May God bring about a (what needs to be) massive upheaval of renewal and restoration within Missouri.

All of the sins and folly I have described herein that I have seen and experienced within Missouri appears to be starkly absent in the ELS which I am colloquizing into. Brothers are not shy of either supporting or admonishing one another; they actually do theology at their Winkles and act respectably. The Lutheran Confessions are actually known, believed and put into practice. There are no parasitic district offices and little to no “company” (at least as far as the local pastors and congregations are concerned) to lure men away from Christ and into the service of “the company”; they issue no grey flannel suits like Missouri does.

Again, to the delight of my district presidents, past and present, and my circuit counselors, past and present, I bid Missouri a sad but free adieu.

May god continue to forgive me my tongue which is all too often too sharp and for a faith that is all too often weak and insufficient with a patience that is at times entirely absent. May He also give to you and those working with you His continued blessing of strength, courage, integrity and health, both you and all your family’s. God’s blessing!


Pastor Randy VanMehren
Grace Lutheran Church
4125 SW Salmon Ave
Redmond, OR 97756

cc: Mr. Paul Linneman
Mr. Peter Pagel
Pastor Randall Ehrichs
Pastor Doulas Fountain
President John Moldstad
Pastor Steve Sparley
Pastor Glen Obenberger
Mr. Warren Schumacher
Mr. John Luther

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.

Norm has been involved behind the scenes in many of the "go-to" websites for Lutherans going back many years.


A Pastor’s Resignation Letter – A Warning for the LCMS, by Pr. Rossow — 64 Comments

  1. If he was dismissed for scriptural reasons, these reasons should be public. He was a public servant and is claiming that he was publicly wronged. The congregation should publish his sins, if he was publicly removed from a public office for these sins. This is now a public matter, and Emmaus, if it was righteous in its actions, should exonerate itself so that its members are not slandered further.

  2. Elizabeth Peters :
    If he was dismissed for scriptural reasons, these reasons should be public. He was a public servant and is claiming that he was publicly wronged. The congregation should publish his sins, if he was publicly removed from a public office for these sins. This is now a public matter, and Emmaus, if it was righteous in its actions, should exonerate itself so that its members are not slandered further.

    When a congregation finds it necessary to dismiss a pastor, all involved are wounded. IN this case, based upon the pastor’s letter to President Harrison, the congregation did things right, and worked with the District president. Now the pastor is gone, and healing needs to begin. Making the reasons public would hinder, rather than help the healing.

    To me it is very apparent that no one in this forum actually knows the whole story, therefore, the responsible thing for us to do is to refrain from passing judgement.

  3. We have a few comments from members of the parish waiting our approval for publishing. I havce been on the road and otherwise committed since publishing this post and so have not had time to get to them. I am hoping to have some time byt the end of the day to review them or Associate Editor Scheer may take a look so that we can get them published if possible. We want to steer cleer of a “he said, she said” sort of thing on this post but if possible, we will give the members a voice here. I apologize to those members for being slow in getting their voice heard.

  4. @David Hartung #49

    It is the duty of any church, in dismissing its pastor, to publish the reasons for the dismissal. It is a public office. If we want to remove the incumbent of a public office publicly, we need to give the reasons publicly. This is what God demands of us, and it is the only way to avoid breaking of the 8th commandment, whether against pastor or church.

  5. just the facts and no assumptions-correct? with much prayer,Bible study and proper application consistant for all. To and For His glory

  6. I have updated the post with some of the comment from members of Emmaus, they can be found on comment page 1, comments #22, #24, and #35.

    Sorry for the delay in moderation.

  7. John :
    I currently attend Emmaus Lutheran Church-LCMS in Redmond, OR. My attendance there goes back to 1995, well before the arrival of Randy VanMerhen. During that time, I’ve served as Sunday School teacher, had multiple positions on the Church Council (Secretary, Vice President, and President) and worked many years on the Elder Board.
    While this little church has been in decline, it remains steadfastly liturgical and orthodox. Until the new LSB, we were a TLH 5 & 15 congregation. Many of our struggles have been because of the installed pastors from 2003-2011.
    I get angry reading Randy’s letter because it paints an incomplete picture of the situation he created for himself. I will not break the 8th Commandment here but Randy’s abandonment of his Call was well documented and over many years. His behaviors, habits, and practices were not in accordance to that of a Lutheran pastor. When finally confronted, he was provided the due process of the Circuit Councilor, which he indignantly refused.
    Randy’s desire to join the ELS is nothing new…He talked about how things would be better if we switched synods. He even invited an ELS pastor from Coos Bay, OR to a congregational meeting in 2006 for this purpose.
    I thank God for the solid members of the Elder Board and Church Council at Emmaus that finally confronted Randy and forced some pastoral discipline. While having a pastor fall away from his Call is sad, I count his colloquy into the ELS as benefit to the LCMS.

    I think this response is a good reminder to all of us to be extremely careful when presenting these conflicted situations. I would respectfully suggest to BJS leadership that unless they have full, complete, documented, factual knowledge of a situation like this, they not print a letter by a disgruntled former LCMS pastor. I have seen far too many examples of men who are not able to portray both sides of the situation, or the full story. The temptation is often to “wrap the flag” around oneseld and portray situations like this as an example of being persecuted for being a confessional Luheran.

    You can tell from the laymen’s comments that indeed there is quite a bit more to this situation than the former pastor’s letter would lead us to believe.

    I therefore would respectfully urge that while issues be discussed, specific instances like this no be highlighted in such a manner that we truly have only side of the story.

    Every pastor knows how messy divorces are and rarely is one party entirely innocent.

    Or, as the old military saying goes, “No matter how flat the pancake, it always has two sides.”

    Respectfully offered for consideration,

  8. @John Rixe #9

    Pastor Poppe,  from my limited experience, when there is conflict in a congregation it is mostly caused by unsuitable voting members rather than the pastor.

  9. I would encourage members of Emmaus to publicly expose the reasons for the firing. Keeping this kind of thing secret is bad for everyone involved. The 8th commandment requires us to keep public things public and private things private. But the pastor’s office is public, and he does nothing private if it affects the ministry of his church. Emmaus will be slandered until it gives public reason for its public action.

  10. Rev. Paul T. McCain :I have a hard time keeping up with the ever expanding alphabet soup of micro-denominations, each clamoring that they are the “real” Lutherans.
    I’m sorry, my cynicism is showing.

    I don’t see your post as at all cynical; rather it brings to our attention a disturbing trend. What you reference and that we are witnessing is what has happened in the Swedish Lutheran church since the ordination of women (and homosexuals) fiasco there: all kinds of small denominations, claiming to be the “real” Lutherans.


    But to the larger issue: Like a few others on this thread, I am also uncomfortable with airing this whole business. I know of at least two situations where the pastor ought to be removed, regardless of his confessional position. They go beyond liberal-conservative or confessional-evangelical lines, or “good fit-bad fit” issues. I know of one other where, based on the sermon content alone, I would recommend that people stay away. We don’t have all the facts in this particular case, and the rush to judgment here is disturbing. The witness of some members of Emmaus ought to give us pause. I believe the letter ought not to have been published, and that this thread has no business appearing on BJS.

  11. Rev. McCain is correct in #10 above (page 2). It was a mistake for me to publish this letter. In short order we will be taking freezing comments on this post. I am going to leave it up so that people can see this apology. Thank you everyone for your comments and participation.

    My reason for publishing it was because it illustrates so many shortcomings in our synod today and as I stated in the introduction and title – for the sake of warning to us all.

    I knew I was taking a chance in publishing it and it did not pay off. As Rev. McCain stated, it would have been good for me to do more digging into the story. I apologize for my errors and will seek to do more due dilliginece in the future.

    We will continue to be the go to place for Lutheran news and commentary and I am sure we will make more mistakes but those we can address, we need to address and that is why I am suspending commentary on this matter.

    Thanks again.