Iowa East may be the New Wyoming Based on their Latest Mission Plant, by Pr. Rossow

The Iowa East District has got a great new mission plant going just outside of Iowa City. Iowa District East has become one of the most solid and confessional districts in the LCMS and so we are not surprised by this news. For the last twenty years or so, the Wyoming district was the unofficial refuge for confessional pastors. Maybe now it is Iowa East, or even many of the other increasingly confessional districts.

One of the things that sets Iowa East apart is its District President. Brian Saunders, a cousin of Matt Harrison once or twice removed. He truly is a bishop. The Greek word for “bishop” is episkopos which means “overseer” and according to our Synod Handbook, he is to oversee/supervise the doctrine of the pastors of his district and to visit them at least once a year for that purpose. (As I have mentioned on this blog before, in my twenty five years of pastoral service I have yet to have a DP visit me or my parish to check out how things are being done.) Brian Saunders does visit his parishes regularly for the sake of oversight!

If his district’s newest mission start continues in the path on which it has been started, it won’t need much supervision. It is St. Silas Lutheran Church in North Liberty, Iowa. There are so many good things about this church I hardly no where to start. Here is a bullet list of some of the things I see that are so refreshingly confessional at St. Silas, especially so in today’s world of relevant and trendy pop culture mission starts.

  • The name of the church – is has a mission ring to it since St. Silas was an evangelist and yet it is historic and in the tradition of the church. Instead of naming it some bland and trendy thing like Community Church or Agape/Joy/Love/Anything but Something Challenging Church they named it after an historic figure of substance. (BTW – The BJS Annual Conference often uses the propers for St. Silas at our Divine Service since it often falls on or near his day in the church year.)
  • The name of the church part 2 – It has the name “Lutheran” in it. Are these people in eastern Iowa nuts? Everyone knows we need to hide our Lutheranism, not put it in the name of the church. No, they are not nuts. They know that Lutheranism is something to cherish and if practiced purely, is enduring and meaningful.
  • The pastor is wearing a clerical collar on the website – This means that Pastor Richard is communicating to the community that something unique and divine is going on at his church, i.e. the forgiveness of sins. I am sure if he looked hard enough though, maybe at the Younkers in Coralville, he could find a nice flower print shirt. (Actually, they seem to be out of style now for the pastors of the Church of What’s Happenin’ Now. Oh well, it’s hard to keep up with all the trends. I guess the new style is the Rob Bell eyeglasses. If I am not mistaken, Richard’s glasses lean in that direction. Good job pator – substance in the clerical; style in the eyeglasses!)
  • The mission statement – The mission of St. Silas is to receive the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation through Jesus Christ our Lord. Once again, we gotta think these people are smokin’ something – maybe pages from the Readers Edition of the Book of Concord. The only thing better than this mission statement is Pastor Richard’s description of it. You can see it here. 
  • The web page on the Divine Service – It reads like a summary of the means of grace. Wonderful!
  • Great Links – There is a great little golf links nearby – Brown Deer Park (the ninth hole is a killer 225 yd. par three) but that’s not the links we are talking about. St. Silas’ web links include Issues Etc. and the Book of Concord. (Speaking of Iowa City, did I mention that the Hawkeyes rolled over Northwestern yesterday and your author/editor was there live hooting and hollering like a crazy man.)

I also hear from Bishop Saunders that there is a new LCMS start in Charles City, Iowa formed by a group that has left the ELCA. Confessional theology is alive and well in Iowa District East. We here at BJS think it might be a good idea for each of you readers to make a donation to St. Silas Lutheran Church. You can do so by contributing to the Iowa District East mission start capital campaign. I do have one complaint in all of this. They need to add a paypal donate button to the church’s site and the district site.

Great job Bishop Saunders and Pastor Richard. You are an inspiration to all the LCMS and the kind of leaders we need to bring the truth and purity of the Gospel to the world today.

About Pastor Tim Rossow

Rev. Dr. Timothy Rossow is the Director of Development for Lutherans in Africa. He served Bethany Lutheran Church in Naperville, IL as the Sr. Pastor for 22 years (1994-2016) and was Sr. Pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran in Dearborn, MI prior to that. He is the founder of Brothers of John the Steadfast but handed off the Sr. Editor position to Rev. Joshua Scheer in 2015. He currently resides in Ocean Shores WA with his wife Phyllis. He regularly teaches in Africa. He also paints watercolors, reads philosophy and golfs. He is currently represented in two art galleries in the Pacific Northwest. His M Div is from Concordia, St. Louis and he has an MA in philosophy from St. Louis University and a D Min from Concordia, Fort Wayne.


Iowa East may be the New Wyoming Based on their Latest Mission Plant, by Pr. Rossow — 17 Comments

  1. “The pastor is wearing a clerical collar on the website”

    Fifty years ago the question of wearing a clerical collar was much debated in the congregations of our Synod. In the late 1950s I was the pastor of a congregation in a near-west suburb of Chicago. Reading through the minutes of the Voters’ Meetings, I discovered that, in the late 1940s, the pastor of the congregation had asked the Voters for permission to wear a clerical collar. A long and spirited debate followed, leading to no consensus. The final resolution of the Voters was “let the pastor decide.” That was a very Lutheran answer since the wearing of clerical garb is neither forbidden nor commanded.

    The clerical collar is not a vestment. It is ordinary clothing. The use of the collar illustrates something about clerical insignia and dress. From earliest times there were distinguishing marks about the apparel of the clergy. The use of a ring (the mark of a slave), the wearing of the stole, and the shaving of the head or tonsure all marked the members of the clergy. What we call liturgical vestments were, in fact, originally ordinary clothing worn by all. The alb, cincture, and chasuble were regular dress in the Roman world. But styles changed. When the barbarians invaded the Roman empire, they brought a new form of dress, trousers and a shirt. As the new styles were adopted, the clergy retained the old clothing. The old clothing was now understood to be liturgical vesture for use in the services of the church. The old clothing, now considered vestments, was given new symbolic meaning. This process of the clergy keeping the old style has gone on ever since. The cassock, a common walking coat used by all gentlemen in the Middle Ages, was retained by the clergy when it was shortened to form a suit coat. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Protestant ministers wore a frock coat and a turn down collar as clerical attire. The frock coat and turn down collar, formerly the common dress of the gentleman, was abandoned in favor of the modem suit coat. But the Protestant clergy retained the older style as a clerical uniform. With our culture adopting more and more casual clothing, it is possible that the new clerical uniform will be a shirt and tie.

    From the fifteenth to the seventeenth centuries, gentlemen wore elaborate collars. Often they were of lace or something that took the appearance of a primitive ascot tie. To keep the collar from being soiled, a band of linen was worn around the neck. In time, styles changed. The collars disappeared, but the clergy retained the band of linen around the neck. That band of linen used to keep the collar from being soiled is the clerical collar of today.

    In reality, the clerical collar has become a uniform. Uniforms are worn by those who serve. Members of the armed forces wear uniforms, but the commander-in-chief does not. Waiters and waitresses wear uniforms, but the owner of the restaurant does not. Police wear uniforms, but the mayor of the town does not. Physicians, nurses, and technicians wear uniforms, but the chief executive of the hospital does not. A uniform designates status, the status of one who serves. The pastor who wears a clerical collar as a uniform is indicating not superior status, but rather the status of a servant.

    Those who argue against the use of clerical attire suggest that it hampers evangelism. They view the collar as a mark of high status. As one pastor put it, “Sitting next to a sick bed with color (not a collar) is more intimate, personal, and cheerful than clinical, dull black and white.” The clerical collar is believed to draw constant attention to the wearer.

    Are there advantages to wearing a clerical collar? Certainly the wearer is constantly reminded that as a pastor, he is the Lord’s servant to minister to the people. The pastor has greater access to restricted areas such as hospitals. During his visits with hospitalized parishioners, he does not need to constantly explain his presence to the staff. The pastor wearing clerical garb in his rounds of visitation in the community is never confused with a door-to-door salesman. Perhaps the Voters’ Meeting of so long ago had it right: “Let the pastor decide.”

    Roger D. Pittelko
    Pastor Emeritus

    Theological Observer
    Clerical Collar -To Wear or Not To Wear?
    Concordia Theological Quarterly
    April 2004

  2. @Carl Vehse #2
    I certainly hope so. Nothing communicates “to the community that something unique and divine is going on at his church” more than a pastor wearing a clerical collar and sporting a good old fashioned tonsure.

  3. It’s always good to see things like this getting off the ground. I pray Our Lord blesses this difficult task.

  4. Pastor Andrew Richard of St. Silas Lutheran Church. Thank you for the prayers and the humor. I had some tonsure-worthy long hair, but unfortunately I had it cut short again yesterday. A day late and a bald spot short. I’m writing because we have a date set for our first Divine Service – February 3rd at 11:00am. You can read about the details of that here: For any of the pastors that happen upon this comment, I ask that you consider including St. Silas in the Prayers of the Church on February 3rd (our first service) and February 10th (The Commemoration of St. Silas). Here’s an excellent prayer that was prayed at St. John Lutheran Church in Clinton, IA on October 14th:

    Glorious Father, we pray for St. Silas Lutheran Church and the community of North Liberty, that with faithfulness and truth Pastor Richard may preach Your Word and rightly administer Your Sacraments. Bless, protect, and provide for this new congregation that they may serve You and abide in the faithful confession of Christ crucified and risen for our justification. Lord, in Your mercy,

    Thank you.

  5. You are off to a great start pastor, both from a secular standpoint (simple, direct, clear website with great videos) and more imporantly from a spiritual standpoint (focus on the forgiveness of sins, the Divine Service, et al)!

    We will add you to our prayers this coming Sunday here in Naperville.

  6. @Pastor Andrew Richard #7

    Pastor, I’m very encouraged by your website. The videos are excellent. Very clear and engaging. The doctrinal material is, thank God, extremely confessional and true. May God bless you and your efforts there. Whatever resistance and persecution you may face, remember that many fellow confessionals are with you and praying for you.

  7. @Carl Vehse #2
    shaving of the head …

    Have you looked around you lately? This is so common among men in the late 30’s or 40’s that I hardly notice any more. By itself, it’s only a preference; as many lay as ordained persons sport the style.
    (Our own two Pastors must have gone to the same barber last week and they both came out… not shaved, but awfully short on top!)

    Then there are the many whom God provides with a tonsure…
    sometimes fairly early in life. 🙂

  8. “Good job pator – substance in the clerical; style in the eyeglasses!”

    An article on vestments, experience has taught this expert Rupert, is likely to evoke the proverbial “flood of protests,” to say nothing of a smug comment in some other journal that this writer is “arguing the world-shaking importance of a piece of ribbon dangling from a clergyman’s arm” while the world, with its one natural and (at this writing) two artificial satellites hurtles madly toward its end. To forestall these consequences, he wishes to stipulate at the very beginning that, in his opinion–
    First, vestments are adiaphora.
    Second, terms like “should” and “ought” in connection with vestments can only refer to historic precedent and esthetic considerations.
    Third, vestments are adiaphora.
    Fourth, the symbolic significance of vestments refers not to any particular vestment, but to all the vestments taken as a whole that a particular person wears.
    Fifth, vestments are adiaphora.
    Basically, a Lutheran clergyman has five options in vestments: (1) Street clothes, that is, no vestments at all; (2) a gown, explicitly academic or quasi-professional, and normally black; (3) a white vestment, by whatever name it is called–alb, surplice, rochet, etc.; (4) a white vestment plus a chasuble; (5) Eucharistic vestments–alb, amice, cincture, stole, maniple and chasuble–plus a surplice at non-Eucharistic offices. (For the documentation of this statement, the reader is invited to look elsewhere).
    If the reader wears street clothes in lieu of vestments, he does not really need to read this article.

    If you don’t want to wear a clerical collar habitually, it is awkward to shift from one kind of shirt to another just to wear a cassock. One solution is to wear a neckband type shirt with two separable collars, one clerical, the other designed for us with a tie. The other solution is to have a cassock with a collar, one end of which overlaps the other so that you can put the cassock on over an ordinary shirt without having a rectangle of bare neck appearing in the collar aperture and giving the clergyman a sort of unfinished look.

    When Selecting A Vestment
    by Professor Arthur Carl Piepkorn
    The Seminarian
    March 1958

  9. @“LC-MS Quotes” #13
    “To forestall these consequences, he wishes to stipulate at the very beginning that, in his opinion–”

    So rightly then this is simply the opinion of Piepkorn and nothing else. One should note that he gives no overview of the Office of Ministry and how one might best communicate that office through dress. He simply reduces it to adiaphora and a style choice. Once could easily do this to any profession. Yet we have doctors who wear specific clothes, policemen, mailmen, and so forth.

    I am reminded of a story I heard once, and I have no doubt that it is true, of local ethnic pastors in a war torn African country. Kindly Americans asked them what they could give them to help; food? Bibles? prayer? The answer? “Clerical shirts, so that the people may know who the pastors are and from whom they can hear and learn of Christ. And if the time comes, that the people may see that these same pastors are willing to die for the faith.”

  10. [Context: The Third Commandment in the Large Catechism, The Book of Concord, Tappert, 378:94, final sentence: “Places, times, persons, and the entire outward order of worship are therefore instituted and appointed in order that God’s Word may exert its power publicly.”]

    Shenanigans in the church service just because they look nice or something ought not to be the reason for their use. It seems to me, whatever we do in church ought to be ordered to this end: that it somehow or other helps the Word of God to exert its power.

    I think what you wear should say something to the people every time they see it. For instance, if you have a–now of course, you probably won’t find this in any of the books on liturgics, and don’t tell whoever’s teaching liturgics* around here what I’m about to say because I don’t know whether they believe it or not–but, at least, this is what I did. I used to ask–and I insisted on this–if before a church service people weren’t running in and out, you know, and saying, “Can I see you just a minute?” and you’re already in the second verse of the hymn. I wanted ten, fifteen minutes before the church service for meditation; I wanted to think seriously about what I was going to do and what my responsibility was out there. And what I was doing when I put on all that yard goods, you know, what’s this for. And unless it was meaningful to me, really, I just resented it, especially on a hot day.

    So finally, I recalled conversations I heard among older preachers on a Sunday and some of this I thought of myself: that the black robe covers your own person and is a reflection of your sinfulness, that you aren’t the person that counts out there; your person doesn’t count. It’s what you do out there, what function. You’re God’s agent. And the Confessions say this, that you speak in His place. So you don’t go out there to display yourself.

    Then you put on the surplice–which is white–which reminds you that if it weren’t for the forgiveness of Christ, I wouldn’t have the nerve to walk through the chancel door from the sacristy; I would be afraid God would strike me dead. But I’ll go out there with full confidence because I know I am forgiven. And that by a right that God Himself bestowed on me, I’m going out there to speak in His place. I’m not taking this on myself nor coming on my own words for this honor. He has given me the righteousness with which I can even do a bold thing like that.
    And that the stole is a yoke which reminded me that I am God’s servant, not my own–you know, principally the congregation’s–but God’s. And that my whole role is to serve Him and His people. And I am a bondservant and a slave and I can’t choose my own way of doing things; I must follow the Master’s voice and do it as He says.

    And I think all of that is really included in this one sentence here: that whatever we do in church–wherever, anything–it should have a meaning if it says something to people that helps to exert the power of God’s Word. Otherwise it’s show, fanfare, and doesn’t serve a purpose, really.

    Harry A. Huth
    Lutheran Confessions I
    Concordia Theological Seminary, Springfield, Illinois
    February 25, 1976

    *Daniel G. Reuning, S.M.M. (Pastoral Ministry–Christian Worship) and Gerhard Aho, Ph.D. (Pastoral Ministry ): 142. Christian Worship. Course description: An introduction to the history of Christian worship including a thorough analysis of worship as reflected in Lutheran hymnody and liturgy. Each student demonstrates his ability to use the theological principles learned by preparing and leading both traditional and contemporary liturgies. Credit, three hours.

  11. Bishop Saunders is a wonderful example of how he shepards his pastors and their family. Just this week my husband had surgery. Pastor David Weber from our sister church came to give my husband a devotion before surgery. My husband was already in surgery so he waited with me. While we were waiting we looked up to see Bishop Saunders coming to also give a devotion. He also waited until my husband was out of surgery. They both went with me to greet my husband as he was being transfered to his room. Bishop Saunders stayed and gave a devotion, waited until my husband was settled in and then took me to supper, I had not eaten all day. Pastor Weber and Bishop Saunders are the picture of Shepards taking care of another brother pastor. Thank you to both and thank God for your serving your Lord.

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