Pastor Mark Louderback (Christ Lutheran Church, LCMS, Arlington, Tennesee), confessed yesterday on the Steadfast site that he believes the LCMS position on unionism is wrong. He believes that Scripture teaches that holding rites and services with the heterodox is defensible from Scripture.
Late in the year of 2011, BJS reader Pastor Ted Crandall, with whom Pastor Louderback had numerous exchanges on this blog, wanted to get more information on Pastor Louderback and his church. He noticed that Pastor Louderback and his parish were to be joining with area heterodox churches (those churches that mix false teaching in with true) for a Christmas service.
Pastor Crandall asked Pastor Louderback about this and he said he saw no problem with it despite Crandall’s protests. Pastor Crandall then contacted me and asked me if I had any thoughts on how to proceed. I told him to contact Pastor Louderback’s Circuit Visitor and his District President.
Thankfully Pastor Louderback’s District President talked him out of participating in the service. Regretfully however, Pastor Louderback is not repentant on this matter.
Here is comment #40 from the string, one of Pastor Louderback’s several comments and the one where he confesses his support for unionism.
To clarify a few things: it was not a joint worship service with the Presbyterian Church. The Baptist church, Methodist church, and non-denom were all involved.
My DP asked for me not to participate and so I did not and I announced this on Steadfast among other places.
So, it was not the meanies of steadfast who stopped it–I myself don’t know who complained to my dp and nor did I ask.
As to Ted’s question of “Are you repentant?” The answer is “No.” I fully believe what we had planned is entirely Scriptural. Ted knows full well — and Joshua Scheer also — that I was fully prepared to explain my position to them.
But, as I was going to take the issue through the entire Synodical process, I told Ted that I could not comment. And I have not. But I wanted to clear up a few things.
Privately, if any of you want to talk to me about unonism or fellowship–I’m good to go on that. Obviously our synod keeps mucking through the issue–the pastor up in Connecticut was the latest victim in that.
But as always I am fully willing to talk generally about fellowship. But the specific issue of last Christmas I don’t want to comment on publicly that much. Make sense?
The LCMS Constitution is very clear that unionism is wrong. (Click here for the full text of the Constitution and Handbook.)
Article VI Conditions of Membership
Conditions for acquiring and holding membership in the Synod are the following:
1. Acceptance of the confessional basis of Article II.
2. Renunciation of unionism and syncretism of every description, such as:
a. Serving congregations of mixed confession, as such, by ministers of the church;
b. Taking part in the services and sacramental rites of heterodox congregations or of congregations of mixed confession;
c. Participating in heterodox tract and missionary activities.
We could share volumes on why unionism is wrong. Let me offer two summary explanations and then I will turn it over to the BJS bloggers to discuss the matter.
First is a practical explanation. Most every pastor has had the uncomfortable experience of allowing someone to get up at the funeral home or the funeral luncheon to say a few words about the deceased only to have them totally and completely upend the primary doctrine of the faith – justification – by thier well-intentioned but unscriptural words about how “‘Ole Charlie must be in heaven since he was such a good man.” The problem with unionism is that we cannot account for what the other pastors or laity with whom we join, will say. So joining with them in worship is allowing them to speak false doctrine. Even if they don’t utter any heresy, we are still giving the impression that we endorse, or at least allow their false teaching.
Secondly, here is a summary Scriptural explanation (adapted from Pieper, Vol. III, pp. 425ff.). We are not to join with heterodox teachers but to avoid them (Rom. 16:17, I Tim 6:3ff., 2 John 10-11). Also, God allows false teachers to arise in order that Christians may show their obedience to Him by avoiding them (Deut 13:3, 8:2, I Cor. 11:19). This false unionism does not promote unity as Pastor Louderback and other false teachers believe. Instead it breaks the unity of the church bcause it is based on the fact that there is only one faith and one profession (Eph. 4:4-16). I Corinthians 10:1 tells us what Christian unity is – it is all speaking the same thing.
All through the Scriptures fellowship with God is defined in terms of the highest intimacy. In the Holy Supper God joins himself to us and we are not to take him into intimate union with false teachers. The prophets in countless places call this whoring after other Gods. When you read I Corinthians 10 in light of unionism one is moved to depart from false teachers and not take a stand with them in services with them.
We need to have patience with the erring and seek through instruction to correct them but we should never grant error equal footing with the Truth. May God grant the leaders, pastors and laymen of the LCMS the fortitude to remain Scriptural on this matter even while our own and others are seduced by the siren call of unionism.