I did Not Intend to Hurt Anyone, by Pr. Rossow

I did not intend to hurt people with my words to Pastor Morris in the BJS post the night of the Newtown Vigil. My intention was to speak God’s word to the situation. Shortly after the post was put up, President Harrison asked that the post be taken down so that public heat and light could be taken off the situation while it was being handled personally by him. I did not hesitate for a moment. The post was taken down.

The St. Louis Post Dispatch and others have chosen to go back to the words of a post that was taken down and dwell on them. I stand by the words and will explain that stance in a moment but at the outset I ask that people recognize that all the furor is over a post that was taken down.

BJS has gotten fair treatment by the Post Dispatch in the past and I actually don’t think their recent story on the matter was all that bad. I will repeat however, they and everyone else are focusing on a post that we humbly took down.

As I said above, I did not intend to hurt anyone with the words I said. The evangelical pastor’s goal is always to heal the wounds of sin in this world with the salve of the Gospel. The Gospel is the good news that Jesus Christ has died on the cross to satisfy the Father’s just desire for a price to be paid for the sins of the world and that all who receive this news in faith become his children and shall live with him forever in heaven.

This good news of salvation is paired with the hard words of the law. You and I have sinned and need to confess that sin so that we might be forgiven. The words I spoke on that BJS blog were words of law but they weren’t hateful words. The world hears them as hateful because the world does not acknowledge its sin. The world desires to define righteousness as whatever anyone chooses to do in sincerity. If one is sincerely trying to help someone it is okay to lie. Homosexuality is not a sin as long as it is done in sincere love. Everyone is accepted by God as long as they are sincere. It is okay to worship with those who worship false Gods as long as you are sincerely trying to help someone and care for them.

The words I spoke on that comment thread were not hateful words. They were loving words. They were intended to call out sin as sin in order to result in repentance and the reception of God’s love for Christ’s sake.

This post is getting long so let me try to wrap it up. I want to say a few words of explanation so that people can better understand the words I put on that comment string. In future weeks I will write more about the Biblical prohibition against syncretism and unionism but for now these few words will need to suffice.

The Bible uses the motifs of prostitution and adultery to describe syncretism, i.e. joining in the rites and ceremonies of the pagans. Ezekiel speaks of it this way (and this is only one of dozens of similar references):

[20:27] “Therefore, son of man, speak to the house of Israel and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: In this also your fathers blasphemed me, by dealing treacherously with me. [28] For when I had brought them into the land that I swore to give them, then wherever they saw any high hill or any leafy tree, there they offered their sacrifices and there they presented the provocation of their offering; there they sent up their pleasing aromas, and there they poured out their drink offerings. [29] (I said to them, What is the high place to which you go? So its name is called Bamah to this day.) [30] “Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord GOD: Will you defile yourselves after the manner of your fathers and go whoring after their detestable things?

Here is what Paul says in I Corinthians 10:

[14] Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. [15] I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. [16] The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? [17] Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. [18] Consider the people of Israel: are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar? [19] What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? [20] No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. [21] You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. [22] Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?

Syncretism is spiritual adultery because God has joined himself to us in Holy Communion. It is the most intimate of all spiritual experiences. God enters into us and becomes one with us. He is a jealous God and does not want us taking him into the worship of false gods. That is stepping out on him and even worse, taking him into a false, adulterous, whoring union with other gods.

 These are not my words. They are the words of the prophets and of Paul. They are the words of God. I do not mean to hurt anybody. I mean to give a clear testimony to the word of God and rejoice that he has joined himself to me in the most intimate and mysterious union of Holy Communion and do my best, sincerely, to keep from stepping out on God.

Concerning the words I said about compromising the Gospel, that it can bring more harm than the bullets of an enraged gunman I offer to you the words of Christ. He says in Matthew 10:28 “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

Do I think that Pastor Morris intended to hurt anyone spiritually? Not in the least. Do I think standing next to pagans and praying the liturgy alongside their liturgy does spiritual harm? Yes it does.

My words were not intended to make a negative comparison between the gunman and anyone else but simply to point out the eternal fate of souls should not be compromised simply to obtain earthly approval.

My old sinful self would love to apologize for those words to take some of the heat off of this situation. My new self in Christ, cannot apologize for these words because my new self is born of Christ’s words, both law and gospel. I stand by the truth of the words but humbly acknowledged straight way, that they were spoken in the wrong forum at the wrong time and so we took the post down. I ask the St. Louis Post Dispatch and all others interested in this matter to see all the facts of this story and relate them all including the fact that they are quoting words that were taken down for the sake of winning back the brother.

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.


I did Not Intend to Hurt Anyone, by Pr. Rossow — 71 Comments

  1. Conqueror,

    That’s my kitty Happy Bob, the world’s best cat. I only held him for the picture. I have since put him down. 🙂

    (Well, not “down” down. I set him down. He is alive and well and was up at 6:00 am today greeting our house guests staying with us for the BJS conference.)

  2. It makes me wonder why some commenters do not use their real names, such as Boaz. What are they hiding? If they believe what they speak is true, should they not use their real name or part of their real name? What are they embarrassed about?

    I find it interesting that some are saying another pastor or lay person for that matter, (if I teach falsely form the pulpit my faithful members should ask me about what I said and ask me to repent if needed) can not rebuke/correct challenge another LC-MS Pastor for their sin unless they have supervisory position over them. We have agreed to teach a unified teaching and have agreed to be unified in practice. If I violate it I expect my fellow pastor to correct me for the sake of the Gospel and of the church. To say this can not be done is a very big miss reading of the LC-MS constitution.

    Remember the power of the District President and Synodical President lies in their ability to remove a pastor or other church worker from the roster. After that it is up to the congregation to remove the Pastor from his office, due to the false teaching practice etc for which he has been removed from the roster of synod. If the congregation refuses then the congregation is removed from the roster of the synod.

    This needs to be done by the Synodical President if the District President refuses to act, and or gave permission for the false teaching or practice to occur. If the District President refuses to act or repent for his actions, he should be removed from office.

  3. @Pastor Ted Crandall #49

    Dear Pastor Crandall,

    Thanks for the information “early.” I wonder if DP Benke is still complaining that President Harrison was “outside his jurisdiction” in this matter. After all, during the Bohlmann and Kieschnick administrations, those presidents always quoted this passage from the Constitution to prove they had a right to local jurisdiction, at least, in certain respects:

    3. The President has and always shall have the power to advise,
    admonish, and reprove. He shall conscientiously use all means at his
    command to promote and maintain unity of doctrine and practice in
    all the districts of the Synod.

    4. The President shall see to it that the resolutions of the Synod are
    carried out.

    The last time I looked, those passages were still in the Constitution. Those may be the same passages that once led Martin Marty to comment something to the effect that the LCMS President had more jurisdictional authority than the pope. But then you know how much Martin Marty loves the LCMS, so you can’t believe everything he says about us.

    As far as I can tell from the Constitution itself and its Bylaws, the LCMS President can “use all means at his command to promote and maintain unity of doctrine and practice in all the districts of the Synod” And that doesn’t refer to the district staff, because those didn’t exist when the Constitution was written. It refers to the congregations and schools of the districts. And the President has and always shall have the “power to advise, admonish, and reprove.” It doesn’t stop because a different guy is elected president.

    Maybe that is why DP Benke retracted that statement. But is erasing something from an online website a “retraction” or just a deletion?

    Anyway, I just thought I should try to settle the issue whether Harrison had the right to investigate what happened at Newtown and whether he had the right to “advise, admonish, and reprove”–if that is what he did.

    Don’t forget that I gave Harrison, DP Yeadon, and Pastor Morris an “A+”. That included matters of proper jurisdiction and LCMS canon law.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  4. It is not lost upon me, both Presidents, of WELS & LCMS, prefer Pastor, rather than President. That position is for, but a moment. It is not lost upon me, both endure & suffer in equal stead & measure. It is not lost upon me, those who stand simply, upon the Solas Themselves, are slandered, vilivied, chided, & derided. That is to do, with His substance. Not with appearances. One stands, as It has, since Genesis ~ Revelation. Confessional Lutherans, don’t own this corner of the market. I know far too many, across Denom lines, who suffer said same. Vocation, notwithstanding.

    This is His Bride, His Father’s House, His Fields, His Stores, and His Sheep. If He chooses to winnow, clean, or separate, who could possibly think, they are worthy to ask why or stand in His way, when doing so?

    He said He would, He’s done it before, and said He would again. Not one, can say, He didn’t warn us or tell us He would. This is His Bride, His Church, His Office, His Servant, His pen, and His sheep.
    Not one, can say, they were caught unawares. Not one of us, were here at BJS. We know better, at least we should. Vocation, notwithstanding. The Office is Divine, the man who holds it, is not & never was.

    Pastor Harrison’s speech, upon Election, I do remember. I pray we all do.

  5. Rev. Josh Osbun :

    Joe Strieter :

    and most important, PASTORALLY.

    What do you mean by this? How were things not handled pastorally?

    I didn’t say they weren’t–what I said is that pastoral resolution is important. Dealing with “bad news” early, rather than letting them get out hand, facilitates pastoral resolution–that was my point. Looking at this particular situation, it certainly seems probable “bad news early” might have avoided the publicity and the resulting fuss. I’m especially concerned about confidentiality here–the public comments from a DP and former SP hardly seem “pastoral” to me. I am not quibbling with Pres. Harrison’s or DP Yeadon’s handling of the situation.

  6. In addition to being “non-pastoral” in the matter under discussion, might it be fair to observe that the DP and ex-SP seem to be fishing in troubled waters. If so, may one wonder why?

  7. @Martin R. Noland #4

    Ironically, the ones saying the President of Synod has no business in Newtown are the same folks applauding the intrusion of a neighboring District President. Go figure!

    Was it a retraction or merely a deletion? Well, part of the deleted comment is still quoted at ALPB and was not addressed by its author. I only wish I had saved the entire quote — it was a lulu! Here’s a link to the part that is still on the World Wide Web:

  8. Pres. Harrison is not “outside his jurisdiction” in being involved in the Morris syncretism case… UNLESS District President Yeadon initiates the dispute resolution procedure in Bylaw 2.14. It is clear from the documentation posted on the WMLT blog that no such procedure has been initiated.

    If Yeadon hasn’t done so because he supports Rev. Morris’s participation, Pres. Harrison doesn’t have many options other than to “lead this church [actually a Synod] kindly and mercifully and winsomely.

    Any implementation of Bylaw 2.15 against DP Yeadon could lead to implementation of 2.16 by the COP. With all of these Bylaws (approved by the delegates at previous conventions) ecclesiastical supervision in the Synod has been reduced to a sort of “Mexican standoff.”

    Swell. 🙁

  9. @Carl Vehse #9

    So at least this time we can hopefull ydeal with SMP and Lay Ministry. But really, we need resolutions to clean up the disaster that is the DRP. And I think we might need to clarify the role o fthe COP. Sometimes it seems they have too much power, and can effectively neuter the SP. That doesn’t seem right. So much work that needs to be done.

  10. THe SP is elected by representatives from the entire synod in convention. DPs are elected by representatives from an individual district in convention. However, one may get the impression that COP viz-a-viz the SP, regard the SP as a primus inter pares. Time to clarify the position of COP viz-a-viz the SP. Otherwise, it seems as though the sum of the parts is superior to the whole.

  11. Greetings and please accept my apology, in advance, for the secular comparison offered below:

    The closest system comparision of the LCMS is the Federal Reserve System. The chairman of the federal reserve oversees 12 regional federal reserve banks which each have independently elected presidents. Another interesting dynamic is that each of the member instituions (banks) represented have competing values and independent charters. Some are very concerned with interest rates, community banking/competition, consumer protection or real estate regulation. No two will have exactly the same value set.

    The truest comparison then becomes that the chairman of the Federal Reserve can really only accomplish anything through a collaborative approach with the 12 other presidents (only 5 of which vote on issues). Directly relating to action, this means that no matter how “right” the chairman may be, there will be no actual action without the support of the regional presidents. This also requires the chairman to take an approach of “greater good” and focusing on those issues in which have substantial impact to the entire monetary system while not expending capital or work on issues of a minor or regional scale. In both the case of the Federal Reserve and the LCMS, the organizations are supported by and hindered by a robust set of legalities.

    Sorry again for the secular comparison and special greetings to Norm, Jim P. and Pastor Rossow.


  12. @Tim Schneider #12

    Preamble of the LCMS Constitution: Reason for the Forming of a Synodical Union

    1. The example of the apostolic church. Acts 15:1–31.

    2. Our Lord’s will that the diversities of gifts should be for the common
    profit. 1 Cor. 12:4–31.

  13. @Tim Schneider #12

    Dear Mr. Schneider,

    Thanks for the very helpful comparison with the Fed.

    The most helpful aspect of your comparison is against those who think that the LCMS President has unlimited canon-law-powers at all levels, including down to the individual congregation and church-worker level. The LCMS President clearly does not have the power to restrict, suspend, or expel a church-worker–only the District President has that power.

    An example of someone who thought that the LCMS President has unlimited powers at all levels was Pr. Herman Otten. He kept nagging the Presidents of the Synod to certify him, when in fact it has always been the prerogative of the Seminary faculties to certify for the pastoral ministry.

    We are a “constitutional church,” not a monarchical church, like the Roman Catholic, Anglican, or Eastern Orthodox churches–but even they have canon laws which limit their heirarchs in certain matters. Who has what powers and to what extent is determined by our Constitution and bylaws, not by analogies or general opinion.

    With respect the present matter, I quoted the relevant Constitutional Article above: https://steadfastlutherans.org/?p=27306#comment-808152

    This is Constitution Article XI.B.3. It is clear from its context, namely, XI.B.2 that the President has direct oversight over and supervision of synod officers, synod employees, individual districts, and district presidents.

    Here is one place where your analogy with the Fed breaks down. He can call all these persons and entities (i.e., districts) to account for their behavior. The Constitution and Bylaws explain how he is to do that.

    XI.B.3. gives the President one additional power, i.e, he can “advise, admonish, and reprove” anyone, anywhere, at any level in all the synodical districts. He cannot back that up with a threat of restriction, suspension, or expulsion–which is a use of canon-law-force. Rather this article (XI.B.3) refers to the use of his “advisory powers” as a type of influence, which is substantial in a church-body that is held together by the Word of God and human relationships.

    The LCMS constitution refers to “advisory powers” because that is the synod’s relationship to individual congregations (Constitution Article VII). Secular people in general society often are baffled or ignore the LCMS “advisory powers,” because they only think of LAW in terms of force. In fact, for someone with no familiarity with our church, e.g., a news media reporter, such “advisory powers” seems absolutely ridiculous, since he may only understand the force of law.

    The purpose that the Constitution gives for using this “advisory power” is very specific. The President is charged with using this influence to promote and maintain unity of doctrine and practice in all districts of the Synod.

    If the Synodical President does not use this advisory power, then what happens is that eventually the districts will spin out of the “orbit” of synodical doctrine and practice.

    Anyone who opposes the LCMS President’s use of XI.B.3 is either ignorant (which I admit applies to many) or intentionally wants his district to spin farther and farther outside the “orbit” of synodical doctrine and practice. I would call people that want to do this, whether they do it openly or subversively, “traitors” and “rebels” with respect to the authority of the national synod, because that is what they are.

    Thanks for your helpful comments. We all need to read the Constitution and bylaws carefully, so we understand what powers our elected officers actually have and how they are to use them.

    And because I know these articles and bylaws fairly well, I have given President Harrison, DP Yeadon, and Pastor Morris an “A+.”

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  14. Martin R. Noland: If the Synodical President does not use this advisory power, then what happens is that eventually the districts will spin out of the “orbit” of synodical doctrine and practice. Anyone who opposes the LCMS President’s use of XI.B.3 is either ignorant (which I admit applies to many) or intentionally wants his district to spin farther and farther outside the “orbit” of synodical doctrine and practice.

    And spinning out of “orbit” of sound doctrine and practice would mean spelling out the “obit” of the synod.

  15. Charlie and Martin,

    Thanks for the helpful stuff. I do have one question however. Does our structure allow us to let a member of synod remain in his sin and we refuse to address it because the by-laws do not allow such a move? Or, does our structureclearly state that Scripture trumps by-laws?

  16. As all of us here can agree, President Harrison acted rightly in requesting an apology from Pr. Morris. The only thing Rev. Harrison shouldn’t have done, in my opinion, is to apologize for the way the situation was handled, because it was handled rightly. Rev. Harrison’s apology caused confusion and was damaging to conservative morale.

    Rev. Harrison’s wrongful apology is now being used as a weapon by the liberals like Matt Becker and David Domsch over at Daystar. Becker on his blog keeps answering his detractors with “Harrison apologized! Harrison repented! That means he acknowledges his actions were wrong!”

    Obviously, Becker is distorting Rev. Harrison’s apology, as Pr. Wilken pointed out in a now deleted thread. But I still believe Rev. Harrison’s apology was not only unnecessary but was a strategic error.

  17. T Rossow :
    Does our structure allow us to let a member of synod remain in his sin and we refuse to address it because the by-laws do not allow such a move? Or, does our structure clearly state that Scripture trumps by-laws?

    Our Constitution clearly states that the Scriptures are “the only rule and norm of faith and practice” (Art. II). Our Constitution clearly states: “All matters of doctrine and of conscience shall be decided only by the Word of God.. All other matters shall be decided by a majority vote” (Art. VIII.C.). Our Constitution clearly states: “The Synod in convention may adopt bylaws that are consistent with and do not contradict the Constiution of the Synod, which controls and supercedes such bylaws and all other rules and regulations of the Synod” (Art. XIV).

    That said, I am not aware of any bylaws that would not allow us “to let a member of synod remain in his sin and we refuse to address it.”

  18. Another question to be asked is: What action is the District President or the Synodical President to take when he becomes aware of information or allegations that could lead to expulsion of a member from the Synod under the provisions of Article XIII of the Constitution?

    Hint: The answer is in Bylaws 2.14.4 and 2.15.4.

  19. @Nicholas Leone #17

    I have to say that I agree with you to some extent, Ncholas. And I say this as a big Harrison supporter–still.

    I was fine with President Harrison’s letter of February 1. He was sympathetic toward Pastor Morris and commended him for his pastoral care. He did not question his motives. But he did rightly state: “Nevertheless, the presence of prayers and religious readings, as well as the fact that other clergy were vested for their participation, led me to conclude that this was in fact joint worship with other religions (as previously defined by the Synod). I could draw no conclusion other than that this was a step beyond the bounds of practice allowed by the Scriptures, our Lutheran Confessions, and the constitution of our Synod, which seeks to uphold both.” Correct.

    Pastor Morris apologized for causing offense by his participating, and President Harrison accepted that apology. Pastor Morris had not yet recognized or apologized for the problem of participating, per se, but President Harrison said he and the DP would continue to work with the pastor on this. Fine.

    President Harrison had every right–indeed, it was his duty–to get involved in this situation (Art. XI.B.3.). Good.

    But then somebody fed a tiny handful of cherry-picked comments–out of context, not representative of the whole, long since deleted–fed a very few comments to the secular press, and there was a negative reaction. That was where I thought President Harrison perhaps overreacted a bit. I think I know why he was apologizing–sort of “The buck stops here” approach. He was not apologizing for his correct assessment that participation in the interfaith service was wrong. He was apologizing that it stirred up a mess in the press-even though I don’t see how Harrison could control that.

    It’s quite predictable that the Daystar people–Benke, Becker, Domsch, et al.–would try to undercut and undermine and embarrass President Harrison. Daystar has endorsed another candidate, and they have called for Harrison’s impeachment and/or ouster. And so it was predictable that Daystar would use and distort this Harrison apology for their own purposes–which is what they are doing.

    In any case, I think President Harrison will weather this Daystar-fueled “storm” and, barring any unforeseen developments, will win reelection handily in June.

    My main concern and hope and prayer is that President Harrison will continue to stand for the right things–gently, humbly, pastorally, yes–but will continue to stand up for what is right and not buckle under to negative pressure.

  20. “My main concern and hope and prayer is that President Harrison will continue to stand for the right things–gently, humbly, pastorally, yes–but will continue to stand up for what is right and not buckle under to negative pressure.”

    I agree. I too am a supporter of President Harrison.

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