Great Stuff — Unintended Consequences

Another post by Larry Beane over on Gottesdienst Online:


DibleyGod’s Word and the avowed confession of our synod and its members notwithstanding, I believe we will see the next generation of LCMS pastors and laypeople overwhelmingly support the world’s evolving definition of marriage and the mainstream Protestant church’s requirements for admission to the pastoral office.

I think it is absolutely inevitable (and these two issues are intertwined, actually the same issue).

I believe that when this occurs, at most, 20% of the pastors and congregations of the LCMS will leave the synod and form one or more new synodical associations. Some conservatives who remain in the LCMS will grouse about it, but they will try to fight within the synod rather than leave. They may try some form of “a state of confession” – but the tide of time and culture will wash over them fairly quickly, and the leadership of the synod will eventually deal harshly with them.

I believe within the lifetime of my son, there will be openly gay pastors and district presidents. There will be a lady president of one of our seminaries. I firmly believe this. She may well defend the Genesis account of creation and reject the higher critical method of biblical hermeneutics, and will thus be considered a “conservative” and may even see opposition from the more liberal element within the LCMS.

This path (like the one that has now seen the Boy Scouts accept homosexuality within their ranks) is the result of a “normalization” that comes with something that was once unthinkable simply becoming commonplace through the passage of time and by routine exposure. This process of normalization is undeniable and over time drives what is acceptable in our secular and ecclesiastical cultures. A simple comparison of television programming over the past few decades illustrates this point. You may like it or not like it, but that is the trajectory we are on.

Rainbow stole and cross on a priest at Brighton and Hove Gay Pride Parade 2009I also believe we will eventually see churches that “discriminate” based on “gender” (whether in ordination, employment, or marriage rites) will lose their tax exempt status from the IRS – especially if the Roman Catholic Church were to capitulate on these issues. Right now, the sheer size and power of the Roman Catholic Church would make such a move difficult – and even now, we see the Roman Catholic Church beginning to be challenged by the state and pressured to conform to secular standards.

And in accordance with Luther’s explanation to the 8th commandment, I believe this to be the unintended consequence of very well-meaning people.

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,, 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.

More of his work can be found at


Great Stuff — Unintended Consequences — 33 Comments

  1. Reminds me of a quote by Chicago Archdiocese Cardinal Francis George:

    “I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history.”

    Read more:

  2. Are the consequences really all that unintended? I’m reminded of the late Pf. Rorty’s acclamation of liberal religiosity in the public square, due solely to the fact that what he would (and did) deem as backward, conservative theologies would no doubt be on the wane as a result. Recognizing the decline of influence of Christianity on a large social scale presented him with a golden, coveted opportunity to indulge in a wide, self-congratulatory smirk before he died.

    He wasn’t wrong, I fear.

  3. Regarding three predictions made that the Missouri Synod

    1. will lose its tax-exempt status because of discrimination,
    2. will accept homosexual marriage within its congregations, and
    3. will ordain women and active homosexuals as pastors.

    The last two predictions will be made more probably if the Missouri Synod, through the National Missions Director Bart Day (and obviously approved by the synod president), continues to allow LCMS church-sponsored scout troops to remain associated with the BSA.

  4. Removing LCMS-sponsored troops from BSA is not as simple as when a lifeguard, seeing an approaching thunderstorm, blows his whistle and orders everyone out of the pool.

    Either a Lutheran or some secular substitute needs to be found or created, and not something that is just a glorified VBS. WELS has Lutheran Pioneers. Perhaps that might be useful. But development efforts and transitioning will take time… oh… and $$$$$$, a lot of which will be needed for land and building camps for the Pioneers, or whatever, to go to in the summer. It’s also possible that there will be costly lawsuits over anything the BSA has or claims it has copyrighted.

    And such a decision to withdraw will require support from the CTCR, the COP (ha, ha!), the synodical convention, and individual sponsoring congregations. What does a DP or SP do with a congregation that keeps its troop in the BSA? Throw them out of Synod? The Synod can’t even get one unrepentent syncretic pastor tossed out.

    On Sunday I talked with some long-time Scout leaders who said that no Lutheran troop leaders they knew were invited to the BSA voting. One suggested that Lutheran troops organize (possible in cooperation with troops sponsored by other church organizations) to make an effort to have the decision overturned in the future.

    Even if a significant number of troops, their leaders and sponsors were willing to make such an effort, it would require a committment to a rather brutal and take-no-prisoners political guerilla warfare. And the whole effort may take years to accomplish. Maybe they could establish a conservative political guerilla merit badge to award such efforts. Such skills undoubtedly would be useful in application to the national political scene.

    Whatever else is done, the BSA Executive Council – BSA President Wayne M. Perry, immediate past-President Rex Tillerson, Terrence P. Dunn, Randall L. Stephenson, Lyle R. Knight, Nathan O. Rosenberg, Jack D. Furst, O. Temple Sloan Jr., Earl G. Graves, Drayton McLane Jr., Bruce D. Parker, Matthew K. Rose, Henry A. Rosenberg Jr., Stephen B. King, Arthur F. Oppenheimer, Robert J. Smith, David M. Weekley, Jim Turley, Hector Perez, Aubrey B. Harwell Jr, R. Thomas Buffenbarger, R. Michael Daniel, and Wayne Brock – and the companies or institutions that these wicked and evil men are associated with, should be publicly mocked and ridiculed for their perverted destruction of Scouting at every opportunity as long as their great-great-grandchildren are still alive.

  5. How times have changed.

    In 1996, liberal graduate student Mary Todd, now XXXA Rev. Mary Todd-Pendergast, wrote her Ph.D. Thesis, “Not in God’s Lifetime”: The Question of the Ordination of Women in the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod.

  6. The LCMS did have an alternative organization. Lutheran Rangers/Rangerettes – there are at least two churches here in the Milwaukee area with programs.

    Also, many of out districts already own camps that could be used.

  7. Dear BJS Bloggers,

    Anything is possible in the future, so I am not holding my breath.

    But you guys really should read the article in the May issue of “First Things” about conservative Judaism found here:

    I am sorry I can’t get you a free copy of the article. It is about the recent history of the Conservative Jewish denomination, whose seminary was across the street from my dorm room at Union Seminary–New York. The article documents how, since that denomination has accepted women rabbis and gays, it has quickly gone downhill in many areas of measurement. The movement to accept women rabbis and gays was prompted by the desire to be identified as upper middle class. The result is that, as one of its leaders said, “Our best guys have gone to the Orthodox [Jewish denomination], and our worst guys have gone to the Reformed [liberal Judaism]” or something close to that. You have to read the eye-opening article for yourself.

    I think it is a close parallel phenomenon to the situation facing the LCMS today. If the LCMS would decide to accept women pastors and gays into clergy ranks and authorize gay marriages, it would quickly see the same decline. It would be the surest way to guarantee “church decline.” And the best pastors would go to the WELS/ELS, while its worst pastors would go to the ELCA. Truth is, the LCMS would no longer stand for anything, if it accepted those practices.

    Put in brief: persons in the LCMS who advocate for women’s ordination and gay pastors/gay marriage don’t want church growth, they want church death.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  8. I believe within the lifetime of my son, there will be openly gay pastors and district presidents. There will be a lady president of one of our seminaries. I firmly believe this.

    I firmly believe this is delusional thinking. I see no evidence whatsoever that acceptance of homosexual clergy or female clergy is anywhere near even being a remote possibility in the Missouri Synod. One thing that really does unite 95+% of the synod is that we are conservative on the social issues.

    Maybe the writer’s son will live to be 350, and so maybe that is how this might change within his lifetime, but I don’t think so.

  9. Pr. Henrickson @ #10,

    “One thing that really does unite 95+% of the synod is that we are conservative on the social issues.”

    This probably just means it would take longer for a small radical core to take control. That is the history of ELCA. The conservatives of the ELCA components (who were not anywhere near 95%, but still significant) saw it happen in 21 years. I don’t think most of them saw it coming in 1988.

  10. Not see it coming? ALC and LCA were ordaining women in the early 70’s, and the AELC break away left so they could start that, too. e_ca predecesor bodies had 10 – 15 years of the women thing. You just need enough time for them to get educated and high ranking enough to lead a seminary. Doesn’t just happen overnight. The gay thing was just a matter of the right time. Their higher ctrtics had been p*****g on the Bible ofr a very long time. Those who couldn’t see how society would dictate their mores are the delusional ones.

    Some people say a realignment of Lutheranism, and most of Christianity, is starting. If Pres. Harrison can get us 85% united, especially in practice, I think our liberal elements will voluntarily leave like they did in the 70’s. Might not be pretty, but if so, the LC-MS would be conservatively set for some time, and would prevent these problems for a couple of generations. I don’t see our capitulation any time soon.

  11. @Charles Henrickson #10
    If you want evidence look at the 2005 CTCR document, “The Service of Women in Congregational and Synodical Offices”. If you don’t think that was a precurser and set-up for eventual women’s ordination then you sir are delusional. (and I mean that in a nice way 🙂 )

  12. When I was on the former LCMS Board for Communications Services I was chair of the publications committee and had reason to go to the Concordia Seminary, St. Louis library and study copies of The Lutheran Witness and Reporter from the 1960’s and early 70’s. I was quite shocked to say the least! That also was a time of enormous upheaval both culturally and theologically–and from these publications it seemed the LCMS was FULLY on board in both areas. There was an incessant drumbeat of relentless “progress” permeating these official LCMS publications that left me astounded the LCMS had for this long averted women’s ordination for example. Reading those publications from **40 years** ago it is astonishing the LCMS in 2010 elected a president who literally “wrote the book” against women’s ordination; recently published The Lutheran Study Bible and is currently publishing the scholarly Concordia Commentary series, both firmly and overtly affirming verbal inspiration and “old Lutheran” doctrine; etc., etc. Yes, there are a lot of concerns and we must be ever faithful and vigilant, but we also have so very, very much for which to be thankful.

  13. We have not cleaned up house enough yet. Witchita 89 allowed for lay deacons, which opened Pandora’s Box for some of the non-residential and all of the district lay ministers. At least resolutions made it out of committee to phase this out. But I would like to see a rescinding of that issues. Then is 2004 women’s roles were greatly expanded. That could be dropped, but it didn’t show up for this year’s convention. (1969 women’s sufferage is a another but related issue…)

    To continue to correct our problems, Pres. Harrison needs to be reelected. If the United List type candidates do well this time, that will put a strong majority (pushing monopoly) on Biblical leaders, instead of cultural leaaders. That will also help in guiding the direction and conversation of the years ot come. While we may not have things all to our liking, let us also rejoice in what we do have, and build upon that.

  14. I think the author is probably correct. As I’ve written elsewhere, though President Harrison is a faithful and godly leader, even he is on the record as preferring that we would have women’s ordination. Thankfully, he lets Scripture reign in those preferences. Nevertheless, he does not repent of his preferences (at least as far as I know); instead, he seems to want to come as close to the Scriptural line as possible without stepping over it by putting as many women as he can in non-ordained leadership positions. That’s not going to be effective in the long term.

    At the end of the day, too many pastors are afraid to preach the whole counsel of God when it comes to gender issues.

  15. I strongly feel this needs to always be front and center!

    Little “One liners” will not!


    By Charles Porterfield Krauth

    A human body may not only live, but be healthy, in which one lobe of the lungs is gone; another may be sickly and die, in which the lungs are perfect. Nevertheless, the complete lungs are an essential part of a perfect human body. We still truly call a man a man, though he may have lost arms and legs; we still call a hand a hand, though it may have lost a finger, or be distorted. While, therefore, we freely call systems and men Christian, though they lack a sound sacramental doctrine, we none the less consider that doctrine essential to a complete Christian system, and to the perfect faith of a Christian man. The man who has lost an arm, we love none the less. If he has lost it by carelessness, we pity his misfortune, yet we do not hold him free from censure. But, when he insists, that, to have two arms, is a blemish, and proposes to cut off’ one of ours, then we resist him.

    Somewhere on earth, if the gates of hell have not prevailed against the Church,
    there is a Communion whose fellowship involves no departure from a solitary article of Christian faith
    and no man should be willing to be united with any other Communion.
    The man who is sure there is no such Communion is bound to put forth the effort to originate it. He who knows of no Creed which is true to the Rule of Faith, in all its articles, should at once prepare one that is. Every Christian is bound either to find a Church on Earth, pure in its whole faith, or to make one.
    On the other hand, he who says that the Church is wrong, confesses in that very assertion, that if the Church be right, he is an errorist; and that in asking to share her communion while he yet denies her doctrine, he asks her to adopt the principle that error is to be admitted to her bosom, for as an errorist and only as an errorist can she admit him.
    But the practical result of this principle is one on which there is no need of speculating; it works in one unvarying way. When error is admitted into the Church, it will be found that the stages of its progress are always three.

    It begins by asking “toleration”. Its friends say to the majority: You need not be afraid of us; we are few, and weak; only let us alone; we shall not disturb the faith of others. The Church has her standards of doctrine; of course we shall never interfere with them; we only ask for ourselves to be spared interference with our private opinions.

    Indulged in this for a time, error goes on to assert “equal rights”. Truth and error are two balancing forces. The Church shall do nothing which looks like deciding between them; that would be partiality. It is bigotry to assert any superior right for the truth. We are to agree to differ, and any favoring of the truth, because it is truth, is partisanship. What the friends of truth and error hold in common is fundamental. Anything on which they differ is “ipso facto” non-essential. Anybody who makes account of such a thing is a disturber of the peace of the church. Truth and error are two co-ordinate powers, and the great secret of church-statesmanship is to preserve the balance between them.

    From this point error soon goes on to its natural end, which is to assert”supremacy.” Truth started with”tolerating”; it comes to be merely tolerated, and that only for a time. Error claims a preference for its judgments on all disputed points. It puts men into positions, not as at first in spite of their departure from the Church’s faith, but in consequence of it. Their recommendation is that they repudiate that faith, and position is given them to teach others to repudiate it, and to make them skilful in combating it.

  16. @Pastor Rick Pettey #18

    As detailed in the link I provided, it’s in this video (during a Q&A session at a district convention last year). The question begins at around 34:50 so you can get the exact quote and the whole context.

    Again, it’s not like he’s coming out in favor of it–he’s against it. It’s just that he’s hanging onto the sinful impulse to disregard God’s word on the subject even though he rightly refuses to give into it. If I were to say, “I’d like to murder the guy who cut me off in traffic, but God’s word forbids it” that’s all well and good–that’s a confession of my own sinful nature. But if I were to go on and start looking for ways to avenge myself on him that come as close as possible to murder without going over the letter of the law… Well, that’s just looking for a “murder-lite” option.

    It’s far better to let the Holy Spirit conform us to God’s Word than to act as though God’s Word is holding us back from something wonderful.

  17. @Matt Cochran #20
    Matt, after watching the video I cannot help but wonder if we both watched the same video. What is so difficult to understand about what Harrison was saying? As a pastor I perfectly understand his statement about how much easier it would be if we would simply ordain women. According to my sinful nature that would be so much better. The only problem? The Bible says no. Even if I cannot understand why God forbids something, that does not matter. My understanding is not required by God, only my faithfulness to His Word. For example, in counseling couples who are living together I can tell them that humanly I can see nothing wrong with it since they are being faithful to each other and treating each other appropriately. However, God condemns such practice. So even if I do not understand the Biblical foundation for marriage (Gen. 2:18ff; Eph. 5:22ff, etc.), I am to catechize God’s children according to that Word and honor marriage as He has commanded, out of faithfulness in Christ.

    Harrison responded appropriately. His life, and that of the church, would be much easier if we simply “went along to get along.” It would remove so much stress. Yet that is not the life to which we are called. IMHO, to take Matthew’s words and try and imply that he is somehow secretly wishing that we could ignore God’s word is outside of the scope of the video. To properly understand where he stands on this subject one need only read the book of which he is one of the editors: Women Pastors? The Ordination of Women in Biblical Lutheran Perspective. When one does there is no way Harrison’s words could be understood in any other way that a denial of women’s ordination as being the teaching of the Word of God.

  18. In the video from the Northwest District 2012 convention, Cindy Martin of Redeemer Lutheran Church, Mercer Island, Washington, asked the 2-part “mustard seed” question in a rather feminista way: “If you had a daughter, how would you explain to her about our church’s stance on women as pastors, and when, if ever, do you see us having women pastors?”

    Rather than answer, “In the same way as I would explain it to my two sons” and “Not in God’s lifetime,” Pres. Harrison’s explanation included an obvious attempt to defuse the question before answering it as he did.

  19. @Pastor Rick Pettey #21

    I took the comments the way I did because he preceded the “preference” statement by saying that he’s surrounded by highly competent women, that he has appointed many women “firsts,” and that we don’t always make the best choices in appointing clergy. He follows the “preference” statement by saying that we need to respond to women’s ordination by putting as many women in non-ordained leadership positions as we can.

    So when I hear “I would very much prefer women’s ordination because it would be easier” sandwiched in the middle, I don’t get the impression of “It would be easier because there would be no controversy, but God says ‘no’ so we have to deal with it.” I instead get the impression of “It would be easier because we’d be better off with women pastors, but God says ‘no’, so let’s get them as close to the pastoral office as we’re allowed.” Those are two very different reasons.

    Maybe I’m wrong and owe President Harrison an apology; I hope I am wrong. Maybe the attempt to defuse garbled his statement, and he didn’t clearly convey what he meant. And you’re absolutely correct that a published statement is generally a better source than an off-the-cuff spoken answer. But “Women Pastors?” is still sitting on my “to-read” shelf, so I’m going off of what I’ve heard so far.

    Still, we shouldn’t fear people exploding when they hear God’s word. I’m all for effective rhetoric, but if one’s rhetoric avoids offense by garbling instead of clarifying… it may defuse, but it’s not effective.

  20. @Matt Cochran #24
    I heard the preceding comments as demonstrating that Pastor Harrison does not object to women participating in the Church in general, nor does he have some generic prejudice against them, but rather limits their service specifically only where Scripture does. I think that that is an important point for him to make. If women are being limited in their service in the Church or elsewhere due to prejudice, that is sinful. If they are limited due to Biblical prohibition, that is Godly. Pastor Harrison presented the whole picture, and was very clear on both points, and I appreciate that.

  21. @Carl Vehse #6: “In 1996, liberal graduate student Mary Todd, now XXXA Rev. Mary Todd-Pendergast, wrote her Ph.D. Thesis, “Not in God’s Lifetime”: The Question of the Ordination of Women in the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod.”

    The “Not in God’s Lifetime” thesis writer, Mary Todd, is NOT “Rev. Mary Todd-Pendergast.”

    Dr. Todd was married to Concordia River Forest professor Dell Klaustermeier, who died in 2002. Dr. Todd is currently Phi Kappa Phi Society Executive Director, and formerly vice president for academic affairs and dean of the faculty at Ohio Dominican University. She is a member of an XXXA congregation.

  22. @Matt Cochran #24
    Matt, I can understand the confusion. Yes, perhaps Harrison could have chosen a better way to state what he did to make his position absolutely clear. How often have you made a statement in public and later thought how you could (should?) have said it in a much better way? (I know it has happened to me often and continues to happen).
    It is for that reason that I caution you to try and parse his every word and from that exercise (which I believe is futile, due to the context) arrive at his supposed position on women’s ordination. Read his book. That will offer you a clear, concise and definitive answer to your query.

  23. @Charles Henrickson #10
    Pastor Henrickson,
    Although I am not sure of the timeline, I also believe that if we remain on our current path we will ordain women and homosexuals as pastors. I say this due to the fact that we have already changed our hermeneutic when we permitted women’s suffrage. When one looks carefully at the history of the LCMS we never separated the issue of women’s suffrage from women’s ordination. Dr. Laurence L. White (Our Savior Lutheran, Houston, TX.) has showed conclusively that the texts that were employed by our LCMS fathers to teach against women’s ordination were the exact same texts which addressed women’s suffrage.
    Dr. White’s assertion is that we have already given into culture by allowing women’s suffrage and have therefore opened the door to women’s ordination and, I would add, the homosexual agenda. Same faulty hermeneutic applied to different texts. It is my humble opinion that if we do not acknowledge this departure from Sola Scriptura we leave ourselves open to a repetition on these other issues.

  24. @Carol Broome #25
    If women are being limited in their service in the Church or elsewhere due to prejudice, that is sinful.

    It may be. Since we are “expanding the topic’ I would like to see the sinfulness of male CRM’s limited in their service in the Church addressed first. These men are already trained and ordained. If they were removed lawfully, they wouldn’t be CRM; they would be off the roster.
    But not having an excuse to remove them, they are allowed to live in limbo until they are dropped “for lack of a call” that some DP has not assisted with, as is his job. Or has actively prevented, as described on this list, for no better reason than that the man was CRM and that was in no way his fault.
    [More than one victim of such a situation has wondered if the DP didn’t know the financial status of a congregation and recommended him as a way of getting rid of him! I remember such a conversation more than 10 years ago.]

  25. @Pastor Rick Pettey #28
    Dr. Laurence L. White (Our Savior Lutheran, Houston, TX.) has showed conclusively that the texts that were employed by our LCMS fathers to teach against women’s ordination were the exact same texts which addressed women’s suffrage.

    Long ago, I worked with Pr. White as our Zone Counselor in LWML. I believe him to be a friend.
    He has a few Elders, who moved from another church over women voting in the congregational assembly. I have heard his opinions at length at Brenham Free Conference. I have told him that, listening to him, one would believe that nothing wrong ever happened in LCMS prior to 1969. And we all can point to things which contradict that idea, if we can remember or read history.

    E.g., the Statement of the 44 and its subsequent mishandling, which swept the issues under the rug where they are a lump to this day.
    Women didn’t vote in the convention to allow women suffrage.

    Personally, I don’t think the Voters Assembly is equivalent to “speaking in the church service”. Congregations with suffrage, in my experience, were better managed than those without, because Voters hadn’t degenerated to a tight little “boys’ club” and the men had to defend what they did.
    But I would prefer that women (even girl acolytes) stay out of the chancel, except for the duties of the Altar Guild outside the Divine Services.

    E.g.,Women certainly weren’t a majority in 2004, when women were made eligible for positions where, IMO, they do not belong : Elder and Congregational President, for two. I would have voted against these things. Where were you men? Why aren’t the aberrations of the first decade of this century rescinded?

    There is still time!

  26. “Since women’s suffrage in the state implies participation in the rule over men, it is contrary to the natural order which God has established to govern the relation between man and woman. Just as invalid in this connection (as in the matter of the ordination of women) is the objection that women are more prudent than men, more adroit at making election speeches, and more intelligent in the use of the ballot. We are bound to the order which God has instituted, Gen. 2, 18; 1 Tim. 2, 12-13; and wherever this order is perverted, His punishments are sure to follow.” (Franz Pieper, What Is Christianity? And Other Essays, trans. J. T. Mueller, CPH, 1933, p. 157)

  27. Reminds me of a quote from Charles Spurgeon concerning liberalism in the church: “If these men believe such things, let them teach them, and construct churches, unions, and brotherhoods for themselves! Why must they come among us?”

    But have you noticed that the first step in all of this liberalism is a disbelief in the authority and sufficiency of Scripture? Whenever there is a questioning of divine inspiration in Holy Writ, it seems that everything else begins to crumble.

    I certainly do not advocate persecution. But sometimes I think that church bodies in earlier centuries had just cause for some of their harshness towards those who advocated false doctrines.

  28. J. Dean :
    Reminds me of a quote from Charles Spurgeon concerning liberalism in the church: “If these men believe such things, let them teach them, and construct churches, unions, and brotherhoods for themselves! Why must they come among us?”
    But have you noticed that the first step in all of this liberalism is a disbelief in the authority and sufficiency of Scripture? Whenever there is a questioning of divine inspiration in Holy Writ, it seems that everything else begins to crumble.
    I certainly do not advocate persecution. But sometimes I think that church bodies in earlier centuries had just cause for some of their harshness towards those who advocated false doctrines.

    Folks who push false doctrines don’t build; they destroy.

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