President Emeritus’ Latest Commentary Shows the Church-Growthers’ Fear Over the Election, by Pr. Rossow

Most would agree that there are at least two “camps” in the LCMS: 1) the confessional group that sees the Lutheran Confessions as a norm for doctrine and practice and 2) the church-growthers who put sociology, psychology, felt needs and the like near to or on the same par as the Confessions as the norm for doctrine and practice. Both groups claim Scripture as the source of faith but each group has as different lens for reading the Scriptures.

The church-growthers are getting very nervous about the up-coming election which has led them to develop a new and troubling tactic – district presidents being touted as the moral guide for who to vote for. We have documented on this site how the DP’s of the Northwest, California-Nevada-Hawaii and Eastern Districts are encouraging delegates to vote against incumbent Matthew Harrison and now Emeritus President Kieschnick has jumped into the game.

In his most recent letter to his subscribers, just this morning, he says

So, if you are one of last year’s district convention delegates who will be electing the LCMS president this week, why not seek the counsel of your district president regarding the candidates on the ballot? And if you are a delegate to the national Synod convention in July, why not seek that same counsel regarding candidates for the other officers and board members to be elected?

To assist you in that process, I’ve attached below my signature at the end of this article a list of all 35 district presidents, their office phone number and email address. I’m sure your district president would appreciate hearing from you and will be happy to respond.

He then goes on to list all the district presidents and their contact information.

I am not sure that I oppose this notion. Anyone is free to give their opinion on anything in a free society. What I do know for sure is that this is a new tactic and that it runs counter to the way our synod has always viewed pastors, circuit counselors, and DP’s. Many would say it is in poor taste.

At the very least, this new and desperate tactic is a sign that the church-growthers just don’t know what to do in the face of the clear and obvious churchmanship and effectiveness of President Matthew Harrison.

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.


Comments

President Emeritus’ Latest Commentary Shows the Church-Growthers’ Fear Over the Election, by Pr. Rossow — 20 Comments

  1. The three DPs we have documented so far who have been using the power and resources of their office to campaign for candidates are these:

    * Northwest District President Paul Linnemann
    * California-Nevada-Hawaii District President Robert Newton
    * Eastern District President Chris Wicher

    See this Steadfast article, where you can find documentation on all three:

    Another DP uses his office to campaign for the “Missional List”

  2. With “Jesus First” in disarray this go-round–thanks to Jerry Kieschnick dragging them down to defeat–the liberal-church growth alliance’s desperate strategy this time seems to be “DPs First.” And there are at least several DPs who would misuse their office to electioneer. Whether that will be enough to have any impact, we’ll see.

  3. I asked my DP, John Wille of South Wisconsin District. He gave me some very good advice on who to vote for 😉 And even though I loved the advice, I am glad he didn’t draft a letter to the whole district about his views.

  4. If, in the past, ANY organized voting lists (i.e., JF, Affirm, United, etc…) were so distasteful as to be scorned and forbidden from being handed out on convention grounds, then it only follows that this move to a “COP-out” list is at least equally as distasteful.

    That it has the sheen of official “legitimacy” and “counsel” is merely sophistry.

    As those of you who listed to a certain Chicago sports radio show know, ESPK, the DPs, & the other folks pushing this suddenly acceptable list need to ask themselves “WHO ARE YOU CRAPPING?”

  5. “The church-growthers are getting very nervous about the up-coming election which has led them to develop a new and troubling tactic – district presidents being touted as the moral guide for who to vote for.”

    Well, it’s not an entirely new tactic, if one recalls from the first year in Missouri of the Saxon Lutheran immigrants, who later founded the Missouri Synod.

    After Martin Stephan’s assistants soured on his leadership (due primarily to revelations by various women and an empty Gesellschaft purse), they took up that tactic themselves to decide what to do with Stephan, and to have themselves make the ecclesiastical and secular decisions for the Perry County settlers. Within a few months three of the Missouri Saxons wrote their protest against such a tactic.

    And annually, every September 23rd, the Missouri Synod recognizes that protest…

    … or maybe it should. 😉

  6. This brings up an interesting point. For the last few years, it seems as if the COP and President Harrison have been on opposite sides of things.

    1. Am I imagining this?

    2. How has this happened?

  7. David Hartung:For the last few years, it seems as if the COP and President Harrison have been on opposite sides of things.
    1. Am I imagining this?
    2. How has this happened?

    Actually, the situation is better than it used to be. The composition of the COP has been getting incrementally better in the last ten years or so. Now it’s closer to half and half. And some on the one side are more aggressive in their opposition.

  8. Glen Piper :
    As those of you who listed to a certain Chicago sports radio show know, ESPK, the DPs, & the other folks pushing this suddenly acceptable list need to ask themselves “WHO ARE YOU CRAPPING?”

    Are you talking about both United and Missional lists?

  9. John Rixe :

    Glen Piper :
    As those of you who listed to a certain Chicago sports radio show know, ESPK, the DPs, & the other folks pushing this suddenly acceptable list need to ask themselves “WHO ARE YOU CRAPPIN’?”

    Are you talking about both United and Missional lists?

    In the spirit of Boers & Bernstein’s WYC? segment, I’m only talking about this push from the DPs & ESPK to suddenly push “consulting with a DP” as a de facto list, after demonizing voting lists in the past.

  10. Let’s be clear, the issue is not about having lists. The issue is this new thing of DP’s suddenly becoming political and endorsing candidates. As somebody on another string said, the authority of a DP ought not be used to politic. This is a brand new thing and it is being practided by the growthers. I am not surprised. It shows the loack of respect they have for their own office and the offices of the undershepherds. Doctrine and practice do go hand in hand. They are proving it. Bad doctrine brings bad practice.

  11. @Pastor Tim Rossow #11

    Yup, that’s why your post/observation is spot-on. I think they are worried — enough that they are driven to engage in some thinly-vested hypocrisy. Let’s just hope that LCMS voters aren’t as low-information as their secular political counterparts, else the death-rattle might just work…

  12. I’d suggest that all voting delegates ask their congregation for views (it’s still not too late) and to rely on prayerful consideration for which candidate would be the better leader and most trusted to follow Scripture.

    If I’m not mistaken the reason this process was put in place was to make the election of the President a more grass roots election. Interaction by DP’s only confuse the issue.

  13. John M,

    Brilliant! President Kieschnick even said in his letter:

    “This year the ballots will be cast by the pastoral and lay delegates who actually attended last year’s convention of the district in which their congregation holds its LCMS membership. The number of thusly qualified delegates is approximately 8,000. The new process provides a broader representation and brings the election much closer to individual LCMS congregations.”

    So, the message is, we want broader participation and we want your DP to influence your vote. Why, that’s a contradiction!

  14. @Glen Piper #12
    Yup, that’s why your post/observation is spot-on. I think they are worried — enough that they are driven to engage in some thinly-vested hypocrisy.

    Hypocrisy is nothing new. To those who told me that the former SP claimed to be Confessional, I said, “Indeed he does… for about 4-6 months before every convention. But Texas District has a policy against starting any new Lutheran-liturgical missions and has had it, since GK was a DP.” 🙁
    What I see on that score is what I believe.

    Do not neglect your prayers at any time, but particularly now!
    That much concern for what’s happening this week is certainly in order.

  15. Point of order, Brothers (and sisters):

    “Most would agree that there are at least two “camps” in the LCMS: 1) the confessional group that sees the Lutheran Confessions as a norm for doctrine and practice and 2) the church-growthers who put sociology, psychology, felt needs and the like near to or on the same par as the Confessions as the norm for doctrine and practice. Both groups claim Scripture as the source of faith but each group has as different lens for reading the Scriptures.”

    I see the above slightly different. This is using the language of opposition. “Lutherans” historically (at least honest-to-goodness Lutherans) have *never* been church-growthy, touchy-feely, embracing the world types. Dr. Luther would have called them to the carpet. A genuine Lutheran needs neither adjective or verb to describe themselves. They preach, teach and confess the scriptures according to our norm. Anyone outside of that realm, while attending the Lutheran church, or even preaching or administering in the Lutheran church has deviated from our norm. For those that have not deviated, they are simply Lutheran. If you want to describe a group that wishes to co-opt the Lutheran name (ELCA, Missionals, church-growthers and etc…), apply the descriptors to them, not yourselves. If we see heterodox or heretical views and practices outside of our church body, and we call them out, it describes them, not us. We should be the same within our church body.

  16. All of which reminds me of an important question: How can two walk together unless they be agreed? That doesn’t mean we agree to disagree, either.

  17. @David Hartung #6

    Dear Pastor Hartung,

    Pastor Henrickson is correct that relations between the district presidents and President Harrison have improved in the last three years. That is partly because of Harrison’s own non-confrontational approach to that group, and partly because there were a number of retirements–really a generational change–at the last district conventions.

    The Seminex generation of pastors is retiring, and that is a good thing, since those who agreed with the Saint Louis liberal professors never really cared for Lutheran theology and practice anyway.

    As to when this division in synod started, that is not too difficult to determine. Liberal Protestant theology was being taught, and accepted at the Saint Louis seminary already in the early 1950s. Jaroslav Pelikan’s approval of Kierkegaard and Karl Barth was already in the early 1950s (see his From Luther to Kierkegaard, which is not the best book he ever wrote).

    Because of a few revered theologians like Pelikan, Seminex theology was already in the minds and hearts of many future pastors in the early 1950s. Some of those pastors simply despised traditional Lutheran theology and practice; others hated it with a passion. The Seminex walkout simply made the theological division obvious and very public.

    This means that pastors who were ordained at Saint Louis since 1950 could be assumed to have had some influence from anti-Lutheran theology. As more and more liberal professors were added to the faculty, especially those from Valparaiso, the student body became more and more liberal. When Herman Otten, Kurt Marquart and David Scaer went through seminary in the late 1950s, it was already divided almost 50/50 between liberal students (i.e., ecumenical, higher-critical, and Liberal Protestant theology) and conservative students (i.e., confessional, Bible-affirming, and Lutheran theology).

    By the time of the walkout in 1974, there were only a couple of dozen of seminarians who still believed in Lutheran theology. And you need to remember that students who graduated in 1973 were all placed in synodical congregations with no questions asked–they are celebrating their 40th anniversary this year.

    The real fights within the Council of Presidents then ensued. After the Seminex walk-out, eight district presidents illegally ordained Seminex graduates. This was a schismatic activity, and it was obvious that these district presidents wanted to take their districts out of synod, by “stacking the deck” with as many anti-LCMS clergy as possible. At the 1975 convention, the synod said “NO MORE.” Four DPs kept ordaining Seminex grads and were removed. This led to the formation of AELC, led by a number of former LCMS district presidents–that is as schismatic as it gets!

    All those liberal pastors who were graduates of Saint Louis (1950-1974) continued to exert their influence–in very political ways–which some have called “Seminex sympathizers.” They are now getting to the age of retirement. They are unusually predominant in those districts where the eight DPs were ordaining Seminex graduates. The only exception is English District, which saw most of its congregations leave in 1976 with AELC, and had to be reformed.

    The last piece of this puzzle was the formation of the “Jesus First” organization, ca. 1998. I wrote an expose of that organization published in the Affirm magazine I think in 2001. There I demonstrated that “Jesus First” was composed of both Seminex sympathizers, charismatics, and church-growth advocates. How could such a motley crew work together? On the principle of “our common enemy.” So the “church-growth” crowd today includes Seminex sympathizers as leaders, thanks to the Jesus First years.

    I hope this helps explain that some of the pro-Seminex people still are politically active today and have influence–thus the continued divisions in the LCMS that some of the district presidents are talking about today. You might call it the “continued aftershocks of the Seminex earthquake.”

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  18. Thanks for the history lesson, Pastor Nolan, such reminders are needed from time to time to remind us all how we got into this pickle. Not being active outside the congregation until recent years I too did not know all the players and acts of the “play.”
    One thing that troubles me presently is the view held by some confessional pastors that the missional/church growth/seminex crowd will die out and all will be well. True, there has been some improvements in some areas, but we are a long way from the tipping point in my district. What we have here is a robust set of 2nd generation liberal clergy seeped in the same line of thinking and they are not retiring, etc. In fact, I would submit there is already a 3rd and 4th generation already in the field, thanks to the ever increasing liberalism of the St. Louis Sem. I know there are some good faithful pastors that have come from there in the past and recently, but for some reason they don’t wind up in this district very often, just as those from the Fort find it hard to get assignments here.
    Not to be ignored is the large number of congregations in this district who are more Baptist or non-denominational in their thinking and practice because they have never been taught correctly, for years and years. It is these folks who keep putting liberal “politicians” into district offices rather than the more qualified candidates. It feels like de ja vue all over again.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.