Fiel pero desdichado

416px-Coat_of_Arms_of_Winston_Churchill.svg That’s the Churchill family motto since 1661.  It’s not Latin but Spanish, and nobody knows why. It expresses how I have frequently thought about my relationship to the LCMS.

“The first Duke of Marlborough’s father – Winston Churchill, was a royalist and in the civil war a staunch supporter of the king. As a consequence he lost his home and lands. When Charles II came to the throne he made many of those loyal to him knights with the right to have their own Coats of Arms. What he did not do was to recompense them for their losses. Thus the newly created Sir Winston Churchill chose the Spanish motto Fiel pero desdichado – “Faithful though disinherited” (

Some time ago I wrote the following, “I once was a brother living in the house with other confessional Lutherans with the Ft. Wayne seminary as cousins in a distant land.  Now I’m the crazy uncle that has been relegated to the attic.”  This change has come about over the following neo-confessional positions:

–        Women can do anything men can do in the world and in the church except be pastors.

–        Birth Control (S.B.K.A (Should Be Known As) Child Prevention) is a kingdom of the left issue and Scripture has nothing to say about it including the use of the Pill.

–        Psychology by therapy or by pharmaceuticals is unqualifiedly and unquestionably meet, right, and salutary and to be recommended if not promoted for all troubled people.

–        All members of the LCMS are to be communed by virtue of their membership in the LCMS.

If you gainsay or modify these positions, let alone assert the contrary, you are a fanatic, the crazy uncle in the attic. But then I was graced by a District President in my midst.

The Rev. Richard O. Boche, president of the Wyoming District of the LCMS, was in town visiting family.  He attended Divine Service, and he wasn’t too educated or proud or time constrained to opt out of Bible class either.  I do not wish to imply that he agrees with me concerning the above positions.  I will only say that he personally, warmly, unpatronizingly thanked me for practicing closed Communion.  And when announcing, in notable contrast with other LCMS pastors, he was not chagrined, bothered, or condescending.

In 30 years of parish ministry, I have been thanked, and not infrequently, by lay people for practicing closed Communion. I have never, ever been thanked by a Synodical official.  I have been attacked, criticized, scorned, maligned, and ridiculed by circuit counselors and district presidents, but not thanked.  I am not ashamed to say that his thanks brought tears to my eyes.  It meant all the more because it came from a man who personally knows the strains, pains, and difficulties of having to be the one to say “no” in a world that says “yes” to just about everything.

So maybe I’m not so far in the attic as I thought.  Maybe my new motto can be that of Rev. Johann Bengel’s, 18th century Lutheran theologian: nec temere nec timide (Quest for Holiness, 252).  That is Latin, and it means “Neither Rashly Nor Timidly.” The motto has been and is still used by a whole host of people and organizations as disparate as the military and the university. Rev. Bosche is neither rash nor timid, and I was graced not really by his “presence” but by his words.

What’s that? The attic door just creaked open, and a shaft of light has fallen across me.

photo(1)Associate Editor’s Note:  With this post we welcome Pastor Paul Harris to the regular writing crew of the Brothers of John the Steadfast.  He will be bringing his wisdom and bold confession to our readers on a variety of topics which are timeless and yet timely in the LCMS. Here is a little more about Pastor Harris:

Rev. Paul R. Harris’ story is Holy Baptism, Holy Orders, Holy Matrimony, five kids, and grandkids. He has been married for over 30 years, a pastor for just over 30, a one time Army officer and later a chaplain, a sometimes fishermen, hunter, author and adventurer, he currently is pastoring Trinity Lutheran in Austin, Texas and without the aid, counsel, grace and mercy of Christ would surely have ruined all of the above long ago. 


Fiel pero desdichado — 22 Comments

  1. Welcome, Rev. Harris! I appreciate your unapologetic confession of the faith, rather than simply parroting what those in a certain wing of a certain faction say to one another. If there’s any hope for confessional Lutheranism to be truly confessional (and truly Lutheran) we must hear these arguments and make the good confession.

    Oh, and I’m delighted to hear that my district president both encouraged and thanked you for closed communion and stayed for Bible class. He’s a good man.

  2. You could add the following neo-confessional (better: neo-Lutheran) positions:

    1. Marriage is a kingdom of the left issue. The church shouldn’t encourage people to marry, rather it should create a special ministry for persons with “same-sex attraction,” and the task force assigned to this should also explain to the church all manner of uncleanliness including polygamy, polyamory and the new Facebook gender options.
    2. Any effort by the church to teach its members is merely an effort to improve the Old Adam.
    3. The Full Monty Doctrine: When it comes to morality, the purpose of the church is to make her members feel guilty or afraid (Law), and to absolve them through their contacting of elected representatives (Gospel).
    4. Repentance and moral improvement begins outside the church, not inside.
    5. Any definition of the Law outside of “that which makes me feel guilty or afraid,” i.e, that the Law is God’s divine will, or that the natural law isn’t the orders of creation (Elert, Sasse, CTCR, etc.), is to be marked and avoided, as if infested by plague.
    6. The third use of the Law is solely that which makes me feel guilty or afraid. The new man does not delight in God’s Law, it delights only in the Gospel.
    7. True doctrine comes not from the pulpit, the seminary, or official publications, but from Logia and especially Lutheran Forum.
    8. CFW Walther is successfully interpreted only through the lens of his magnum opus, Law and Gospel. Traitor Francis Pieper was adamantly opposed to Walther, who only taught two uses of the Law.

  3. I am sorry but this entire article is an attack on a straw man. This characterization is completely garbage and so is your denigration of others and elevation of yourself. I am willing to bet money that you will not find a single LCMS pastor who believes the four statements you made above and so this entire article is pointless. Who are you even talking to? Are you just pandering to those who think the same way you do or are you trying to help people think in new ways? Are you initiating peace talks with those who disagree with you or are you digging fox holes? This article is just unhelpful.

  4. Good post. And thank you for it. However, regarding the Pill, one of its functions is that it makes the lining uninhabitable for the fertilized egg, thus preventing implantation. So, and I am not desiring to be argumentative, but to learn, if life begins at conception, does that mean fertilization or implantation?

  5. @Reaper #5 This was a welcome introductory post. Looking forward to more from Pastor Harris.


    I don’t doubt that there are some confessional LCMS pastors who agree with one or more of those statements, at least as evidenced by their practice. Sadly, though, there is truth to this previous post by Pastor Harris entitled “What the United States, Louisiana, a Zombie, and the LCMS Have in Common” (located here on Steadfast Lutherans), particularly the concluding paragraph. So, that might make it harder to win your bet.

    What are these “thinking in new ways” that you would like to see and hear? Are there also other “innovations” that you would also like to see? What are those?

    I would suggest a different description than “pandering”, which is both derogatory and incorrect as applied here. Rather, it is “contending for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” and “building yourselves up in the most holy faith”. I am thankful for a pastor that helps to preserve me and my brothers and sisters in the faith. Two important functions of pointing out such errors are to warn the sheep as a barking dog and to admonish brother pastors. It also demonstrates publicly the divisions among us that are important to highlight and not to ignore, so that those who are genuine and approved may be evident and recognized. It also helps to enable more faithful fellowship (read: The Lord’s Supper) by common confession.

    Regarding peace, do you not see the bombs? (See “Talking peace when bomb dropping”: Fortunately we do have the peace of Christ. And we can pray that pastors would not break the bond of peace with impure preaching, teaching and administration of the sacraments and that faithful pastors will help keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace by pointing out errors in doctrine and practice for the benefit of the sheep and the shepherds.

    Hope that is helpful, as Pastor Harris’ blog in its original form is.

  6. Thanks for editing. Right, should have been “talking peace”. Don’t know what “talking peach” is 🙂

  7. @Kurt Klingbeil #7 At conception. And not just conception in the womb in the natural way. Think of the modern “innovations” involving fertilizing egg with sperm in petri dishes, ala in vitro fertilization. And then the frozen embryos, and the discarding of the frozen embryos, etc. Lord have mercy. Regarding the pill. It can be abortifacient. But, that’s not the only argument against it, hence the “should be known as” comment in the original post.

  8. @Reaper #5
    I have heard every one of these things from various LCMS pastors and officials, and I’m not even in the LCMS.

    Therefore (pardon the meme), your argument is invalid.

  9. Pastor Harris,

    So happy to hear you will be writing on BJS. I look forward to your contributions!

    God’s Blessings,
    Ginny Valleau

  10. Nice pipe picture! Who made it? And what tobacco do you prefer? Pipe-smoking seems to aid theologizing.

  11. @Miguel #16
    Miguel, sorry for the length of this. I hope it’s helpful.

    The order of creation applies to the church, state and family. Adam and Eve were the first church, state and family. This obviously has implications for God’s desired roles for men and women in the church, state and family. When this order of creation doctrine gets all messed up then it’s not that hard to get to the position where some seem to hold the line only at female pastors, but, then that line can get crossed easily enough as well. Pastor Harris’ blog post here shows one way this may happen:

    More directly in answer to your question, you may find this useful, from the fifth of the ten ACELC evidence of errors documents (located here:, which outlines other roles in the church that should not be given to women:

    “Holy Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions are very clear that life within the Christian congregation should be governed in accord with the doctrine of the Order of Creation. Because it is indeed an Order of Creation it must apply to all of God’s creation not just the pastoral office, not just the home, not just the church, but the world too. Today the LCMS has condoned and officially adopted a position that limits the Order of Creation to the pastoral office and the home. As a consequence of this denial, women may serve as elders, congregational presidents and vice-presidents, may assist with communion distribution, and publicly proclaim the Word of God in worship services by reading Holy Scripture. Such changes within the LCMS represent a capitulation to the culture, deny the third use of the Law, and promote Gospel Reductionism, which our Synod previously rejected. We reject these errors.”

    A great book on this topic is from Pastor Harris and is well worth reading. It’s a challenging and eye-opening book that helps to recover the Biblical view of men and women and the proper roles for each in the church, state and family:

    Finally, this paper from Heath Curtis from 2007 entitled “The Order of Creation, the Role of Women, and the Missouri Synod” is a very useful paper to read on this topic. The paper is available electronically here:

  12. @Mark Young #18
    Mark, we really ought to be careful there. When we use the Order of Creation with the Third Use of the Law as a hammer for every nail, we can very quickly go far beyond the teaching of scripture. Women are not to be subordinate to men in all things, this is a perversion of Biblical teaching. I’m all for a right understanding of roles, but the Bible actually says very little about the order of creation as a template for determining these roles with a whole lot of specificity. Once we begin spelling it out in the fine print, we’ve become Calvinists using every textual minutia to extrapolate every possible implication for the iron fisted regulation of every detail of our lives. THIS, imo, is far more damaging to the Gospel than letting a woman chair a congregational council, and looks to me also like a confusion of law and gospel. The principle of “male headship” is a general guideline, not a cannon law.

    So like I asked, where do the Scriptures (or the Confessions) apply the order of creation to anything besides marriage and pastoral office? Because my conscience is only bound by the Word of God, and not endless extrapolation on likely implications. In the finer details, we must maintain room for disagreement, or finding ourselves in increasingly sectarian enclaves of the “truly doctrinally pure.”

  13. Miguel,

    I agree with you about becoming Calvinist. I am not sure that the past LCMS prohibition against women serving as elders and congregational chair fits that bill though. The prohibition is based on a deduction. The Scriptures teach that women should not hold authority over men and since the man made office of elder or congregational chair might include such, these offices have traditionally been limited to men in the LCMS.

  14. @Pastor Tim Rossow #20
    Hey Pastor Rossow,

    I think I understand what you’re saying. But about the passage about women not having authority over men, I was under the impression it was referring strictly to ecclesial authority. Some of the Calvinists in neo-Puritan circles legalistically take this one verse to mean women can’t have any position of authority whatsoever that might ever put them in a position where a man has to obey them, i.e., they should never be CEO’s, managers, and definitely not run for president of the United States. They would restrict the only appropriate role of women to being homemakers and mothering children (the noblest of vocations to be sure, but not the only allowable ones!).

    Does “ecclesial authority” include the managing of the temporal affairs of the congregation, or is it Word and Sacrament only? The Office of Public Ministry, around which clear lines need to be drawn, is the one office mandated by Scripture and the Confessions, and this office specifically is restricted to men. But what about offices of leadership/authority that are of human origin? We allow women to serve as Deaconesses and Cantors.

    “Elder” is a strange situation in the LCMS; they seem to function like sub-deacons. If these offices are of human authority, on what basis do we decide which women can or can not fill? How much and of what kind of authority are they allowed to hold?

  15. @Miguel #21
    Does “ecclesial authority” include the managing of the temporal affairs of the congregation, or is it Word and Sacrament only?

    Miguel, I am willing to meet you halfway (remembering that my opinion is worth nothing). 😉
    In 50 years and almost a dozen congregations, I have been barred (with other women) from Voters’ all of 10 years. So LCMS is anything but consistent about that.

    However, I am really not interested in having a woman Elder or congregational president.
    [And I have been accused of being a “feminist” (because I support myself, of necessity, and occasionally write a little)]!
    FWIW! 🙂

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.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.