Fraternal Letters….

OrdinationAt the St. Louis Call Day Service, there was a additional covenant that was pledged to by the candidates receiving their calls.  Pastor Todd Wilken asked a question (“Why are we extracting promises from newly called men in addition to the ordination vows?“) on Facebook which resulted in a fraternal letter signed by 32 pastors accusing him of sin in the greatest degree.   Please read more about this at Pr. Wilken’s blog, The Bare Bulb.  Since then a number of other pastors have responded to these allegations of sin on Pr. Wilken’s part.  Here is a copy of the letter sent to the leaders of the LCMS (the same ones who received the letter accusing Pr. Wilken of grave sin).  You will note some very familiar names as well as some from here at BJS as signers of this letter.  The editors and authors of BJS remain committed to the defense and promotion of Confessional Lutheranism and its media.  I am sure there are many more who would have gladly signed on as well.

 

Misericordias Domini
May 4, 2014 +

Dear President Harrison, Members of the Presidium and Council of Presidents:

Tuesday and Wednesday of this past week were days for great celebration and optimism in our synod. Some two hundred seminarians from our St. Louis and Fort Wayne seminaries received pastoral calls and vicarage assignments for the sake of the Gospel. As a unique part of the call service at our St. Louis Seminary the candidates spoke a series of promises to each other as a part of a covenant to “live together, struggle together, rejoice together, forgive one another, and serve [Christ’s] kingdom together, with assistance of Christ himself.” This addition is troubling as there simply is no reason for it, but even more troubling is that the administration and faculty of the Seminary allowed such an addition to the Call service and celebrate it. These “promises” and “covenant” go beyond the clear and time tested vows candidates for the Ministry make at their ordination in our Synod and actually have promoted discord rather than harmony, which we will discuss below. The fault for this discord lies not with the students themselves, but rather the administration and faculty of the Seminary.

Hermann Sasse, in his great essay “Are We Still the Church of the Reformation?,” wrote, “Since Schleiermacher, theology has for many theologians consisted of the art of using the words of the church’s confession to teach the very opposite of what these confessions state. This untruthfulness, which arose out of a deep philosophical distress, lies like a curse upon theological scholarship, and since it forced its way from scholarship into the praxis of the church, it has poisoned ecclesiastical life. This is the sickness from which the Evangelical Lutheran Church suffers. It has so deeply corroded the church that people no longer have any idea how diseased this situation is. The common pastor of today no longer has any sense that it is a violation of the truth to teach the Sixth Chief Part in Luther’s Catechism, but to explain it in a Calvinistic fashion. Many church governments appear completely unconcerned that we cannot in the sight of God solemnly swear candidates to confessions when neither the one ordaining nor the ordinand really know what these confessions contain. Indeed, it even happens from time to time that they do not even know which confessions they are dealing with.”i

It cannot be questioned that there is a sickness within our synod. Evidence of this was seen at the Seminary on Tuesday night. This sickness is also evident in the quick reaction to a brother pastor who simply speaks what is true.

The Rev. Todd Wilken, Assistant Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Millstadt, IL, is also the host of the radio program Issues Etc. In a Facebook post Pastor Wilken simply asked, “Why are we extracting promises from newly called men in addition to their ordination vows?” This is a fair question which we, the undersigned, pray you investigate. However, a group of Pastors of our synod then wrote you a letter, subsequently made public by Pastor Wilken, accusing him of the following: “Our love for God ought to be matched by a strong advocacy for unity in the church. Rev. Wilken shows little such commitment. Without qualification, Rev. Wilken discredits the very intention of these seminarians to honor Christ who is the singular head of the body. Beyond putting the worst construction on their words, Rev. Wilken violates the very heart of Christ who prays in the hour of his death for the singularity of heart among those for whom he dies. (John 17) These seminarians stand on the precipice of confessing Christ to the world in the peculiar office of the Holy Ministry. They deserve our commendation and support.”

We, the undersigned, disagree. What these seminarians need is greater clarification to what the Ministerium of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod is, and how our unity is found in sharing the very same ordination vows with nothing added and nothing taken away. Our unity is found in fraternally and lovingly confessing and practicing as one the truth of Scripture as set before us in our Confessions. These seminarians stand on the precipice of confessing Christ to the world, yet their added “covenant” and “promises” create disunity, for what they unintentionally have been allowed to do by the Seminary administration and faculty is make a distinction between themselves who have made such a “covenant” and “promises” and those who have not. Such distinctions are good neither for our synod or any in fellowship with us who have unconditionally subscribed to the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church.

What we reject is the notion that Pastor Wilken has sinned by asking a question or that he has done any of the things of which he is accused by the Pastors who wrote to you this past week.

We fraternally request that you take up the matter with them, for ironically, they have done the very thing which they have accused Pastor Wilken: broken the 8th commandment by false accusation.

Pastor Wilken by virtue of his position as host of the program Issues Etc. is without qualification a clear confessor of the unity of the church. The unity of the Church comes as a free gift through the Word of God, as Jesus clearly says in John 17:17-19, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.” Pastor Wilken not only confesses the truth of Jesus in his calling as Assistant Pastor of Trinity Church, but daily to an audience around the world he professes the doctrine of Jesus, the Word of Truth. He works to undo the sickness among us where Pastors and people are unaware of our Lutheran Confessions and the Evangelical Lutheran practice that cannot be separated from them.

It would be good for you to review the actions and words of Pastor Wilken. Enjoy the shows! Drink deeply from the work he does, and commend him for it as we do. It would be good for the brothers who already wrote you to do this as well.

Especially, we fraternally request that the matter of this “covenant” and “promises” made by the St. Louis seminarians be reviewed and appropriate actions be taken by you with the administration and faculty of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis and such action reported to the Synod.

In a sermon on John 2, Martin Luther preached, “If, (as is said), I judge harshly, what else should I do? It is my duty to preach the Word of God and to tear to pieces the work of the devil, as I do in Absolution.”ii

We give thanks to God for Pastor Wilken as he does his duty and tears to pieces the work of the devil by faithfully preaching and teaching the Word of God as Assistant Pastor of Trinity, Millstadt and as host of Issues Etc.

In Christ,

[In alphabetical order]

The Rev. Eric Andersen
Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church
Summit, Illinois &
Immanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church
Hodgkins, Illinois

The Rev. Dustin Anderson
Zion Lutheran Church
Carlinville, Illinois

The Rev. Randy Asburry
Hope Lutheran Church
St. Louis, Missouri

The Rev. Benjamin Ball
St. Paul Lutheran Church
Hamel, Illinois

The Rev. Joshua Ball
St. Andrew Lutheran Church
Memphis, Michigan

The Rev. Larry Beane
Salem Lutheran Church
Gretna, Louisiana

The Rev. Paul Beisel
Immanuel Lutheran Church
Iowa Falls, Iowa

The Rev. Roger Gallup
Bethlehem Lutheran Church
River Grove, Illinois

The Rev. Micah R. Gaunt
Bethlehem Lutheran Church
Ravenna, Nebraska &
Zion Lutheran Church
Shelton, Nebraska

The Rev. William Gleason
St. Paul Lutheran Church
Hamel, Illinois

The Rev. Mark Hein
St. Paul Lutheran Church
Lockport, Illinois

The Rev. Dr. Steven Hein
Shepherd of the Springs Lutheran Church
Colorado Springs, Colorado

The Rev. Jeffrey Hemmer
Bethany Lutheran Church
Fairview Heights, Illinois

The Rev. Stephen M. Heuser
Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church
Bensenville, Illinois

The Rev. Daniel Hinton
Trinity Lutheran Church
Cheyenne, Wyoming

The Rev. Brian G. Holle
Messiah Lutheran Church
Lebanon, Illinois

The Rev. Bruce Ley
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Albany, Oregon

The Rev. Craig Meissner
Immanuel Lutheran Church
Steger, Illinois

The Rev. Thomas C. Messer
Peace Lutheran Church
Alma, Michigan

The Rev. Robert Niehus
Christ Lutheran Church
Oak Park, Illinois

Rev. Daniel F. Ognoskie
Emmanuel Lutheran Church
Dwight, Illinois

The Rev. Todd Peperkorn
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Rocklin, California

The Rev. Clint K. Poppe
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Lincoln, Nebraska

The Rev. Mark D. Post
The Evangelical Lutheran Church of St. Michael
Chicago, Illinois &
Mt. Calvary Lutheran Church of the U.A.C.
Franklin Park, Illinois

The Rev. David Ramirez
Zion Lutheran Church
Lincoln, Illinois

The Rev. Stuart Rethwisch
St. John’s Lutheran Church
Victor, Iowa

The Rev. Ronald Rock
Zion Lutheran Church
Beecher, Illinois

The Rev. Dr. Timothy Rossow
Bethany Lutheran Church
Naperville, Illinois

The Rev. Joshua V. Scheer
Our Savior Lutheran Church
Cheyenne, Wyoming

The Rev. Timothy D. Schellenbach
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Elmwood Park, Wisconsin

The Rev. Michael Schuermann
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Sherman, Illinois

The Rev. Kurt Ulmer
Shepherd of Peace Lutheran Church
Braidwood, Illinois

The Rev. Anthony Voltattorni
Zion Lutheran Church
Marshall, Michigan

i  Hermann Sasse, “Are We Still the Church of the Reformation?”, The Lonely Way, Volume 1 (1927-1939) Translated
by Matthew C. Harrison. (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2002), 476.
ii  Luther’s Works. Volume 58. Edited by Christopher Boyd Brown. (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House , 2010),
87.

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