Vanessa was Disappointed by Her Phone Call to St. Louis, by Pr. Rossow

Comment #50 over on the Five Plus Two Makes Three post caught my eye. I think it is worth posting for all to read. It is from a BJS reader named Vanessa. (This is the same Vanessa who authored the post earlier today.)

Unfortunately, when I called the synod office and asked what Pres Harrison was planning to do about the situation with FiveTwo, I was told he couldn’t really do anything. I was told the dispute resolution process needed to be used. When I asked how anything could happen when DPs are in line with the heterodoxy, the answer was basically that the process isn’t perfect but it’s all we’ve got. I was also told that we should handle this at conventions.

Basically the conversation was disappointing. I’m gearing up for my next phone call, though…

Good for you Vanessa. Keep calling. Maybe some good will come of it.

Her phone call raises some huge questions. What does it mean when an orthodox synod is not able to stop heterodox teaching and practice? You may tell me to be patient and wait until we fix the dispute resolution process. I am not buying that. I think it will help but it won’t solve the problem because there are other deeper problems and questions.

What does it mean that for at least fifty years we have elected District Presidents in numerous districts who show little interest in rooting out heterodox teaching and practice?

What does it mean when an orthodox synod president refuses to publicly speak out against heterodox teaching and practice? How hard is it for him or for District Presidents to speak and write publicly against false teaching and practice in the synod?

How hard is it for seminary presidents and professors to publicly speak out and write against false teaching and practice in the synod? Is there something restraining them? You can tell me it is Matthew 18 and I will believe you for two moments – the moment of one going to the brother and the moment of two or three going to the brother but then I will stop believing you because it never gets to the third and final moment – tell it to the church. I will give you your two moments. I am waiting for the third moment but it never seems to come. Do we not trust Jesus when he tells us in that same passage, Matthew 18, that once the two or three gather together in his name to rebuke sin He is with us.

Yes, that is what that passage means. Look it up. It is not a justification for Small Group Ministry. It is Jesus’ words of promise for President Harrison, all District Presidents and all Circuit Visitors that when there visits come to moment three He will be there to verify their action of excommunication.

What does it mean when a synod develops a process/procedure for addressing heterodox teaching and practice instead of just turning to God’s word? Do we submit the inspired, inerrant, holy Word of God to a procedure? What does it mean when a pastor or layman armed with the truth of Scripture meets with his Circuit Visitor, District President, or Synodical President to rebuke false teaching and practice and is not heard?

What does it mean that our so called orthodox synod refuses to accept the plain and simple words of Scripture captured in Walther’s Thesis #8 on the Church in his book Church and Ministry, adopted by the Synod in convention (as if that means anything) as pure doctrine. Walther says “…every believer must, at the peril of losing his salvation, flee all false teachers, avoid all heterodox congregations or sects and adhere to orthodox congregations and their orthodox pastors wherever such may be found.” This is not buried in the text of the book somewhere. This is one of the eight theses on the church!

What does it mean that it is more likely that I, the one who raises these questions, were I to go into our synod’s procedure for resolution, would be the one to get spanked in the end for being so mean rather than the practitioners of heterodoxy? What does it mean for our synod that there are more District President’s who look down on me for raising these questions than support it and actually do something about them?

Vanessa was frustrated by asking questions and so am I. Vanessa is going to keep calling. Good for Vanessa.

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.


Vanessa was Disappointed by Her Phone Call to St. Louis, by Pr. Rossow — 63 Comments

  1. @Pastor David L. Prentice Jr. #50
    It’s not all that important what I want pastors to do. What I hope I’m saying is: do what St. Paul directed you men to do in 1 Tim 5:19-21:

    “Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses. As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear. In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of the elect angels I charge you to keep these rules without prejudging, doing nothing from partiality.”

    We clearly don’t deserve it, but you need to love the sheep. We need defending because we’re stupid, and easily misled. You need to defend us against the false shepherds, wolves, lions and bears, even if it gets you hurt, and even if you fondly remember drinking beer and bonding w/ some of those false shepherds, wolves, lions and bears at sem.

    Synod is currently treating heterodoxy as a bad habit, or at worst a victimless crime. The problem with that though is that heterodoxy isn’t victimless; it creates schism, and eventually it kills souls. You probably have a lot more in common w/ the false shepherds than you do w/ the sheep pastor, but you’ve got a job to do here, and it’s time to think about the sheep. I probably had a lot more in common w/ the potentially hostile flyers I trained to kill during my F-15E flying days than the “public” I was called to defend, but business is business.

    Pax Christi+,
    -Matt Mills

    “When constabulary duty’s to be done (to be done) a policeman’s lot is not an ‘appy one.”

  2. @Matt Mills #1
    I understand what your say, but hear me out.

    We pastors that take our call serious, do “love up the flock”, we administer Law and Gospel as need (oh, you know). But that takes time, almost all the time we have to do it right and well, and we do not have much time to wander outside the gate of the pen to fight the wolves.

    So where do we go?

  3. @Pastor David L. Prentice Jr. #2
    Ah well now pastor, most of us do the same. Faced with a long list of duties, and burdened as we are with fear and sin, we all tend to start with the ones that will earn us the most praise for the least trouble, and I fear we all tend to run out of time before getting to the hard or tricky ones. God will probably deliver a few wolves to you, even if you’ve got limited time to go out and look for more. Do your best w/ them.

    Pax Christi+,
    -Matt Mills

  4. @Matt Mills #3
    I would like to flush this out a bit more, because I think we are close to the same page.

    Yes, we are burdened, but with the flock in our care, we rejoice at the call, the task at hand, though hard it is.

    Yes, there are “bad pastors”, wolves, all the things you say, but they are “out there”, outside the gates of the Church and flock I protect.

    If I see someone in error, and I venture out to do battle, I get caught up in a conflict that truly affects the flock, or it can; so I dare not venture out (unless I see active carnage).

    Because when I venture out, I get told, “how dare you scold another pastor”.

    Now this is where our polity holds for ecclesiastical oversight to handle this. And if they fail to fix, no harm to me or the flock which is of my utmost importance.

    Now the opposite can occur, a bad CV or erring DP as you say can come in to cause trouble, I can simply show him the door; now it has ramifications to the flock, but they hold the call in our world (of course, may be tough to get a pastor when I die).

    And what do you mean by praise?

  5. @Pastor David L. Prentice Jr. #4

    I completely get what Matt is saying. Here’s my input, for what it’s worth. MEN are called to be pastors, right? God must have had a reason for this. Perhaps it was that MEN are supposed to act as MEN and defend the faith with complete and total disregard for all else. As a layman, perhaps I’m missing some key aspect here, but to me, MEN should act like men. MEN should take a stand at ALL costs. We do so to protect our brothers. We do so to protect our families. We do so to protect and defend what is right. I agree that the cards are stacked against those who attempt to do it right. Guess what? They always have been and always will be. Don’t use the flock as an excuse to wither, but instead, use them as a reason to stand steadfast. If you catechize them properly, they will defend you against the DP and his unscriptural wrath.

  6. Oh, and one more thing. Matt and I come from a crazy place where you ALWAYS were expected to be the first to acknowledge error yet you should also never demonstrate vulnerability. Does that make sense? It means that if you weren’t the first to say you screwed up your brothers would shun you. Yet, to the adversary you never demonstrate weakness. What an awesome world! Yet, Matt and I know we are stupid sheep. We rely on great pastors to lead us and gladly take a knee to hear and learn from our pastors. I hold the Parish Pastor in the HIGHEST regard!!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. @Matt Mills #3


    Are you asking Pr. Prentice to go out and play Columbo, investigating other congregations and pastors, ensuring they all live up to the Lutheran Confessions? What are you asking of Pr. Prentice other than he remain faithful to God’s Word and rightly delivers Word and Sacrament to the congregation in which God has called him to do those things?

  8. Pastor David L. Prentice Jr. :
    If I see someone in error, and I venture out to do battle, I get caught up in a conflict that truly affects the flock…

    When one preaches false doctrine and another calls him back to the Word, who is causing the division? How does this “Mind your own stinking business!” square with:

    “All this has been said regarding secret sins. But where the sin is quite public so that the judge and everybody know it, you can without any sin avoid him and let him go, because he has brought himself into disgrace, and you may also publicly testify concerning him. For when a matter is public in the light of day, there can be no slandering or false judging or testifying; as, when we now reprove the Pope with his doctrine, which is publicly set forth in books and proclaimed in all the world. For where the sin is public, the reproof also must be public, that every one may learn to guard against it.”

  9. Pastor David L. Prentice Jr. :
    We pastors that take our call serious, do “love up the flock”, we administer Law and Gospel as need (oh, you know). But that takes time, almost all the time we have to do it right and well, and we do not have much time to wander outside the gate of the pen to fight the wolves.

    And yet, here you are, influencing the sheep of other shepherds…

  10. @Matt Mills #48
    I respectfully disagree. The number of heterodox who “have a clue” about the problems of practice in our synod compared to the number of actual “wolves” is rather significant. To be sure, the “clueless” are culpable for not making the effort to do the Scriptural reasoning, and for their “slow to believe all that the Scriptures has spoken” stubbornness. (But where I point my finger, I know it points at me, too…..) But there are plenty of examples of folks (even pastors!) whom the Spirit enlightened with the Truth who wound up dogged defenders of orthodoxy. (My dad was one, actually.)

    As to the 60%/40% vote thing–do you think one guy who was elected by a 60%-40% vote doing the job is going to be *more* effective? 650 voices saying, “He’s …. OUTAHERE!” are still more powerful than 1 voice, even when there are 430 voices contradicting them.

    And, with all due respect, the laity ain’t “saving” the synod this time around. There is an important role for them to play, to be sure, but the *vast* majority are no longer equipped. It *is* a clergy problem and the *clergy* are the ones who need to get it settled. There are a handful (relatively speaking) of outstanding lay theologians in the synod who can speak with firm and respected voice, but it is definitely primarily a clergy problem. It is the 2 or 3 generations of poorly-trained, poor theologian clergy who have failed to feed the sheep, such that the sheep are not able to hear the Voice of the Shepherd as clearly as they ought.

    “It’s time for the orthodox pastors to burn their union cards and start fighting for Jesus’ sheep, which is after all what they have been called to do.”
    Of whom are you speaking? If they are orthodox, they *are* doing what they have been called to do, by definition. If they aren’t doing it, then they need to be taught, reminded, etc. And that learning is usually much more likely to take place if the teacher has demonstrated that he isn’t just looking for an excuse to “bring charges”. The most prominent examples of heterodoxy (5-2, Becker, etc., currently) are probably *very* unlikely to hear and hearken to sound teaching, granted.

  11. @Pastor David L. Prentice Jr. #4
    This is precisely why Koinonia is valuable. It is a mechanism where the whole point is to have pastors calling each other to account, on the basis of the Word of God. This is what a Circuit meeting should be like, but all too often very much isn’t. But, fwiw, I’m taking Koinonia as a model for what my own circuit can be like.

  12. @Rev. David Mueller #10
    Dear Pastor,
    There’s no such thing as an MDiv-holding LC-MS pastor who is teaching heterodoxy and pushing false worship practices out of “ignorance.” They already know what we have always believed taught and confessed, they just don’t like it.
    My concern is that Koinonia etc. treats heterodox preaching and practice in our synod as a victimless crime. When I bemoan a “clergy-centric” focus, I mean that the clergy is trying to solve this problem by calling their erring brothers back to orthodoxy and orthopraxis. Their focus is on their erring brothers, and is therefore “clergy-centric.” The problem is that this isn’t a victimless crime. Day in and day out the heterodox are leading LC-MS parishes away from Jesus Christ in Word and Sacrament. They are destroying unity, and preying on Jesus sheep. By allowing them to continue w/o condemnation our leaders are equating false doctrine w/ true doctrine. That’s what I mean by a focus on the sheep. It’s a question doling out compassion and righteous indignation. Save your compassion for the sheep.

    @Pastor David L. Prentice Jr. #4
    “Because when I venture out, I get told, “how dare you scold another pastor”.
    I am mostly advocating action, by men in positions of authority over the heterodox, but dear Pastor, how many faithful Christian Pastors have been martyred for speaking out against heresy? If we have reached the point where ours are afraid of strong language, then we’ve already lost.

    Pax Christi+,
    -Matt Mills

  13. Oh boy, don’t know where to go with all this. So here are some comments back:

    01) I hear what Jim Pierce said, “called to be faithful” to the little flock given me by my Lord, they do come first, they must.

    02) Yet, when error does occur that comes across my gaze, or by a request, “what to do?” What is the best avenue for pastor to pastor resolution of errors that I know about.

    Of course, I pray for them; now you know why I have added a new “prayer service.” I ask for God’s help (not a bad starting place, eh?)

    After that, I did respond to another thread with this:

    a. Perhaps we list the erring congregations and pastors in BJS, etc. But be prepared for a good tussle.

    b. Lay people can request of us, as they find this error, the pastors to investigate a case.

    Just don’t know?????

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