ACELC — Recharging at the 2015 ACELC Conference


The last time I wrote one of these e-mail blasts, I called myself the “pet layman” of the ACELC Board of Directors. While that description remains frightfully accurate, my real job is to lecture mathematics at the University of Texas at Austin. Academia is a wonderfully interesting place, not just because of all the fascinating mathematics being discussed and created, but also because there are so many, very different sorts of people crowded into one small space. At any given moment on the 11th floor of Moore Hall there must be at least 10 different languages being spoken. We have people weighing 80 lbs, and people weighing over 300 lbs – all genders (there are a surprising number of these), all colors, all religions, all political bents, and every dietary variation imaginable. “Diversity” is one of our sacred cows. I enjoy interacting with my colleagues and students, and learning about their opinions, countries, and their perceptions of America, Texas and meat-eaters. But, having said that, there are times I just want to seek out “my own kind.” It takes extra effort to carry on a conversation with someone who doesn’t speak English well. It takes extra effort to listen closely to a narrative and not try to interpret it through one’s own world view. It takes extra effort to pay attention so that one does not give offense. And that extra effort is often tiring.

So it can be a great relief to retreat back home, where communication flows effortlessly, where I share a common context with others, and where I’m not so worried about making someone angry (….again…). I would guess that pastors, especially confessional pastors who may find themselves surrounded by pastors who are not-so-confessional, might have the same experience. After walking on eggshells at the circuit meetings and winkles, it must be a relief to gather with other confessional pastors who have the same troubles, same opinions, same taste in beverages, etc.

Erblicken Sie: The annual ACELC conferences. What a delight it is to be able to travel to all the various host congregations and see The Familiar. There are the Church ladies, serving up coffee and homemade snacks (and sweetly not seeing all the crumbs and spills.) There’s that one retired elder who knows where everything is and has a key to it. But mostly, here gather people who believe that to be Lutheran means to adhere to the Lutheran Confessions. They agree that “lay minister” is an oxymoron. They believe in Closed Communion. They dislike contemporary worship almost as much as I do. And the reports (the shockingly many reports) of faithful pastors being unBiblically removed, their families impoverished and their reputations tarnished (and, I suppose, their naive, youthful dreams crushed), hurt them as they hurt me.

The theme of the 2015 ACELC Conference, February 10-12, is “Office of the Holy Ministry Part II (The Unbiblical Removal of Pastors).” The Conference will be held at Holy Cross Lutheran in Kansas City, Missouri – and I, for one, am really looking forward to it. Like you, these reports of injustice gall me, and every time I hear one, I want to do something about it. Who do I have to write, bribe, punch, or tattle on to get this evil to stop spreading? As Lutherans, we should probably refrain from bribing and punching, and go with what we do best: Teaching and preaching (or “barking”), which is what the ACELC Conference is all about. I hope my presence at the conference adds, in a small way, to our collective voice when we publicly decry the unBiblical practices which seem rampant throughout the Missouri Synod.

And one thing I hope to see this year is many new faces. Kansas City should be a much more do-able drive for most than, say, Austin was in 2013. At least for those who don’t live in Austin. We have a great program of speakers, and offer a healthy dose of Gemütlichkeit – and we would love to see you there with us. Details of the Conference can be found on the ACELC website. Come, join us, and get recharged!

Dr. Bart Goddard, ACELC Board
Member, Trinity Lutheran Church
Austin, Texas

P.S. If you haven’t yet seen the new ACELC film, “If Not Now, When?” you can find it on our website under the “ACELC Film Project” link. There you will find the full film; parts I and II, broken down for easier viewing; as well as six study guides on different parts of the film. You may also order DVDs (one copy or more) if you would like to have a copy that can be viewed without a computer or shared with your friends as a gift.

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


ACELC — Recharging at the 2015 ACELC Conference — 21 Comments

  1. It sounds like you lead an interesting life and have the opportunity to interact with many types of people, both inside and outside of the Lutheran community of pastors, elders, and ordinary lay members. I used to interact with many people during my career in government service, but now as a retiree my contacts and many of my past colleagues have moved on, relocated, or died. You may someday find yourself as I am now, feeling almost like an old relic, hardly relevant or of interest to the younger generations. As I work PT at WalMart in my area, I do interact again, but I have found that younger people generally are disinterested in older folks, polite but barely sociable. Older folks are sometimes viewed by our youthful culture as “has beens.” I follow the Lutheran Blogs and see many conflicts between Lutherans over doctrinal issues, with contemporary cultural influences affecting younger Lutherans while older Lutherans are trying to hold on to traditional points of view. All changes are not bad, but old ways should not be so readily discarded either. As for me, I still read the KJV and NKJV, and prefer the older hymns at worship, and some but not all contemporary Christian music. Most of all, however, my faith is strong, God is real, I rely on Jesus as my Savior and Lord, and am resigned to follow the journey God has appointed for me. The ACELC will struggle on with divisive issues and change, but I hope those involved will stay consistent and faithful to the Bible and the Lutheran distinctives.

  2. A hundred years ago or more our societies were rather homogeneous. They are not anymore, that’s just a plain fact.
    In modern society Christians have to be tolerant, including religious matters. This is a matter of reason. But, as I think I can see in your nice post, it is different in the church. Christians still have to be tolerant towards each other in the daily life (indeed!), but there is a difference: In the Church Christians should not at all be tolerant concerning false doctrine. This is a matter of God’s command.
    So, a Christian has to learn to be both tolerant and intolerant in these different areas and has to make a clear distinction when to use which capacity. This difference is often neglected. Go ahead, ACELC! 🙂

  3. @Rev. Jakob Fjellander #2
    I agree with many things you said, and especially the part about tolerance being unacceptable when it comes to the teaching of false doctrines. But having read the history of Christianity in two short books covering the time after Jesus ascended and the early Apostolic church, then going through the various persecutions,Crusades, Papal inquisitions, schisms, and onward into the Pre-Reformation years into the Reformation itself, one sees that there was always little homogenous harmony. The second volume of the two books dealt with the Reformation, Luther, Calvin, Tyndale, the church movements and denominational origins in Europe and America, and the I influences of theological trends throughout the past 2000 years. These are short summaries but very factual and well researched by a Christian author named Stanford Morell. If you are interested, you might find it under the titles, “The History of the Church, Part 1 and 2.” Although Mr Morell is or was Presbyterian, not Lutheran, he manages to objectively lay out some of the differences in theological understanding between, for example, Baptists, Bretheran, Mormons, and many other distinctives. Both parts deal with the politics of the periods briefly, the wars and bloodshed between Catholics, Protestants, other groups…..and one comes away with insights we must consider in viewing the past history of Christianity and view it in terms of the future. God bless you, brother, and I hope these comments may encourage you to read further into the past, which holds a key to the present and future in many respects.

  4. Brothers:

    It should be a very interesting conference. Lots of interesting speakers. Oh yeah. I guess there’s also one guy from northeast Nebraska who’s talking about history and what we can learn from it today. Can’t say how his presentation will be. Guess you’ll just have to come and find out.

    In Christ,
    Rev. Robert Mayes
    Beemer, NE

    From the website:
    2015 Conference
    Welcome to the registration page for the 2015 ACELC Free Conference and Business Meeting: “Office of the Holy Ministry, Part II” (Unbiblical Removal of Pastors), which will be held February 10-12, 2015 at Holy Cross Lutheran, Kansas City, Missouri.

    Sessions Include:

    Removal of Pastors: Reality and Consequences (Rev. Alan Kornacki, Jr.)
    Duties of the Pastor: Expectations and Evaluations (Rev. Bryan Wolfmueller)
    What Hearers Owe their Pastors: The Table of Duties (Rev. Todd Wilken)
    The Pastor: CEO or Shepherd? (Rev. Rolf Preus)
    Deposing a Pastor: Biblical and Unbiblical Reasons (Rev. Dan Bremer)
    Unjust Treatment of Pastors: Late Reformation Germany (Rev. Robert Mayes)
    Unbiblical Removal of Pastors: Summary & Resolution (Rev. Clint Poppe)

    Also included are five worship services, Q&A sessions, a banquet, Gemütlichkeit and a business meeting held on the final day of the session.

  5. I have found that younger people generally are disinterested in older folks, polite but barely sociable. Older folks are sometimes viewed by our youthful culture as “has beens.”

    In fairness to young people, they are strictly segregated away from older people as soon as they are out of diapers and forced to spend almost all of their time with their peers with very little opportunity to actually socialize with anyone even a few years older or younger. Many have few if any siblings or even fathers. The young people do not create the youthful culture but are instead victimized by it.

    Okay, back on topic.

  6. I found your musings quite interesting. I’ll say it again, the empty pulpits are the problem for the clergy. In many rural communities pastors serve multiple parishes and many go empty. In some the elder hold services, as that is all there is. I agree that we all too often place men in the pulpit who are highly unqualified, yet where are the supervisors. Here in Florida we saw a parish loose its name of Lutheran (church turned hispanic). The Video – ACELC – leaves no doubt about the LCMS’s pending demise. Churches all over the Synod use Reformed Protestants to teach our children. Do so many of our Orthodox pastors give a concern – NO! They lead these schools. We were replaced by Baptists, cheaper!?!?! Here in Florida it is common knowledge that the District encourages pastors not to CALL/hire commissioned ministers. A blatant slap in CFW’s face! Its not just the pulpits that are decaying under the Synodical leadership; it is its institutions as well. But Yahweh told Elijah that he had thousands who had not bowed a knee to Baal. So our church will never die out. In Poland, where my family is from, the Evangelicals were driven from their homes in 1945, the Roman Catholic Poles burned these churches to the ground, yet we are still here, we too have not bowed a knee to the ****.
    The Pope prays in Turkish Mosque today – the devil is at work among other faiths as well.

  7. Tolerance is wrongly applied to doctrine and unbiblical practice. The LCMS version of “tolerance” is to craft language at the Synodical level to appease opposing points of view validating everyone. This is a sure and certain course to becoming like the ELCA. How much error does God find acceptable? If the very definition of the Church is the place where the Word of God is taught in all its truth and purity and the Sacraments are administered in accord with Christ’s institution, then there can be no toleration of error without a corresponding violation of the nature of God Himself! The ACELC recognizes this reality. Neither God nor His Church can embrace error and remain “Church”. To do so is to become a Christian Sect, but it is to abdicate the right to be the Church. If pastors and congregations which to be manifestations of the true Church of Christ, it is obligated to abandon error and to walk in unity in doctrine and practice.

  8. Erich Abraham :Churches all over the Synod use Reformed Protestants to teach our children. Do so many of our Orthodox pastors give a concern – NO! They lead these schools. We were replaced by Baptists, cheaper!?!?!

    Those same things happened to our old school before our congregation shut it down.

  9. @Tim #8
    Tim, so many schools are enamored with Abeka and Bob Jones Curriculum, too. We knew a pastor who said he trusted his Called staff to choose curriculum. I was wrong until I showed him the theological errors in the material. Then this was considered minor deviations.

  10. @Tim #8
    MAybe we should relieve ourselves of the Concordia’s, too??? Are they enhancing the CHurch.
    We have so many 2nd career pastors,, why train them in a COncordia?

  11. @Erich Abraham #9
    And CPH does not have a homeschool curriculum from which to choose either. I am going out on a limb here to ask if maybe CPH is so small they cannot generate enough revenue to pay to print a full K-High curriculum? I did use some Abeka for my homeschooling simply because I had nothing else that I could find at the time. In retrospect, I wish I would have pursued the Classical system more ardently. Currently textbooks are expensive and, by society’s standards, must be upgraded regularly. They also require experts in the field to compose them. I wonder if our publisher could somehow work with a textbook publisher to create something uniquely Lutheran for our schools, homeschools, and colleges. It might be an endeavor worth pursuing. Now back to ACELC…

  12. The point: The ACELC is making an honest attempt to provide brotherly, Christian correction in order that our Synod will not continue to deteriorate further in her doctrine and practice. If you think that the Koinonia Project will achieve this end despite the involvement of the Council of Presidents and the influence of the Taskforce on Harmony, then I’ve got a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you! The ACELC is interested in returning the Synod to her Scriptural and Confessional roots that once made her a great Synod which was actually walking together in reality. Today’s Synod is a pretense at walking together when in reality we are not.

    So, here are your options:

    1. Dismiss the Synod and be faithful in your own congregation. This will work until your presently Confessional pastor either dies, retires, or takes a call somewhere else and then the district will do its usual best to put you through self-studies designed to make you question the efficacy of liturgical worship, closed communion, etc. Bottom line: You won’t know what you’re you’re going to get. This is the path of despair that laments that nothing can ever change and which discounts the power of God’s Words to convict and change hearts and minds.

    2. Depend on the Synodical bureaucracy to heal itself. How well has that worked lately? Kindly remember that the Koinonia Project – flawed as it is – can disappear just as quickly as the Ablaze! movement did! It’s disappearance is only one election away. Remember also, that the bureaucracy is more interested in maintaining institutional “peace” by not rocking the boat, than it is in actually addressing and resolving the issues that continue to divide us more and more.

    3. You can join the ACELC and, in Christian love, be the voice of truth within the Synod that will simply not go away and that is slowly growing in numbers and strength. Being a part of the ACELC will at least permit you to remain a member of a clearly heterodox Synod with a clear conscience and at the same time to seek our brothers welfare by offering biblical correction to error. Remember that the measure of the orthodoxy of any Church body is how it handles error and seeks to remove it. The pastors and congregations of the ACELC are being orthodox by example to our own Synod and the more who stand up and say, “No more!” to the foolishness most lately demonstrated by the 5-2 folks, the more likely we are to impact biblical/Confessional change within the LCMS. Finally, simply speaking together the truth of God’s Word and our Lutheran Confessions is simply the right thing to do!

  13. @Rev. Richard A. Bolland #12
    Kindly remember that the Koinonia Project – flawed as it is – can disappear just as quickly as the Ablaze! movement did!

    The little we do hear of the Koinonia Project down here in Texas gives me the impression that it is just a cover permitting “…us1st” , “Daystar” (and now “5/2”) to carry on as usual with their un Lutheran agenda, with the added proviso that their heresies may not be named such “because everything must be permitted to be discussed freely”, except the proposal that they get back to Lutheran liturgy and off the “enthusiast” Bible studies!

    [“Hey, Ken, if confessional liturgical Lutheran churches “owe” the District a tithe, how about planting some confessional liturgical missions… just to show you care?”]

  14. @LadyM #11
    Just wondering. Why can you not teach the children out of secular textbooks and teach them the faith out of the Bible, Small catechism, and hymnal? I believe that’s how it’s done at our Lutheran day school.

  15. @Lifelong Lutheran #14
    Have you actually perused secular textbooks in the last ten years? 🙂 Okay, science – evolution only, creation ignored, old earth age, etc.; history – rewritten to be politically correct with leftist/Marxist leanings; literature – sex, violence, alternate lifestyles, etc. to study, although one could possibly freelance a bit on this; even mathematics – word problems with subtle liberal leanings, like if John took Rick out on a date and spent… I would rather have to correct the fundamentalism of Abeka than deal with this. I did not want to take the focus from ACELC, so this will be my last posting on this thread.

  16. Pastor Bolland’s first option reminds me of a question/idea that I have had ever since I heard of the ACELC: if a member congregation of the ACELC loses its confessional Pastor, can they count on a representative or team from the ACELC to assist them in the call process, or are they at the mercy of the DP at the time?

    If the answer is presently “no”, I might suggest this would be a wonderful selling point to congregations which might be on the fence about joining. Having a team of “barracks lawyers” available, especially if the DP is of the Texas ilk would be a wonderful service for member congregations. Kind of like a Confessional Life Insurance policy.

  17. Hi Helen,

    Yes, the Koinonia Project is being used as a cover for on-going abuses and errors, but more than that. When the ACELC did submit three official dissents to the CTCR we were told that they could not issue an opinion because the Koinonia Project was going to speak to these things…eventually. So, our Synod has put a moratorium on error identification and correction with a timeline that extends into the unknown future and for which there is no identified mechanism to actually resolve the issues in question. And yes, in the meantime, to actually identify error now is to suffocate free and open discussion and by all means do not publicly identify an error as an error because that is divisive and schismatic.

    So the new status of things in the LCMS is that if something violates Scripture and the Confessions it is not permitted to say it despite it’s being quite obvious. If you do, then YOU are the problem and hence the hail of criticisms leveled at the ACELC. Ergo, if you have the audacity to point out an error, then you are being schismatic, judgmental, causing trouble, being divisive, etc., etc.

    Thus, as Luther put it, we simply must continue to bear the criticism and keep “barking” like the annoying dog next door until someone finally pay attention to the confession of faith being made. If we don’t do this, then we are complicit in the decline of the Synod because of our silence in the face of false criticism.

  18. Marc,

    While the ACELC does not have a “SWAT” team to deal with the various districts that try to influence the calling process in an ACELC congregation, I can tell you that when this has occurred members of the ACELC have provided advise to those congregations as they attempt to navigate the calling process. Such advice includes:

    1. Remember, it is the congregations/Lord’s call and it does not belong to the District nor the District President.

    2. Congregations can and do decline to participate in the stupid self-studies.

    3. Despite what the COP says, calling congregations can and do consider names that DP’s don’t approve of.

    4. Despite what the COP guidelines for pre-call interviews say, the calling congregation can speak to any candidate they choose in such interviews.

    5. Despite what the DP and the COP says, it is the absolute right of the congregation to extend a call to anyone on the LCMS roster.

    6. If a pastor is rated “Rigid and Inflexible” on his SET form, the likelihood is that he is a very good, Confessional, Liturgical pastor who practices Closed Communion. If a pastor is rated as “Evangelical and Pastoral”, he is likely a pastor who promotes Contemporary Worship, is “Missional”, and at least a bit loose on his communion practice.

    7. The relationship of the district to the calling congregation is ADVISORY, not DIRECTIVE!

    8. If the DP will not provide the requisite Call Documents, either make up your own, or email me.

    9. If the DP will not provide information on names requested, then contact the individual pastor and have him send the information directly to you.

    10. You can find out a lot more information on a candidate by looking at his congregation’s website than you will ever know from the DP’s evaluation.

    11. In the 30 years I have served as a pastor not one DP has ever observed me preach a sermon, work with a Board of Elders, Voter’s Assembly, or pretty much anything else in my congregation. Therefore it should be realized that most DP evaluations of pastors are based only on hearsay.

  19. @Rev. Richard A. Bolland #20
    Therefore it should be realized that most DP evaluations of pastors are based only on hearsay.

    If a Pastor, or group of Pastors, opt out of the District indoctrination by the latest in “enthusiast” hucksters and (probably worse) sponsor a “Free Conference” on confessional Lutheran topics, (and synodical goings on), the liberal district office does have a clue about those Pastors. Anyone comes to a “Free Conference”, including district observers. ;

    A congregation need not take the District’s advice, but they don’t always know that. One would hope they are acquainted with other conservative Pastors and will solicit their suggestions.

    Of course, if they have just dumped a qualified confessional Pastor, while admitting that there is no Lutheran reason for the action, other confessional Pastors should observe that the position is not unfilled, just unpaid, and decline that congregation’s “call”. Not only for the sake of the one deprived of his living but for their own sake; a congregation led to such action once cannot be trusted not to do it again.

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