Walking in Di$agreement

SacredCow-243x240During the 2013 Synodical Convention in St. Louis it was a great blessing to witness the affirmation of altar and pulpit fellowship between the LCMS and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Liberia (ELCL), and the Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELC).

The Synod spent tens, perhaps hundreds, of thousands of dollars and many hours to ensure that the ELCL and SELC met its standards for doctrine and practice. Good for them.

Now place yourself in the shoes of a member of the ELCL or SELC. Having passed the test of purity required by the de facto mother Synod of global confessional Lutheranism, you happen upon Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS). As an African or Siberian brother / sister in Christ you are definitely puzzled about LCMS fellowship with LIRS.

We understand that LIRS is a sacred cow, but Lutherans aren’t supposed to tolerate shibboleths.

The organization is an openly left-leaning political advocacy agency that takes great liberties with the term “Lutheran”. Is it merely a public square issue? No, because LIRS makes theological pronouncements and promotes its work as a distinctly Lutheran ministry.

What theology is on display? It would not be unkind to describe it as Christian voodoo with an abundance of ecumenical weirdness. Indeed, the ELCA worldview saturates LIRS in a way that would get Africans and Russians booted from A&PF.

How should Liberian and Siberian Lutherans react to being placed under the St. Louis microscope only to see the likes of LIRS flaunting its heterodoxy? Yet the LCMS is tucked in tight with LIRS and promotes its efforts uncritically.

Of course, there is no shortage of hypocrisy within the Synod where some District Presidents run fiefdoms of rebellion where the primary motivation appears to be flipping off LCMS doctrinal statements.

We wonder why Lutherans in Ethiopia and Madagascar might be interested in A&PF with the LCMS when there are two standards in operation – one for outsiders and one for insiders.

When the LCMS makes principled statements in the public square about religious freedom, what is the public to think when it indulges in unprincipled partnerships?

Some argue that LIRS has nothing to do with doctine. If that’s the case, then we should have no hesitation to look for more effective partners in Baptist, Methodist, Buddhist, Jewish or Muslim denominations. Right? What are the ties that actually bind us? Are we members of a Synod or a $ynod?

Here are some examples of LIRS walking out of fellowship without any apparent resistance or rebuke from the LCMS:

  • We witness to God’s love for all people to realize a vision of just and welcoming communities.
  • Pastrix promotion and celebration everywhere.
  • We found just one reference on the LIRS Web site to Word and Sacrament, but hundreds of suggestions that diakonia is a means of grace.
  • Whatever the sacred text (Bible, Koran, Old Testament), they all speak about honoring the dignity of every single human, the call to serve others and to be generous and welcoming. All faith communities stand for all of those things.”
  • I have been welcomed through baptism to God’s abundance. With you, through grace and faith, we live out this abundance through acts of courage and welcome.
  • Hospitality for newly arrived neighbors is supported by the sacred texts of all faiths.
  • As Paul urged Philemon to free Onesimus of his own accord, we too are encouraged of our own accord to take proactive action
  • Salvation by other means: “…uses participatory photography to transform the lives of underserved youth and communities
  • Two highlights stand out for me: (1) the truly interfaith nature of those who responded and agreed to serve – Muslim and Jewish as well as our Christian brothers and sisters, and (2) the moving reading in Spanish of “An Alien’s Prayer” by Edward Hays (from Prayers for a Planetary Pilgrim) by one of our leaders from a Roman Catholic parish with a high immigrant membership.
  • Do we want Jesus to go with us? [Expected answer: yes] Does Jesus go in the box? [Expected answer: no] Why not? [Expected answers: free responses] Because Jesus is with us everywhere, right in our heart. He sees us, he knows where we are going. He loves us so much that he died on the cross for our sins, and he takes care of us every single day. We don’t have to be afraid. Awesome, huh? He loves us no matter where we are!
  • As Pacific School of Religion builds on its tradition of boldness, it is seeking to re-imagine theological education. A key part of that renewed vision is the preparation of spiritually formed, theologically rooted leaders for social transformation. My partnership with LIRS has given me an opportunity to live out this kind of vision as faith communities respond with depth and resilience to the challenges surrounding immigration. These experiences in connecting with faith communities, producing resources, and engaging political and community leaders around immigration can be applied to other areas of social transformation.
  • I think interfaith work strengthens the integrity of all faith work.  In the world’s (not just the United States’) mosaic of faith cultures, I question the validity of uni-faith work.   Interfaith work provides checks and balances to arrogance and helps keep our efforts honest.  It is a reminder that we are not all the same and do not need to be the same to be faithful and do what is faithful by the lights of our different traditions.  And we are all here together.  It teaches that we can have faithful boundaries and mutual respect through shared service.  But it is hard – I do not do it especially well, I am lucky in that there are multiple existing interfaith networks in my area.  I just keep showing up and trying.
  • Opportunity to participate in religious practice and access to personal religious property including prayer beads, rosaries, prayer rugs and other items appropriate to religious practice; accommodations for dietary restrictions as required by religious practices


Walking in Di$agreement — 43 Comments

  1. Oh my, my. The first article was them standing behind the President and saying what he will do tonight is all good, etc. His “so called” executive order (to some, a slap in the U.S. Constitution) is good. Wow, you may have touched on something BIG!

    OK, let’s wait and see. Calm down.

    Yet they are not an RSO I do believe.

  2. @Pastor David L. Prentice Jr. #1 No, not an RSO, but an official church partner. When you examine the list of church partners there are no secular or non-Lutheran entities. I can only infer that the reason for this is that the LCMS essentially extends RSO requirements to church partners in spirit if not in fact.

    Even if we split hairs over the RSO issue, should the LCMS not be heeding Herr Luther: “we should avoid false teachers, false churches, and all organizations that promote a religion that is contrary to God’s Word” (Question 179, Answer C)”.

    Likewise St. Paul: “do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14-18)

    As you say, Pr Prentice, LIRS today praises a lawless action by the President contrary to 1 Peter 2: 13-15 and Hebrews. 11:13.

  3. Thank you for calling this out Tim.

    As I have stated elsewhere, read the Scriptures folks and you will see that nearly all of the references to mercy are about the church taking care of its own in need, particularly widows and orphans. Anything beyond that leads us into a secular world and institutional culture that the church has no business being in.

    Scripture does not teach that the church is the world’s social agency. It teaches that the church is to look after her own.

  4. @Tim Wood #2
    You know, I once got into a little tiff with Pastor Rossow about some “sync” and “unionistic” issues, think we are good now, I am learning.

    But is this bordering on “worse than a 5/2” problem?

    5/2, many feel, error in practice. But (and I have little knowledge) LIRS verges on some very, very bad problems, “Thou shalt have no other gods…”.

  5. @Pastor Tim Rossow #3 It would be useful for someone with a right understanding of Scripture to grab the proof-text pillars of this movement to collapse it.

    LIRS and those like it have developed a sacrament of works based on incorrect expositions of Exodus 12:19, Deuteronomy 10:18–19, and Matthew 25:36 to create the illusion that justification is a function of being really, really nice to people who aren’t like you.

    The net effect is to make the church an institution for unbelievers, entirely contrary to what Christ commanded.

  6. At tonight’s Univision Latin Grammys, which will be interrupted by President Obama’s 8:00 p.m. announcement, one suspects that the following will receive an award of special merit for their unfettered support of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, whose ideological and political alignment is with George-supported groups like Sojourners, the racist La Raza outfit, and others, and whose work has “made all this possible”:

    LCMS President Harrison, Atlantic District Presidents Benke and Stoterau, Rev. Bart Day, Rev. Carlos Hernandez, Dr. Leopoldo Sanchez M., Dr. John and Monique Nunes, Dr. Joel Lehenbauer, the CTCR, Mr. Ross and Dr. Gloria Edwards, low-information-delegates at the 2013 Synodical Convention, et al.

    “It’s Time” for the faithful remnant in the LCMS to hold these folks accountable.

    Start drafting district resolutions to get the LCMS out of LIRS.

  7. Will the fellowship between LCMS and LIRS be debated at the next convention of the Synod, or will this matter be quietly swept under the rug? Does anyone know?

  8. What happened this evening to the constitution, by the President, well; I pray men with backbone will rectify the error of the Executive Branch. Perhaps it is too late?

    I wonder if the LCMS will make a comment on what occurred? This will be telling for the future.

  9. @Pastor Tim Rossow #3
    As I have stated elsewhere, read the Scriptures folks and you will see that nearly all of the references to mercy are about the church taking care of its own in need, particularly widows and orphans.
    Thinking about it, I’d appreciate an article sometime on just this topic. In conversations (some rather heated) with college friends of mine who are of a more Progressive persuasion (including an ELCA bishop) they always justify their actions in the name of mercy. This includes allowing uncontrolled immigration, open transit to and from Ebola zones, single-payer state-run health care, and every other Socialist abuse. How do we combat this, scripturaly? Of course we are to show compassion and mercy to the poor, but we cannot encourage them to break the civil laws! Nor is it the government’s job to use our tax money to shower compassion on the rest of the world. At least I don’t think it is.

  10. Paul of Alex.,

    I will try to write it up in the next week or so.

    I did not want to unduly irritate anyone so I have waited to talk about this. There are some in high places in the LCMS who are really big on mercy you know. 🙂

  11. I don’t get it. Why is there a “Lutheran” organization to take care of immigrants of all beliefs? Aren’t there state agencies to do that kind of work? (Of course there could be a Lutheran organization to welcome the Lutherans and missionaries to evangelize the immigrants of other beliefs.)

  12. @Pastor Tim Rossow #15
    Thank you, this is an issue that I’ve struggled with for a while. On the one hand we as individuals are called to show mercy and compassion. On the other hand, the authorities are not called to do so, at least not in the same way. They are called to keep order. In addition, if you look closely, most of this “compassion” is actually done for the political gain of the leaders involved and ends up hurting the citizens that they are supposed to protect. The Mexican immigrant that we are showing compassion to is competing for jobs against my son!

    One quote that I keep hearing is how we’re supposed to help “sojourners” (e.g. Job 31:32) and thus should open our gates to any and all who cross the borders, legally or not. Now I don’t think that the Egyptians had quite the same border controls that we do, but when Israel was in Egypt they were there legally and with the permission of the Pharoah; they didn’t simply enter without permission.

    Anyway, any help would be appreciated.

  13. @Rev. Jakob Fjellander #16 it’s the boiled frog syndrome in many ways. What started out as a narrow road paved with good intentions to serve Lutheran refugees and immigrants had, by 1959, become a 12-lane tollroad paved with anything they could get their hands on; but mostly government cash.

    Multiple forces came to bear in bringing this about:

    * Some of the very Germans LIRS had resettled after WW2 imported Frankfurt School ideologies into the American Academy in a way that rapidly transformed higher education all over the country.

    * Lutheran pietism and an embrace of the social gospel as a means of justification.

    * The politicizing of nearly every aspect of charitable work. The net result was the co-option of most agencies by Liberal / Left Wing interests. In turn, those agencies have been used as Trojan Horses to undertake political work within churches and other civil society organizations. If you examine LIRS literature for churches, it is all geared toward supporting a the open borders political agenda – it never swings the other way. Likewise, the structure and content of the LIRS literature checks every box in the propaganda / community organizing playbook. LIRS is first and foremost about activism, not Word & Sacrament.

    * Access to Federal and State grants has made immigration and refugee services a huge business worth billions a year. A lot of people are very rich off the back of “charity”.

    * Most of the grants come with restrictions – for example, you cannot only serve Lutherans and you may not proselytize. By all means hand out prayer rugs to Muslims, but don’t say a word about salvation by grace alone through faith alone or you’ll lose your money. The refugee wants an abortion? You’d better not stand in the way… Mammon is well served.

    A final note – if you really want to be shocked, explore the full roster of partners that LIRS works with at very local levels. There are some very unsavory outfits. It’s past time for the LCMS to withdraw from this nest of rats.

  14. @Paul of Alexandria #18
    I think many “get it”, but this issue has some “extra tentacles” embedded that “could” make life of a parish pastor a mess.

    Yes, we should care for the lost and those in trouble, but we must uphold Law (both right and left hand kingdom). There is a blurring for many. This IS a touchy subject.

    This IS a big issue, but as Pastor Rossow did state, communication and teaching will come.

    And again, a challenge to ACELC and other confessional support bodies, please chime in as well.

    This is an issue many of us simply must sit back and let senior men speak.

  15. @Tim Wood #19
    Thanks, I understand more now. 🙂 I understand especially the point that when you recieve money from the state, the state will set up regulations and prescriptions, requesting influence because they pay.
    In Sweden the new social democrat government has announced reduced contributions by 40% to the church bodies within three years, and the churches receiving money protest. Of course the state should not hand out money to the churches. A wise government could allow tax deductions for gifts to nonprofit organizations, that’s much better. (But that does not exist in Sweden.)

  16. @Rev. Jakob Fjellander #16
    Why is there a “Lutheran” organization to take care of immigrants of all beliefs?

    I believe it was invented after WW II to take care of German refugees escaping the Russians/displaced when their property was ceded to Poland. At that time, a pan Lutheran organization was reasonable; we were all using the same common service. But once an entity gets established, the leadership looks around for other excuses to exist, since they don’t want to find another (probably less remunerative) job.

    Now that “Lutheran” organization is mostly funded by the government and we should have separated ourselves from it long ago. It’s elca in philosophy, if it’s anything but another drain on the government.

  17. @Paul of Alexandria #14
    they always justify their actions in the name of mercy.

    Like the LCMS renegades who throw born Lutherans out of their churches in their “zeal to save the lost”, the elca will have “mercy” on any LINO (or unbeliever) and the government looks after anyone but its own citizens. How crazy is that, on all accounts!?

  18. @Pastor David L. Prentice Jr. #22

    Correct. But there’s a big problem: Folks in the LCMS do not agree on the Law. It’s that simple.

    Old Timers (Orthodox Lutherans, Old Lutherans, Walther, Pieper, those ridiculed at the Fort as “Bronze Agers”) believe that the Law is God’s immutable holy will, as the Formula teaches.

    Not so, reply the neo-Orthodoxists (Barth, Bonhoeffer, et al.), Erlangenists (Elert, eventually Forde), Oswald Bayer, existentialists, situationalists, et al.

    The Law, in their view, is the subjective “experience” of dread, guilt, etc. brought about the the Law’s preaching. It is not, in their view, the absolute objective, eternal standard of God’s will ascertained in both Scripture and in nature.

    All of the above is taught at both seminaries. All of the above is proclaimed by LCMS pulpits. But all of the above can’t be true, for that would imply a contradiction.

    Only the first view is correct. God’s Law is an eternal, unchangeable standard, a norm. The Law’s work in us can be portrayed descriptively (what it does to us), but that description is not the norm.

    That’s why there is so much confusion in the LCMS. The two systems of Law, presented as equivalent truth claims, are incompatible.

  19. Robert,

    That is very thought provoking. I think you are not all right though. I do not think Elert falls in that category although I am open to instruction on that. I will check the Morphe if I have time.

    Also, I know the justification emphasis guys sometimes seem to fit in that category I do not know a single one of them, even the farthest out there, that think the law is only an experience.

    I am with you on Forde (although I think he can be taken both ways) and the rest.

    I am also with you on the old seminexers still among us.

  20. Hmmm, looking over the contents of the ACELC documents on error correction, VIII “The Church’s Mission and Her Evangelistic Task” seems to be an appropriate place to respond to some of the current troubles found in this discussion. Perhaps inside it is a response (I am missing it). or is something in the works?

    Can an ACELC member illuminate please.

  21. But once an entity gets established, the leadership looks around for other excuses to exist, since they don’t want to find another (probably less remunerative) job.

    Yeah, this pretty much describes their “mercy” work.

  22. 1) Jargon check, please; What is “the Fort”?
    2) “All of the above is taught at both seminaries.” Geeze Luigi! Can we bring back Springfield? As I recall, that turned out some solid pastors. ‘Course, I was four when I left…

    soli Deo gloria,

  23. @Pastor Tim Rossow #28

    For Elert, the Law does two things: It provides security to fallen creation and it carries out God’s retribution against sin. Our relationship to God through the Law is seen only in this light, man as sinner approaching a holy and just God, not man pre-fall or post-Parousia. God is Creator, Legislator, and Judge.

    Thus a positive relation between the Christian and the Law is impossible. The Third Use (not the mythic “Third Use of the Law Is Only the First or Second Uses for Christians”) is atrophied.

    Not only that, but also Natural Law is shriveled to simply caring for society or accusing the conscience. Holl even suggested that Natural Law was something more like “instinct” (good heavens, even animals have that), a interpretation forced upon Luther by one author in Natural Law: A Lutheran Reappraisal.

    The Atonement, too, is affected, in that Christ on the cross puts our life under the Law to an end. Justification means not that we are no longer under the Law’s threat and condemnation, it also means, according to this paradigm, we’re simply no longer under the Law. There is no apparent positive relation between the Christian and the Law given that, according to this family of teaching, means the Law IS order, the Law IS accusation (“lex semper accusat”).

    Notice the Law is defined not as God’s unchanging will, but according to what the Law does: It orders; it accuses.

    This is a category confusion.

    “Lutheran theologians of a later period followed Luther and the Formula of Concord in theory but interpreted the doctrine of the tertius usus in the spirit of Melanchthon, and have done so to the present day. Yet, it was never overloooked that the ‘true office’ of the law lies in its punitive nature. That view became immortalized in the Small Catechism. The explanation at the conclusion of the Ten Commandments proclaims that the law of God is always law of retribution” (The Lutheran Ethos, 301).

    Here one can easily see the attempt to cleave Orthodox Lutheranism from Luther, an effort first begun by the earliest Erlangenists including anti-Atonement theologian J.C.K. von Hofmann (now currently enjoying an encomium from Matthew Becker). That effort to pit Luther against Lutherans is well-documented, and enjoys a parallel to 19th and 20th century efforts among the Reformed to pit Calvin against the Calvinists (publish or perish).

    Current Erlangenists, including current and former LCMS seminary faculty members and assistants to the LCMS president, follow in this train.

    So again, there are two incompatible teachings on the Law in the LCMS: the original teaching, that of Lutheran Orthodoxy and the historic LCMS, and the “new measures” of 19th and 20th century European theologians.

    This new brand of post-Kantian Lutheranism infected the LCMS during the first half of the 20th century, sometimes directly (through clerics getting their doctorates overseas in Germany), sometimes indirectly (via the incestuous philanderings with the American Lutheran Church, which had already zombied).

  24. Robert,

    That is helpful. It doesn’t seem like Elert is denying that that the law is God’s immutable, holy will though.

    I would not consider myself an Elert devote but I have read both the Morphe and Ethos. There are a ton of brilliant insights in each.

    I have not read either from the standpoint of the accusation that he is a Gospel reductionist. Maybe I will go back and look at that. But again, I am not sure he denies that the law is the holy, immutable will of God.

  25. Pastor David L. Prentice Jr. :
    Can an ACELC member illuminate please.

    I think the ACELC leaders stopped reading all the Lutheran discussion forums after District President Benke and the Valpo gang kept hijacking their threads on the ALPB forum. Just my opinion.

  26. @Tim Schenks #36
    Lutheran Concerns – January 19 in Ft. Wayne; ACELC – February 10 in KCMO; BJS – February 20 in Naperville; Congress on the Lutheran Confessions – April 15 in Bloomington…golden opportunities to hear solid speakers and meet other brothers and sisters who are united in the struggle for purity of doctrine and right practice.

  27. @Robert #27
    Hmm. Progressive – feelings and subjective experience is most important – vs conservatives – subjective reality always wins in the end.

  28. @Robert #32
    Not only that, but also Natural Law is shriveled to simply caring for society or accusing the conscience.
    Am I correct, then, when I say that God’s Law is not arbitrary, but – if followed – will lead to an optimum society? In some of my conversations I get the feeling that some fellow Christians believe that Yahweh is like Allah (or perhaps more like Terry Pratchett’s “Diskworld” series’ Om): arbitrary and capricious. That a ban on homosexual relationships is no more reasonable than a ban on broccoli (simply because Om didn’t like broccoli).

  29. IrishLutheran,

    We know who you are. We have traced your address to a computer server of a large Lutheran publishing company on Jefferson in south St. Louis. Please stop posting or we will have to report you to your boss.

  30. BJS Editors and Team, there appears to be a LCMS immigration and discussion that was posted on Friday. But rats, I cannot open it up. Anyone know what the dialog is?

    It is a Lutheran Roundtable on Immigration Issues.

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