Why I joined the ACELC.

ACELCLast night I received a phone call from Rev. Dan Bremer informing me that the ACELC has accepted my associate membership to the organization (associate membership is for individuals; membership is for congregations).  Here is why I joined using the words of the organization:

Association – It is good for brothers to dwell in unity, to have association with each other.  Very few Christians in history have been given the task of being the lone wolf.  I am not one of them.  I need an association of like-minded pastors who hold to the same beliefs and confession and believe this strongly enough to be labelled all sorts of things.

Confessing – Not confessional (although they are) but confessing, that is to say actively speaking out loud that which has been given to them.  Pure doctrine has lungs, it seeks to speak.  To be confessional means to be confessing – especially in the face of a world gone mad and a Church seemingly obsessed with pining after the adoration of the world.

Evangelical – There is nothing greater than the Evangel (Gospel).  Every single error promoted or tolerated in a church will somehow affect the gospel.  The LCMS still believes the pure Gospel on paper, but allows false gospels equal voice with the pure one.  The areas of error addressed by the ACELC are matters of the Gospel.  We don’t strive to maintain pure doctrine for its own sake, but for the sake of the Gospel (which means people in need of hearing it).

Lutheran – Not in name only.  The folks at the ACELC actually care about the identity of Lutherans.  They actually use the Book of Concord.  The subject that they are confessing is Lutheran.

Congregations – Pastors and People.  Preachers and Hearers gathered around a pulpit and altar to receive what Christ gives.  This is what Church is about.  It is not about three (or four) layers of ivory-towered bureaucracy whose temptation is always to promote the bureaucracy and the institution.  The congregation is the place where the gifts are, the place where Christ is.  The people of the ACELC are connected to pulpits and pews, not cubicles and programs and policies.


Another few things:

Love – True love, the kind that put Christ on the Cross, will speak the truth, sometimes the hard truth.  While many are content to rejoice in mercy or in refurbishing old buildings, love demands that we look out for one another and the teaching.  My best friends are those who have no problem criticizing my words or actions.  They love me enough to care about me, my vocation as a pastor, and the people that I serve.  Would that we had the same love?  The ACELC shows love.

Guts & Spine – The ACELC has been around long enough now to hear the major complaints and name-calling that come from those who prefer the glossy, full-color world of the brand “LCMS”.  They are still here, doing the same thing they were when they started.  Despite being ignored, made fun of, betrayed, and all sorts of slandered – they still are confessing.  They are Lutherans by conviction.  I want to confess too.

Exposing the Elephants in the Room – For far too long we have let things slide without commentary.  C.P. Krauth points out the progression of error this way.  First it asks tolerance (check).  Then it asks equal standing (check).  Then it seeks dominance (coming to a Synod near you).  The ACELC has spoken to the errors.  They have provided ample evidence of the errors.  They have provided Biblical, Confessional teaching on the matters of error.  They host some of the best conferences each year which address hard issues.  Nobody wants to talk about the sinful treatment of pastors in parishes that dismiss them (except a notable few who are immediately labelled as radicals).  The ACELC is having a full conference on the matter.

“It’s Time” – yeah, I still like the paper, the way it was originally put forward.  The ACELC is doing what it asked for.  The Koinonia Project is exactly what the paper didn’t call for.  In fact, here are some of the original headings of that fine work which I believe the ACELC is addressing:

– The First Thing Necessary – Honesty about what we face.

– Now is the Time for Courage and to get our act together for the sake of the mission given us

– A Simple, Non-Bureaucratic Proposal Toward Re-establishing Unity in the LCMS for the Sake of Mission and Mercy

Honesty.  Check – they even have the evidence for it.  Yes, there are problems and they name them.  It is not just a generic reference to challenges but instead a calling a thing what it is – error in doctrine and practice.  Sin.  Where else do we see such honesty?

Courage.  Check – just bring up the ACELC to some folks and listen to the criticism, and yet they are still confessing.  The truth is not measured against perceptions and polls, rulings on what bylaws may or may not say, coming election cycles or the art of the possible.  Let the Word do its work.

Simplicity.  Check – error pointed out, Scriptures taught.  Confessions taught.  No complex papers on procedure.  No gag orders.  Just here are the errors, here is what the Bible says, and here is what we as Lutherans confess.  Simple.


Is the ACELC a new church body?  No.  They are trying to call a church body back to what it has always believed.  Are they going to leave the LCMS?  Why would they?  They are what the LCMS used to be.  UPDATE:  I was asked about the idea of LCMS romanticism because of this comment.  I by no means think that such a golden age has existed.  There will be error in churches, the question of our day is the toleration of it.  The doctrine of the LCMS used to inform her practices more than they do today, that is all I am trying to say by this.  

I am glad to be counted as one of the members of the ACELC.  If what you have read above resounds in the slightest bit with you, consider reading up on the ACELC and consider making your voice known in membership.  They care about Lutheran beliefs and practices enough to say so.



About Pastor Joshua Scheer

Pastor Joshua Scheer is the Senior Pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Cheyenne, Wyoming. He is also the Editor-in-chief of Brothers of John the Steadfast. He oversees all of the work done by Steadfast Lutherans. He is a regular host of Concord Matters on KFUO. Pastor Scheer and his lovely wife Holly (who writes and manages the Katie Luther Sisters) have four children and enjoy living in Wyoming.


Why I joined the ACELC. — 60 Comments

  1. @Rev. Clint K. Poppe #50

    While there may be different routes to prepare a man to serve in the pastoral office, this violation of Augustana XIV was furthered by the establishment of Distance Education Leading to Ordination (DELTO) in which laymen not properly called and ordained continue to provide Word and Sacrament Ministry to LCMS Congregations. We reject this error. — ACELC Fraternal Admonition

    I’m pretty slow and still confused.  Do DELTO laymen continue to provide Word and Sacrament Ministry to LCMS Congregations or has it been fixed?  

    Christmas Blessings

  2. John Rixe :
    @Rev. Clint K. Poppe #50
    While there may be different routes to prepare a man to serve in the pastoral office, this violation of Augustana XIV was furthered by the establishment of Distance Education Leading to Ordination (DELTO) in which laymen not properly called and ordained continue to provide Word and Sacrament Ministry to LCMS Congregations. We reject this error. — ACELC Fraternal Admonition
    I’m pretty slow and still confused.  Do DELTO laymen continue to provide Word and Sacrament Ministry to LCMS Congregations or has it been fixed?  
    Christmas Blessings

    Did you read all of Pastor Poppe’s response? He wrote:

    “We have had several examples of this happening here in the Nebraska District. In every situation where “emergency” or “remote location” was given as a reason for not following AC XIV, ordained pastors offered their time and service, often at no cost, so that the DELTO student would not be put in a position of violating conscience and God’s Word. In EVERY case, the offer was declined, and in at least once case, the offer was not declined graciously.”

    Perhaps I’m missing something, but it sounds pretty clear to me. in Nebraska this has been and is still going on, and he has first hand knowledge of it.

  3. @Drew Newman #2

    I’m not too good a reader but it seems like Pr Poppe is using the past tense.

    If this is continuing, why not provide a list privately to Pr Prentice per his request? Then the matter will be dropped.

    Christmas Blessings.

  4. @Rev. Clint K. Poppe #50
    Dear Pastor Poppe,

    Thanks for clarifying. So basically:

    01) DELTO was never the problem, DELTO was a solid and good program. We should have stuck with it, but SMP is morphing. Would have been nice to get academic credit for DELTO work, you can with SMP.

    02) The Districts that abused the men and the men that accepted the Lay Ministry serving the Sacrament were in error.

    So myself, who WAS NOT serving, only until graduation and ordination and installation are “off the hook.”

    I am relieved.

  5. @John Rixe #3
    I do not think a list is going to come. If I join up with ACELC, I will make sure these kind of things are not part of an admonition.

    The language would be “We believe some men are still serving after failing to complete their DELTO or SMP coursework.”

    I believe that would be acceptable.

  6. @Drew Newman #2
    Dear Pastor Newman,

    In the end, it is about serving with a proper call, and that includes ordination. Yes, emergency reasons do allow for the office to be filled when no ordained men are available, but that has been abused, and when a man is available, even via a Circuit Rider kind of program, the emergency should go away.

    We practice a polity and tradition that says, only ordained men serve the office of pastor, and that these men (like ourselves) do live up to all the office demands. We do fall short many times, but with the help of God, we always plow ahead.

  7. I personally, and I do not speak for anyone else, but I personally believe that such programs, beginning with DELTO, have led directly into the abhorrent practice of lay ministers. The shortage of ministers we heard about in the seventies and eighties has disappeared, yet there are many good, solid CRM men who await a call. Did we truly need DELTO, or was this a good way to lead our church into that “everyone a minister” error?

    Pr. Prentice, I understand, even sympathize a bit, with your defense of your individual journey to ordination. You are truly called and ordained and no one wants to take that away. I value the office much too much for that! But I do think we started down a slippery slope with DELTO and we are in desperate need of rethinking the planned route of instruction leading to ordination. We will have to once again agree to disagree if you still defend the program that got this whole thing started. That’s okay, but I urge you to at least step away from your personal feelings for a moment and look at it from a differing perspective.

    John Rixe, your attempts at stirring the pot are not even worthy of a reply, but … read again Pr. Poppe’s post. Perhaps you do not understand verb tenses?

  8. @LadyM #7
    Dear LadyM,

    Thank you for the kind words, I cherish your high regard for the office of pastor and the men who serve it.

    Yes, we may be at a “logger-head” a bit, but I do think we needed DELTO and other alternate routes. Special use, should be exceptional, such as the Church I serve. We cannot afford a full-time man, oh perhaps for a 2-3 year burst and then, “God will decide.” In fact, we are exploring that. I always say, “find another man better, or one that God feels is better.” I walk away. I can putter around a fellow Church helping strengthen them, perhaps even sweep the floors if need be.

    Yet that is not the case now. Perhaps some may say, CLOSE, give up the ghost, return the monies to district. I “think” I know what you will say?

    I will agree that it has been abused, especially as SMP is ramping up.

  9. FWIW, had the DELTO program been available when I went to the Seminary I may have gone that route, because frankly, when I started the Seminary I didn’t see the value of spending all that time and money uprooting the family, moving, etc.

    I came in under what they called the “Non-Degree Program” – where men who were older were allowed to enroll in the Seminary without a full undergraduate degree. I had the equivalent of an AA when I started, and a poor GPA because the reason I attended college the first year was to avoid the draft! I had such a poor showing that first year that even after a year with a 3.90 GPA I only had an average of about 2.1 . . .

    They didn’t require that we take Hebrew back then (this was in 1981), although they did offer it. Since my Old Adam is pretty strong I decided there was no need for me to take Hebrew, and I have been the poorer for it, I’m sure.

    Ultimately I graduated with a 3.65 GPA and after taking some extra classes was awarded an MDiv. So, I have the dubious distinction of having a Master’s Degree without having first received a Bachelor’s Degree. Go figger.

    The point of all this is that MOST men wanting to become pastors through “alternate routes” are looking for an easier way to become a pastor than going the 4 year route. So long as we make the rules easier and the requirements less stringent, there are going to be men (like me), who would take the easy way out. Now later I realized my error, but by then it was pretty much out of the question to uproot the family again and take more classes. So, I attend the Symposia every year. I do a lot of reading, and I hang out with guys smarter than myself whom I can seek advice from when I find myself out of my league.

    Bottom line, Pastor Prentice, is that I’m grateful there are men like you and Pastor Hering who took all this more seriously than some of us did. I don’t discount the work you’ve put in to become a pastor, and I applaud you for your drive. Unfortunately I think we have a way to go before we’ll have a program that will answer the dilemma we face following the implementation of DELTO, SMP, Lay Ministers, etc…

  10. @Drew Newman #9
    Dear Pastor Newman,
    I applaud your honesty about the route you took. I sometimes do think, “God will not be fooled” by men sneaking in through easier methods. God has a way of testing and forming the man who does this.
    And in my case, I “sometimes” wrestle with God, “why did He not call me earlier?”

    Well, God has a plan for all. My case, “perhaps”, get the monies portion out of the way to handle this little Altar tucked away in Westchester. That was God’s plan.

    I will truly never know until He and I chat on the “other side” in heaven. If that be important then.

    What a pastoral life, eh?

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.