Actions Speak Louder than Words, by Pr. Rossow

2.15  Expulsion of a District President or Officer from Membership in the Synod

2.15.1  The action to commence expulsion of a district president or an officer of the Synod from membership in the Synod is the sole responsibility of the President of the Synod, who has the responsibility for ecclesiastical supervision of such member (Constitution Art. XI A and B 1). This Bylaw section 2.15, among others, provides the procedures to carry out Article XIII of the Constitution, “Expulsion from the Synod.”

From the 2013 Handbook of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod

I’m just saying…

(You can see the rest of the LCMS Handbook here.)

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.


Actions Speak Louder than Words, by Pr. Rossow — 48 Comments

  1. The bylaw process for the SP to **commence** expulsion of a DP from membership in the Synod–that’s more than just suspending him from office–that whole process is very long and involved. It goes for some nine pages in the Handbook. It’s not like the SP can simply wave a wand and say “You’re out!” to a DP. Remember, the bylaws were changed in 1992 and 2004 to make it more difficult to exercise discipline.

  2. We need to encourage a multitude of overtures for 2016 correcting the permissive attitudes instilled in ’92 and ’04. The disciplinary process needs to be reduced to one single-sided, double-spaced letter page. Simplicity produces action, complexity produces chaos.

  3. Charlie,

    Your argument is very weak.

    I have a disconnect here. Because the process has a bunch of words in it the synod president is frozen?

    I agree that the Handbook needs to be redone but that does not keep the president from beginning the process as it is written. We should not wait and allow this false teaching to continue to fester in our midst.

  4. @Tim Wood #2

    It’s almost as if someone’s been reading, “Thriving on Chaos.”

    1) Master Paradox
    2) Develop an Inspiring Vision
    3) Decentralize Information, Authority, and Strategic Planning
    4) Delegate
    5) Pursue “Horizontal” Management by Bashing Bureaucracy
    6) Evaluate Everyone On His or Her Love of Change
    7) Create a Sense of Urgency
    8) Involve Everyone in Everything
    9) Use Self-Managing Teams
    10) “Model” Innovation/Practice Purposeful Impatience
    11) Support Fast Failures
    12) Create a Corporate Capacity for Innovation

    etc. etc. etc.

  5. It’s clear to me that the DRP needs to be fixed or scrapped at our next convention. It’s also clear that Dr. Becker is teaching false doctrine and must repent or be removed.

    It is not clear to me what Dr. Becker’s DP has done that warrants church discipline.

    I’m uncomfortable with the idea that we are judging the DP’s conduct by the outcome of the three circuit visitors’ decision. Perhaps the DP chose poorly but without intent to cause this outcome. Aren’t we required to put the best construction on how the DP acted unless we have clear evidence to the contrary?

  6. @David C Busby #8

    There is a certain culture, particularly in the leadership of the Northwest District. Matt Mills sand Harry Edmon can provide details to questions. But deploying Prof Becker into another district isn’t the only ‘offense’. NWD is also the worst offender for the lay ministry culture. And I have heard too many stories of new seminary grads told ‘things are different out here,’ implying that the district likes to go its own sectarian way. Parts of that are changing, but it is small and isolated at the moment. I am sure if Pres. Harrison wants to reprimand Paul Linnemann, he wouldn’t have to look to hard for grievances.

  7. @Brad #9
    My best construction (with regard to the DP) is that the DP picked three members for the DRP panel who he thought would follow Scripture and the Confessions in discharging their duties.

  8. @Jason #10
    If someone can identify a specific offense that DP Linnemann committed, I’m all for pursuing church discipline. If the sole reason for pursuing discipline is the acquittal of Dr. Becker, I don’t think there is enough evidence.

  9. @David C Busby #11
    Actually, the three members of the Referral Panel were selected by a blind draw per Bylaw 2.14.5.(b), excluding the circuit visitors of the accsuer (if he/she is in the same district) and the accused.

    I suggest that best construction is that the DP followed the prescribed procedure in the Bylaws, including the exercise of his option to form a Referral Panel instead of taking it upon himself to make the determination whether to initiate formal proceedings. That said, I am sympathetic to the argument that the buck really should have stopped with him, and instead he chose to pass it to an anonymous committee.

    On the surface, it seems wise to have several other people evaluating the relevant “information or allegations” to mitigate the possibility of a personal agenda on the part of the DP. On the other hand, it provides a convenient mechanism for the DP to avoid direct responsibility for the final decision. Perhaps one appropriate reform would be to make the Referral Panel advisory only, such that it provides a recommendation to the DP, but the DP is then the one who actually determines whether to initiate formal proceedings (i.e., suspend the accused).

    The difficulty with calling for discipline of the DP in this case is the underlying assumption that failure to suspend a member who is publicly teaching false doctrine qualifies as acting contrary to the Synod’s confession (Article II) and conditions of membership (Article VI), since that is the only grounds (apart from persistent offensive conduct) for suspension and (eventually) expulsion. Again, I am sympathetic to the argument. Ultimately, though, I believe that we need to let those who have been called, elected, and/or appointed to adjudicate matters of this nature do their jobs – i.e., trust their judgment, rather than presuming to tell them what to do.

  10. The fact of the matter is that Matthew Becker is clearly and unrepentantly sinning against the Holy Spirit. The Church has been given the Office of the Keys and Confession in order to forgive the sins of the penitent sinners, but to retain the sins of the impenitent as long as they do not repent. If the LCMS and its members are unwilling to carry out the God given Office of the Keys and Confession than the LCMS and it’s members are also guilty of sinning against the Holy Spirit.

  11. Tim Wood :
    We need to encourage a multitude of overtures for 2016 correcting the permissive attitudes instilled in ’92 and ’04. The disciplinary process needs to be reduced to one single-sided, double-spaced letter page. Simplicity produces action, complexity produces chaos.

    Who wrote the changes in ’92 and ’04 and where are they now?

  12. These latest events underscore a painful reality that many in the LCMS do not want to face: We are not a confessional Lutheran Synod. We have many Confessional Lutheran congregations, but as a Synod, walking together disappeared a long time ago.

    A special convention has been suggested to deal with the matter. I have serious doubts that the matter would be resolved in a manner that would please the more Confessional members of the LCMS. The reality is revealed in the fact that there is a web site that lists Confessional Liturgical churches in the United States. Most members of this web site are well aware that there are many congregations in the LCMS that they would not even bother to visit, let alone join. Our synod is slowly becoming another mainline denomination, and the numbers tell us that membership wise, we are following the same path.

    Now some might suggest an amiable split in the Synod, just as Paul and Barabus went separate ways. But considering the more nontraditional wing of the Synod has been winning for many years, there’s no reason to assume that both sides would agree. Besides people are stubborn, they hate to loose, and it seems that both sides still want the whole enchilada.

  13. David,

    The President Linneman has allowed false doctrine to be peddled by one of his pastors. He is accountable for that. It doesn’t matter what his panel decided. Unless you put bylaws over Scripture.

    If our synod cannot see its way to rid itself of false teachers then we are guilty of idolatry. We are worshipping the synod and its bylaws over God.

  14. Bob Pase,

    Exactly, a special synod convention! Finally someone who is speaking some sense.

    I will be writing a post on how that would work very soon.

    So, President Harrison begins the process to expel, if that works great. If it doesn’t, he gets three other DP’s to call a special convention and if that does not work, then Harrison is a prophet and needs to leave the synod as do the rest of us who understand the true confession.

  15. Jon,

    You are putting bylaws ahead of Scripture. We do not follow bylaws. I did not give my soul at ordination to bylaws. I gave it to Jesus and his gospel as taught in the Lutheran Confessions.

    President Linnmeman is guilty of not holding Matthew Becker accountable.

  16. @Pastor Tim Rossow #5
    Dear Pastor,
    For quite some time Confessionals have been calling for action against Dr. Becker, and bemoaning the fact that no one seemed to be stepping up and doing anything. We have recently learned that the SP did take action w/ the [albeit broken] tool that we as a synod gave him for the job (the DRP). Due to the way the DRP is constituted, the process was a confidential one, and we didn’t know it was in the works until it failed.
    Having failed, arguably because Dr. Becker’s DP has been defending heterodoxy in the NoW District, we are correctly calling for action against Dr. Linneman. That is as it should be, but let’s not make the same mistake we made w/ the Becker case and assume that Pr. Harrison is doing nothing because we aren’t seeing the actions. We, as a Synod, gave him a confidential, nearly toothless DRP. Based on what we’ve learned recently, let’s make the assumption that he is in the process of using it against the NoW DP.

    @David C Busby #11
    My best construction on your comment is that you don’t live in the NoW District, and have never looked at their web-page ( ) or attended any of their officially sanctioned events. There is a difference between “best construction” and head-in-the-sand applesauce though, and if you’ve seen any of the bad weirdness being perpetrated in the NoW District, you would not be able to write what you did w/ a clean conscience.

    Pax Christi+,
    -Matt Mills

  17. @Pastor Tim Rossow #19
    I am doing no such thing. The LCMS is a human institution, not a divine one. For better and for worse, the Constitution and Bylaws govern how we “walk together.” Again, I am sympathetic to the arguments that (a) DP Linneman should have adjudicated this matter himself, rather than handing it off to a Referral Panel; and (b) his failure to suspend Rev. Becker qualifies as acting contrary to Articles II and VI. Still, those arguments have to be made and defended as part of the process, not just presupposed.

  18. Tim @@#2
    At the convention. is where I am wanting to see “Actions Speak Louder Than Words”. As I stated on Pastor Sheers post, I want to see Harrison make sure that the likes of Benke are not appointed to the floor committees. Last convention, the heads of the floor committees killed many fine resolutions so that t hey never reached the floor of convention. If Harrison is serious, he will make sure that resolutions to fix the whole adjudication system as well as other problems with the Synod are allowed onto the floor of convention.

  19. @GaiusKurios #22

    Benke is retiring. Since DP’s chair the committees, at least that is one obstacle gone. I am kinda doubting he would get some sort of advisory type role on any committee. No longer holding a title. But yes, try to get your circuit to elect proper candidate, so they vote to support theology, instead of nonsensical business practices, and elect good national leaders. This will be a multifaceted effort. And it kinda starts with us being types of leaders ourselves, witnessing to the Gospel of Christ, even IN the church.

  20. Jason
    I realize Benke is retiring, that is why I said, “the likes of Benke”. I was referring to how Benke did not allow good resolutions to see the floor of convention. Trust me, there are many like Benke among the DP’s.

    This brings me to another point that I confess my ignorance. Are the DP’s required to chair the various floor committees or is that just a tradition that got started and never has been changed. If DP’s are not required to chair the committees then have loyal confessional pastoral delegates chair the committees.

  21. @GaiusKurios #24

    I believe in the earliest days of the LCMS laymen did chair committees. I get why DP’s do it now, in that they are involved in certain ways that give them a wealth of knowledge and experience. But the COP has gotten far too many powers so they can almost dictate what their supervisor, the SP, is to do. Sad. So of late it has become the tradition, one I don’t think the DP’s are at all willing to give up.

  22. @Jason #25
    So of late it has become the tradition, one I don’t think the DP’s are at all willing to give up.
    Who decides? Does the SP select the Chm of the Floor Committees?

  23. Yes, the SP selects the chairmen of the floor committees.

    At the last convention, President Harrison thought it would be politically expedient to let DP Behnke have a chairmanship so he gave him one.

    That gives you an insight into the mind of President Harrison and suggests why even though he has known about Matthew Becker from before he was president he had done nothing.

  24. Mr. Becker was in trouble for his heretical views when he was out west. His DP sent him on a missionary trip to Indiana, Valparaiso University, where he has continued his heretical ways. When he was confronted by Pastors in Indiana he insulted them and threw them out of his office. Charges where brought only after he was approached in a Christian manner and he refused to acknowledge his heretical ways.

    He is openly defiant of his views, , refuses to repent and continues to teach these views not only to college students but for several years to catacumen in Michigan City, Indiana.

    He is open about his views on WO, evolution, open communion, homosexuality and the inaccuracy of scripture. By his own admission he guilty and unrepentant. He has been protected by his DP for years. At this point the best we could pray for would be for recantation and repentance by Mr. Becker. At the worst is to allow him to forment dissension within the synod and cause a split in the synod. many good pastors have counseled wisely for prayer and courage, but at some point action must be added to this prayer.

  25. @David c. Busby #32
    DP Linnemann can recall him back to the NW at anytime he chooses. That is the least he should have done. He is his superior.

  26. @Pastor Tim Rossow #27
    Yes, the SP selects the chairmen of the floor committees.
    At the last convention, President Harrison thought it would be politically expedient to let DP Behnke have a chairmanship so he gave him one.

    Then perhaps he has finally learned that being “Mr. Nice Guy” to liberals gains nothing. Or less. But he can’t “do better” without support and that should be coming from confessionals. Maybe it is time to stop saying, “What he should have done then.” and ask how all y’all can help him do it now!
    Matt Harrison has finally done something you all wanted done! This is not the time to be knocking him! Plenty of his enemies will do that. 🙁

    Start, as someone suggested, by educating laymen who might be going to District convention because they shape the Synodical convention, if I understand how things are arranged now.
    I say “reach the laymen”, because [disgusting as it is to admit it] clergy are subject to retaliation.
    [The men who will tell stories on a public blog are a minute fraction of the ones damaged.]

    Good night now!

  27. David,

    Linnemann should have spoken with Scripture. Once the panel said they would not initiate charges against Becker he should have used Scripture to show that the panel is wrong and then suspend Becker.

    In my congregation if my Voters Assembly violates Scripture it is my responsibility to hold them accountable no matter what our constitution says.

  28. Pastor Tim Rossow :
    Yes, the SP selects the chairmen of the floor committees.
    At the last convention, President Harrison thought it would be politically expedient to let DP Behnke have a chairmanship so he gave him one.
    That gives you an insight into the mind of President Harrison and suggests why even though he has known about Matthew Becker from before he was president he had done nothing.

    Do you know for a fact that Dr. Harrison ‘thought it would be politically expedient to let DP Behnke (sic) have a chairmanship so he gave him one.’ or are you assuming here?

  29. @David C Busby #39
    Once the Referral Panel made its determination, the matter was terminated; so at that point, Rev. Linneman would have had to restart the whole process in order to suspend Rev. Becker himself. However, as noted previously, appointing a Referral Panel was optional; Rev. Linneman could (and arguably should) have made the determination himself in the first place, rather than delegating that responsibility.

  30. I believe Pr Rossow is simply making the good point:

    Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than men!” Acts 5:29

    See comment#28

  31. DP Linnemann can simply say to Matthew Becker “Based on the authority of Scripture I am removing you from office and from the LCMS.”

    Anyone who disagrees with him can have a Scriptural discussion with him. Then let’s see who wins. When bylaws trump truth we go with God, as my new friend John Rixe is fond of saying.

  32. @Pastor Tim Rossow #36
    I am asking why he had not done what he can do.

    And what does chewing last year’s cabbage do, but give aid and comfort to his enemies?
    Matt Harrison doesn’t need your criticism; he’s getting plenty of that from Becker’s friends.

    The liberals have no problem believing they will win because they never that I have seen, criticize their own team, at least not in public. Doing so, especially now, encourages them to believe that confessionals can’t/won’t back each other up.

    C’mon, Pr. Rossow: Invite Pr. Harrison to your “No Pietists allowed” party and find out what you can do to help him. This public “advice” isn’t it!

    G’nite now.
    God bless!

  33. @Pastor Tim Rossow #43
    Sure, he can do that. And then Rev. Becker would immediately file a lawsuit, and he would almost certainly win in court, because the legal system does not recognize the authority of divine Scripture – only the authority of the human organization’s Constitution and Bylaws. So we would be right back where we started.

  34. Helen,

    We invited him and he declined. He truly is very busy this year with all of the district conventions.

    He did come a couple years ago and graciously gave our banquet speech. We still have his name tag proudly displayed in our church office.

    I am surprised that you are not able to rough it up a bit. This is such a whimpy age. Martin Luther would be very out of place. A little critique makes us stronger.

    I have nothing personal against President Harrison. I am just tired of mercy and glad-handing and no action against the false teaching rampant in the LCMS. I just want to see some action.

    Besides, I have spent hours with him in person and via text and email over the last five years encouraging him to be more proactive and bold in the face of false teaching and practice and I have yet to see any action.

  35. Jon –

    So the flip what if Becker files a lawsuit?

    I mean – really – Jesus, or a lawsuit?

    Fr. Paddy Sean – you predicted this stuff 10 years ago with the precision of a prophet.

    Polity, polity, polity.

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