Silence can be a good thing. Everyone needs a little peace and quiet every now and then. Yet, the fact remains that there are certainly times when one must use his voice. When it comes to the defense of God’s Word and Sacraments and the teachings of the church (Doctrine), we must never be silent.
“He must hold firm to the trustworthy Word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.” Titus 1:9
The LCMS was founded on, and grounded in, Word and Sacrament ministry with a united confession of faith. Error always has been, and always will be, a part of her. There isn’t any way to avoid that fact since the synod is an assembly of sinners. Failure to rebuke error, especially public error, has grave consequences. Therefore, when the Rev. Bill Woolsey of the FiveTwo network made the following comments last year at the Wiki14 Conference, which were 100% contrary to Article XIV of the Augsburg Confession, one would not only expect, but also demand that correction take place.
“So, get this. If I get a good guy who has a preaching gift and I work with him, and I pour good theology into him, and I help him try it, so that he can learn it, you know I’m going to start new, to reach new, here’s what I’m going to do, I’m going to start new to reach new by raising him up so he gets to do new. And maybe I’m going to give him a little pulpit, or a bigger pulpit, or maybe even THE pulpit.
Ahh, one of my favorites, ahh, in our ministry is our director of youth ministry who’s not ordained, but, but God has given him this ability to preach circles around many of the ordained men that I know. I mean, you’re all sitting there going, ‘dude, that, that boy can preach.’ So, I’d be derelict to not let him preach.” – Rev. Bill Woolsey, Wiki14 Conference
Just to refresh our memories, AC XIV states:
Of Ecclesiastical Order.
Of Ecclesiastical Order they teach that no one should publicly teach in the Church or administer the Sacraments unless he be regularly called.
Therefore, error was clearly made at the Wiki14 conference. The comments by Rev. Bill Woolsey were undeniably amiss. This was a clear case of public error and false teaching witnessed by many, including District Presidents. Not to worry though. Lutherans have clear direction on how to address such error:
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. (LC 284)
The last line of this reference from the Large Catechism is crucial. Let’s look at that line again:
For where the sin is public, the reproof also must be public, that every one may learn to guard against it.
The reason the last line of this reference is vital is because public error must be handled publicly in order to warn onlookers and straying sheep that what was taught, preached, practiced, or stated was in error. Unfortunately, that has yet to happen. Rev. Woolsey’s District President, Rev. Ken Hennings, is a proponent of this heterodoxy. Therefore, the responsibility lies squarely on the synod president, Rev. Dr. Matthew Harrison. Again, all LCMS leadership has remained completely silent on this very public issue.
Regrettably, I recently ran across a glaring example of what happens when error is tolerated and/or not addressed appropriately. While perusing the blogosphere I ran across a troubling article by an infrequent commenter here on BJS. Tyler Schlitzkus is an LCMS layman who has a blog titled, The Schlitzkus Blog. On his blog, Tyler made the following comments regarding the FiveTwo Network’s Wiki14 conference:
“If #wiki14 truly caused an infraction of doctrine, I highly doubt that so many Lutheran pastors were charged by the messages presented. I bet that if there were such horrible blemishes that there would be an uprising from higher-ups in the LCMS. Alas, there is not.” The Schlitzkus Blog: Logic, Reason, Hope.
Indeed! There you have it. Tyler’s comments surely reflects the sentiments of countless laymen and rostered church workers throughout the LCMS. The clear message being sent is this: Where there is no rebuke there must be institutional acceptance.
Now, I must admit that I somewhat loathe church politics. I think the bureaucracy of the LCMS has been detrimental at times, but that’s not the point of this post. The point is this. Other than for basic administrative functions, the purpose of our synod’s constitution and bylaws must be to keep a laser sharp focus on doctrine and practice. The primary purpose for LCMS bureaucracy should be to firmly tether the collection of congregations and districts to Word and Sacrament ministry, unified practice, sound doctrine, and our confessions. Believe it or not, regarding the responsibility of the Synod President, such a focus is clearly spelled out in the current LCMS constitution.
Article XI: Rights and Duties of Officers
B. Duties of the President
- The President has the supervision regarding the doctrine and the administration of
a. All officers of the Synod;
b. All such as are employed by the Synod;
c. The individual districts of the Synod;
d. All district presidents.
- It is the President’s duty to see to it that all the aforementioned act in accordance with the Synod’s Constitution, to admonish all who in any way depart from it, and, if such admonition is not heeded, to report such cases to the Synod.
- The President has and always shall have the power to advise, admonish, and reprove. He shall conscientiously use all means at his command to promote and maintain unity of doctrine and practice in all the districts of the Synod.
One thing remains constant – God’s church will persist. Yet, as a synod, we’re failing miserably. Not because error exists, but because we fail to address that error. Perhaps Rev. Dr. Harrison wishes to remain silent in order to allow the Koinonia Project (KP) to run its course. However, if that’s the plan, it’s doomed from the start. The 500 pound gorilla in the room is that the synod is made up of sinners. Sinners require constant care and feeding (i.e: correction). Waiting for a magical KP solution to address our division is a false hope. Remaining silent has catastrophically led to people like Tyler believing that what was once error is now the new confession. Perhaps that’s what FiveTwo means by starting new to reach new. They have redefined error to now look like a sweet and beautiful gospel to unwitting sheep, while at the same time, LCMS Inc. idolizes the KP as the fairy-tale remedy to her ailment. News flash, there is no such thing as a magic solution. Error will happen all the time and must be consistently addressed. We will remain a synod only by caring enough about each other to be willing to rebuke, admonish, and correct each other. Failure to do so will result in the failure of the synod.
Associate Editor’s Note: Please include President Harrison and the leadership of the LCMS in your regular prayers as their task is not easy. We also should include in our prayers those who have been led astray by false teaching and those who lead them.