The LCMS Stopped Being the Church of Walther Long Ago, by Pr. Rossow

I am not talking about voters’ assemblies. I am not talking about the true visible church of God on earth. I am not talking about the proper distinction of Law and Gospel although in one way or another all of those have been compromised. What I am talking about is Walther’s simple little handbook of duties for the evangelical congregation. The exoneration of Matthew Becker demonstrates that the LCMS is clearly no longer the church of Walther.

Duty five of the evangelical congregation from the above noted booklet is this:

It is the duty of the congregation to be diligent “to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” also with all parts of the orthodox Church, Eph. 4:3; 1 Thess. 4:9,10; Rom. 15:26, 27; 2 Cor. 8:19. (Paragraph 10 of the above cited work)

The exoneration of Matthew Becker breaks the simple bond of peace created by the Holy Spirit that Walther identifies as the mark and goal of the evangelical congregation. The Holy Spirit creates the Church through the Word He inspired. Matthew Becker, District President Linneman and the three circuit counselors who exonerated him have sinned against the Holy Spirit by denying the simple truth of His Word. They have thrown that Word back in the face of the Holy Spirit by asserting that “We do not believe in the verbal inspiration of Your Scriptures Holy Spirit. Your Word says “six days” for creation and that women are to keep silent in the church but we are more enlightened than you Holy Spirit. Holy Spirit, you are some sort of simpleton fool thinking that evolutionary science is wrong and feminism is false.”

Walther on the other hand, stays in sync with the Holy Spirit. He further explains the fifth duty this way:

F. Of the Performance of the Duty of the Congregation to Endeavor to Keep the Unity of the Spirit in the Bond of Love and Peace Also with Other Parts of the Orthodox Church

52. The congregation should be diligent in jointly offering prayer for all saints, Eph. 6:18.

53. As every true Ev. Lutheran local congregation has the same public confessions of faith with the entire Ev. Lutheran Church, so it should also give all diligence to be one with it in point of life and to “speak the same thing, in the same mind, and in the same judgment,” I Cor. 1:10.

54. Each congregation should come to an agreement with the adjacent congregations concerning the local limits of their respective territories (Titus 1:5; Gal. 2:9), and no congregation should receive as members those who reside in the territory of other congregations, I Pet. 4:15; 5:2 (“Feed the flock of God which is among you”); Heb. 10:25.8)

55. The congregation should demand from those who come to it from other orthodox congregations a testimonial (letter of dismissal) issued by the latter and recognize such testimonial. And it should give such testimonials to those who remove to other congregations, Acts 18:27; 3 John 8-10.

56. The congregation should not receive as members such as have been rightfully excommunicated by orthodox congregations, 1 Tim.1:20; cp. 2 Tim.4:14,15.

57. The congregation should receive as brethren such as have been exiled or have been wrongfully excommunicated or come as guests from other congregations and care for them as for their own members, 1 Pet.4:9 (“Use hospitality one to another without grudging; Heb. 13:2; Rom.16:1,2; 1 Cor.16:10,11; John 16:2; cp. 9:22-39.ù Matt.25:35.

58. If the congregation calls the pastor of another congregation, it should ask the latter to give its consent to the pastor’s accepting the call, endeavoring to bring about a mutual agreement as to its being a divine call. If its pastor is called to another congregation, it should examine such call according to the Word of God and willingly release the pastor if the call appears as being of God, 1 Tim.3:13.

59. In grave cases a congregation should seek the advice of one or several sister congregations and, when asked for such advice, be ready to give it according to its ability. Cp. Acts 15.

60. The congregation should regard the distress of sister congregations as its own and give them all the aid and assistance possible, 1 Cor.16:1,2 (“Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, so do ye”); 2 Cor.8:1-14; 9:1-15.

61. The congregation should be willing to have its minister, if at all possible, serve as an affiliated charge a neighboring congregation which cannot by itself establish a ministry in its midst nor be merged with the main congregation.

Walther’s Scriptural duties one and two (see paragraphs 20-32 of the above cited booklet) establish even more clearly that the LCMS is no longer the church of Walther. Of course, more importantly, we are no longer the church of Scripture.

It is time to examine carefully the work of the ACELC. The pastors and elders of our congregation have recommended to our voters that we join the ACELC. The voters wanted more time to consider such an important step and a committee of the voters is nearing the end of their study and forming a resolution to join.

The status quo is no longer acceptable. It is probably time rather for a status confessionalis.

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.


The LCMS Stopped Being the Church of Walther Long Ago, by Pr. Rossow — 48 Comments

  1. Hi Pastor Rossow,

    Good post! Could you please explain the term ‘status confessionalis’ in relation to the LCMS. I think it means ‘in a state of confession’. Right? Also, 4th paragraph down, I think you mean ‘sync’ instead of ‘sink’.:)

    In Christ,

  2. Pr. Rossow,

    Not having direct experience of how to execute a status confessionalis, would it be appropriate to draft a common declaration of errors that must be resolved to regain unity? Not that the ACELC’s list of issues isn’t worth considering, but a common statement that could be signed by a broad collective of confessionals might need to be more succinct.

    Not least of which, the presence of condemned doctrines and their purveyors ought be front and center. Syncretism, Evolution, Universalism, Higher Criticism of Holy Scripture, and Enthusiasm in all its forms (abolition of the mass, degradation of the pastoral office, corrupt hymnody, worldly missions, etc.,) ought to be listed, condemned, and those who embrace them, likewise denounced.

  3. The LCMS stopped being the church of Walther, an Orthodox Lutheran theologian, when it began to accept the false teaching of neo-Lutherans in the 30s and 40s via its incestuous relationship with the American Lutheran Church.

    Neo-Lutherans are not Lutherans in the proper sense, if Orthodox Lutheranism, which is based solely on the Scriptures and the Confessions, is the touchstone by which we judge Lutheran doctrine.

    The “confessional” Lutheran movement within the LCMS is chiefly lead by neo-Lutherans. It politely permits Orthodox Lutheranism, but behind the scenes it poo-poos Walther, Pieper, the “bronze-agers,” etc., etc., and lauds and extols Elert, Sasse, Forde, Bayer, and now Tchividjian, all the while trying to position itself as the “leader” of world Lutheranism.

    Indeed, “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.” Prov. 16:18

    This surely will come.

  4. Aw Robert, you had to go and blow it. You and I were doing so well together. 🙂

    I shall make one retort, then you get the final word and then we shall get back to the post.

    You have a half truth and probably a little more. I agree, is dangerous to poo Walther and Pieper although they have their weaknesses. I would rank your other culprits as follows:

    Tchividjian – not a neo-Lutheran, not even a Lutheran and deserves 7 poo-poos on the scale of ten. He needs a lot of cleaning up and really, there is no need to waste the time. He is not a Lutheran and does not care to be.

    Bayer – I do not know enough about to comment but will take your word for it.

    Forde – a neo-Lutheran and deserves 5 poo-poos because he uses very loose language quite often but is worth the study because he teaches well the paradoxes of Lutheranism.

    Elert – 3 poo-poos. Yes, he can be read as a Gospel reductionist but you do not have to embrace Gospel reductionism to benefit from reading him although it is tough sledding. He communicates the nature of the Gospel better than anyone I have read. (The Gospel as a mathematical point is one of the most brilliant portraylas of the Gospel ever.) Anyone who was a mentor of Norman Nagel cannot get more than 3 poo-poos. That’s a law of the universe.

    Sasse – You could try throwing one poo-poo at him but I am not sure it would stick. He is a confessional Lutheran.

    If you read Sasse, Elert and Forde with Walther and Pieper in your back pocket you will be on very solid ground and you will know and appreciate the paradoxes of Luther with clarity and thus know the Gospel.

    OK – your turn for the final word.

  5. One more time: Rev. Becker was not exonerated; the Referral Panel simply made the determination not to initiate formal proceedings. In other words, it decided that the actual complaint against him – which none of us has seen, so we have no idea exactly what it included or how well it was argued – did not include “information or allegations that could lead to expulsion of a member from the Synod under the provisions of Article XIII of the Constitution.”

  6. @Jon Alan Schmidt #6 With all due respect to the marvels of legal gymnasticism, it is highly unlikely that someone brought charges against Becker for being too zealous in promoting sound doctrine. If we allow this sophistry to bury fact and reason, then we are in the company of the types who say Bill Clinton really “did not have sex with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky” because full impeachment failed.Please let’s call it like it is. If I am wrong, then it is because those involved in the DRP have willfully misled me through the many veils of secrecy, obfuscation and obtuseness. Indeed, I might recommend the last four words of the prior sentence as the theme for the 2016 National Convention.

  7. @Pastor Tim Rossow #5 Thank you for the comment on Tchividjian! He gets quoted a lot, and I am glad to be cautioned in regards to someone with 7 poo-poo’s, especially on a scale of 10! Im guessing 10 being the worst?
    I see I need to do some research on the ACELC – there in, I am ignorant!

  8. Well said Tim Wood.

    I love it. LCMS themes down through the ages: “Forward in Remembrance,” “Witness/Mercy/Life Together,” “Secrecy, Obfuscation and Obtuseness.”

    Speaking of Witness, Mercy and Life Together we do need to remember that President Harrison inherited the current Dispute Resolution Process (DRP). It is not his fault. However, it was his failure to take the lead in the Becker matter years ago – he knew of the problem even before he took office – that got this thing settled in such an unseemly way on the turf of the Northwest District. Had he suspended Becker and Linneman years ago as he should of, this could of played out on different turf, not with the four ass-men of the NOW District and it also would have honed Harrison as the strong leader that we need instead of the politics-minded bureaucrat that we have seen for the last five years.

  9. Yes Lorna, 10 being the worst.

    I am intrigued like others that Tchividjian, a post-modern Calvinist has taken an interest in reading Luther. It can’t hurt, but he is still a Calvinist and even worse, post-modern.

  10. Diane,

    As always, thanks for your helpful comments. I will fix the typo.

    Status Confessionalis is a formal statement by an individual or a parish stating that they will not commune with the errorists even though they might be in the same synod.

    I am learning more about myself at this very moment. That was my charicature of it.

  11. Pastor Rossow, I already see a problem here.

    step one
    It’s clear enough that if Becker comes you your church you refuse him holy communion

    Step two following? What about holy communion for those who still give holy communion to Becker

    Step three following? What about holy communion for those who give Holy communion to those in step 2

    And on and on.
    By not throwing Becker out it will create a nightmare at so may levels

  12. Jeff,

    I am with you all the way. Becker and those who protect him have forsaken the LCMS and ought not to be members. He should be thrown out. As I understand the state of confession, it is simply a statement an individual or congregation can make short of leaving the synod and for the sake of calling the synod to repentance.

  13. @Pastor Tim Rossow #11
    You are a honest man, pastor. You say as it is: “But he isn’t wearing anything at all”.
    (One more typo: I think the letters al should be removed: Status Confessionis.)

  14. Having translated some Walther and others in the early synodical history (and prehistory), it should be noted that according to one public confession by Keyl, Stephanism’s root, and the main reason for the Saxon immigrants’ repentance for their immigration was a false view of the church that suggested the Church of Christ could not exist amidst the consistories of Saxon. Keyl states that instead of withdrawing from the church where they as Pastors were still free to preach the truth in their pulpits, he repented of not responding more publicly to the abuses and problems…. In one of Walther’s day of repentance prayers he addresses the fact that people had withdrawn from the congregation because they accused the congregation of being too ‘loveless.’ To which Walther responds that there is no doubt truth to the criticism, but who is more loveless than those who recognize the problems in their fellowship and do not, in love for the fellowship, apply the cure, that is, the Word of God to correct the problem.

    I commend Rev. Rossow for making this public travesty public and pointing out the blasphemes being perpetrated under the cone of silence of the dispute resolution process. I could also tell some stories of that totally corrupt system for which some, like Wallace Schulz, are poster boys. But I think the example of Luther and to a lesser extent Walther and the Saxons is supposed to teach us is that we are to confess strongly and pointedly enough with God’s Word that the ‘church’ will either reform or kick us out. Unfortunately in the cowardly and politically correct mechanisms of contemporary human organizations, confessors will not honestly be dismissed for their confession, but will be ousted if it can be politically done.

    Reform in the Synod will not come from the top but from the congregations. So long as congregations do not properly use the keys to excommunicate open sinners, Synod will reflect that terrible error in an even more tangible and visible way as is seen in this particular case. Open communion creates an open synod. We are Synod and Synod is us. To improve Synod it is right to care about the church at large, but nothing should be larger to us than our own congregations!

  15. Pr. Rossow – I am curious. It is obvious that you no longer consider Pr./Dr. Becker to be your brother, in synod. But, do you still think of him as your brother, in Christ?

  16. @John Mundinger #17

    No, he is not. If you embrace a modernist/higher-critical view of scripture, teach that people can be saved apart from conscious faith in Christ, and call good what God calls evil (such as homosexuality), than no, you are not a brother in Christ.

    You and Becker need to repent of your false teaching and bow the knee to Christ. As it is, you have not and you are not saved.

  17. John M.,

    My heart would really like to and had you asked that question a few days ago I would have said yes because I did not know much more about Dr. Becker than his stance on women’s ordination and the inerrancy of Scripture. Now that I have read things that people like Nicholas are bringing to light I cannot. He had denied the Gospel.

    It is similar to the ELCA. The LCMS used to hold out hope that it was still Christian but five years or so ago President Harrison declared them to be apostate.

    Let me ask you a question. Do you believe President Harrison is right about the ELCA?

  18. Let me ask you a question. Do you believe President Harrison is right about the ELCA?

    Pr. Russow – the ELCA confesses the Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I do not understand how SP Harrison could conclude that a denomination (or its members) that confesses the Trinity is apostate. However, I do understand how that rhetoric well serves and agenda that apparently is more about reinforcing division within the Una Sancta than about completing the work of the Reformation.

  19. I urge everyone to tread very carefully when it comes to stating definitively that another person who confesses faith in Christ is not a true believer. Even expulsion from the Synod is not a declaration that someone is a non-Christian, just that he/she is no longer “walking together” with us. We are not saved by the correctness of our theology – thanks be to God – but by His grace for the sake of Christ alone. The Lord knows those who are His, but does not always reveal that information to us.

  20. “While Lutherans believe any doctrinal error has the potential to distort or deny Scripture’s teaching regarding salvation, we also believe that anyone (regardless of denominational affiliation) who truly believes in Jesus Christ as Savior will be saved.”

  21. John Rixe/Jon Scmidt,

    I am sure you realize that no one is judging any one individual when a church body is pronounced, based on its public statements, do be apostate. What is being judged is that church body.

    None the less, lets remember that God asks us to judge all the time. We are too flee the false teacher and the unrepentant.

    Judging has gotten a bad rap in this sissy, post-modern era.

  22. Just so no one falls for some bad theology, we are indeed saved by correct theology.

    I think Jon Alan Schmidt is trying to say that we should not be Pharisaical. No one should be self-righteous. That is the opposite of faith. Faith receives the gift of the Gospel.

    And what is the Gospel? It is the teaching of salvation by grace through faith and all the other teachings that come with it.

    No one should ever knowingly reject any part of God’s word. That is very dangerous stuff. Instead, it is the attitude of the believer in Christ, no matter how many doctrines they know, to always listen to all of Christ’s word and want to know and believe it all.

    We are indeed saved by right doctrine.

  23. @John Rixe #28

    If you think that people who openly repudiate the Biblical gospel like Becker and Mundinger can be saved, then you are in serious error yourself.

    I’ve observed from his comments on this blog over the last couple years that John Rixe is the epitome of lukewarmness. It is because of people like him that people like Becker are allowed to stay in the Synod and lead sheep off to the slaughter. I also asked Rixe if Robert Morris sinned by participating in the Newtown worship service. Rixe refused to answer the question.

  24. @Pastor Tim Rossow #5
    As for Sasse, Harrison throws one poo at him in “Letters to Lutheran Pastors”–his stance regarding inerrancy, which Harrison (if I remember his prefatory comments correctly) believes came from his misunderstanding of the American situation, and his (well-founded) fear that Missouri, et al., would wind up being sucked in the broader American Reformed fundamentalist direction. I haven’t read through the pertinent letter yet. It’ll be interesting to see….

  25. @Pastor Tim Rossow #27
    What I meant is that we are not saved by the perfection of our theology; we are not saved by intellectually assenting to 100% pure doctrine; we are saved by Christ when we trust in His work alone. Obviously there is a lot of important doctrinal content that goes along with that, but God in His grace does not condemn us to eternal punishment if we get one thing (or even a few things) wrong. As Walther put it in his Thesis XX on Law and Gospel: “The Word of God is not rightly divided when one ties salvation to communion with the visible right-believing church, or denies salvation to those who err in any article of faith.” Like so much in life, it is not ultimately about what you know, it is about Whom you know (2 Timothy 1:12).

  26. Jon . . .

    I am going to nit-pick – I have followed this entire discussion for, oh, about 30 years . . . so . . .

    Perfection? Jesus.

    Intellectually assenting . . . 100% pure doctrine? Jesus.

    I give you that much. This entire discussion the last two days, covering several posts and copious comments, is specifically about “getting certain things correct.” Exceptions to the rule are not the issue whatsoever, nor does the Walther quote necessarily apply to the Becker matter.

    I most certain agree that It is “Who” you know far more than “what” – but again, that is not the issue at hand, and it is those sorts of diversions that throw matters off track.

    Fr. Tim is sharing much wisdom. So have others – and I am reading them to extract the nuggets of gold. This not a moment for preaching, and pious platitudes are neither my forte, nor my field of expertise.

    Pull up a chair . . .

  27. Jon,

    I am glad you clarified that.

    You are wrong though. It is simplistic and gives the wrong impression when you say it not about what you know but about who you know.

    More correctly it is about what you know about who you know. You are wanting to divorce faith from knowledge in order to make things a bit mushy.

    What you are doing here is similar to what you did on the other thread. It is sophistry for the sake of some weird sort of need to be nice and open-minded.

    Well, you say, Linneman and the three circuit counselors did not actually condemn Matthew Becker. You can grasp at the details all you want but the truth of the matter is they did. Unless they condemn his false teaching they have exonerated him.

    Walther is not addressing the issue at hand in the thesis you quote. He is simply saying that the Gospel is bigger than the true visible church on earth, not because it is not tied to knowledge but because it is not tied to a human institution. It is not the institution that saves. It is the Gospel that saves. He also teaches that we must flee all false teachers for the sake our our salvation. (That’s Walther from Church and Ministry, Thesis 8 on the Church.)

  28. jb: This entire discussion the last two days, covering several posts and copious comments, is specifically about “getting certain things correct.” Exceptions to the rule are not the issue whatsoever, nor does the Walther quote necessarily apply to the Becker matter.

    Agreed. I only mentioned the Walther quote to emphasize that not every doctrinal error is necessarily damning. My main point, again, is to urge caution about making pronouncements regarding anyone else’s eternal destiny; that is in God’s hands.

  29. Pastor Tim Rossow: I am glad you clarified that. You are wrong though.

    Okay, for the sake of argument: If indeed I am wrong about this particular doctrinal point, does it mean that my salvation is in jeopardy?

    Pastor Tim Rossow: More correctly it is about what you know about who you know. You are wanting to divorce faith from knowledge in order to make things a bit mushy.

    I did not intend to “divorce faith from knowledge” or “make things mushy.” I just wanted to emphasize that saving faith is not only a matter of propositional knowledge, it also includes personal knowledge of Christ and complete trust in His work on our behalf – not trust in our own knowledge.

    Pastor Tim Rossow: Walther is not addressing the issue at hand in the thesis you quote. He is simply saying that the Gospel is bigger than the true visible church on earth, not because it is not tied to knowledge but because it is not tied to a human institution. It is not the institution that saves. It is the Gospel that saves.

    That is certainly the point of the first part of Thesis XX, but the second part clearly adds that doctrinal error does not necessarily result in someone’s eternal damnation. This is not to say that doctrinal error is ever harmless, free of danger, or (heaven forbid) desirable. It is also not to say that false teaching should be tolerated.

  30. Oy . . .

    Jon – Fr. Tim did not threaten your salvation in anything he said, and were you completely objective, his words, and those of others are said to protect your salvation.

    This is not about you, however. It is about an open heretic in our midst, and rather than rabbit trails and trailing off in whatever direction, what is to be done about the issue at hand.

    Speak to that directly. Leave the other stuff alone.

    Pax – jb

  31. Nicholas :
    @Jon Alan Schmidt #23
    That is why I have cited specific examples of Becker’s false teaching to show that he is a “false brother” (a term used by the Apostle Paul).
    Here is a comment by John Mundinger concurring with his denomination’s position that homosexuality is not sinful:

    Nicholas – please read my post at DayStar again. Nowhere in that post did I say that homosexuality is not sinful. I just noted that the passage from Romans occurs in the broader context that affirms we all are sinners and, more importantly, in the broader context that God’s grace in Christ Jesus is sufficient for all sinners.

  32. Pastor Tim Rossow :
    None the less, lets remember that God asks us to judge all the time. We are too flee the false teacher and the unrepentant.

    And, who are the repentant? Is it all of those who turn to Jesus, as the author and perfecter of their faith? Or, is it just those who have stopped sinning?

  33. @John Mundinger #42

    I suspect you know that’s a false dichotomy. Repentance is defined in the sense of its turning from evil toward righteousness. Faith always brings about repentance, as living faith cannot coexist with mortal, unrepentant sin.

    Faith is found in those who fight against sin, not in those who have surrendered to it. Perfection, or the cessation of sinning, is not the point– Christ accomplishes both for us, by imputation in this world, and the world to come. Our work in resisting sin is a consequence of Christ’s work in our salvation, not vice versa.

  34. Homosexuality is not a gray area. Neither is adultery, or murder, etc.
    Where we can repent in the physical participation of sin, we must. The heart is sinful, this is true; but its much like being an alcoholic who does not drink. Abstinence is the first part, most likely the easiest part. While Christ’s blood covers all sin, our willing participation in it, is not true repentance. This is not the same as back sliding, or human weakness and frailty, where we sin- and willingly despise that sin; seeking forgiveness and desiring the strength to overcome it. There is no Christian love in compromise, just as there is no forgiveness apart from Christ. WE are all poor, sinful human beings.

  35. From Facebook again:

    “When a public teacher on the roster of Synod can without consequence publicly advocate the ordination of women (even participate vested in the installation of an ELCA clergy person), homosexuality, the Errancy of the Bible, the historical critical method, open communion, communion with the reformed, evolution, and more, then the public confession of the synod is meaningless. I am saying that if my Synod does not change its inability to call such a person to repentance, and remove such a teacher where there is not repentance, then we are liars, and our confession is meaningless. I do not want to belong to such a synod, much less lead it. Matt Harrison”

  36. @John Mundinger #41

    You have made repeated comments stating that homosexual relationships are not inherently sinful as long as they are “monogamous”. And have affirmed your denomination’s (ELCA) position on the matter, which is just that.

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.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.