There are three things that I see need to be done to move forward with the Matthew Becker case and in the following order. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the matter in the comment section below.
- President Harrison needs to begin the process of expelling President Linnemann from the LCMS for allowing a false teacher in his district.
- If that fails then President Harrison needs to call a special synodical convention to consider the expulsion of the false teacher Becker.
- If that fails and Harrison has not yet left the synod as he said he would if it cannot expel such a false teacher from its midst or if steps one and two continue through the summer of 2016 then the regular convention needs to change the procedure for expulsion but really, by that point things will really be too late in my opinion.
There is an entire article in the synod by-laws, eight pages long, giving President Harrison the authority to initiate the process to expel a district president. The first step includes collegial conversation to try to get the sinner to repent. If that fails then a panel is convened for a hearing to expel. (There are other steps. I am providing a summary.) The bylaw referred to is 2.15 (click here for the LCMS Handbook). A PDF version of the DOC file available on that page (titled “2013 Handbook (Updated Nov. 19-20, 2014)”, named 2013_Handbook_January_12_2015_v2.doc) is available here.
Because of our lack of bishops and our democratic oriented polity there are a lot elections that go on in the process. The accused is judged by a panel of three. President Harrison gets to elect a District President to serve on the panel, the accused gets to elect one and a Synod Reconciler is elected by a blind draw to get the third voter on the panel. Each district has several Reconcilers and it is from this pool that the Reconciler is chosen.
So the odds of Matthew Becker being expelled from synod hinge upon that third person. The synod is essentially 1/3 liturgical and traditional, 1/3 church growth oriented (the use of psychology and sociology to determine the felt needs of church consumers and using those felt needs to redo church to match them) and 1/3 a blend of both. Pretty much 100% of the first group would vote for expulsion. Probably 15% of the growthers would vote for expulsion. (A noticeable amount of people in this category oppose women’s ordination and cling to Biblical inerrancy for Fundamentalist reasons and not necessarily Lutheran reasons. My guess is it might be as high as 15%.) In the third group I would say it might as high as 30% who would vote for expulsion. You might think it would be 50/50 but this group is the tolerant group that likes some liturgical stuff but tolerates the growther ideas of psychology and sociology. You do the math. If you add up my figures you have a slightly less than 50% that Becker would be expelled. But it still might work and it is the one positive thing within the bounds of our polity that President Harrison can initiate.
It raises an interesting question however. Why would we still want to be in this church body and call ourselves a synod (walking together) if somewhere around 50% of us do not see this as a problem for synod? That’s a question for another day.
Will President Harrison make use of this tool? He has been very hesitant in the past to take any action that might make any group of the synod like him less. But, for all we know President Harrison has already met President Linnemann to get him to repent and he may have already started the process in 2.15. If he has I wish he would announce it. He has that authority according to 2.15. Section 18.104.22.168 gives him the discretion to announce to the synod that this is going on if he thinks it is a matter of synod unity. I think that it is. It is synodical disunity when these things go on in secret and behind closed doors.
If that fails all is not lost. It is then time for President Harrison to use his authority according to Article VIII of the Constitution and call a special synod convention for the purpose of addressing this issue. He will need 2/3 of the District Presidents to agree with this.
This certainly is a lot of work for one single false teacher but if anyone thinks either one of these two tactics are a waste of time then they do not see the urgency of having a false teacher unchecked in our midst. After all, President Harrison said he will not stay in such a synod. Of course If he leaves that is the signal for all confessional folks to follow him and form a new synod with greater guarantees (there is no absolute guarantee in a sinful world) of peaceful proclamation of the Gospel without false teachers in the fold.
If both of these steps fail and if President Harrison has not left the synod then I suppose we could work at the next convention to amend the Dispute Resolution Process (DRP) but I really do not see what that would change. I have asked several people how that would change things and what they would propose to change and have not gotten much of a substantive answer.
So there’s the way forward. It will help us be Scriptural and shun the false teacher or if it fails it tells us the LCMS is dead. That is OK. I love it dearly but it is not the Una Sancta and at that point it would not be reflecting the Una Sancta as it should.
Tell me where I have gone wrong. Have you got a better idea? I would love to hear it but don’t waste my time saying that you want to do nothing until the next convention and then boldly change the DRP. That is not the problem and besides, that allows for the false teacher to be in our midst way too long. We need decisive action now.