I have always found it puzzling that we have been quick to remove pastors from office for immoral conduct but slow to rebuke false teaching in The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. Of course moral conduct is expected of pastors; as 1 Timothy 3:2 says, an overseer must be “above reproach.” But equally important, if not more so, is that he hold to the trustworthy word as taught, giving instruction in sound doctrine and rebuking those who contradict it (Titus 1:9). Proper discipline is vital to correct error in both cases, but you would think in a church body whose confessions prize doctrinal purity, and whose founder (Walther) regarded the LCMS as “The True Visible Church of God on Earth,” we would take false doctrine just as seriously, if not more so, than moral failings on the part of our pastors. In practice, however, the opposite has usually been the case.
But not this week. President Harrison has taken a bold stance against the panel which has decided not to proceed with charges against Rev. Dr. Becker (see President Harrison’s statement here). Our president is to be commended for not mincing words. Rather than take an “innocent until proven guilty” approach, President Harrison has called a spade a spade: Rev. Dr. Becker is a public false teacher. This is not the time to get a koinonia group together to talk about our differences and try to find common ground. When a wolf is present in the midst of the flock, action is required. If we are so apathetic or steeped in relativism that we are no longer able to discern the presence of a wolf or don’t care that he’s devouring the sheep, we have not only ceased to be Lutheran, we have ceased to be Christian.
From the wolf’s perspective, there is nothing wrong with devouring sheep. Sheep are tasty, but what’s more, this is a matter of life and death for the wolf. The wolf is not going away without a fight; he’s going to devour the sheep or die trying. There are wolves in the midst of the LCMS today, and they are not going to go away quietly. Nor is it enough to deal with only one wolf and leave it at that, as wolves tend to travel and hunt in packs. Rev. Dr. Becker’s false teaching is only the tip of the iceberg. Once this is addressed, hopefully we will begin to work on the long neglected problems below the surface.
Pray for President Harrison; it looks like winter is finally coming. Or maybe it has been winter for a very long time in the LCMS but we’ve fooled ourselves into thinking it’s spring. But thanks to President Harrison we can no longer live in denial, and that’s a step in the right direction. Under his bold and faithful leadership, there is reason for optimism in the LCMS. It may get worse before it gets better, but we may already be seeing the first signs of spring.