The Southern Illinois District Speaks on Dr. Becker

The Southern Illinois District in convention adopted the following resolution 79-17. Note that page and line numbers have been removed; the original with page and line numbers may be found here.

 

RESOLUTION 2-05B
REFERENCE – OVERTURE 2-05

To Call the Rev. Dr. Matthew Becker to Repentance, Implore the Rev. Paul
Linnemann to Exercise Ecclesiastical Supervision and Thank and Encourage
President Matthew Harrison

Rationale
At the recent North Dakota District Convention, Synod President Matthew
Harrison was questioned about the status of the Rev. Dr. Matthew Becker, a
rostered and ordained member of the Synod and a professor at Valparaiso
University. President Harrison reported to that convention that the results of a
complaint filed against Dr. Becker have left him remaining in good standing as a
member of the Synod. This was confirmed by Dr. Becker:

“The matter of the case against my teaching was terminated by three
LCMS circuit counselors from the Great Northwest (whose identities
are unknown to me), who acted at the behest of the NW District
President. After reviewing all of the available evidence, they
concluded that it is perfectly acceptable for an LCMS pastor to make a
public argument in favor of the ordination of women to the pastoral
office and that such a public argument is not grounds for expulsion
from the roster of pastors in the LCMS”.
http://www.alpb.org/forum/index.php?topic=5768.0 – accessed 1-30-
2015

Some days later, President Harrison posted the following to the Witness, Mercy
and Life Together blog on the Synod’s website, not referring to the Becker Case
specifically, but speaking in general,

“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 no
repentance, then we are liars and our confession is meaningless. I do
not want to belong to such a synod, much less lead it. I have no
intention of walking away from my vocation. I shall rather use it and,
by the grace of God, use all the energy I have to call this Synod to
fidelity to correct this situation.”
http://wmltblog.org/2015/01/regarding-a-recent-decision-of-a-panel-
not-to-proceed-with-charges-regarding-a-public-false-teacher-in-the-
lcms/ – accessed 1-30-2015

Dr. Becker filed an official dissent regarding the synod’s practice of restricting the
office of pastor only to men and from the synod’s position of interpreting the first
two chapters of Genesis to mean that God created the universe over the course of
six twenty four hour days, and that the natural law of evolution must be rejected.
The Commission on Theology and Church Relations responded to Dr. Becker’s
dissent which not only exposed his false teaching on those subjects, but also
revealed his rejection of the inerrancy of the Holy Scriptures. The Commission
wrote,

“Dr. Becker’s dissent does not provide a sufficient scriptural or
confessional basis to support his claim that the doctrinal position of
the Synod is in need of revision on the issue of the ordination of
women to the pastoral office or on the issue of creation and evolution.
The theological basis for the CTCR’s determination is the evidence
provided in Dr. Becker’s essays that he is operating on the basis of an
understanding of the authority and interpretation of Scripture that is at
odds with the Lutheran Confessions (see, for example, the Preface to
The Book of Concord; FC Ep Summary, 2; FC SD Summary, 9, 20;
Ap XXIII, 71; Ap VII, 27; Ap XII, 106, etc.) and the scripturally and
confessionally-based position of the Synod as set forth in the Brief
Statement (see paragraphs 1-3) and A Statement of Scriptural and
Confessional Principles (see especially “The Infallibility of Scripture”
and “Historical Methods of Interpretation”). Statements such as the
following in Dr. Becker’s essays reflect a view of and approach to
Scripture that are clearly incompatible with the Synod’s doctrinal
position on the authority and interpretation of Holy Scripture”,
http://www.lcms.org/Document.fdoc?src=lcm&id=1676 – accessed 1-
30-2015

the Commission quoted Dr. Becker and then responded,

“Of course a “figurative” interpretation of Genesis 1-9
(not to mention the many other passages in Scripture that
speak of God as creator, of the world as God’s creation,
and of the new creation) does entail a revision of the
traditional “creationist” manner of articulating the
doctrines of creation, anthropology, and sin, and many
Christians are deeply uncomfortable with such a
prospect. This “discomfort” is at least as great as the
discomfort many 16th-Century Christians must have felt
in view of the revision to traditional teaching that the
Copernican Theory entailed. As then, however, so also
now: such modification would not necessarily undermine
an orthodox understanding of creation, human beings,
sin, and grace. For example, scientific data about the
reality of physical death in the animal and plant
kingdoms prior to origin of human beings (e.g., fossils of
animals that lived long before the origin of human
beings) must lead those who interpret the Bible in light of
scientific knowledge to restate the nature of God’s good
creation prior to the advent of human sin (e.g., such a
good creation must have included the reality of death
prior to the existence of human beings) and the character
of the historical origin of sin (e.g., the advent of sin is to
be traced to the first hominids who disobeyed God’s will
but not necessarily to their having eaten from a tree in an
actual place called the Garden of Eden several thousand
years ago). (SLM, 12)

Statements such as these by Dr. Becker speak for themselves in
conveying his understanding of the authority and interpretation of the
Scriptures. As noted above, this understanding is clearly incompatible
with the Synod’s doctrinal position on the authority and interpretation
of Scripture. For this reason, the Commission affirms once again its
determination that Dr. Becker has not provided sufficient basis for his
claim that the position of the Synod is in need of
revision, and expresses once again its conviction that Dr. Becker is in
dissent from the position of the Synod not only on the specific issues
of the ordination of women to the pastoral office and the issues of
creation and evolution, but also on the more foundational position of
the Synod on which these positions are based: namely, the authority,
infallibility, and faithful interpretation of the Holy Scriptures
themselves.

The CTCR therefore appeals to Dr. Matthew Becker, by the mercies
of God, to reconsider his dissent and to reexamine, on the basis of
Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions, his positions on the authority
of Scripture and the two issues concerning which he has expressed
dissent, even as the Synod expects him to honor and uphold the
doctrinal positions of the Synod.”
http://www.lcms.org/Document.fdoc?src=lcm&id=1676 – accessed 1-
30-2015

While the CTCR appealed to Dr. Becker by the mercies of God to reconsider his
positions on the basis of Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions, it is clear that he
has not done so. In addition to those matters, Dr. Becker contends that the
Lutheran Confessions themselves contain theological ambiguity and error, to wit,
the Athanasian Creed. As stated by comments on his blog in discussion with two
pastors of the Southern Illinois District,

The Rev. BT Ball February 9, 2013 at 5:28PM
Dr. Becker-

“Whoever desires to be saved must, above all, hold the catholic faith.
Whoever does not keep it whole and undefiled will without doubt
perish eternally…This is the catholic faith; whoever does not believe it
faithfully and firmly cannot be saved.”

Do you confess that to be true or not?

Pastor Benjamin Ball
St. Paul, Hamel, IL

Matthew L. Becker February 9, 2013 at 8:09PM
Pr. Ball,
The Athanasian Creed errs when it implies that one is saved by a
mental work of believing this creed’s humanly-devised dogmatic
statements “faithfully and firmly.”

No Eastern Orthodox Christian will accept all of the formulations
within this historic western creed. Many statements in it need careful
clarification. Its conclusion is simply incorrect. The Athanasian Creed
muddles the gospel at precisely this point.

Pr. H. R. February 9, 2013 at 8:45 PM

Dr. Becker,

Members of our Synod agree to accept the Athanasian Creed “without
reservation” (Art. II of our Constitution). We are pretty up front about
that and have been for a long time. Perhaps it came up at your
ordination. If it didn’t (for example, if you wrote your own ordination
vows and didn’t use the ones in the TLH or LW Agenda), it certainly
did when you signed the Constitution.

I understand that you have deeply held convictions that run contrary
to this Confession of the faith. But I struggle to understand why you
continue to put yourself forward as a representative of our Synod
when you so clearly do not hold to our Confession on so many
weighty issues. It is not as though you are struggling with one or two
peripheral issues, unsure of where you stand, or sure the Synod has
erred in its stance on life insurance or gambling. You just flat our [sic]
deny what we require our ministers to swear to at their ordination.

I’ll give you this: it’s bold.

+HRC

Matthew L. Becker February 9, 2013 at 10:35 PM
HRC,

I was ordained on July 14, 1989. In that service I was asked the
following question, among several:

Do you accept the three Ecumenical Creeds…as faithful testimonies to
the truth of the Holy Scriptures, and do you reject all the errors which
they condemn?

I answered affirmatively. The three creeds (only one of which is truly
ecumenical) are faithful testimonies to the truth of the Holy
Scriptures, that is, the doctrinal truth of the Scriptures. I reject the
errors that the three creeds condemn.

They are faithful witnesses to the doctrinal truth of the Scriptures, but
they are not without theological ambiguity and error.

Our ordination vow is strictly limited to the doctrinal teaching of the
Holy Scriptures, that is, the doctrine of the gospel and all its articles.

THAT doctrine of the gospel, the doctrine of faith, is contrary to the
kind of legalistic approach to dogma and confessional writings that
you and Pr. Ball and other LCMS pastors seem to be asserting.

Pastors who serve churches of the Augsburg Confession are not bound
to many items that are taught or asserted in the confessional writings.
This includes the concluding paragraph of the Athanasian Creed. That
paragraph, literally understood, is contrary to the doctrine of the
gospel.

Our quia vow is to teach in accordance with the doctrinal content of
the Holy Scriptures, as that content is exhibited in the historic
confessions.

I continue to preach and teach in accordance with my ordination vow,
and I ask God to help me.”
http://matthewlbecker.blogspot.com/2013/02/one-more-response-to-
hrc.html – accessed 1-30-2015

Dr. Becker has stated regarding homosexuality,

“• I too affirm the authority of the Scriptures, but the seven biblical
texts that are frequently cited on the issue of homosexuality are not
directly pertinent to the 21st-century discussion because some of them
condemn specifically homosexual rape, deal with questions of “clean
and unclean” that are not normative in the Christian community, do
not take into account issues like “sexual orientation,” and presuppose
that all would agree with a particular interpretation of what “nature”
teaches.
• Both heterosexual and homosexual persons are expected to express
sexual intimacy within publicly accountable, lifelong, and
monogamous relationships. This has long been the expectation for
heterosexual couples, and therefore is an appropriate expectation for
homosexual couples as well.

• I recognize that the unity of the church is based on one Lord, one
faith, and one baptism, and that within this unity, faithful members
may disagree on individual items of theology and Christian ethics.”
http://gottesdienstonline.blogspot.com/2010/12/useful-discussion.html
– accessed 1-30-2015

Synod Bylaw 4.4.5 states, “Each district president, in accordance with the
Constitution of the Synod, shall supervise the doctrine, the life, and the
official administration on the part of the ordained or commissioned ministers
who are members through his district or are subject to his ecclesiastical
supervision”. As such, the President of the Northwest District of the LCMS,
the Rev. Paul Linnemann, is charged with the ecclesiastical supervision of
Dr. Becker. While Dr. Becker’s public teaching, writing and dissent are
publicly known, there is no public evidence that President Linnemann has
exhorted Dr. Becker to repentance for his false doctrines. Dr. Becker, an
Ordained member of the Synod, has publicly advocated for the ordination of
women to the Pastoral Ministry. He has participated in the installation of an
ELCA clergy person. He has taught that committed homosexual
relationships are not sinful. He rejects the inerrancy of the Bible. He does
not affirm the creation account in the Scriptures as a historical event.
President Linnemann as the ecclesiastical supervisor of Dr. Becker is to
assist the Synod at large with fulfilling its first objective which is to
“Conserve and promote the unity of the true faith (Eph. 4:3–6; 1 Cor. 1:10).

WHEREAS: The Rev. Dr. Matthew Becker, an Ordained member of the
Synod, has publicly advocated for the ordination of women to the Pastoral
Ministry. He has participated in the installation of an ELCA clergy person.
He has taught that committed homosexual relationships are not sinful. He
rejects the inerrancy of the Bible. He does not affirm the creation account in
the Scriptures as a historical event, and

WHEREAS: Dr. Becker is a member of the Northwest District of the LCMS
under the ecclesiastical supervision of the Rev. Paul Linnemann, and

WHEREAS: It is the President of the Synod’s duty to see to it that all
District Presidents “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”, (Article XI.B.2) and

WHEREAS: The President of the Synod “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”, (Article XI.B.3) and

WHEREAS: We confess, “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.” (Large Catechism, 8th Commandment,
para.284), and

WHEREAS: Our Lord Jesus Christ said, “I have not come to call the
righteous, but sinners to repentance” (St. Luke 5:32). Therefore, let it be

RESOLVED: That those with public knowledge of the Rev. Dr. Matthew
Becker’s false and divisive doctrines call him to repentance, and

RESOLVED: That in faithfulness to God’s Word and in Christian love the
Southern Illinois District of the LCMS in convention call the Rev. Dr.
Matthew Becker to repentance of his false and divisive doctrines and that
this be communicated to him through the Southern Illinois District
Secretary, and let it be further

RESOLVED: That the Southern Illinois District implore the Rev. Paul
Linnemann, President of the Northwest District, to exercise ecclesiastical
supervision of Dr. Becker, if he is not already doing so, seek Dr. Becker’s
repentance for false teaching, and lacking such repentance, begin the process
of Dr. Becker’s expulsion from the Synod in accordance with the Synod’s
Constitution and Bylaws, and that this be communicated to the Rev.
Linnemann by the Southern Illinois District President and let it be further

RESOLVED: That the Southern Illinois District encourage President
Matthew Harrison to exhort President Linnemann to do his duty for the sake
of our common confession of faith and our walking together as members of
the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, and be it further

RESOLVED: That the President of the Southern Illinois District, on behalf
of the Southern Illinois District, thank President Matthew Harrison and
commend him for his faithful leadership of the Synod, and give him such
encouragement, and be it finally

RESOLVED: That the Convention Chaplain lead the Convention in prayer
for a godly resolution to these matters.

Respectfully Submitted,
Floor Committee #2
Adopted 14 February 2015
79 Yea
19 Nay

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