Unintended Consequences

Will Underwood, an occasional BJS reader and member of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, emailed me, offering some insightful comments regarding the recent failure to discipline the Rev. Dr. Matthew Becker for his adherence to, and teaching of, false doctrine. I asked Will if he’d be willing to share his thoughts with all of you as well. Here’s what he had to say.
–Scott Diekmann

 

Thank you Scott, for the privilege and encouragement to step up to the mike. Here is a story I am compelled to share in connection to the Dr. Becker account, as to where the LCMS *could* be headed, and perhaps other Christian churches as well, it not for God’s grace.

As I see it, acquiescence to those who are bold and public in their expressions of false doctrine, as if they were giving the finger to the treasures our churches have contended for over the centuries, is, in another arena, a dereliction of duty, a giving of aid and comfort to the enemy. This other account describes the gruesome consequences when several senior overseers failed to check and to discipline one of their own.

Lt. Col “Bud” Holland, a renowned aviator, piloted a B-52 bomber into the ground at Fairchild Air Force Base, near Spokane, WA on June 24th, 1994.

Fairchild B52 Crash

 

An introductory paragraph from the official accident report, hints at the awful root cause; the full report is available here:

http://www.foia.af.mil/shared/media/document/afd-100510-032.pdf

Aircraft maintenance, weather and aircrew medical condition were not factors in this accident. The board focused on the airmanship and historical flying behavior of the crew. Several senior officers described the pilot as a professional, knowledgeable, aviator. Some crew members related their belief that the pilot was the most experienced and knowledgeable pilot in the wing. However, many of the same individuals gave the board examples of the pilot’s airmanship that they characterized as excessively aggressive and often in violation of existing regulations. Some crew members refused to fly with the pilot because of his lack of air discipline. In its investigation of a more than three year period, the board found several instances of the pilot flying in violation of USAF, ACC, and FAA regulations. In spite of performance characterized by poor airmanship, wing leaders took no significant corrective action. During this three year period, there were four wing commanders, three vice wing commanders, three operations group commanders (or equivalents) and five squadron commanders.

Another description of this event was written a Maj. Tony Kern, titled, “Darker Shades of Blue: The Rogue Pilot”, also available here:

http://web.archive.org/web/20070216232623/http://www.crm-devel.org/resources/paper/darkblue/darkblue.htm

Both accounts paint a picture of a tragic incident where a rogue aviator killed himself and three other experienced pilots. It is heartbreaking because for years prior, this pilot was also charged with setting the standards for other pilots. It is appalling because his own superiors should have grounded him long before, but could not or would not.

To me the parallels between the untouchable Lt. Col. Bud Holland and Dr. Matthew Becker are eerily similar, especially the lack of effective discipline by the overseers of both of these men.

I know God will do whatever is necessary to preserve His Church. It seems to me, looking back on my own life and on the accounts of His people throughout history, sometimes the discipline is painful, especially when we’ve forgotten to listen to him.

I’d like to offer an observation that much of American Christianity resembles the church in Laodicea. God loves us enough to give us an accurate diagnosis and the best remedy, without an appointment or copay!

I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot!
So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.
For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.
I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see.
Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.

Rev 3:15-19 ESV

I share these thoughts in this forum because I have seen some of the damage caused by my own sinful pride and arrogance and I’ve seen these sins in others wreck things near and dear to me.

Thank you, contributors of this forum, for your help to strengthen the visible and the invisible church; my heart aches for the struggles you are enduring. I pray God purifies and keeps all of Missouri close to Him and for President Harrison and his leadership team; also for my synod as well. And I pray what I’ve written may be pleasing and acceptable to my Rock and my Redeemer, trusting also in His promise that His word will not return empty but will accomplish the things He intends for it.

Thank you for reading,
Your servant in Christ,
Will

The Church shall never perish!
Her dear Lord to defend,
To guide, sustain, and cherish,
Is with her to the end:
Though there be those who hate her,
And false sons in her pale,
Against both foe or traitor
She ever shall prevail.

About Scott Diekmann

Scott is a lifelong LCMS layman. Some of his vocations include husband, dad, jet driver, runner, and collector of more books than he can read. Oh, and also chocolate lover. He’s been involved in apologetics for over a decade, is on the Board of Regents at Concordia Portland, and is a column writer for the sometimes operational Around the Word Journal. He’s also written for Higher Things Magazine, The Lutheran Clarion, and has been a guest on Issues Etc. as well as the KFUO program Concord Matters.

Comments

Unintended Consequences — 44 Comments

  1. It would be nice to hear some voices from one or both of the seminaries on this topic. Since the one of the two seminaries gave him the green light to become an ordained minister of the LCMS.

  2. @William #2
    Dear William,
    You need to remember, all may be peaches and roses when leaving seminary. Once OKd to go, the ordained…well, if the train falls off the tracks, it is a tough thing.

    Realistically, no “man in training” will rock the boat when in school, now when out, a differing story.

    I think the first part of the equation is this.

    When we uncover a “bad egg” in the public ministry, we must deal with it right up front, in the public square.

    No pass the buck, no signed agreements with hush hush language.

    If a pastor strays, he must be called to the carpet. Of course, allowed to defend, and public confession and forgiveness is a part of the equation.

  3. Fine analogy as is the GOP leadership and its wilful failure to defend the Constitution and the LCMS leadership and its wilful failure to defend our Confessions. Both, in name only.

    I used to think, how can ELCA call itself Lutheran? Its beginning to seem the same here.

    Just use our Confessions alone and get rid of them asap. To heck with the disorder of our “processes” time for the decency of our Confessions. This is not a democracy. The Word is the final word. Don’t agree with our confessions? Then have a little character and decorum and leave before we boot you out! Plenty of empty, Christless, Wordless “Lutherans” you can join with.

  4. Rev. Matthew Becker graduated from Concordia Seminary
    St. Louis in 1988. Dr. Karl Barth was President at that
    time. So you cannot blame the Seminary that certified
    Rev. Becker for ordination 27 years ago.

  5. I said was, “It would be nice for once to hear from the teachers of our seminaries on this matter.” I cannot but think, listening to Rev Poppe audio file from the ACELC that maybe he is right. When it comes to confessional matters, the semimaries are silent.

  6. @J. Dean #7
    Dear J. and William,
    I think the answer a Dr. Scaer, Just, Arand, Adams, Brauer (to name a few good men at both)etc. would give is, “Yes, he is wrong.” Both SEMS print many documents and books. The problem is this, they do agree with all and do, but then what?????

    A Seminary cannot defrock, remove, etc. They can and always do give us proper teaching.

    When you leave, that is the problem.

    A Doctor does not answer back to the school they came from, they answer to the AMA, the state licensing boards.

    Yes, the Seminaries and PROFS do feel bad that a teacher strays I bet.

  7. I do find it interesting that in fields that require education and expertise, lest there be harm given to the general public, it seems so obvious to hold those people accountable to the standards of their field.

    Military officers, doctors, etc.– if they go “off the reservation,” we curtail them quickly, lest they do great harm. Perhaps our inability to deal with false teachers in the LCMS, is tied to our loss of appreciation of the spiritual harm they can do. For all the harm a wack-job general, surgeon or dentist might do, it is nothing compared to leading souls to eternal perdition.

    I can’t shake the sense that as a Synod, we really don’t believe the harm that is done by miscreant pastors who despise the Word of God. Perhaps because we, as a Synod, are no longer so tightly tied to Scripture as we think we are.

  8. Note whom Pless quotes in his article: Reu, Sasse and Elert.

    Did any of these men believe in and teach the Third Use of the Law?

    Or is the ordination of women the article upon which the Church stands or falls?

    What ails Missouri is far, far worse than Matthew Becker. He is a surface symptom of a much greater problem.

    And removing him will not right the good ship Missouri.

  9. Robert,

    The ordination of women is not, by a long shot, the biggest issue with Becker, nor the Synod. Evolution, synchretism, Enthusiasm, and sexual perversion are much greater concerns. However, Becker’s real issue is our collective issue as a Synod: faith in Christ and His Word. His degeneracy is more advanced than the Synod as a whole, but the longer we tolerate his kind, the more they will shape the Synod in their faithless image.

  10. Dear BJS Bloggers,

    You cannot blame Concordia Seminary in Saint Louis for the errors of Matthew Becker. I know many of the faculty from that era (1984-88) and the LAST thing they ever wanted to do was perpetuate liberal theology on the synod.

    Dr. Karl Barth was president at that time, and had been a member of the Fact-Finding Committee that investigated the Saint Louis seminary and reported their findings in the “Blue Book.” (see Paul Zimmerman, A Seminary in Crisis [St Louis: CPH, ca. 2010] for that story). Barth is as solid as the come, and so was his faculty.

    Becker was a product of Concordia College, Portland. He became good friends with some of the faculty there who were sympathetic to the Seminex faculty, and these good friends “coached” him about how to “cooperate and graduate” when he went to Saint Louis. Whatever liberal tendencies or ideas Becker may have had before enrolling at the Saint Louis seminary, he would not have shared that with the faculty there at that time, who would have surely taken him to task.

    After taking his Ph.D. degree from University of Chicago Divinity School, Becker went back to the Northwest District and taught at Portland for a good numbers of years. He was the “star theologian” of the Northwest District, until he received his invitation to teach at Valparaiso University with a tenure track. I believe he is fully tenured now. So the “nursery” for Becker’s theology was really Concordia, Portland–or at least, certain faculty members there, as he will himself admit and give them credit.

    Although the purpose of the Synod is not primarily to prosecute errorists, it does show up in our Objectives that the Synod shall “conserve and promote the unity of the true faith (Eph 4:3-6, 1 Cor 1:10) . . . and provide a united defense against schism, sectarianism (Rom 16:17), and heresy” (Const III.1). So the Synod has to deal with this matter in some way. But how?

    It appears to me that there are a number of things impacted by this case. I see the issues as being:

    1) Ecclesiastical supervision of full-time college professors not in CUS;
    2) Definition and procedures for doctrinal dissent;
    3) Binding authority of LCMS doctrinal resolutions and doctrinal statements;
    4) Binding authority of Scriptural doctrines not specified in the Book of Concord, i.e., the plenary authority of canonical Scripture;
    5) Termination of adjudication cases by District President or his Referral Panel before church court hearing;
    6) Impeachment process for District Presidents who are derelict in their duties.

    This is in addition to the actual doctrines that Becker may teach or deny.

    You all also need to realize that Becker is, in my opinion, “reading from the Adolph Brux playbook.” Brux was an LCMS missionary in India who was accused of syncretistic worship. Instead of apologizing and agreeing to avoid offense in the future, Brux turned around and attacked the LCMS and its president. Brux eventually left the synod, but not before he caused a lot of damage to the church, its mission board, and many of its leaders. There is some evidence that Brux was being coached at the time by his former doctoral professors at the University of Chicago Divinity School . . . hmm . . . that is interesting isn’t it, since Becker also got his Ph.D at U of C Divinity School.

    I advise that you all read up on the Brux case. There are enough similarities that we could all learn some things from that analogous past. Maybe an older and wiser synod could deal with such problems in a fairer and more effective way than in the past.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  11. I’m confused, whatever happened to the content of this statement from Pres. Harrison? Was it enforced? I’ve been away from Lutheran polity for some time.

    “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.”

  12. @John E #17

    John,

    In this section of the quote, I think he’s dropping the guantlet for the 2016 Synod Convention:

    “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.”

    My read is that he’s disgusted with the failure of the DRP to do what obviously should have been done, given our Synodical founding documents. He’s laid it out there, that we as a Synod, either fix our inability to deal with false teachers, or he’s going to refuse re-election as Synod president.

    That’s no special insight on my part, just my read. Perhaps he will clarify his thoughts and intentions. I think by virtue of his appearing and discussing the issue at district conventions, he’s trying to drive the reform point home, so that it can be addressed in 2016… and then use the new process to drop the hammer on folks like Becker.

  13. I concur with Brad. The overall meme from my perspective is that the task forces are tightening up some things. (lay ministry, SMP) I think he may be generating a groundswell. Maybe telegraphing congregations, circuits, districts(?) to submit overtures. He may write a report encouraging a path. And then…. 2016. I have a sense of 1973, when Pres. Preus got approval/authorization and directive, and removed some DP’s. So will the delegation coming up support that drive?

    (time to get out the popcorn…)

  14. Martin R. Noland :
    Dear BJS Bloggers,
    You cannot blame Concordia Seminary in Saint Louis for the errors of Matthew Becker. I know many of the faculty from that era (1984-88) and the LAST thing they ever wanted to do was perpetuate liberal theology on the synod…..

    Really? How long did Utech work there, as a professor, and promote Rick Warren’s book for his classes? I had to take his class. When I criticized using his book and wrote against what I was forced to read, I was given a bad grade for not agreeing with Warren’s teaching. How are the worship classes now? Are they promoting the use of drums in their chapels? That’s what I’ve heard on steadfastlutherans.com. How about calling the Gospels a plastic text according to Kloha? List goes on and on…

  15. Martin R. Noland:
    1) Ecclesiastical supervision of full-time college professors not in CUS;
    2) Definition and procedures for doctrinal dissent;
    3) Binding authority of LCMS doctrinal resolutions and doctrinal statements;
    4) Binding authority of Scriptural doctrines not specified in the Book of Concord, i.e., the plenary authority of canonical Scripture;
    5) Termination of adjudication cases by District President or his Referral Panel before church court hearing;
    6) Impeachment process for District Presidents who are derelict in their duties.

    This is a pretty good list. I would suggest that #1, #5, and #6 go together under the broader heading of ecclesiastical supervision in general. DPs should not be able to “punt” potential discipline cases to a Referral Panel, and it is odd that there is currently no process for removing them (and others) from office short of explusion from the Synod.

    #3 is a bit problematic in that we need to be careful about making something doctrinally “binding” that is adopted by a simple majority vote at a convention, and therefore relatively easy to change or repeal. I think that a constitutional amendment making it a condition of membership in Article VI to “honor and uphold” all doctrinal resolutions is a better solution that last year’s CCM opinion claiming (wrongly, in my view) that they are essentially equivalent to the Synod’s confession in Article II.

    As another article on this site specifically discusses, #4 is really the crux of the issue. Rev. Becker claims to accept Scripture and the BoC without reservation as required by Article II of the LCMS Constitution, but obviously interprets both of them in a way that leads to vigorous dissent from several of the Synod’s doctrinal positions. One might think that A Statement of Scriptural and Confessional Principles settled this 40 years ago, but that document currently has no greater authority that any other doctrinal resolution. Should it perhaps be sent through the more rigorous process for adoption as a doctrinal statement?

    I am not sure that would be enough by itself, since the LCMS Constitution does not currently say anything about doctrinal statements. Is it time to consider amending it to clarify how the Synod’s confession is to be applied to specific issues? Explicitly adding doctrinal statements to Article II might be a reasonable way to do this, since a simple majority vote at a convention is not sufficient for those – they also have to be ratified by 2/3 of congregations voting within six months, similar to a constitutional amendment. Any other specific suggestions?

  16. Dear Jon (comment #21),

    Thanks for your review of my list. I agree pretty much with everything you said there.

    Maybe it is time to adopt the 1973 “Statement” as a DOCTRINAL STATEMENT of the LCMS, along with the others that could or should be adopted that way: 1851 Theses on Church and Ministry, 1881 on Election, 1932 Brief Statement, and 1973 Statement on Scriptural and Confessional Principles. Then, at least, we would actually have some doctrinal statements according to their current definition in the bylaws.

    I know that this issue goes over the head of most folks, but that is okay. In some ways, Becker is doing the LCMS a favor by challenging our inconsistent or vague positions in these matters.

    When Concordia Historical Institute did its project on LCMS doctrinal resolutions, one of the issues was how the synod viewed those resolutions and what authority it gave them. Our conclusion was that the synod has never been entirely consistent, and that the only way to determine the intended authority of a doctrinal resolution is to read the resolution itself–plus, if possible, some historical background on the issues behind it. The fruit of that project is still available from CHI on CD-ROM here: http://www.lutheranhistory.org/doctresorder.htm

    I hope this helps a bit.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  17. @Jon Alan Schmidt #21

    Jon,

    As I’ve mulled this issue, I’ve come to appreciate that the terms of membership in Christ’s Church, and those for membership in the entirely human political construct of the LCMS, ought perhaps to be more clearly delineated. As our theologians note throughout the centuries, core doctrines are necessary to be confessed (by individuals and corporate entities) if they wish to be even remotely Christian. That doesn’t mean that their error isn’t serious, it just means that we recognize Roman Catholics, Calvinists, Anglicans, etc., in so far as they retain certain fundamental doctrines, as being members of the Una Sancta by grace through faith in Christ alone.

    However, since the LCMS is constructed for the purpose of being an association of pure doctrine, then membership in the LCMS should be related to the whole body of doctrine confessed within her. Any member who dissents from the body of doctrine confessed by the Synod, should have recourse to some form of dissent process… but in the end, membership in the entirely humanly constructed LCMS is still based upon that common confession. Whatever organs of Synod we establish should be able to speak relative to those terms of membership, since the LCMS (in so far as she retains fundamental doctrines) is of the Una Sancta, but clearly not the whole of the Una Sancta.

  18. @William #20

    Dear William, (comment #20),

    Dr. Utech was on faculty ca. 1997 to 2014. I was referring to the Saint Louis faculty while Dr. Becker was a student there, 1984-1988. There were no advocates of church-growth or Evangelical worship at our seminaries in those days.

    Regarding Dr. Kloha, I think you will find a good explanation of all the issues involved in textual criticism and a fair assessment of Kloha’s position in Dr. Cameron Mackenzie’s lectures on “Luther and the Bible” and the “Text of the Bible,” and the Discussion Panel, at Faith, Plano, TX here: http://www.faithplano.org/north-texas-free-conference/64-freeconference2015

    By the way, at the CTS Symposia in January, Dr. Kloha said that he is no longer using the word “plastic” with reference to the Biblical text. So he has made a number of corrections to his language, and his position too, I think.

    By the way, I am not a graduate of Concordia Seminary, Saint Louis, but a CTS-Fort Wayne graduate who is “defending” MY SYNOD”S faculty, as I am commanded to do by the 8th Commandment explanation of Luther’s Small Catechism, when they are not at fault or are willing to be corrected.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  19. November 8th, 1997, Professor Matthew Becker gave a paper at Trinity Lutheran Church in Roselle, Illinois, where Dr. Charles Mueller is/was the pastor. The program for the meeting assigned him the topic, WHEN WOMEN SPEAK FOR GOD. In the discussion period that followed Becker’s presentation, when the question of women’s ordination was being discussed Becker responded to the question “where to go the Seminary?” with these devious words
    “I think times are changing,
    even at our seminary, I’m not
    sure I can say seminaries…I
    was also very thankful that
    the faculty committee responsible
    for checking the orthodoxy
    of its candidates did not
    ask me about the question of
    the ordination of women into
    the pastoral office. When
    asked if I could accept a
    woman as a preacher I skirted
    the issue by quoting Martin
    Luther who said. “Why, of
    course women should preach
    the word if no capable men are
    around to do it…I know that I
    was skirting the issue.”

  20. @Martin R. Noland #22
    Another problem that I see with doctrinal resolutions is the simple fact that there are just so many of them, as that CD-ROM reveals. It would be unreasonable to expect all Synod members to accept all of them without reservation in the same way as Scripture and the BoC. Even so, there does need to be a mechanism for the Synod to adopt doctrinal positions collectively and then require its members to adhere to them, as @Brad #23 noted. Adding doctrinal statements to Article II and honoring/upholding doctrinal resolutions to Article VI seems like a workable solution, but I remain open to other suggestions.

    A few years ago, I had an e-mail exchange with the CTCR’s Executive Director, Dr. Joel Lehenbauer, about all those various doctrinal statements adopted at conventions over the years. He confirmed that none of them actually qualify as “doctrinal statements” under the current Bylaws, since that provision was not added until 1977. I asked him if the CTCR had ever considered submitting them – or at least the Brief Statement and A Statement, since together they seem to cover almost everything addressed in the others – for formal (re-)adoption by the Synod in convention and subsequent ratification by 2/3 of congregations voting within six months. He replied that they are viewed as having “self-authenticated” over the years, and revisiting them might wrongly foster doubt about their status. He also wondered what it would mean if either adoption or ratification failed.

    At this point, I think that the situation with Rev. Becker has already fostered doubt about the status of those documents. If Rev. Harrison is “generating a groundswell” as suggested by @Jason #19, then perhaps “It’s Time” to find out whether the Synod still stands behind them.

  21. Here is a summary of what I have proposed here, with a few more details for the sake of discussion.

    First, adopt a resolution overruling CCM opinion 13-2694, “Questions re Advocacy of Doctrinal Positions Contrary to the Synod’s Stated Position,” on the grounds that it is unconstitutional.

    Basically, my problem with that opinion is that it makes doctrinal resolutions/statements part of the Synod’s confession – i.e., it effectively amends Article II of the LCMS Constitution without following the requirements of Article XV for doing so. Which leads to …

    Second, amend the LCMS Constitution as follows.
    Add to Article II:
    3. All Doctrinal Statements of the Synod as formal and binding expressions of its doctrinal position, especially in controverted matters.
    Add to Article XV:
    5. Doctrinal Statements of the Synod shall be adopted in accordance with the same procedure as amendments to the Constitution.

    Note that this would “raise the bar” for adopting a Doctrinal Statement from a simple majority vote at a convention (per the current Bylaws) to a 2/3 majority vote; the congregational ratification requirement is the same (2/3 of those voting within six months). I think that this is appropriate, since all Doctrinal Statements would become part of the Synod’s confession, and thus effectively amend the Constitution. Besides, if nothing is said in the Constitution itself about how Doctrinal Statements are adopted, then the Bylaws would govern; and those can always be changed by a simple majority vote at a convention.

    Third, amend the LCMS Constitution as follows.
    Revise Article VI:
    1. Acceptance without reservation of the confessional basis of Article II, and conformance of teaching and practice to all adopted doctrinal resolutions of the Synod.
    Revise Article VII:
    1. … Accordingly, no resolution of the Synod imposing anything upon the individual congregation other than its doctrinal position is of binding force if it is not in accordance with the Word of God or if it appears to be inexpedient as far as the condition of a congregation is concerned.

    This might be more controversial, given our traditional congregational polity. That is why I would advocate keeping it separate from my second proposal above.

    Fourth, adopt the Brief Statement of the Doctrinal Position of the Missouri Synod and A Statement of Scriptural and Confessional Principles as Doctrinal Statements of the Synod.

    I am not sure that this could be done at the same convention as the second step, since it would change the adoption process for Doctrinal Statements. Maybe they would have to be bundled together into one resolution. Worst case, this might have to wait until the next convention.

    Thoughts?

  22. Jon,

    I might come across as a simpleton in this, but it seems to me that we should be able to constrain all the members of Synod, to conform their public teaching to the public teaching of the Synod. Let everyone have their private opinions, and even lobby for changes to our public doctrine — but until that doctrine is changed, a condition of membership in the Synod includes the discipline of conforming public teaching to Synod standards. Failure to do so, is condition for removal.

    I think this could also work for our hymnody and liturgy. Perhaps making these controverted doctrinal matters a matter of discipline, will help make this process simpler, and require fewer constitutional ammendments. Just my thoughts.

  23. @Brad #29
    I know that there is understandable frustration anytime we talk about the governing documents, but the fact of the matter is that there is currently no explicit mechanism in the LCMS Constitution or Bylaws “to constrain all members of the Synod, to conform their public teaching to the public teaching of the Synod.” One reason for this is because there is no definition anywhere of “the public teaching of the Synod,” only its “confessional position,” which is Article II of the Constitution – Scripture and the BoC. The Bylaws regarding doctrinal statements come the closest, saying that they “set forth in greater detail the position of the Synod especially in controverted matters.” However, there are no doctrinal statements yet; and even if there were, adhering to them (or to doctrinal resolutions) is not a condition of membership, so teaching contrary to them is not (in itself) grounds for expulsion. My proposals above would change this.

  24. I understand, Jon. In my secular work, I deal with the government, so I’m well aware of convoluted regulations. I think my resistance to complex regulatory solutions in an ecclesiastical environment, is knowing what they produce.

    But all that said, it is a necessity in a fallen world. I pine for a simpler approach to Biblical and Confessional unity, but in every age, the devil finds new ways to slither in and complicate things, so that the Church must make ever more complex statements of confession.

    May the canonists among us do their jobs well. And may the devil be rebuffed in our age, as in ages past.

  25. Speaking of Kloha, which we weren’t, and since we don’t have plastic text anymore but maybe something new.
    “The textual problems of the Pauline epistles have rarely received systematic study since the work of Günther Zuntz in 1953. This thesis is a study of the text of 1 Corinthians using a different methodology, called “thoroughgoing eclecticism. ” by Jeffry John Kloha.
    http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/296/

  26. Reply to: https://steadfastlutherans.org/2015/02/unintended-consequences/comment-page-1/#comment-1084251

    Dear Jon,

    One of the big issues in dealing with Synod Constitution and Bylaws, which our “canonists” often forget, is that a set of governing documents has to “fit” the governors who use it.

    In the LCMS, the “governors” are the delegates at Synod and district conventions. Only a very few of those delgates have ever read through the bylaws; even fewer keep up with the changes in it every year or so. Almost none know the history of these governing documents or rules of their proper interpretation.

    And this is okay.

    Synod was not designed to be primarily about making rules and regulations and laws. Congress and state legislatures ARE–and most of them are membered by lawyers, who are the people who have the skills and experience for that work. Synod is a decision-making body of a simpler sort than Congress, and its tools are simpler, and should be easier to use.

    No fair-minded parliamentarian attempts to disenfranchise a decision-making assembly with rules, regulations, and procedures, but to achieve the goals of clear communication, hearing the concerns of the minority, and enacting the will of the majority. Our Bylaws need to be simple to achieve those goals.

    So when I read an LCMS Constitution proposed article or proposed bylaw, the first thing I ask is this: Can a modern Midwest farmer read this the first time and understand what it is saying? If not, throw that verbiage on the compost pile—PLEASE! The 1960 bylaws are a model of clarity and simplicity. Our present bylaws are almost the opposite, thanks to certain members of the CCM (now thankfully retired) who have been “legislating from the bench” since the Bohlmann era.

    We should not let the dissenters in the Synod, like Becker, determine how we write our bylaws. Matthew Becker has spent a good portion of his career trying to undermine the synod’s doctrinal position by challenging the meaning of all sorts of words in our Constitution and Bylaws. That is a game that religious liberals have been playing since Schleiermacher, and the neo-orthodox theologians honed that skill to a fine art. I am not going to play that game.

    I commend you, Jon, for your attempts to help the LCMS solve some of its problems in the area of its doctrinal commitments. The problem is that adding doctrinal statements to the Lutheran Confessions could easily turn the LCMS into a sectarian body–and I don’t want to do that. Doctrinal statements should not rise to the level of confessions, unless all Lutheran churches in fellowship with us would agree with such statements in principle and reality, i.e., formally.

    Doctrinal resolutions and doctrinal statements govern especially the public teaching of the officers of the synod and district, their staffs, the professors and staff at our seminaries and universities, circuit visitors, and anyone else called by the synod or district. Such resolutions and statements are intended to keep such persons “in line” doctrinally and ecclesially, and they are supposed to act on such bases–and if they refuse, they should resign or be removed.

    Everyone else is bound to the Scriptures and Confessions. Notice how Becker tries to “weasel out” of his Scriptural commitment. That is his chief error. His confessional commitment is false too, since he disagrees with the Athanasian Creed, and the First Article of the Nicene Creed, among other things.

    The history of Article VII of the LCMS Constitution is one of the main themes of Carl Mundinger’s Government in the Missouri Synod. Before anyone would alter Article VII they absolutely must read and digest that book.

    The way our bylaws work is they are supposed to add clarity to the Constitution, in addition to providing procedure and rules.

    I think the best approach in the areas you have discussed is to recommend bylaw changes to the Synod in convention, not alterations to the Constitution.

    I have developed three overtures in my “Four Overtures” post that are Constitutional additions, but they are very carefully crafted to deal with long-standing problems that have been affecting everyone in the Synod and which have led to mistrust and disunity.

    The issue of admission to the Lord’s Supper used to be solved by the requirements of “announcement.” When that was dropped, we ended up in chaos. So overture two tries to address that.

    The matter of worship used to be solved by the universal understanding that the “ordinary” of the communion service was not an adiaphora for Lutherans, and that the manner and purposes of worship were also not adiaphora. Because these common understandings have changed, it needs to be addressed. No single issue bothers more Lutheran laymen more than changes in worship. Thus overture three and four address this.

    The Becker case is disturbing, but he is one trouble-maker out of 2 million LCMS members. We should not overturn the entire synod, its Constitution, and bylaws for one trouble-maker in Israel.

    The problem is not really with our bylaws. Synodically-loyal, fair-minded and intelligent people can figure out what needs to be done. The problem is, in this case, with the people who are supposed to administer the bylaws. They are either not loyal to the synod, not fair-minded, or not intelligent–maybe all of the above.

    We have had this problem before, when 8 district presidents certified and ordained Seminex candidates, contrary to synod bylaws. Jack Preus went to the 1975 convention and asked, “What should I do with this?” The convention said, “They need to stop–NOW–and if any one does it again, remove him immediately.” So he did. That approach, which goes to national convention for answers to a conundrum, is the best, in my opinion.

    I am sorry if this rambles a bit, but I tried to address all your previous comments in this post. Thanks again, Jon, for sharing your ideas and thinking. Please do submit overtures on these subjects, or find congregations that will do it. Also consider submitting overtures to the BJS list of LCMS overtures for 2016 via this website.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  27. Martin R. Noland:
    Thank you for your thoughtful (as always) feedback.

    The 1960 bylaws are a model of clarity and simplicity.

    Is there any way for you to make those available to the rest of us? I for one would be very interested in seeing how much different they are from what we have now, especially when it comes to ecclesiastical supervision.

    We should not let the dissenters in the Synod, like Becker, determine how we write our bylaws.

    As you know better than most, historically the Synod has had a self-understanding of “walking together” voluntarily, such that it was not necessary to worry about preempting dissenters. That is no longer the case, so I think that we at least have to consider adjusting our approach to the Constitution and Bylaws accordingly.

    The problem is that adding doctrinal statements to the Lutheran Confessions could easily turn the LCMS into a sectarian body–and I don’t want to do that.

    This is a valid concern, similar to why I think that the CCM opinion regarding doctrinal resolutions/statements is incorrect and potentially dangerous; it is fitting that we are having this discussion under an article entitled “Unintended Consequences”!

    Doctrinal statements should not rise to the level of confessions, unless all Lutheran churches in fellowship with us would agree with such statements in principle and reality, i.e., formally.

    The fact of the matter is that we already do not determine fellowship solely on the basis of what each church body declares as its confession. If we did, we could/would be in fellowship with the ELCA, WELS, etc.; their “official” confessions are essentially the same as ours. On the contrary, the Brief Statement was originally written and adopted for the specific purpose of guiding fellowship decisions, and I would imagine that A Statement has been used in much the same way.

    Doctrinal resolutions and doctrinal statements govern especially the public teaching of the officers of the synod and district, their staffs, the professors and staff at our seminaries and universities, circuit visitors, and anyone else called by the synod or district … Everyone else is bound to the Scriptures and Confessions.

    If we take this approach, then it seems to me that there really is no basis for expelling someone like Rev. Becker. How can we precisely define and enforce what it means to be “bound to the Scriptures and Confessions” if there is no clearly authoritative guideline for interpreting and applying them? A Statement provides this, but if it only governs those called by the Synod or a district, then Rev. Becker and the vast majority of other Synod members are exempt.

    I have developed three overtures in my “Four Overtures” post that are Constitutional additions, but they are very carefully crafted to deal with long-standing problems that have been affecting everyone in the Synod and which have led to mistrust and disunity.

    I honestly think that those three overtures are less appropriate as constitutional amendments than what I am proposing. I also suspect that they are less likely to receive the require 2/3 majority vote for adoption, because they are all even more likely to be perceived as infringing on the Synod’s advisory role with respect to congregations.

  28. Dear Jon,

    Thanks again for your very helpful comments, and I am agreeing with what you say.

    You are correct that the relationship between Confessions, doctrinal statements, and doctrinal resolutions is nebulous. But our public doctrine is still there and what it says is clear enough. People of good-will know that they should agree with the public doctrine of the Synod, but when there is no good-will toward that public doctrine, it is difficult to enforce without causing more problems. And it shouldn’t be difficult, in my opinion.

    I know that the CTCR has been conscientiously working at this problem for some time. I think that is why CHI was originally asked to put together a complete resource with all LCMS doctrinal resolutions. That is the CD-ROM I mentioned above. Most of that work was translation from German to English, the rest of the work was keying-in and indexing.

    When Jack Preus was confronted by the liberals in the LCMS regarding the 1973 “Statement,” they said something like, “You can’t do that. You can’t add anything to the confessions.” His reply was something like, “But if you delete something from the Scripture or Confessions, it is my job to defend it as LCMS President. And that is what we have done in the Statement.” That may be an “urban legend” that someone once told me, but it is close to the truth of what really happened.

    As to the viability of my Overtures 2-4 (see “Four Overtures” post here at BJS) as constitutional amendments, none of them may not pass the required 2/3rds. But the alternative is simply more disunity and anger in the Synod in those matters.

    If congregations like to be angry and disruptive and constantly “at war” with their brethren, then that is their choice–and it will certainly not help our “Witness, Mercy, and Life Together” to constantly be fighting about these issues. My only reason for proposing those three is to reduce the constant friction and in-fighting. Other methods of reducing that friction and in-fighting don’t seem to be working.

    As to the 1960 bylaws, they are the property of the LCMS, so I don’t think I can simply post them online without permission. If you can arrange for our permission to publish them, I have a copy, can scan them, and then can ask Norm to put it someplace for reference. You can e-mail the LCMS Secretary’s office for that request to publish. He has my contact info, which is also in the LCMS online directory.

    If you just want a personal scanned copy, without intending to publish it, I can do that. Let me know.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  29. Dear BJS Bloggers,

    Hmmm . . . I’ve just thought of another “Unintended Consequence” of the Dr. Becker case, after re-reading through the comments above made by Jon Alan Schmidt. Thanks, again, Jon, for your commentary and insights.

    As more and more states go toward the legalization of same-sex marriage, and the prohibition of discrimination against gays/lesbians in offering marriage services, those church-bodies and congregations that are opposed to gay/lesbian marriage, like the LCMS, better “lawyer up.”

    I think that the LCMS, for its part, will need an explicit statement passed by the convention that states that the public doctrine of the synod is opposed to gay/lesbian marriage on theological-religious grounds, with the pertinent Scripture passages as proof. If we don’t already have that as a doctrinal resolution or doctrinal statement, we can get that done at the 2016 convention. It is really the job of our synod’s attorney to prepare us for that, since this is a “synodical interest” thing.

    But here is the problem. Dr. Becker has done such a good job of vitiating the authority of doctrinal resolutions and doctrinal statements passed by conventions–the old Seminex-liberal trick–that even a resolution passed at the convention won’t hold up in court.

    This may have been Dr. Becker’s intent all along–to make the entire LCMS and all of its congregations and pastors subject to lawsuits for discrimination against gays and lesbians–which we will be, if we don’t take proper action. If the doctrinal resolutions of the Synod are not binding in a legal way for LCMS members, then they also provide NO protection in the case of such lawsuits for discrimination against gays/lesbians.

    This just occurred to me today, so I only see the problem. I don’t know the answer.

    At the minimum, I think that every congregation should have an explicit statement, passed by its voter’s assemblies, about whom its pastors will and will not marry, and that where that statement talks about prohibition of gay/lesbian marriage that it needs to be carefully crafted. Maybe the LCMS 2016 convention could recommend the relevant wording for that part.

    I do know that one of the sharpest legal minds on this subject who is LCMS and who supports our public doctrine will be giving a lecture at the upcoming Congress on the Lutheran Confessions in Minneapolis. He is attorney Mark Stern.

    Those Congress lectures are usually published in monographs years later, not audio- or video-recorded, so you will probably have to attend (or get notes from a friend who did) to find out what Mark says. For more information about the Congress and registration, go to: http://www.lutheracademy.com/conferences/2015-congress.html The registration form is in a link on the bottom of the page, and opens in Adobe Reader.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  30. Dear Jon,

    Re: https://steadfastlutherans.org/2015/02/unintended-consequences/comment-page-1/#comment-1084182 (your comment Feb. 19th, 1:19 pm)

    After giving your proposal more thought, in light of my just posted comment, I think you may be right. I think that Synod’s attorney and LCMS Board of Directors need to get on this one right away.

    Putting Doctrinal Statements in Constitution Article II (thus elevating them to that level), and requiring their adoption by the same process as Constitutional Amendment, seems to me to be the only way to protect our “interests” in the gay/lesbian issue. The current status of doctrinal resolutions and doctrinal statements seems insecure to me.

    But I am not a lawyer who can say how our “church law” would be viewed in civil courts for this issue.

    Thanks again for all your work over the years on these issues.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  31. Dear Martin,
    You don’t need a voter’s meeting to say who a pastor will marry or not, in fact, the day after Illinois voted in non-Biblical Marriage, I posted the marriage policy that all pastor’s I know follow, a man and a woman.
    Yes, and pre-marital meetings and post-marital meetings are part of it. As well as being a member, strongly encouraged.
    Yes, a lawsuit might occur if we “rent out” the fellowship hall, we do not! Any member of the congregation may ask for its use. And we posted that too.
    This is a “thus says the Lord…moment”
    The congregation does not vote on this!

  32. https://steadfastlutherans.org/2015/02/unintended-consequences/comment-page-1/#comment-1084556

    Pastor Noland: I think that the LCMS, for its part, will need an explicit statement passed by the convention that states that the public doctrine of the synod is opposed to gay/lesbian marriage on theological-religious grounds, with the pertinent Scripture passages as proof.

    The Antiochian Orthodox Church may have already done such a thing as you propose. I would think that is a very good idea.

    Resolution to Oppose the Recent United States Supreme Court Decision That Held the “Defense of Marriage Act” Unconstitutional
    http://www.antiochian.org/resolution-oppose-recent-united-states-supreme-court-decision-held-defense-marriage-act-unconstituti

  33. Martin R. Noland:
    I sent you an e-mail over the weekend requesting the 1960 LCMS Bylaws and offering a few draft resolutions, including an alternative to incorporating Doctrinal Statements into Article II, since we both have reservations about altering the Synod’s confession. Why not instead just make complying with them an explicit condition of membership in Article VI? Specifically, VI.1 could be amended to read as follows (bold text is added): “Acceptance without reservation of the confessional basis of Article II, and conformance of all teaching and practice to it and to all Doctrinal Statements of the Synod.” Article XV would still be amended to require the same procedure for adopting Doctrinal Statements as for amending the Constitution.

    In light of your additional concern raised here, I still wonder if it is possible to adopt Doctrinal Statements at the same convention where these constitutional amendments are adopted, since they would not go into effect unless ratified by 2/3 of congregations voting within six months. I guess that is another question for the “canonists”.

  34. Dear Jon,

    I like your idea better (Feb. 23, 8:30 AM), namely, to modify Constitution Article VI. That makes a lot more sense in many ways, since for example VI.2 deals with issues not specified directly in the Book of Concord, but drawn from it. Also will still require that Doctrinal Statements must pass 2/3rds of the voting congregations of Synod.

    I think you could adopt Doctrinal Statements and the new Article VI amendments at the same time, but you might have to make provision in the resolution for “if this, then that” scenarios, in the event the congregations do not pass one or the other.

    We’ll keep working on this. I think we are making some progress here . . .

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

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