LCMS Liberals Write “An Open Letter to Pr. Dan Gilbert of the Northern Illinois District of the LCMS,” by Pr. Rossow

The Northern Illinois District (NID) just concluded a fairly conservative convention as the NID goes including a call for Matthew Becker to repent. Apparently that got liberals in the LCMS worked up. Here is a letter they wrote to President Gilbert.

An Open Letter to Pr. Dan Gilbert, President of the Northern Illinois District of the LCMS

Dear President Gilbert,

In your address to the 2015 District Convention you said that, in all likelihood, most congregations in your District are declining numerically. On an average, three congregations per year are disbanding. You also mentioned that, according to one projection, the LCMS will go from its current 6000 congregations to 1,000 in 30 years time. You also pointed out that the average age of our members is probably above 60. In your concluding statement you said that the possibility of a congregation closing was dreadful and that the possibility of thousands of LCMS pastors with no flock, no call, and no income is staggering.

Given how dire the condition of the church is in your district and elsewhere, we are dismayed that you permitted Resolution 1-5, “To Call the Rev. Becker to Repentance and Implore the N.W. District President, the Rev. Paul Linnemann to Continue Exercising Ecclesiastical Discipline,” to come to the floor of the 2015 Northern Illinois District Convention. As far as we know, there has been only one official, outstanding case against Dr. Becker, and this case was recently dismissed by a Referral Panel in the Northwest District. That panel, comprised of three circuit counselors who were chosen by blind draw, concluded that the facts in that case (having to do with Dr. Becker’s support for the ordination of women) did not constitute a basis to expel him from the clergy roster of the synod. The Referral Panel’s decision not to proceed against Dr. Becker terminated the matter. Period.

May we remind you of Synod Bylaw

Whether made by the district president or the Referral Panel, if the determination is not to initiate formal proceedings, the district president shall in writing so inform the accuser, any other district president involved, and the involved member, which shall terminate the matter.

That any of us knows about this case is the result of the inappropriate action of President Harrison to have given publicity to it at the recent North Dakota District Convention. Only in the wake of President Harrison’s public remarks (which were widely shared on the internet) and his now infamous Facebook posting, which went directly against the spirit and letter of Bylaw, did people throughout the synod become aware that Dr. Becker had been cleared of this charge against him. Obviously, the Referral Panel did not think that Dr. Becker’s views on the ordination of women form a sufficient reason to expel him from the clergy roster.

Dr. Becker is not guilty of advocating false doctrine. He has merely published some writings in which he levels criticism against the synod’s practice of restricting the office of pastor to men. He has followed the process of dissent in our synod, a process on which the synod has placed no time restrictions. Moreover, Dr. Becker’s dissent does not rise to the level of rejecting any of the articles of faith, as these are clearly exhibited in the Lutheran Confessions. In fact, we think that the biblical and confessional content of Dr. Becker’s dissent ought to be discussed more fairly and given greater consideration within the Synod than it has been so far.

It was totally inappropriate for you to allow Rev. Roger Gallup, a member of the floor committee that brought this resolution to the floor, to give a special address to the convention in order to publicly accuse Dr. Becker of being a false teacher. Rev. Gallup even boasted that the entire floor committee that brought the resolution to the NID convention was unified in labeling Dr. Becker a false teacher. That committee had no standing, legitimacy, or authority to make such a public judgment against a member of the synod from another district. If individuals have concerns about Dr. Becker’s public teaching, these concerns should be conveyed to Dr. Becker himself and to Dr. Becker’s district president, who alone has ecclesiastical supervision of Dr. Becker.

May we remind you of Synod Bylaw 2.16.3c:

Even if the alleged violation of Article XIII of the Constitution is considered to be “public,” this provision of Matthew 18:15 shall be followed. The reputation of all parties to the matter is to be protected as commanded in the Eighth Commandment.

We have learned that no one from the NID ever met face-to-face with Dr. Becker to discuss their concerns with him privately. Dr. Becker’s reputation has certainly not been protected in your district. He was publicly attacked at your district convention, behind his back, and without any prior communication with him. And now your attack against Dr. Becker has been widely shared on the internet. We believe that you and your district have broken the Eighth Commandment. Rev. Gallup’s speech and the resolution against Dr. Becker are slanderous. Neither that speech nor that resolution should have ever been allowed at your convention.

Many people within our synod are putting the worst construction on Dr. Becker’s dissent (“He’s guilty of false teaching!”) rather than putting the best construction on it (“He’s trying to lead us to study the Scriptures and the Confessions more carefully and to evaluate current synodical practices and resolutions in light of the Scriptures and the Confessions!”). Like many professors at Christian colleges and universities, Dr. Becker is daily faced with young people who have given up on the church and may also be in the process of losing their faith. It is estimated that less than 10% of the Millennial Generation have any regular connection with church. Research has also shown that young people are particularly turned off by what they consider to be the anti-science, anti-women, and anti-gay positions of the church.

Dr. Becker shares with you the sadness that if this generation is not reached with the Gospel, such a failure will have eternal consequences for them and devastating results in our congregations. He questions not the essential doctrine of the church concerning God’s creation, our sin, Christ’s work of atonement, salvation by grace through faith alone, the means of grace, and the ongoing work of the Spirit. Rather, he challenges those peripheral, problematic positions of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, that are not clearly settled in the Scriptures and that have been decided merely by majority votes at synod conventions.

In your message to the delegates at the NID convention, you said that the definition of madness is to keep doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Thus, you advocate New Starts – New Believers. Many of us believe that now is also the time to revisit previous convention resolutions that we think are misguided and even harmful to Christ’s mission in the world today, especially as the mission relates to our children and grandchildren.

In Christ,

The undersigned,

Rev. Dr. Robert Schmidt
Deacon Dr. Douglas Morrison
Rev. Bill Warren
Dr. Don Soeken
Rev. Arnie Voight
Rev. Tyrus Miles
Rev. J. L. Precup
Rev. Dr. Hans Spalteholz
Dr. Elizabeth Goodine
Rev. Dale Koehneke
Rev. Paul Schmidt
Elizabeth McAdams
Marie Steinbeck
Rev. Richard Hill
Rev. Adam Kegel
Rev. Gary Koopmann
Rev. Roger Stuenkel
Rev. Dale Krueger
Rev. Richard Patt
Rev. Robert Martinek
Rev. Dell Schomburg
Rev. Dr. Norman Metzler
Rev. John Hannah
Atty. Myron Allenstein
Rev. Robert Burke
Dr. Jerrald Pfabe
Rev. Edward Scott
Rev. Dr. Christian Just
Rev. Thomas Van der Bloemen
David Domsch
Rev. William J. Meyer
Dr. William Oehlkers
Rev. Harold Hitzmann
Carol Schmidt
Ann Murphy
Tim Ihssen (CM)
Rev. Don Mulfinger
Georgia Schubert
David Crisi (CM)
Rev. Karl Wyneken
Rev. Douglas Johnstone
Rev. Nolan Bremer
Rev. Jerry Groth
Vida Stanton


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