Doctrinal Supervision and the Becker Case

This article was written by Rev. Dr. Martin R. Noland, and was first published in the The Lutheran Clarion, a publication of The Lutheran Concerns Association. You may download the entire May issue of the Clarion here, and previous editions of the Clarion here, as well as free subscription information.

 

What is the real business of the synod? In Chapter IV of its 1854 Constitution, the Missouri Synod stated that the business of the synod is:

1) watching over the purity and unity of doctrine within the Synod; 2) supervision over the performance of the official duties on the part of pastors and teachers of Synod; 3) common defense and extension of the church; 4) giving theological opinions and judgments; also settling disputes between individuals or whole parties in congregations, but the latter only in cases in which all interested parties have applied to Synod [for arbitration], etc.1

Although some folks may be unaware of them, these are still the most important duties of the synod and its officers today.

At its March 6-7, 2015 district convention, the Northern Illinois District (hereafter NID) of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (hereafter LCMS) adopted resolution 1-05,2 which calls on some who “teach or publicly advocate for positions” contrary to the public doctrine of the LCMS to “repentance and to reform their actions immediately.” The same resolution listed the doctrines of the LCMS at issue, namely, concerning “women’s ordination, homosexuality, creation and evolution, the inerrancy and inspiration of Scripture, and proper methods for Biblical interpretation.” It also requested that the LCMS Commission on Handbook review the existing procedures for doctrinal dissent, for doctrinal discipline, and for “removing those who refuse to repent or who refuse to call others to repentance.”

Who is being talked about in NID resolution 1-05? The person who disagrees with the LCMS doctrines that are listed above is Dr. Matthew Becker, an LCMS pastor and an Associate Professor of Theology at Valparaiso University, formerly a professor of theology in Concordia University at Portland, Oregon. Dr. Becker has a blog called “Transverse Markings”3 which includes his public advocacy for positions contrary to the public doctrine of the LCMS. He is also the Managing Editor for the “Daystar Journal”4 and has frequently published articles at their website.5 The Daystar articles he publishes have been on a variety of topics about theology, church practice, and church history. Such articles have included his criticism of the doctrinal authority of the LCMS,6 advocacy for women’s ordination,7 criticism of the traditional doctrine of creation held by the LCMS,8 and approval of homosexual unions.9 The person who has not exerted doctrinal discipline toward Dr. Becker is his present LCMS district president, the Rev. Paul Linnemann, District President (hereafter DP) of the LCMS Northwest District.

How did DP Linnemann fail to exert doctrinal discipline toward Dr. Becker? In a recent case in which doctrinal charges were brought against Dr. Becker, DP Linnemann formed a Referral Panel according to the procedures in Bylaw 2.14.5.10 This was really an abdication of responsibility. DP Linnemann should have brought forward charges himself (Bylaw 2.14.4) in such an obvious case of doctrinal error. The Referral Panel decided to terminate the case, even though Dr. Becker has expressed significant and manifold disagreements with the public doctrine of the LCMS, and continues to publicly advocate against that doctrine.

Dr. Becker’s dissent from certain public doctrines of the LCMS, which doctrines are listed above, has been known for a long time. He recently expressed such dissent in 2011 to the LCMS Commission on Theology and Church Relations (hereafter CTCR). The responses of the CTCR to Becker are definitely worth reading in order to understand this case (see endnote).11

Many people have expressed frustration that this case gives evidence that doctrinal supervision is not functioning in the LCMS. If doctrinal supervision fails to bring Dr. Becker to repentance, or to bring about his removal from the LCMS clergy roster, how can it be expected to work in lesser cases of dissent from the public doctrine of the LCMS?

The Becker case proves that there are faults in the doctrinal supervision system of the LCMS, but it does not prove that there is no doctrinal supervision at all. So there is a problem and it needs fixing. In order to fix the system, through revision of bylaws, we first need to ask about the nature of doctrinal supervision. What is the doctrine being supervised? Who does the supervising? And how does doctrinal discipline proceed?

What is the doctrine being supervised? It is the doctrine found originally in the canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testament, and then later summarized and explained in the Lutheran Book of Concord. It is the same doctrine that has more recently been confessed by The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod through its doctrinal resolutions and doctrinal statements. The LCMS cannot establish Scriptural doctrine, but only confess and explain it.

This was elucidated by the LCMS at its 1971 convention through Resolution 2-21 “To Uphold Synodical Doctrinal Resolutions.” The same resolution was recently reprinted as an appendix to the document CTCR Response to Expressions of Dissent (2004-2006), during the administration of President Gerald Kieschnick. I highly recommend that you read Resolution 2-21 in order to understand the LCMS position about its own doctrine (see endnote).12

What are the doctrinal resolutions and statements of the LCMS? They can be found in a single collection on CD-ROM from the Concordia Historical Institute.13 All German resolutions in that collection have been translated into English. Lutherans know, of course, that councils—and that includes synods–may err, so the LCMS provides for a process of correction of the synod’s position through Bylaw 1.8 and its procedures of dissent.

Who supervises doctrine? In the LCMS, the synodical president (Constitution Article XI, B.1-B.3), the district presidents (Constitution Article XII.7-XII.9 (a)), and the circuit visitors (Bylaw 5.2.3 (a)) supervise doctrine. What if the doctrinal supervisors disagree about a contested doctrine or how to handle a particular case? If that happens, the synodical president must report such cases to the synod (Constitution XI.B.2), and may even do so while a case is being heard (Bylaw 2.14.7.8 (g)).

Which district president supervises Dr. Becker? Now here we have a real problem. The assignment of church-workers to districts is explained in Bylaw section 12.12. Valparaiso University is not an agency of the LCMS, so Bylaw 2.12.1.5 does not apply. For some time now, at least since August 2008, Dr. Becker has been an inactive, non-candidate ordained minister, according to the Lutheran Annual. His district assignment was determined, apparently, through Bylaw 2.12.1.8, since no other bylaw in that section fits his situation. That means that doctrinal supervision was supposed to be carried out by his DP, who lives in Portland, Oregon, while Dr. Becker lives and works in Valparaiso, Indiana.

Does the LCMS want to have some of its clergy in full-time vocations as professors in universities or colleges that are not part of the Concordia University System (hereafter CUS)? If so, it needs to fix this problem. I propose a solution here by inserting between present Bylaws 2.12.1.6 and 2.12.1.7 this new bylaw: An individual member of the Synod who is a full-time professor at a university or college that is not part of the Concordia University System shall hold Synod membership in the geographical district in which the member resides or the non-geographical district in which he/she holds membership. You may put this bylaw revision in the form of an overture and send it to the 2016 convention. If this is passed at the 2016 convention, Dr. Becker will immediately become a member of the Indiana District.

Finally, how should doctrinal discipline proceed? Here there are multiple problems that extend far beyond the case in question.14 Barring a wholesale revamping of the system, I recommend four sets of bylaw changes and one general recommendation that could bring some semblance of order to the Becker case and others like it.

First, the bylaw section on dissent (Bylaw 1.8) should not be used as a way of avoiding doctrinal discipline. I propose an addition to that section, labeled Bylaw 1.8.3: Dissent from doctrinal resolutions and statements does not excuse or relieve a member of synod from doctrinal discipline under the Bylaws of Synod. If a member of synod has expressed doctrinal dissent in conjunction with complaints or accusations brought against him/her, when the matter has been concluded by the Commission on Theology and Church Relations the case will return immediately to the synodical official supervising the case, who will move forward with the case on the basis of the judgment of the CTCR. You may put this bylaw revision in the form of an overture and send it to the 2016 convention.

Second, the district president supervising the case should not be allowed to terminate the case arbitrarily. In the pre-1992 bylaws of the synod, the district president had to “decide whether the information concerning the matters which could lead to termination of membership preliminarily appear to be able to be substantiated” (1989 Bylaw 2.27b).15 So under the 1989 bylaw, in the case of Dr. Becker, DP Linnemann would have had to investigate whether Dr. Becker was truly advocating for women’s ordination. If that was in fact true, and could be substantiated, then the case would have to proceed. If Dr. Becker was not advocating for women’s ordination, then that investigation would terminate the case.

I propose, then, an addition to the bylaws by inserting between present Bylaws 2.14.5.1 and 2.14.5.2 this new bylaw: The determination by the district president to initiate formal proceedings shall be made solely on the basis of whether the information concerning the matters which could lead to termination of membership preliminarily appears to be able to be substantiated. Analogous amendments should be made to Bylaw sections 2.15, 2.16, and 2.17. You may put this bylaw revision in the form of an overture and send it to the 2016 convention.

Third, although the Referral Panel may be useful in making recommendations, it should not be given the authority to determine whether to initiate formal proceedings, which should rest with the district president himself.

I propose, then, amendment to the bylaws in section 2.14.5 and 2.14.6. The phrase “shall make the determination” in Bylaw 2.14.5.1 should be changed to read “shall make a recommendation.” The phrase “Whether made by the district president or the Referral Panel, if the determination is” in Bylaw 2.14.5.2 should be changed to read “If he determines.” The phrase “process of making its determination” in Bylaw 2.14.5.3 should be changed to read “process of making its recommendation.” The phrase “or the Referral Panel” in Bylaw 2.14.6 should be deleted. Analogous amendments should be made to Bylaw sections 2.15, 2.16, and 2.17. You may put this bylaw revision in the form of an overture and send it to the 2016 convention.

Fourth, the Commission on Constitutional Matters (hereafter CCM) and the CTCR should not be allowed to make binding rulings that determine the final outcome of a case, either in the original hearing or in the appeal. In the pre-1992 bylaws of the synod, the adjudicating and appeal commissions could request an advisory opinion from the CCM or CTCR (e.g., 1989 Bylaw 8.51f). This was only advisory, not binding. The 1992 bylaw revisions of the adjudication chapters of the synod made the CCM and CTCR final and binding authorities (e.g., 1992 Bylaw 8.21i).16 An LCMS attorney once wrote to President Ralph Bohlmann: “CCM and CTCR rulings are rendered ex parte, without notice and hearing, and are thereby not in accord with the requirements of due process. . . . The civil courts may assume jurisdiction in church matters if they find the adjudicatory process of a church tribunal does not meet the requirements of due process.”17

I propose, then, revision to the following bylaws by changing the authority of the rulings of the CCM and CTCR from binding to advisory (e.g., from “must be followed” to “may be followed”): Bylaws 2.14.3 (a), 2.14.7.8 (l), 2.14.7.9 (c), 2.15.3(a), 2.15.7.9 (c), 2.16.3 (a), 2.16.8 (b), and 2.17.7.9 (c). You may put this bylaw revision in the form of an overture and send it to the 2016 convention.

Fifth, the synod should discuss whether it really wants district presidents involved as judges in adjudicatory matters. Since 1992, the LCMS district presidents have served not only as doctrinal supervisors, but also as judges who make the decision to expel church-workers from the synod for false doctrine, gross misconduct, and for other reasons. Prior to 1992, the decision to expel was made by either the Commissions on Adjudication or the Commission on Appeals. No officers of synod or district were allowed to serve on those commissions or influence their work. Only parish pastors, laymen, and lawyers were allowed to serve on those commissions.

At the 1992 convention, the district presidents used their influence to abolish the Commissions on Adjudication and Appeals, replacing them with Dispute Resolution Panels. At the 2004 convention, dispute resolution was separated from the expulsion process, with the latter process being administered and controlled by district presidents. Thus, since 2004, the district presidents are the judges who determine who is in and out of the synod—and they know that when they accept their job.

The case of DP Linnemann is actually a litmus test for all of the LCMS district presidents. If any defend his actions, they are actually saying that they do not intend to exert doctrinal discipline in their own districts, if that ever becomes necessary.

I am not saying that serving as a synodical judge is an easy or pleasant duty—but it is a role that the district presidents have desired, and have used their influence to obtain in 1992 and 2004. If the district presidents no longer want the job of judge in the synod’s adjudication system, then they should say so and use their influence to restore something like the independent judiciaries18 we once had in the LCMS—i.e., the Commissions on Adjudication and the Commission on Appeals.

Note: All web addresses were accessed and checked for validity on March 25, 2015 by the author.


1. See C. S. Meyer, ed., Moving Frontiers: Readings in the History of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (St Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1964), 151. The original 1847 constitution of the synod, which has a nearly identical Chapter IV, can be found in: William Gustave Polack, “Our First Synodical Constitution,” Concordia Historical Institute Quarterly 16 #1 (April 1943): 1-18.
2. To obtain a copy of this NID resolution, go to page 17 here: http://ni.lcms.org/sites/default/files/Documents/todaysbusiness030715_final.doc . The original overture can be found on pages 32 to 36 here: http://ni.lcms.org/sites/default/files/Documents/section_5_-_overtures_rev_2-26-2015.pdf The Southern Illinois District Convention adopted a different resolution on the same subject on February 14, 2015, Resolution 2-05B, available here: https://steadfastlutherans.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/RESOLUTION-2-05B-FINAL.pdf
3. Go to: http://www.matthewlbecker.blogspot.com
4. Go to: http://thedaystarjournal.com
5. For the online folder that contains all of Dr. Becker’s articles on Daystar since 2013, see: http://thedaystarjournal.com/category/article/author/matthew-becker
6. See: http://thedaystarjournal.com/talking-points-about-doctrinal-authority-in-the-lcms-2
7. See: http://thedaystarjournal.com/informal-reflections-on-women-pastors-and-theologians and http://thedaystarjournal.com/an-argument-for-women-pastors-and-theologians
8. See: http://thedaystarjournal.com/christian-theology-the-doctrine-of-creation-and-scientific-knowledge and http://thedaystarjournal.com/the-scandal-of-the-lcms-mind
9. See: http://thedaystarjournal.com/the-creators-tapestry-review-article
10. See 2013 Handbook of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (St Louis: LCMS, 2013), 73. All references to the Handbook, Constitution, or Bylaws of the LCMS refer to this original 2013 printed edition, not to the later one available only in electronic form dated Nov. 19-20, 2014, unless noted otherwise.
11. The formal response of the CTCR to Dr. Becker’s dissent can be found here: http://www.lcms.org/Document.fdoc?src=lcm&id=1676 After his reply of January 12, 2012, the CTCR issued the following letter indicating that the dissent process was finished and that future correspondence would be forwarded to his DP and the synodical president. That letter can be found here: http://www.lcms.org/Document.fdoc?src=lcm&id=1675
12. See Commission on Theology and Church Relations, CTCR Response to Expressions of Dissent (2004-2006) (St Louis: LCMS, 2006), 34-37; available for free online at: http://www.lcms.org/page.aspx?pid=726&DocID=404
13. See Concordia Historical Institute, The Doctrinal Resolutions of the National Conventions of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod 1847-2004, CD-ROM format (St Louis: Concordia Historical Institute, 2006). ISBN-13: 978-0-9788523-0-6. $15.00 plus s/h. Order here: http://www.lutheranhistory.org/doctresorder.htm
14. My concerns about the present dispute/expulsion system have been published in the essay “Problems with 2013 Dispute/Expulsion System” published by the The Brothers of John the Steadfast here: https://steadfastlutherans.org/2014/10/problems-with-2013-disputeexpulsion-system . It includes a flow chart that explains how the system is supposed to work. My earlier essays that analyzed and criticized this system are: Martin R. Noland, “Law and Due Process in the Kingdom of the Left and the Kingdom of the Right,” in God and Caesar Revisited, Luther Academy Conference Papers No. 1, papers presented at the Congress on the Lutheran Confessions, Skokie, Illinois, April 7-9, 1994, edited by John R. Stephenson (Shorewood, MN: The Luther Academy, 1995), 47-58; and Martin R. Noland, “District Presidents and their Council: Biblical and Confessional Limitations,” in Church Polity and Politics, papers presented at the Congress on the Lutheran Confessions, Itasca, Illinois, April 3-5, 1997, edited by John Fehrmann and Daniel Preus (Crestwood, MO and Minnneapolis, MN: Luther Academy and Association of Confessional Lutherans, 1997), 156-172. Both Luther Academy publications can be purchased for a minimal fee here: http://www.logia.org/luther-academy-books
15. 1989 Handbook of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (St Louis: LCMS, 1989), 30-31. Other references in the text to the 1989 bylaws refer to this edition.
16. 1992 Handbook of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (St Louis: LCMS, 1992), 130. For more analysis on the subject of the binding authority of the CCM and CTCR, see my blog post here: https://steadfastlutherans.org/2013/07/whats-wrong-with-the-commission-on-constitutional-matters and my article: Martin R. Noland, “Word of God Determines Doctrine, Not Commission on Constitutional Matters,” The Lutheran Clarion 5 no. 9 (July 2013): 1-2; available for free here: http://lutheranclarion.org/images/NewsletterJul2013.pdf
17. Letter by an LCMS layman, an attorney who had served on the LCMS Board of Directors, to LCMS President Ralph Bohlmann, dated April 5, 1990.
18. On the matter of “independent judiciaries,” see my essay “Law and Due Process in the Kingdom of the Left and the Kingdom of the Right,” 54-55.

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

Doctrinal Supervision and the Becker Case — 24 Comments

  1. The real (and most important) business of Synod and its officers should be to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ in love and humility. This misguided hysteria over “pure” doctrine is antithetical to that. Let the stoning begin.

  2. @Mark G Woodworth #1

    You seem to be playing the Pharisee Card with the stoning comment. I think you may have things backwards. Pr. Wiken wrote an excellent article on the Pharisee card. It was Jesus who stressed doctrinal purity. The Pharisees wanted to loosen up doctrine so they could claim they were righteous.

    Jesus expects His people to have this same desire for doctrinal purity. “Teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you.”

    Doctrinal purity is not in opposition to spreading the gospel. The two go together.

  3. The President of the Northwest District has the
    first responsibility to exercise discipline for
    the pastors in his District. The buck stops on
    his desk. How he chooses to do it is up to him.
    This is our current Synodical polity until it is
    changed.

  4. @Mark G Woodworth #1

    I agree.

    The problem is, which gospel?

    The gospel of the Roman Catholics, tainted by semi-Pelagianism? The gospel of the evangelicals, tainted by enthusiasm/experientialism? The gospel of the Mormons and Jehovah’s witnesses, which is almost pure Pelagianism? The gospel of Socinianism/Unitarian-Universalism, which has no problem with recognizing other religions as being just as valid?

    You sacrifice “pure” doctrine, you sacrifice the gospel. You throw out what Scripture clearly dictates, be it evolution, homosexual behavior, women’s ordination, etc., no matter how small it may seem to be, you eventually corrupt the gospel itself. You damn souls to hell. Period.

    And I would suggest it is you throwing the stone, sir, with your opening salvo. Think long and hard about that.

  5. Its a silly and ungodly notion that you sacrifice evangelism if you emphasize pure doctrine. Jesus gave us clear instructions. Part of making disciples is “teaching them to observe all things, whatsoever I have commanded you. God expects that his church will teach the whole counsel of God, and correct error and false doctrine, because even one little bit of false doctrine can destroy someone’s faith.

    For example, the Lutheran Confessions make the Gospel shine even brighter and more beautiful. If someone cannot understand this, then they have the problem. The problem is not the word of God.

  6. You know your website has made it when you have your own “concern trolls” who post on nearly every article almost immediately to distract and discredit the issue. Congrats, BJS. You’re in the bigtime now.

  7. “I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.” — Revelation 2:2-5

    I’m not directing this at anyone in particular; just some food for thought. This is red letter, so let’s also keep in mind that Jesus himself took issue with what may have been the most doctrinally mindful gathering of believers in antiquity (and the Apostle John’s own congregation).

    “He who has an ear, let him hear.”

  8. @Mark G Woodworth #1
    You wrote,
    “The real (and most important) business of Synod and its officers should be to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ in love and humility.”

    Are you sure you want to make that assertion or could it be just another misguided hysterical “pure” doctrinal claim?

    I’m not sure how it works to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ while at the same time reject His teachings? I’m guessing it is just a matter of interpretation, right? I’m sticking with the historic Church’s and Lutheran interpretation of Scripture. Among many other things it teaches biblical inerrancy, a six day creation, an all male pastorate, homosexual sex, lust, and extramarital sex as sin, and most importantly Jesus Christ on a cross for sinners. Does a church unwilling to seek pure doctrine admit to having any sinners in need of forgiveness or is it just about “good” works and feeling good about yourself?

  9. Man-made definitions of PURITY will never become pure enough to please the few, the proud, the ‘Steadfast.’ There will always be another target to address, another witch to hunt, until the Synod becomes as ‘advisory’ as the Internal Revenue Service and your goose steps echo in churches that have become empty tombs. It is a lot easier, isn’t it, to make your rule books thicker and thicker, to fester over whether a church has the correct communion statement, or if the pastor wears robes, or if the mandated liturgy is used than it is to go out and actually win souls for Christ. I know its asking a lot, but try the Gospel for a time, not to add to the 613 rules you want to weigh the Lord’s work down with. There is, BTW, only one Gospel, and it will take care of itself despite you guys.

  10. Dear BJS Bloggers,

    First, I want to thank Captain Diekmann for posting my article here. You all might take his hint and sign up for a free subscription to the Lutheran Clarion at: http://www.lutheranclarion.org It is always refreshing to find something Lutheran in your mailbox (or email Inbox), besides the ads, political postcards, junk mail, etc. 🙂

    Second, you can still sign on to the LCA’s Open Letter about the Becker case. Page 7 of the May 2015 issue of the Lutheran Clarion states: You are encouraged to add your name to the Open Letter (page 3). You can do this by emailing LCA Secretary Rev. Jerome Panzigrau at xxxx or President Walter Dissen at xxxx [see Lutheran Clarion for the email addresses on p. 7] or using their U.S. mail address which appears in each issue. Your name, post office address, telephone number and congregation in which you hold LCMS membership is required. It is planned to list the signers in a future Clarion and providing your name also is considered permission to list it. It is noted that a New Year’s Day 1973 Crossroads that addressed concerns re our beloved Synod reportedly had over 230,00 signatures. For the May 2015 issue of the Lutheran Clarion and its Open Letter, go to: http://www.lutheranclarion.org

    Third, I need to make a correction. In the 13th paragraph, I wrote: “Which district president supervises Dr. Becker? Now here we have a real problem. The assignment of church-workers to districts is explained in Bylaw section 12.12.”

    The bylaw reference should be to section 2.12. The typo was originally mine, and I take full blame for that error.

    Fourth, I know that nothing is more boring than a discussion of bylaws. But when it comes to adjudication, it is a matter of justice, fairness, and in many cases, of people’s reputation and livelihood. If there is false doctrine, and it is not repented of after repeated correction, it needs to be handled with fairness and in good order–and the only thing that can assure that is due process combined with impartial judges. Bylaws determine the process and help select the judges. Any lawyer can tell you that.

    Fifth, pastors and laymen often look at false doctrine differently. Many laymen say “Who cares!”, because it is not part of their vocation. Pastors who follow Luther take to heart the many passages of Scripture that mandate that a pastor must watch over his own doctrine and that of others in the church. Sometimes rebuke of false doctrine is necessary. For example, 1 Timothy is filled with such verses: 1 Timothy 1:3-7, 1 Timothy 1:9-10, 1 Timothy 4:16, 1 Timothy 5:19-20, 1 Timothy 6:3-5, and 1 Timothy 6:20-21. Another classic is: 2 Timothy 4:2. This is a vocational issue for pastors.

    But, of course, if you are a “higher critic,” you will argue that the Pastoral Epistles are not Pauline, and therefore we can ignore them. Why is it that higher critics always excise those passages that they personally don’t like, or which criticize their own immoral acts or erroneous beliefs? Notice the arbitrariness of their excise-getical judgments, which are hardly “scientific.” Isn’t that what the Pharisees did to the Old Testament?

    Finally, the real issue in the Becker case is the question of whether Lutherans should be mainline Protestants. Dr. Becker has been making the case, perhaps obliquely, that all Lutherans should be in the same herd as ecumenical, mainline Protestants. The ELCA already is, as is obvious. Becker has not joined the ELCA, I presume, because he believes it is his mission to convert the LCMS to the mindset of mainline Protestantism. At least that is the impression I get from reading his essays over the years and his dissent discussions with the CTCR.

    Instead of prolonging this comment with my response to Becker’s theology, I encourage you to subscribe to LOGIA, so that you will find the answer to the question in the article “Should Lutherans Be Mainline Protestants?” in the vol. 24 no. 4 (Reformation 2015) issue {I am not the author of this upcoming article}. That article will tell you, in non-technical language, why the ELCA has chosen a self-defeating agenda and the LCMS/WELS/ELS/and other genuine-Lutherans have chosen to continue in the true faith that sustains the saints and gives real hope to the lost, the oppressed, and the despairing. Electronic issues for one year are $21.50. Paper issues for one year, domestic addresses, are $32.50 ($27 for students). Go here to subscribe to LOGIA: http://www.logia.org/print-subscriptions/ or http://www.logia.org/home/

    I hope this helps the discussion a bit.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  11. @Mark G Woodworth #11

    This I will concede. We sinners are all guilty of trying to make our own definitions and rule books, especially ones we think we can keep, so that we can feel better about ourselves or perhaps contribute something to our salvation. I agree that man-made definitions of purity will never become pure enough to please the few, but we are not talking about man-made definitions of purity. Scripture interprets Scripture.

    The definitions of purity being discussed here are those which have been followed by the Christian Church for two millennia and by its Old Testament forefathers for many thousands of years before that. They are hardly anything new or man-made.
    In this case the man-made definitions (or should we say Satanic definitions) are those proclaimed by heretics and skeptics who constantly ask, “Did God really say that?” or “Did God really do that?”

    You say there is only one Gospel and it will take care of itself. I agree that there is only one true Gospel and that God takes care of it. There are also many false gospels and false prophets. If you think the Gospel will take care of itself why are you so worried about the offense of true doctrine? Why would a Christian want to teach false doctrine?

    Satan constantly attacks the Gospel of Christ. That is why there are so many false teachings and falsely teaching religions. Christians are called to proclaim and defend the Gospel.

  12. Thank you for posting this. I want to talk about the proposed amendment:

    “An individual member of the Synod who is a full-time professor at a university or college that is not part of the Concordia University System shall hold Synod membership in the geographical district in which the member resides or the non-geographical district in which he/she holds membership.”

    I think it’s a well-intentioned solution to maintaining a steadfast, confessional Lutheran faith within our little synod. However, I do wonder if requiring membership in the local district is opening up an even greater can of worms here, for two reasons (then again, I’m just a layman, so go easy on me).

    First, say an individual member who teaches at a non-Concordia University commutes across district lines (not an inconceivable or even uncommon situation given today’s technology and ever-more-transient culture). Then we’re right back to where we started, only worse: we’ve dropped the disciplinary duties with pastors and DPs who are unfamiliar with the newly-replanted member or their situation. How is this wise?

    My second question has to do with how we Missourians understand our ecclesialogy. The church exists in the local congregation, yes? Yet it apparently does not exist in a bigger assembly/unit/whatever like how our friends understand over at the WELS, ELS, or even Rome. Would requiring membership in a the local District imply that Districts are also entities that embody the church? If not, would (could?) a secular court understand the distinction? Everything we do in the future must be done with the growing threat of secular litigation in mind… Maybe I’m making a mountain out of a molehill here, but can you blame this poor layman for the confused polity of our church — er, rather, voluntary organization of local churches?

  13. Dear Mr. Goodworth,

    I love your zeal for the evangelizing of the lost and share it with you. However, I do not see any necessity of making a choice between purity of doctrine and having a zeal for evangelism. Indeed, how could evangelism be improved by utilizing impure doctrine? I Corinthians 13 says that love rejoices in the truth. It is not at odds with the truth and to state that it is is to misrepresent the Word of God. I might also suggest that if you have a problem with doctrinal purity that you should forego the reading of the Lutheran Confessions which is chock full of such language. But, if you did so, of course, you would not be a Lutheran.

  14. Mr. Goodworth,

    Simple question;

    What is “the Gospel” and why is it important to “spread it” to others?

    soli Deo gloria,
    Grendelssohn

  15. @Matthew #9

    It’s also a red herring…at least how you’re utilizing it.

    “Not directed at anyone in particular,” indeed.

    The “choice” is between true doctrine and love? Please.

  16. @Wyldeirishman #18

    I simply offered a quotation of our Lord Jesus. If you can expound on how you think I’m “using” that, I’d be glad to learn. I never set up a choice. I just think it’s worth noting that a congregation known for their defense of good doctrine had the Lord of Glory warning them about losing their lampstand. That’s not something believers often consider. So I think it’s worthy of consideration.

  17. @Mark G Woodworth #11

    Man-made definitions of PURITY will never become pure enough

    Sure. But what about the God inspired pure words of the Scriptures? Are those worth fighting for, or is insisting that our ministers actually believe them and teach them simply “misguided hysteria?” Becker not only rejects the teaching of Scripture on the office of the Pastor, he believes it has errs and therefore is subject to HIS critical review. So, do we require our ministers to believe the words God has given us, or is insisting that we actually trust the God we claim to worship “being contentious?”

    There will always be another target to address

    Are you suggesting there is such a time as when the church has no need to keep watch over her teaching? Or that doing so is a complete waste of time? ’cause, you know, Christ and his apostles had some rather uncharitable things to say about false teachers, but hey, what do they know? Who’s to say who is or is not a “false teacher?”

    It is a lot easier, isn’t it, to make your rule books thicker and thicker . . . than it is to go out and actually win souls for Christ.

    Win souls? What does this mean? How do I do that? I was under the impression that conversion was the work of the Holy Spirit through the proclamation of the Gospel. Which the liturgy does 200 proof, by the way. If you can’t see it there, perhaps the problem is you wouldn’t recognize it.

    but try the Gospel for a time, not to add to the 613 rules you want to weigh the Lord’s work down with

    Rules? Like what? Don’t restrict the pastorate to only men? Don’t listen to any advice on worship from anybody who is dead? Don’t mark and avoid false teachers?

    …exactly whose rules are we supposed to be avoiding? Oh, that’s right. The ones that YOU don’t like. So you want to be a rule unto yourself and still insist that Synod means something, eh?

    Any what kind of a weak God is “weighed down” by our rules? The Gospel is the only rule in our churches, and this very rule is the power of God to save. Heaven forbid we actually form our methods and spirituality around this Gospel. No, that would be “legalistic,” right?

    There is, BTW, only one Gospel, and it will take care of itself despite you guys.

    Then what is this “different gospel” the apostle Paul warns us about? Do we really believe the same gospel as everyone? Somebody please explain to me, then, why the church is so divided into different denominations. We all believe basically the same thing, so we should be all unified, right? Oh, that’s right. You take issue with some of the teachings and practices of other Christians, like those “steadfast” people. Perhaps you believe something different from us?

  18. @Matthew #19

    It is true that Christ rebukes the congregation which has lost its first love, and that is perhaps analogous to the situation of confessionally orthodox Christian congregations which are bitter in their hearts while confessing the faith. We know from Christ and the rest of the Scriptures, that there is no such thing as saving faith which does not work itself out in love of God and neighbor.

    But if such an analogy is proper, so is the inverse. Christ also rebukes the Christian congregation that has love without truth (i.e., without faith in His Word.) Those would be the Nicolaitans, whose doctrine/practice/purveyors Jesus says He hates… one might also associate such Christians with the Apostate Whore of Babylon, eventually becoming drunk on the blood of the saints as she fornicates with the world powers and cultures. We know from Jesus and the rest of Holy Scripture, that whatever we attempt to contrive as love apart from His Word of Truth is not really love, and therefore does not reflect any kind of true or saving faith.

    I would say that referencing the first few chapters of St. John’s Apocalypse to find fault in modern Christian congregations cuts both ways, but in reality, it cuts more ferociously against unbelief than it does against works. This makes sense when we remember that faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God– conveying such grace that we are reborn into the image of Christ, and newly equipped by grace through faith to accomplish the works of love. That’s a fundamental of properly distinguishing Law and Gospel.

    In other terms, the Christian congregation that has proper doctrine but insufficient love needs to be taken out behind the wood shed (i.e., Confession and Absolution.) The Christian congregation that has a contrived love without Christ’s doctrine isn’t really Christian at all and is headed for hell (i.e., needs to be born from above by Water and Spirit, because it is already dead in its trespasses and sins due to unbelief.)

  19. Ah, the stoning has begun in earnest You know, that you can go somewhere else and read my presumably horrible thinking, it is ‘silly’ after all.

    There is obviously only one true Truth, YOUR truth as manipulated and gossiped about by President Matt Harrison and many others since then and all over the place on line and in district conventions. Dr. Becker was found ‘not guilty’ under the rules of Synod. But secret though those details are, or should have been kept, disparaging remarks are put out in the public forum by the Synod president and others anyway. Gossip mongers attack Dr. Becker based on rumor and innuendo. That is the sort of process the Conservatives have always used. Same now as per Seminex era: Stack the deck, change the rules, politicize, label, deride, until you get rid of those guys that disagree with your interpretation. The ‘ethics’ don’t matter so as your version of truth is implemented. The end justifies the means. I have found that the conservative mind is closed to anything new or different from what they have grown up with, their traditions become as authoritative as the Bible itself. The willingness to destroy careers, to gossip, is all OK and is in fact, demanded, because you think you are defending the Word of God, when really, you are defending your traditions and your biases. Dr. Becker deserves to be treated as a brother Christian, approached with humility, lovingkindeness, and respect. Not raw power politics.

  20. @Mark G. Woodworth #22

    Mark,

    Despite the difficult to follow stream of your last post, there is no stoning occurring, least of all to the Rev. Dr. Becker. He is a public teacher, who presents his arguments in many public forums, and as such is easily reviewed and referenced. As an academic at his particular university, his public teachings do not seem to be a problem. But as an LCMS clergyman on the Synod roster, his public teachings are incongruent with his office.

    This is not a dark, back room kind of thing. Dr. Becker is quite public, open, and seemingly honest in his publications about his positions on Holy Scripture, human sexuality, the pastoral office, and other subjects. The Northwest District has chosen not to proceed with disciplinary action against him for his public teachings which are contrary to his vows as an LCMS clergyman. That doesn’t make him “not guilty.” Rather, it simply leaves him and his public teaching unaddressed.

    I suppose you can put this into the heated rhetorical categories of Liberal and Conservative if you must, but that is less than helpful. The real question before the Church today is the same as it has always been: what does the Word of God say? The Church has no other word she is commissioned to speak to the world, than the Word Made Flesh, who is inseparable from the Word breathed out by God in the Holy Scriptures. What you may perceive as resistance to new ideas and new teachings, or new interpretations of truth, is simply what the Church of Christ has always been doing– following the admonition of St. Paul, she tests the spirits, to see if they are of God. Any spirit who speaks contrary to the Holy Spirit, which we know speaks through Holy Scripture, is rejected. This is how the Church has endured from the beginning, standing upon the Rock of Christ and His Word, while heretics and apostates leave her fellowship through the lure of other spirits.

    Dr. Becker is indeed a fellow human being, and one for whom Christ died. We should approach him in humility and compassion, according to his vocation. He has been commissioned a shepherd of Christ’s people, and the tools of that Office are the same as its rule: Christ’s Word and Sacraments. He has publicly made his case against Christ’s Word on various subjects, and through his teaching, has undermined faith in Christ’s Word for those who come under his sway. To love him, is to warn him that he is headed for perdition, and call him back to grace by faith and repentance under that same Word he has abandoned. And, as the Word itself prescribes, if he will not listen to the Church of Christ as she stands upon His Word, then he will be excommunicated, so that he might understand the gravity of his sin, and hopefully escape hell by returning to his Savior through His Word.

    This is not politics. This is the Church.

  21. @Matthew #19

    …a congregation known for their defense of good doctrine had the Lord of Glory warning them about losing their lampstand.

    None of the churches were in danger for having defended good doctrine, but for getting lazy and, one way or another, being in danger of losing it. In fact, most of their problems were from tolerating false teaching.
    We should indeed be warned by their examples!

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