The Offense of the False Teaching causing Divisions in the LCMS – an Open Letter from a former LCMS Pastor.

Luther Rose

Editor’s Note:  The following is an open letter that concerns some of the problems within the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod shared from a pastor formerly of the LCMS.  This is what the corporate failure to address false teachings and their fruit in our midst causes.  There are two different parts of the LCMS – the churchly aspect (governed by Scripture and the Confessions and active in the proper application of Law and Gospel) and then the incorporated non-profit of the State of Missouri part (governed by constitution, bylaws, policies and procedures, and active in political application of such things).  This open letter points out that the balance of these two is off.

To see examples of some of the errors that Pastor Emmons mentions within the LCMS, visit the Association of Confessing Evangelical Lutheran Congregations’ (ACELC) website.

April 12, 2015

To Whom This May Concern Within the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod:

Please accept this letter as my resignation as a rostered pastor of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod (LCMS), effective immediately. With much prayer, thought and consideration, I have applied for colloquy into the Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS – Mankato, MN) and have been accepted.

Simply but sadly, I find that the LCMS no longer holds to the Scriptural and Confessional principals as it once did. I cannot in good conscience serve in a church body who, rather than supporting a faithful commitment to sound doctrine and practice, allows those that do to be persecuted by their own congregations, pastors and church officials. This while all manner of heterodoxy is show-cased openly without censure. Congregational autonomy is claimed while anyone who speaks out is considered a trouble-maker and unloving. It is rather policy that all parities are to agree to disagree. This when outrageous error and all manner of heteropraxy run rampant.

In the past the LCMS was little different from the ELS. Have the scriptures changed? Have our confessions been added too, or reduced? Is evolution now an accepted theory? Does the church of the 21st century know more than the first? Has the church “evolved” ? Yet the LCMS has been operating as if this is all true. The LCMS has let the world dictate too much as to how it should think and behave.

And when has unionism and syncretism become acceptable? When has the Eighth Commandment been something used to hide public sin behind? When has cohabitation become tolerated? When have St. Paul’s words been considered inapplicable with regard to any of this, but especially regarding women’s roles in the church? Is closed Communion really an open question in the church and member congregations are allowed to take it or leave it? And why does the LCMS think it has the authority to add to the list of reasons a pastor can be removed from office?

Also, when did the church become a business to be operated in such a way that pastors become middle management (thus expendable), the congregation (the world) become the customer (who seem to be always right) and a fear of law suits that causes a shying away from proper church discipline? And so, with this model, do the larger congregations (who seem to be the most aberrant), have free-reign to do as they like? All because they give the most in support of the district and synod? This while the smaller congregations have little help, and are pressured to conform, as true success supposedly lies in change, compromise and a giving up of the what was once held to be inviolate.

The LCMS is broken all the way down to the congregational level, while its districts pretend that nothing is really wrong. Instead of church discipline, the LCMS handles everything bureaucratically rather than theologically and scripturally. It is a dark silence as everything is brushed under the rug, with little or no comment, while the world and the devil greedily look on. And what of the many other church bodies who are too glad to see that the LCMS is finally giving up its past refusal to conform. We used to be a confessing church! I pray that the LCMS once again changes direction as it has in the past. May our Lord Jesus have mercy and bring repentance. It should be my grandfather’s church, but sadly, it is not! May it be so again.

Humbly and with tears, by the Grace of Christ alone,

Rev. David R. Emmons

cc:        Rev. Dwayne Lueck. President, North Wisconsin District

Rev. Ronald Mueller, Circuit Counselor, Circuit #3

Rev. Ray Hartwig, Synod Secretary

Rev. Matthew Harrison, Synod President

About Pastor Joshua Scheer

Pastor Joshua Scheer is the Senior Pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Cheyenne, Wyoming. He is also the Editor-in-chief of Brothers of John the Steadfast. He oversees all of the work done by Steadfast Lutherans. He is a regular host of Concord Matters on KFUO. Pastor Scheer and his lovely wife Holly (who writes and manages the Katie Luther Sisters) have four children and enjoy living in Wyoming.

Comments

The Offense of the False Teaching causing Divisions in the LCMS – an Open Letter from a former LCMS Pastor. — 132 Comments

  1. @Rev. McCall #100

    ELS does not teach false doctrine about Objective Justification. I’ve actually only seen the UOJ initials used by people like Gregory Jackson and his entourage, who is against every Lutheran church body in the world, preaches and administers the Lord’s Supper over the internet, and has no call to an actual congregation.

    I would suggest you read the papers available at Pr. Preus’ website http://christforus.org. He didn’t leave the ELS because of any rejection of the doctrine of Objective Justification. He left because they kicked him out when held to Missouri Synod doctrine. He then left the ACLC (a microsynod of pastors who had left the ELS) http://theaclc.org/ because they were about to declare fellowship with ELDoNA (a microsynod mostly made of pastors who had left the LCMS). ELDoNA later began teaching false doctrine about Objective Justification, not the ELS.

    When the ACLC later broke fellowship with ELDoNA, Pr. Rolf Preus and his brother Pr. Daniel Preus (an LCMS VP) publicly acknowledged that ELDoNA teaches false doctrine. This was backed up by the editors of Gottesdienst Magazine when they regretted that they’d awarded the Sabre of Boldness to an ELDoNA member.

    Pr. Preus wrote this on the ALPB online discussion forum over a year ago:

    Concerning my removal from the ELS, you may read all about it on my website at http://www.christforus.org/PCMTheses/ELSministryDiscussions.html

    My experience in the ELS was quite instructive. While I had criticized the LCMS for its toleration of errorists, I had no firsthand experience of how a synod such as the ELS retained its doctrinal unity. Having obtained that experience, I concluded that my previous indictment of the LCMS was both unrealistic and unfair. I take literally what we Lutherans confess in the Formula of Concord about the Holy Scriptures being the only rule and norm according to which all teachings and teachers in the church are to be judged. Accusations don’t constitute proof. A brother is not an errorist because someone says he is. He must first receive due process. He must be shown his error from the clear Scriptures. That this is often a tedious, frustrating, and unsatisfying process is no reason to abandon it.

    Missouri has her faults. Sometimes men teach what they should not teach and since we see nothing done to correct it we assume that nothing is being done. We could be wrong. And the alternative is worse. That is when the truth is defined too narrowly. A theological opinion is elevated to the level of doctrine and imposed as normative on the brotherhood. When that happens, a man can be excluded from the fellowship for teaching the truth.

    In a little synod like the ELS where everyone knows everyone it is easy to assume that doctrinal debates are really personality clashes. That’s a copout, in my opinion. The issue we faced was whether pastors and congregations in the synod must subscribe ~unconditionally~ to a doctrinal statement that 40% of them had just voted against. That issue transcended personalities.

    In Missouri I can teach the whole counsel of God without being at odds with my own church body. I should have stayed in Missouri. I’m glad to be back.

  2. From the ELS website:

    We confess that, in order to rescue fallen mankind, God the Father sent His only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, into the world. Throughout the Old Testament era God promised to send a Savior who would crush Satan’s power over the human race, and this promise was fulfilled through the incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity. Jesus Christ is true God and true man in one Person, conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary, and He is the world’s only Savior from sin, death, and the devil. Because Jesus was true God, He was able by His divine power to save us all; because He was true man, He was able to be our substitute under God’s Law. Christ was tempted in all things as we are but was in every respect without sin. See John 1:1 and 14, Col. 2:9, Matt. 1:23,1 Tim. 2:5-6.

    By His perfect life and His innocent sufferings and death Jesus has redeemed the entire world. God thereby reconciled the world to Himself, and by the resurrection of His Son declared it to be righteous in Christ. This declaration of universal righteousness is often termed “objective justification.” One has this justification as a personal possession and is personally declared by God to be righteous in Christ when he or she is brought to faith in Him as Savior. This is often called “subjective justification”. If the objective fact of Christ’s atonement is not personally received by faith, then it has no saving benefit for the individual. We reject as unscriptural any teaching that people can be saved apart from faith in Jesus Christ. See 1 John 2:2, 2 Cor. 5:19, John 1:29, 2 Pet. 2:1, John 3:16-18, 2 Cor. 5:19, Rom. 4:25, 1:17 and 5:1-2.

  3. @Tim Schenks #101
    Then I stand corrected. Don’t miss the forest for the trees though. The point is that Pr. Bolland presented a deliberately misleading and biased list of “errors” within the various synods to make Missouri look like she was clearly the worst. Like I said, he must be moonlighting as a climate change scientist, seeing as how he is good at manipulating “data”.

  4. @Rev. McCall #103

    I wouldn’t accuse Pr. Bolland of misleading anyone, but the fact that he’s the only public face of the ACELC (Chairman Emeritus) right now, and the many accusations of material errors on their evidence of errors, and the fact that Pres. Harrison, VP Mueller, and Seminary President Rast have washed their hands of the ACELC is becoming a concern to me.

  5. @Rev. Richard A. Bolland #105

    I didn’t say any of the errors you pointed out in the LCMS were necessarily incorrect. I said that you have disproportionately pointed out “errors” within the synods you named to make the LCMS look the worse. I think that is disingenuous and misleading.

  6. Rev. McCall,

    The reality of non-support of the ACELC’s efforts by VP Mueller and President Harrison is that they simply haven’t responded to our concerns. They have not bad-mouthed the ACELC to my knowledge, but rather just ignore us. I believe (my personal opinion), that the reason is simple: They value keeping the “peace” in the institution of the Synod more than they value pure doctrine. Therefore, the ACELC is a “disturber” of the “peace”, and rather than bring attention to us with negative attacks, they have chosen to pretend we do not exist. I think we are a bit of an embarrassment to them in that we have already done much of the work that the dysfunctional Koinonia Project has yet to accomplish and so the best course of action in their eyes is to discount our efforts by being completely indifferent to us. Again, this is my opinion and I am not speaking for the ACELC Board of Directors.

  7. @Tim Schenks #104
    Come now. You truly expect me to believe the only “difficulty” in the ELS is unclear teaching on the Office of Ministry? Or that the only “difficulties” in the WELS are teaching on the Office of Ministry and some contemporary worship? I’ll go ask the WELS pastor down the street and see if he honestly agrees with that. He slanted his post to make the LCMS look bad.

  8. Rev. McCall,

    Did I incorrectly list some errors of which the LCMS is guilty? If so, which ones?

    Did I incorrectly fail to list some of the errors of which WELS or ELS is guilty? If so, which ones?

  9. @Rev. Richard A. Bolland #80

    When the sin (in life or doctrine) is told to the church (treated publicly according to bylaws etc.) and they refuse to listen, then Christians have to break fellowship and let them be as gentiles = not in fellowship. False teachers must be avoided. So, when do we know that they refuse to listen? Well, the LCMS has now proved for seventy years that she doesn’t listen, so I think pr Emmons is quite right. If you in the ACELC think that you have to tell the LCMS again that she is committing sin, I might accept that, if you accept the answer and act accordingly.

  10. @Rev. Richard A. Bolland #109
    The only “difficulties” in the WELS are some contemporary worship and teaching on the Office of Ministry? I know of a least one WELS church that has open communion. And like Pr. Preus said in the quoted text, doctrinal issues tend to simply get glossed over as “personality conflicts”.

  11. @Rev. McCall #108 Come now. You truly expect me to believe the only “difficulty” in the …

    I did post earlier that I would never join ELS or WELS. I’m not arguing with you. And I am surprised with Pr. Bolland’s lack of errors in W/ELS; I was completely mindboggled when he claimed that W/ELS were more orthodox.

  12. @Rev Jakob Fjellander #110

    So then how is the ELS any better? They have a false teaching on the office of ministry. Why should I tolerate that error? Or why should I tolerate the error of contemporary worship in WELS? The only answer is the inevitable end you and others seem to be headed towards, a synod of one: me.

  13. Rev. McCall,

    I am most willing to be told about other errors in WELS/ELS. Please let us know what they are. I only listed what I know about. That is not misleading, it is just telling you what I know to be true. I would suggest that if there is only a few in WELS practicing some form of open communion that is hardly equivalent to the many, many congregations practicing some form of open communion throughout Missouri or even removing pastors unbiblically from their office because they practice closed communion. Nevertheless, if there are other WELS/ELS errors, please let us know. Hopefully, the WELS folks are at least trying to correct the errors of those who are practicing some form of open communion because if they are then they are doing far more than the LCMS is.

  14. The errors of ELS or WELS are harder to discern from outside but of course those tolerated in LCMS are more painful because we are in with them. The grass is not greener.

  15. Rev. Fjellander,

    You are correct that the LCMS has not been listening for seventy years (since the Statement of the 44). And you are quite correct that telling the Synod their sins is not an end in itself. The hard question is when have you told them sufficiently and is there hope that they might listen in the future. Thus far the track record of the institution is not good. So I do hear you. At some point Romans 16:17 must kick in. It would be nice if far more congregations of the LCMS would stand with the ACELC so that the Synod might finally listen to us, but a pretty good job of character assassination has taken place against the organization not just by some in the Synod but also by some otherwise Confessional pastors who think that only the appointed avenues of redress can lead to correction despite a rather failed track record of those provisions. Frankly, we’ve used every official means of dissent and redress appointed in the Bylaws of the Synod and yet we are still accused of not using them. Not sure how to win that one. I guess for most it’s just easier to go along and get along.

  16. @Rev. McCall #108

    Your judging that the LCMS and WELS/ELS are roughly at the same level is wrong. WELS recently expelled a pastor for false doctrine (Pr Rydecki), as others have pointed out here, the LCMS does not apply church discipline in this way. In the LCMS you can teach like prof. Becker, that you can’t in WELS. I do not think that the WELS applies church discipline excellent, they have principally similar problems as the LCMS, but their doctrinal dissolution has not at all gone that far as in the LCMS.

  17. @Rev. McCall #113

    Of course you should not tolerate errors in the ELS or the WELS. If you think they teach falsely, stay away from them.
    Yes, bigger is better by human standards. By human reason the struggle for pure doctrine is stupid, it will only take two or three (maybe four) generations and the denomination will be heterodox and unionistic again.

  18. The entire point of making the comparative listing was to point out how disingenuous it is of folks in the LCMS to point to WELS/ELS as having troubles of their own as if they were just as bad as Missouri when, in fact, the LCMS has far more problems and that we are not dealing with them. Remember the orthodoxy of a church body is judged by how that body actually deals with error and finally removes it. WELS/ELS seems far better at that then Missouri so I don’t believe that it serves LCMS pastors well to point fingers at WELS/ELS.

  19. @Rev. Richard A. Bolland #119

    Quantity of problems should not be confused with quality of problems. The ELS certainly has fewer doctrinal errors tolerated within its midst than LCMS. But the LCMS allows pastors to publicly and vocally support the truth. The ELS, on the other hand, kicked Pastor Rolf Preus out of the synod and required his congregation to fire him because he was publicly and vocally confessing the truth. Imagine that! A congregation is threatened with expulsion from synod if it doesn’t fire its pastor, and this without any charge of false doctrine or unholy living leveled against said pastor. That’s what happened in the ELS. You will find no case like that in the LCMS. So I think you’re comparing apples and oranges, Pastor Bolland.

  20. Pastor Bolland and Pastor McCall,

    I hold both of you in the highest regards. I fault no one for leaving their synod for another synod that allows them to preach pure doctrine and administer the sacraments rightly. Why, because leadership is absent and politics are triumphant throughout Lutheranism and Christianity. The common denominator in all synods right now is a lack of confessional integrity. Harrison has no integrity in the LCMS because he fails to confess. Being a confessional Lutheran doesn’t mean that a fair weather confessional is good-to-go. NO! A true confessional stands steadfast against the devil. The real issue is that a bunch of political minded men have gained control of Lutheranism. Support none of them!

  21. @Rev. Richard A. Bolland #119
    I don’t buy your premise that the LCMS has far more problems. Also, the list is an issue because the claim made by some is that other synod are better. I say not true. So I leave the LCMS to avoid heterodox fellowship but in my new synod I must now confess false doctrine and still must tolerate some heterodoxy. How is that better? Are you seriously trying to justify that move with the excuse of “Well at least they have better church discipline”?

  22. Friends,

    Clearly what this conversation has demonstrated is a need for a Church body that does confess the truth of God’s Word in all it truth and purity and which administers the Sacraments in accord with Christ’s institution. It is evident that none of the existing Synod’s qualify. None match Walther’s cannon for the Church nor Piepers.

  23. Dear BJS Bloggers,

    If you read through the many comments to this article, it reads like a reductio ad absurdum argument. This is not the fault of the editor, Pastor Scheer, who has done a great service by publishing the letter in the post.

    More helpful, in my opinion, is the discussion regarding the doctrine of the church in Johann Gerhard’s Loci theologici.

    Gerhard begins with the presupposition of the principles stated in Augsburg Confession Article VII, and its explanation in the Apology, then develops the terminology of the “marks of the church,” and looks at real-world applications, and refutes the Roman Catholic position. Most helpful for the present discussion would be chapter VI sections 2-8, and chapters VII, VIII, and IX.

    You can obtain this volume of Gerhard here: https://www.cph.org/p-12935-on-the-church-theological-commonplaces.aspx

    Next to Luther and the Confessions, Gerhard’s Loci was quoted more frequently by Walther and Pieper than any other Lutheran theologian–and with good reason. To understand Walther and Pieper on the topic of the church, you need to understand Luther, Confessions, and Gerhard first.

    I hope this helps the discussion a bit.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  24. @Rev. Richard A. Bolland #116

    Pr Bolland,
    The hard question is when have you told them sufficiently and is there hope that they might listen in the future. […] At some point Romans 16:17 must kick in.
    I think that these words show the problem. The question should not be put that way. What the Bible says is “Mark and avoid”. It does not say: “Mark, wait until there is no hope and avoid”. Such a position has been popular since the statement of the 44. But as you know, Pieper wrote In Brief Statement:
    Since God ordained that His Word only, without the admixture of human doctrine, be taught and believed in the Christian Church, 1 Pet. 4:11; John 8:31, 32; 1 Tim. 6:3, 4, all Christians are required by God to discriminate between orthodox and heterodox church-bodies, Matt. 7:15, to have church-fellowship only with orthodox church-bodies, and, in case they have strayed into heterodox church-bodies, to leave them, Rom. 16:17. We repudiate unionism, that is, church-fellowship with the adherents of false doctrine, as disobedience to God’s command, as causing divisions in the Church, Rom. 16:17; 2 John 9, 10, and involving the constant danger of losing the Word of God entirely, 2 Tim. 2:17-21.
    So, if Pr Emmons found that the LCMS is a heterodox church and therefore left it, his action is in accordance with Brief Statement. If someone isn’t convinced that the LCMS is heterodox, well, then he has to find out. So, if someone perceives false doctrine in the LCMS, let him tell it to the church. If they refuse to remove the error, they defend it. If they defend it, they are false teachers and a heterodox church.
    1/ Can it be found in the Bible or by Luther or Pieper that a church isn’t heterodox until admonition is of no further avail? I say no. Once it is clear that the church is heterodox, orthodox Christians should leave.
    2/ The position (held by Prof. Carl Lawrenz, WELS) that termination of fellowship depends on reaching the conviction that admonition is of no further avail can’t be the biblical doctrine, because it’s unclear. It can’t be objectively established when it is fulfilled and does not match the Biblical standard: For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle? (1 Cor. 14:8)
    And secondly, it is ungodly, because it teaches us to despair before we leave. We should, however, never lose hope! Nothing is impossible for God.

  25. @Rev. Jakob Fjellander #128
    Dear Jakob,
    Here is the problem, in reality, “where to go?”, if you all feel the LCMS infrastructure is broken. In fact, looking back in this thread, Pastor Rossow (leader of BJS, or now emeritus) who does “bust” LCMS at times, still has “Missouri Synod” in big letters on his Churches Web Page. Why?

    Because LCMS on paper still carries the weight of our stance on theology on God’s Word. LCMS still means something very important, even though there are some, perhaps many who are going down paths that are contrary to the LCMS fathers.

    In the end, the only true Church I know is mine. Why? Because I am the pastor who follows LCMS guidelines I believe, that are based on Scripture, not based on the actions or words of men going down wrong paths.

    Oh yes, if LCMS ordains women, etc.; then “independence” it is.

    And yes, if I see error, and know it true, time permitting, “we rebuke”.

  26. @Martin R. Noland #17

    Thank you so much for clarifying the long term effects of open disobedience of our confessed Lutheran doctrine. I am a life long Lutheran, and have seen these effects magnified in recent years. Once the congregation’s appetite for this rebellion is whetted, it can even be a matter of pride for leaders in the church to brag about their self determined doctrine and cling to long held traditions that contradict the clear truth of scripture.

    The inevitable retirement of the older Pastor and call to the new Pastor brings these errors to the surface quickly. The former leaders of the congregation then complain that the new pastor does not honor the traditions of the church, when in fact, these “traditions” are outside of and contrary to the Lutheran Confessions. In addition, many lay members of the church do not understand the confessions well enough to see the errors that have been adopted, and so follow the lead of their erring elders to insist on keeping false traditions.

    The battle lines are drawn and the fighting ensues.

    I think it tears congregations apart. It is very tense for current members as the old guard try to protect their positions of power. It is stressful for the new Pastor who is trying to remain true to his vows. And it is frustrating for any potential new members looking for a confessional Lutheran church, to see the way the office of the keys is disrespected. This just sets up the church and the new Pastor for failure.

    Not to mention the way these disputes and errors weaken the faith of our young people, and just as they depart for college and most need clear and true teaching to combat the growing secular culture of university life. It is a lack of keeping in the Word and a failure of passing down our faith to the next generation. Of this, we must all repent.

    “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 NKJV)

  27. What a relief to learn that noticing the serious confessional and practical deviations in my LCMS church in Venice CA, was NOT just me being difficult and legalistic. This is true grace and mercy to hear the Truth albeit through such a tragic circumstance.

  28. Oh my dear friends of the Lutheran faith, confession, and conflict, do not be misled when today those are everywhere accused of lovelessness who still do not give up the battle for pure doctrine in our Church. … Oh my dear friends, let us indeed sorrow and lament over this: that false teachers constantly assail the pure doctrine in our Church and thus are at fault for the conflict and strife in the Church. However, let us never lament but rather extol and praise God that he always awakens men who fight against those false teachers, for, I repeat, this pertains to “the common salvation.”… This conflict is one commanded us by God and is therefore certainly one blessed in time and in eternity. … Oh, therefore, let us never listen to those who praise and extol the conflict of the Reformation for the pure Gospel but want to know nothing of a similar conflict in our days.
    Rev. C. F. W. Walther, 1st Synodical President “Why Dare and Can We Never Give Up the Church’s Struggle for the Pure Doctrine” – Sermon based on Jude 3, Reformation Day, 1876

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.