The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, hardly known for its love of conservatives in the LCMS has published an “article” (read: opinion piece) on the Dr. Becker suspension and derostering. Click here for their article.
First off, honorable mention to our Associate Editor, Rev. Eric Andersen on giving good comment in his cold-call interview with the paper. This is of course not the first time BJS has been in that paper.
The article is very clearly written from a perspective that doesn’t like the confessional Lutheran stance or its takeover of the LCMS (versus the “moderates”, why is it no one wants to be called liberal?). That’s also very old news, which only goes with the narrative that liberal LCMS folks are pursuing again (remember 2016 is an election and convention year in the LCMS).
The article is very sympathetic to Dr. Becker. This only makes sense in the scope of the world and how it treats God’s Word. Elsewhere here on BJS there have been reviews of the low view of Scripture that Dr. Becker presents. It asserts that Dr. Becker only wanted to “talk about” these errors. This is common today as dialogue has become the new goal in everything (not that dialogue is bad, but it is not always the solution either). The article forgets that Dr. Becker has taught these things (not just talked about) and leveled dissent on these teachings as well. I think “talking about” downplays his adherence to his beliefs on these issues.
The article quotes about how many are worried about the direction of the LCMS and then one quote from an Atlantic District pastor who is worried (actually scared) and thinks that we can’t even discuss Women’s Ordination anymore. The idea behind this is of course that Scripture somehow was misinterpreted for 2000 years and now our enlightened minds get it (or some other “redemptive hermeneutic” is at work). But that is how liberals work, they take settled issues and continue to bring them back up in order to gain a sympathetic hearing, and as the world and its catechesis wears into the church, more and more public opinion sways their way. The Atlantic District pastor actually says that the system was not followed. He has his systems confused. The system of suspension was followed and Dr. Becker was given his time to appeal. Yes, this was not Dispute Resolution, but it was done according to the rules of suspension and so forth. District Presidents do have the authority to exercise Ecclesiastical Supervision over the rostered workers in their districts. That is not bypassing the system, that is the system.
The article also tries to bring seminex into the picture, and says that it robbed the LCMS of “moderates”. No, seminex helped show some people that they were not LCMS any longer, that they had departed from the beliefs of the Synod and should they not change their ways, they should leave. This is exactly what Synod discipline is geared towards – to help correct a wayward person in regards to Synod’s beliefs. It is slightly different from Church Discipline in that the congregation actually can declare someone not a Christian by excommunicating them, whereas Synod can only declare someone not a Synod members by derostering them. The goal of either is to speak the “law” so sternly by threat of expulsion that the person realize the error of their ways and repent. Dr. Becker would be welcomed back into the LCMS if he did change his beliefs to once again to match that with the Synod he grew up in and has such longstanding ties to. Instead he is joining the ELCA, which is a church body much more in line with his beliefs (and this of course confirms that he held these liberal beliefs).
The article also gives note to Newtown and then an “open letter” signed in opposition to Pres. Harrison’s facebook posting this winter. These are the charges that they have against Pres. Harrison and its sad to realize these same talking points are all they have.
The article gets much of the process and procedure and history wrong. Montana District President Forke did press charges, but that was over two years ago and was accompanied by many meetings and so forth. His statement on the process can be found here. In fact, his district passed some resolutions which called for action on the Dr. Becker situation. These, along with previous work of Pres. Harrison with the CCM and CTCR and raised awareness of the situation among the general LCMS helped build the case to suspend Dr. Becker. President Linneman eventually did just that, as he is given authority to do, according to our procedures set forth in the bylaws.
Dr. Becker did get something right. The article quotes him as saying that the church “is not defined by Harrison and narrow party views.” This is absolutely true, and thank God for it. The LCMS should not be ruled or operated by political views of any “party”, and if it ever is it should be destroyed (please remember that with all of the campaigning that is going to go on this year). Instead it is defined by the Scriptures and Lutheran Confessions. So with regards to women’s ordination, we don’t go to the public attitude of having “talks” about things (or with the progress of the progressive movements), we instead point to the very Word of God and Confessions which speak clearly in opposition to Women’s Ordination. In regards to the views of Creation, we don’t go running with the evolutionary spirit of the past two centuries and come to a political definition of our view, but instead stick with the plain, clear, and simple words of Genesis, the very Word of God.
Over the past two weeks, BJS has not been covering more of this in the hopes (and prayers) that Dr. Becker would heed this admonition and come back to the father of his fathers (not just the ones by blood). He has chosen another route. We don’t glory in the falling of sinner, but pray that repentance be granted.
We also should remember those who have been falsely taught in this. This is the real damage of false teaching in the church and the danger in not exercising discipline. They need to be cared for. Pray for them and their God-appointed caretakers, their pastors.