Secular Media Covers Becker – no surprise on their take

LCMS_corporate_sealThe 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.




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.


Secular Media Covers Becker – no surprise on their take — 22 Comments

  1. The article also tries to bring seminex into the picture, and says that it robbed the LCMS of “moderates”.

    We could wish the “moderates” had all gone with seminex, but such was and is not the case.

    It is honest of them not to label themselves “liberal”in this generation… “liberals” used to believe that others might have a valid opinion and that they should be allowed to hold it.
    “Moderates” are out to obliterate the valid opinions. [Planned Parenthood is also “moderate”.] 🙁

  2. “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).”

    If our struggle is against the rulers, authorities, the cosmic powers over this present darkness, the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places, it doesn’t help that a false teacher is born every minute who has taken one too many bites from the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil that makes one a gnostic oracle and smarter than the troglodyte Apostles, Church Fathers, and Lutheran Reformers.

  3. Mr. Becker needs to do the ethical thing, which is to go to the ELCA without any lip about it.

    If your theology is at odds with the denomination/synod you claim to be a part of, it is YOUR job to leave, not the job of the synod to change.

  4. I appreciate the response, and it is appropriate – hopefully those in doubt will read this and understand the fuller set of circumstances. Such published articles, as the one you rightly critique in the Post-Dispatch, only serve the purpose of creating inflammation in the body, and are directly targeted towards those of more “evangelical” or “progressive” leaning. If only some in our church body would spend less time worrying about what those outside of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod think of us, and spend more time thinking upon those things which we confess and hold to be true according to the Scriptures and Confessions. Perhaps then, we might find ourselves walking more-so in unity of faith. Unfortunately, those who have an axe to grind will only find such publications as affirmation of their suspicions against the pesky confessionals in Synod. After-all, according to some, the confessions and Scripture (apart from redefinition and interpretation to meet modern standards) are road-blocks to progress and justice.

  5. Point legitimately and validly made regarding the difference between “discussing” issues and “promoting” them. From all that I read, Dr. Becker did not merely want to discuss various issues but he promoted his unorthodox positions regarding them. Free conferences abound in which issues are energetically discussed but wrong notions about them are not promoted. Let’s remain steadfast (for which I commend Pres. Harrison) in certainly discussing issues but let’s steadfastly refrain from promoting the unorthodox notions about them.

  6. Liberals conflate authority with oppression.
    Especially women.
    LCMS understands authority carries responsibility.
    Liberal response to valid authority is often like 6th grade girls:
    Much scowling, backbiting and the formation of cliques.
    For a parallel event, see the irresponsible response of a Wisconsin professor:
    Here is a liberal full professor cutting down an entering freshman at UW.
    A typical contemptuous response by those who promote ‘dialog’.

  7. Yesterday I contacted Ms. Fowler (article author) and requested that a correction be printed in the Post-Dispatch due to errors of fact in her article. What follows is the exchange of emails between us.

    Dear Ms. Fowler,

    I would request a correction be made in the Post-Dispatch for factual errors in the reporting of the resignation of the Rev. Dr. Matthew Becker. First, your article is in error in that Rev. Becker was not ousted by the Synod, rather he submitted his resignation.  It was his act of resignation and not an act of LCMS discipline that terminated his relationship with the LCMS.

    Second, I would request an additional correction be published respecting the mischaracterization of Rev. Becker’s activities as seeking to discuss issues within the synod, when, in fact, he has for decades publicly refuted the doctrinal position of the LCMS and publicly advocated to change that position. Thank you, Rev. Richard A. Bolland, LCMS

    Hi Mr. Bolland,

    Becker was asked to resign. That fact is in the story. But he refused to do so, and then proceedings for his expulsion began.

    “Today I received official notice that President Linnemann has decided “to initiate formal proceedings under Bylaw 2.14.6 and request [my] expulsion from Synod.””

    You can read more here:

    Thanks for your comments,

    Dear Mr. Bailon,

    I am requesting your assistance to have a correction posted in the Post-Dispatch by Ms. Lilly Fowler regarding an article in today’s P-D entitled, “Out-spoken Pastor Ousted from The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod.” I have written to Ms. Fowler seeking a written correction, but she has refused to acknowledge her errors of fact in the story. It is also very clear that Ms. Fowler failed to contact the Office of the President of the LCMS for his response to a blog of Rev. Becker which seems to have served as the only source of the information for this article. As a former journalist myself, I was always told that when reading a bias point of view on a story, it would be good journalist practice to seek information from the party being accused prior to running with a story. I know that the P-D is an excellent newspaper who prides itself on sound journalist practices and I would appreciate it you might intervene to correct this error with Ms. Fowler. Thanks so much, Rev. Richard A. Bolland, Pastor, LCMS.

    I am the editor who handled the Becker story. I was forwarded your request for a correction from Adam Goodman and Gilbert Bailon, who are copied here.
    I believe Lilly Fowler’s story accurately portrays the matters at hand.
    1) The term “ousted” reflects Becker’s expulsion from the Synod. His blog post reflects the fact that he refused to resign. To wit: “last week Rev. Paul Linnemann, the NW District President, asked me to resign from the LCMS. After a few days of thinking over and praying about his request, I let him know on Friday that I could not in good conscience resign.” Formal proceedings of expulsion were then brought. Granted, Becker did not appeal that action. But he was nonetheless expelled through procedures that he did not initiate. I do not feel that the story needed to include a blow-by-blow of the entire procedure to convey what happened.
    2) Lilly Fowler did, in fact, seek comment from Matthew Harrison, as was stated in the story. Lacking any formal response from the Synod, she made sure not only to quote Harrison’s Facebook post, but to include a comment from Eric Anderson, who was supportive of the Synod’s action.
    3) The story is clear on the point that Becker has refuted church doctrine. Yes, the third paragraph said that he “raised questions” about those doctrines. But later, Becker’s views are stated more directly when he compares the exclusion of women from ordination to slavery. The story also mentions that he was the subject of years of investigation, including on the grounds that he would not maintain Genesis as a historical record.
    In summary, we stand by the accuracy of the story,
    Matt Franck

    Dear Mr. Frank,

    Thank you for your response. I only have one question: Did Ms. Fowler ever contact the Office of the President of the LCMS and ask for a response to Rev. Becker’s blog post to get the other side of the story? Rev. Becker could have exercised his right to go through the Dispute Resolution process but chose instead to resign from the clergy roster of the LCMS. The Synod did not “Oust him”, He quit. He quit under pressure, but he did have other options which he had utilized successfully twice before. Your story is, therefore, inaccurate and was poorly researched since no contact was made either with President Linnemann nor with President Harrison. Journalism 101. Rev. Richard Bolland

  8. How can you say he resigned when he was expelled?  Please see this.
    The P-D had it right.


    (Did he resign on July 15 or was he expelled on July 15?)

  9. Rev. Becker could have exercised his right to go through the Dispute Resolution process but chose instead to resign from the clergy roster of the LCMS. 

    Resigning is a lot different than declining to appeal an expulsion.

    Resigning implies admitted guilt.

    Declining to appeal implies fatigue.

  10. Journalism today is not what it used to be. When I was a journalist for the Fort Hood Sentinel during my Army days, I was trained in the Armed Forces Information School at Ft. Benjamin Harrison (Indianapolis) that a journalist was to be objective in his reporting. That if a story was based on a biased source, then it was incumbent on the reporter to contact someone from the opposing viewpoint to ensure that both sides of a story were properly reported. If the reporter was unsuccessful in making contact, then the story should not be run until contact was made. Then, and only then, if the attempted contact refused to offer comment or refused to return a call, then the reporter would publish the story with a comment that attempts were made to contact the other source, but either comment was refused or the source refused to return the call.

    However, today’s journalism schools at universities across the nation now train journalist in what is known as “Advocacy” journalism. Objectivity is not encouraged and thus a facade of objectivity is needed to maintain credibility. Journalists today are agenda-driven by the Progressive mind-set of virtually every school of journalism at every university school of journalism. Here’s my take on how this occurred in this instance. Ms. Fowler wanted to advocate for Rev. Becker and against the “medieval” theology of the LCMS. Thus, she used Rev. Becker’s blog as her main source in the story. In all likelihood she then called the LCMS headquarters asking to speak with someone (perhaps someone specific) and when told by the switchboard that such a person was not available she took the name of that individual down and then could state that an attempt was made to contact the Synod but they provided no comment or were unavailable for comment. Either way it sounds like they tried to do their journalistic duty but never bothered to leave a message to call her back or made no second attempt to do so.

    I am glad that she did try to contact Rev. Anderson and for the good answers he gave, but the tenor of the article is clearly set in the pro-Progressive agenda which is obviously held by both Ms. Fowler and her superior editors.

  11. Mr. Rix,

    When I was serving in the active ministry of the LCMS, if someone asked me to resign for something other than a biblical reason, I would refuse to do so and go through whatever processes were required in order to defend myself. If, instead, I resigned rather than go through the process, that would be MY action, not the action of those who sought my resignation. It is factually incorrect to say that Rev. Becker was “Ousted” by the LCMS. He quit rather than go through a process that he had already successfully navigated twice previously. He simply chose not to do so, but it was his action of resigning that terminated his relationship with the LCMS. The Post-Dispatch got it dead wrong and defend their error.

    They also got the matter of Becker’s “questioning” of Synod’s position dead wrong. He wasn’t merely asking questions. He believes, teaches, and confesses his errors and has done so for decades. For the Post-Dispatch to make the claim that “discussion” of Rev. Becker’s issues is not welcome in Missouri is an error. Such discussions happen all the time at Winkles, Pastor’s Conferences and in personal conversations all over the Synod. Thus, the Post-Dispatch got this intentionally wrong as well.

  12. @Rev. Richard A. Bolland #13

    “Not quite right. I did not resign. I was suspended.

    I chose not to appeal my suspension because I didn’t want to put my family through yet another fruitless, years-long “heresy” trial. I could have appealed Paul Linnemann’s decision, but that would have put me in an adversarial relationship with him–something I did not want to do.”  – M Becker, ALPB Forum, 7-7-2015

  13. Thank you, Reverend Bolland for your public and valiant defense of the Church and its catholic confessions, not to mention ethical journalistic practice. Would it help if more of the steadfast members swarmed the paper with comments or would they declare war on the LCMS?

  14. Mark,

    It makes no difference whether or not others swarm the paper with comments or not because the Post – Dispatch will never become a friend of the LCMS. The world will never recognize doctrine as valuable. However, such commenting to the paper may well be therapeutic for the commenters.

  15. Dear BJS Bloggers,

    Pastor Scheer’s post, paragraph five, where he talks about “settled issues” is the key to the dispute between Dr Becker and the LCMS. The synod has conventions of delegate representatives in order to settle issues by majority vote. “Settle” means to come to an agreement so that we stop fighting and arguing. Some people never accept such decisions–they keep arguing and undermining and attacking those who support the settlement. This also happens in congregations, as many know. In 1973 the LCMS reaffirmed its historic position on Scripture as the rule and norm of theology. Those who disagree with that should have left with the AELC forty years ago.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  16. Pastor Noland,

    The problem in Missouri is that our “settled issues” are never really settled but liberal theologians keep bringing them up for further “study”. We’ve “studied” a number of issues over the decades with the result that we’ve “studied” ourselves into error. The changing of our doctrine after 122 years of male only suffrage comes to mind as an example, but certainly not the only example.

    Frankly, I do not see the liberals in the Synod ever being satisfied until we adopt all of their agenda…and the agenda never seems to have an end. I learned some time ago that if you try to appease them by compromise, the only response you get is, “Thank you very much, here’s what I want next.”

    There will be no real peace in Missouri until and unless someone leaves this Synod. Frankly, I don’t care who leaves or who gets the “goodies”. Unity in doctrine and practice is far more important than buildings.

  17. Worth repeating….

    There will be no real peace in Missouri until and unless someone leaves this Synod. Frankly, I don’t care who leaves or who gets the “goodies”. Unity in doctrine and practice is far more important than buildings.

  18. Maybe Dr Becker was smart enough to leave? By doing so the conservatives did not get the victory to have him ousted. If he had been ousted it would have been consistent to go on the biblical fight for unity in doctrine and get more false teachers expelled. Now the incentive is weaker.

  19. @Rev Jakob Fjellander #20

    If he had been ousted it would have been consistent to go on the biblical fight for unity in doctrine and get more false teachers expelled. Now the incentive is weaker.

    There would be no “inconsistency” in going on to clean the whole house, and I pray it happens! [Locally the “5/2” group is most obviously out of step with Lutheranism.]

  20. @helen #21

    Of course I would rejoice if all the false teachers were driven out of the LCMS. But unfortunately, if I understand it rightly, not a single pastor who is a false teacher has been derostered and expelled for the last decades in the LCMS. Rev. Bolland is quite right, there are a lot more of them in the LCMS than Dr Becker.

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