Anything but Dull – Convention Report – 2015 Montana District LCMS – Part 2

This is Part 2 of a report on the 2015 Montana District LCMS convention. This part reports on Resolution 5-04, “To Call Upon the Synodical President to Invoke the Procedure for Expulsion from Synod the Rev. Paul Linnemann, District President of the Northwest District.”

During the “Report of Synodical President,” on Tuesday, June 23, a number of things were stated about Dr. Matthew L. Becker. Regarding action to exclude heretical teachings by rostered clergy of the Synod, a couple statements stood out:

1.  Dr. Becker would “fall off the roster” of synod because he was in his final year of non-candidate status. He was not serving in an LCMS ministry, but was (and still is) a professor at Valparaiso. He would have to be re-upped by the Council of Presidents. The Synodical President did not think a majority of the Council would vote to re-up him. Since he would fall off the roster, the issue no longer was about Dr. Becker, but about whether the Synod has a system of doctrinal accountability and discipline that actually functions. “We either will have it or we will cease to be a confessional church.”

2.  As to action to involuntarily remove Dr. Becker from the roster, “I do not want to initiate a process that looks to have only a 50-50 chance of success.”

Part 1 reported that the convention adopted a number of resolutions to address problems of heresy in the synod. Two addressed the aspect highlighted by the Synodical President, procedure for doctrinal accountability and discipline.

Resolution #3-01
To Allow for the Review of Acquittals

Resolution #3-02
To Adopt a New Method for Dealing With Charges of Heresy Apart from the Existing Expulsion Process

More detail on each of these was given in Part 1, and the entire text of them may be found in the convention proceedings published on the district website here.

But due to the necessity of confessing the faith, the convention also took actions regarding the case of Dr. Becker. On Wednesday, June 24, 2015, the floor adopted a resolution reported from the committee of which I was a member, Committee 5, Administration and Special Overtures.

Resolution #5-03
Out of True Love for the Reverend Matthew L. Becker to Call on Him to Repent and Recant

Along with that, the floor, after amending it, adopted Resolution #5-04, “To Call Upon the Synodical President to Invoke the Procedure for Expulsion from Synod the Rev. Paul Linnemann, District President of the Northwest District.”

A significant amendment was the addition of, “Whereas, the current bylaws of the LCMS do not provide for the removal of a member from office apart from expulsion from Synod.” The committee knew that the bylaws do not provide for removal from office apart from expulsion from synod. That was the cause of the more drastic action of seeking expulsion. The committee took the only action open to it. During floor debate, the committee chairman deemed the amendment a friendly amendment.

The full text of this resolution is:

Resolution #5-04
Title: To Call Upon the Synodical President to Invoke the Procedure for Expulsion from Synod the Rev. Paul Linnemann, District President of the Northwest District Action: Adopted as Amended

Whereas, section 2.15 of the Synodical Bylaws of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod provides that the Synodical President has authority and the duty to act as provided specifically in subsection 2.15.4, and

Whereas, the current Bylaws of the LCMS do not provide for the removal of a member from office apart from expulsion from Synod, and

Whereas, Rev. Dr. Matthew L. Becker, a member of the Northwest District, continues to publicly teach false doctrine concerning Scripture, creation, ordination, and the fall into sin, and

Whereas, the Rev. Paul Linnemann, Northwest District President has failed to suspend the Rev. Dr. Becker in accordance with Bylaw 2.14.4, and

Whereas, the Rev. Paul Linnemann, Northwest District President, in tolerating false teaching, is complicit in the violation of Synod’s Constitution Article II and persists in giving offense to the faithful, constituting grounds for expulsion under Article XIII; therefore be it

Resolved, that the Montana District meeting in convention in 2015 calls upon the Synodical President to invoke the procedure in section 2.15 for the expulsion from the synod of the Rev. Paul Linnemann, District President of the Northwest District, and be it finally

Resolved, that the Montana District meeting in convention in 2015 memorializes the 2016 Synod Convention to direct the Synodical President to take this action if it has not already been taken.

Of course, this resolution raised many questions. The floor debated the resolution extensively, partly during the morning, and again in the afternoon. Some of the questions revolved around the necessity of acting, given the statement of the Synodical President that Dr. Becker would “fall off the roster,” and that such procedures as we were invoking looked to have only a 50-50 chance of success.

In debate, it was said that the belief that the COP would not re-up Dr. Becker was a prognostication, not a definite fact. It was said that merely falling off the roster would touch Dr. Becker, but it would not touch our confession. We had been learning during the convention from the Smalcald Articles about the necessity of making a public confession. The act of adopting the resolution speaks. It confesses. Regardless whether the process fails, or even if, while the process would be under way, Dr. Becker would indeed fall off the roster, those matters were not the convention’s responsibility. Our responsibility was to confess. We could succeed in confessing, regardless what else may come.

Remshard_(1708)_Augsburger_Konfession_1530A motion was made to postpone indefinitely. One of the reasons for the motion was the idea of waiting for changes in procedure to make things easier. Previously, my Pastor, Rolf Preus, had recounted some of the history of Seminex relevant to the Resolution, having to do with district presidents certifying Seminex clergy. Speaking in opposition to indefinite postponement, a lay delegate recounted his family’s experience during the Seminex years when they were in the American Lutheran Church. Though the ALC did not have an event like the Seminex walkout to give its crisis a name, it faced the same issues during the same years as faced by Missouri in the Seminex crisis. How had the ALC failed and been destroyed? By indefinite postponements and waiting for changes in procedure to make things easier.

The debate was a series of tender moments. The respectful and congenial approach by delegates on opposite sides of the question was thoroughly satisfying. The light hand and steadfastness of committee chairman, Pastor Arlo Pullman, were admirable.

I never heard anyone express or imply, either formally in committee or floor debate, or informally at any other time, that they wanted President Linnemann to be expelled. The necessity of confessing meant that we had to take the only action open to us. The procedure of bylaw 2.15 would provide ample opportunity for repentance to avoid expulsion.

Some of the argument in favor of the resolution focused on putting a tool into the hand of the Synodical President. Consistent with that, and also reported to the floor from our committee, the convention adopted another measure to strengthen the hand of the Synodical President.

Resolution #5-05
To Emphasize Effective Ecclesiastical Supervision in the Districts of the Synod

Resolved that the Montana District of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod
memorialize the 2016 convention of the same to direct that this triennium’s program agenda for the Council of Presidents, that is, the entire part of its meetings not devoted to various Bylaw-mandated administrative tasks and deliberations, be organized by the President of Synod and not by the Council of Presidents or a subcommittee thereof; and be it further

Resolved likewise to memorialize Synod that the program agenda devised by the President for the Council shall be, in whole and in part, concerned with advancing the “unity of doctrine and practice in all the Districts of Synod” and with counsel regarding the “doctrine and administration of Synod,” with opportunity for input and mutual counsel by other members of the Council, but within the program agenda set forth by the President under this directive of the Synod; and be it finally

Resolved likewise to memorialize Synod that the President of Synod shall through Synod’s official publications deliver pertinent, detailed, timely, and regular reports of the Council’s progress in working toward “unity of doctrine and practice in all the districts of Synod.”

Resolution #5-04 was adopted with a handful of Nay votes.

The convention took these actions without knowing that for the prior 27 months, proceedings were under way on a charge against Dr. Becker by our District President, Terry Forke. There had been meetings between President Forke, President Linnemann, and Dr. Becker. See President Forke’s email about that in “More on the Becker Situation.” On July 1, 2015, Dr. Becker, in his blog post, “Less Room in the LCMS Brotherhood,” announced that President Linnemann had acted. He said, “last week Rev. Paul Linnemann, the NW District President, asked me to resign from the LCMS.” Dr. Becker said he would not appeal President Linnemann’s action.

About T. R. Halvorson

T. R. Halvorson was born in Sidney, Montana on July 14, 1953, baptized at Pella Evangelical Lutheran Church in Sidney, Montana on November 8, 1953, and confirmed at First Lutheran Church in Williston, North Dakota in 1968. He and his wife, Marilyn, are members of Trinity Lutheran Church (LCMS) in Sidney, Montana. They have three sons and six grandchildren. T. R. farms at Wildrose, North Dakota, and is Deputy County Attorney in Sidney, Montana. He has been a computer programmer; and an author, conference speaker, instructor, and consultant to industry in online legal information. He is among the authors of the religion column in the Sidney Herald at Sidney, Montana. He is the Editor of LutheranCatechism.com.

Comments

Anything but Dull – Convention Report – 2015 Montana District LCMS – Part 2 — 11 Comments

  1. So, basically, this is about knowledge, oversight, and discipline.

    I know why, what was asked, was asked, but I have to say, unless we as a Synod, let alone District are willing to uphold this, with just plain old laity, for what is to be there, w/them….I can’t see this ever going through.

  2. Honest question:

    If District President Linnemann can point to how he followed all the appropriate processes, and ultimately Dr. Becker was in fact removed from the roster… how does this effort gain any particular traction at the Synod level? If he is not in any current clear violation of any specific Synod regulation, what existing grounds are there to expel him from the Synod?

  3. @Brad #2

    Since the 4th point (Whereas, the Rev. Paul Linnemann, Northwest District President has failed to suspend the Rev. Dr. Becker in accordance with Bylaw 2.14.4…) is no longer true, the resolution will probably not be pursued IMO.

  4. @Dutch #1
    I agree wholeheartedly. You will never have a clear COP majority vote to stand behind any resolutions like this. Just too many liberal DP’s.

  5. Quote: As to action to involuntarily remove Dr. Becker from the roster, “I do not want to initiate a process that looks to have only a 50-50 chance of success.”

    While some may complain about this statement, Pres. Harrison is often painfully honest. Our church cannot abide continued processes over doctrinal oversight and supervision that either overlook or reject clear differences. Harrison is telling us the truth that we do not want to hear. Dr. Becker went through one process and the outcome was not what most of us wanted. Another process with another such outcome would only highlight our inability to deal with doctrinal issues. The attention had better be placed upon fixing the process. As everyone now knows, things took a different turn for Dr. Becker after the Convention but until the mechanism is repaired, there is NO guarantee that the process can credibly deal with such a problem if it came up again. You can hate Harrison for his honesty but at least he is putting his cards on the table and pointing us to where the problems lie and what needs to be done to fix that process.

  6. Regarding overtures that are likely to make it through the 2016 LCMS Convention Floor Committees, on August 30, 2015, Pres. Harrison said on Facebook:

    Starting to gear up for the next LCMS convention. Milwaukee 2016 here we come. We’ve made good on the resolutions from 2013. Two very significant items which I’m confident we will accomplish are 1) resolving the 26 yr old lic lay deacon issue and 2) fixing the dispute resolution and eccles supervision issues so another Becker situation never happens

  7. @The Rev. Larry A. Peters #5

    Larry,

    Fixing the process is necessary, but the division within the Synod seems, to my observation, why we continue to fail at doing so. To borrow an analogy, imagine trying to fix a process/system in your car (synod) that is running poorly, and you have a team of mechanics (theologians) on a special team (committee) to effect the changes. If they were all of the same mind, training, and certification, (confession) in what the car should be and do, they would work toward the same solution and fix the erring system. However, if some of those mechanics want your car to be repaired to original blueprint, some of them want to hop it up to be a street racer, and some of them want to rip it apart and build an experimental hybrid… just how much success would you expect to have from these folks in “fixing” the erring system/process?

    Until the Synod is at least largely of the same mind and intention, fixing the processes of our bureaucratic systems is pointless. If we hand tools to the Confessionals and the endless shades of Enthusiasts (CoWo-ists, 5/2-ists, Charismatics, Liberals, etc.,) then point them at the LCMS processes and tell them to “fix it,” they are all going to work toward fixing it in divergent and opposing ways, because they all want the synod refashioned in their own image… and we won’t know until the end if we’ve got a Studebaker, a hopped up Honda, an Aquacar, or a non-functional mess left under the shade tree whose destiny is to be forgotten in the overgrown grass.

    The first, and most painful action that must be taken, is to find out who is of the same mind and Confession. Without that harmony, all attempts at fixing processes in the bureaucracy are lipstick on a schizophrenic pig.

  8. @Brad #7: “The first, and most painful action that must be taken, is to find out who is of the same mind and Confession.”

    Coincidentally the first item on the Koinonia Project‘s 2022 Agenda will be to call for a Blue Ribbon Task Force to find out.

  9. @Brad #7

    We surely do need to fix the process, but using the procedures available, given the Montana resolution, DP Linnemann had to face the specter of what could happen at the synodical convention, what with all those crazy lay people and such as voting delegates.

  10. Whether our Synod gains friends or makes enemies, wins honor or invites disgrace, grows or declines in numbers, brings peace or incites enmity, all this must be unimportant to us–just so our Synod may keep the jewel of purity of doctrine and knowledge. However, should our Synod ever grow indifferent toward purity of doctrine, through ingratitude forget this prize, or betray or barter it away to the false church, then let our church body perish and the name ‘Missourian’ decay in disgrace.
    Rev. C. F. W. Walther, 1st Synodical President
    First Sermon Delivered at the Opening of Synod, 1 Corinthians 1:4, 5
    Concordia Theological Quarterly, April-July, 1988,
    p. 118-119 & footnote #46

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