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.
To Allow for the Review of Acquittals
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.
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:
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.
A 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.
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.