Bishop Tyranny and Heresy (Part 2)

In part 1, we saw how a congregation of my friends suffered the tyranny of a bishop concerning their pastoral vacancy, and the imposition of a pastor who teaches heretical doctrine. We contrasted that to the experience I recently had during the pastoral vacancy in my congregation. My congregation had a good vacancy and a good call of a new pastor because our district follows procedures that are cast from the mold of the Lutheran confessions, which confess the Scriptural teaching concerning the office of bishop. In part 1, we looked at the Scriptural meaning of the word bishop.51keq5JdQdL

In this part, we consider a second meaning of the word bishop, a meaning by human arrangement. This meaning is explained in the Lutheran confessions. Then we will apply both meanings to the suffering of the abused congregation and see the rights of a congregation to call an orthodox pastor.

Divine Law; Divine Authority; Divine Right. Since Christ himself gave the church pastors, and since all the Apostles appointed pastor-elder-bishops in every church and every city because of Christ’s gift, the powers of a pastor, elder, or bishop that are established in Scripture are said to be powers the office has by divine law, divine authority, or divine right.

Equality of All Pastors and Bishops. The confessional writings of the Lutheran church written to establish its doctrine during the Reformation teach from Scripture what has been said in Part 1 of this article about the single office, the three titles, and the divine authority of the office. All pastors, elders, and bishops are equal in this divine power or authority. The Lutheran confessions say:

Everyone confesses, even our adversaries, that this power is common to all who preside over churches by divine right, whether they are called pastors, elders, or bishops. So Jerome explicitly teaches in the apostolic letters that all who preside over churches are both bishops and elders. He cites from Titus 1:5-6 [one of the passages discussed in Part 1, and explains it in the same sense as it was explained in Part 1].

“Treatise Against the Power and Primacy of the Pope,” Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions, 2nd edition, p. 303, ¶¶ 61-62, (Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, 2006). Since the power is common to all, the divine right is equal in all the pastors, elders, and bishops.

Human Arrangement of Bishops over Pastors. The Treatise continues:

But afterward, one was chosen to be placed over the rest. This was done as a remedy for schism, lest each one by attracting a congregation to himself might tear apart the Church of Christ. … [T]he elders always elected one from among themselves and placed him in a higher station, calling him bishop.

Id., ¶ 62.

One Distinction: Ordination. Because the word bishop already had the well-established scriptural meaning relating to the single office given by Christ, it would have been better to give this office by human arrangement a different name. In the Missouri Synod, it is given the name District President, and that probably is a good thing. But in other synods, so long as the distinction between powers by divine law and powers by human arrangement is maintained, using the title bishop can work. The Treatise continues:

Jerome, therefore, teaches that it is by human authority that the grades of bishop and elder or pastor are distinct. The content itself says this, because the power is the same, as he has said above. Later, only one thing made a distinction between bishops and pastors, namely, ordination. For it was arranged that one bishop would ordain ministers in a number of churches.

Id., ¶¶ 63-64.

Lording it over Congregations. The trouble is, bishops tend to drift over time into claiming that extra powers over elders, pastors, and congregation are vested in them by divine right, despite the fact that this contradicts the Scriptures and the Lutheran confessions. They also are tempted to lord it over congregations, which is contrary to what Jesus taught about leadership in the kingdom of God, and contrary to what the Apostles taught about bishops. “Jesus called them to him and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you.” Matthew 20:25-26. We saw above in 1 Peter 5:1-3 that bishops oversee the flock not “as being lords over those entrusted to you.”

Congregations Retain Divine Right to Call Pastors. The early Lutherans experienced such troubles and were careful to maintain the distinction between powers of bishops by divine right and by human arrangement. The Treatise explicitly says:

Since the grades of bishop and pastor are not different by divine authority, it is clear that ordination administered by a pastor in his own church is valid by divine law.

Therefore, when the regular bishops become enemies of the Church or are unwilling to administer ordination, the churches retain their own right to ordain their own ministers.

Wherever the Church is, there is the authority to administer the Gospel. Therefore, it is necessary for the Church to retain the authority to call, elect, and ordain ministers. This authority is a gift that in reality is given to the Church. No human power can take this gift away from the Church.

… [T]he people elected pastors and bishops. Then came a bishop, either of that church or a neighboring one, who confirmed the one elected by the laying on of hands. Ordination was nothing else than a ratification.

Id., pp. 303-04, ¶¶ 65-67, 70.

While Scripture and the Lutheran confessions provide much more evidence of what is being said, we have seen enough already to make application of the teaching.

When a bishop will not provide a congregation in pastoral vacancy with candidates to be its pastor, or will delay for sufficient time to make the congregation desperate for a pastor, or will provide only one or two candidates whose teachings depart from the faith once delivered to the saints, this fits the language of the Lutheran confessions about being unwilling to administer ordination. It is a case of lording it over the congregation and arrogating to the bishop a pretended authority contrary to Scripture and the Lutheran confessions and contrary to the example of Christ who, though Lord of all, came not to be served, but to serve.

When a bishop will provide but one or two candidates whose doctrine contradicts the congregation’s historical, scriptural, and Lutheran teachings, the congregation retains the divine right to call an orthodox pastor. The Treatise says,

If the bishops … will not ordain suitable persons, the churches are in duty bound before God, according to divine law, to ordain for themselves pastors and ministers.

Id., ¶ 72.

Part of the trouble in my friends’ congregation was their lack of understanding of the office of bishop and its limitations, and their lack of understanding the congregation’s right and duty to call an orthodox pastor. All congregations of any Lutheran synod should learn from this disastrous example, and from Scripture and the confessions. No bishop has any divine right to impose heresy or artificially exacerbate a pastoral vacancy.


Photo credit. Image above is of a figurine of Jesus washing Peter’s feet by Joseph’s Studio. It is a favorite of mine because of how it captures the dynamic with Peter, and it illustrates the servant nature of leadership in the kingdom of God.

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


Bishop Tyranny and Heresy (Part 2) — 31 Comments

  1. “In the Missouri Synod, it is given the name District President, and that probably is a good thing.”

    Besides being a “good thing” because of its polity, the Missouri Synod does not mention the term,”bishop,” in its Constitution. Furthermore a previous synodical convention resolution made this clear, as noted in CCM Opinion 00-2202 (p. 67 of 80), when the English District tried to change the title of its district president to “Bishop”:

    Opinion 00-2202: The Commission [on Constitutional Matters] notes that Overture 3-42 to the 1981 synodical convention asked for permission to use the title “Bishop.” It resolved “That the Synod in Convention assembled permissively grant as an alternate title the Scriptural term Bishop to the President of the Synod and the District Presidents and the Vice-Presidents of both the Synod and the Districts, but for legal purposes the designation President/Vice-President be retained in the constitution.”

    In response, Resolution 3-19, “To Retain the Terminology of ‘President’ and ‘Vice-President’,” respectfully declined Overture 3-42. The Commission notes, therefore, that while a resolution to remove term limits for the President of the English District is acceptable, the use of the term “Bishop” in the overture and any ensuing convention action advocating the removal of term limits is out of order.
    Adopted June 15, 2000

    And in an October 26, 2000, Opinion 00-2215, the CCM had to remind the English District again when it stated:

    The Commission again notes that Overture 3-42 to the 1981 synodical convention asked for permission to use the term “Bishop” as an alternate title for the President of the Synod, the District Presidents, and the Vice-Presidents of both the Synod and the Districts. In response, Resolution 3-19 of the convention, “To Retain the Terminology of ‘President‘ and ‘Vice-Presidents,‘” respectfully declined Overture 3-42.

    Yet again, in its February 18-20, 2011, minutes (p. 151), the CCM, in reviewing district bylaws, reminded the English District:

    Under Article III (p. 4-9), the commission encourages the district to consider former CCM Opinions 00-2202 and 00-2215 regarding the parenthetical use of the title “Bishop” (copies will be provided to the district with this review by the commission).

    A check of its 2015 convention minutes indicates the English District may have to be reminded by the CCM still again.

  2. A good survey of the doctrine, TR, and thanks for writing it. There is no end to the mischief which may ensue, when congregations forget their divine right in the face of arrogating bureaucrats.

  3. @Carl Vehse #1
    A check of its 2015 convention minutes indicates the English District may have to be reminded by the CCM still again.”
    Nothing has changed, the current English district president wants to be referred to as “super bishop” or most honorable district president.

  4. T.R.,
    I’m not sure I buy your “because our district follows procedures that are cast from the mold of the Lutheran confessions”. Your friend’s bad experience was caused by a bad bishop not a bad polity, and your good experience was caused by a good district president, not a good polity. I’ve personally had bad experiences dealing w/ bad district presidents, and there are more than probably a few good bishops out there as well.
    If (as I fear) the problem is human beings rather than polity, better organizational charts won’t solve it.
    Still an interesting look at the subject. Thanks for the great article.
    Pax Christi+,
    -Matt Mills

  5. @Matt Mills #5

    Not sure of the polity of my friends’ synod. But you’re right. By “we follow,” I was paying tribute to the good discharge of office by our District President, and other DPs of the same synod might be doing badly with the same polity.

  6. Dear BJS Bloggers,

    LC-MS Vice-President John C. Wohlrabe once gave a fine essay titled “On Our Way to Episcope,” or something like that. I am thinking it was ca. 2003 tp 2006. It was published on the web, but I cant’ find it anymore. It looked at how the LCMS was designed from the beginning to have a congregational-synodical polity, with strict limitations on the powers of district presidents. Then he showed how recent synodical resolutions had given more powers to the district presidents.

    Although one might complain about various abuses in our system, it is really a wonderful polity, in my opinion. It is important to see how our district presidents are different from traditional bishops in the Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and Anglican communions. I’ll call these the CATHOLIC churches

    CATHOLIC: Bishops hold and control parish property. LCMS: Congregations hold and control parish property.

    CATHOLIC: Bishops select and call priests to parishes. LCMS: Congregations select and call pastors to parishes.

    CATHOLIC: Bishops remove priests from parishes, for any reasons, no reason given or needed, unless the priest is discalded. LCMS: Congregations remove pastors from parishes, due process should be followed, reasons must be given; district presidents may also remove pastors from parishes, due process should be followed, reasons must be given.

    CATHOLIC: Bishops appointed by ecclesiastical supervisors for life, unless removed due to cause. LCMS: District presidents elected for three year terms by congregational delegates, renewable without limit in some districts, renewable for set number of terms in others.

    CATHOLIC: Priests are accountable and report to bishops. LCMS: Pastors are accountable and report to congregation in its voters meeting.

    I have lived with and worked with this polity for over 31 years as a pastor. I think it is biblical, practical, and ultimately benefits both pastors and laymen. It is one of the great blessings we enjoy in the LCMS, though not many realize it.

    Thanks for the fine article, T.R.!

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  7. The paper, “ON THE WAY TO EPISCOPÉ: RESOLUTION 8-01A OF THE 2004 LC-MS CONVENTION IN THE LIGHT OF SYNODICAL HISTORY” (thanks to the The Wayback Machine), by John C. Wohlrabe, Jr., Th.D., was originally delivered at the conference, Confession and Christ’s Mission: Challenges to the Future of the LCMS, October 21, 2004 in Melrose Park, Illinois.

    In his paper (p. 11), Dr. Wohlrabe confusedly states: “The story of Bishop Martin Stephan is well known in Missouri Synod circles. His abuse of the episcopal office soured the immigrants against bishops in general. What is less well-known is that after Stephan’s exile the pastors intended to continue the episcopacy. Against the pastors, the lawyer Adolf Marbach and the state archivist Carl Vehse put forward a proposal known as the Zeugnisse. This proposal set forth a theory of church government that abolished the bishopric entirely, resting full church authority with the laymen.”

    The confusion by Wohlrabe about the different positions of Carl Vehse and Adolph Marbach may have come from confusion about the separate documents issued by the two men. Marbach was not a contributor to Vehse’s initial draft document, Zeugnisse über das Predigtamt, containing six theses, which he gave to Hermann Walther to review, nor was Marbach one of the contributors to the later expanded document, the Protestationsschrift, which Vehse, Fischer, and Jäckel sent to all the pastors on September 19, 1839. These documents were submitted by Vehse before December 12, 1839, when Theodor Carl Friedrich Gruber, who had resigned his pastoral office in Germany, arrived in Perry County. In his book, Government of the Missouri Synod, Carl Mundinger explained (pp. 110-111):

    On March 3, 1841, Marbach issued a manifesto, in which he charged that their whole church polity (“Kirchenwesen“) was built upon a sinful foundation and that until this old foundation was completely demolished, no church polity on which they could expect the blessing of God could be established… Shortly after Marbach had issued his manifesto, a conference of the interested parties was held in Dresden, Perry County. Those present, according to the “Protokoll” [in Marbach’s own handwriting], were Pastors Loeber, Keyl, Gruber, and Buenger; Candidate of Theology Brohm; Magister Wege; and Lawyer Marbach. C.F.W. Walther was not present… Marbach reiterated the claim which he had already put forth in his document of a few days before, viz., that the foundation of their church polity was sinful and that this sinful foundation must be destroyed before they could expect the blessings of God. By “destroy” Marbach meant a public confession of sin on the part of the whole company, coupled with a return to Germany.”

    However the confusion between the different positions of Vehse and Marbach occurred in Missouri Synod publications long before Wohlrabe’s 2004 paper.

  8. Thank you, TR and Matt Mills!
    Matt, I’m afraid you are right. The problem is not the title but the behavior.

    @Martin R. Noland #7

    “should…must” 🙁

    I think it is biblical, practical, and ultimately benefits both pastors and laymen.

    Care to detail your “Biblical” argument?

  9. @Tileman hesshusius #4

    Nothing has changed, the current English district president wants to be referred to as “super bishop” or most honorable district president. –Carlvehse

    Does it matter what the English district president is called, if he doesn’t allow sexual predators in his district pulpits and doesn’t permit congregations to remove pastors without cause?

  10. @helen #10


    At an immediately practical level, no– it doesn’t matter what people call him. The reality of what he believes, teaches, confesses, and practices is his proof in the pudding.

    However, the use of language and phraseology does matter, because it tends to shape things like belief, teaching, confession, and ultimately practice. Proper use of language (or at least consistent use of language) also keeps our systematic theology coherent as we attempt to live into the Scriptures and Confessions as a synod.

    For example, we either embrace a system in which the fullness of the pastoral office is exercised in the congregation as Christ confers it through the congregation (keeping the NT Greek terms for Bishop and Priest/Presbyter synonymous), or we divide the pastoral office into various grades where the fullness of the office is found in the episcopacy and delegated out to priests, deacons, and laity. Conferring the term “bishop” on a humanly instituted office like a district president, immediately subordinates all the other “bishop/presbyters” serving in the local congregations, and by extension, subordinates the congregations, as well. What was once bottom up, becomes top down.

    As Dr. Noland well wrote (though I cringe to hear Lutherans not included amongst the catholic churches), the polity of the LCMS with its exercise of the pastoral office fundamentally expressed in and through the congregations, is incompatible with an episcopal model that assumes subordination of the congregations and their pastors to the local bishop/district president. One can argue that both polities can be exercised in a legitimately Biblical way, like one can argue that various political systems can be exercised in legitimately Biblical ways– but these two polities are incoherent when blended together, just as representative democracy and oligarchy are incoherent when blended together.

    That, to my mind, is the risk in playing with the names and titles. Inevitably, fiddling with the language begins fiddling with the underlying theology, and plays out in what people eventually believe, teach, confess, and practice… which is a familiar lament among those who observe the same fiddling in our liturgies.

  11. @Martin R. Noland #7: “I’ll call these the CATHOLIC churches.”

    The capitalized word, “CATHOLIC,” is unnecessarily confusing or misleading.

    A more appropriate term for the polities of various heterodox or apostate religious bodies (distinguished from the polity of Evangelical Lutheran churches of the Missouri Synod) would be “EPISCOPIST.”

  12. @helen #10: “Does it matter what the English district president is called, if he doesn’t allow sexual predators in his district pulpits and doesn’t permit congregations to remove pastors without cause?”

    Missouri Synod members who do follow official practices of the LCMS in some areas are not excused from following official LCMS practices in other areas without following the prescribed process for dissent.

    But seeing it occur is not surprising given that a divine rule against using a clerical title is also being ignored by some in the Missouri Synod.

  13. @helen #9

    Dear Helen (comment #9),

    C.F.W. Walther “wrote the book” on the Biblical character of LCMS polity in his famous book “Church and Ministry,” now titled “Church & Office” (available from I could not surpass his eloquence, logic, or persuasiveness in that book, and will not attempt to do so. But thanks for asking.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  14. @Carl Vehse #13

    One would hope, that those Lutheran pastors using the title “father”, are using it in the historic sense reflected by St. Paul in 1st Corinthians 4, and not as a prideful usurpation of that Fatherhood which alone belongs to God.

  15. @Brad #15

    Some use 1 Cor 4:15,17; Phil 2:22; or 1 Thess 2:11 to claim the NT use of the title, “Father,” for apostles (and by extension, pastors). But none of these has a command (in contradiction to Mt 23:9) to give a pastor the title of “Father” or for a pastor to refer to himself or other ordained ministers as “Father.”

    In his letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul uses the term “father” as a reminder that he established the church in Corinth, analogous to referring to a person as the “the father of a country” or “the father of a city.” But Paul does not give to the new pastor, Timothy, nor does he tells the Corinthians to address Timothy by the title, “Father.”

    The other two Scriptural passages use “father” in an analogy, not as a prescribed title to be used, and not that St. Paul has designated himself or any other pastor with the title, “Father.”

    Eisegeting such Scripture as authorizing the clerical title of “Father” is as ridiculous as claiming on the basis of 1 Thess. 2:7 that St. Paul, speaking in the Spirit, directed the Thessalonians to address him with the honorific title of “Mother” or “Nurse.”

  16. @Brad #11

    Conferring the term “bishop” on a humanly instituted office like a district president, immediately subordinates all the other “bishop/presbyters” serving in the local congregations, and by extension, subordinates the congregations, as well. What was once bottom up, becomes top down

    But what was “bottom up” has become “top down” by neglect of discipline when congregations remove a pastor without cause; by dictating lists of pastors who are “acceptable to the district office” for new calls and, in too many districts, by pressure for un Lutheran theology and practice. [Oh, yes, by DP covering for those occasional rotten apples, too!]

    Just to keep the examples as far away from Texas as possible: consider MN No. and MN So.! [Actually, I grew up in MN so I take them both personally.]

    Congratulations on keeping the Lutheran title (although I think Walther would have happily been a “Bishop” if allowed); as far as diligently keeping to Lutheran practice, this rose does not smell like a rose!

  17. @helen #17


    I know we have some pretty bad practice going on across the synod, but it’s not by design of the system itself. Those people who have abused their office (either divine or bureaucratic) are doing their damage apart from their properly given duties… and as Matt noted above, bad actors will defile any polity they find themselves in. Neither a diocesan episcopacy nor a congregational autonomy model is going to spare us from abusers of office. We will be dealing with them until the Lord’s return.

    My point was only that the language we use influences and/or reflects the theology we confess. And as Carl pointed out above, though our synodical affiliation is free, our free association brings with it a duty to function according to the rules of the whole… and using titles which the synod has expressly deemed inappropriate to their office, is breaching the peace.

    Take, for example, all the mischief which is coming out of the 5/2 folks, exacerbated by their novelties in theological language…

  18. @Brad #11
    Two things:

    Descriptive, not prescriptive, but can you find me a “district president” in the New Testament? (I think it would be difficult to swing a dead cat in the NT w/o hitting an Apostle writing to congregations in a way that implied that their pastors were “subordinate” to them.)

    Secondly, and again practical rather than theological (because I’m not saying we are not free to pick the polity we like, we are) I fear Loehe was right to an extent: our system is the typical American answer. Faced w/ sinful humans we put in a bureaucratic checks and balances systemic solution. But one does tend to get what the system promotes. We have a bureaucratic/political system, and we get bureaucrats as church leaders. I’d actually prefer churchmen.

    Pax Christi+,
    -Matt Mills

  19. @Brad #18

    I’d say the 5/2 folks are another good example of what we get by embracing a political or business model for our polity, rather than a churchly one. CEOs and managers vs. Pastors/Bishops.

  20. Matthew @#19 & #20

    Following a “churchly” model does not stop such problems such as one finds in the Episcopal Church (bishops), the AELC (bishops) and of course the Papists (pope & bishops). I will take my chances with the LCMS polity over the others.

  21. @Matthew Mills #19


    Certainly no such thing as a district president that I’ve ever encountered in Scripture. If we are going to ask our district presidents to be “overseers” then I would certainly prefer them to be churchmen vs. bureaucrats, too. But you’re right, in my estimation– a political system tends to bring forth fruits according to its kind, and our polity has been pretty adept at bringing forth bureaucrats. Of course, it’s also brought forth some pretty awesome churchmen… but I haven’t done the research in order to tally which has outnumbered the other.

    And I think the references in the Confessions to maintaining standard western catholic rites and orders shows a confessional preference for maintaining the Bishop/Priest/Deacon/Laity traditional polity– though I think that episcopal polity has not preserved the continental European and Scandinavian Lutheran churches from heresy and apostasy, anymore than it preserved Rome. In historical terms, the LCMS is a very young synod, and I think the jury is still out on whether or not a democratic polity as we have established it will survive another century.

    To my mind, the weakness of a classical episcopal polity is like that of a secular kingly model– if you can corrupt the bishop/monarch, you can corrupt the whole very quickly. Of course, many of the laity in such churches will say that their church outlives their bishops, be they good or evil, almost as if to say, “a bad bishop can do a lot of harm quickly, but that can quickly turn around if we get a better bishop next time around.”

    The democratic polity we have established has its weakness in the constantly churning political process, but that process, like its secular counterpart, tends not to be given to radical or quick shifts– i.e., the bureaucracy tends to outlive the often elected politicians, and is checked by the collective will of the people. An open question remains for such bureaucratic systems: if they slowly degenerate into apostasy from their founding confessions, are they capable of a slow or quick collective repentance? When the majority of the synod, for example, embraces Willow Creek over the Augustana, can it ever really recover before the errors it endorses kill it… or does it become, for all intents and purposes, as irreformable as a Pope who claims for himself innerrency and supremacy?

    I think for better or worse, the LCMS is stuck with her polity, and should try to make it work. If it lives, it will be entirely by God’s good grace… and if it dies, it will be entirely its own fault.

  22. @Brad #18

    Take, for example, all the mischief which is coming out of the 5/2 folks, exacerbated by their novelties in theological language…

    You take them! I was trying to avoid thinking of them. [And our properly labeled DP is evidently enthusiastic!] 🙁

    I know we have some pretty bad practice going on across the synod, but it’s not by design of the system itself.

    I believe the mischief spawned by the “DRP” is a design [flaw] of the system; likewise, the arrogation of power to the “CCM”. [The latter rather resembles the “Executive Orders” with which our democracy is being warped out of shape, with “power to the top”.]

  23. Hmm. District President. “District”–a subunit of Synod–“Synod in that geographical area” (though that concept has been badly abused! Every DP a mini-pope!)–District is a concept that I don’t think needs too much explanation. “President”. A president is one who presides. Over what? Over the district. That is a concrete reality when the district convenes, once every 3 years. But beyond that, over what does he preside? He presides at meetings of various district boards and such, as they deem necessary, I suppose.
    But I think what we really need is for our District Presidents to *preside* at the Altar. That is, he still needs to be a “working” *pastor*. Not just a wandering preacher, as our “unattached” DP’s are (mostly) these days. Attached to a particular altar and congregation. I think one of the best things Matt Harrison did was accept the call to Village Church of Ladue, even though his duties keep him traveling. I *also* think that this is the sort of thing that most of those amongst us who want to have “bishops” have primarily in mind. Frankly, I think it would be a very healthy, bureaucrat-mindset-inhibiting thing for DP’s to still be accountable for Word and Sacrament ministry to a specific congregation–who can remind him of what it’s all about–and keep him humble.
    Practically speaking, this would require an huge shift in our mental habits regarding how we view what a DP is, what a district “headquarters/office” is, what a *district* is. I think it would be a very *healthy* mental shift.

  24. @helen #23

    Fair enough, Helen. I was refering to the core system of ecclesiastical polity we have historically as a synod– not the modern abuses and abberations, nor the rampant enthusiasm in various distriicts.


  25. @Matthew Mills #19: Descriptive, not prescriptive, but can you find me a “district president” in the New Testament?

    It may be in the same NT section where it says that if a polity of a church body is not listed in the NT, it is not permitted for any future church body

    “I fear Loehe was right to an extent: our system is the typical American answer.”

    The only thing Loehe was right about in the doctrine of church and ministry is when he admitted that Walther and the Missouri Synod, rather than Loehe were right about the doctrine of church and ministry:

    “The sad experiences which the former Stephanites [the Missourians] had with their hierarch, [Martin] Stephan, have made their hearts very receptive to the doctrine of the ministry held by Luther and subsequent theologians, a teaching also reflected in the Lutheran Symbols, especially since this doctrine not only commends itself highly to the Christian mind but also seems made to order for American circumstances.” (Kirchliche Nachrichten aus und über Nord-Amerika, No. 8 [1859]; quoted in C. F. W. Walther, “Do We Draw the Lines of Fellowship Too Narrowly?”, Editorials From “Lehre und Wehre” [Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1981], pp. 75-76)

    As for the old wives’ tale about the Missouri Synod polity being based on the American democratic system, in his Government in the Missouri Synod (CPH, St. Louis, 1947, pp. 209-210), Carl Mundinger wrote:

    “Any democratic political theories which the founders of the Missouri Synod might have entertained, they did not get from America, but from the same source from which they derived their theory and church polity, viz., from the writings of Martin Luther. Walther’s political democracy was not that of John Locke nor of Jean Jacques Rousseau.

    “Perhaps the strongest argument against any connection between contemporary American political theory and the genesis of decentralized church polity in the Missouri Synod is in the extreme exclusivism adopted first by the Stephanites in Germany and then by the Saxon congregations in St. Louis and Perry County.”

    Later, Mundinger stated (pp. 212-3):

    “As to the genesis of the Missouri Synod’s decentralized polity it is rather doubtful whether America contributed very much more than the stage upon which Luther’s theories of church government were put into practice… Their [laymen Vehse, Fischer, and Jaekel] claims for lay participation in the government of the Church were based primarily upon the earlier statements of Luther concerning the priesthood of all believers. At first the Saxon ministerium, including C.F.W. Walther, resisted these laymen most vigorously, as already stated. In the winter of 1840 and 1841, however, the situation was threatening to get out of hand. C.F.W. Walther was deposed from office by his Perry County congregation on account of its want of confidence in his ministry (“Misstrauen gegen das Amt”). The clerical party was rapidly losing caste and disintegrating. As previously pointed out, Pastor Buerger and Magister Wege espoused the cause of the lay party, while the influential Candidate Brohm began to straddle and the faith of Keyl and Loeber in the cause of the clericals was badly shaken. The colonists generally were utterly confused.

    “In this extreme exigency Walther made a virtue of necessity and adopted a realistic course. He accepted principles of church government which his lay opponents had gathered from the writings of Luther. To these he added from Luther certain provisions which safeguarded the dignity of the ministerial office: his transfer theory, the doctrine of the divinity of the call, the absolute authority of the Word of God, and permanence of tenure.”

  26. I think the point Simplicio is trying to make Carl is your argument as to why the title “father” cannot be used is, too put it in the kindess way possible, deeply flawed.

  27. @Chris #30

    It’s not my argument. What is deeply flawed, to put it in the kindest way possible, is the sophistic attempt of some to show, despite the context of the surrounding verses, that our Lord and Savior stands corrected in the meaning of the clear words the Spirit-inspired apostle records Him as saying in v. 9.

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