Please May We Have More Dispute, More Resolution, and Less Reconciliation in the LCMS

disagreeDisputation is indivisible from Confessional Lutheranism. Lutherans fray their orthodoxy when they do not engage in frequent disputation with all who dare to tamper with or reject the formal and material principles of Scripture alone and grace alone, respectively.

By contrast, Liberal Lutheranism is indivisible from toleration, compromise, accommodation, and permissiveness.

Disputation does not make Lutherans disagreeable, quarrelsome, confrontational, or discordant. It makes them orthodox; zealous for pure doctrine. They are confident to dispute because they know where to find pure doctrine, and how to apply it. They are eager to dispute because they know what has been done for them in Christ. They welcome opportunities for public disputation because they know that true salvation stands to be lost if they are quiet and unseen.

A Confessional Lutheran synod should be prized and famous for its militant disputational character. It should dispute with itself more than anyone else to ensure that any heterodoxy is refined out before it quenches the forge of justification. The treasure of the church should be poured into foundations of disputation since assaults and sieges against pure doctrine will never end until the return of Christ.

Martin Luther and his fellow theologians of the Reformation modeled ardent disputation for us. The consequences of their disputation were hardly trivial — they were always just an axe-drop shy of losing their voices. In spite of the threats, they disputed continually with princes and Popes, laymen and lectors, bishops and barons to continue securing the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.

The Book of Concord (BoC) demonstrates how vigorously and rigorously we are to contend for pure doctrine. The BoC is also instructive in matters of resolution. All Christian disputation has a single purpose — the maintenance of one pure and true religion.

According to the Preface of the Augsburg Confession, we are to deal with dissension by:

  1. Hearing opinions and judgements in public;
  2. Considering opinions and judgements in mutual charity, leniency, and kindness;
  3. Removing and correcting error by testing it with Scripture;
  4. Leaving no room for accommodation since there is a single truth; and
  5. Doing all the above for the purpose of unity and concord in the Church.


Only a fraction of members of the Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod (LCMS) would disagree. Our institutions are a different story, though, and the LCMS dispute resolution process has codified a perversion of the instructions of the AC Preface.

A different spirit has long animated the corporatized entities that fly the LCMS flag. This institutional spirit overwhelms even the most reliably Confessional men and women. It pressgangs them to serve the institution and its offices above even pure doctrine. They help, often unwittingly, animate the institution to prefer external virtue signaling, and the suppression of disputation.

Examples are too legion to list. You have already thought of at least three, have you not?

The root of the rot is genuflecting to the culture. Modern America hates disputation because someone might discover a pimple on their self-esteem. Those engaged in disputation are condemned and shunned, and we prefer to be surrounded by accommodators.

Our culture is deathly afraid of resolution because it requires someone to be right and someone to be wrong.

Consequently, we resolve nothing. We bury things. We massage things. We euphemize things. We endlessly ponder and review things. We distract ourselves to prove that we have risen above mere resolution to the exalted glories of reconciliation. Before that throne, everyone agrees to disagree in the name of mutual respect and understanding. Our faith allows no such toleration, but bylaws must prevail over truth.

LCMS seminarians are increasingly indoctrinated to be winsome in the manner of Campus Crusade. Valiant experts in Christian disputation? Surely not! Pastors engaged in disputation have no love for the lost, don’t you know?

Pastors who toe-the-line are rewarded with winsome congregations in winsome districts that indulge themselves along the spectrum of heterodoxy to the point of heresy. Pastors who won’t submit to the institutional spirit are threatened and cajoled in innumerable ways until they crack or comply. When they don’t break or bend, they are slandered and politicked against.

Those who organize to point out errors are accused of trying to split the Synod even as the accusers fund and tend their own shadow Synod. These are the shameful depths we have sunk to.

Thankfully, we know where to look for our salvation, and it is not in Milwaukee this Summer, nor at 1333 S. Kirkwood Road, St. Louis, MO 63122. Pray that the LCMS would repent of its errors before it is too late.


Please May We Have More Dispute, More Resolution, and Less Reconciliation in the LCMS — 26 Comments

  1. Before God and men I accuse all of you as arsonists, blasphemers, murderers, and ravagers of Christian piety.

    From Against Latomus, pg. 219 of Luther’s Works, Vol. 32

    Good stuff, Mr. Wood. Keep up the good fight.

  2. Tim,

    You say “We endlessly ponder and review things.” It sounds to me that you believe a thorough and thoughtful review of the issues to be bad if not harmful thing. Especially when we compare our actions to the hard charging, valiant Reformers who brooked no nonsense and rejected heterodox (if not heretical) arguments easily and out of hand.

    How far from the truth! The Reformers often moved cautiously and slowly in making decisions. Luther and the change of the liturgy of the mass is a great example. Liturgy is an important if not critical element of the Christian life; the liturgy is critical in bringing to us the Word and Sacraments which brings us life and the Good News of Jesus Christ. Therefore, you think that Luther would have changed the liturgy the day after he pounded the 95 Theses on to the door of the Castle Church in 1517, or at the least by 1520 when he published The Babylonian Captivity of the Church.

    No, Luther went slowly. He was quite distressed when in 1521-1522 Karlstadt introduced radical changes to the Mass when he started conducting the service in German and in street clothes. Luther was so upset that he broke off his exile at the Wartburg to come back to Wittenberg to help straighten things out. It was not until 1523 that Luther introduced his Latin Mass and it was not until 1526 that Luther introduced his German Mass. This almost 10 years after the 95 Theses!

    And what about the great debates at the councils of the ancient church at Nicea and Chalcedon? Those decisions were not made in haste or over night. Their discussions lasted months before final decisions were made.

    Deliberation and a due review of doctrinal issues is important. Such decisions should not be overlooked. However, I do not believe that you are saying that there should only be snap judgments made but instead are pleading for the Synod and churches to make decisions and not endlessly delay the making of decisions for political reasons. I agree with you that decisions need to be made by the Church after an appropriate amount of discussion.

    In Christ

  3. @Tim Givan #2 Hi Tim

    Our Synod does not have such weighty matters to deal with as the examples you cite. Our “issues”, by comparison, are truly trivial, which makes it more shameful that we are unable to achieve resolution. In nearly every controversy before the Synod we have the clear teaching of Scripture, our Confessions, precedent, experience, and tradition to inform us. Many of these things are not hard to deal with except that we have allowed ourselves to be ensnared by The Handbook.

    I certainly don’t advocate for snap judgements on important issues. I do advocate for speedy judgements on minor issues where the only dispute is how much heterodoxy we are willing to tolerate for the sake of Synodical comity.

    Grace ☩ Truth

  4. Second Corinthians 5:18-19 “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.”

    Might want to rethink your title.

  5. Tim,

    This is a superb article. Thank you for the thoughtful commentary. The synod, LCMS INC, and Rev Dr Harrison, fail to use scripture, the bully pulpit, the LCMS constitution, and confessions to stop the heterodoxy in the synod. Let us be honest. The synod is heterodox because it still tolerates false teaching. Confessional Leadership is non-existent and, other than the Becker fiasco, we have not addressed err in years. Again, thank you, Tim. You continue to be steadfast….

  6. @P.D.F #4 I’m afraid that you have misunderstood and misapplied the text.

    St. Paul is referring to the great reconciliation, not setting aside our differences on doctrine for the sake of friendship and an appearance of gentility.

    The message of reconciliation entrusted to us is the point of this article. We are to proclaim and confess that message of the good news of what Christ has done and will do. We are to contend for it, even at the expense of unity if that unity stands in the way of truth.

    Grace ☩ Truth

  7. I’m not sure we should be paying attention to Tim Wood. He is not an ordained LCMS pastor!

  8. Unless Alan Turley is an ordained LCMS pastor, his post is a self-defeating bit of trolling.

  9. “Please May We Have More Dispute, More Resolution”

    From the 2016 Convention Workbook (p. 339):

    4-29 To Call for Members with Confessions Contrary to That of the Scriptures and Lutheran Confessions to Leave Synodical Union Voluntarily

    Whereas, The organizing principle for a Synodical Union is its
    confession of faith (Constitution Art. II); and
    Whereas, The first objective of the Synod reads:

    The Synod, under Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions, shall—1. Conserve and promote the unity of the true faith (Eph. 4:3−6; 1 Cor.1:10), work through its official structure toward fellowship with other Christian church bodies, and provide a united defense against schism, sectarianism (Rom. 16:17), and heresy” (Constitution Art. III);

    Whereas, The Synodical Union’s provision for dissent is not intended to provide a means for repeated attacks on the confession of the Synod; and
    Whereas, There are members of the Synodical Union who continue to hold confessions contrary to that of the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions (e.g., abortion, evolution as the origin of man, homosexual behavior, women’s ordination), despite consistent rejection at Synod conventions of those positions; and
    Whereas, Holding a confession contrary to that of the Synodical Union while remaining in membership thereof creates unnecessary conflict and stress within the union and raises questions with regard to the integrity of the dissenter; therefore be it
    Resolved, That for the sake of the unity of this confession and for their own integrity, the Montana District respectfully requests that those members who hold a confession contrary to that of the LCMS voluntarily resign their membership in the Synodical Union; and be it further
    Resolved, That the Montana District in convention memorialize the 2016 LCMS convention to adopt this resolution as its own.
    Montana District

    [Emphasis added]

  10. @Carl Vehse #12

    Yup still waiting for the eastern and English district President to resign quietly for allowing themselves to practice and promoting false teaching in their districts

  11. Sadly, the 2016 Convention Workbook contains no overtures directing the Missouri Synod to develop and implement plans to dissolve the nongeographical districts and merge their congregations with appropriate geographical districts.

  12. @Tim Wood #10
    A little hypocrisy here.
    You only want ordained pastors preaching, but Tim Wood can pontificate, preach about what is right and wrong with the church.
    Can we have it both ways?

  13. @Pastor Prentice #18

    The “non-geographical districts were formed on the basis of languages which few speak any more (or in the case of the English, which everyone speaks now). Perhaps we should have a “non geographical” German district?

    As African and Asian congregations develop in some areas, would you advocate districts for them?

  14. I suspect there will be demands for a separate Hispanic District first; and such balkanization would be quickly granted.

  15. @Carl Vehse #12

    The term Members. Is the reference to member congregation, individual members? I would like to be able to read these things and understand the terminology.

  16. The Overture 4-29 phrase, “Synodical Union,” refers to The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. Thus the word “members,” likely refers (according to the Synod’s Constitution, Art. V) to individuals and congregations who are members of the LCMS. Baptized and communicant members of a member congregation are not members of the Synod unless they qualify as individual members.

  17. In most any fight for a cause, it seems, there are those who are drawn to the cause and those who are drawn to the fight. You may be on the wrong track if you fancy yourself a martyr.

    Scripture says:

    Be “prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect”. 1 Peter 3:15

    “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Colossians 4:6

    “He must gently reprove those who oppose him, in the hope that God may grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth.” 2 Timothy 2:25

  18. @Carl H #25
    Dear Carl,
    Post of the month, I believe you have hit it well…people “drawn to the cause and those who are drawn to the fight.”
    I wish we could pin this to everyone as they discuss issues.
    Bravo my man, well said….well said….

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