We’re Not Alone: A Brief Summary of the 2016 Synod Convention

Christ Teaching His ChurchElected as the Pastoral Delegate for the Orlando-West Circuit of the Florida-Georgia District (FL/GA) in 2015, I attended the 2016 LCMS Synodical Convention in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Being a Lutheran Pastor for less than two years, I needed to learn quite a lot about the Constitution, By-Laws, and voting procedures of our Synod. However, I quickly learned from faithful pastors that these things are meant to serve the Word of God, and to protect congregations from any spiritual harm or scandal from a corrupt pastor, Circuit, District, or, even, Synod! What a comfort to realize that the purpose of these Conventions is to be faithful to God’s Word for the sake of the members in our churches!

 

Before the Convention, the pastoral and lay delegates received a good amount of paperwork. Those elected to attend were expected to read, study, and then vote according to their conscience. Some the resolutions presented were decisive, and, if adopted or rejected, would change the face of our Synod. Therefore, you can imagine how nerve-racking it was as these proposed Resolutions were read aloud at the Convention.

 

Moreover, I am not surrounded by many people who believe, teach, and confess the Word of God in the same way! Being inundated and surrounded by many unbiblical teachings, I began to think that my congregation and I were stranded and alone! Something encouraging occurred: Through His Word, God led the majority of our Synod to make the same confession! The faithful preaching and teaching of God’s Word over the past six years bore fruit! Here are a few of the most decisive Resolutions which were adopted, passing with a majority vote. Consider the following:

 

95% voted in favor to uphold the Biblical and historically Christian understanding, order, and liturgy of Christian worship, and to urge congregations to seek uniformity by following the Common Service and singing doctrinally pure hymns (Resolution 4-04A, Yes: 795; No: 146);

83% voted to uphold the Biblical teaching and practice of Closed Communion affirmed in the Lutheran Confessions, and to reject the unbiblical practices of Open Communion (sometimes referred to as “Close” Communion), infant communion, and to request further study of the practice of intinction (Resolution 5-15, Yes: 821; No: 167);

67% voted to uphold the Biblical teaching of man and woman, and to reject the unbiblical, and confusing practice of women distributing the Lord’s Supper (Resolution 5-14, Yes: 683; No: 167);

74% voted to restore the Biblical teaching of the Pastoral Office in our Synod and to eliminate the unbiblical, and recently man-made innovation of “Licensed Lay Deacons” (Resolution 13-02A, Yes: 809; No:277);

97% voted in favor to uphold the Biblical teaching that marriage is only the life-long commitment between one man and one woman (Resolution 14-03A, Yes: 1004; No: 25);

91% voted in favor to protect Christian consciences by not subjecting women to be drafted to fight in war (Resolution 5-11A, Yes: 946; No:89).

 

What does this mean? It means we are not alone! Even though the church I serve might be one of the only churches believing, teaching, and confessing these things in our area, they are in fact not the minority! In fact, being faithful to God and His Word is now what the majority of our Synod is doing! This encouragement is for all pastors and congregations who are faithful to God’s Word, no matter where they might be.

 

When a congregation follows the historic liturgy and the Divine Service from the hymnal, know that 95% of the Synod upholds the same practice! When churches practice Closed Communion (rejecting Open Communion, infant communion, and intinction), they not only agree with Holy Scripture, but 83% of pastors and laymen support it in this Synod! The majority of the Synod (67%) agree with congregations that uphold the biblical teaching concerning man and woman (rejecting the practice of women distributing the Lord’s Supper). When a congregation upholds the pastoral office and rejects anything that undermines or despises it, 74% of the Synod has their back! Though unpopular in this world, the overwhelming majority of the Synod believes, teaches, and confesses the Biblical teaching of marriage (97%) and the protection of women from the military draft (91%). We are not alone!

 

The small minority of pastors and congregations who fail to teach or practice these things have disagreed with Holy Scripture. They have voluntarily departed from the unity of the Church’s confession which God has so graciously given! They, instead, have separated themselves from what the majority of our Synod believes. Rather than confessing Scripture, few accept the newest scholarship, fads, and ideas instead. Beware of those who teach falsehood (See Matthew 7:15). Mark and avoid them (See Romans 16:17-18).

 

The sad reality is that we do not have real unity or complete fellowship with every pastor and congregation in our Synod. Do not assume that we are united. The numbers reveal our division. Rather than give up, we must continue believing, teaching, and confessing the truth! God alone grants authentic unity in His Church! Since He does this through His Word, we must, therefore, continue to preach, instruct our children, and correct and discipline false teachers who wish to separate and destroy what God has joined!

 

We rejoice that there are more who confess God’s Word faithfully and that we are not alone in this fight. To fight the good fight is to fight for True Doctrine (See 1 Timothy 6:12). Even more than having numbers on our side, God is on our side. We are not alone, and we never will be. It is better to trust in God than to take refuge in man (Psalm 118:8). If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31) Even if Circuit, District, and Synod are to depart from God’s Word, we will not. Since God will never leave us nor forsake us, we can gladly preach and teach God’s Word even if we are the only ones in the world doing so; but, thanks be to God, right now, we’re not. There are much more who walk with us; we are not alone.

 

  1. Lord, keep us steadfast in Thy Word,
    Stay Papal craft and Muslim sword,
    For Jesus Christ, Thine only Son,
    They fain would cast from off His throne.

  2. Lord Jesus Christ, Thy pow’r make known,
    For Thou art Lord of lords alone;
    Defend Thy Christendom, that we
    May evermore sing praise to Thee.

  3. O Comforter of priceless worth,
    Send peace and unity on earth.
    Support us in our final strife
    And lead us out of death to life.

  4. Destroy their counsels, Lord our God,
    And smite them with an iron rod,
    And let them fall into the snare
    Which for Thy Christians they prepare.

  5. So shall they then at last perceive
    That, Lord our God, Thou still dost live,
    And dost deliver mightily
    All those who put their trust in Thee.

(TLH 261; ELH 274, Lord Keep Us Steadfast In Thy Word)

About Pastor Rojas+

Rev. Roberto E. Rojas, Jr. is the sole pastor of Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church (also known as "Zion New Life") in Winter Garden, FL, established in 1891. He attended the Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, IN (M.Div., 2008-2013; STM., 2013-2014). During his studies at the seminary, he participated in a year-long exchange program in the Westfield House in Cambridge, England, and also in the Seminário Concórdia in São Leopoldo, Río Grande do Sul, Brazil. He and his beautiful wife, Erica, are happily married and live in Gotha, FL.

Comments

We’re Not Alone: A Brief Summary of the 2016 Synod Convention — 84 Comments

  1. @Martin R. Noland #23

    Rev. Dr. Noland,

    Thank you for the thoughtful response. However, the premise of your response was that the “leadership” attempting to slowly make positive change based on scripture and the confessions are in charge of the discussion. But we both know that many DP’s are not at all confessional. Where then does accountability exist?

    Do you think that 12-07A is consistent with scripture and the confessions?

    In fact, I’ll just ask the question straight out – can you, or an LCMS pastor, disagree with an approved resolution on this website without fear of retribution?

  2. With Resolution 12-07A’s draconian bylaw prohibiting dissent against LCMS doctrinal positions, how many pastors will risk criticizing the Revised Revisionistic Version (RRV), aka the 174-page field test version, of the Explanation of Luther’s Small Catechism published by the CPH, with links provided at this LCMS website?

    The RRV butchers Lutheran doctrine! —

    • The total elimination of the Lutheran terms and explanations for the “invisible church” and “visible church;”
    • A euphemistic phrase “where Islam is in the news on a daily basis” (Use “islamoterrorism”!);
    • In the Fourth Commandment there is confusion about “God’s representatives” between the “government” (We, the People, as ) and our elected and appointed government representatives;
    • In the Fifth Commandment just war is mentioned but no definition provided (and let’s not use the non-Scriptural leftist version);
    • The narrow sense and wide sense of sanctification are no longer explained or even mentioned in the RRV;
    • Both the 1991 and the RRV Explanations are pathetic when explaining what confirmation means and involves;
    • Omission of references to the verbal inspiration of the Scriptures in the early questions; and
    • Omission of any mention or discussion of Objective Justification, nor any mention of the doctrine of justification by grace, for Christ’s sake, through faith as being the chief doctrine of the Christian religion.

    There are probably more examples.

  3. @Carl Vehse #52

    Great points. So, I ask any LCMS pastor serving as an author on this BJS WEBSITE, can you publicly dissent, and warn the flock against, such damaging resolutions? Or, has 12-07A served as a mandatory Synod imposed wolve’s costume for your “ministry?”

  4. @Randy #50

    Randy,

    It’s my observation that like politics, all church is fundamentally local. The LCMS won’t be fixed by the bureaucrats pushing anything from the top– in fact, I would only expect them to foul up everything they touch, and to greater degrees corresponding to the money and power they are given (and insatiably desire).

    Local, faithful congregations (however few they may be) will continue the necessary work of Word and Sacrament, and there is no more fundamental or complete expression of the church than the local congregation. Such faithful local congregations will eventually find ways to identify each other for coordinated work and fraternity where necessary, and they will learn to mark and avoid those local congregations which undermine the faith once for all delivered to the saints. It seems to me that this is the kind of crucible in which the original LCMS was formed, and it is a process that will work again. Local congregations always have the authority to execute all the functions of the church, and when they find that the bureaucrats to whom they delegated these functions are failing the congregation, they have the right take that authority (and funding) back.

    However this process works itself out, it may take a generation or more to find stable footing. American Lutheranism has taken some huge body blows over the last century, but there’s still a faithful remnant (however small, scattered, and persecuted) that will find their common fellowship in time. In the mean time, though, I’d say the focus should be on the local congregation in which we find Christ coming to us in Word and Sacrament, and delivering all His gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation. Everything else is window dressing (or in the OT reading from last Sunday in Ecclesiastes, all else is vanity.)

  5. @Brad #54

    I do believe you are correct on all points. The unfortunate aspect of all of this is that an even bigger wedge has been driven between individual congregations and the districts/synod. The Koinonia Project is a bigger joke than ever.

    Additionally, open discussions on forums such as BJS have served as a wonderful resource for those of us who have faced heterodox pastors, congregations, and District Presidents. 12-07A pushes us even further into darkness.

  6. @Randy #55

    “Additionally, open discussions on forums such as BJS have served as a wonderful resource for those of us who have faced heterodox pastors, congregations, and District Presidents. 12-07A pushes us even further into darkness.”

    Very true. The open discussions on BJS have been more than valuable in recent years, and to more than just LCMS folks. Of course, it’s always been up to the reader (as evidenced in various comments sections) to distill out what might be hyperventilation over minutia, from matters of greater significance. But that distillation process can’t occur with regulators pre-screening the dialogue to ensure everything that’s posted is in agreement with the LCMS bureaucrats.

    But then again, Truth has a way of bubbling up to the surface, no matter how hard people try to suppress it (like the failing wars of tyrannical governments against free information and discussion the world over). BJS seems to have popped into existence when the organs of LCMS communication failed to accommodate the discussion of heterodoxy running rampant across the synod. If BJS acquiesces to the threats of 12-07A, Truth will find another way of bubbling up for people to hear, chew on, debate, and eventually act upon. I suppose we’ll see whether BJS continues to do its original good work, or whether it bows (as also we’ll see with the ACELC.) The bureaucracy of the LCMS may get darker and more opaque, but Truth will continue to emerge, either inside or outside of its constricting fingers.

  7. Let’s review —

    Resolution 12-07A changed Bylaw 1.8 (and particularly with 1.8.2 and 1.8.3) to expressly forbid public dissent by a synodical member that a doctrinal resolution of the Synod is in error.

    Bylaw 1.8.2 commands that dissent is only allowed to be:
    1. “expressed first within the fellowship of peers” (a CCM opinion defines peers as synodical members, not layman regardless of any theological doctorates)
    2. “then brought to the attention of the Commission on Theology and Church Relations”
    3. “before finding expression as an overture to the Synod in convention calling for revision or recision.”

    These mandated bylaw steps do not include and specifically (“privately and confidentially”) forbid public discussion at least until after Step 3. The Catch-22 is in Step 3. Unless the overture is magically (or by the CTCR) submitted to the Synod in convention, it would not be possible to avoid the forbidden public expression of dissent in the public planning, discussion, and approval of such an overture by individual or congregational members before submitting to the Synod.

    Bylaw 1.8.2 forbids “a member of the Synod publicly to teach contrary to the established position of the Synod,” under threat of expulsion.

    Note that by using the phrase, “established position of the Synod,” the bylaw includes not just a doctrinal position but also Bylaw 1.8 itself as a position of the Synod. Violating this bylaw (regardless of whether the evidence justifies the violation in order to abide by Article II) places the member in jeopardy of expulsion.

    According to Article XIII, Expulsion from the Synod

    1. Members who act contrary to the confession laid down in Article II and to the conditions of membership laid down in Article VI or persist in an offensive conduct, shall, after previous futile admonition, be expelled from the Synod.

    But ignoring Resolution 12-07A’s changes to Bylaw 1.8 is not necessarily “offensive conduct,” because Article VII, Relation of the Synod to Its Members, states:

    1. In its relation to its members the Synod is not an ecclesiastical government exercising legislative or coercive powers, and with respect to the individual congregation’s right of self-government it is but an advisory body. Accordingly, no resolution of the Synod imposing anything upon the individual congregation is of binding force if it is not in accordance with the Word of God or if it appears to be inexpedient as far as the condition of a congregation is concerned.

    However a member can be expelled for violating Article II because that is the Synod’s (and the Evangelical Lutheran Church’s) confessional standard for defining what is in accordance with the Word of God.

    What has been done by the Task Force, with the consent of the delegates, is to effectively merge Bylaw 1.8 into Article II and Article VI as the conditions of synodical membership which, if any part is violated, can result in a member being expelled.

    This is just the start. If the Purple Palace gets away with this, you can expect the same approach to be used in future conventions to merge in more restrictions and requirements to be obeyed by synodical members, all without having to bother getting approval from a two-thirds majority of congregations (Article XV.4).

    “Martin Stephan has returned to the building.”

  8. @Carl Vehse #57

    Bylaw 1.8.2 commands that dissent is only allowed to be:

    1. “expressed first within the fellowship of peers” (a CCM opinion defines peers as synodical members, not layman regardless of any theological doctorates)

    So the least educated “licensed lay minister” (with the veneer of ordination) is supposedly more qualified to discuss Lutheran doctrine than laymen who’ve spent a lifetime with it, because the pewsitters are not “Members” of synod?

    “Bereans” have just been invited to shut up or leave, I think.

    LAY DELEGATES: how did you come to buy into this one!?

  9. Here is what will be the effect of this resolution. It will suppress conservative/confessional pastors from publicly expressing alarm or concern with things theological that might be construed as contrary to Synod. If any conservative/confessional publicly expresses an opinion contrary to official synodical teaching the liberals and missionals will protest. However, the liberals and missionals will flip the middle finger to the synod and continue to express opinions and teaching contrary to synodical teaching. All they have to do is look at their hero Matthew Becker and see what false teachings he publicly taught for years with no discipline.

  10. 5-15 does not ban intinction. It requests a study be published on the practice of intinction in holy communion. Please correct this statement that intinction was rejected by the convention.

  11. @helen #58: LAY DELEGATES: how did you come to buy into this one!?

    Since Res. 12-07A passed 684 to 244, there were some pastoral delegates who should be asked the same question. Also some 158 delegates should be asked why they didn’t represent their circuit by voting on this resolution.

  12. 12-07A is the ultimate straw. The Synod and it’s synodocrats have sinned against the flock. They have built a barrier between the sheep and shepherd that should never exist. The synod has failed. Not a single penny should be sent to LCMS, Inc. until her CEOs (Harrison, his vice-commandants, and mini-pope DPs) repent of their sins and the sins of the last convention, and ask for forgiveness, then find a way to overturn 12-07A immediately.

    And for those of you who spend so much of your time focused on bylaws and resolutions, please take note of what has happened here……….

  13. Another approach is for individual and congregational members, circuits, and districts of the Synod to swamp the CCM with requests for an opinion about the changes mandated by Resolution 12-07A, which violate Articles II, VI, VII, XIII and XV of the Synodical Constitution.

    The changes in Bylaw 1.8 mandated by Resolution 12-07A violate Article II and VI by adding to them the prohibition of publicly dissent from a doctrinal position of the Synod as expressed in its resolutions and doctrinal statement. If the dissent, whether public or private, is a violation of what is already in Article II and VI, then such dissent can already be handled by Article XIII, presuming the doctrinal position of the Synod is congruent with Articles II and VI.

    The changes in Bylaw 1.8 mandated by Resolution 12-07A violate Article XIII, which does not include public dissent as grounds for expulsion.

    The changes in Bylaw 1.8 mandated by Resolution 12-07A violate Article VII by perverting the Synod’s relationship with individual and congregational members from advisory to episcopal.

    Finally the changes in Bylaw 1.8 mandated by Resolution 12-07A violate and fail to abide by Article XV which requires changes in the articles of the Constitution to be approved by at least a two-thirds majority vote from member congregations.

    This is no guarantee that the CCM will issue an opinion that Resolution 12-07A does violate the Constitution in multiple ways. In the past the CCM has pull some pretty bad opinions from its collective keister.

    But by making enough noise (including some noise directed at the Purple Palace) congregations may gain the momentum for subsequent overtures to be submitted to the 2019 convention to overturn Resolution 12-07A and any CCM opinion supporting it. A few years ago the CCM did see the writing on the wall about another opinion it had issued.

    Back in 2012 the CCM issued Opinion 11-2598, which was a pathetic (and irresponsible) attempt to split doctrinal hairs between synodical members “taking part” and “partaking” in the Lord’s Supper at worship services of congregations not on fellowship with the Missouri Synod. A flood of overtures were submitted to the 2013 Convention, resulting in Resolutions 4-07, To Address the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod Rostered Workers Communing at Heterodox Altars and 4-09, To Overrule Commission on Constitutional Matters Opinion “Interpretation of Constitution Article VI 2 b”(11-2598 CW pp. 300-303).

    However Floor Committee 4 later withdrew the resolutions claiming (2013 TB-2, p. 231),

    “Since the Commission on Constitutional Matters suspended its Opinion 11-2598, floor committee 4 will not offer resolutions 4-07 and 4-09 on the floor of the convention.”

    (The resolutions still should have gone to the floor in order to prevent the CCM from unsuspending its Opinion 11-2598 ever again.)

  14. It seems to me some of the concerns expressed are based more upon a feared “domino effect” and “connecting the dots” rather than the actual content of Resolution 12-07A, which if taken at face value is not a significant change from the current dissent process.

    For instance, both Resolution 12-07A in its rationale and the Bylaw changes adopted specify dissent or public teaching or practice contrary to the “DOCTRINAL position of Synod” not merely “position.” Meaning, for example, that disagreeing with Resolution 12-07A itself is not contrary to the Bylaws, because that would not be in the realm of the “doctrinal position of Synod.”

  15. How the CCM might interpret the changes to 1.8 or how Bylaw 1.8 might be used in some future synodical administration would be speculative, but perhaps useful, especially considering how the DRP bylaws were promulgated and then used in the Yankee Stadium heresy case.

    The changes to Bylaw 1.8 were discussed previously on BJS, and their conflict with articles of the constitution were discussed in the August 2, 2016 at 9:34 am post and the August 3, 2016 at 9:09 am post above.

  16. However, some of the concerns expressed were that the Bylaw changes applied to any and all “positions” of Synod, but three times the resolution and the resulting changes to the Bylaws clearly specifies “doctrinal positions,” which in Synodical parlance has a particular significance, meaning officially adopted doctrinal resolutions and statements. The process for adopting “Doctrinal Resolutions and Statements” is specified in section 1.6 of the Bylaws. The phrase “doctrinal position of Synod” would refer only to those which have been so adopted, and of course the confessional standard set forth in Article II of the Synodical Constitution.

    So, for example, most CTCR reports are only “received” by the Synod in convention, not actually “adopted.” Unless they are formally adopted they do not qualify per se as the “doctrinal position of Synod” from which there may not be dissent or public teaching or practice to the contrary.

    This greatly limits the scope of the Bylaw, which does not proscribe disagreement on matters not encompassed in an actual doctrinal resolution or statement, or the confessional standard in Article II.

  17. BJS pastors have been silent on this 12-07A issue. What a sad turn of events. Harrison and his 2016 convention have won the day. Bylaws prevail over scripture and confessions in the LCMS. Harrison and his political cronies have demonstrated supremacy over the laity. BJS was once an amazing resource for the steadfast under Rossow’s guidance. Now, BJS is irrelevant to the Church Militant. It’s a sad day. Cheers, BJS. Thank you for helping me through tough times and for letting me author some articles. Rest in peace.

  18. >>this 12-07A issue. . . Bylaws prevail over scripture and confessions in the LCMS. . . demonstrated supremacy over the laity.

    I fail to see exactly how these minor clarifications of the already existing bylaws on expressions of dissent have all these ramifications. (Only the underlined portions in the resolution are additions to the bylaws; the other portions have existed in basically this form for decades.)

    The changes made were already the de facto process; this resolution simply makes it de jure because an individual in particular did not show good faith in following the process as commonly understood.

    So, for example: “The discussion among the fellowship of peers is to be conducted privately and confidentially among those who are competent rather than a public forum.” This is nothing new, but exactly what I was taught in seminary 30 years ago. This is one of the main purposes for the circuit “winkle” of pastors. That is the fitting place for a pastor to first bring up his doubts about the doctrinal position of Synod and seek clarity from his brother pastors. And it has always been the case that what is said in such gatherings is kept private among the pastors.

    The addition “those who are competent to evaluate the issue critically” is simply an explanation of the already existing phrase “fellowship of peers.”

    And the added final paragraph again has always been the case, but now stated more explicitly: “This right of brotherly dissent does not allow a member of the Synod publicly to teach or practice contrary to the established doctrinal position of the Synod. Any such public teaching shall place in jeopardy membership in the Synod.” All this means is that having formally expressed dissent doesn’t give you license in the meantime to teach against the doctrinal position of Synod while it is under consideration. Again, this is exactly what I was taught 30 years ago and is the longstanding practice of our Synod.

    Most importantly, this bylaw deals only with “the DOCTRINAL position of the Synod as expressed in its resolutions and doctrinal statements,” which is very limited and specific. It does not proscribe disagreeing with or criticism of the Synodical leadership, etc.

    >>pastors have been silent on this 12-07A issue

    I would say the reason why is that it simply isn’t an issue. It is a minor tweaking of already existing bylaws that doesn’t materially change the long established process for expressing dissent from “the doctrinal position of the Synod as expressed in its resolutions and doctrinal statements.”

  19. @Rev. Kevin Vogts #68

    I would say the reason why is that it simply isn’t an issue. It is a minor tweaking of already existing bylaws that doesn’t materially change the long established process for expressing dissent from “the doctrinal position of the Synod as expressed in its resolutions and doctrinal statements.”

    If the thing has no present or potential consequences, how are we to take the total disappearance of “Member” contributions here the day it was passed? And since, in the majority of cases…

    That pastors should discuss their doctrinal concerns first in the circuit or winkel has always been understood.
    That they should be under threat of discipline if they discuss them with laity, [the congregations are ‘the church’?] is not.

    [Someone else has accurately predicted who will and will not be under threat, I think.]

  20. Dear Pastor Scheer,

    You alone once granted me the privilege to write for BJS. It was not only an honor, but a high point for me. You were a mentor and are a true shepherd for so many. Thank you, Sir. I sinned against you by taking a false cheap shot against you and BJS. I apologize and am quite sorry for what I said. You have served as an amazing editor for BJS and are an amazing pastor that we could all only pray to have as our own. Please accept my apology in this final post. I thank you for your steadfast service, and the great service that BJS provides to us all.

    Bless you for fighting the good fight.

    Randy

  21. @Randy #70

    Randy,
    You stand baptized and forgiven. Thank you for your kind words. I don’t live up to them. You are always welcome on the site.

    In relation to 12-07A many of our authors here at BJS were on the floor of the convention speaking against it, but at that time of the convention the delegation had done a lot and was rather in a hurry to end debate. I am working with some other folks to craft some questions to the CCM about this resolution as it was poorly worded, unclear, and in the politicized LCMS it could be used improperly to go after political adversaries. Plenty of folks from the other side of Synod were also asking questions about it at the open hearing on Saturday with the Floor Committee. Resolution 12-07A doesn’t change anything. Each Lutheran pastor takes his ordination vows not to doctrinal positions and resolutions of the Synod, but to the Holy Scriptures and Lutheran Confessions. They are the norm for his preaching, teaching, and administration of the Sacrament. In the end, we take vows to the Evangelical Lutheran Church not the LCMS. That is a key distinction that must be made in an era when men quote CCM opinions, CTCR documents, convention resolutions and bylaws like they were quoting the Apostle Paul. More work on that will be forthcoming.

    In the end, the LCMS needs to grapple with blogs, social media and so forth in ways that do not look like the Roman Catholic Church’s work against the printing press of the Reformation.

    The work at BJS is ongoing, always with projects under way. There is currently a large scale review of the Synod’s new small catechism explanation involving many of our authors and guest writers as well. There are some other series in the works as well as our normal stuff. We are also planning our conference for February 17-18 in Tomball, TX and some other great stuff (regional conferences) in the future. I believe even Steadfast Throwdown is being revamped and will make an appearance this Fall.

  22. To illustrate the limited scope of this bylaw change, if the bylaw had been in force as now amended 15 years ago, could it have been used to suppress and punish criticism of the Ablaze program? No, because that program is not part of “the DOCTRINAL position of the Synod as expressed in its resolutions and doctrinal statements.”

    However, I do recall reading an article by a pastor who went overboard in his criticism of Ablaze and “threw the baby out with the bathwater.” He said that based on the doctrine of predestination there is no necessity to do evangelistic or mission work, because God will see to it that everyone who is supposed to be saved will be saved regardless. In fact, he suggested that evangelistic or missionary efforts could show a lack of faith in the doctrine of predestination. While logically that might make sense, God is not bound to human logic, and it directly contradicts many clear commands of our Lord in Scripture, such as Matthew 28:19-20, Mark 13:10, Mark 16:15, Luke 24:47, etc. In this example, that particular aspect of criticizing Ablaze would come under this bylaw, since it violates the confessional standard in Article II of the LCMS constitution and our commitment to Scripture, and therefore the “doctrinal position of Synod as expressed in its resolutions and doctrinal statements.”

    I certainly do not want pastors teaching or “sharing” with the laity committed to their care doctrinal positions contrary to that which we have agreed upon as a synod in our formal doctrinal resolutions and statements. I recall visiting once with a member of a congregation whose rather famous pastor, once considered a bright confessional light in the LCMS, had spent years preparing the congregation for his “transition” to Eastern Orthodoxy by teaching them that the Lutheran faith was WRONG on nearly everything including justification. By the time he did leave about 2/3rds of the congregation left with him to form a new Eastern Orthodox church — with him as their newly re-ordained priest. Their renunciation of Lutheranism culminated in him re-baptizing many he himself had previously baptized with what they now considered to be an invalid Lutheran baptism. The young man I was visiting with was one of the remaining faithful few in the totally devastated congregation, who remembered and still clung to the confessional Lutheranism this pastor had once faithfully taught. He said, “What hurts most of all is that all those years we were PAYING him and letting him use our church and preach false doctrine from our pulpit, to convince our own members that Lutheranism is wrong and lead them away from our church.”

    Preparing for the convention, I thought back to that conversation when I read the additional final bylaw paragraph proposed in Resolution 12-07: “This right of brotherly dissent does not allow a member of the Synod publicly to teach or practice contrary to the established doctrinal position of the Synod. Any such public teaching shall place in jeopardy membership in the Synod.”

  23. @Rev. Kevin Vogts #72

    Kevin wrote:

    However, I do recall reading an article by a pastor who went overboard in his criticism of Ablaze and “threw the baby out with the bathwater.” He said that based on the doctrine of predestination there is no necessity to do evangelistic or mission work, because God will see to it that everyone who is supposed to be saved will be saved regardless.

    This isn’t an isolated opinion in the Synod. I have heard similar thoughts a number of times; apparently from pastors who prefer to sit in front of their computers rather than knocking on doors in their communities, or training an Evangelism Committee in their congregation.

    Evangelism used to be a big focus in the LCMS. Now, CPH has only a paltry offering of evangelism materials compared with what they had years ago. I’m sure that this reflects a lack of demand for such materials from the current batch of pastors.

  24. @Rev. Robert Fischer (Emeritus) #73

    Another thought on the subject of evangelism (now that I’ve had a second cup of tea and am a little more awake). Some pastors sincerely believe that they are involved in evangelism because their congregation has a web site and/or a Facebook page. I’m no fan of Facebook, but a web site or Facebook page isn’t going to help the person in your community who doesn’t seek out those sites (which is most of the people in your community). There’s no substitute for face-to-face interaction.

  25. @Rev. Robert Fischer (Emeritus) #73

    Evangelism used to be a big focus in the LCMS. Now, CPH has only a paltry offering of evangelism materials compared with what they had years ago. I’m sure that this reflects a lack of demand for such materials from the current batch of pastors.

    Pr. Fischer, Ablaze was touted as “evangelism” (with grandiose claims attached).The incidents reported as ‘significant’ became so trivial that Ablaze became a bad joke.

    Lutherans raised to believe works were futile answered the insistence that works were essential with comments from “the other ditch”. It was a bad time.

    With Ablaze in their formative years, it may be that the current batch of pastors are talking to people about Christ’s atonement, sin and salvation in other words? Or doing it with less paper and ‘programs’?

    If at least some pastors didn’t “sit in front of their computers”, good Christian/Lutheran reading would be absent from the internet. [And very few hand write their sermons or much else anymore. A variety of good material for catechesis and outreach is also presented on this blog and others, gratis or for very reasonable charges, produced by pastors at their computers.]

  26. @Rev. Robert Fischer (Emeritus) #74

    Most of the people in the community will not seek out the congregation’s web site, pastor or church (and may duck out if they see a pastor coming). But some will look for it, to know more about a church than its address, before they come.

    Ideally, a dedicated layman will maintain the church web site.

  27. @helen #75

    Hi Helen,

    Notice that I didn’t link to the deservedly mocked Ablaze! program when I referenced face-to-face interaction. I’m talking about the pre-Ablaze! era when most congregations had Evangelism Committees.

    You write, “…it may be that the current batch of pastors are talking to people about Christ’s atonement, sin and salvation in other words?” Great! I just haven’t been seeing much of it.

    And as far as “sitting in front of their computers” that’s not necessarily a bad thing, as you point out. I wrote my first sermon on an Atari 800 computer, and have never hand-written one or typed one with the “ribbon and white-out” method. But “sitting in front of the computer” can be taken to extremes and used a substitute or excuse for actually getting out into the community. That’s the point I was (evidently poorly) trying to make.

  28. based on the doctrine of predestination there is no necessity to do evangelistic or mission work, because God will see to it that everyone who is supposed to be saved will be saved regardless.

    Surely not double predestination. Lutheran pastors should be shown the Calvinist door for embracing that.

  29. @Rev. Robert Fischer (Emeritus) #77

    And as far as “sitting in front of their computers” that’s not necessarily a bad thing, as you point out. I wrote my first sermon on an Atari 800 computer, and have never hand-written one or typed one with the “ribbon and white-out” method. But “sitting in front of the computer” can be taken to extremes and used a substitute or excuse for actually getting out into the community. That’s the point I was (evidently poorly) trying to make.

    Point taken… except that the men I know who write most are also out in the community most…(probably a smaller sample than yours).

    [If you wrote your first sermon on a computer, you are younger than I am. Emeritus led me to miscalculation.]

  30. >>Evangelism used to be a big focus in the LCMS

    The new LCMS director of evangelism, Rev. Mark Wood, spoke to our district delegate breakfast one morning at the convention. I am thrilled to say that he is FANTASTIC! He is probably about my age, mid 50’s, and entered the ministry as a second career. But he has always had a real heart for evangelism. As a layman in the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s he was heavily involved in all the LCMS evangelism programs, attended all the big gatherings, etc. As chairman of his congregations’ evangelism committees he also used many other programs from outside the LCMS. “You name it, and I’ve tried it.” He knows the literature and programs AND he has actually used it all in the field. That mean’s he also knows what has and hasn’t worked and is really making an effort to avoid the pitfalls of the past while raising the profile of evangelism again in the LCMS.

    His first career was in the military and defense industry as a “process analyst.” He said this actually perfectly prepared him because he spent a great deal of time systematically applying those protocols to all of the previous evangelism programs. He’s also travelled all across the country to the LCMS congregations with the most successful evangelism efforts and systematically studied what they’re doing, talking with the pastors and people involved. Having served most of my life in mission congregations and being heavily involved in evangelism myself I was THRILLED to hear his presentation. I think the emphasis he has developed which will be launched intensively in a few months as a resource for congregations is FANTASTIC and I have no doubt other denominations, publishers, etc. will soon be copying it.

    He did mention in passing that the reduction of efforts in evangelism on the synodical level actually began in the mid 90’s for a variety of reasons, mainly because the philosophy at that time was to shift some things entirely to the districts, but that didn’t work as planned. He wasn’t defending his “boss” but the point was clear, that those who would assign the decline in evangelism to this administration, or the one preceding, or blame the evangelism decline on the failure of “Ablaze,” or a lack of interest in evangelism by the present administration, are all factually wrong and very unfair. The shift to the districts was intentional and done in the mid 90’s with good intentions, but it has been found that a national office with resources and leadership in that area is also needed.

    I am so thankful that he was given this position. He is a wonderful with a ZEAL for evangelism and the perfect man for the job.

  31. Keven wrote, “The new LCMS director of evangelism, Rev. Mark Wood, spoke to our district delegate breakfast one morning at the convention. I am thrilled to say that he is FANTASTIC!”

    That’s great! However, he faces some big challenges; one of them being what you referenced above:

    I do recall reading an article by a pastor who went overboard in his criticism of Ablaze and “threw the baby out with the bathwater.” He said that based on the doctrine of predestination there is no necessity to do evangelistic or mission work, because God will see to it that everyone who is supposed to be saved will be saved regardless. In fact, he suggested that evangelistic or missionary efforts could show a lack of faith in the doctrine of predestination.

    As I said above, this isn’t an isolated opinion in the Synod. I believe that it’s a growing frame of mind.

    He will also have to deal with the paucity of good evangelism materials, and push CPH to publish or re-publish these. I can foresee some resistance on the part of CPH though because they will want to see some demand for these materials before publishing them.

    I pray for God’s richest blessings upon Rev. Wood and his work.

  32. >>big challenges; one of them being what you referenced above

    His zeal will put to shame anyone promoting such unscriptural notions. Though naturally mild-mannered and soft-spoken, when he gets on the topic of evangelism he is a dynamo!

    He is also very confessional and conservative himself and an astute theologian and can show how such ideas are not sound scriptural and confessional orthodox Lutheran theology.

    >>He will also have to deal with the paucity of good evangelism materials, and push CPH

    Au contraire! A massive new resource he has developed — a carefully developed synthesis of all the best aspects of previous materials — is coming soon from CPH and they didn’t need any pushing but are enthusiastically on board.

  33. Kevin wrote, “A massive new resource he has developed — a carefully developed synthesis of all the best aspects of previous materials — is coming soon from CPH and they didn’t need any pushing but are enthusiastically on board.”

    Looking forward to seeing that!

  34. In the interest of properly representing to what extent our Synod walks together, I wanted to point out that the first percentage cited for Resolution 4-04A is incorrect. It should be about 84%. The percentage you cite may be from the following Resolution 4-05A. The voting numbers (of yes and no) are correct.

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