Two Lutheran Elephants: Negligent House Pastors and Divorce

The decline in membership of Lutheran churches in America is a like a migraine headache. It is always there. We keep explaining it with the same explanations. We keep taking the same medications. The pain continues. What is the right word for that?

In The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, the current (March 2017) issue of Reporter carries an extensive page two story, “Reversing LCMS membership decline: not just by having more children.” The article is based in part on a special edition (December 2016, vol. 3. No. 3) of Journal of Lutheran Mission. The article and the journal edition both are well worth your time.

The journal edition contains valuable raw information, hard facts that we need to face. It provides some bright spots of diagnosis and prescription for our migraine. I turned first to part three because of familiarity with the author, Dr. Ryan C. MacPherson. He is an inspiration to me because of his work with catechization and the family altar. His contribution to the journal edition should be read by everyone concerned with membership decline.

One of the most significant observations on the raw data is made by Synod President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison in his “From the President” introduction:

Thus there is no wedge that can be driven between openness to life (family size) and sharing life (evangelism). They are two sides of the same coin. Even down to the congregational level, churches with lots of growing families have lots of adult converts. The two simply go together; they either increase or decline together as these data demonstrate.

This is borne out by the raw demographic data in the report, and it is intuitive. People engaged in catechizing their children are more able and ready to also speak the Gospel to their friends, neighbors, and coworkers. Because of their children, they are fresh on the basics of the faith. Their children’s questions have oiled their jaws. Family does not crowd out evangelism. Family life equips outreach.

President Harrison says, “The retention of baptized and confirmed youth is a key area on which to focus.” So true. The church is hemorrhaging its own children.

Some good things are happening. The Office of National Mission is implementing “Everyone His Witness,” an outreach program that has a healthy catechism component, just as it should. Pastors and elders, direct yourself to find out about this program and consider it for your congregations.

Overall, we can help the situation by heeding the report, and we should be grateful to the people who put much labor, study, and prayer into it.

But, our prospects will continue to be hindered—the migraine will continue—if we don’t admit two elephants in the middle of the room. There they are … big, fat, and wide, but we don’t talk about them.

  • Our husbands do not catechize their wives. Our fathers do not catechize their children.
  • Our husbands and wives divorce. Our fathers and mothers divorce. The church remarries them.

“The retention of baptized and confirmed youth is a key area on which to focus.” Good luck with that, when youth know that religion is for women and children. That’s what we taught them and that’s how they know it. They learned our orthodoxy from our orthopraxy. Kids aren’t stupid. We are. They see what’s going on. They know the truth. We lie. They know that once they no longer are children, religion is not for them. We said so by the way we act.

The demographic study, for all the money spent on it, fails to tell us what share of men catechize their wives. There is no statistic about the percentage of fathers who teach the catechism to their children. We don’t know these things because we don’t care. Don’t claim to care when decade after decade after decade, we never look into it. The migraine continues. We have chosen our pain. We think this migraine is more tolerable than the pain that would be involved in men being manly, in men answering the call of God on their offices as husband and father. We don’t actually believe that husband and father are offices.

It would do no good to have more children. Why not? Because as long as religion is for women and children, as long as husbands are unhusbandly, as long as fathers are unfatherly, having more children would only be procreating to fill hell. The youth still would be falling away for lack of spiritual fathering.

If that weren’t devastating enough, we put another nail in our children’s coffin lid with divorce and remarriage. By these, we fork the tongue of the Law, and we fork the tongue of the Gospel. We fork both. We have no message left. Our children lose faith because we do. Don’t say they are not following in our ways. They are. Our children are a mirror in which we see ourselves.

When do our children hear the church tell their parents to forgive each other? When do they hear the church tell their parents to stay together and be pleasant about it? When do they hear the church tell their parents to obey the Sixth Commandment? When our children see the church remarry their adulterous parents, how many sermons does that shout down? What does that leave them to believe?

Our kids are good kids. They are well behaved. They don’t tell us what they are thinking. They don’t tell us how they hurt. There were not two dollars of the study spent on finding out what the damage of adultery, divorce, and remarriage is on our children. Divorce is discussed only for its demographic impact on the number of children, and not for the knife to their hearts. We are a hateful bunch. We are materialistic and selfish.

Fathers are all over Facebook about the Cardinals and the Packers, and say life is so busy there is no time for the catechism in the home. They say they cannot memorize, but they quote stats. Where are the mothers? Buying jerseys and following their husbands. Men, you are leading them, to hell.

“The retention of baptized and confirmed youth is a key area on which to focus.” Not going to happen. Not until we are a peculiar people. Here is a picture of the peculiar people we need to be, painted by Dr. Luther in the Large Catechism:

It is the duty of every father of a family to question and examine his children and servants at least once a week and to ascertain what they know of it [the catechism], or are learning, and, if they do not know it, to keep them faithfully at it.[1]

These [the Ten Commandments, Creed, and Lord’s Prayer] are the most necessary parts which one should first learn to repeat word for word, and which our children should be accustomed to recite daily when they arise in the morning, when they sit down to their meals, and when they retire at night; and until they repeat them, they should be given neither food nor drink. Likewise every head of a household is obliged to do the same with respect to his domestics, man-servants and maid-servants, and not to keep them in his house if they do not know these things and are unwilling to learn them. For a person who is so rude and unruly as to be unwilling to learn these things is not to be tolerated; for in these three parts everything that we have in the Scriptures is comprehended in short, plain, and simple terms.[2]

This is a part of the confessions that even the confessionals throw out. I am ready to throw it out too. Forget about sending the children to bed without supper if they won’t learn the catechism. How many fathers are even giving their children a shot at it? Send the fathers home without their paychecks instead, until they teach the commandments, creed, prayer, baptism, and communion “In the plain for in which the head of the family shall teach them to his household.” You don’t deserve to eat when you won’t feed your children.

And he will turn
The hearts of the fathers to the children,
And the hearts of the children to their fathers,
Lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.
(Malachi 4:6; Luke 1:17)


[1] Short Preface of Dr. Martin Luther, Large Catechism, ¶ 4.

[2] Id., ¶¶ 15-17.

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


Two Lutheran Elephants: Negligent House Pastors and Divorce — 93 Comments

  1. Interesting discussion on education going on here. Allow me to add a few thoughts, with the caveat that this format is a bit limiting, since space is an issue. A discussion like this one requires a full essay, if not a book, as a few paragraphs is hard to do this topic justice. Nevertheless, I’ll do my best to make my point clearly and respectfully.

    I do believe that the Catechism is the most important part of raising a child in the faith. Perhaps that’s controversial, after all, “What about the Bible?” That’s an excellent and very necessary question that we must ponder, and all proponents of the Catechism must have a strong and rational answer to that question on hand. First of all, the Catechism is a correct exposition of Scripture, putting into laser-sharp focus those things that give us the proper foundation for life-long Christian faith. Therefore, it does not supplant, supersede, or sabotage Scripture. In fact, it contains numerous Scripture passages in support of its assertions. Second of all, people bring with them various assumptions when reading a book. These assumptions – and we all have them – influence how we read a text. It’s why the “other” Lutherans can look at a passage like “An overseer must be… the husband of one wife.” and still ordain women as pastors and bishops in good conscience (apparently). They read the Bible differently than we do, and therefore come to different and sometimes very damning conclusions about it. Another reason is that (and this gets into my assumptions on education theory) we all need to have solid, basic foundations before we can move into more difficult matters – Spiritual milk and meat, if you will. This, by the way, is true of any discipline. It is nearly impossible to learn Algebra if you can’t add; you won’t get much out of reading a brilliant novel like Anna Karenina if you read at a second-grade level. Likewise, our children need a strong foundation – knowing precisely who God is and exactly who they are – before pondering some of the more difficult matters, such as free will or the problem of evil in the world. Finally we must recognize that all people are catechized. The question is not “will they be catechized?” but “with what will they be catechized?” If children are not given the commandments, creeds, etc., to memorize, they’ll fill that space with something else. Maybe it will be sports, maybe it will be dance, but, more often than not, whatever it is will come with excess secular baggage. Beliefs like tolerance being the greatest good, we shouldn’t tell anyone what to do if it makes them happy, and anything is OK as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone (just to name a few). And it’s really, really hard to undo these influences. Consider for a moment how many messages we receive just on the drive home from work. Billboards, ads from the radio, and even the news has their own biases that they often love to project on their viewers or listeners. And with the advent of cells phones (which most children inexplicably have) our kids are bombarded by secular sewage on a – literally! – constant rate, and this deeply impacts them. Luther’s Small Catechism is an effective agent to counter some of those subliminal messages. At the very least, it helps to fill them with positive, easy-to-learn messages so they can more easily tune out the bad ones.

    Getting back to the point of the last two discussion posts, I agree that it is very hard to teach teens using straight-up memorization (more on that later). But I am also concerned with opening it up to discussion, lest the children (who have been catechized far more by the world) wrongly interpret the Bible, or share an emotional, incorrect view on the Bible that affects their friends, or that their perspective is right because “that’s how they feel.” This is the “faith that was once delivered to all the saints,” (Jude 1:3) but thanks to our post-modern society, to many kids (and adults, sadly) it’s “my” faith, and “this is what I feel”. Discussion must be approached very carefully.*

    So let me clarify: I believe daily use of the Catechism is the most important part of raising a child in the faith. But their first experience with it should not be in 7th grade! The issue we have here is folks are not recognizing educational theory, or, are subscribing to erroneous ones. Personally, I agree with Dorothy Sayers: Children learn best by rote and memorization until about 7th grade (the Poll-Parrot Stage). Then they start to learn through disputes. Visit a middle school sometime and see how often they question authority or seek to understand the logic and meaning behind a command of “stand for the pledges” (the Pert Stage). Then, approximately in high school, they enter a stage where they are most concerned with beauty (the Poetic Stage). If this theory is true, then it makes little sense to introduce the Catechism to students in the 7th grade. Admittedly, that doesn’t solve the problem (and, frankly, I don’t have a good answer for this either) of what to do with the kids who see the Catechism for the first time in the 7th grade. There are a few different ways that we could use the aforementioned stages to benefit our churches and congregations, and I hope that Pastors and Elders begin to seriously consider these things. (As an aside, this method perfectly corresponds with the Trivium, a method that has become known as Classical Education, an ancient, pre-1500s method which, in my opinion, is the best and only way to educate our children.)

    Having said all of that, Pastor Grieve is also right, and we can’t ignore that despite our many flaws and no matter how many times we break things trying to fix them, God’s Word is effective. Sometimes we make a real mess of things, yet the Spirit will continue to work. We must acknowledge that God has given the teacher gifts and abilities to teach, resources to improve those abilities, and time to learn more, but God’s Word will not return to Him empty, but will accomplish that which it was designed to accomplish (Is. 55:11).

    Sorry, that was really long! But I do sincerely hope that people have found some benefit from reading through what I’ve written. I believe that the education of our children is the most important work that the Church has before her.

    In Christ,

    * Which isn’t to say it’s wrong (because I use this in my own teaching), I only want to point out that it must be approached properly. I use a very discussion-based approach with my high school theology course and in my adult Bible studies. I am sure to ask the right questions, with the right answers prepared, and the right proof to back up my answers. I also try to prepare for the difficult topics by working up to them. Finally, some topics I just don’t cover – I want to make sure that those I teach are ready for it. Just as I wouldn’t give a baby a T-Bone, some of my classes simply are not ready for the Spiritual meat of predestination or reading through something incredibly heavy like Thomas Aquinas.

    Some my take exception to my approach, and I humbly acknowledge that I am not a perfect teacher. I also confess that, for all of my mistakes – and for all mistakes that teachers have made – the Spirit will continue to work.

  2. Well, yes, if the parents have not taught the catechism to their children before they are teenagers, it is going to be difficult to do it on a tardy basis. In the congregation of my youth, the church had the children reciting the catechism in grade school. Having it in mind, then as teenagers we were drawn into questions, discussion, and further understanding. If what you folks have been addressing is a situation where catechism is a matter of cramming in teenage years, I can find a lot more common ground with you. But that is no reason to oppose fathers starting with the catechism at young ages.

  3. @T. R. Halvorson #52

    Sorry if I hadn’t made this clear, I fully agree that it is the father’s responsibility to teach the Catechism. Though, as you said, it should be a major textbook in the Lutheran day school as well. And, to make one other thing clear, I don’t advocate for removing the Catechism once kids exit the Poll-Parrot Stage. I merely want to stress that the Catechism must be introduced (and regularly) at a younger age than the 7th grade.

    What’s great about the Catechism is that it isn’t necessary to “teach” it. You just need to say it together as a family. Perhaps that’s a point that needs to be made in more parishes? “Fathers, you don’t need to be a teacher to teach the Small Catechism.” And if recitation isn’t your thing, I believe that we have it in song format and there’s also a book about praying it.

    Great article, by the way. I think you definitely nailed two major problems that we face. May God grant us contrite hearts and renew a right spirit within us.

    In Christ,

  4. What’s great about the Catechism is that it isn’t necessary to “teach” it. You just need to say it together as a family.

    Spot on.

    The only competence a man needs in order to make some headway is the ability to read aloud. The fact that it is him reading it, him showing that it is important to him, and he wants the children to hear it, has a effect built into nature. After that, add to it that since it is the Word, the Holy Spirit uses it, even with mere hearing.

  5. You all are discussing this from a very lofty, unpractical place, leaving out the reality of where students, parents, and whole families are at this point in our society. Wouldn’t it be great if families would sit around the table at each meal talking about faith and reading from the Bible and the catechism? (Minus the questions in the back, of course, because Luther didn’t write those.)

    I think the catechism is a tremendous tool, written by a man during a time when he saw in his society and church what I see today. He wrote something to help at that time and it is a great resource, however, we can dream of families sitting around the family fire or dining table, reading scripture and reciting the catechism and watch those children leave the church or we can use the tool in new ways according to our needs. In my family we didn’t do that and yet, we all continue to have faith and pass that on to our next generations. How? By LIVING it and DISCUSSING it, not reciting it. To assume that the only or best way is to sit around, memorize, and recite may have been great in the 1500’s, but we are not there. Somehow I think Luther would say, “Why have you not changed anything in 5000 years? Have you not learned or grown?” He was a man for change for both what was taught and how it was taught. With the numbers all falling drastically, I see not reason not to teach the truth in more effective ways, trusting in the Holy Spirit as guide and nurturer of our faith. But it is not my job to convince any of you in this. Do what you feel the spirit is leading you to do and I will do the same.

    That’s all for me guys. Carry on…

  6. That’s 1500s.

    No one said what you are refuting. You caricature what is being said, and then ridicule the caricature. You are having a conversation with yourself. You are not meeting and addressing what others are actually saying, but something you are projecting onto them.

    Because my father had me memorize the catechism starting in the third grade, we then could talk about it in the shop, in the field, at the table, driving on the road, anywhere, anytime. That is what memorization does for you. It brings the catechism with you into every place and time. You say it is impractical and can’t be done, but I speak from three generations of it actually being done. You are tilting at a windmill, trying to talk me out of my biography, as if I did not live it.

    The pedagogy I am using in real life is simply what Moses taught (and where do you suppose he got the idea?):

    “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

  7. With all due respect, I don’t believe she is trying to dissuade you from doing what works for you. I think she is saying that catechizing our families does not have to be a one-size fits all solution. I wasn’t raised reciting the small catechism at every meal, but that doesn’t mean that my family did not raise me to have an understanding of the faith. The catechism is one tool of many in a toolbox. I agree with you that the first step is for parents to commit to teaching their children the faith. The second step is finding a way to teach it that is meaningful to that child. I didn’t have to memorize the catechism to be taught not to steal, or not to murder, etc. My parents taught me to read the Bible at a young age, and I learned through their personal example. Honor your father! Punctuated by a butt whooping if necessary (humor intended-dad I love you). For me, actually reading the sermon on the mount gave me a much deeper appreciation for the commandments. That and asking my mom questions as she drove me to karate or wrestling. That doesn’t mean that my neighbor has to teach their kids the same way I learned. That being said, I do appreciate the small catechism, even if it was never that much of an influence for me personally as I grew up. I dig the fact that Luther recognized the complete and utter mess the Roman Catholic Catechism is (how many pages is that thing now? pretty sure I could read the bible cover to cover before finishing that thing), and kept it simple for the intellectually challenged like me.

  8. I think she is saying that catechizing our families does not have to be a one-size fits all solution

    Uh huh, and THAT is the caricature. Did someone say it had to be one size fits all? If not, then refuting a one size fits all notion is talking past what people actually said.

  9. @T. R. Halvorson #58

    If that is true, then how do you respond to your earlier statement that just because someone does not teach the catechism (what you consider the bare minimum) they won’t teach the faith in other ways such as bible study, etc.? It’s not really a caricature when someone is offering an alternative, and your first instinct is to shoot it down as though a parent is somehow lazy for not starting with the catechism. The assumption that you communicated by your response is that no one else has that commitment. I have to assume that a parent that is here, reading articles in their free time and engaging in open discussion on their faith, has a commitment to raising their family in the faith. You probably have a different audience in mind with your response, but then again, that would mean you are talking past the people involved in THIS conversation.

  10. @Laura Langhoff Arndt #48

    Since the topic is about catechesis at home and preferably supervised by the head of the house, i.e., Dad, perhaps Pr. Monterastelli is obliquely reminding you to include your husband.

    There’s a surplus of “I” in your conversation, IMHO.

    That said, my Dad worked long hours six days a week and delegated the hearing of memorized catechism to my mother. It was well understood, though, that if we didn’t do it for her, we would do it for him. So that worked out well, if by proxy. 🙂

  11. Teaching the Catechism is Bible Study and the lesson format, key themes, etc. are clearly laid out.

  12. This had to be said. Well done. Now deal with some of the other elephants in the room too!

  13. As I mentioned in my last extra-lengthy post, message board posts are a hard format to use to write about such a deep topic. I simply haven’t shared every detail because this really isn’t the place for it. I might write a book about it someday, where it’ll be far more complete and (hopefully) I won’t miss any information.

    Laura, please don’t assume that I think that the faith is taught only through rote and memorization and that’s it. Although I dedicated much typing to that very topic, that isn’t all that teaching the faith entails. I have two reasons for spending so much time on that topic. The reason is that contemporary education (which I still assert is in a terrible, irreparable shape, and, save for a full reformation, is a sinking ship) devalues memorization, and, in some circles, despises it. While these people aren’t wrong in the sense that memorization alone is not good enough, they also miss the great good of memorization. Namely, one must memorize in order to truly learn anything. You can’t just feel your way through Algebra, and it’s very risky to feel your way into the faith. There needs to be a foundation, and memorization of basic facts is necessary for that foundation. We see it in every subject matter and discipline. You need to memorize vocabulary, procedures, names, dates, and more if you want to succeed at anything. Because rote has fallen out of vogue in education, our schools and families are not using it either. I want everyone to recognize that this modern-day assumption – that memorization is bad – is affecting how we see the Catechism. Memorization is not just a 1500s educational fad. Memorization is an eternal principle, commanded by God as we see in Deuteronomy 6.

    That being said, memorization alone is not enough. I do not sit around and recite the Catechism mindlessly. When I teach, I don’t just have students (who are at least 14 years old) parrot what I’m saying. We have discussions about what we read in God’s Word. We see ourselves as sinners and see Jesus as our Savior. But this is very difficult to do if you don’t know any basic principles of the faith. How can you see what Jesus has done as useful to you if you don’t understand the Ten Commandments, that is, that you are a sinner in need of a Redeemer? And the Catechism is an excellent tool to provide that life-long foundation.

    There is another assumption that contemporary education has foisted upon us, and I’d like to point it out and call it into question. Modern-day education experts believe that anything “new” is good, and anything “old” is bad. The thinking is that, since we know so much more stuff (like electricity and atoms and rocket science) we are smarter and more capable. Inversely, since older people knew less stuff, they were dumber, and their methods were crude and barbaric. I’m exaggerating here so you see my point – the assumption is that we are smarter. But I don’t see any evidence to believe that this is true. What constitutes intelligence, or what makes a man smart? Can anyone kindly point me to the proof that man has gotten smarter? (By the way, I’m not asserting the opposite, that is, that man has gotten dumber. But the internet – particularly social media – is full of proofs for those of you who wish to try and make that point!) One thing that we must notice is that this assumption – that we’re getting smarter – is not Biblical, but rather, is fueled by evolution. The secularists believe in evolution, and they are the ones who are pushing this assumption that we are smarter today than those who went before us.

    I hope this helps, and if you have any questions or would like me to clarify anything I’ve said, please let me know.

    In Christ,

  14. I’m particularly interested in the mention of divorce. Frankly, it is embarrassing that so many of our clergy are/have been divorced or marry a person who has been previously married. If we wish to defend marriage in our current culture, all divorced pastors must be immediately defrocked.

  15. From the Preface of Luther’s Small Catechism (it’s in the Appendix so most people don’t see it, though it is a preface):

    “The deplorable, miserable conditions which I recently observed when visiting the parishes have constrained and pressed me to put this catechism of Christian doctrine into this brief, plain, and simple form. How pitiable, so help me God, were the things I saw the common man, especially in the villages, knows practically nothing of Christian doctrine, and many of the pastors are almost entirely incompetent and unable to teach.”

    And to my point regarding better ways of educating,
    “IF YOU CANNOT DO MORE, AT LEAST take the tables and charts for catechism instruction and drill the people in them word for word, in the following way:”

    Those of you who keep pushing the rote memory and nothing more, please note that Luther himself said AT LEAST do that. Is that what we want to do when we know so much more? The least? We can do more. We should do more.

    Thanks to my husband for reminding me of the much ignored preface.

  16. @Laura Langhoff Arndt #65

    Those of you who keep pushing the rote memory and nothing more

    Who did that?

    That claim is being imported from outside of the article and outside of the discussion. The fact that no one has said any such thing has been pointed out before. The relentless false portrayal of what has been said has reached the point of rudeness.

  17. @Donna #64

    Defrocked? Seriously? Have you read Ezra 10? Would you have defrocked him and the hundreds of priests who got divorced at his command? Do you live completely under the law? Is there any forgiveness or grace? Men who have made a mistake, or whose wife has left them may no longer preach the Word? Do you think they WANT to be divorced? Do you think they WANT their families to be broken? Do you think that if a pastor divorces his wife that he has not agonized over it? Do you think he does it on a whim? Do you think a man should lose his calling because he is sinful like you and me or because his wife leaves him? Does repentance and restoration have no place in the church? Pastors are human beings. They are sinful just like everyone else. In order to be allowed to preach the gospel, should they remain in a marriage where the wife steals the family money and writes fraudulent checks to the point where the house is going to be foreclosed on? If she is negligent of the children and people in the congregation see it and wish he would leave her? Is your answer to them, “Suck it up, buttercup?” Or if his wife does leave he must remain alone for the rest of his life? YOU may marry a 2nd time to anyone you want, but a pastor cannot? Even if he’s in his 40’s and there are no single, not-divorced women left? There is NO PERSON OR PLACE a pastor whose life is falling apart can go to get help because not only is their personal life falling apart, but the church itself will judge them guilty and take away their means of supporting that family with NO SUPPORT after the fact. They may have served the church for 5 or 20 years and nobody is there to help them. They may never have had to write a resume. Jobs come to them. They have no idea how to translate their ministry skills into marketable secular skills, there is no job counseling. What kind of church does that? What kind of church talks of grace but never puts it into practice for those who serve?

    God gives the gift of preaching. Romans 11:29 says “For God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable.” Would you deny that gift or call because we live in a sinful world that affects pastors as well as the rest of us? Ephesians says God gave some to be pastors, some teachers, etc. It is not followed by “unless he sins.” Even Peter who denied who Jesus was on oath and with curses, was restored to ministry. Paul, who murdered Christians, was forgiven and chosen to be the apostle to the Gentiles.

    I’m not saying pastors should live openly against the Bible, but we should not deem men unfit because they have not lived a perfect life. If they do live openly in sin and cannot or will not repent and we have no choice but to have them stand down, then we treat them with dignity and help them transition to a secular career. If we lose sight of that we are all in trouble because we ALL sin and fall short. Our testimony is not about OUR goodness, but about God’s GRACE.

  18. @T. R. Halvorson #66

    I think that you may be a bit sensitive because I’m offering a different type of teaching in the church and encouraging change. I am not saying what you said is wrong, but when things are posted publicly you will have some who disagree with all or some of what you said.

    The church resists change. I’m simply stating and defending that it may be time for a change in how we educate. We seem to be a church with a great message and poor delivery. We can do better. I’m not saying what your dad did is wrong, but that’s YOUR experience. There are many others out there and we know a lot more now about how people learn. Why not change?

  19. @Laura Langhoff Arndt #69

    Let’s take a look at what just happened.

    You said, again, “Those of you who keep pushing the rote memory and nothing more

    I asked who did that.

    Instead of substantiating your claim, you said two things:

    A. I think that you may be a bit sensitive

    B. because I’m offering a different type of teaching

    How does either of those address your claim that people here “keep pushing the rote memory and nothing more?

    Instead of dealing with the substance of what is being said, whether rote memory and nothing more, or something else, you turn the discussion to two persons, me and you. ad hominem Rude.

    If there were substantiation to be had of your repeated claim, no doubt your professional preparation that led to the award of a MA in education would have equipped you to find it and cite it. But that is not happening. These circumstances are highly indicative that the substantiation does not exist.

  20. @Laura Langhoff Arndt #67

    Do you live completely under the law?

    Are you claiming that when Christ gave to the Apostles his Word on the qualifications for the Office of Public Ministry, that Word was Gospel?

    Christ speaks both Law and Gospel. He means both sincerely. Some things in the Church are matters of God’s Law. The Word about qualifications for the Office of Public Ministry are Law, so the Gospel card and the forgiveness card are not trump on this issue. That is to abuse the Gospel and to turn to antinomianism.

    And this is an apt illustration of what happens when people are insufficiently catechized. They abolish the Law by an abuse of the Gospel. One of the reasons for the Catechism is to learn the proper distinction between Law and Gospel.

  21. Divorce is such a difficult reality that we in the church have to deal with. Definitely keep those single mothers and fathers who have been through the death of divorce in your prayers. I’ve seen so many that have been left with broken families trying to raise their children in the faith, in many cases against the wishes of their exes. They need our support and prayers.

  22. @T. R. Halvorson #71

    If there were substantiation to be had of your repeated claim, no doubt your professional preparation that led to the award of a MA in education would have equipped you to find it and cite it.

    TR, the primary use of an MA in Education is to get a salary boost in schools that measure teachers by degrees and longevity in the system. Other teachers will tell you that it doesn’t necessarily mean very much in the classroom.

    [Observe that Concordia, Portland is turning MA Ed’s out by the thousands “on line”… which probably makes those worth less than the average for teaching, although profitable for Portland!]

  23. Every time I question if we did the right thing by leaving the LCMS I pop on this site read a few threads and think yep we did.

  24. @Laura Langhoff Arndt #67

    Laura, it’s not a question of pastors living a perfect life. It’s a question of obeying what God put in the Bible, or not. The instructions on marriage, divorce, and especially remarriage are simple. Most importantly, they are not conditional. IF remarriage is adultery (which is the clear teaching of Luke 16:18), then it’s adultery. Luke 16:18 makes NO DISTINCTION between the “guilty” party who sought the divorce, and the “innocent” party. So it makes zero difference whether the pastor was a saint of a man who was unjustly divorced, or had a string of mistresses on the side.

    And that, right there, is the rub. Because as a PRACTICAL matter, the Church has utterly surrendered on the topic. The BIBILICAL standard is “remarriage while your spouse lives is adultery.” That, as the Disciples themselves recognized, is a hard standard indeed. So in order to not “punish” the “innocent” party, the Church relaxed things. “Oh, we won’t remarry the cad who deserted his wife, but if she finds a nice guy, we’ll allow it.” Over the course of a couple decades, that has transformed into the Church remarrying ANYBODY. Including OVER the objections of the “innocent” spouse.

    At least the Roman Catholic Church, unlike the vast majority of Protestant denominations, makes an attempt at a smoke screen with their ludicrous annulment doctrine so they don’t run afoul of the REMARRIAGE = ADULTERY standard. “Sure, you’ve been legally married for 15 years, and you have 3 kids, but we’ve concluded it wasn’t a REAL marriage, so you’re free to do whatever you want.”

    Let me ask you a simple pair of questions, and you’ll see how utterly absurd is, from a Biblical standpoint, the current practice in the overwhelming majority of Protestant churches in the West.

    The topic is repentance.
    1) If I steal another man’s car, what is the proper REPENTANCE for my sin?

    2) If I steal another man’s wife, what is the proper REPENTANCE for my sin?

  25. @Gerdes #77

    I’m so glad you found the place without sin!

    (Whether you meant it or not, your post comes across as more than a bit Luke 18:9 ff.)

  26. @T. R. Halvorson #37

    Please, someone, write on the “age 10-12 every Wednesday scenario” – which somehow “earns” us the right to come to the Lord’s Table and partake in His Gifts to us.

  27. Friends, before I say this, please understand that I am not attacking anyone. For the vast majority of us, we simply don’t know any better, since – inexplicably – no one thought it was a good idea to teach us logic. (And that is another prime example of the failure of contemporary education. But I digress…)

    I’ve seen a few logical fallacies on here, which are not helpful to the discussion. The last comment was an example a Straw Man Fallacy. Correct me if I’m wrong, but no one here asserted that we earn God’s Gifts by having our children from ages 10-12 recite the Catechism every Wednesday. That is a position which has been constructed because of its indefensibility. It allows you to “win” an argument by creating an easily refutable point. This fallacy is a distraction which detracts from the actual discussion at hand.

    Nothing against the previous poster. Although he was not the first perpetrator, it is the one most recently posted, so it was convenient for me to refer to it. Let us kindly stick to the actual points of discussion raised by the posters.

  28. @T-rav #80

    Something is lost in some translations of Mt 19:9. The more accurate translation reads: “whoever divorces his wife, even in the case of sexual immorality, and marries another commits adultery” especially in light of the very clear words of Luke 16:18.

  29. “Getting back to the point of the last two [?] discussion posts, I agree that it is very hard to teach teens using straight-up memorization”… This from Mr./Pr Gerth, I think.

    The original suggestion is that men take an interest in catechesis of their households
    AND that it start a lot earlier than “confirmation school”.

    Even an education major [mine was a minor; my primary major was 45 hours, then there was religious ed. 18 hrs.)] knows that memorization is easier, the earlier you begin. That is why 3 year olds brought up front to listen to the Pastor can recite the Words of Institution as well as the liturgy their parents are singing. Listening is the best way to learn.

    The point is not the abominable situation we are in now, but how to get out of it!
    One way is to be with your kids in church, singing.

  30. In reality, many fathers are full of doubt and conflicting beliefs. That’s why they do not feel capable of teaching their households and why they fail to at least read the catechism to/with their households.

    When Luther says, “IF YOU CANNOT DO MORE, AT LEAST take the tables and charts for catechism instruction and drill the people in them word for word, in the following way:” he is not saying, “do not drill word for word if can do more” but “at least do some word for word drilling and do more as you are able.”

    Because they measure their worth as a teacher by the happiness and standardized test performance of their students, many modern educators’ greatest fear is the boredom of their students. As a result, they avoid drilling and frequent recitation and they mischaracterize those who promote drilling and frequent recitation.

    In reality, boredom is a fruit of the sin of sloth and unbelief. There is nothing boring about God’s salvation from sin.

    Many fathers are neither doing more nor doing the word for word drilling. We are in greater need of more pastors (and house fathers(and mothers)) calling us to repent of our sloth and unbelief than we are of a strange voice telling us to try novel techniques based on Godless philosophies built on the fear of boredom.

  31. @helen #84

    Hi Helen,
    I’m a member of a small congregation which has seen its’ membership decline just like all the other congregations in synod. We have about 10 to 12 children in church each Sunday along with the 70-80 adults. For the most part, the children are consistently in church and Sunday school. Every once and a while, I’ll hear one child in particular (6 years old) reciting the Lord’s Prayer or singing ‘This is the Feast’ as clear as a bell along with the rest of the congregation. It gives me so much hope. Jesus said, “and lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world”.


  32. @Rev. Michael Scott Monterastelli #85

    “In reality, boredom is a fruit of the sin of sloth and unbelief. There is nothing boring about God’s salvation from sin.”

    Amen to that. Now as an adult I realize the “boredom” I felt for learning as a youth was my own laziness.

  33. @Laura Langhoff Arndt #50

    Boredom with God’s Word is a sin against the entire First Table of the Law, but it is not, as you suppose from your comment, the sin of the one teaching God’s Word. As you yourself have said, the Holy Spirit creates faith. It is not the dynamic and charismatic nature of the one teaching the faith, who creates said faith.

    You said: “Teaching the doctrine and theology of the Lutheran Church is about getting people to think and talk about what they read and/or hear in God’s Word.” Since when? Teaching doctrine and theology is about getting people to be conformed to Christ through law and gospel, so that they are saved and delivered from this vale of tears. It is, as I have said before, about “right thinking.”

    What does the tone of voice have to do with the Holy Spirit creating and sustaining faith? One of the great things about the Bible is that we have no idea what kind of voice inflection anyone had when speaking by the Holy Spirit. You may recall that punctuation was added by translators.

    In any case, it is God-pleasing when the husband/father teaches his household in a simple way, and when pastors faithfully continue that catechesis in the congregation.

  34. @Donna #64

    What does our Lord say on this? Is there a difference between a Pastor who divorced an adulterous wife or a Pastor who is divorced on account of his own adultery? One could have a quick look at 1 Corinthians 7:1-16.

  35. @Lil Spilde #81

    There is a new book coming out soon edited by Drs. Matthew C. Harrison and John T. Pless that will do a better job on your question than I could do. The title is about closed communion and the publisher is CPH. Watch for that, and sections of it will answer question.

  36. @T-rav #80

    T-Rav, I’m not forgetting Matt 19:9. There is, however, something that folks seem to overlook when they seize upon that verse as allowing remarriage.

    WHO asked it? Compare it to Mark 10 again. You’ll see the same dynamic. TWO questions. TWO different answers. Keep in mind that in Mark 10, Christ’s answer to the second question CANNOT apply to the first. Why? Because under Mosaic Law, women CANNOT divorce their husbands. His standard, when asked by His disciples, is this: “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her, 12 and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”

    To put it harshly: Remarriage is the playground of Pharisees. Which, if you think about it, makes sense. There’s an abundance of room for hair splitting, “what about porn?”, “what about drug abuse?” Rules and “I’m righteous but he/she isn’t”.

    And so we now have a fine mess in the church, a fine mess indeed.

    Grace and peace.

  37. @Christian P.J. Bahnerth #90

    What does our Lord say on this? Is there a difference between a Pastor who divorced an adulterous wife or a Pastor who is divorced on account of his own adultery? One could have a quick look at 1 Corinthians 7:1-16.

    Either way, the prescription is to remain unmarried, unless there is a reconciliation.
    And the pastor is, or should be, out of the OHM because he can’t preach honestly on divorce or counsel couples.

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