CSL sends letter of rebuke to Wyoming and South Wisconsin District Pastors

This past Friday the faculty of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis sent a letter via email to every pastor in the Wyoming District (81 of them by a quick LCMS locator count).  A similar letter was sent to the pastors of the South Wisconsin District (372 of them by a quick LCMS locator count).  These letters were in response to resolutions passed by pastors conferences of both districts in regards to a recent Concordia Journal Article.  This post is a “just the facts” posting.  Commentary posts will likely be coming in the following days.

Editor’s Note (1/7/2018) – Dr. Jurchen has repented.  We give thanks to God for him and for the work of God in him.  We are still waiting on something from CSL.

Here is the introductory body of the email to the Wyoming District pastors:

Brothers of the Wyoming District,

Greetings in Christ! We, the faculty of Concordia Seminary, have spent many hours the last weeks discussing and deliberating about the resolution you adopted in your most recent pastoral conference. The attached letter, adopted unanimously, reflects our concerns about the substance, approach and potential consequences of your action. We ask that you give it your careful and prayerful attention and consider a course of action that would benefit and strengthen the ministry of all the congregations and pastors of the synod and respect the commitments we have made to each other.

Fraternally yours in the service of our only Savior,

The Faculty of Concordia Seminary

As attested by,

Paul W. Robinson, Dean of the Faculty

Dale A. Meyer, President

 

Now here is the letter they sent:  [PDF] Letter to Wyoming District Pastors 12-1-17 (1)

An Open Letter to Our Brothers in the Wyoming District

December 1, 2017

Dear Brothers,

We are writing to you with regard to our life together as fellow pastors in the ministerium of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

We were greatly saddened to receive word of a resolution adopted by you at the fall district pastors conference Oct. 4, 2017, regarding the article by Dr. John Jurchen entitled, “The Age of the Earth and Confessional Lutheranism,” which appeared in the summer 2017 issue of our Concordia Journal. Two concerns came to mind upon reading your resolution.

Our first concern is with how we relate to one another when we run across statements in writings that seem to be unclear, confusing, questionable or perhaps even wrong. Should we immediately assume the worst and conclude that the author is promoting false doctrine that must be condemned – even when the author or publication has not provided cause for such a reading? And should our first response to error – perceived or actual – not be to seek clarification or correction from the author? A resolution that states, “Wyoming District Pastors Conference condemn this article for its false doctrine and for sowing discord among brethren” and then calls upon a number of others to issue “the same condemnation” at the very least leaps to a judgment that may not be warranted when a conversation may have made any such action unnecessary. This is a sad commentary on our life together as a Synod and our respect for one another as brothers and co-workers in ministry.

Our second concern is with the treatment of the issue itself. Dr. Jurchen clearly states at the beginning of his article that he is attempting to answer in a responsible way questions raised by a parishioner, paying attention to statements the Synod has made on the issue. Did the article receive a fair reading and a thorough discussion at your conference with regard to its purpose, thesis, arguments and conclusion? Were questions raised and discussed about the Synod statements that Dr. Jurchen cites and why they are not more explicit about the issue he was addressing? To us, these seem to be important questions. After all, there is no church like the Lutheran tradition that seeks to be fiercely textual (as a colleague puts it) so as not to say less than Scripture says but also not to say more than Scripture says.

At this juncture, we are primarily concerned with how we may best live together as a church and with one another as brothers in the church’s ministry. This is not to say that false teaching is not a serious matter. Of course it is! And it is not to say that we should not deal with it appropriately – especially when it is persistently promoted and defended. Such a practice is the model set for us by the Preface to the Book of Concord whose authors stated about their own condemnations: “it is our will and intention thereby to condemn only the false and seductive teachings of the stiff-necked teachers and blasphemers of the same…” [italics added] (Par 13, Kolb-Wengert edition), that is, those who refuse to engage in conversation, to reconsider or refuse to reconcile.

In the interest of leaving no doubt as to where we stand and what we teach on the subject of creation, we can unequivocally state that we hold to and teach in accordance with the Brief Statement’s paragraph on creation, both its thesis and antithesis, which reads:

We teach that God has created heaven and earth, and that in the manner and in the space of time recorded in the Holy Scriptures, especially Gen. 1 and 2, namely, by His almighty creative word, and in six days. We reject every doctrine which denies or limits the work of creation as taught in Scripture. In our days it is denied or limited by those who assert, ostensibly in deference to science, that the world came into existence through a process of evolution; that is, that it has, in immense periods of time, developed more or less of itself. Since no man was present when it pleased God to create the world, we must look for a reliable account of creation to God’s own record, found in God’s own book, the Bible. We accept God’s own record with full confidence and confess with Luther’s Catechism: “I believe that God has made me and all creatures.”

This is a wonderfully crafted statement that begins with a confession of God as creator of heaven and earth and then concludes with its significance for us as expressed by Luther’s catechism. In other words, what do we confess with the affirmation that God is creator? We confess, “I am God’s creature!” (LC II 13).

We recognize the article in question has generated concern regarding some of its statements and conclusions, some of which our faculty shares, and we are aware that some of the points could have been stated more clearly. In fact, the article has generated discussion within our faculty, and we are looking forward to continuing that conversation with the entire Synod. As a beginning toward that end, and in the interest of strengthening our life together and clarifying our witness to the world, we are preparing a series of posts that provide an orientation to the debate currently taking place in evangelical circles along with an assessment of our Lutheran take on these issues. These will be posted on concordiatheology.org.

Given these acknowledgements, we respectfully request that you retract your resolution and engage the author and us in conversation. It is difficult to see how such an overture as has been adopted will not cast a cloud of suspicion over the author, Concordia University, Nebraska, and the seminaries (particularly Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, in whose Concordia Journal this particular article appeared). Luther calls us to something higher when he teaches us not to slander or defame our neighbor but instead to honor God by “speaking well” of our neighbor and “explaining everything in the kindest way.”

In Christ,

The faculty of Concordia Seminary

 

Now here is the Wyoming District Fall Pastor Conference resolution, which includes pertinent quotes from the Concordia Journal Article (adopted unanimously) [PDF WY District Resolution CSL2017]:

Resolution of the Wyoming District Fall Pastors’ Conference, Casper, WY, 2-4 October 2017
Concerning the recent Concordia Journal article, “The Age of the Earth and Confessional Lutheranism,” by Dr. John Jurchen (Summer 2017, Volume 43, Number 3, pages 64-74).
WHEREAS  the pastors of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod are bound to Scripture in order “to give instruction in sound doctrine, and also to rebuke those who contradict it” (Titus 1:0), as also articulated in Romans 16:17, Ephesians 4:11-16, Titus 2:1, and 1 Timothy 4:6; and
WHEREAS  serious concern has arisen among the pastors of the Wyoming District following the recent publication of the Concordia Journal article, “The Age of the Earth and Confessional Lutheranism,” by Dr. John Jurchen (Summer 2017, Volume 43, Number 3, pages 64-74), as published by Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, in conjunction with Concordia University Nebraska, Seward, Nebraska; and
WHEREAS  the Scriptures do not allow for old-earth creationism, including interpreting the word “day” (yom) in Genesis, chapters 1 and 2, as an extended period of days or years or as anything but the twenty-four hour day as is experienced (Genesis 1:5, 14; Exodus 20:8); and
WHEREAS  The Brief Statement of the Doctrinal Position of the Missouri Synod (“Of Creation,” 5, 1932) rejects that the world came into being “in immense periods of time”; and
WHEREAS Dr. John Jurchen, associate professor of chemistry at Concordia University, Nebraska, asserts in Concordia Journal, Volume 43, Number 3, pages 70-71, “As long as parishioners are able to accept the historicity of Adam and Eve, the corrupting influence of sin, and the gospel of salvation, they can expand the days of the creation week to encompass unspecified periods,” and page 71, “Adherents [of Old Earth Creationism] can accept the standard, secular interpretation of the geological record while still holding to an exegetically credible six-day (yom) creation, the fall of an historical Adam and Eve, and redemption through Jesus Christ.” and page 73, “[W]e must not present the appearance that the age of the earth is a ‘litmus test’ for orthodoxy”; and
WHEREAS these words of Dr. Jurchen contradict the Holy Scriptures, deny their clarity, and are not to be tolerated in the Church of God, much less excused or defended; and
WHEREAS  Concordia Journal, in which the aforementioned article was published, lists Dr. Dale Meyer, President of Concordia Seminary, as the Publisher, and Dr. Charles Arand as the Executive Editor and Dean of Theological Research and Publication; and
WHEREAS  Dr. Dale Meyer, as president of Concordia Seminary, “shall serve as the spiritual, academic, and administrative head of the seminary” (Bylaw 3.10.5.6); and Dr. Brian Friedrich, as president of Concordia University, Nebraska, serves in a similar role; and
WHEREAS  Dr. Matthew Harrison, President of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, according to Article XI.B.1-3, shall supervise, admonish, advise, and reprove in order to “promote and maintain unity of doctrine and practice in all the districts of Synod” (Article XI, B, 3); and, according to Bylaw 3.3.1.1, the President of Synod “shall supervise the doctrine taught and practiced in the Synod, including all synodwide corporate entities,” which includes Concordia Seminary and Concordia University, Nebraska; and
WHEREAS  Dr. R. Lee Hagen, President of the Missouri District, is the ecclesiastical supervisor of Concordia Seminary’s faculty (Bylaw 2.12.1.5); and the Reverend Rich Snow, President of the Nebraska District, is the ecclesiastical supervisor of Concordia University, Nebraska; and
WHEREAS  the Board of Regents of Concordia Seminary, as elected by Synod or variously appointed to the board, “shall consider as one of its primary duties the defining and fulfilling of the mission of the seminary within the broad assignment of the Synod” (Bylaw 3.10.5.1), and is “subject to general policies set by the Synod” (Bylaw 3.10.5), which include Article II, Confession, of the Constitution of Synod; and which also the Board of Regents of Concordia University, Nebraska, are subject to the same general policies of Synod, therefore be it
RESOLVED that the Wyoming District Pastors Conference condemn this article for its false teaching and for sowing discord among brethren, and be it further
RESOLVED that the Wyoming District Pastors Conference implore Dr. Matthew Harrison, President of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod; Dr. Dale Meyer, President of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, MO, and Publisher of Concordia Journal; Dr. Charles Arand, the Executive Editor of Concordia Journal and Dean of Theological Research and Publication; Dr. Brian Friedrich, President of Concordia University, Nebraska;  Dr. John Jurchen, Concordia University, Nebraska; Dr. R. Lee Hagen, President of the Missouri District; the Reverend Richard Snow, President of the Nebraska District; the Reverend Shawn Kumm, Chairman of the Board of Regents of Concordia Seminary; Mr. Paul Schudel, Chairman of the Board of Regents of Concordia University, Nebraska to issue the same condemnation, and be it further
RESOLVED that the aforementioned administer discipline in accordance with the Word of God (1 Tim. 1:3-4; 6:3-4; Tit. 1:13) and the bylaws of the LC-MS, and be it further
RESOLVED  that the Wyoming District Pastors’ Conference entreat Dr. Matthew Harrison, President of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, to convene a meeting with Dr. Dale Meyer, President of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, MO, and Publisher of Concordia Journal; Dr. Charles Arand, the Executive Editor of Concordia Journal and Dean of Theological Research and Publication; Dr. Brian Friedrich, President of Concordia University, Nebraska;  Dr. John Jurchen, Concordia University, Nebraska; Dr. R. Lee Hagen, President of the Missouri District; the Reverend Richard Snow, President of the Nebraska District; the Reverend Shawn Kumm, Chairman of the Board of Regents of Concordia Seminary; Mr. Paul Schudel, Chairman of the Board of Regents of Concordia University, Nebraska; and any other persons necessary for an amicable and informed discussion, and be it further
RESOLVED  that the aforementioned persons embark upon a theological discussion concerning the referenced article by Dr. John Jurchen and published by Concordia Seminary, as to its faithfulness to Scripture, and the article’s theological appropriateness, merit, and affect upon the faith of and witness to the pastors and members of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and beyond; and be it further
RESOLVED  that President Matthew Harrison propose and enact a course of action which is Scripturally faithful, and which edifies and strengthens the faith and witness of the members of the Synod concerning the creation of the world in six twenty-four hour days; and be it further
RESOLVED  that President Matthew Harrison issue a final report of resolution, correction, and action to the Wyoming District Convention, to be held May 3-5, 2018, in Casper, Wyoming; and be it finally
RESOLVED  that the pastors and the parishes of the Wyoming District and the aforementioned persons “continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving” (Colossians 4:2), especially praying for the LCMS; Concordia Seminary, St. Louis; Concordia University, Nebraska; the above mentioned individuals; and the pastors and parishes of the Wyoming District, with the result that all can exclaim with the psalmist, “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” (Psalm 133:1).
Adopted by the Wyoming District Fall Pastors’ Conference
Casper, Wyoming
Wednesday, October 4, 2017
Here is the overture passed by the South Wisconsin District Pastors [PDF South Wisconsin District Overture]

OVERTURE adopted at Fall 2017 SWD Pastor’s Conference

To Confess and Reaffirm Six-Day Creation and the Official Position of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod

WHEREAS, the Holy Scriptures teach that God is the Creator of all that exists, (Genesis 1:1; Psalm 33:6,9, Hebrews 11:3, Colossians 1:16, John 1:1-4) and

WHEREAS, Genesis 1 details the creation of the world by God in six days, each of which consisted of 24 hours, and

WHEREAS, the Holy Scriptures are inspired by God the Holy Spirit, are without error and infallible (John 10:35, 2 Timothy 3:16-17, 2 Peter 1:21) and

WHEREAS, the Scripture teaches that Adam was a real man and it is the consequence of his sin that death has come into the world, (Romans 5:12-19) and

WHEREAS, theistic evolution or old earth creationism which teaches that God used an evolutionary process to create mankind and that death is a natural occurrence, not the result of Adam’s sin, is in direct contradiction to the teaching of the Holy Scripture and

WHEREAS, the official position of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod regarding creation is, “We teach that God has created heaven and earth, and that in the manner and in the space of time recorded in the Holy Scriptures, especially Gen. 1 and 2, namely, by His almighty creative word, and in six days. We reject every doctrine which denies or limits the work of creation as taught in Scripture. In our days it is denied or limited by those who assert, ostensibly in deference to science, that the world came into existence through a process of evolution; that is, that it has, in immense periods of time, developed more or less of itself. Since no man was present when it pleased God to create the world, we must look for a reliable account of creation to God’s own record, found in God’s own book, the Bible. We accept God’s own record with full confidence and confess with Luther’s Catechism: ‘I believe that God has made me and all creatures.’” (A Brief Statement of the Doctrinal Position of the Missouri Synod, 1932), therefore let it be

RESOLVED, that the South Wisconsin District Pastors Conference confess and reaffirm that God created the world in six days, each of which consisted of 24 hours, and let it also be

RESOLVED, that the South Wisconsin District Pastors Conference confess and reaffirm that Adam was a real man and that it is the consequence of his sin that death has come into the world, and let it also be

RESOLVED, that the South Wisconsin District Pastors Conference confess and reaffirm that theistic evolution or old earth creationism is in direct contradiction to the teaching of Holy Scripture and let it also be

RESOLVED, that the South Wisconsin District Pastors Conference confess and reaffirm the official position of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod regarding creation, “We teach that God has created heaven and earth, and that in the manner and in the space of time recorded in the Holy Scriptures, especially Gen. 1 and 2, namely, by His almighty creative word, and in six days. We reject every doctrine which denies or limits the work of creation as taught in Scripture. In our days it is denied or limited by those who assert, ostensibly in deference to science, that the world came into existence through a process of evolution; that is, that it has, in immense periods of time, developed more or less of itself. Since no man was present when it pleased God to create the world, we must look for a reliable account of creation to God’s own record, found in God’s own book, the Bible. We accept God’s own record with full confidence and confess with Luther’s Catechism: ‘I believe that God has made me and all creatures.’” (A Brief Statement of the Doctrinal Position of the Missouri Synod, 1932) and let it also be

RESOLVED, that The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod also confess and reaffirm its official position regarding creation, and let it also be

RESOLVED, that the South Wisconsin District Pastors Conference encourage the seminaries to endorse and uphold Synod Bylaw 3.10.5.7.9, which empowers seminary Presidents and Boards Of Regents to investigate any allegations that Biblical teaching is not being upheld in their institutions and gives specific prescription for how such an investigation should be carried out, and let it be finally

RESOLVED, That the South Wisconsin District Pastors Conference send this resolution as an overture to the 2019 Convention of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod.

Respectfully Submitted,

South Wisconsin District Pastors Conference Pastors Conference

Fall 2017

 

Other Resources that are helpful here:
[Offsite link] Genesis 1 (ESV)
EDITOR’S NOTE of JAN 7 2018 – Dr. Jurchen has repented.  Give thanks to God for this please!
[Offsite link] Large Catechism, 8th Commandment, paragraph 284. (The Lutheran Confessions referencing the proper response to public false teaching)
[Offsite link] A view of Seminex from one of the men who walked out (Warning – false teaching abounds in this one and on this site)
[PDF] Luther on evolution by Rev. Paul Bartz
Current Faculty of CSL who unanimously approved the rebuke of these two districts:
David Adams, Charles Arand, Andrew Bartelt, Joel Biermann, Gerhard Bode, Kent Burreson, Timothy Dost, Thomas Egger, Joel Elowsky, Jeff Gibbs, Benjamin Haupt, Erik Hermann, David Lewis, Richard Marrs, David Maxwell, Dale Meyer, Peter Nafzger, Glenn Nielson, Joel Okamoto, Jeffrey Oschwald, David Peter, Paul Raabe, Victor Raj, Paul Robinson, Mark Rockenbach, Timothy Saleska, Leopoldo Sanchez, David Schmitt, Bruce Shuchard, William Schumacher, Mark Seifrid, Laokuoxang Seying, William Thompson, James Voelz

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