At the 2013 synod convention, an overture was brought to the floor to commend the universities of our synod for their faithfulness. This happens every three years. It is a pro-forma thing to commend the LCMS and her constituent parts for faithfulness. Of course we are faithful. We are the LCMS. We were the first church in history to actually win the battle for the bible, and return to orthodoxy. That should say something right there. The resolution went before the assembly.
But this time, there was a troubler of Israel. A pious and devout lay-woman from my parish went to the microphone and suggested that, before we commend anyone for faithfulness, shouldn’t we have some assurance that they are, in fact, faithful? In her time at Concordia University, Seward, she was taught theistic evolution. Is there some assurance that the teaching has been restored to faithfulness?
At the next break, the President of Concordia University Seward, Brian Friedrich, along with the then-president of the Nebraska District, Russell Sommerfeld, accosted her, and demanded that she repent. Over the course of the next four days, they attempted to extract from her a confession, a retraction, and a plea for forgiveness. But she stood firm, as did the entire pastoral delegation of the Montana and Wyoming Districts. Others came forward and agreed that Concordia Seward had, at that time, been promoting theistic evolution, and that they were also willing to say so from the microphone, if it would assist their search for the truth.
But they were not interested in the truth. They told her that the internet had exploded with her damaging allegations – a patent falsehood. They told her that the reputation of Concordia Seward was forever besmirched and that she had put the future of the school in jeopardy. In the end, she clarified (through a statement read by our District President) that she had attended Seward in the 1980’s, and that she wanted to know if theistic evolution was still being promoted as a viable theory. Concordia Seward, in a statement read by former-President Sommerfeld, thoroughly muddied the issue, making it absolutely unclear what was being taught, and casting far more doubt on the orthodoxy of the University than she had done.
At the fall conference of the Wyoming District, the pastors unanimously requested of Concordia Seward a clarification of what was being taught regarding the origin of the universe. Was theistic evolution still promoted as a viable alternative to the scriptural record? Their answer, though weak and still unclear, was where the matter rested for almost five years.
The most recent issue of the Concordia Journal contained an article by Dr. John Jurchen, a professor at Concordia Seward, in which he explicitly stated that, as long as we believe Adam and Eve are created, there was no synodical statement that precluded belief in theistic evolution over the course of millions of years. This is untrue. Genesis 1, the Brief Statement, a resolution from 1967, and numerous other statements over the years have made clear that we believe the earth was created in six days of 24 hours each. You need not believe that. But you may not deny that and teach at our schools or be on the roster of synod. The two are mutually exclusive.
In response to this article, the Pastor’s conference of the Wyoming District, after much discussion, passed a resolution which noted the false teaching in this article, noted where the synod had previously identified it as such, and called on the various officials to respond and correct this false teaching each according to their office. The resolution was sent to the respective institutions, and we agreed not to give publicity to it until the affected parties had at least had a chance to see it. We did not want to blind-side them.
Weeks passed, and we remained silent to allow the process to work. To their credit, Concordia Seward showed great concern, and we are hopeful that the issue there may soon be successfully resolved.
However, the response from the seminary in Saint Louis was less encouraging. Meetings were agreed to by some faculty and administrative members. But initial impressions were that they would be difficult meetings.
Last Friday, the Wyoming District pastors were shown how very difficult those meetings would be. A letter was received that rejected our call to confess the truth so clearly laid out in Holy Scripture. They called us to repent for breaking the 8th commandment (there was no public statement of this before their letter, so that charge is false on its face), and to retract our resolution.
This we can not do. We can not retract our resolution, lest it give aid and comfort to heretical teachings. We continue to plead with them that they affirm the truth of scripture and renounce error. We pray that they would do so, that the church would be kept from division and that God would deliver us from the due consequences of our sinful pride and our denial of his Holy Word.
These are the facts. I have not attempted to embellish them, but to present them as they occurred, so that others may know what happened. In a future post I will offer commentary on some aspects of this post (including commentary on their letter.)
If this post saddens you, this little biography of Luther will serve as encouragement. God will not allow his Word to be forever mocked. He will raise up a Gideon or Elijah to speak the truth, so that all may once again hear the Gospel.