Editor’s Note – This is a good attempt to identify the major divisions within the LCMS. These are constantly shifting and so forth and Rev. Carlson wrote this a while ago.
A – Antinomian synod.
N – Never-gonna-change nostalgia synod (aka Bronzers)
L – Liturgical synod
C – Confessional synod
M – Missional synod
S – Seminex synod
There are the six shadow synods I have identified in the Missouri Synod. It wouldn’t be a problem if they all believed the same doctrine, but they don’t. They are truly different in such a way that many of them can’t rightly call themselves a synod with the other ones.
First the Antinomians, this synod is closely related and in many ways looks like the confessional synod and the liturgical synod. These three have many things in common. Their pastors all vest and make use of the historic liturgy. They quote the scriptures and confessions ad nauseam. However, the antinomian synods material principle is all are free in Christ. Their formal principle is the gospel in its narrower sense. The danger of this synod is their rejection of the Law, which condemns sin and shows how a Christian ought to live.
Second the Never-gonna-change bronzers. These are the faithful few who defended the Bible in the previous century. They fought for a noble cause, but this doesn’t mean they are without issues. This synod is very conservative and uses the bible to teach their conservative views. Their material principle is to be conservative in all moral and ethical matters. Their formal principle is the bible. Though this may sound great, the gospel in the narrower sense, is seldom heard from their pulpits. The preach morals and as long as you fall on the right side of all the hot-button ethical issues then God is pleased with you. This synod has much in common with the Southern Baptist Convention and other Fundamentalists. It uses the liturgy, but that is only because it doesn’t want to change to this new fancy music. It prefers the good old hymns which she has always sung such as “Just as I am”, “Rock of Ages”, “Amazing Grace” and such.
Third, the Liturgical Synod. As the name state, this synod’s greatest concern is the historic liturgy. This is the most likely to have her pastors go east. They aren’t too concerned with doctrine, just practice. This synod considers the marks of the church to be the length of your beard, the number of children you have, and how many times you genuflect during the mass. Properly there is nothing wrong with any of these, they are all good and salutary things, but they are certainly not marks of the church according to the scriptures. The material principle for the liturgical synod is ceremonious, historic liturgy must be conducted. The formal principle is historic church tradition. “Just as I am” will not be found here.
Fourth the Confessional Synod. This synod looks very similar to the liturgical synod. She uses the historic liturgy with great reverence. Her clergy are almost always seen in black clericals, even while mowing the law. Though she has a great respect for liturgy due to “lex orendi, lex credenda”, dogma reigns supreme. The law must be preached in full sternness and the gospel must be preached in full sweetness. Her pastors are faithful to the scriptures even if it makes people mad. The confessional synod’s material principle is justification by grace, for Christ’s sake, through faith. Her formal principle is the Bible (all of it).
Fifth is the missional synod. She is a daughter of the never-gonna-change bronzers and seminex-ers. Though she takes mostly after the bronzers, she didn’t inherit her never-gonna-change attitude. She is willing to change at the drop of a hat, for the mission of course. This synod is closest related to American evangelicalism. She has many of the bronzer’s morals, but she is willing to do anything to get people. Her material principle is to sell the organization. While her formal principle is any marketing strategy that works as long as you put “for Him” or “Kingdom” in the slogan.
Sixth the seminex synod, Missouri claims she won the battle for the Bible, but then never expelled all those pastors who were taught to reject the bible. This synod is made up of all those men who were trained in higher criticism and love it. They have learned how to speak vaguely and to be very aloof. This allows them to appear like the bronzers, but not believe in the bible, or morals or ethics. Her material principle is anything goes in the name of any deity you like. The Seminexers formal principle is the will and whims of the community around her, or as the Bible calls it, the world.
Within these six synods is a large amount of overlap. The bronzers gave birth to the confessionals, missionals, liturgicals and antinomians. While the seminexers gave birth to the antinomians and missionals. The liturgicals, are and confessionals overlap quite a bit, but a litmus test is paedo-communion. The antinomians are essentially cryptic within the liturgicals and confessionals. Though all six synods have much in common, they all operate under different material and formal principles and thus aren’t able to truly have unity. Unless someone starts to discipline the synods who teach differently, there will never be unity, but a continued battle for control of the cobalt cathedral. In which every synod takes her turn pushing her teaching on the other synods and confusing the poor souls in the pews. Most of them don’t have a clue as to what synod they belong and they try to make sense of it all. But this is impossible because these poor laity don’t have a material or formal principle they have six.