The State of the Synod: A Confessional Response

divisionIn last month’s edition of the Lutheran Witness (LW) the LCMS Leadership released their “State of the Synod.” I encourage everyone to read either the online or hardcopy version that can be accessed through The overall focus was on thirteen areas or initiatives within the synod. For the sake of time and space I will focus on four.

Unworthy Servants, Rev. Dr. Harrison, LCMS President1

President Harrison used the State of the Synod address to focus on the declining numbers within the LCMS.

Are we shrinking because of close(d) communion? Hardly. The places in the Synod that are declining most rapidly are the places one is least likely to find the Synod’s doctrinal position on this matter strictly adhered to. Is the answer simply contemporary worship or more consistent use of the hymnal? I wish it were that easy. Iowa East has few praise bands and much more uniform use of the hymnal. Iowa West is clearly more moderately disposed in these areas. Decline? Both districts are down precisely 12 percent in 10 years. The stats show, I’m convinced, that the reasons we use to beat one another over the head about decline are simply unfounded. They might make us feel good about ourselves or give us the rhetorical advantage, but they are bogus.2

In his attempt to discredit the notion that decline is related to communion practice and/or worship style, President Harrison missed a key opportunity to clearly restate the synod’s position on close(d) communion. He also failed to use the opportunity to rebuke those who break unity with the synod in this area. Indeed, the matter-of-fact acknowledgement of open communion without a general admonishment is telling and troubling. Harrison goes on to say:

It’s also time for us to repent of uncharitable language directed toward one another and focus our efforts on speaking about Christ to all around us.3

Repenting of uncharitable language and focusing on speaking about Christ are obviously good, right, and salutary actions. However, repentance of what and by whom? We all bring a hefty dose of sin to the table, but one is left to wonder what uncharitable language President Harrison is referencing. Is it uncharitable to identify and call out sin and error? Of course not. The statement leads us to believe that we should all just get along regardless of the differences. Perhaps this was a plea to simply allow the Koinonia Project to run its course.

Koinonia Project, Rev. Dr. Mueller, Jr, LCMS 1st Vice President4

Rev. Mueller used the State of the Synod address to elaborate on the work being done in the Koinonia Project (KP). The first half of the article was nothing more than a boilerplate recap of the KP. KP was again defined and a mild acknowledgement was made that disunity is present.

Yet honesty requires we admit to occasional friction over certain theological issues (worship and ministry concerns, Communion practice and fellowship issues are the most common).5

The phraseology, occasional friction, receives the understatement award. Occasional friction is a phrase used to describe minor areas of disagreement. Issues related to communion practice and the Office of Holy Ministry are far from minor. Rev. Mueller went on to list the various meetings and retreats that have occurred or that are pending. He then concluded with:

What happens in a Koinonia study group? Devotional life centered in the Word of God and prayer is primary. We begin with a retreat so that participants become familiar with the process and are committed to it. We identify precisely what is the point at issue for the discussion. We help each other hear God’s Word on the question so that the Spirit of God might bring about greater unity. Repentance and trust leading to greater harmony are God’s gifts, worked on God’s timetable. The goal is to be drawn by the Spirit of God through his Word to confess more clearly what the Word teaches and to be more united in our practice.6

Two significant, but subtle issues are apparent. Did you catch them? First, the last sentence can be broken down to read, the goal is to confess more clearly. Of course it is. That’s why we have our confessions. And, our confessions are quite clear. The problem is that many are ignoring them. Second, the KP is being worked on God’s timetable. Now they’re cooking with gasoline. The KP was never clearly defined. The processes and proceedings are suppressed and unavailable for public consumption, and now we know the answer to the KP timeline. LCMS, Inc. has played the ultimate trump card.

Task Forces7:

A breakdown of the progress of numerous Task Forces was provided. Pastor Rossow posted a thread regarding this topic on September 5th of this year ( . Nothing has changed since then. Notice the goals and purposes.

Resolution 4-06A: Address Questions Regarding Service of Licensed Lay Deacons The goal of this task force is to develop a plan ………………

Resolution 5-01A: Faithful Witness by Concordia University System (CUS) The purpose of this task force is to study/report…………

Resolution 5-14A: Study Alternate Routes to Pastoral Ministry The purpose of this task force is to study……………….

Resolution 3-10A: Call Process for Returning Missionaries, Military Chaplains and Other Rostered Workers without a Call

The purpose of this task force is to recommend a solution and to study…………….

Notice that ONLY resolution 3-10A speaks of a solution. The other three are weak. They are little more than bureaucratic two-stepping.

Church Workers on Candidate Status, Rev. Dr. Mueller, Jr, LCMS 1st Vice President8

Rev. Mueller presented a brief two page review of the Candidate/Non-Candidate Status within the LCMS. While space within the LW is limited, what’s lacking in the article is the truth that exists behind the scenes. I could never do it justice and will simply recommend that everyone read Lutheran Purgatory: Pastors Without Calls8, by Rev. Alan Kornacki, Jr. The book can be found on For those who can’t afford it, it’s available for free download here, but if you can afford it please buy a copy.

According to the State of the Synod provided by LCMS headquarters one could assume that, while we may have a few issues and our numbers are declining, we are still on track. I disagree. The truth is that the LCMS is in major turmoil. The truth is that the LCMS Generals have forgotten that we are the Church Militant and are in a significant battle right now. Some have gone AWOL (Absent With-Out Leave) while others have unfortunately become defectors. The AWOL types have decided to exercise political expedience by ignoring the significant error in the Synod. The Defectors have begun creating their own Doctrine and Practice.

Case-in-point: The FiveTwo Network is a district supported heterodox movement within the LCMS. They promote and facilitate laymen preachers in direct violation on AC XIV. FiveTwo has also stumbled across a long forgotten subcategory of eisegesis called homegrownegesis in which they generate their own language within the church.

What’s the real State of the Synod? The Synod is in disrepair and division. Step one to any problem is recognition.   The LCMS Generals refuse to collectively recognize, and admit, the error. We have to keep the pressure on them. When they bury their collective heads in the sand, get a shovel.


  1. Lutheran Witness, Nov 2014, Vol. 133, No. 11, p. 1,3.
  2. Lutheran Witness, Nov 2014, Vol. 133, No. 11, p.1.
  3. Lutheran Witness, Nov 2014, Vol. 133, No. 11, p.3.
  4. Lutheran Witness, Nov 2014, Vol. 133, No. 11, p.4-5.
  5. Lutheran Witness, Nov 2014, Vol. 133, No. 11, p.4.
  6. Lutheran Witness, Nov 2014, Vol. 133, No. 11, p.5.
  7. Lutheran Witness, Nov 2014, Vol. 133, No. 11, p.8-9.
  8. Lutheran Purgatory: Pastors Without Calls, by Rev. Alan Kornacki, Jr. (© 2014, Alan Kornacki, Jr.)

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