Flashback Posts working again

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Because people have commented on it, I felt the need to announce a change to the BJS homepage.

The “Flashback” feature was originally designed to bring some of our “oldie but goodie” posts to your attention periodically. Unfortunately for a year or so it’s been broken — one of the WordPress upgrades broke it; I didn’t notice it immediately, and by the time I noticed it it was too late to try to figure out which update broke it.

Anyway, I finally got fed up with it and researched the problem and am pleased to announce that it’s now fixed!

You will notice the 6th box down on the homepage has the Flashback graphic on the left side of it. Each time the homepage is replotted, 10 random posts are pulled from the “Flashback” category and cycle through that box. You can use the left/right buttons to go to a post you want if you see one you want to read more of.

You can also review all of our Flashback posts by clicking here or on the Flashback graphic to the left of the slider.

We would welcome recommendations for other posts that should be placed in this category .. since it has been non-functional for so long we haven’t even attempted to classify any new posts, and we didn’t do a complete survey of all our posts when we initially came up with the idea at our last redesign of the website. I’m sure we have many posts written since we first created this blog in June of 2008 that would welcome a reread. Of course, I’m sure there are some posts that we’d all rather forget about, but that the life of a blog.

Thanks for your attention, and a very blessed Reformation celebration to you!

 

P.s. sorry to all those who “complained” about it not working .. yes, I read your comments; I just couldn’t fit the time in to dig into the code to figure out what went wrong.

 

 

And .. for your enjoyment, here’s a duplicate of the flashback slider as seen on the homepage:

 

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The Call Process Primer

The best pastor is the one God has sent you.
The best pastor is the one God has sent you.

Calling a new pastor is a great and glorious occasion.  It can however be a hard time as well.  Your congregation is going through a lot of things after losing its pastor.  There is grief in many situations at his departure. There may be some who are glad.  To make matters worse everyone seems to get an opinion on what should happen next.

The following are some general thoughts/opinions/suggestions/clarifications about the Call Process.

First of all, you will want to be familiar with your congregation’s constitution and bylaws to see the procedure that needs to be followed.  It may be very specific, but could also be generic.  Whichever it is, you will want to follow it to the letter.

Your District President will likely want to be involved in the process.  The call process is your congregation’s call process.  It is not the District President’s process.  Follow your Constitution and Bylaws.  The Call List normally involves the input/counsel of the District President (and normally it should), but it does not always have to.  Here is the exact section of the LCMS Bylaws which spells out the congregation’s responsibility and also District’s in regards to calls (District Bylaws cannot contradict these).  Please note the only requirements are that you seek counsel of your District President (2.5.1) [the exact definition of “counsel” is not known] and that you call a man who is on the clergy roster of the LCMS (2.5.2) or follow the appropriate call process for calling from the seminaries.  That is the congregation’s responsibility to follow for its continued membership in the LCMS.  Anything else is recommendation or advice only.

2.5  Calling Ministers of Religion by Congregations

2.5.1       Congregations shall seek the counsel of their respective district presidents when calling ordained or commissioned ministers.

2.5.2       Congregations that are members of the Synod shall call and be served only by (1) ordained ministers who have been admitted to their respective ministries in accordance with the rules and regulations set forth in these Bylaws and have thereby become members of the Synod; (2) candidates for the pastoral ministry who have satisfied the qualifications and requirements for assignment of first calls by the Council of Presidents acting as the Board of Assignments; or (3) ordained ministers who are members in good standing of church bodies that have been formally recognized to be in altar and pulpit fellowship with the Synod when agreements for such calls are in place.

2.5.3       Congregations that are members of the Synod shall call only (1) commissioned ministers who have been admitted to their ministries in accordance with the rules and regulations set forth in these Bylaws and have thereby become members of the Synod; (2) candidates of LCMS colleges and universities who have satisfied the qualifications and requirements for assignment of first calls by the Council of Presidents acting as the Board of Assignments; or (3) commissioned ministers (or those holding positions comparable to commissioned ministers) who are members in good standing of church bodies that have been formally recognized to be in altar and pulpit fellowship with the Synod when agreements for such calls are in place.

2.5.4       Congregations that violate these requirements and persist in such violation shall, after due admonition, forfeit their membership in the Synod.

(the LCMS Handbook can be found at lcms.org or a PDF copy: 2013 LCMS Handbook_January_12_2015_v2)

There are really two directions which a call can go out to – the field and the seminary.  The process changes based upon which type of call you want to pursue.  Calling from the seminary involves an application for a candidate (a man ready to be ordained) and follows the bylaws involving the seminary and the Council of Presidents placement procedures.

Calling from the field will follow more of what I describe below with nominations, sorting through the mix, and finally calling.  Calling from the field indicates that the man you want to call is already ordained and on the roster (Minister of Religion – Ordained [we use IRS language]) of the LCMS.  This man could already serve a congregation or could be on what is called “candidate” status.  Much has been written on Candidate (formerly CRM) status, but to put it simply – a “Candidate” who is already ordained is a man ready and willing to serve an LCMS congregation.  The rhetoric used about “damaged goods” or whatever about a Candidate is a violation of the 8th Commandment and should be rebuked.  There are many reasons men may end up as candidates, but their official LCMS status says they are ready, able, and willing to be actively serving congregations as pastors.  If such a man was unfit for the ministry he would be removed from the roster (which is the job of the District Presidents).

There are different things which may be brought up in the way of counsel from District Presidents.  These things are I believe brought up with the best of intentions, but may not serve the best interest of the congregation – getting a regular, faithful pastor sooner rather than later.  Also, they tend to increase the length of pastoral vacancies (and in general the shorter the vacancy the better).  Things like Intentional Interim Ministers might be brought up.  In my opinion they are not a good option because of the temporary nature of their call, which is rather muddy when considered against the lifelong nature of a Divine Call (here is a good presentation paper on the topic of Interim Ministry).  If there is reason to try an interim, why not just call a pastor who can help and stay rather than a man who is there for a bit and then gone?  Having a regular, faithful pastor is the best (and simplest) option for any congregational situation.  Similarly there are numerous self-studies or inventories or surveys which can be done in the congregation.  This may provide some information as to the condition of catechesis in the congregation, but not much more.  In my opinion they delay the best thing for a congregation – a regular, faithful pastor serving among God’s people.

Usually there is a time when the congregation takes nominations from its own members.  This can be a very good thing.  Some members may ask other pastors for input or names.  They may be familiar with pastors from their travels. They may be familiar with pastors from the internet.  The #1 quality you want in any pastor is faithfulness to the Scriptures and Lutheran Confessions.  Sadly, in a Synodical situation such as ours, some research about candidates may be necessary.  The internet can very helpful in seeing the kind of pastors that are faithful shepherd types.  Do a search for each pastors name and read some of his writings (Google Tip — put quotes around his name to find the specific pastor if it is a common last name).  These names may be submitted to the counsel of the District President (remember it is still the congregation’s call process) and often will make it onto the official Call List for the call committee and congregation to consider.  If the District President removes names from the nominations it is permissible to ask why the names were removed (sometimes reasons may be that the pastor has just taken another call, sometimes it may be an arbitrary rule like a pastor has to serve 3 years in his first parish [an unwritten rule which by no means has to be followed if the congregation desires to call a rostered clergyman with less than 3 years parish experience]).  If he adds names to the ones nominated it is permissible and a good suggestion to ask why the names were added (in my present parish situation, the District President added some excellent names that had not come up from the congregation).  In the end, so long as the congregation follows their constitution and bylaws with regards to process, consults the District President and then calls a man who is on the clergy roster of the LCMS, they can call anyone.  Remember, it is the congregation’s call process.

Usually a formal Call List will be established with the help of the District President.  When you start getting official information about pastors, each one will have two documents, one will be called a SET (Self-Evaluation Tool).  This includes a number of questions and answers on hot topic issues in the LCMS (worship practices, closed communion stuff, women and men, etc.).  These answers will vary greatly.  Plain speech is good to read, but often answers are not so plain.  Some pastors will fill every space with their beliefs/practices, some will be brief.  Some specific, some generic.  Some theological, some political.  It can be a hard document to read, and even harder to read between the lines.  An opinion on the SET – The SET is a sad piece of evidence to the diversity of beliefs and practices allowed in the LCMS.  It should be unnecessary, but since there is such diversity, it is necessary to be able to try to ascertain the beliefs and practices of the man you want to call.

See a blank SET form here (PDF).

The second document is the PIF (Personal Information Form) which is usually completed by both the pastor and his own District President.  This has more basic family and living situation information with some theological/practical commentary by the District President.  The commentary (often in the form of rating) is usually on strengths and weaknesses of the pastor.  There is also some commentary (rating) on worship and preaching.  The commentary (rating) is very subjective to the individual District President’s own views of things (or possibly another District President’s view if it has not been updated), which can be helpful if you know that District President, less so if you don’t.  The PIF comes from the candidate pastor’s District President, which of course may not be the same as your own.  Some tips for dealing with the subjectivity of the ratings could include asking the District President how many times he has heard the pastor preach (sometimes they may not have heard a sermon but still have to give a rating), what his last sermon was like, what does he mean by rating him as “liturgically flexible”, etc.  Clarifying questions like those can help get a sense for what the District President really means (after all, that way of rating things isn’t exactly fair to them either).

In more recent years, interviewing has become another way to sort through the candidates for a call.  Interviewing in my opinion should be unnecessary, but in such an environment of the LCMS today it may indeed be necessary.  This and the SET (and section of commentary on the PIF) are things that testify against us and we should grieve over their need to be used.

From these things and your requirements for the call process (from your congregation’s constitution and bylaws) the Call meetings should proceed.  The best result for any Lutheran congregation is to extend a call to a faithful candidate and have him accept it and work to begin his new pastorate serving God’s baptized people in your congregation.  Some things along this:

After a congregation extends (or issues) a call after the appropriate procedure, that pastor will need to be notified and information will need to be sent (Call Paperwork, other information [the sky is the limit here, newspapers, school information, extra congregational information, Constitution and Bylaws, anything to help in the deliberation process]).  The pastor will begin his deliberations of the call (using prayerful reason).  If he serves a congregation already he will need to notify them (this can be a time of anxiety in his current congregation).  It is also an anxious time in the pastor’s family (if he has one).  In the era of facebook and so forth, it is best to keep the call private until it has been publicly announced to the congregation he currently serves.  He may set a deadline to his deliberation, but he may not (there is no hard and fast rule).  If he accepts the call, he will begin his transition to your congregation (wrapping up at his current congregation, moving, installation dates, etc.).  If he doesn’t accept it (returns the call), your congregation will have to have another Call meeting to extend the call to another pastor.

This process is one that is a great and glorious, although as you can tell it has any number of opportunities for sin and temptation as well.  Work together as a congregation, knowing that the Lord God who sends out laborers into the harvest is going to send a man to serve Him in your congregation.

Here are some other tips while this process is ongoing:

Pray.  Prayer is essential to the call process.  God has commanded us to pray in all situations, and even better, He has promised to hear our prayers.  We expect God to provide pastors for His flocks (having a pastor is a need of the baptized, God supplies our needs).  We are tempted to become anxious or despair.  Prayer teaches us who is in control.  It is an exercise of faith and piety.  It helps us guard against the evil one.  Pray for your congregation, your future pastor, his family, his congregation (if he is currently serving), your District President and Circuit Visitor, your congregational leadership, your vacancy pastor and whoever else is involved in the process.

Love each other.  The call process can quickly bring up divisions in congregations.  Love covers a multitude of sins.  Forgive one another as God in Christ has forgiven you (see the Lord’s Prayer in the Small Catechism).

Study the Scriptures.  The Pastoral Epistles (1 and 2 Timothy; Titus) are a great resource when thinking about pastors.  The texts about the pastoral office are also a great read.  Here are just a “few” that you will likely hear at an ordination (a pastor’s first call) or installation (at any pastor’s subsequent call):

Matthew 5:13-16; Matthew 9:35-38; Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-18; Luke 22:24-30; Luke 44-49; John 10:11-16; John 20:21-23; John 21:15-17; Acts 20:28; Romans 10:14-17; 1 Corinthians 4:1-5; 1 Corinthians 11:23-25; 1 Corinthians 15:58; 2 Corinthians 3:4-9; 2 Corinthians 4:6-7; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21; 2 Corinthians 10:17-18; Ephesians 4:11-12; Philippians 1:3-8; 1 Timothy 3:1-7; 1 Timothy 4:6-7; 1 Timothy 4:14-16; 2 Timothy 1:13-14; 2 Timothy 2:1-5; 2 Timothy 3:14-17; 2 Timothy 4:1-5; Titus 1:5-9; Hebrews 13:17; Hebrews 13:20-21; 1 Peter 5:2-4; Joshua 1:7-8; Psalm 20:1-2; Psalm 27:1, 14; Psalm 84:7-8; Isaiah 6:1-8; Isaiah 40:9-11; Isaiah 42:1-9; Isaiah 52:7-10; Jeremiah 1:4-9; Jeremiah 15:19-21; Ezekiel 33:7-9; Ezekiel 34:11-16; Daniel 12:3.

Study the Catechism.  Here two parts are very important (study it all – its very short and even the most “mature” Christians ought to study it regularly).  The Fifth Chief part on the Office of the Keys and Confession (absolution) and the Table of Duties on Preachers and Hearers.

Prepare yourselves to receive your new pastor.  Yes, this means planning for helping with the move and settling in.  Yes, this means congregational celebrations.  Yes, this means being a big help to your pastor’s family wherever you can (in the ways they would receive help also in mind).  Yes, this means helping your pastor get settled and encouraging him as he settles in (he will be going through a strange “bitter sweet” time as he has left people dear to him and is glad to be now serving you).  Perhaps you would want to help him by having some of the congregation’s current traditions and practices written down so he can know those things that are free (for an article on this click here).  The absolute best way to receive your pastor is to attend Church (including his installation) and Bible studies.

Augsburg Confession, article V

1 So that we may obtain this faith, the ministry of teaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments was instituted. 2 Through the Word and Sacraments, as through instruments, the Holy Spirit is given [John 20:22]. He works faith, when and where it pleases God [John 3:8], in those who hear the good news that God justifies those who believe that they are received into grace for Christ’s sake. 3 This happens not through our own merits, but for Christ’s sake.

4 Our churches condemn the Anabaptists and others who think that through their own preparations and works the Holy Spirit comes to them without the external Word.

Concordia : The Lutheran Confessions, Edited by Paul Timothy McCain (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2005), 33.

 

Augsburg Confession, article XIV

Our churches teach that no one should publicly teach in the Church, or administer the Sacraments, without a rightly ordered call.

Concordia : The Lutheran Confessions, Edited by Paul Timothy McCain (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2005), 39.

Unionism: What Is It?

In the comments section of Friday’s post by Pastor Rossow titled “Per DP’s Advice LCMS Pastor Cancels Participation in Joint Service but Still Supports Unionism,” arguments were made that having a joint worship service with congregations of other fellowships, such as Methodists, or Baptists, or Presbyterians, is not unionism.  Holy Scripture, our Confession, Lutheran theologians, and our own synodical statements disagree with that position.  Here are a few quotations from across the centuries to illustrate the point.

From the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod Constitution:

“Article VI Conditions of Membership

“Conditions for acquiring and holding membership in the Synod are the following:
1. Acceptance of the confessional basis of Article II.
2. Renunciation of unionism and syncretism of every description, such as:
a. Serving congregations of mixed confession, as such, by ministers of the church;
b. Taking part in the services and sacramental rites of heterodox congregations or of congregations of mixed confession;
c. Participating in heterodox tract and missionary activities.” [emphasis added]

The official position of the Synod from “Brief Statement of the Doctrinal Position of the Missouri Synod”:

“28. On Church-Fellowship. – Since God ordained that His Word only, without the admixture of human doctrine, be taught and believed in the Christian Church, 1 Pet. 4, 11; John 8, 31. 32; 1 Tim. 6, 3. 4, all Christians are required by God to discriminate between orthodox and heterodox church-bodies, Matt. 7,15, to have church-    fellowship only with orthodox church-bodies, and, in case they have strayed into heterodox church-bodies, to leave them, Rom. 16,17. We repudiate unionism, that is, church-fellowship with the adherents of false doctrine, as disobedience to God’s command, as the real cause of the origin and continuance of divisions in the Church, Rom. 16,17; 2 John 9.10, and as involving the constant danger of losing the Word of God entirely, 2 Tim. 2,17 ff.”

From the Christian Cyclopedia on the LCMS website:

“Religious unionism consists in joint worship and work of those not united in doctrine. Its essence is an agreement to disagree. In effect, it denies the doctrine of the clearness of Scripture.” (Quoted from The Concordia Cyclopedia, St. Louis, 1927)

From the 1974 CTCR document “A Lutheran Stance Toward Ecumenism”:

“C. On the Congregational Level

“When congregations become members of the Synod they voluntarily accept certain limitations of their autonomy. For the sake of good order and the benefit of all, congregations consent to regulate the exercise of their rights according to a compact freely entered into and mutually accepted. Congregations, for instance, agree to be served only by such pastors as have been certified for placement by the Synod’s seminary faculties and who are members of the Synod. Similarly, congregations agree that they will practice fellowship only with those congregations which belong to a church body with which the Synod is in fellowship. Once such an agreement has been made, confusion and disorder result when congregations act
independently by practicing selective fellowship. The Synod has, therefore, on several occasions stated its position on selective fellowship. Key sentences from a resolution adopted in 1969 give the Synod’s position:

“WHEREAS, The members of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod have voluntarily united in a fraternal agreement to determine fellowship relations with other church bodies or congregations, not individually but through convention action (Handbook 1.21) . . .
   ” Resolved, That the Synod urge all its members to honor their fraternal agreement with all members of the Synod by refraining from practicing altar and pulpit fellowship with congregations of church bodies with whom the Synod has not yet declared fellowship.

“D. On the Individual Level

“1. In the exercise of their office pastors will follow synodical policy. Except in emergency situations and in such cases where their action cannot rightfully be construed as disregard for pure doctrine, for the responsibilities of their office, or for the concerns of their brethren in the ministry, pastors will ordinarily commune only those individuals who are members of the Synod or of a Lutheran church body with which the Synod is in fellowship. Pastors will not participate in joint worship services with pastors of denominations with which the Synod has not established fellowship relations. When pastors affiliate with ministerial alliances or associations, they will participate in such activities and service opportunities as do
not imply ecclesiastical fellowship where it does not yet exist.”

From the 2001 CTCR document “The Lutheran Understanding of Church Fellowship”:

“The promise not to participate in worship services with those not in church fellowship with the LCMS applies particularly to pastors, who are the official representatives of both their congregations and the LCMS. Their solemn commitment to the scriptural and confessional position of the LCMS must be their guide and will supersede personal feelings or preferences. Trust among LCMS pastors, congregations, and leaders allows everyone to carry out their commitment to fellowship practices to which they have mutually agreed. This trust is undermined when these commitments, as they are set forth in the official documents of the LCMS, are openly violated. Public knowledge of such violations strains relationships and makes reasoned discourse of real issues difficult. This in turn hinders pastors from exercising discretion in unclear situations.”

The following quote is taken from the September 18, 1917 edition of The Lutheran Witness. It points out that the LCMS would have no joint worship services with other Lutheran synods on the Reformation Jubilee, because there was no unity in doctrine. Obviously, this refusal to hold joint worship services with other Lutheran synods would also apply to other non-Lutheran denominations:

“Joint Reformation Celebrations. — Many of our congregations will take part in joint celebrations of the Jubilee. The churches of the Synodical Conference in many centers of population will gather in imposing union services. But there will be no participation of our churches in general Lutheran or Protestant gatherings.
“The reason for this position of our Synod has been stated before, but in view of the approaching celebration demands restatement.
“We hold it to be self-evident truth that, where there is no unity of faith, there ought to be no unity of worship. If the texts of Scripture which forbid unionism (for example, Rom. 16, 17; 1 Tim. 6, 3 ff.) do not apply here, they are devoid of meaning.
“We hold it to be a truth that may be readily verified by investigation that there are real differences in doctrine between the synods composing the Synodical Conference on the one hand and, for instance, the Ohio Synod, the Iowa Synod, the General Synod, the General Council, and the United Synod of the South, on the other. [The predestinarian controversy is mentioned.]
“…There are other differences, as, for instance, on the Sabbath question and other adiaphora (liquor question, etc.). The evolution doctrine is taught in some church-papers. For a full discussion of these differences and others read Prof. Bente’s book: Was steht der Vereinigung der lutherischen Synoden Amerikas im Wege? which contains a sufficient array of facts to convince the Christian reader that there are very real and effectual bars to Lutheran union. But where there is no unity, there can be no joining worship nor joint celebrations of the Jubilee.
“The question is not: What do individual Christians in these bodies believe? but this: What is the public and official stand of these synods in matters of Christian doctrine? We believe that there are true Christians in all these Churches, because the essentials of the Gospel are still preached. Even so there are, no doubt, children of God in the Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, even in the Episcopal and Roman Catholic Churches. But all these Christians are permitting men who have departed in some point from the Gospel of Christ to determine the public and official doctrine of their bodies. These Christians are misled. They follow blind leaders. We may make every allowance for human weakness, and thus, in a measure, condone their fault. We recognize the stress of circumstances. But we cannot do one thing: we cannot enter into relations of fellowship with them so long a they do not obey the word of Jesus and proclaim their undivided adherence to His teachings.
“These words are not written for the purpose of instructing our own people, to whom all these statements are commonplaces, but for the benefit of the outsider. No Missouri Synod Lutheran rejoices in the fact of division. But he recognizes the fact. And by dispassionately exhibiting this fact, we appeal to the conscience of all good Christians who are now separated from us because of affiliation with men who teach falsely, and would have them remove the offense from their midst in order that there may be Lutheran unity throughout the length and breadth of the land.
“There is no other possibility of the removal of division except by speaking plainly to Christians concerning the error which they support by their membership. In the performance of this duty we must not grow negligent, not even in this year of Jubilee.”

Hermann Sasse, “Concerning the Unity of the Lutheran Church,” Letters to Pastors, No. 25, translated by Matthew C. Harrison:

“True ecumeny, which sees the one church of Christ wherever the means of grace are yet preserved—through which the Lord calls to His church—even beyond the boundaries of one’s own ecclesiology, stands opposed to false ecumeny, which treats Christians of all denominations as brothers in faith. This false ecumeny tries to make visible and tangible that which we humans cannot see and touch, the church as the people of God, as the Body of Christ, as the temple of the Holy Spirit. This false ecumeny changes the ‘article of faith’ about the church into an ‘article of sight.’ It understands the unity of the church, which only the Holy Spirit can create and maintain, as something which we humans can produce. And it tries to produce this unity, in that it works to realize the one faith, the one baptism, the one sacrament of the altar as a compromise of various forms of faith, various interpretations of baptism, and various understandings of holy communion. In so far as it does that, this false ecumeny overlooks [the fact] that the various understandings of the means of grace are not only different possibilities of understanding the truth, but rather that soul-murdering errors and church-destroying heresy also hide among them. True ecumeny sees this. Therefore, it is able to recognize the true unity of the church only there, where it recognizes the one correct faith, the one correct baptism, the one communion of the Lord Christ. True ecumeny asks, therefore, not first about unity, but rather about truth. It knows that where the true church is, there, and there alone, is also the one church. In this sense it understands the high priestly prayer of the Lord, too, in which the ‘that they may all be one’ is linked inseparably with ‘sanctify them in Your truth; Your Word is the truth’ (John 17:17, 21).”

Wilhelm Loehe in Three Books About the Church:

“Let the great ‘It is sufficient’ with which the Augsburg Confession insists upon unity in doctrine and sacrament be our war cry, our watchword, our banner.”

Dr. Franz Pieper, from “Unity of Faith”, an essay delivered at the 1888 Convention of the Synodical Conference, translated by E.J. Otto:

“We dare not allow any other concept of unity to arise among us than the unity of faith which is in harmony with Scripture, the agreement in all articles of Christian doctrine.”

Charles Porterfield Krauth, from “The Right Relation to Denominations in America,” in Lutheran Confessional Theology in America:

“When the Lutheran Church acts in the spirit of the current denominationalism it abandons its own spirit. It is a house divided against itself. Some even then will stand firm, and with the choosing of new gods on the part of others there will be war in the gates. No seeming success could compensate our church for the forsaking of principles which gave her her being, for the loss of internal peace, for the destruction of her proper dignity, for the lack of self-respect which would follow it. The Lutheran Church can never have real moral dignity, real self-respect, a real claim on the reverence and loyalty of its children while it allows the fear of the denominations around it, or the desire of their approval, in any respect to shape its principles or control its actions. It is a fatal thing to ask not, What is right? What is consistent? but, What will be thought of us? How will the sectarian and secular papers talk about us? How will our neighbors of the different communions regard this or that course? Better to die than to prolong a miserable life by such compromise of all that gives life its value.”

Johann Gerhard, quoted from Cyberbrethren, trans. by Rev. Dr. Benjamin Mayes:

“Not just any unity of faith and doctrine is a mark of the Church, but only the unity of true faith and doctrine, that is, of prophetic and apostolic doctrine, for that alone is of immovable and perpetual truth. Therefore the unity of faith that is a mark of the Church must be based on one foundation of doctrine: the apostolic doctrine. Accordingly, the Church is said to be ‘built upon the foundation of the prophets and apostles’ (Eph. 2:20). It is said about the heavenly Jerusalem that “its wall has twelve foundations and on them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb”( Rev. 21:14). Accordingly, in Zech. 8:19 ‘truth and peace’ are joined. In fact, truth is set ahead of peace so that we may understand that God approves of only that peace, concord, and unity which enjoys the foundation and bond of truth. John 8:31: ‘If you remain in My Word, you are truly My disciples.’ John 17:21: ‘That they may be one in Us.'”

Johann Michael Reu, from the pamphlet “In the Interest of Lutheran Unity'”:

“We find this attitude of tolerance quite frequently among unionists. It is often used to assuage a troubled conscience, one’s own as well as that of others; for the unionist declares that every one may continue to hold his own private convictions and merely needs to respect and tolerate those of another. This attitude is totally wrong, for it disregards two important factors: (a) in tolerating divergent doctrines one either denies the perspicuity and clarity of the Scriptures, or one grants to error the right to exist alongside of truth, or one evidences indifference over against Biblical truth by surrendering its absolute validity; and (b) in allowing two opposite views concerning one doctrine to exist side by side, one has entered upon an inclined plane which of necessity leads ever further into complete doctrinal indifference, as may plainly be seen from the most calamitous case on record, viz., the Prussian Union.”

Dr. Theodore Graebner, from his essay “The Leprosy of Unionism”:

“No one believes that any Missouri Synod man would dare to propose at this time (1918) official synodical collaboration with the Reformed sects in church-work. That is a late development at which one does not arrive at a jump. On the other hand, the danger is ever present that on the specious plea of advancing the cause of “Lutheranism,” we be tempted to enter into fellowship with members of synods Lutheran in name, but only partly Lutheran in doctrine and practice. There is danger that we get a taste of applause and flattery; that we become eager for “recognition” as a great church-body; that we compromise our doctrinal stand for the purpose of meeting emergencies. And the time to become aware of that danger is NOW.

“It is a bad sign when hearers become angry at their pastor for “preaching against other churches.” It is a worse sign when pastors, bowing to such disapproval, begin to withhold instructions concerning the errors of the sects. It is a most alarming symptom when pastors and parishioners fraternize. . . with those who represent a different conception of Lutheranism. It becomes denial of the Truth when they associate with such for the purpose of “making church-work more effective” or “keeping the Lutheran Church on the map.”

“As we love our church, let us so teach our people so that they will fear the contagion of error as they would fear to breathe the air of a small-pox hospital. Let us exhibit to them the damnableness of false doctrine. Let us preach Luther on this point, who saw only the work of Satan in every deviation from the truth of Scripture. If our people learn to recognize every false doctrine as a snare of the devil, spread to catch victims for hell, they will not need to be held with a rein lest they stampede into unionism. .. .

“Let it be understood that any undertaking or activity which is, in effect, the doing of religious work jointly with those from whom we ought, according to Scripture to separate, is unionism. Here, if ever, the old sayings must apply: “Nip the evil in the bud.” Our first duty is that of watchfulness. There is no higher duty now because there is no greater danger.”

Dr. Martin Luther, quoted in F. Bente’s Historical Introductions to the Lutheran Confessions:

“Whoever really regards his doctrine, faith, and confession as true, right, and certain cannot remain in the same stall with such as teach or adhere to false doctrine.”

A Statement on Justification from the ACLC

A while back, the Evangelical Lutheran Diocese of North America adopted a statement on the doctrine of justification that decisively rejected the teaching of objective/subjective justification – which had been an earmark of the “Synodical Conference” tradition of Lutheranism. The pastors of the Association of Confessional Lutheran Congregations, which up until now has been in fellowship with the ELDoNA, have now prepared a formal theological response to the ELDoNA document, which is available on the ACLC website. I am not a member of, or a spokesperson for, the ACLC, so I would not expect to be discussing their document very much in this forum. But since their document does address a subject that I have discussed on this blog in the past (here and here), and since those previous posting garnered quite a bit of discussion among the readers of this blog, I thought that it would be of interest to those readers also to made aware of these developments, and of the ACLC document.

Why Christians Make the Sign of the Holy Cross (and a word on genuflection)

In The Small Catechism, Martin Luther encouraged Christians to retain the practice of making the sign of the cross. The Missouri Synod, following Luther’s advice, has encouraged Christians to continue making the sign 0310151243of the cross, notably at a number of places during the Divine Service. Several of these are indicated in Lutheran Service Book by the LSB cross symbolsymbol, though there are a number of places in the liturgy where Christians have crossed themselves that are not indicated in LSB (see #3, 5, 6, and 7, below). Before we look at why the cross may be made at these places, first a word on how to make the sign of the cross.

ChristusThe practice of crossing one’s self is an ancient practice and is derived from such passages as Deuteronomy 6:8, Ezekiel 9:4, Revelation 7:3, 9:4, and 14:1. The practice of tracing the cross on objects and one’s body is discussed by such church fathers as Tertullian (v. 6), Jerome (“Epitaph Paulae”), and Cyril (par. 36). There are differences in tradition on how to make the gesture, both with respect to the shape of the hand and also what direction to trace the cross from shoulder to shoulder.

The three main variations of finger position are 1) to use two fingers (either index & middle or thumb and index) to indicate the two natures of Christ; 2) to bring the tip of the thumb, index, and middle finger together to signify the three persons of the Trinity; or 3) to extend the thumb, index, and middle finger while folding the ring and little finger back against the palm, thus indicating both the Holy Trinity and two natures of Christ (as seen in the mosaic to the right).

The other consideration when making the sign of the cross is the question of which direction to make the motion. There is (almost) agreement regarding the first two steps, beginning at the forehead and then going down to the sternum (or navel, in the East). Then the question is whether to go from right to left, or from left to right. The right to left pattern appears to be the more ancient practice and is the method most commonly found in the Lutheran rubrics (it is also used by the Orthodox). Theologically, this follows from the biblical preference of right over left (sheep on the right, goats on the left [Matthew 25:33] and Jesus’ ascension to the right hand of the Father [Acts 5:31]). The left to right pattern is the dominant method in the Roman church and is a reminder that Jesus first descended into hell (as indicated by beginning with the left) before ascending to sit at the right hand of the Father.

Enough about procedure. There are various points in the liturgy where the sign of the cross may be made. The placement of the cross at these locations is not haphazard, but rather has theological significance. Much more could be said about this than what follows, but here are some thoughts to get you going.

  1. The sign of the cross may be made at the Invocation (“In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit). That, of course, is the Name into which Christians are baptized, and St. Paul teaches that it is into the death (cross) of Christ that we are baptized (Romans 6:3-5). To be “baptized into Jesus’ death” means all the benefits of the cross (forgiveness of sins, rescue from death and the devil, and eternal salvation) are applied to you personally in Holy Baptism. The first time the sign of the cross is placed on Christians is in Holy Baptism (“receive the sign of the holy cross both upon your + forehead and upon your + heart to make you as one redeemed by Christ the crucified”). Thus, it is especially appropriate to make the sign of the cross over yourself when the pastor speaks the baptismal Invocation, since to trace the cross on your body is to confess that the cross and all of its benefits are yours by virtue of Holy Baptism.
  2. Christians may also cross themselves during the Absolution when the pastor says, “I forgive you all of your sins in the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Note again the use of the baptismal formula, so everything that was said above about the Invocation also applies to making the sign of the cross during the Absolution. Jesus has not commanded us to re-baptize the repentant Christian after they sin. He has, however, given His Church the ability to forgive sins on earth (Matthew 16:19), which is the means by which we continually experience the cleansing benefits of Holy Baptism (see “fourthly” in Luther’s Small Catechism).
  3. The celebrant may also make the sign of the cross (with his right thumb) on his forehead, lips, and heart just prior to the reading of the Holy Gospel as a sort of prayer that he would know, say, and believe nothing except Christ crucified. This is reflected in the traditional prayer that is said by the celebrant just prior to the reading: “May the Lord be in my heart and on my lips, that I may worthily and rightly proclaim His Gospel, in the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”
  4. It is also appropriate to make the sign of the cross at the words “and the life + of the world to come” in the creed, for it is the cross which gives us the hope of everlasting life in the restored creation.
  5. Sometimes pastors will cross themselves as they begin their sermons while speaking the Invocation, since the Christian sermon is a proclamation of God’s saving Name (congregations may follow suit by crossing themselves and responding by saying, “Amen”). The comments in #1 and #2 above also apply here, since the sermon is, in many ways, an extended Absolution.
  6. Christians have also made the sign of the cross at the words “Blessed is He” during the Sanctus. Those words were spoken by the crowds on Palm Sunday as Jesus rode into Jerusalem on His way to the cross, thus the practice of crossing yourself at this time (Matthew 21:9). In addition to crossing themselves, Christians have also bowed during the Sanctus (more on that shortly).
  7. The sign of the cross may also be made at the words “deliver us from evil” (or: “from the evil one)” in the Lord’s Prayer (see the seventh petition). The rationale here is similar as it was for the Creed (see #4, above). The cross is that which fulfills this petition, delivering us from evil and giving us the hope of a blessed end.
    The Mond Crucifixion (Raphael) Notes especially the two angels catching the blood of our Lord in chalices, highlighting the connection between the cross and the Sacrament of the Altar
    The Mond Crucifixion (Raphael)
    Note especially the two angels catching the blood of our Lord in chalices, highlighting the connection between the cross and the Sacrament of the Altar
  8. Christians may also cross themselves during the Verba (“this is My + body,”; “this cup is the new testament in My + blood”) and the dismissal (“Depart + in peace”). At the altar, you receive the body and blood which Jesus gave and shed for you on the cross (see the Raphael painting at the left).
  9. Finally, the cross may be made during the Benediction (“and + give you peace”), for the peace and communion we have with God is possible only through the cross. Recall the song of the angels at the birth of Jesus (which we sing in the Gloria in Excelsis): “Glory be to God on high, on earth, peace,” (Luke 2:14).

Making the sign of the cross, while certainly not required, can be a very helpful practice and carries with it a great deal of theological significance. It is a reminder that in all things, “we preach Christ crucified” (1 Cor 1:23) and that the Christian life is one of bearing the cross (Matthew 16:24).

A Word on Bowing/Genuflecting:

In Ceremony and Celebration, Paul H.D. Lang offers the following comments on bowing and genuflecting:

Bowing and genuflecting are very closely related. A genuflection is merely a more profound bow. When genuflecting, one touches the ground with the right knee at the place where the foot was and then stands upright again at once in a continuous action. Bowing and genuflecting are reverences or, when directed to people, signs of respect. Giving form and expression to inner devotions, reverences help to make our worship meaningful and impressive. Books on ceremonies distinguish between head bows and body bows. In head bows, only the head is inclined. An example of this kind of bow is the one an officiant makes to the people at the response, “And with thy spirit.” In the body bow, the head and shoulders are bent forward. It is always made in expressing reverence to God, (61).

Christians have also sometimes bowed their heads whenever the name of Jesus is spoken and also when we speak of worship during the liturgy (“we worship Thee” in the Gloria in Excelsis and “is worshiped and glorified” in the Nicene Creed).

Christians may also genuflect during the Gloria Patri (“Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit”, which appears both at the end of the Introit and Nunc Dimittis), and also while singing the words of the seraphim from Isaiah’s vision of God in the Temple in the Sanctus (Isaiah 6:1-3). As an expression of reverence, it is appropriate to bow when the Divine Name is spoken (which reminds us of the importance of keeping God’s Name holy and using it rightly; cf. the 1st Petition & 2nd Commandment). The Sanctus (see also #6, above), with its related ceremonies of genuflecting and crossing, is particularly appropriate at this point in the Service of the Sacrament, for like the seraphim and the crowds on Palm Sunday, we are also in the presence of God (cf. Isaiah 6 & Matthew 21).

Christians have also bowed at the words “and became man” during the Nicene Creed. It is appropriate for us to bow as we confess the Incarnation, even as the magi fell down and worshiped the Incarnate Lord (Matthew 3:11).

Luther, in his typically colorful fashion, relates the following story about genuflecting during the Creed:

Colbert genuflectingThe following tale is told about a coarse and brutal lout. While the words “And was made man” were being sung in church, he remained standing, neither genuflecting nor removing his hat. He showed no reverence, but just stood there like a clod. All the others dropped to their knees when the Nicene Creed was prayed and chanted devoutly. Then the devil stepped up to him and hit him so hard it made his head spin. He cursed him gruesomely and said: “May hell consume you! If God had become an angel like me and the congregation sang: ‘God was made an angel,’ I would bend not only to my knees but my whole body to the ground! And you vile human creature, you stand there like a stick or a stone. You hear that God did not become an angel but a man like you, and you just stand there like a stick of wood!

Whether this story is true or not, it is nevertheless in accordance with the faith. With this instructive story the holy fathers wished to admonish the youth the revere the indescribably great miracle of the incarnation; they wanted us to open our eyes wide and ponder these words well,” (AE 22:105-106).

The most profound genuflection occurs during consecration and distribution as an act of worship to the bodily presence of Christ with us in, with, and under the bread and the wine. Communicants typically bend both knees (double genuflect) when receiving the Sacrament. A helpful discussion of the relationship between genuflecting and theology of the Sacrament can be found over at Gottesdienst.

LCMS prof calls maleness of Jesus/pastors “inconsequential” (by Pr. Charles Henrickson)

I came across an interesting blog article written by Dr. Matthew Becker, an LCMS clergyperson serving as a professor at Valparaiso University. The article is called “The Being of Adam, the New Adam, and the Ontology of Pastors.” In it, Becker is reacting to an article he read in the July 2011 issue of CTSFW’s magazine For the Life of the World, the article “What Is Mercy?” by Dr. Cynthia Lumley. Becker contends that Lumley’s article “contains assertions that are contrary to evangelical-Lutheran doctrine,” since Lumley says, “The very maleness of pastors is essential to the Holy Office in which they serve.”

Becker writes: “Contrary to Lumley’s Roman ontological-sacerdotalist view about the ontology of the pastor, the symbolical books of the Ev. Luth. church present the holy ministry chiefly (but not exclusively) in functional, dynamic terms, for the sake of obtaining and strengthening trust in the promise that God forgives people by grace for Christ’s sake through faith. Moreover, the symbolical books stress that ALL baptized Christians, both male and female, have the power and authority of preaching the gospel and administering the means of grace, although not all are well-suited or qualified for this ministry; for example, they might not be able to teach very well. Especially important is the confessional position that a called and ordained minister of Christ, whether male or female, acts in the place of God and in the stead of Christ. . . .”

Becker concludes: “Thankfully, the physical particularities of Jesus, including his gender, age, race, etc., are accidental, non-essential to his salvific work of reconciling Adam (‘human beings’) to God. The same principle is true for those who serve ‘in the stead and by the command’ of Christ today. Accidental attributes of the pastor’s being are inconsequential for the fulfillment of the holy office.”

And in one of the comments at his blog, Becker adds: “While the presbyteroi and episcopoi referred to in the pastorals were men, there are other NT texts that open the way for female pastors, as I have argued in several essays.”

What do you think of Becker’s arguments? Do you think that the maleness of Jesus and of pastors is “accidental,” “non-essential,” “inconsequential”? Do you think that the New Testament has passages that “open the way for female pastors”? When describing “the confessional position” on “a called and ordained minister of Christ,” does it make sense to add the words “whether male or female”?

The Athanasian Creed

(from Pastor Preus) I had an experience a couple of weeks ago which made me believe that the church and possibly even the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod is getting stronger and more vibrant. After Divine Services on Trinity Sunday a couple of people commented on how nice it was to say the Athanasian Creed. One person whimsically queried as to the liturgical propriety of saying this, the longest of the Ecumenical Creeds, on Sundays other than Trinity Sunday. She modestly averred that she made it a point not to miss church on the Sunday when the Athanasian Creed was spoken since she loved confessing it so much.

 

I have to confess that I was a bit unsure about whether this strongly Trinitarian creed could be used, say, on Easter, Christmas or the 21st Sunday after Trinity. Who ever heard of confessing the Athanasian Creed on just any old Sunday? But, before such musings got the best of me I did observe to myself how wonderful such a request was. Why?

 

First, it showed just how effective the patient teaching on liturgical customs can be. I remember the first time I used the Athanasian Creed in Church on Trinity Sunday. My people, who were tragically and inexcusable unaware of such a tradition, murmured and grumbled, “Pastor, it’s so long.” The testing of parishioner patience is risky business even only once a year, I thought. I can remember my feeble attempts to apologize and say something clever like, “It’s only once a year.” What a wimpy response. Such an answer accomplishes little except to reaffirm the silly and sinful thought that we ought actually to determine the length of the service based on our time pieces. God doesn’t look at His watch when you are talking to Him in prayer, so when He is talking to you during the Divine Service don’t you dare look at your watch. I learned later to say, “Yes, it’s long and beautiful and full of grace and the Spirit (swoon, sigh, look wistfully to heaven). It speaks the theology of the church. When we speak it we follow the tradition of the church.” Since I started responding more assertively (and with patient consistent resolve) I really cannot recall anyone complaining about its length. And now people are starting to want the Athanasian Creed more. That’s a positive sign for the church.

 

Second, the request to speak the creed more often shows that Lutherans really do love doctrine and sophisticated theology. The Creed tends to repeat itself with apparent disregard not only for the pressing time schedules of 21st century Americans but for their theological categories as well. Perhaps that’s because it was produced in the fifth century. It speaks to resolve theological issues which were quite current in the 3rd through 5th Centuries; Issues regarding precisely who God is, who He is not and how we must think of him. It speaks of the great Three in One whom we worship neither “confusing the persons nor dividing the substance” But how is this 1500 year-old creed relevant today? HMMM? Let me think. How long ago was it that we were discussing in our circles whether someone who prayed to “Allah,” the false nonexistent god of the Islamic world, is really praying to God? When was the last time you were in some church which claimed the name Lutheran and you did not hear the Trinitarian invocation or anything else particularly Trinitarian? I receive bulletins from my members who visit other churches which sometimes indicate the absence of any reference to the Holy Trinity during the worship hours of these churches. I can honestly say that I get a couple of questions each year indicating a desire to learn to talk about the unique persons of the Trinity properly. So I show them the Athanasian Creed. I don’t think I am wrong to believe that those who crave the Athanasian Creed are eager to assert the truth of precisely those issues which confront us today. And that is also a positive sign for the church.

 

In a day when so much is wrong with the organized church and even our church body, it’s nice to get fleeting but certain proof that the consistent teaching and use of liturgical customs is a worthy endeavor. But I still don’t know if it there is liturgical precedent for speaking the Athanasian Creed more than once a year.              

Divine Service — an Explanation

DS-ExplanationMany of you have observed the “Explanation of the Divine Service” pamphlets that are found in the pew racks at Bethany Lutheran Church in Naperville while attending a conference or event there.

The Brothers of John the Steadfast have worked with Martin Graphics to make a version of this pamphlet available to the church at large.  Martin Graphics prepared and printed a laminated, four-color version of the pewcard last month.

These pewcards have been so well received that a second printing has now been completed.  Some of the comments coming back to us are:

  • “We’ve always wanted to write something like this, but never had the time”.
  • “I’m thrilled with it — in addition to having it available as information for our visitors, I’m planning on having a 2- or 3- week Bible study, reading through this and expanding on the liturgy”.
  • “It’s well designed and fits nicely behind our hymnals”.
  • “These are great for visitors and members alike, and a good tool to help members learn why we worship the way we do”.

For more information about “The Divine Service — an Explanation”, or to order them, click here.

We’ve also received several comments asking if our pewcard can be customized for the historic Lutheran Order of Service, published as “Divine Service 3” in LSB, the Common Service in the WELS Christian Worship; and of course the Order of Holy Communion in TLH.  When we created the initial version we looked through all orders of service from the Lutheran Service Book (LSB) and attempted to come up with a version that fits most of them.  We are now actively developing this version customized for DS3.

 

We gratefully acknowledge the work of Pastor Timothy Rossow who developed the first version of this publication.

Sinful Removal of Pastors — Let me count the ways…

countingIf you or your congregation are considering taking that “vote” to remove a pastor (or using such a vote to coerce his resignation), check to make sure that it is for legitimate reasons (persistent adherence to false doctrine; great public shame and vice [scandalous conduct]; willful and real neglect [or inability to perform] of his office).  If you are an official involved in removing a pastor check also to make sure it is for legitimate reasons…

Here are some thoughts to consider if your pastor is not teaching falsely, living in scandalous conduct, or gladly neglecting his duties (or unable to do them) in relation to the Ten Commandments:

 

The First Commandment

Who is your god if you have no Scriptural reason to remove this pastor and yet vote to do that or assist others in doing it?   Where is your trust in such a situation where you are “firing” your pastor?  God says that he is not mocked in regards to the support and care for pastors (see Galatians 6), where is your fear of God?

 

The Second Commandment

What does a sinful vote of a Christian congregation do to God’s Name?  What does it do if something has no supporting Scripture behind it but we still call it a divine action (such as a divine removal or even a human removal of a divine call)?  Luther in the Large Catechism calls the propagation of false teaching the worst violation of the Second Commandment (it’s not just about cussing), how does the unscriptural removal of your pastor teach any truth?

 

The Third Commandment

Are you gladly hearing and learning the word of God while you are voting out the man God has sent to you to preach and teach it?  Just who are you sending away, the preacher or the One who sent Him?

 

The Fourth Commandment

Pastor are considered fathers in the faith, does willfully removing your pastor or aiding in it honor his position as a mask of God?  Does removing his livelihood and calling honor him, serve and obey him, or love and cherish him?  By throwing him out the door of your church are you despising him, one of the “other authorities” that Luther names in the Large Catechism?

 

The Fifth Commandment

How does removing the livelihood of your pastor help and support him in every physical need?  This only gets worse if your pastor has a wife and then even worse if he has children.

 

The Sixth Commandment

How does the church casting out the messenger that her head, Christ Jesus sent to her work into this mystery of Christ and His Church?  Do you think such a “divorce” brings glory to God?  Jesus says that the ones who reject those He sends will be rejected by Him.

 

The Seventh Commandment

How does removing your pastor rate in relation to protecting his possessions and income?

 

The Eighth Commandment

Given that men who are removed from calls bear a giant black mark on their professional record, just what do you think an unscriptural removal does for his reputation?  Does masking your vote under district approval or other reasons exemplify the truth or a lie?  How has your conversation been about your pastor?

 

The Ninth Commandment

How does throwing out your pastor help or be of service to him in keeping his house or property?

 

The Tenth Commandment

How does casting your pastor out urge him to stay and do his duty?  Are you guilty of coveting another “type” of pastor?  For ear-itching pastors, see the Second Commandment again.

 

So you have it – sinfully removing a pastor (or helping to do it) without Scriptural cause is a good way to reap the wrath of a jealous God upon the children for the sins of the fathers for the third and fourth generation of those who hate Him (if you doubt that unscriptural removal is not hating God, then reread the questions above).

Repent.  Stop the vote.  Stop trying to starve him out.  God takes no pleasure in it, nor does He desire to punish for it – but He is not mocked.  You will reap what you sow on how you treat His messengers.

Christ did not die for you to act however you please – He died to earn the forgiveness of your sins, a forgiveness given through time and space through the means of grace – which is exactly why He sent you your pastor to publicly preach, teach, and administer for your eternal good.

As a final note, any comment attempting to talk about “bad pastors” will be deleted for being off topic and an attempted deflection of the serious matter at hand.

Pew and Lutherans

(from Mollie) Gene Veith pointed the way to a few other bloggers who have been looking at the LCMS-specific numbers coming out of that massive Pew report on religion in America:

The survey found that only 84% are absolutely certain there is a god; 12% are fairly certain.
9% seldom go to church; 2% never do.
Only 42% said the Bible should be taken literally.
28% believe there is one correct way to interpret scripture.

I gather that the assorted bloggers thought these numbers were bad. Actually, I’m not so sure. The percentage of people not going to church is very low compared to other churches and it’s somewhat out of our line of thinking to expect sinful people to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy 100 percent of the time.

As for the other figures, I kind of think the questions are bad. I wrote a little bit about this elsewhere, but here is just one of the questions that Pew asked:

Do you think there is a heaven, where people who have led good lives are eternally rewarded?

How would you answer that question? Yes? No? I believe in heaven — I don’t believe in people in people who have led good lives.

Another question asked people if they believe in a “literal” interpretation of Scripture. We hopefully all believe the Bible is the word of God. But do you believe in a “literal” thousand year reign? Do you believe Jesus is literally a door?

I think the survey had some serious limitations. But what do you think of the results?

A Historical Review of the Relationship Between District and Synod, by August Suelflow, Summarized by Dr. Ken Schurb

Pastor Charles Henrickson passed along this timely summary of a report given to the synod back in 1961 when structural changes were being considered. It was written by LCMS historian August Suelflow and is summarized for us here by Dr. Ken Schurb, formerly the assistant to synodical president Al Barry.

As you read Dr. Schurb’s summary of this report notice how things have changed in our synod. Notice that there was formerly much more emphasis on doctrinal supervision. Notice how the role of the circuit counselor (originally called the “circuit visitor”) has morphed from a doctrinal supervisor to an administrative promotional man for the district and synod, a great loss indeed. Notice too that the synod formerly paid the salaries of its college and seminary teachers. These days, they have all been forced to support themselves financially setting the stage for individualism and a lack of unity. It used to be the case that each district was responsible to pay dues to the synod so that the proceedings of their district convention, particularly the doctrinal paper, be sent to all other members of synod so that all would know what was going on in each district. (Notice that those doctrinal papers were reviewed by the St. Louis Seminary faculty for doctrinal purity. Today we have a beauracratic board – the CTCR – doing the work that should be done by our seminaries.) This practice of inter-district communication has long been lost. As a matter of fact, district conventions do not even have doctrinal papers presented anymore. Look for these and other changes as you read this insightful paper.

The synod of the past was far from perfect but there is a clear sense that the synod of old made doctrinal purity and theological unity top priorities. Let’s remain vigilant by learning more about what is going on in the synod today so that we can be informed participants. BJS will be providing more resources along these lines in the weeks to come.

Be sure to check out comment #16 on the “Being Steadfast Includes Being Vigilant” string for some more excellent resources on LCMS structure. Thanks to Rev. Jack Bauer for pointing these out for us. Pastor Wilken has given a firm endorsement for the “Three Walls” article listed there.

Also, if anyone has any news about proceedings at the convocation in St. Louis, please post your news and reflections here.

Pastor Rossow

Light from Light — Pictures from the 2015 BJS Conference

Thanks to BJS reader Rick Techlin for posting this pictoral review of the BJS conference on his blog, Light from Light:

 

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The Brothers Of John the Steadfast held their annual conference in Naperville, Illinois on February 20 & 21, 2015 A.D.  It was an excellent conference with a lot of insightful presentations, good food, entertainment, and enjoyable fellowship.

The Brothers of John the Steadfast is a group of mostly LCMS (Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod) laymen and pastors dedicated to promoting Confessional Lutheranism.

The conference was held at Bethany Lutheran Church and School.

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The theme of the 2015 conference was, “When Heterodoxy Hits Home.”

All the pictures in this post are from that conference.

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The first session was with Pastor Bryan Wolfmueller.  His topic was: “The Obligation and Temptation of Dealing with False Teaching.”

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One of the challenges of taking photos at this conference was the new candle holders that Bethany had installed down the center isle.  I tried to incorporate them into the photos as best as I could.

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Audio presentations from the 2015 Conference can be found on the Brothers of John the Steadfast website.  Video of the conference can be found at this link: on the BJS website.

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Bethany Lutheran’s unique stained glass windows can be seen in the background.

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This stained glass window depicts God’s gift of Woman to Man.   (God was depicted in the window above this one, and was the source of the yellow rays of light that blessed our original parents).

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Pastor Rossow introduced the next speaker.  Pastor Rossow was an excellent and gracious host.

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The second speaker on Friday was Pastor Clint Poppe of the ACELC.

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The topic of Pastor Poppe’s presentation was, “The Barking Dog Approach.”

Dinner followed, and then there was the evening prayer.

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In commemoration of the martyrdom of Saint Polycarp, the liturgical color for the evening prayer was red.

On Friday evening, the Brothers of John the Steadfast gathered in private homes for the “No Pietists Allowed” parties.  Then the next morning on Saturday was the “Manly Man’s Breakfast” at Bethany.

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On Saturday morning, Pastor Joshua Scheer introduced the Reverend Larry Beane.

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Pastor Beane’s presentation was entitled, “Doctrine And/Or Practice?”  During his presentation, he maintained that the entire Book of Concord was descriptive.

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Pastor Hans Fiene was the second speaker on Saturday.  Pastor Fiene is the creator of The Lutheran Satire.  He spoke about when satire is appropriate to use in defense of the faith.

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The last speaker was Pastor Todd Wilken from Issues, Etc.  Pastor Wilken spoke about our need for perspective, patience, and perseverance.

Please go to the Brothers of John the Steadfast website, and check out all theaudio presentations from the 2015 conference.  Or check out the videos of the conference by clicking here.

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The Lord blesses his people when we gather to hear, discuss, and ponder his word and Sacrament.

Thank you to all who were involved in making this an enjoyable conference.

Thank you.

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Additional Pictures

Click here for additional pictures from the 2015 BJS Conference.

Click here for additional pictures from all the previous BJS Conferences(2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, & 2013).

God’s blessing to you.

Steadfast in Education: Why Lutheran Schools and Why Lutheran Teachers?

roseWhy do we need Lutheran schools? Why do Lutheran schools need Lutheran teachers? Though these are simple questions, their answers get at the whole reason that the extensive system of Lutheran schools exists in the first place. Lutherans in North America have been school-builders from the beginning. In fact, the opportunity to establish schools apart from the purview of the State was at least as enticing to these first Lutheran immigrants from Europe as freedom from a state religion.

But why? After all, schools are a lot of work. All the planning, budgeting, instruction, assessment, recordkeeping — operating a school requires immense sacrifice of time and money on the part of the congregation. Yet in spite of all that, Lutherans (especially those most interested in a confessional identity) have insisted upon operating schools all across the country. So what drove them to establish all these and work tirelessly to keep them open?

Put simply, it’s all about the gospel. Lots of other sorts of schools can teach lots of different things. Any school can teach children to behave and to be good boys and girls. Any school can dig deep into the wisdom of the ancient Greeks — in fact, there is much we all could learn from the founders of Western civilization. Any school can teach citizenship and character and morality. But all of that is of the Law, and we Lutherans know better than anyone that while the Law is good and wise, it lacks the power to save.

It is wise for us to ask the question “What problem is the school designed to solve?” Naturalists like John Dewey would say that the primary problem that a school is designed to solve is that of ignorance of the world. We Christians, in contrast, might concede that a child ought to know something of the world, but that knowledge is of secondary importance when compared to the gospel, which alone can save us from death. In fact, ignorance is not the greatest problem facing man — death is. All worldly knowledge cannot fix death. Only the gospel of Jesus Christ saves sinful man from sin and death. Lutheran schools do teach math, grammar, and history — and many of them do so quite well. But above all, Lutheran schools proclaim this gospel — that Jesus Christ has taken away death and sin and hell by His atoning death. Many students in Lutheran schools don’t get to hear that on Sunday morning. Many of the children in Lutheran schools are members of the congregation who attend the Divine Service faithfully — but they still need to hear what God has done for them in Christ.

Lutheran schools are in the business of preparing young people for the Last Day when the dead are raised and the saints in Christ stand with Him in eternal peace and bliss. The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews asks, “How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?” Christians must contend with fallen flesh, the world, and the devil — all of whom would snatch the precious gift of eternal life from us were it not for the Spirit’s work through this gospel to keep us firm in the faith until that Day.

But why Lutheran? After all, there are lots of other Christian schools and Christian teachers. Why does Lutheran identity matter? Simply put, it is when Lutheran schools are staffed with Lutheran teachers that the gospel has the best chance of being proclaimed in its purity. (For the record, the word “Lutheran” here refers more to one’s actual confession than simply on which roster one’s name appears.) To be sure, there are lots of Christian schools and Christian teachers and they are dedicated and sincere. But any adulteration of the gospel runs the risk of the Christian doubting — or worse, in causing him to trust someone or something other than Christ for his eternal salvation. The world thinks this is unloving, but it’s why Lutheran schools ought to be for Lutheran teachers. No one else confesses justification the same as the Fourth Article of the Augsburg Confession. No one else’s theology is designed to reflect salvation by grace alone through faith alone in all its articles. No other theology ought to be taught in our schools, and the way to ensure this is twofold: First, the pastor ought to oversee the theological curriculum and instruction of the school (if not outright do all the instruction himself). Second, teachers ought to hold to the confession of the Evangelical Lutheran churches (and remain diligent in the study of that confession) so that any time theological matters are discussed in class, students can be directed to the saving gospel of Jesus Christ.

They seem like simple questions, and they are. But like so many simple questions, they matter a lot. Lutheran schools, at their best, deliver the gospel to students and strengthen them for the Last Day when the dead are raised and the saints stand with the Lord. And it’s precisely for that reason that Lutheran schools ought to care about an unapologetically Lutheran identity.

Small Group Addiction – Exactly what is the Connection? by Pr. Rossow

In the last few months I have heard two different stories of folks thinking about moving from a Church Growth parish to a confessional one. What was the reason they could not make the switch? In  both cases they could not leave their small group. So I ask, what exactly is the connection to the Church in these situations. It looks to me like there is a small group addiction.

We have asserted on this site that small groups are not good for the church and these stories support that point. In each case the individual sensed that it was right to move from a heterodox church (mixed teaching) to an orthodox church (right teaching) but could not break the tie with their small group. So the small group has inculcated a belief that church is about making connections to other people.

Now church is certainly about making connections to other people but that is secondary to right teaching. Connections to other people combined with mixed teaching puts one’s soul in peril. In addition, most small groups are organized around Bible study. That begs the question, who is the teacher in the small group? Teaching the Scriptures is no easy task just as brain surgery is no easy task. Brain surgeons have temporal life held in balance by the scalpels they wield. The pastor holds something far more important than temporal life in the scalpels of his Words. He holds the eternal souls in balance and so with a surgeons skill he operates on the heart making sure that he does not slip the slightest to the left or the right but always holding the proper balance of law and Gospel. I have sat in many small groups and witnessed botched spiritual surgeries that either scar the soul with the law apart from the Gospel or leave the cancer intact because of a false desire to administer a candy-coated Gospel apart from the law.

So do the right teaching parishes without small groups leave people without connections? Not at all. Walther teaches that churches should have societies so that Christians can socialize. Before the Rogerian psychology of the 60’s and 70’s messed us up, the church was quite happy having Walther league, couples clubs, card clubs, bowling leagues, and the like. Prayer and Bible study was understood to be done at the divine service. These groups were for fun and socialization. Add to the mix of humanistic psychology a little bit of false Reformed and Pentecostal theology of levels of sanctification and you have people thinking that they need small groups to really connect to God through others and have some kind of meaningful spiritual experience. Connecting to God through Christ’s body and blood in the Divine Service is apparently not enough for these emotion starved, humanistic psychology desiring people and so they become addicted to their small groups and cannot leave for a right teaching parish.

Connections to other Christians are important but they are secondary. They are not the Gospel. The Gospel is the Gospel, the forgiveness of sins. That happens in the Divine Service through Holy Absolution, Holy Baptism and Holy Communion. Now that is something to be addicted to!

THE Issue: AC XIV and Lay Ministry

Also found on facebook:

 

Ecclesia semper reformanda est – I don’t know who coined that phrase, but it’s ever so true. And always has been – see Galatians. In this sense, there has never been a golden age and we should not be disheartened by the mess our little patch of the una sancta finds herself in. The Missouri Synod is indeed by schisms rent asunder, by heresies distressed: the worship wars, Seminary Lite (SMP), a few charismatics here, a few would be women-ordainers there, usw.

So where to begin? What should Confessional Lutherans be focusing on in Missouri? I appreciate the work that folks like the ACELC are doing – but we need focus. You can’t move on all fronts at once. We need an issue that captures the attention of all Confessional Lutherans and one that is theological (not political), clearly based in the Scriptures and the Confessions, and as objective and black and white as possible.

It just so happens that we have this issue: Missouri’s 1989 revision of the Augsburg Confession sans Article XIV (it is the shortest article, so it’s a small revision, right?). “Lay ministry” – the intentional, “licensed,” and ongoing practice of having men who have not been called to and placed in the Office of the Ministry administer the Sacraments and preach the Word in our parishes. This is simply contrary to the Scriptures, contrary to the Confessions, and contrary to all the practice of historic Christianity.

If Confessionals cannot unite to undo this wrong, then what is the point of being Confessional? Let us make 2013 the Year of AC XIV.

Gottesdienst is getting the ball rolling with a one day conference on AC XIV and Lay Ministry in Kearney, Nebraska, on July 25th. While the whole Synod is affected by this problem, the Great Plains and the Northwest are the epicenters. Pastors, lay people, district officials, and the lay ministers themselves are invited and encouraged to attend.

Especially if you are in Nebraska or Kansas, please make plans to attend. If you know folks in those areas, tell them to attend. If you are for or against the Missouri Synod’s present practice, come and join us to study this issue. Here is the full conference information:

AC XIV and Lay Ministry
Zion Lutheran Church, Kearney, NE
July 25, 2012

Schedule
9:00 – Registration (Coffee and rolls)
9:30 – Matins
10:00 – Presentation and breaks
12-1:30 – Lunch (at local establishments of your choice)
1:45 – 3:00 – Panel Discussion
3:00 – Gemuetlichkeit

Registration fee: None. The offering at Matins will defray Zion’s costs.

To register email Rev. Micah Gaunt mgaunt2000 at yahoo dot com.

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Concordia University Plan for the Future? A consolidated Concordia?

LCMS_corporate_sealWhat I mention in this article is my opinion and thinking out loud.  It was prompted by the Synod President’s comments after the same-sex marriage decision of the Supreme Court (see his interview with Issues Etc.).  He stated that student loans may become a problem which would greatly affect the Concordia University System.  Here is a way around it I offer as merely a starting idea (which would of course require all sorts of expertise to actually make happen).  I know many people are tied to their colleges and they have served a good purpose in the past, but if we are looking at losing the whole system, it may behoove us to be forward-thinking enough to prepare to sustain something for the good of the church.

Time to disconnect from the government’s provisions (that money comes with strings attached, and we will see them very clearly in the future).  This means likely that we could sustain only one University/Seminary on our own and keep it viable.  The solution then is to sell off/rearrange/reallocate the Concordias.

The trick would be to pick which one to keep.  An obvious suggestion would be Concordia Austin as it resides in a state that has shown itself more protective of religious freedom than others.  Another probable situation would be the Fort Wayne campus, which has room to expand, but also has some stipulations that it reverts back to the original donor if Synod tries to close it down or sell it.  (there would be financial gain from selling Austin).  There are probably other properties with similar arrangements, but I don’t know of them.

The sell off would be interesting.  We have a lot of premium property.  There is a lot of money that could be raised for the support of the new single Concordia University and Seminary.  This would still be in keeping with the purpose of the Concordias because the goal is to have one that is sustainable without government funding.

The rearrangement of staff could also be good.  There have been problems reported from the Concordias in regards to teaching and the need for more Lutheran teachers.  A consolidation of universities into one allows for the “cream of the crop” to become the new faculty.  Imagine a theology faculty built from the best of the two seminaries and Concordias?  Other departments would benefit as well from such a centralization.  The result would be a quality Lutheran education taught by outstanding Lutheran teachers no matter what major.

The reallocation is the biggest question mark for me.  No doubt, many gifts and endowments have been given to the various Concordias.  How they all get moved to the new one is a legal matter I have no expertise over, but someone out there has it, and honestly the point of this article is to get people thinking about how to get “lean and mean” as a Church, starting with one of the areas that will likely be hit first.

Think of other possibilities.  The headquarters for the LCMS could also be housed in this new campus, and the current corporate headquarters could be sold and its proceeds could help support the church’s work in the new place.

The changing landscape of American culture should stir us to forward thinking about how to prepare.  If we wait to react on many of these kind of things, it will be too late.
This is all just ideas.  The Synod Convention is an opportunity for some of these ideas (or others) to be brought forward to be acted on (even if study is necessary as a first step).  Please feel free to comment with ideas about the Concordia Universities below.

 

 

ACELC — Why Closed Communion?

Another great article found from the ACELC — (found at their site here (pdf))

In our conversations with many of you we have sensed a need for a resource to explain our Biblical practice and the theology behind Closed Communion. In response we have just added two individual pamphlets that you may use in your own congregation for this purpose. If you would like to take a look at them, you can find them here or later under the Teaching Materials tab on the toolbar at the top of each page.

You may use them as your own however you like, personalize them for your own setting or situation, and, please, without any attribution to us. We pray you will find this resource to be helpful.

Yours in Christ,
The Congregations and Associate Members of the ACELC

 

Here is the text from the second bulletin insert.

 

Is It Closed or Close?
The first question you might have is, “Why closed Communion?” Many, particularly in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, have heard it called “close Communion.” It was explained to them along the lines of a close family meal. That is nice sounding, but it has nothing to do with the idea of not letting some people commune at your altar. This practice comes from the early church. There, the deacon would declare that all those not in fellowship with their altar should leave. Then he closed the door.

A Historic Practice that Still Goes on Today
In the first four centuries of the Church, the rule was this. If you believed it really was the Body and Blood of Christ on your altar, you practiced closed Communion. If you did not believe it was the Body and Blood of Christ really, actually present on your altar, you practiced open Communion, that is, you let people decide for themselves whether or not they should take Communion. An analogy to these practices in life today is found at your pharmacy. The pharmacist keeps under lock and key, certain medicines. You cannot have them unless you have a prescription. That is because those medicines are the real deal. If you take them wrongly, if you take them when they are not meant for you, they can harm you or even kill you. Doesn’t St. Paul say the same thing about misusing the Holy Communion? “For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many among you are weak and sick and a number of you have fallen asleep” (I Corinthians 11:29-30). A faithful pharmacist keeps his or her real, powerful medicine under lock and key and doesn’t distribute it to everyone who wants it. What about sugar pills? Who cares who takes a sugar pill? It can’t do anyone any harm and who knows it might do them some good. If you don’t believe the Body and Blood of Christ are really in Holy Communion, if the living Lord Jesus doesn’t come into contact with anyone, why should you care who takes Communion? But if you believe it’s really the Lord Jesus Christ present under the forms of Bread and Wine, that’s another matter, isn’t it?

But Shouldn’t it Be up To Me to Decide if I go to Communion?
“Ah,” some of you who know your Bible are saying, “He didn’t quote verse 28, the one right before St. Paul’s warning about communing wrongly. Verse 28 says, A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup.” Yup, that’s what it indeed says, but St. Paul wasn’t talking about the Methodists visiting the Lutherans, or the Presbyterians, Catholics, or Episcopalians visiting the Lutherans. He was writing to members of his own Church, not visitors from different Churches! I do say to my members what St. Paul said to his, “Let each of you examine yourselves, and so come to the Lord’s Table.” I don’t say that to visitors and neither did St. Paul.

What Would Open Communion Say to Our Kids and Potential Members?
Say, for a minute, that I was to commune Catholics, Orthodox, or high Anglicans. Lutherans admit that these denominations also have the Real Presence. Or, say I was to commune those who are members of denominations who don’t teach that Christ is really present on their altar in the Holy Communion though they themselves believe He is. What I would be saying is that visitors to my Church don’t need to be instructed in our faith before communing, but our children who have grown up in this Church do need to be instructed before communing. Wouldn’t that be nonsense? What point would there be in making people go to instruction classes before joining our Church? If I communed Catholics who pray to Mary, Baptist who don’t baptize their babies, Presbyterians who believe Christ only died for some, how could I stop someone from joining our Church who believed these things?

The Difference Between Fellowship and Friendship
There is one critical distinction you must make, the distinction between friendship and fellowship. Fellowship is not between individuals but altars. Fellowship is not between my heart and your heart but between your altar and my altar. Friendship is about you liking me and me liking you. Fellowship is about whether or not we believe, teach, and confess the same things.

We Take Your Confession of Faith Seriously
Since I can’t look into you heart to see what you really believe, I can only go by the confession you make with your mouth. When you say, “I’m a Presbyterian,” or, “I go to St. Mary’s Catholic Church,” you are making a confession of faith. Lutherans and Presbyterians, Lutherans and Catholics, Lutherans and whatever denomination, do not believe, teach, or confess the same things. We can’t pretend we do. To go to the same altar together says one of two things: Either A) neither of us take our confession seriously. Or B) we’ve agreed to disagree. If a person believes his or her doctrine is in agreement with the Word of God, does he or she ever have a right not to take it seriously or to agree to disagree? If you believe that your doctrine is in agreement with the Word of God, where does God give you permission to set it aside or to join it with a contrary teaching?

But What if I’m a Member of the ELCA?
“What about me? I’m a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. I commune at Missouri Synod Churches all the time.” I believe you do, and that is sad. The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod has never at any time been in fellowship with the ELCA. The ELCA was formed when the Lutheran Church in America, the American Lutheran Church, and The American Evangelical Lutheran Church merged in 1988. For a short time the LCMS was in fellowship with the ALC, but in 1983 the LCMS broke fellowship with the ALC citing serious doctrinal differences. These doctrinal differences persist and have grown worse in the ELCA. By 1998 the ELCA entered into full fellowship with the Reformed Church in America, the United Church of Christ, and the Episcopal Church. The first two have never wanted anything to do with the Body and Blood of Christ really being present on their altar. Furthermore, the ELCA as a church body publicly supports abortion, homosexuality, and women pastors. If you don’t believe me, just read the books they publish.

Because you won’t commune me does that mean you think I’m going to hell?
Of course not. I don’t commune some of my own children, and I don’t think they are going to hell. I regard all who belong to the Holy Christian Church by faith in Jesus Christ as saved, forgiven, and part of the Body of Christ. When I don’t commune you, I am saying one of two things. Either A) you have not been instructed in the Lutheran Faith or B) you belong to an altar that believes, teaches and confesses contrary to the faith believed, taught, and confessed at our altar.

Christian Men and Women Can Disagree Without Sending Each Other To Hell
I have found that those who take their confession of faith seriously do not want to commune at an altar that stands for something they don’t believe in. If you are not sure what you believe, if you are not sure whether your conscience is being governed only by God’s Word, then you should study these things. Compare what your Church teaches with what the Bible says. Compare what we teach with what the Bible says. Join the one that agrees with what the Bible says.

Okay, so prove to me your practice of closed Communion is found in the Bible?
Good question. I could argue from the fact that when Jesus instituted this Meal He only invited those whom He had instructed during the previous 3 years. He didn’t even invite His own mother! I could argue from Romans 16 where St. Paul lists those house churches with whom He is in fellowship. I could argue that the Bible commands Christians to separate from those who hold to teachings that are contrary to what the Bible teaches, and St. Paul warned not about BIG doctrinal errors but the small ones saying in I Corinthians 5:6, “Don’t you know a little yeast ferments the whole dough.” Here are some other Bible passages for you to consider: Romans 16:17, “I urge you fellow Christians to watch those who cause disagreements and make people fall by going against the teaching you learned. Turn away from them.” II Thessalonians 3:15, “If anyone will not listen to what we say in this letter, mark him, and don’t have anything to do with him, so he will feel ashamed. Don’t treat him like an enemy, but warn him like a brother.” Titus 3:10,11, “A man who chooses to be different in his teachings warn once, and a second time, and then don’t have anything more to do with him because you know such a man condemns himself.” II John 9-11, “Anyone who goes too far and doesn’t stay with what Christ has taught doesn’t have God. If you stay with what He taught, you have the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and doesn’t teach this, don’t take him into your home or greet him. If you greet him, you share the wicked things he does.” Matthew 7:15, “Beware of false prophets. They come to you dressed like sheep, but in their hearts they’re greedy wolves.” I John 4:1, “Dear friends don’t believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see if they are from God. Many false prophets have gone out into the world.”

Where Do I Find Out More?
Instruction in what our Church teaches begins in August and January each year. These classes meet from noon to 1:30 PM on Sundays. The class takes about 14 weeks to complete. All with questions, a desire to know more, or who think they might like to join our fellowship are encouraged to attend.

A Pastor’s Resignation Letter – A Warning for the LCMS, by Pr. Rossow

Below is a letter of resignation from a pastor in the LCMS. It came our way and we feel it is important news for our readers and a helpful warning for us all.

By publishing this letter we are not endorsing the action of this pastor. We do not claim to know all the ins and outs of this situation but we have experienced enough doctrinal foolishness in the LCMS to recognize a warning shot when we see one. We completely understand his frustration and can imagine all that he says to be the case with maybe one exception. This pastor says he found no confessional, brotherly support in the LCMS. That has not been our experience. Are there large pockets of little or no support? Yes, and Pastor VonMehren was apparently in one of those but there also larger pockets of great support and we hope that the posts on this website are proof of such.

We are glad to see this pastor not lay his frustration entirely at the doorstep of President Harrison, Like Pastor VanMehren we are pleased with the leadership and work of President Harrison. Thanks to President Harrison and his team good things are happening in the LCMS to restore purity of doctrine and faithfulness of practice. The pace may not be the same pace as you or I might pick. Some of us would want things to happen faster and some even more deliberately than the current pace but overall, we are being steered in a good direction.

So we submit for your edification and as a warning shot over the bow of the battleship Missouri the heartfelt and accurate letter of a frustrated, former LCMS pastor. May this letter further egg us on to uphold pure doctrine and faithful practice.

Pres. Matthew Harrison
Int’l Center, LC-MS
1333 South Kirkwood Rd.
St. Louis, MO 63122-7295

22 May, 2012

Dear President Harrison,

Hope all is well with your family, health and your service to Christ’s people. I write to inform you of a decision that I have been compelled to make by both circumstances and conscience, a decision that will bring delight to my current and past district presidents, as well as my current and past circuit counselors. I am moved to tender my resignation from the clergy roster of the LC-MS effective the date of this letter. As with the painful eventuality that many have the misfortune of experiencing, a divorce, the end of a slowly dying marriage, I grieve; not for what was, but for what should have been.

I have served in the LC-MS for 15 years and I have finally had enough of, on the one hand, the open heterodoxy in both word and practice that is not only tolerated, but promoted and encouraged in the LC-MS. On the other hand, I tire as well from being treated worse than a heathen infidel by those who deceitfully claim to be “servants of servants.”

I was recently forced to resign from a parish I served for 8 years, Emmaus Lutheran, Redmond, OR for no reasons. I was charged or accused of absolutely nothing, not a single reason was brought to my attention as to why I needed to resign. Even when directly asked, those responsible for this travesty would just shrug their shoulders and give no response. Yet, when it happened, my district “servant of servants”, with no reason given, no communication attempted or made, no letter, no phone call, no email, no contact whatsoever, put me under discipline effectively terminating my career.

The circuit meetings I have attended have been nothing but a shameful waste of time. Not only do the pastors not engage in any theology, casuistry or brotherly support or admonition, several seem to delight in nothing other than sheer buffoonery. I do not exclude the circuit counselors (“circuit clownselors”).

There still has been no indication that Missouri recognizes the public sin of Dr. Benke, nor that it ever will. Faithful pastor’s have no friends in Missouri. They and almost exclusively they take their career and Calling in hand caught between the all too frequent viciousness of goats in their own congregations and the lying hypocrisy of other “brothers” and their “servants of servants” in their district offices. It has been and is open warfare against faithful shepherds as those whose father is the devil work to subvert and destroy them.

The Holy Ghost indeed calls and gathers sinners into His Christian church. Unfortunately, they then begin industriously building their Towers of Babel a.k.a. institutions (synods). They then begin serving “the company” rather than Christ. All with the best of intentions of course. Missouri is the victim of her own “success.” Too many pastors have purchased their peace and retirements with obsequies service to “the company.” On the other hand, too many in the pew agree, eschewing any semblance of honor and respect for the Holy office and the catechesis that should be coming from it. Added to that is the aforementioned deceit and treachery of “ecclesiastical supervisors.” I suppose if monies to district came through and at the pleasure of pastors rather than congregations, there would be a sudden and drastic turn of affairs in the relations between pastors and district presidents. Then, all the “company men” would stand in gaping wonderment, declaring gleefully, “Look at what the Spirit did; the Spirit, O the spirit!” In the meantime, Missouri gladly ignites itself and would have gone down in flames had you not have had the God blessed faith, integrity and spine to put out the blaze.

I do thank God for you and what God has and is doing through you. Ever since the first  Emmaus Conference you attended with the presidents of the WELS and ELS I have led my then congregation Emmaus in prayers every Sunday for all three of you. May God bring about a (what needs to be) massive upheaval of renewal and restoration within Missouri.

All of the sins and folly I have described herein that I have seen and experienced within Missouri appears to be starkly absent in the ELS which I am colloquizing into. Brothers are not shy of either supporting or admonishing one another; they actually do theology at their Winkles and act respectably. The Lutheran Confessions are actually known, believed and put into practice. There are no parasitic district offices and little to no “company” (at least as far as the local pastors and congregations are concerned) to lure men away from Christ and into the service of “the company”; they issue no grey flannel suits like Missouri does.

Again, to the delight of my district presidents, past and present, and my circuit counselors, past and present, I bid Missouri a sad but free adieu.

May god continue to forgive me my tongue which is all too often too sharp and for a faith that is all too often weak and insufficient with a patience that is at times entirely absent. May He also give to you and those working with you His continued blessing of strength, courage, integrity and health, both you and all your family’s. God’s blessing!

______________________

Pastor Randy VanMehren
Grace Lutheran Church
4125 SW Salmon Ave
Redmond, OR 97756

cc: Mr. Paul Linneman
Mr. Peter Pagel
Pastor Randall Ehrichs
Pastor Doulas Fountain
President John Moldstad
Pastor Steve Sparley
Pastor Glen Obenberger
Mr. Warren Schumacher
Mr. John Luther

Distinguishing Between Doctrine and Life

This is a re-post from October 2014 that reflects Luther’s teaching on how to deal with false doctrine and its teachers.

 

Luther

“Doctrine and life must be distinguished. Life is bad among us, as it is among the papists, but we don’t fight about life and condemn the papists on that account.” (LW 54:110)

Dr. Luther spoke these words at his table conversations with his students and friends in 1533. He pointed out how John Wycliffe and John Huss had attacked the papacy in the late Middle Ages because of its corruption and immorality. The papacy’s doctrine, not individual popes’ morality, is the central issue for Luther. He believed it was his calling to refute false doctrine and teach true doctrine. Why? Luther states:

When the Word remains pure, then the life (even if there is something lacking in it) can be molded properly. Everything depends on the Word, and the pope has abolished the Word and created another one. With this I have won nothing else than that I teach aright. It’s the teaching that breaks the pope’s neck. (LW 54:110) [Emphasis added]

Do these statements mean that Luther did not care about how Christians lived? Simply put, no. However, Luther understood that true doctrine (the Word) will correct faulty living. Luther understood the weaknesses with which even believers continue to struggle. He also knew that only the right teaching of God’s Word could overcome those struggles.

In a sermon for the Fifth Sunday after Epiphany on Colossians 3:12-17 Dr. Luther addressed the relationship of doctrine and life. He exhorted Christians to demonstrate their compassion to all people. True Christians associate with sinners and demonstrate God’s love. God does not deal with sinners according to the strictness of the Law and neither should Christians. Those who require absolute perfection in Christians are hypocrites who do not understand God’s love and compassion. However, Luther asserts that Christian love should not tolerate false teachers or their doctrine. Therefore, he concludes, “A defective life does not destroy Christianity; it exercises it. But defective doctrine—false belief—destroys all good.” (Sermons of Martin Luther, Trans. Nicholas Lenker, Vol. 2, p. 80.)

Luther spoke similarly regarding kindness. This virtue should mold the entire life of a Christian. Those who possess kindness defer to others and attract all people with gentleness and sympathy. However, kindness has its limits in relation to false doctrine. Luther stated forcefully:

But the liberality of kindness is not to be extended to false doctrine. Only relative to conduct and works is it to be exercised. As oft before stated, love with all its works and fruits has no place in the matter of unsound doctrine. I must love my neighbor and show him kindness whatever the imperfections of life. But if he refuses to believe or to teach sound doctrine, I cannot, I dare not, love him or show him kindness. According to Paul (Gal. 1:8-9), I must hold him excommunicated and accursed, even though he be an angel from heaven.” (Lenker, Vol. 2, p. 81)

This statement clearly demonstrates Luther’s understanding of how Christians should oppose false teachers. Christians must demonstrate kindness, forgiveness, and meekness toward sinners and bear with one another’s faults. However, Christians must never abide false teaching because tolerating it in the church is not true love at all.

Video Presentations from BJS 2015 Conference

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We are pleased to announce the videos are now available from the recent Brothers of John the Steadfast 2015 Conference held at Bethany Lutheran Church in Naperville, IL on Feb 20-21st. Thanks to Peter Slayton for helping getting these recordings ready and published.

To view them on youtube click here to view all 7 videos.

To listen to the audio presentations, click here (it may be easier to listen to these files if you have a slow internet connection)

The videos are listed below in order; the conference schedule can be found here.

Session 1: Pr. Bryan Wolfmueller, “The Obligation and Temptation of Dealing with False Teaching”
 

 

Session 2: Pr. Clint Poppe, “The Barking Dog Approach”
 

 

Vespers Sermon: Pr. Chris Hull, “Confessing in confidence”
 

 

Session 3: Pr. Larry Beane, “Doctrine And/Or Practice?”
 

 

Session 4: Pr. Hans Fiene, “The Use of Snark in Lutheran Confession”
 

 

Divine Service Sermon, Pr. Joshua Scheer, “Work to be done, work that is done”
 

 

Session 5: Pr. Todd Wilken, “Despite What You’ve Heard, the LCMS Is Not a Lost Cause”
 

What to do in the congregation concerning the LCMS?

LCMS_corporate_sealSo with the news of the LCMS inability to deal with one of its most flagrant dissenters since the 1970s, it is sure to be an issue that the people of God need to learn about.  One of the best things about the seminex time was the increase in laity knowing the issues and the truth of the matter.

So what can be done locally in the parish?

There will be some to suggest the political avenue: candidates, elections, resolutions, memorials, etc.  This is fine, but it is not the congregational answer.  It is also the answer which continues to show limited success since the system itself is starting to get in the way of faithful church practices.

I would suggest bringing the issues of the LCMS into your parish in the form of special Bible Studies.  A few months ago I began this in my parish.  Do we talk the dirt of the LCMS?  No.  We have gone through the Constitution, which allowed for plenty of teaching of our theology, what it means, and what it looks like.  Have we discussed aberrations and violations of the Constitution (like the clause about exclusive use of doctrinally pure hymnals?), yes, but the tone of the studies does not have to be “rainy day”.  There are some really good things to teach about when you teach about the LCMS.  Our history, our theology, our practices all come up.  Face it, the laity are not ignorant on these things.  They travel, they have family in the LCMS in other places.  They see the mess and experience it firsthand.  They can sense the dissonance when publications like the Lutheran Witness teach good stuff while other publications from RSOs teach other stuff.  They can sense that something just doesn’t quite fit.

One of the most helpful things in the discussion has been the ACELC study documents.  They point out some of the issues certainly, but they also collect the Scriptures, the Confessions, and stances of the LCMS on these issues.  It is a great repository of our confessional teaching that relates the teachings to our practices.  They teach what we have believed and still believe.  The ACELC video “If not now, when?” is also helpful as an overview of the ten issues the ACELC has identified to address.

One thing that I have remembered to remind the people of through this is that our Lord Jesus Christ is ascended to the right hand of the God the Father Almighty.  This has meaning as we look at the Church on earth.  He who was crucified but is risen also now rules over all things for the good of the baptized.  It is easy to get wrapped up and bound up into Synodical intrigue and the mess of ecclesiastical unsupervision that goes on, but that often leads to the temptation to despair.  Despairing in Christ is no good at all.  Despairing of your trust in princes is good (even ones who wear collars and claim churchly office), for Christ is still Lord of His Church (this is a Lutheran belief, if you want to trust a man, try the papists).

Pastors – take the extra time to teach more.  Teach the few who will come.  Teach the many.  In season and out of season.

Laity – take advantage of the time to be taught.  Show up. Listen.  Ask Questions.  Lutheran teachings are still treasures for the soul.

One warning I would issue – in your teaching make sure to not overstress the issues at hand.  From seminex we got a whole bunch of folks who believed that THE Lutheran distinctive was an “inspired, inerrant” Bible.  While we believe this, it is not the center of what we confess.  From this overemphasis, there were some who used that as a litmus test for joining churches and found fellowship with churches like the Assemblies of God possible.  A contemporary example would be overemphasizing liturgy to the point that people think Eastern Orthodoxy is a good option.

So have your studies.  Talk it out.  Teach.  Learn.  Pray.  Encourage.  Warn.  Rebuke.  These are good things.  And whatever happens, know that Jesus Christ is Lord.  The Evangelical Lutheran Church still gets its life from Him.

Unsung Steadfast Heroes of Past LCMS Battles, by Pr. Walt Otten

(Editor’s Note: Pastor Otten writes the BJS regular column “Steadfast Lessons from the Past.” The columns are archived here. Walter Bouman, well known liberal, of whom he writes here left the LCMS and became an ALC pastor in 1977. He died in 2008. The lesser known pastors and laymen that brother Otten brings to our attention are the real heroes.)

 

“Brother Rossow you want two columns a month under the theme STEADFAST LESSONS FROM THE PAST?”

 

His reply, “Yes, old man, just dig into your files!”

 

That digging revealed those who were “steadfast” in the past.

 

The March 19th, 1967 issue of THE LUTHERAN WITNESS REPORTER indicated that the Board of Control of Concordia Teachers College of River Forest, Illinois was considering giving tenure to Dr. Walter Bouman, a member of the faculty. The REPORTER indicated that the Board of Control was asking for information from the church at large concerning Dr. Bouman.

 

Two years earlier THE LUTHERAN WITNESS REPORTER reported on a presentation that Dr. Bouman had given at the Northwest Indiana Pastor’s and Teacher’s Conference held at Valparaiso, Indiana. The conference dealt with the theme “Evolution and/or Creation.” Besides Dr. Bouman two pro evolution professors from Valpo were participants, as well as Dr. John Klotz, Dr. Paul Zimmerman and Professor Rusch, all creationists. The REPORTER article included the words, “In his theological analysis Dr. Bouman advanced arguments supporting the thesis that the conflict in the evolution   issue is not posed by science or by the nature of the Bible texts or by the position of the Lutheran Confessions, but ‘by a theological opinion   about the nature of inspiration.'” The article continued, “He found fault with the ‘theory of inspiration’ held by Lutheran dogmaticians which makes inspiration the ‘direct communication of otherwise unknowable information.'”

 

Dr. Bouman’s actual words at the conference were “If, in the process, he (the scientist) discovers facts which do not support the world view of the biblical writers, the church today really has very little difficulty living with both the fact that is discovered and with the Scriptures which is still continues to listen to…The point I’m trying to make here is this. That where the scientific research confronts us with a fact, there we can manage to find a new way to interpret the Scriptures even though a man as revered in our own tradition as I’m sure all of us revere Dr. Pieper thought otherwise.”

 

Dr. Bouman had said essentially the same thing in an article he prepared for the 1965 LUTHERAN EDUCATION ASSOCIATION YEARBOOK. In his unedited copy he wrote, “The evangelical approach, because it hears the Word of God as Law and Gospel, is neither bound to Biblical cosmology nor deaf to the Word of God as expressed through biblical cosmology.” In that article, which evaluated Lutheran education materials, he wrote of the Primary Religion Series for the 8th grade,

“In the 8th grade one of the objectives is that the children accept the ‘biblical account of creation’ and receive ‘the courage to support and defend it.’   How sad. Our children deserve something better than this. If one begins with Law and Gospel, then learns something about the literary history and the literary nature of the Genesis prolog…then we should have no fear of theories which can possibly expand our vision of God’s working.”

 

What did the Board of Control hear from the church at large when it asked for information concerning granting tenure to Dr. Bouman,  when he   had so publicly written and spoken? Who would teach us a lesson of STEADFASTNESS?

 

There were seventeen “letters of protest.” The names of those who wrote such letters of protested are perhaps not know by many, now forty one years later.

 

Four of the seventeen letters came from laymen. Their names are here mentioned out of deep respect for these Brothers of John the Steadfast, who for the most part are now in the presence of Him Whom they confessed and served.  Three of the four were from the Northern Illinois District. One was Gerhardt Freundt, a consulting engineer. If the open hearing that preceded the 1962 Cleveland convention of the Synod was recorded, and that recording were still available, one today could hear his evangelical and dramatic appeal to Dr. Martin Scharlemann to no longer hold the views that he expressed in his controversial essays. (Dr. Scharlemann eventually recanted his views and became a staunch supporter of conservativism but prior to that had embraced elements of the liberal higher criticism.)

 

Another who protested was Karl Heinecke of Western Springs, Illinois. Karl served his Lord in a most unassuming way. It was he who was most responsible for THE WEST TOWNS DAILY CHAPEL over station WTAQ. For many years the Gospel was broadcast daily on this program from this station at 8:00 a.m. It reached all of Chicagoland and Northern Indiana. Countless homebound Christians were daily sustained by it.    It was he who organized and scheduled 10 Missouri Synod pastors for their biweekly Gospel broadcast.

 

Another layman, who sent a letter of protest, was a dear friend of this writer, Marv Toepper, deeply committed to Christ, Christian education and Lutheran confessionalism from his earliest days at Grace Lutheran Church of Chicago. Grace was then served by  Pastor Elbert, a member of the old Chicago Study Club, whose members read THE CONFESSIONAL LUTHERAN with gratitude.

 

The one layman who protested, who did not come from Illinois, was Ralph Lohrengel. His home was in Michigan. Ralph alone remains as the one of the four laymen who still serves as a “steadfast” servant in the church militant.

 

Five of the “letters of protest” came from pastors of the Northern Illinois District. Pastors Robert Kamphoefner of Immanuel in Dundee; Pastor Martin Lopahs of St. Paul, Round Lake;   Pastor John Lutze of Immanuel, Downers Grove; Pastor Ray Wessler of St. John, Calument City; and Pastor Harold Krueger of Lake Zurich all dear friends wrote urging the Board of Control of the River Forest college not to grant tenure to Dr. Bouman. One of these pastors and his congregation, St. Paul’s of Round Lake, left the Synod after the 1971 Milwaukee convention of synod for the failure of that convention to fully address and faithfully confess all the issues then facing the synod. Dr. Bouman was still on the River Forest faculty, with tenure.

 

Four congregations, either via their voter’s assembly or board of elders, submitted “letters of protest.” The board of elders of Bethlehem Lutheran Church of Chicago, served by Pastor A.O. Gebauer\ and the board of elders of Holy Cross Lutheran Church of Cary, Illinois, served by Pastor Robert Hess urged the Board of Control not to grant tenure. St. Andrews Lutheran Church of Chicago, served by Pastor Martin Frick and St. Paul Lutheran Church of Brookfield, Illinois, served by this writer, also so urged that tenure not be granted. St. Andrews of Chicago, and their pastor, Martin Frick, would also leave the Synod after the Milwaukee convention for the same reasons as did St. Paul of Round Lake.

 

Four “letters of protest” came from outside Illinois. Pastors Richard Borchers of Fairmount, North Dakota; Pastor Harold Braun of St. Paul, Minnesota; Pastor C.A. Rathjen of Muscoda, Wisconsin; and Pastor Waldo Werning of Milwaukee all expressed their desire that Dr. Bouman not be given tenure.

 

There were fifteen “letters of commendation.” With one exception these were letters from individuals. The one exception was a letter from the church council of Ascension Lutheran Church of Riverside, where Dr. Martin Marty held membership. Ascension Lutheran Church would leave the LCMS in the Seminex days.

 

Individual “letters of commendation” came from Dr. Alfred Fuerbringer, president of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. In his letter he told the Board that Dr. Bouman had taught summer courses at the St. Louis Seminary.

 

Dr. Arthur Repp, the Academic dean of the St. Louis Seminary also wrote a “letter of commendation.” He also mentioned the fact that Dr. Bouman had taught at the seminary.

 

The executive director of the CTCR, Dr. Richard Jungkuntz, urged the board to grant tenure, as did the former President of the Northern Illinois District, Pastor Erwin Paul. The word “former” in identifying Pastor Erwin Paul has much to do with Dr. Walter Bouman, but that’s for another column.

 

It was forty one years ago so the fact that some of these letters were handwritten is not unexpected. Such a letter was received from the President of the Minnesota District, urging tenure. It was written by President Alfred Seltz.

 

The Dean of the Chapel at Valpo, Pastor William Buege, also urged the Board to grant tenure, as did Dr. Bouman’s own pastor, Dr. F. Dean Lueking of Grace Lutheran Church of River Forest, a congregation that also left the LCMS.

 

The chairman of the Theology Department of Concordia Teacher’s College of River Forest wrote similarly. That chairman was Dr. Ralph Gehrke, who himself was found guilty of teaching contrary to the Word of God.   But that’s another story.

 

A “letter of recommendation” came from the Secretary of Campus Ministry, Pastor Reuben Hahn.

 

Other pastors who supported the granting of tenure were Pastor Kurt Grotheer of the Lutheran Church of St. Luke in Itasca, Illinois, Pastor Daniel Fuelling of Zion, Bensenville, Illinois, Pastor Walter Lamp of   Mount Olive in Rockford, Illinois, Pastor Dennis Schlecht of Christ the King in Schumberg, Illinois, and Pastor James Manz of First St. Paul, Chicago.  

 

Space and time do not permit comments on the content of all the letters. Some of those supporting tenure were very careful in what was said. To share the contents of these letters would be most revealing, but hopefully the source for all of the above “BOOK 1, MATERIAL FOR THE ELECTORS of CONCORDIA TEACHERS COLLEGE, River Forest, Illinois, MEETING, MAY 23, 1967, 2:00 P.M.” is available at Concordia Historical Institute and not only in the files of this writer. Many of those letters reveal even more clearly the issues that gave birth to Seminex than the Blue Book.

 

President Oliver Harms was ultimately involved in the matter. The May 23rd meeting did not find the Board granting tenure. President Harms subsequently wrote to those opposing tenure to supply adequate documentation for their opposition to the granting of tenure. “BOOK 1, MATERIAL FOR THE ELECTORS of CONCORDIA TEACHERS COLLEGE” contains a 20 page response to the request of Dr. Harms. That response is most revealing.  But this 20 page document did not stop the granting of tenure, it was ultimately granted. To some it seemed that the granting of tenure was unnecessarily long delayed. The Board heard from those concerned about the delay. One such letter came from Pastor Rueben Spannaus, head of Lutheran Child and Family Services.

 

But who were the “STEADFAST” ones in this matter. Were   the church leaders the steadfast ones? Was it the Seminary President or the seminary Dean, or the CTCR executive secretary? Were they the “steadfast” ones? Were the District Presidents the “steadfast” ones? Was the chairman of the theology department “steadfast?” No, rather the response of these men revealed the deep theological and confessional dilemma the Synod was facing.

 

Who were the steadfast ones? They were laymen and “just” pastors of congregations, yes, one was a district Stewardship  Exec, but the others were pastors without any position in the Synod except a “divine call” to serve a Christian congregation.

 

And now, as Paul Harvey says, for “the rest of the story.” In a paper delivered April 9th, 2002 entitled “CONFESSIONAL LUTHERAN RESOURSES FOR ADDRESSING THE STUDY OF HUMAN SEXUALITY” Dr. Bouman, by then a member of ELCA, not because he had been disciplined by Missouri, employing the same theological principles he did in the 1965 LEA YEARBOOK, discusses homosexuality, and those theological principles are for still another column. It is a 30 page paper, heavy with footnotes. He says that there are three options or alternatives suggested for the one who is homosexual or lesbian. One of the suggested alternatives is “celibacy.” He writes, “The one alternative which is not open to the Lutheran tradition is the requirement of celibacy.” He supports his assertion that celibacy is not an option by quoting a famous theological source which says “No human law or vow can nullify a command or institution of God.” From whence does this assertion of Dr. Bouman come? It comes from the Augsburg Confession. Where is it found? It is found in the article on the Marriage of Priests. He writes of this quotation of the Augsburg Confession “This seems to be equally applicable to the situations of persons with homosexual orientation.” So we cannot expect a homosexual to be celibate.

 

Tenure anyone?

It’s More About the ‘Heart’ Knowledge than it is About the ‘Head’ Knowledge According to St. Louis Sem Magazine, by Pr. Rossow

In this Fall’s edition of “Concordia Seminary,” the magazine of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, it is reported that the professors remind the students that “it’s more about the ‘heart’ knowledge than it is about the ‘head’ knowledge” (p. 21).

This sounds like something one might hear from a Methobapticostal seminary rather than the historic bastion of objective truth and the pure Gospel expressed in the historic liturgy known as Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. It is my personal opinion that the faculty of the St. Louis Seminary, on a whole, is characterized by professors who are either captivated by silly post-modern notions of “contextualization” and/or consumed with making the Scriptures and Lutheranism compatible with the emotion laden spirituality of the American Evangelicals.

The quote in the first paragraph is taken from an article titled “Beyond the four walls.” It is an interview with a second year alternate route student from the Pacific Northwest who according to the article has a “passion for mission” and is on a quest to give people answers and reach them through “their passions and interests.”

I don’t know if the professors actually teach that heart knowledge (whatever that oxymoron might be) is more important than head knowledge. I hope not. The Scriptures do not allow us to pit one against the other. The Gospel is an objective fact of “head knowledge” and is grasped by the Holy Spirit moving our wills to true faith and trust. The real point of this story, and one that is indisputable, is that in the Fall of the year of our Lord, 2011, Concordia Seminary published a fancy, full color rag with the above quote in the tag line and as the heart of the article.

Getting back to the professors, I would not be surprised if they do actually teach this however, since the St. Louis seminary has recently introduced contemporary worship and small group “ministry” into the routine of spiritual exercise at the institution. Both of these tactics are born out of the narcissistic culture of the 1960’s – 90’s in which traditional, noetic rooted denominations have been caving right and left to this Methabapticostal pitting of emotion against reason and practice against doctrine. There are clear signs that Concordia, St. Louis is entering that race to relevance and emotive based spirituality.

We Lutherans certainly know from our Augustinian heritage (Luther was an Augustinian monk) that the Scriptures teach that the Holy Spirit’s moving of the will to trust and faith is essential to salvation. In this sense, the will (seat of the emotions?) is crucial in the salvation of the individual. In the hands of the liberals of the 20th century (Bultmann and the like) this led to the hermeneutics of “impact” preaching in which the important thing was the existential condition of the individual. To them, it mattered not if the Scriptures were true. They failed to combat the onslaught of the empirical methods of science that undermined the truth of Scripture. Their response was to elevate the “impact” of the preaching of the “word.” They taught that it doesn’t matter if the Gospel is true. What matters is that it moves the hearer to existential meaning. They are wrong and their teaching did great harm to the church.

In the 1970’s courageous and truthful Lutherans such as J. A. O. Preus led Concordia Seminary St. Louis in the charge against such false pitting of emotion against knowledge. They steadfastly defended the common sense truth of the Scriptures.

Today the threat in Confessional Lutheranism is not so much from the “impact” liberals who are retiring and dying out. The threat is from a new generation of people who pit the heart against the head in a psychological way in contrast to the philosophical approach of Bultmann. They favor the heart because of the need to tickle the ears of the current generation which is steeped in emotion and relevance. This is a threat to the Scriptural understanding of the pure Gospel which is true beyond my feelings and even despite my feelings. The Gospel is comforting because it is true that God loves me even when I don’t feel as if He does. The objective fact of the cross remains whether I like it or like it not. The Gospel is comforting because, even when it does not seem relevant to my daily struggles, it is the one thing that I really need, the forgiveness of sins.

Pray that this article from the seminary about the alternate route student is an anomaly and join us in continuing to steadfastly work so that the truth prevail in our beloved LCMS.

Beautiful Baptismal Certificates from Wolfson Creative, by Pastor Thomas Messer

Pastor Messer wrote this on his blog and submitted it to us for posting here:


 

A few weeks back, I contacted Pr. Bryan Wolfmueller for information regarding the beautiful baptismal certificates I saw him advertising here. He responded quickly, and carefully laid out the details of the ordering process. A few days later, electronic versions of customized baptismal certificates for our congregation arrived in my inbox. Along with the certificates, I received a helpful FAQ document explaining the purpose of these certificates and providing helpful hints and instructions on how to make the most of them.

I couldn’t be more pleased with these certificates. First, they are absolutely beautiful! The artwork and Scripture passages which appear on them serve to teach the marvelous treasure which belongs to all who have received the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit in the Blessed Sacrament of Holy Baptism. Second, these customized certificates now belong to our congregation. Having paid the one-time fee of $35, we own the rights to these certificates and can print as many as we like and use them however we see fit – forever. No more periodic ordering of baptismal certificates for us! Third, the ease of using these certificates is a treasure in itself. You simply fill in the appropriate info on your master pdfs and you’re ready to go. They are designed to print on 11×17 paper, but if your printer does not have that capability, you can save the master pdfs to a flash drive, CD, etc., take them to a local copy shop, fill in the appropriate info, and make your copies. Lastly, the beauty and high quality of these certificates make for wonderful and treasured keepsakes. They look absolutely gorgeous framed and hanging on a wall. And because we own the rights to our certificates, we do not have to limit our use to future Baptisms, but can offer to print certificates for those who have received the Sacrament of Holy Baptism in the past, which they can hang as a beautiful reminder of the eternal blessings they have as beloved children of God.

I highly recommend these certificates and encourage everyone to follow the link above to give them a look and consider ordering. I am very thankful to Pr. Wolfmueller and his partner in this endeavor, Jason Hanson (the clever combination of their names results in “Wolfson Creative”), for providing the beloved gift of these wonderful certificates to the Church.

Go now and check them out. You won’t be disappointed. They are awesome!

Sincerely,
In Christ,
Rev. Thomas C. Messer
Peace Lutheran Church
Alma, MI

Steadfast Media Pick of the Week — A Pick in Exile

A Pick in Exile

I was too young to remember the struggles in the church during the 1970’s and I’ve never been too interested in diving into this part of LCMS history. But Pr. Scheer recommended a debate to me this past week on the conflict so I decided to take a look.

The panelists for the program were Rev. Samuel J. Roth, Gerald A. Miller , Rev. Thomas A. Baker, and Rev. Herman J. Otten.

I found the exchange at 43:45 most interesting. Pr. Otten asks if there is room for men in our church that say that Christ is not the only way to salvation and that maybe some of these people who die without are going to be save. Pr. Roth says that there is no other way to salvation except through Jesus Christ but he starts with the grace of God and God is free to save anyone in anyway He wants.

The other exchange I found interesting was at 1:03:50 on the historicity of Jonah.

Notes on the Liturgy – The Invocation

(Editor’s Note: Early on this website has included much in the way of theological critique. Our goal is to not only teach the Brothers (and others) how to critique bad theology and practice but to also proactively train the Brothers in good practice and theology and so we will be offering more columns such as this new one that teaches about the liturgy. This is the second in a twenty two part series. We thank Pastor David Oberdieck for letting us use it. We cannot say everything about every part of the liturgy in this series so if you think there are significant things left unsaid please use the comment section to help grow the Brothers.

These were initially intended to be put into bulletins or read at the start or end of the service to educate the laity on the different parts of the service. As we develop them we hope to put them in a form that can be used in that manner, or inserted into newsletters or other methods of distribution.)

Notes on the Liturgy #2 — THE INVOCATION

AltarThere are three significant elements in regard to the invocation. First, when the pastor calls out, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” it acts as a simple creed. We are confessing whom we believe the one true God is. We worship the Trinity and none other. When outsiders come to the  Divine Service, if they are paying attention, they will realize that  the people they are with are worshipping the Triune God. We are clear right up front, in whose name we gather and who we are worshipping.

Second, in the Invocation, we are asking for and acknowledging God’s presence in the service. “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” (Matt 18:20 NIV)

Finally, it is significant that the Invocation is accompanied by the sign of the cross. We received both the name of the Trinity and the sign of the cross at Baptism. We received the name of the Trinity by divine command. Since Baptism gives us the benefits of the cross, the sign of the cross was placed upon us according to the tradition of the catholic church. This then should be a reminder to us that God, who washed us and claimed us in Baptism, is the one who has brought us into the worshiping community. “We do not come as those who deserve to come because of what we have done.” We come because He has called us through the Holy Spirit in the water and Word of Baptism.

These notes were originally written in 2001 by Pastor David Oberdieck and have been edited.

 

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