by Rev. Gerold W. Goetz, pastor
Emmanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church
Long Prairie, Minnesota

I think that the title of this paper reflects the direction intended by our program chairman, judging from our telephone conversation during which he asked me to present this subject to you. On the other hand, if I have not accurately reflected his wishes, so what; who’s going to stop me now?

I’m approaching the subject with a series of theses which I have gleaned from my reading on the subject, from my recollections from seminary training many years ago, and from a few experiences through the years. I do not pretend to be an expert on this (or any) subject, but will try to bring some citations from the Scriptures, from the Lutheran Confessions, and from some fathers of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod to which I may add a thought or vignette from my own opinion or experience.

With that latter thought, let me tell you about one of the best cars I ever owned, a 1987 Nissan Stanza. It was a demonstrator and had 6,000 miles on it when we bought it. We finally sold it at 226,000 miles to a fellow in Long Prairie, and still see it on the street. It has everything: options and gadgets and lights and bells. So, around 100,000 miles, a red light appeared on the instrument panel with the word ‘brake’. Now, I’ve been working on cars for years; I have an engineering degree; you build it, I’ll take it apart and put it back together. This is a Japanese car, not brain surgery. Obviously, if you depress the brake pedal and an instrument light says ‘brake’ it must be warning you that there is inadequate pressure in one of the brake lines and you need to replace the master cylinder. I bought the part for $60 and installed it myself; got in and depressed the brake pedal, and the instrument light still said ‘brake’.

Several months went by and Karen was driving through central Iowa on a rainy evening. A police car came up behind us and turned on his flashing lights. Karen says, “What is he doing that for? I haven’t done anything wrong.” I replied, “Just pull over and stop!” The polite patrolman asked, “Pardon me, but do you know that you have a tail light burned out?” Not a brake light, mind you; a tail light. Still it was enough for me to open the glove compartment as Karen thanked the State Patrol officer and drove off. I took out the Operator’s Manual and turned to the page which explained the instrument panel lights. Sure enough, there it said, “If the red light with the word ‘brake’ on the instrument panel is lighted, check for a burned out lamp.” It cost $0.35, not $60. But it was an excellent illustration worth $59.65 for me and for you. If you have the book, use it instead of going off on your own. That principle applies to auto mechanics, but even more so to synods and theologians. Who designed and built this car? Who instituted and established this office and its practice of the ‘call’?


This thesis is more important than first meets the eye. We’re not merely giving God credit for creating something. No, much more than that is at stake here. The office of the holy ministry is not a creation or invention of man. If it were so, man could dictate its nature and function. But such is not the case. Since the office is God’s creation, God will tell us how it is to be filled and to function. As we depart from God’s form and model of the office of the ministry, we lessen the probability that this office will be serving God and increase the probability that it is serving the devil, the world, and sinful flesh of men. Yes, I mean what I said! There are within the church of Jesus Christ those whom we might call “belly-servers.” (Romans 16:17 – 18 Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple.) (Philippians 3:18 – 19 For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly and whose glory is in their shame – who set their mind on earthly things.) God forbid that the office through which God brings His means of grace to His people should be regarded or conducted as one of these ‘earthly things.’ But such is too often the case today that some would rewrite the operator’s manual of the office of the ministry so that it will conform to some earthly ‘corporate model.’

John was there behind those closed doors that evening when Jesus appeared to His disciples after the Resurrection. He wrote (John 20:21 – 23) “Then Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you’ And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’” This is the Office of the Keys. (Trig. p. 492, VII, Of the Keys: The keys are an office and power given by Christ to the Church for binding and loosing sin…) Jesus had previously promised this to Peter (Matthew 16:16 – 19 And Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”)

Paul the Apostle realized this. Not only was he God’s chosen vessel, but also those pastors from Ephesus whom he met at Miletus while he was on his way to Jerusalem were God’s chosen ones. Within his address to these Ephesian ‘elders’ (I see no reason to distinguish a different office between the words ‘presbyter/elder’ or ‘episcopos/bishop’; each refers to the pastor. One stresses the respect accorded to him because of his experience in the Word; the other stresses his God-given authority in the Word.) we read in Acts 20:28, “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” These Ephesian ‘shepherds’ did not hold their office because the folks at the Ephesian congregation decided that they needed to set up this type of corporate model of organization. On the contrary, Paul says that the Holy Spirit is the one who decided that they should be episcopal overseers.

Our Lutheran Confessions agree with the Scriptures in this matter. (Trig. p. 311, Ap. Art XIII, 11) “If ordination be understood as applying to the ministry of the Word, we are not unwilling to call ordination a sacrament. For the ministry of the Word has God’s command and glorious promises.” The office of the ministry is commanded by God. Walther (Kirche u. Amt, p. 193) says, “The ministry, or the pastoral office (Pfarramt), is not a human ordinance, but an office established by God Himself.” And again Walther (Kirche u. Amt, p.211) “The ministry of preaching is not an arbitrary office, but its character is such that the church has been commanded to establish it and is ordinarily bound to it till the end of days.”


We who aspire to this high office need to reflect often on the qualifications of a bishop which Paul the Apostle has listed for us. I know, you’ve heard this before. But you and I need to hear it again. And again. (I Timothy 3:1 – 7) “This is a faithful saying; If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach; not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?) not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil. Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.” It is obvious to me that being the husband of one wife presupposes that you are a male. Perhaps not so obvious in this permissive society is the relation of the pastor toward his children. How often haven’t I heard that PK’s are obstreperous brats. Not being one myself, I can enjoy passing judgment on others. But then Paul sticks my pride with the pin of those words, “…having his children in submission (I’m famous for this)…WITH ALL REVERENCE.” Ouch! And for you younger pastors (which includes most here) it would seem to me that the point of ‘novice’ is closely related to the issue of pride. It’s okay to be a novice (or even an old geezer) but just don’t be proud of yourself because of this office.

To Pastor Titus, Paul the Apostle repeats some of these requirements for the pastoral office (Titus 1:6 – 9) “…if a man is blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of dissipation or insubordination. For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but hospitable, a lover of what is good, sober-minded, just, holy, self-controlled, holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict.” Notably absent from this list is that trait which I hear most often of late concerning those pastors who are victims of wrongful dismissal by a congregation of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, “He’s just not a people person.” Furthermore, you pastors who are relatively new into the ministry of the LCMS can help me on this one: How many questions on your psychological testing prior to graduating from the seminary do you recognize from Paul’s lists? Would to God that the church today would get back to using that operator’s manual from the one who designed this office of the ministry! Properly, God – not man – gives the requirements for this office.


Minister to whom? A pastor without a congregation is like a shepherd without a flock of sheep. The two go together. The office of the ministry presupposes a congregation to whom one ministers. Remember Paul the Apostle at Miletus speaking to the pastors from Ephesus? (Acts 20:28) “…the flock among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God.” It takes two; it takes a flock and it takes a pastor. The congregation, by its existence, has the office of the keys, which office must be filled with a man. The instant that “two or three are gathered together in My name” (Matthew 18:20) there is the church, and there is the office of the ministry. “Nevertheless, Scripture distinguishes sharply between the spiritual priesthood and the public ministry. For, besides a general ability to teach, which Scripture ascribes to every Christian (John 6:45; 7:38-39; I Cor. 2:15-16, etc.) a special aptitude to teach is required; and besides the call which the spiritual priests have to preach the Gospel, (I Peter 2:9; Isaiah 40:9, Col. 3:16, Num. 11:29) a special call is demanded.” (Pieper, Dogmatics, Vol. 3, pp.440-441)

Franz Pieper is merely repeating the thoughts of the Augustana (Trig., AC. Art. XIV, p.49) “Of Ecclesiastical Order they teach that no one should publicly teach in the Church or administer the Sacraments unless he be regularly called.” It is evident to me that this ‘call’ ought to be coming from a Christian congregation in which the Word is publicly taught and the Sacraments administered. Which thought affords me the opportunity to vent a frustration caused by recent practice in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, namely, that of ordaining pastors and issuing calls without regard to the congregation. Is a seminary a Christian congregation? Is it a divine call into the office of the ministry if a seminary graduate is ‘called’ to be a recruitment developer? A few years ago I took up this debate via mail with the president of the Fort Wayne seminary. Needless to say I was not able to dissuade the seminary from carrying out its plans and ‘calling’ and ‘ordaining’ a recent graduate into just such an office. In my opinion, such action violated my Theses 3 which presupposes congregations and pastors to be essential to each other, existing together at all times. Not even my logic could prevail. I suggested that the credibility of a recruiter would be far greater if he could have been a pastor himself first before trying to recruit somebody else into the office of the ministry. Why would the United States Marines, for example, ‘call’ a member of the National Organization for Women to be a recruiter into the Marine Corps? Ah, the wisdom of the world. We think that we know so much more than does He who invented the office and wrote the owner’s manual.


There was a brief time in history when the Lord Jesus took upon Himself the human nature and walked among us. His calls to discipleship were immediate, direct, and personal. Jesus approached the table of the tax official Matthew (9:9) and told him, “Follow Me.” Now, that’s a direct, immediate call. The Son of God Incarnate sought Philip (John 1:43) and said to him, “Follow Me.” Again, a direct call. But was the discipleship of Philip any more authentic than that of Nathanael whose call to discipleship was mediate? (John 1:45 – 46) “Philip found Nathanael and said to him, We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets wrote – Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph…come and see.” God called Abram to leave his homeland and to allow God to make of him the father of nations and father of the Seed in whom all nations of the earth would be blessed. But what shall we say of Moses? Was his call immediate, or would you say that it was mediated through the means of a burning bush? Either is equally authoritative, and God may use either, or both on the same man! Consider Saul of Tarsus. The Lord Jesus Whom he persecuted called him immediately on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1 – 22) and yet He also employed Ananias to speak on His behalf. Furthermore, when it came time to call Saul and Barnabas to apostleship and for them to embark on their first missionary journey, it was through the mediate agency of the congregation at Antioch (Acts 13:1 – 4) that the Holy Spirit spoke to authorize and direct their labors in the Lord’s kingdom. It is clear that the sending out of Paul and Barnabas was the work of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 13:4 “So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia…“)

One might question the wisdom of the Holy Spirit in sending these two out together without first running a psychological profile on them, in view of the subsequent blowup and personality clash regarding the inclusion of John Mark on the next missionary journey. Sarcasm aside, this writer would suggest that the Lord knows what He is doing, and can use the weaknesses of men in the multiplication of teams who go out to work in His kingdom. Look at the results. Instead of a team of Paul and Barnabas, we now find two teams; Paul with Silas and Barnabas with John Mark. In the eyes of the world, it was a shameful, minor disaster in the kingdom of God. But don’t try to tell that to a jailer who lived at Philippi. So instead of the ‘users’ telling the manufacturer how to operate the car, we would be best served if we tried to more closely follow the manufacturer’s recommendation.


The nature of the mediate call varies. God can use a burning bush or a congregation or sinful human being. The mediate call is divine as God works through means to provide workers in His kingdom. The elders on the seashore at Miletus were assured that the Holy Ghost had made them overseers. (Acts 20:28) Exactly which means the Holy Spirit had used to make them overseers may be debated. The context would suggest that they may have been appointed by ‘bishop’ Paul and company (Acts 14:23-24 “So when THEY had appointed elders in every church, and prayed with fasting, THEY commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed And after THEY had passed through Pisidia…“) (Note from Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Gerhard Kittel, Vol. IX, p. 437, CHEIROTONEO, “In Acts 14:23 the reference is not to election by the congregation. The presbyers are nominated by Paul and Barnabas and then with prayer and fasting they are inducted into their offices, which they are to exercise in the churches of Pisidia and Lycaonia.”) We ought not dictate to God the only means that He must use to extend His divine calls. He can use a donkey for Balaam and a burning bush for Moses. He can use a bishop; He can use a district president or Council of Presidents; He can use a congregation. The Holy Spirit works when and where and how He pleases, and we must not let anyone with a website try to tell us otherwise. Furthermore, we must not let the etymology of a word restrict its subsequent usage. A jet may very well be an airplane, even though the etymology of the word ‘jet’ is that of a stream of liquid being forced through a small orifice. Likewise, a word that once may have meant the raising of a hand to vote could just as well come to mean raising a hand/finger to (ap)point, or simply ‘to select’ without reference to the means of selecting.

A mediate divine call to a Christian congregation is divine regardless of the agency or means God uses to extend that call. The call is divine, even if it is issued through a heterodox congregation or a corrupt bishop or a devious district president. It is the Holy Spirit who is acting, and He may use whatever means He chooses to accomplish His work. He is the manufacturer of this office, and He wrote the manual. We have no right or authority to tell Him how it must operate.


The divine call is divine because it is God who is at work filling this office which He has instituted. It is the Holy Ghost who has made you overseer (Acts 20:28) because the Holy Ghost worked through His means to fill a specific office with a specific occupant. Since it is God who begins the work, it follows that it is God who terminates the office or determines the tenure for this or that occupant of the office. When the duration of the office is predetermined by man, the office no longer is a divine office but a human arrangement. God has been removed from the activity of terminating the office or determining the length of the term of an office holder.

Listen to the mind set of the confessors at Augsburg: (AC V. The Office of the Ministry) “To obtain such faith God instituted the office of the ministry, that is, provided the Gospel and the Sacraments. Through these, as through means, He gives the Holy Spirit, who works faith, when and where He pleases, in those who hear the Gospel.” It is clear that we of the Augsburg Confession admit that the Holy Spirit is not bound to our will, but works when and where HE pleases. If such is true with the task of working faith, it stands to reason that this is true also in the matter of determining the duration of the call of those who preach the Gospel and administer the Sacraments which bring and strengthen saving faith. For us to affect the divine call when and where WE please is to remove the Holy Spirit from the activity and insert ourselves and our will into the equation.

Carl Mundinger (Government in the Missouri Synod, CPH, 1947, p. 196f) writes: “Though the constitution (Note: LCMS, 1846, Fort Wayne Constitution Convention) made the congregation the possessor of all church power and the highest tribunal, it did safeguard the ministry in various ways. The tenure of office was made permanent. No calls to pastors providing for a time limit were tolerated in the Missouri Synod. The doctrine of the divinity of the call, that is, that every pastor is called by God and placed in his respective parish by the Holy Ghost through instrumentality of the local congregation, was a provision that greatly increased the respect for the office of the ministry.” Mundinger says that the original constitution of the LCMS contained a paragraph which stated, “A regular, not a temporary, call must be extended to the pastor. A regular election of the lay delegate by the congregation must take place. Both pastor and lay delegate must be blameless and of good reputation.” (op. cit. p. 185)

The founding fathers of the LCMS were merely following the confessors at Augsburg in insisting that “It is taught among us that nobody should publicly teach or preach or administer the Sacraments in the church without a regular call.” (AC, Art. XIV) A call which in advance determined the time of its termination was NOT a regular call. It was, in fact, highly irregular. Friedrich Wyneken was very insistent in this regard: “Nothing is more depressing than the sight of these so-called preachers and the manner in which congregations saddle themselves with these tramps. They are hired like cowhands, and oftentimes they are the most notorious characters and tricky deceivers.” (Mundinger, op.cit., p. 185) For man to place a time limit upon the pastor’s tenure was, for the LCMS fathers, removing the Holy Spirit from the call. For the call to be divine, God must initiate it and God must terminate it.

A call remains divine and is terminated by God through His call of that pastor to another flock. The pastor may – yes, MUST – be removed by the congregation from their divine call if he proves himself to be guilty of persistent adherence to false teaching, guilty of scandalous life, or if he is physically or mentally unable to serve. And even such removals are not to be entered into lightly, but with great care. (Fritz, Pastoral Theology, CPH, 1932, p. 55: “A congregation should never act hastily in deposing a pastor from office. The seriousness of such a situation demands due deliberation and careful consideration… In case of ineffeciency (physical infirmities, not being able to cope with changed conditions, as with those of a larger congregation, more work, etc., or no longer “apt to teach,” I Tim. 3:2) on the part of pastor, a congregation should not depose its pastor, but it has a right, even the duty, to see to it that he accepts another call, if he be at all still able to serve another congregation, or to ask him to resign.)” It is clear that the prevailing practice advocated in the LCMS was that of preserving the divinity of the call by allowing God to determine the circumstances which terminated the divine call. God was in charge of the health of the pastor, the size of the congregation, etc. God, not man, was the agent in charge of determining the terminus of a divine call.

God wrote the service manual, and God dictates the intervals at which the spark plugs are to be changed. Anything else voids the warranty.


How vividly do I recall The Rev. Prof. Henry Eggold of Concordia Theological Seminary, Springfield, IL. I can see him in the classroom massaging his jaw with his right hand and exhorting a class of students of pastoral theology, “Brothers, the Holy Spirit knows your address.” He was most insistent that an ethical pastor would not ‘apply’ for a call to a specific parish. To do so would be to denigrate the divinity of the call and inject man’s will into the process. I know that Professor Eggold is no longer with us because of what I have heard from the mouths of more recent graduates regarding this or that congregation in need of a pastor. I have heard such things as “I wonder how I could get my name on that call list?” or “Do you know who the vacancy pastor is for that congregation?” Prof. Eggold would rub the skin off his jaw if he had heard such sentiments from anyone who had sat in his classroom. But he was merely repeating that which he himself had been taught.

Here’s the way Rev. Dr. John H. C. Fritz (Pastoral Theology, CPH, 1932, pp. 37 – 38) said it. “A call is not legitimate if it has been procured by what is commonly called ‘wire-pulling,’ by bribery, or by any other dishonest or crooked means. Only such a call is legitimate as has been received without one’s own initiative, which one accepts for conscience’ sake, because persuaded by others to do so and by one’s obedience to God and one’s love to one’s neighbor.

Furthermore, the idea was not originated by Dr. Fritz! He is merely echoing the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther (quoted in Fritz, op cit., p. 38, re: Ps. 8:3) “Remain where you are until you are called; do not seek another call; do not impose yourself upon others; for your proficiency is not so great that it will burst open your belly… If God desires to have you, He will seek you out, yea, even send an angel from heaven to lead you where He desires to have you.

Again Luther, “Do not limit God in reference to purpose, time, or place; for where you do not desire to go, there He will compel you to go, and where you would like to be, there you shall not be. Though you were wiser and more prudent than Solomon or Daniel, yet you ought to shrink, as from hell itself, from speaking even one word unless you are called to do so. Believe me, no one will accomplish anything that is good with his preaching unless, he, without his own initiative, has been called and persuaded to preach and to teach. We have only one Master; our Lord Jesus Christ alone teaches and brings fruit through His servants whom He has called. He who teaches without being called teaches to the detriment both of himself and his hearers because Christ is not with him.” (Kirchenpostille, Day of St. Andrew.)

In order to be confident that a call is divine, the will of man is to be minimized, and the hand of the Lord is to be magnified. Fritz has strong opinions regarding the validity and legitimacy of the temporary call, also: “Some congregations have the custom of calling a minister temporarily, so that, whenever it pleases them, they may again dismiss him. A congregation is not justified in extending such a call, even not if it be specified that the call, after a certain time, may be renewed; nor should any preacher accept such a call, since before God it is neither valid nor legitimate. Calling a minister temporarily conflicts, first of all, with the divinity of the call, Acts 20:28; Eph. 4:11; 1 Cor. 12:28; Is. 41:27. God being the One who calls His ministers, the congregation is only the instrument which He uses for this purpose, Acts 13:2,3… If a congregation assumes to tell a minister who has been given to it by the Lord how long he is to remain with them, it puts itself above the Lord, its Master, and interferes with His government, Matt. 23:8; 2 Tim. 4:2, 3. A pastor who would permit himself simply to be hired would make of himself a hireling and a servant of men. Such a ‘temporary’ call would not be a divine call, but simply a contract made by men, not a life’s calling, but merely ‘temporary’ employment outside of God’s own prescribed order of things. A ‘temporary’ call, moreover, conflicts with the relation which should exist between a pastor and his congregation. It conflicts with the honor and obedience which church-members, according to the Scriptures, owe their pastor, Luke 10:16; 1 Tim. 5:17; 1 Thess. 5:12 – 13; 1 Cor. 16:15 – 16; Heb. 13:17; for if church-members may extend a ‘temporary’ call to their pastor, they may also refuse him, whenever they so choose, that honor and that obedience which God Himself demands… Finally, the temporary call is contrary to the practice of the apostles, who were not to deter-mine how long they should work and remain with the congregation, Luke 9:4,5.” (Fritz, op cit. p. 40)

A brochure and business card of a pastor on the clergy roster of the LCMS in the possession of the undersigned states that he is an “Interim Pastor,” and lists his experience and his certification by the “Interim Ministry Network for the dynamics of Interim Ministry.” This mission statement says, “The Church is the People of God. Ministry is what the Church does. The minister is only a part of the total ministry. Synod and District are resources for ideas and guidance especially in a time of interim. Laypeople are partners in ministry with the pastor. Power is shared by minister and laity. Ultimate power in the Church is with God.” Does this sound like Paul or Luther or Fritz? Does this sound like the Holy Ghost is making the pastor an overseer? Hardly!

This is what has come out of the action of the 1998 convention of the LCMS at St. Louis. The ‘Proceedings’ record resolution 3:17B, “To prepare Policy and Guidelines for Intentional Interim Ministries.” Got that? Synod in convention simply passes a resolution and attempts to give legitimacy to something which is patently contrary to the Scriptural teaching of the divine call, the original constitution of the LCMS, and the prior, consistent teaching and practice of the LMCS! Look at this! “Resolved, That we recognize the value of intentional interim ministries in certain cases when congregations choose them…” This action was taken without prior study by the Synod at large on such a weighty doctrinal issue as the Divine Call. Synod in convention has elevated itself above the Divine Word. Delegates simply vote and declare black to be white. Never mind what God has said in His owner’s manual; we will simply write our own manual, and resolve “That the Council of Presidents prepare policy and guidelines for intentional interim ministry in harmony with this resolution.” Well, not quite perfect harmony. Let this be the occasion for the undersigned to register his strong protest and disagreement and dissent with the action of the LCMS in convention at St. Louis in July, 1998. The intentional interim ministry is a temporary call, and is contrary to the sacred scriptures, contrary to Article XIV of the Augustana, and the original constitution of the LCMS. It is invalid and illegitimate. It voids the warranty of the owner’s manual; its ‘ministry’ is NOT of God, but of man, and is therefore not God’s holy ministry.


Remembering that a bishop is a pastor, hear again what the Apology (Tappert Article XXVIII, 13) has to say to us: “Therefore a bishop has the power of the order, namely, the ministry of the Word and Sacraments. He also has the power of jurisdiction, namely, the authority to excommunicate those who are guilty of public offenses or to absolve them if they are converted and ask for absolution.” Elsewhere called the power or Office of the Keys, this office invests the holder with the awesome authority to speak on behalf of the Lord Jesus Himself.

Since the business of the office of the holy ministry has such important, eternal consequences, it is imperative that all things be done decently and in order in the call into, the conduct of, and the removal of the holder of this office. The members of the orthodox Christian congregation deserve to know that he who holds this office and speaks to them on behalf of the Lord Jesus Christ has been rightly called (rite vocatus, Trig. AC Art. XIV). To introduce doubts about the call into the congregation’s office of the public ministry is to introduce doubts about the validity of the words and work of him who holds their office.

When all things are done in accord with the Lord’s holy will and revelation, the people of God may be assured that Jesus’ words mean exactly what they say, because He said, (Luke 10:16) “He who hears you, hears Me.” This is why the Epistle to the Hebrews can state the case so strongly, “Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account.” Such strong statements may be made, however, only because the office and its authority are divine and not of man. In fact, the parish with a hireling might be justified in saying with Peter (Acts 5:29) “We ought to obey God rather than men.

The authority of the office of the ministry is dependent upon his divine call. If he is rightly called, he is invested by the Holy Ghost with power from Jesus Christ Himself. When he binds or looses on earth, it is bound or loosed in heaven. (Matthew 16:19) Beware of any who know less than the author of the manual who would try to tell you how to operate this vehicle. The authority of the keys of the kingdom is at stake.


Certainly the statement, ‘He who hears you hears Me’ (Luke 10:16), is not referring to traditions but is rather directed against traditions. It is not what they call a ‘commandment with unlimited authority,’ but rather a ‘caution about something prescribed,’ about a special commandment. It is a testimony given to the apostles so that we may believe them on the basis of another’s word rather than on the basis of their own. For Christ wants to assure us, as was necessary, that the Word is efficacious when it is delivered by men and that we should not look for another Word from heaven. ‘He who hears you hears Me’ cannot be applied to traditions. For Christ requires them to teach in such a way that He might be heard, because He says, ‘hears Me.’ Therefore He wants His voice, His Word to be heard, not human traditions.” (Apol. , Art. XXVIII, 18-19)

The divine call does not invest the candidate with certain indelible, infallible traits which makes his words authoritative whenever he sits on his sedile. The newly-arrived pastor has no more authority to rearrange the furniture in the chancel than did Bishop Martin Stephan have authority to tell the newly-arrived immigrants in Perry County what crops to plant and when. (Forster, Zion on the Mississippi, CPH, 1953, p. 357) The authority of the called pastor is the authority of the Word of God. The pastor’s authority is limited to “Thus says the Lord.” If, of course, in the Word he finds a date for planting corn or soy beans, then by all means he should teach that with authority. He proclaims the whole counsel of God. (Acts 20:27) The pastor is obligated to teach with authority everything contained in the Scriptures, but nothing more than that which is contained in the Scriptures (Rev. 22:18 – 19 “For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.“) God is the owner, and in the owner’s manual he circumscribed the authority of the Office of the Keys for good reason. That reason is embodied in Thesis 10.


In this thesis as a culmination of all, we need to put things into their proper perspective. The confessors at Augsburg began their confession with a statement about the person and nature of God (Art. 1). The second article of the Augustana speaks of man and our sinful nature and need for a Savior. Article III tells of the person and work of Jesus the Christ, and Article IV summarizes the application of Christ’s work to the penitent sinner as “we receive forgiveness of sin and become righteous before God by grace, for Christ’s sake, through faith, when we believe that Christ suffered for us and that for His sake our sin is forgiven and righteousness and eternal life are given to us.” It is this Article (IV, Justification) by the way, which the Apology calls “the main doctrine of Christianity” (Tappert, Apol.IV.2) and goes on for page after page in explanation and defense of this most important teaching. The Augsburg Confession then follows the subject of justification with that of “the office of the ministry” (Art. V) or the means of grace. “To obtain such faith God instituted the office of the ministry, that is, provided the Gospel and the sacraments. Through these, as through means, he gives the Holy Spirit, who works faith, when and where he pleases, in those who hear the Gospel. And the Gospel teaches that we have a gracious God, not by our own merits but by the merit of Christ, when we believe this.

The office of the ministry is the proclamation of the Gospel of Christ and the administration of the sacraments. Article XIV which speaks of the ‘regular call’ is secondary to Article IV on Justification as well as even Article V on the work of the Holy Spirit through the means of grace. Nevertheless, even though secondary, the doctrine of the regular call, or divine call as we have come to term it, is far from incidental or unimportant. The fathers of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod strove to invest honor and respect and importance in the office and the call to that office. Their reasons were nothing less than the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His forgiveness of sin. Nothing ought to raise doubt or question with respect to the righteousness of the sinner before God because of Christ Jesus, the Son of God.

The action of the 1998 Convention of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod in attempting to legitimize that which the Scriptures, the Lutheran Confessions, and the fathers and original constitution of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod have clearly declared illegitimate must be annulled or repealed. The inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God must be the judge of all human institutions and actions and especially actions of His church. The Lutheran Church has consistently insisted that ‘rightly called’ must mean that God and not man is acting in beginning and ending the work of the minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Resolution 3-17B of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod in Convention at St. Louis in 1998 has opened a terrible tear in the seamless garment of the Word of God. Or rather, to return to my initial example: Resolution 3:17B regarding ‘interim ministries’ has done great damage to the engine of God’s vehicle for salvation and must be repaired according to the specifications in the owner’s manual.

Rev. Gerold W. Goetz, pastor
Emmanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church
511 Todd Street North
Long Prairie, Minnesota, 56347

Festival of the Reformation 2000