A Call for Discussion
Through an ecclesiastical technicality the Rev. Dr. Matthew Becker has been expelled from the clergy roster of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. Yet everyone knows that President Harrison and the most conservative members of the Synod have wanted him out because Dr. Becker wanted an open discussion on the subject of creation and women’s ordination.
Though pictured as a theological renegade by his critics, Dr. Becker was living out his calling as a professor of theology seeking to share the Gospel with a generation alienated from the church. Some of the reasons given why young people are forsaking the church of their parents are the insistence of the Synod on a six-day creation and the denial of the ordination of women.
True to his ordination vows Dr. Becker has not taught anything contrary to the Holy Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions. His dissent to the current stands of the Synod has been to challenge what have come to be the substitute confessions of the Brief Statement, 1932 (http://www.lcms.org/doctrine/doctrinalposition) and a Statement of Scriptural and Confessional Principles, 1973 (http://www.lcms.org/doctrine/scripturalprinciples). These pseudo confessions have never had universal approval and now constitute the wrong stone of stumbling to the faith of our children and grandchildren.
The reaction of the Synod to Becker’s desire for discussion is a sign of institutional rigor mortis. Like many organizations the Synod has become more rigid and unable to deal constructively with a changing world. In its negative stance over against the service of women in the church, its rejection of the scientific evidence of an ancient world, and its alliance with right-wing politics, the Synod is clearly going in the wrong direction.
Hidden from view in synodical publications are the steady decline of membership and the loss of a whole generation of young people. With the average age of synodical membership hovering at 60 years the future is not hard to predict. Unless there is more openness to discussion, change, and rethinking synodical positions, further institutional decline and death are coming. More congregations will find it difficult to pay their pastors, more congregations will close, and the financial strain will be felt throughout the Synod.
Some years ago forty-four pastors, theologians, and administrators put forward a statement addressing topics that vitally needed discussion for the future of the Synod. Below is another statement, a Call for Discussion, signaling what needs to take place throughout the Synod so that the Spirit might breath fresh life into our synodical bones.
A Call for Discussion
Ever since its beginning in Germany, what is now the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod has sought to cope with threats to the faith. Opposing the forced union of Lutherans and Reformed by Prussia’s Frederick William III in 1817, some pastors and people left and went to America. Shortly after arriving in America the fledgling church encountered a crisis in church leadership. Led by the Scriptures, the Lutheran Reformation, and their recent experience in Germany, these immigrants rejected authoritarian, hierarchical church governance and wrote into their constitution that the Synod is but advisory to its member congregations (LCMS Constitution, p. 16). The Synod faced yet another crisis when some asserted that the Synod needed to worship in English rather than German. In each emergency the Synod acted flexibly in meeting new situations while maintaining its firm commitment to the teaching of the Lutheran Confessions.
At the beginning of a new millennium another crisis faces the Synod and other church bodies. By the year 2020 Millennials will make up one-third of the U.S. population. It is now estimated that 80% or more of the Millennial Generation does not regularly attend church services on Sunday. This statistic indicates that the church is losing a whole generation of members. Not only is this a catastrophe with eternal consequences, it will also devastate the Synod with the closure of churches and schools, the inability of congregations to pay church workers and their pensions, the loss of young people preparing for the ministry, and, for many pastors, teachers, and parents, the departure of joy in their ministries..
It is again time for the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod to display flexibility in meeting a new situation while remaining true to its confessional commitment. To do so, however, will require a new look at the Scriptures, the Confessions, and the freedom they provide to meet ever new challenges.
THE WORD OF GOD
We affirm that the Word of God, and nothing else, not even a church convention, may establish the articles of faith (Book of Concord, SA Lutheran Confessions. p.304). Furthermore, the interpretation of the Scriptures in every generation should be guided by the Spirit through the Gospel and understood in the light of contemporary knowledge. This must involve all generations seeking out the truth of God’s Word for our world today.
We deplore establishing doctrine and discipline based upon non-confessional documents and convention votes with slim majorities. This has led to the politicizing of the community of faith and has resulted in acrimony and divisions.
We affirm with Luther and the Confessors that the Gospel is the good news that we are justified by grace through faith alone in Christ’s death and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins. This Gospel is the key to understanding the Holy Scriptures. We assert that the loving Christ is the most faithful and reliable interpreter of the Scriptures.
We deplore establishing doctrine and discipline on a non-confessional, literal interpretation of the Biblical account of creation, thus alienating many young people from our church.
We affirm that the best way to resolve differences in the interpretation of the Scriptures is through dialogue, free conferences, and Bible classes involving not only clergy but also the whole people of God, including those who question the traditional interpretations of the Scriptures.
We deplore the practice of silencing those who propose a different interpretation of Scripture passages, of avoiding a public discussion of them, of threatening to dismiss them from the fellowship and condemning them.
We affirm that the Lutheran Confessions were written to undergird and inspire a confessional movement, based on the Gospel, within the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church (BC, Preface to the Augsburg Confession, p 31). In addressing the concerns of a post-denominational generation we need to focus again on the whole Christian church as Christ’s body in the world.
We deplore the scholastic use of the Lutheran Confessions merely as a means of providing denominational identity, justifying divisions, and excluding all who disagree with the decisions of the church body. This further offends and needlessly alienates inquirers.
With Article VII of the Augsburg Confession we affirm that it is enough for the unity of the church to agree on the teaching of the Gospel and the administration of the sacraments (BC, AC, pp. 42,43). With this conviction we rejoice in our fellowship with those children and grandchildren who may worship and work in other faith communities.
We deplore the use of Romans 16:17 to deny fellowship with other Christians whom Christ has reconciled to himself and to each other. With Paul we confess, “There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Eph.4:5).
With Article VII of the Augsburg Confession we further affirm that it is not necessary that human traditions, worship forms and music be alike everywhere (BC, AC, pp. 42,43). We welcome into our fellowship people of all ages and the music and traditions they prefer.
We deplore the enthronement of one tradition of worship and music with its disregard of the culture, customs, and music traditions of other peoples and generations.
THE HOLY MINISTRY
We affirm that the ministry of teaching the Gospel and administering the sacraments was given to the church in order that through them, as instruments of the Spirit, people might receive a saving faith in the work of Christ. We also assert that, where the church exists, it retains the right to ordain and publicly call suitable people for that ministry (BC, Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope, pp. 340, 341). This Biblical principle allows for qualified, non-stipendiary peer ministers to be equipped for word-and sacrament ministry in order to reach their associates who have rejected traditional congregations.
We deplore limiting the ministry of word and sacrament to those who have received an expensive seminary education and who must be paid to support themselves, their families, in order to pay off their debts.
We affirm that God has mightily used men and women to speak his Word and to administer his means of grace. Both men and women have served as prophets, teachers, apostles, and spiritual leaders. For example, Deborah was a leader of ancient Israel (Judges 4:4), Huldah spoke the word of the Lord (II Kings 22: 14-20), Anna blessed Jesus in the Temple (Luke 2:36), Philip’s daughters prophesied (Acts 21: 8,9). Female disciples were the first witnesses of the resurrection (Luke 24:10) and Paul greeted Nympha and the church in her house (Col. 4:15). Phoebe served as a deacon of the congregation at Cenchreae (Rom. 16:1). Priscilla was an authoritative teacher of doctrine and a leader of the congregation (Acts 18:26) as were other female co-workers, including Junia, whom Paul calls an apostle (Rom. 16:7). The practice of ordaining women into the ministry of word and sacrament needs to be implemented in those congregations where it is expedient to do so (LCMS Constitution, p.16). At the very least, further discussion of this important issue needs to occur, if we are to involve young women in the ministry of the church.
We deplore the fact that the Synod has considered the matter of ordaining women closed and that Synod leaders seek to discipline those who want to discuss it openly and favorably. Not only do such synodical actions further alienate most of the Millennial Generation but they also create a difficult situation with other confessional Lutheran church bodies that ordain women or that openly discuss the issue.
We affirm that a seminary education is valuable and absolutely needed to prepare graduates for a ministry like that of Paul and the other apostles. Such graduates have an important role to equip the whole people of God for their ministries so as to build up a new generation as the body of Christ (Eph. 4:11,12).
We deplore subordinating all the ministries of the church to the pastoral ministry since the latter is only one of those mentioned in the New Testament and then it was established primarily to equip others for ministry (Eph.4:11,12).
THE MISSION OF THE CHURCH
We affirm with joy the concerns of many in the Millennial Generation to feed the hungry, aid the sick, preserve the environment, and work toward the inclusion of all in a just society. We see them as fellow workers in Christ’s kingdom, even if they might not yet know Christ as their king.
We deplore all rash judgments to dismiss this generation as hedonistic, self-concerned, and outside the pale of our care because they are not active in and sometimes hostile to traditional congregations.
We affirm with joy the privilege to share with Millennials our Christ who forgives sin, who heals the broken hearted, who provides meaning to life, and hope even in the face of death. In an unjust and uncaring world, Christ provides focus, endurance, a model of sacrifice, and hope for a better time in this world and the world to come.
We deplore giving up on this generation because they often do not respond to our invitations to worship or to get involved in church activities.
We affirm with foreign missionaries who have worked in another culture that it is necessary to employ the language and means of communication used by those in that culture to spread the news of Christ and his Kingdom. We rejoice that new forms of communication, of community, and of language that speaks to the heart, can be used to help to build the church of tomorrow.
We deplore mission strategies that ignore the evangelization of the Millennial Generation because they have seldom responded to the more traditional methods of attracting them to the church.
We affirm our conviction that our Lord has richly, singularly, and undeservedly blessed the Synod during its existence in America. We pledge the efforts of our hearts and hands to the mission of the Synod as it reaches out to all, including the Millennial Generation.
Soli Deo Gloria
Constitution of the LCMS in Handbook 2013. St. Louis: LCMS, 2013.
Robert Kolb and Timothy Wengert, eds., The Book of Concord. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2000.
In Witness Whereof, we, the undersigned, affix our signatures.
The Rev. Dr. Robert Schmidt
Ms. Jean Ziegler
Mr. Mark Woodworth
The Rev. Richard Patt
Prof. Dot Nuechterlein
Ms. Elizabeth McAdams
The Rev. Bill Warren
The Rev. J.L. Precup
The Rev. Gary Koopmann
The Rev. Paul Doellinger
Mr. David Domsch
The Rev. Robert Stuenkel
The Rev. Dale Krueger
Atty. Myron Allenstein
Mr. William Wilbert
The Rev. Dr. Joseph Hughes
The Rev. Roger Stuenkel
The Rev. Harold Kitzmann
The Rev. Tyrus Miles
The Rev. Arnie Voigt
The Rev. Thomas Schoenborn
Ms. Carol Schmidt
Mr. David Lange
The Rev. Robert Bjornstad
The Rev. Robert Burke
The Rev. Howard Kramin
The Rev. Guy Vogel
The Rev. Ken Garazin
The Rev. Paul Schmidt
The Rev. Don Mulfinger
The Rev. Robert Martinek
The Rev. Dr. Paul Janke
The Rev. Bob Fitzpatrick
The Rev. Norman Porath
The Rev. Dr. Warren Schumacher, Pres. em. NW District
Mr. Scott Dart
The Rev. Dale Koehneke
The Rev. Walter Volz
The Rev. Tom Rogers
Ms. Marilyn Schinnerer (C.M)
The Rev. Karl Wyneken
Ms. Marilyn Maxner
Mr. David Maxner
The Rev. Nolan Bremer
The Rev. Paul Eggold
Dr. Elizabeth Goodine
The Rev. Mark Hoelter
Ms. Christa Even
Mr. David Crisi (D.C.E.)
The Rev. Dell Schomburg
The Rev. Alston Kirk
The Rev. Gary Weier
The Rev. Richard Brewer
The Rev. Thomas Van der Bloemen
Dr. Don Soeken
Dr. Jerald Pfabe
The Rev. Donald Muchow
The Rev. Douglas Johnstone
The Rev. Adam Kegel
The Rev. Joel Nickel
The Rev. Dr. Norman Metzler
The Rev. Jack Flachsbart
Dr. William J. Oehlkers
Dr. Lois Banke, RN,
The Rev. Richard Hill
Ms. Linda Kuhlmann (C.M.)
Ms. Joyce Nitz
Ms. Karen McKinney
Ms. Peggy Joan Trapp
The Rev. David Belasic Pres. em. Eastern District
The Rev. Hugh Beck
The Rev. Edward Sohn
The Rev. Stan Abraham
The Rev. William Shimkus
The Rev. Clemens Pera
The Rev. Keith Eilers
Mr. James Nuechterlein
The Rev. Daniel Wehrspan
Deaconess Marie Meyer
Ms. Andrea Kratzke (pre-med)
Dr. Michael Schmidt
The Rev. Peter Alexander
Mr. Adam Goodine (83)
The Rev. Kenton Rohrberg
The Rev. Dr. Harold Kitzmann
The Rev. Donald Hinchey
The Rev. Thomas Teske
The Rev. Gene Baade
Signatures of those who have left the LCMS, in part, because it did not allow the discussions here advocated.
Ms. Ann Murphy (theo. cand.)
The Rev. Herb Schmidt
The Rev. David Klump
Dr. Mary Todd
Ms. Lois Voeltz
The Rev. Norb Firnhaber
The Rev. Gene Brueggemann
The Rev. Dr. Edward Busch
The Rev. Dr. Edgar Krentz
Rev. Dr. Dean Lueking
Rev. Omar Stuenkel
Dr. Elizabeth F.R. Gingerich (95)
21 thoughts on “A Call for Discussion”
Same old double-talk. You never list the reasons why Becker was controversial. He participated in the ordination of a person (a woman) in the ELCA for one thing.
Your main argument seems to be that if the LCMS admits women as pastors that the domination would grow in numbers. That hasn’t happened to the ELCA or any other denomination that now has women pastors.
Is your list filled with retired and ex-member of the LCMS like it often is — time to be honest. Get on with life and if you want a woman pastor … join the ELCA.
I have an honest sincere question that I hope someone can answer.
If you believe as you have stated above and as you have described it then why not join the church body with which you are most closely aligned, in this case the ELCA?
Always inviting people to leave, instead of focusing on issues. Typical.
Why leave when we can witness to what we believe is standing in the way of the faith and fidelity of our LCMS young people?
It is with high hope for the future not of the LCMS but of the Lutheran Chutch in America that I write. I am a Millennial, 29 years old. My friends are Millenials as are those I teach at university and those I correspond with in daily life. They’re not looking for a watered down Christianity that caves to the culture. If they despise Christianity they despise it precisely because of the offense of the Gospel, that the Son of God actually took on flesh, lived, and died and rose again in the flesh all to remove and forgive sin. What they’re not impressed with is people condescending and acting like we will accept the incarnation and the atonement so long as they bend to feminist and evolutionary schemes of thought. The Millenials that are actually open to the basics of Christianity are also the Millenials that want authentic, ancient Christianity, liturgy, doctrine, and all. They see the boomers who want to sell a watered down Christianity as shallow sellouts. Take a stand on traditional doctrine and practice or you’ll lose the few Millenials that would set foot in a church. This statement will only further the pattern of abandonment from the church that it decries. As a Millennial, it amazes me to see boomers and other older people think that they understand my generation. Condescending just won’t work. You need to give us something authentic, something ancient, something that we haven’t seen in our pop culture. And that means giving us the Christianity of yesterday, the Christianity that doesn’t give a crap about the modern issues but stays with the pure and obvious wording of Scripture, the ancient text. Give that to us and nothing else. We’re tired of evolution and feminism. They bore us.
The article “A Call for Discussion” says, in part, “Some of the reasons given why young people are forsaking the church of their parents are the insistence of the Synod on a six-day creation and the denial of the ordination of women.”
The ELCA, which rejects a six-day creation and approves the ordination of women (almost half of all ELCA ordained ministers are women) has lost 1.8 million of its membership since the ELCA was created in 1988, which thoroughly refutes the above statement by all the signatures to the “A Call for Discussion” article.
Frankly, Dr. Becker has ‘expelled’ himself from what the LCMS ‘believes, teaches, and confesses.’ This is underscored by his swift move to the ELCA. The ELCA is in full ‘altar and communion’ fellowship with six other denominations. From the official statements of the ELCA: “ELCA clergy tend not to subscribe to a doctrine of
Biblical inerrancy, but see validity in various scholarly methods of analysis to help in understanding the Bible. This is in concord with most moderate Protestant bodies and in contrast to the LCMS and WELS, which practice the historical-grammatical method of biblical interpretation……On August 21,2009, the ELCA’s Churchwide Assembly in Minneapolis voted to allow congregations to call and ordain gays and lesbians in committed monogamous relationship to serve as clergy.” Obviously, if the Bible is not inerrant, nothing is absolute, as is evident in the ELCA today. That puts man above God! That is not Lutheran
As a point of further information, the six denominations that the ELCA is in full altar and communion fellowship with are:
1. The Moravian Church in America
2. The Reformed Church in America
3. The United Church of Christ
4. The Episcopal Church
5. The Presbyterian Church (USA)
6. The United Methodist Church
The unlimited diversity of doctrine among these denominations prove that ‘reason’ has replaced the doctrine of verbal inspiration of the Scriptures. But, as Dr.Robert Preus, the former President of Concordia Theological Seminary (Fort Wayne, Indiana) has written: “…reason as a source (principium quod) has no place in theological discipline.” Dr.Preus is reconized as the primary authority and scholar of twentieth-century American Lutheranism today Sadly, the ELCA and the added listed six denominations noted abpve are not the voice of Scripture as the source of theology and the actual “Lutheran” belief that Scripture is the true, inspired and absolutely authoritative Word of God; that is, as Dr.Preus also states: ‘Scripture is God speaking.’ On the contrary, ‘reason’ rejects the central teaching of the Bible that we are ‘justified by faith, apart from the works of the law.’ Reason rejects God’s Word, which Word promises that Baptism saves; here, reason is wedded to unbelief. Reason also rejects God’s Word which promises that the Lord’s Supper offers and gives the forgiveness of sins. Sadly, there is no end to the rejection of the inspired and intrinsic content of Scripture among these seven denominations. Lord, have mercy!
But are they Christians? If so, are they brothers and sisters in Christ? Is there really one Lord, one Faith, one baptism like Paul claims in Ephesians? Do we refuse real fellowship with a granddaughter who goes to the Methodist church? We confess in the Creed that we believe in one holy Christian church. Should we not begin to behave toward other Christians like we really believe it?
Response to Robert Schmidt:
1. Robert, only GOD is the Judge. He alone knows who are Christians and who are hypocrites.
2. God has called us “to be faithful” to His Word. Would you signers of this paper find fulfillment of your beliefs by joing the ELCA.
3. By the grace of God, the LCMS has weathered many ‘doctrinal’ storms; There is such a thing as ‘following Jesus.’ To ‘follow Jesus’ means to follow His Word “in all its parts.” Take the Sacrament of Baptism as an example. Jesus says, “Baptism does now save you.” All the denominations in fellowship with the ELCA reject this doctrine. Do you just prefer laying this doctrine aside so you can stand/kneel at the altar in a ‘worldly’ sense and reject what Jesus says? Is it not important to ‘believe’ what Jesus says? Is it not important to ‘suffer all, even death’ for the Truth of His Word? We have confessional Lutherans in Africa, for example, who are really know what it means to suffer for the truth of God’s Word, because they are willing and truly know what it means to die for the truth of His Word.
Does a ‘changing world’ as you write determine what the church believes?
4. You write, “the Scriptures in every generation should be guided by the Spirit through the Gospel and understood in the light of contemporary knowledge.” That is what the ELCA did and is doing. The result, just from 1988, gives them a membership loss of over 1.4 million members. And where in Scripture, pray tell us, do we determine what God’s Word says on the basis of “contemporary knowledge?”
5. The LCMS believes SCRIPTURE INTERPRETS SCRIPTURE. But you say, “we affirm that the best way to resolve differences in the interpretation of the Scriptures is through dialogue, free conferences, and Bible classes involving not only clergy but also the whole people of God, including those who question the traditional interpretations of the Scriptures.” The whole company of all protestant denominations would, and do, agree with you, and not even you know what all the diversity of these denominations is; so confusing and depressing it is, especially to the Millennials, whom you appear to be so concerned about.
6. You quoted Eph. 4:5, including the words “There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism” and yet all the denominations the ELCA is in fellowship with do not ‘believe, teach, and confess’ that one verse at all. As we study the teachings of these denominations we might both agree that they do not have ‘one Lord, one faith, one baptism.’
7. On your statement concerning “The Mission of the Church” you speak of caring for the “hungry….sick….and the environment…and inclusion of all in a just society.” Then you write, “We see them (Millenials) as fellow works in Christ’s kingdom, even if they might not yet know Christ as their king.” Scripture says, “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” It is no wonder these young people are confused.
8. I believe it is a fair response to state that your article is more than a little prone to rationalistic thinking; it lacks a solid, biblical basis for your demanding propositions.
9. Do you believe that the ‘solo-Scriptura theologian accepts every teaching of Scripture just as it stands. It is not his business to satisfy his reason.’
10. Obviously, your article includes many other issues that lack clarity and, especially, lack biblical certainty. Again, in a kind and loving way, may I encourage you and those who have signed this article to give serious consideration to joining the ELCA where your beliefs as stated in this article will find agreement. Lord, have mercy upon us.
Thanks for all your hard work on this. Making it public is now the challenge.
“Hidden from view in synodical publications are the steady decline of membership and the loss of a whole generation of young people….”
The LCMS has freely discussed membership decline in publications like The Witness and The Reporter. There have also been summits by The Synod’s Office of National Mission to assess membership decline. Your choice to ignore these resources does not make the membership decline issue “hidden”.
Your argument appears to be that the membership decline is due to issues like the “insistence of the Synod on a six-day creation and the denial of the ordination of women”.
There are liberal church bodies in the US that do not insist on a literal belief in the Bible and allow for the ordination of women. Do you know the membership trends for those organizations? Here’s some examples
The ELCA (1987 to 2009) lost approximately 14% of their members
The Presbyterian Church -USA (1990-2009) lost approximately 27% of their members
The UCC (1990-2009) lost approximately 32% of their members
The sad truth is that churches across the spectrum of liberal to conservative are losing members.
Of course all denominations are losing young people. This is why we spoke about a more Biblical view of ministry, of having Millennials reach Millennials. A more moderate view of creation and women’s ordination is a necessary but not sufficient step in reaching this generation. We also need a more Biblical view of the church and ministry.
The chief point of the Call for Discussion is a “call for discussion.” Not everyone who signed on has the same beliefs or conviction. Rather they simply want to talk about these issues. Is the LCMS so hidebound and afraid that they cannot discuss controversial issues?
We have realized long ago that simply ordaining women and having an opening for theistic evolution will not bring in the Millennial generation. This is why we spend some time talking about the ministry and seeing the majority of Millennials as a mission field with their own forms of communications, culture, prejudices, etc. Foreign missionaries know that they will not be able to effectively communicate over the years as well as the natives. This is why the real import of the Call is to consider equipping Millennials to reach out to others. This is just following the Biblical example of St. Paul in blessing for ministry the elders of the often small congregations in various cities across the ancient world.
Here is the deal, folks, you must think we LCMS folks are stupid. We’ve been watching you liberals, like Marie Meyer, and others, like Schmidt and others lie and prevaricate for many long years.
The game is up.
Your agenda has utterly failed.
Becker was your last hope that somehow, through some miracle, The LCMS would turn and embrace the failed agenda of the Seminex era.
Becker was not simply “calling for a discussion” … what utter BS.
He was very clearly and openly advocating doctrinal positions that are absolutely contrary to Holy Scritpure and Seminex geezers like you simply want to lie about it.
He advocated for homosexuality and homosexual marriage, said he supported the ELCA decisions. He supported the ELCA’s positions on Scripture, ecumenism, etc.
Do us all a favor and join an ELCA congregation. It will make your retirement years so much more pleasant.
Many of us are sick and tired of hearing your endless litany of lies, lies and more lies.
It is always amusing to me, a life-long member of the LCMS, how, as Mr. Robert Lee Benson (above), is so quick to admonish those who disagree with him (and purists in general) with the old canard of violating what ‘the LCMS ‘believes, teaches, and confesses.’
The LCMS as an institution today, controlled solely by men with a patriarchal, self-satisfied, and I would say, fundamentalist bent. They are all too happy to tell you what to believe, how to worship (liturgical), and now, with the constructive firing of Dr. Matt Becker (three heresy trials already and a fourth was promised), how to think, and what you may say.
EVEN when what is offered is arguably at least, within the symbols, within the scriptures.
The LCMS as it acts today, is not church-like (loving, putting the best construction on everything, adaptive) anymore–it is a hegemony of an ideology.
Mark G Woodworth
In response to your comments, let me kindly share with you a brief statement of Martin Luther (Reformer of the Church) who comments on 2 Corinthians Xiii.8: Concerning ‘love’ as you mention, he writes: “This is so great a good that no human heart can grasp it. It must not be treated lightly, as the world maintains and many people who do not understand, saying we should not fight so hard about an article and thus trample on Christian love; rather, although we err on one small point, if we agree on everything else, we should give in and overlook the difference in order to preserve brotherly and Christian unity and fellowship.
“No, my dear man, do not recommend to me peace and unity when thereby God’s Word is lost, for then eternal life and everything else would be lost. In this matter there can be no yielding nor giving way, no, not for love of you or any other person, but everything must yield to the Word, whether it be friend or foe. The Word was given unto us for eternal life and not to further outward peace and unity. The Word and doctrine will create Christian unity or fellowship. Where they reign all else will follow. Where they are not no concord will ever abide. Therefore do not talk to me about love and friendship, if that means breaking with the Word, or the faith, for the Gospel does not say love brings eternal life, God’s grace, and all heavenly treasures, but the Word.” (W.A.34.II.387).
The real issue here is not just an “ecclesiastical technicality” or just, as your article also states, “a theological renegade.” The real issue here is THE WORD. Your article clearly places rationalism and reason over God’s Word on many of these issues you speak of. By the way, is it not fair to question your lack of Scriptural sources for your propositions, which even gives reason the right to sit in judgment over matters of doctrine; even though, we can all agree, that reason has its proper and passive place in theology.
This its a bitterly fought battle over the Gospel that began in the 1970s. The reactionary right wing has power, indeed, the power of a single Facebook post and its ability to break a career, shows that those in power will attack, and never DISCUSS anything, which is all this Call for Discussion is asking for. Instead, like Pharisees, unloving, bitter, close-minded, they suppress any presumed attack on their particular interpretation (fundamentalist, biblicist) of an interpretation (Symbols) of the scriptures. Dr Becker has never set aside scripture nor the Symbols.
It is like the LCMS has a precious jewel, called the Gospel that they have been entrusted with. Fearing it might get broken, they carefully place it in a safe and won’t let anyone near. So it can’t do its job. It is not your Gospel, it is God’s. It won’t break or fail. The problem is that you can’t tolerate discussion, are so insistent that you are right, that it is better to act politically, like the pagans do, better to burn at the proverbial stake anyone and everyone that dares to say, “Hey, maybe these things can be looked at.” This attitude should not be tolerated in the Church of God.
From Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation, CPH, 1991, p.48ff: “The Bible is the “Holy Scripture” because God the Holy Spirit gave to His chosen writers the thoughts that they expressed and the words that they wrote (verbal inspiration). Therefore, the Bible is God’s own Word and truth, without error (inerrancy)….It is wrong to question or deny the truthfulness of the sacred text (as happens, for example, with historical criticism).” Mark, this is what we believe, teach, and confess in the LCMS…..without apology!! Upon this unchanging and enduring truth, we are, as you accuse us of, “close-minded.” Again, without apology!
2 Timothy 3:16-17: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
See also: John 10:35; Mark 8:38; John 14:26; Acts 24:14; 2 Peter 1:21.
Note: This includes the Genesis account of a six-day creation.
Note: I believe Rev.Becker has stated he has now joined the ELCA and, therefore, is in full altar and communion fellowship with the other six denominations as listed above. They all subscribe and embrace historical criticism; Catechism,P.51: “…historical criticism questions/denies the truthfulness of the sacred text.” “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy” (which happens when reason is not used as a ‘servant’ of the text).
A brief response to A Call for Discussion: THE WORD OF GOD:ONE.
1. You state, “This is a bitterly fought battle over the Gospel….” I agree. It has been a battle ever since God ‘created the heavens and the earth.’ Throughout the Old Testament time and now, the New Testament time, ‘the devil, the world, and our flesh’ has fought against the ‘revelation’ of God. It has always been a battle of ‘reason over revelation.’ At the time of the Reformation (Martin Luther) that battle was centered in THE WORD. Luther said, “Do you really want to consider the Word of the Gospel on a par with the word or the talk of a peasant in an inn or a tavern? Remember that God has said: When the Word of Christ is preached, I am in your mouth, and I pass with the Word through your ears into your heart. So, then, we have a sure sign and know that when the Gospel is preached, God is present and would have Himself found there…..everyone should flee, as from the devil himself, the sects and enthusiasts who lead us away from the Word and Scripture to human ideas, as do the pope, the enthusiastic Sacramentarians, and others. For this is leading from a rock into quicksand. The more you try to gain a footing there, the deeper you sink, and it is impossible to avoid finally going down.”
2..If your reference of a “broken career” refers to Rev.Decker, you can be confident and certain that the cause of his joining the ELCA is his own fault. His removal from the LCMS was of his own doing. His issues have been discussed for more than a ‘decade.’ Please do not make any more ‘inaccurate/false’ statements contrary to this. That is not helpful. In fact, the “call for discussion’ is really not just a call for discussion. Is it not, in all honesty, a movement (your article states: “flexibility, new look, contemporary knowledge, seeking of the truth,etc) to bring the LCMS into the gross forms of rationalism and reason which epitomizes the protestant denominations, including the ELCA, all caught up in the insidious logic of reason (including the old false teachings, as you propose, that “the interpretation of the Scriptures in every generation should be guided by the Spirit through the Gospel and UNDERSTOOD IN THE LIGHT OF CONTEMPORARY KNOWLEDGE (my emphasis)”, instead of the pure revelation of God’s Word which He has revealed to us through the prophets, evangelists and apostles, for all time? Again, the LCMS believes, teaches, and confesses that ‘Scripture interprets Scripture.’ What the LCMS believes is written down for all the world to hear and read in a book called The Book of Concord. To this day, the LCMS has agreed to not only ‘buy’ the Book of Concord, but to stand on the clear Word of God–which the Book of Concord agrees with–irrespective of ‘contemporary knowledge’ that you are promoting and which contemporary knowledge has obviously overtaken the ELCA.
3..You further state, “This must involve all generations seeking out the truth of God’s Word for our world today.” Let me, without your false accusation that the LCMS “cannot tolerate discussion, [but] are so insistent that [they] are right, [and] that it is better to act politically, like the pagans do, better to burn at the proverbial stake anyone and everyone that dares to say, ‘Hey, maybe these things can be looked at,'”…..let me kindly ask you whether this Is the way to begin a ‘discussion?’ And let us be kindly reminded that this Call for Discussion has been debated, discussed, voted on, and rehashed for decades, including the false teachings promoted at Concordia Seminary, St.Louis,Missouri, which came to a head in 1973.
4..Concerning God’s Word, it is always appropriate to underscore these words from the Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, XII 40: “This declaration….is our faith, doctrine, and confession. By God’s grace, with intrepid hearts, we are willing to appear before the judgment seat of Christ with this confession.”
5..Further, we read: “Lutherans have used the Confessions of faith contained in this book for nearly five hundred years as their public witness and testimony of what the Bible teaches. These Confessions give clear, unambiguous, and certain witness to the Christian faith. They unite all those who bear the name Lutheran and wish to be–and remain–genuinely Lutheran. That is why this book uses the word ‘Concordia’ as a title.
6..Frankly, Mark, the problem with “A Call for Discussion” is about a new interpretation of Scripture based on rationalism (Latin: rationalismus) which means a belief or theory that says opinions and actions should be based on reason and knowledge rather than on an absolute belief. Does this not include the use of logic (science of reasoning) as Robert Schmidt (for example) writes above: “Is there really one Lord, one Faith, one baptism like Paul claims in Ephesians? Do we refuse real fellowship with a granddaughter who goes to the Methodist Church?…..” Does this question, sadly, not reek with reason and rationalism? I’m sure you know that the teachings of Methodism (Arminian) include many false doctrines contrary to Scripture, and, no, we are not in ‘real fellowship’ with false teachers and false churches. At the same time, the LCMS does not believe, teach, or confess that people in certain denominations are/are not Christians. That is not the issue. But, does Rev.Schmidt propose we set aside the doctrines (teachings) of God’s Word, as the ELCA has done (additional, confirmed rationalists of the 1980s), and join all the Protestant-Reformed denominations that reject, for example, such chief doctrines as: (1) Justification by faith; (2) that we are ‘born again’ through The Sacrament of holy Baptism; “He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit…” Titus 3:5-7; I Peter 3:21; (3) The ‘real presence’ of Jesus Christ in the Sacrament of the Altar; (4) The chief benefit of the Sacrament of the Altar: the forgiveness of sins? Methodism rejects all these revelations from God’s Word, placing ‘reason’ above the clear Word of God! We must pray God that we place revelation (God’s Word) above reason and rationalism, for rationalism is like a growing cancer; it attacks one doctrine and then another, until toleration is supreme; then, toleration leads to indifference and indifference to apathy. Sadly, rationalism is more than just an ‘appearance’ of the paramount and prevailing mark of (all?) the protestant denominations today, including the ELCA.
Your statement also says, “It is again time for the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod to display flexibility in meeting a new situation while remaining true to its confessional commitment. To do so, however, will require a new look at the Scriptures, the Confessions, and the freedom they provide to meet ever new challenges.
1. Flexibility has no place in the Confessions of the LCMS; they agree with Scripture!
2. The ELCA already did a ‘new look’ at the Scriptures and the Confessions. They failed. God does not call us to take a ‘new look’ at His Word. His Word endures forever.
3. Freedom is found only in Christ. He is the Word which became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth.
1. What is the “flexibility” you speak of. Define it.
2. What is the ‘new look’ from the Scriptures you are lacking?
3. What is the ‘new look’ from the Confessions you are lacking?
4. What is the ‘freedom’ you seek that you now lack?
May God have mercy upon us, grant us a life of daily repentance and faith, and grant us His
You are incapable of thinking, only blind quoting. Stay and learn.
I found Rev. Benson’s comments very thoughtful. You must be confusing “incapable of thinking” with not being a rationalist. He has pointed out historically that what you all are endorsing is nothing new. You would do well to ponder his words of wisdom.
I will say this…it is nice finally to see Marie Meyer, finally!, admit to what we have all known her position to be on the ordination of women. After years of playing games, lying, obfuscating and bobbing and weaving all around the question…she finally openly admits she is in favor of women pastors.
Finally, Marie! More than overdue.