An Open Letter to District President Linnemann
Dear President Linnemann,
We wish to commend you for following the Synod’s Constitution, Bylaws, and standard operating procedures in the case of Dr. Matthew Becker. We would not know about this case had not the Synod President made it a public matter on January 26 on his personal Facebook page and then later on a synodical website. We trust that you have acted appropriately in this matter. From what we can tell, we believe the panel of circuit counselors, which was formed by a blind draw, carefully considered the original charge against Dr. Becker and evaluated the evidence of the case in the light of the conditions for holding membership in the Synod. We trust that the panel acted appropriately in this matter.
According to the Synod’s Bylaws and standard operating procedures, the panel’s decision ended the matter and no publicity was to be given to the case. But publicity has indeed been given to the case by President Harrison and then on various social media websites.
We are extremely offended by the actions of President Harrison in this matter. Not only did he speak publicly about the case at the recent North Dakota District Convention, he has now also posted public comments on his personal Facebook page and on a synodical website. In these venues he has publicly written:
“When a public teacher on the roster of Synod can without consequence publicly advocate the ordination of women (even participate vested in the installation of an ELCA clergy person), homosexuality, the errancy of the Bible, the historical-critical method, open communion, communion with the Reformed, evolution, and more, then the public confession of the Synod is meaningless. I am saying that if my Synod does not change its inability to call such a person to repentance and remove such a teacher where there is no repentance, then we are liars and our confession is meaningless. I do not want to belong to such a synod, much less lead it. I have no intention of walking away from my vocation. I shall rather use it and, by the grace of God, use all the energy I have to call this Synod to fidelity to correct this situation.”
Later in the same thread that follows beneath his initial Facebook post, President Harrison makes clear that he is referring to Dr. Matthew Becker at Valparaiso University.
President Harrison cites no evidence for all of these charges nor does he define the criteria by which the accused is to be judged. The accused, furthermore, is given no opportunity to speak in his defense. This is not only a miscarriage of justice, it borders on slander. President Harrison has clearly gone beyond the Constitution, Bylaws, and standard operating procedures (which require that no publicity is to be given to such settled cases) in order to visit his own judgment on the matter.
Professor Becker has clearly sworn to teach according to the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions. Our understanding is that the charge against him had to do with a single issue (not the multiple items in President Harrison’s laundry list), namely, the ordination of women. That is an issue that is not directly addressed in the Lutheran Confessions. While Professor Becker and many others in the Synod disagree with some synodical documents, insofar as they set forth less than persuasive interpretations of Scripture or inadequate theological understandings, these are indeed matters of biblical interpretation and exegesis, and do not touch on the articles of faith or basic Christian doctrine. The Synod realizes that consciences are not to be bound by synodical resolutions passed by majority vote, so it provides the opportunity for conscientious dissent. Furthermore, it does not limit the time for that dissent. Professor Becker has respectfully expressed his dissent on the synodical resolutions concerning six-day creationism and the ordination of women. He continues to discuss these matters with his peers, as is allowed and encouraged by synodical bylaw. In other conservative Lutheran church bodies these issues are clearly discussed and debated. However, in the LCMS, at this time, a mere invitation to discuss these and similar issues is met with threats of censure and dismissal.
If President Harrison seeks more power to overturn the present synodical Bylaws so that he can impose his own opinions on the Synod, will we, as Lutherans, again have to deal with a new pope? President Harrison has said, in effect, that if he cannot visit his own judgment on a teacher like Professor Becker, he does not wish to belong to such a synod or to lead it.
The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod is more than its present leader. According to its Constitution, the Synod is advisory to its members (congregations and rostered church workers). It is made up of many pastors, teachers, church workers, and laity who also have the God-given good sense to make judgments on the doctrine and life of the Synod. The panel that acted to end the case against Professor Becker was made up of just those people. Let us respect their judgment and move on.
With all respect,
In Christ, cc: President Matthew Harrison
Rev. Dr. Robert Schmidt
Deacon, Dr. Douglas Morrison
Rev. J. L. Precup
Rev. Ty Miles
Rev. Robert Martinek
Rev. Douglas Johnstone
Rev. Paul Schmidt
Rev. Thomas Van Der Bloemen
Rev. Richard Hill
Rev. John Hannah
Rev. Bill Warren
Deaconess Lisa Polito
Rev. Roger Stuenkel
Rev. Dale Krueger
Rev. Dale Koehneke
Rev. Ron Biel
Rev. Dr. Warren Schumacher
Rev. Dr. Herb Hoefer
Rev. Dell Schomberg
Rev. Mark Gause
Rev. Timothy Hartner
Linda Kuhlmann, (CM)
Karen Wrye (CM)
Richard Wrye (CM)
Rev. Dr. Frederick Niedner, Jr.
Dr. Mel Piehl
Rev. Nolan Bremer
Rev. Gary Weier
Rev. Robert Stuenkel
Rev. Norman Porath
Rev. Richard Patt
Rev. William Shimkus
Rev. Arnold Voigt
David Crisi (CM)
Rev. Thomas Schoenborn
Rev. Karl Wyneken
Rev. Thomas Myhre
Atty. Myron Allenstein
Rev. Paul Doellinger
Rev. Dr. Richard Baepler
Rev. Robert Burke
Rev Dennis Schmidt
Dr. Elizabeth Goodine
Rev. Adam Kegel
Dr. Don Soeken
Rev. Mark Lieske
Rev. Joel Nickel
Rev. Don Mullfinger
Atty. Dan Lorenz
Rev. William Oelkers
Rev. Dr. David Albertin
Rev. Dr. John Scheck
Rev. Dr. Hans Spalteholz
Rev. Ed Scott
Rev. Dr. Harold Kitzmann
Rev. Dr. Erhart Bauer
James Riedl (CM)
Rev. Dr. Norman Metzler
Rev. Dr. Raymond Waetjen
Rev. Jerry Groth
Tim Ihssen (CM)
Rev. Rob Bjornstad
[If you are a member of the LCMS or a member of an LCMS congregation, and you wish to add your name to this list of signatures, please contact Dr. Robert Schmidt at: email@example.com]
29 thoughts on “An Open Letter to District President Linnemann”
I thank God for the faithful confessor of Christ that we in the LCMS have in President Harrison. I’m saddened that you would take the stand you have in this letter. Brother, you need to repent. I stand with Rev. Harrison and the clear teaching of Holy Scripture.
Thank you for posting this and so providing a wonderful opportunity for all of us in the Missouri Synod to see once again the same, old collection of aging liberals in the Synod who have never gotten over the 1970s and foolishly would cling to their false doctrine in their dotage.
Scan through the signatories and you’ll see the same names we have seen for years desperately trying to pull the Missouri Synod away from its confessional moorings.
Any time the words, “An open letter to…” appear, they could easily be followed by, “we, the undersigned, acknowledged that we are guilty of violating the Eighth Commandment because we are airing someone else’s dirty laundry in public rather than speaking to him about it.” Did we learn NOTHING from the Yankee Stadium Prayer for America debacle? When will the members of this synod learn what Matthew 18:15 means? Do the writers and signers of open letters think the words of Christ don’t apply to them?
Women’s ordination is addressed in the Lutheran Confessions in the Table of Duties, which is a part of the Luther’s Small Catechism:
Table of Duties
Certain passages of scripture for various holy orders and positions,
admonishing them about their duties and responsibilities
For Bishops, Pastors, and Preachers.
A bishop must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behavior, given to hospitality, apt to teach; not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; one that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; not a novice; holding fast the faithful Word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers. 1 Tim. 3:2ff ; Titus 1:6.
“Our understanding is that the charge against him had to do with a single issue (not the multiple items in President Harrison’s laundry list), namely, the ordination of women. That is an issue that is not directly addressed in the Lutheran Confessions.”
ref. Augsburg Confession:
Article XIV: Of Ecclesiastical Order.
Of Ecclesiastical Order they teach that no one should publicly teach in the Church or administer the Sacraments unless he be regularly called.
Neither is homosexuality, pedophilia, wife-beating, etc, etc, etc. Let’s be rational.
Since you use this definition as a set-in-stone repudiation of women’s ordination, why does the church not also require all the men who are called to be married and have children? The supposed answer to the question of women serving is only implied in the definition but it is taken as doctrine, while the LCMS entirely ignores other parts of the passages used.
I am a layperson in the LCMS, so I know very little of the rules, political structure, general operation of the Synod, etc., but it seems at the very least to be quite unprofessional for President Harrison to post his feelings about Matthew Becker on Facebook. Are there rules or guidelines violated by this, since the case against Dr Becker had already been adjudicated?
*Personal disclosure: I was in the same 4 year class at Concordia College, Portland with Matthew Becker.
Why was it so bad for Rev. Pres. Matthew Harrison to openly state his position, but it was perfectly ok for Matthew Becker to openly oppose the publicly confessed doctrine of the LCMS, to voice his opposition to Rev. Harrison and others who pointed out his false doctrine, to publically teach his false doctrine, and for everyone who supported him to publically, on the internet and in print publications, accuse Rev. Harrison and others of many false charges? I am always amazed at the depths of duplicity in liberals. Always ready to point out the mote in another’s eye while absolutely blind to the log in their own.
Thanks for posting this letter. It is very revealing. Clearly this situation sets before the Missouri Synod a referendum. Will we retreat back to the 1970’s and embrace the theology which was associated with Seminex or will we move forward with the clear and confident confession of Christ held by President Harrison? Missouri can’t have it both ways.
Repent and believe the gospel. I stand with Harrison.
What is the Gospel that he doesn’t believe?
Does Becker not confess Jesus Christ crucified for our sins and resurrected on the third day according to Scripture?
There are other denominations available to all of you supporting women’s ordination, the fallibility of the Scriptures, open communion, and etc. Wouldn’t the signers to this open letter, and indeed the hosts of this letter, be more at home in the ELCA? I truly don’t understand why all of you seek contention and work so hard at causing division in the LCMS. Thank you for this letter, since you have marked yourselves as supporting false doctrine and a false teacher.
— Romans 16:17
I was going to comment on this situation, but you took the words right out of my mouth.
I agree wholeheartedly with your comment.
And I thank Pastor Matt Harrison for his protection of us, and for courageously remaining faithful to God’s Word.
With the utter failure of the NWD panel to give proper regard for the obvious evidence against Matthew Becker in this matter and thus their utter failure to let the matter go forward, one must begin to ask what any theologian/clergyman could possibly do or what false doctrine could he possibly hold that would result in his removal from the clergy roster of the LCMS? It seems sadly clear that there no longer is a doctrinal standard in our Synod and that would mean that no imaginable heresy could possibly result in the removal of any such heretic from the LCMS. Since we now tolerate heresy without correction, it seems clear that The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod has become a heterodox church body. I can only pray that such men of courage as President Matthew Harrison can bring a biblical, orthodox remedy to this aborted procedure so that we might once again become a church body known for pure doctrine. Sadly, we are not such a church body at this time. What is truly tragic is that so many supporters of President Linnemann believe that this is a positive turn of events.
“Since we now tolerate heresy without correction, it seems clear that The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod has become a heterodox church body.” I am shocked that those who seek pure doctrine as THEY define it, nonetheless continue to remain a part of it. Christian, LCMS Lutherans, accused of being heretics . . . So Matthew 18 of them. Burn me at your stake, brother for supporting them.
Matthew 18 is a procedure for addressing private sin (a wrong committed by a brother against you that only he and you know about. The Becker matter is blatantly public and the Large Catechism clearly says that when such a matter is plain for all to see (publicly published papers supporting the ordination of women, etc.), that all may, indeed must address the matter publicly. That I fully intend to do. What troubles me is that false teaching bothers you so little.
Since you strain the gnat of the public sin of jumping to conclusions about Professor Becker by defining Matthew 18 to apply to private sin alone, let’s see if the fundamentalist/pure doctrine uber alles group apply the 8th Commandment to the behavior, or perhaps the vaunted LCMS own rules on privacy, or perhaps even that strange concept of Christian humility or love to the “Matt Becker” issue for once. Are public attacks by the President, the usual suspects, and district resolutions and open letters about one brilliant man who dares to teach, a teacher who by the Synod’s own arcane rules was found to be ‘innocent’ attack so out of the blue; attacks so hand-wringing, and followed by such over-the-top hyperbole and hysteria (see many comments here and on by the non-pastoral pastors and arch conservative lay people on ALPB and “Steadfast” sort of forums and user groups) posted by the lock-step purity cult members the correct things to do? *I* a fellow “poor, miserable sinner” for one do not believe so. This situation reminds me so much of the political purge of the seminaries during the “Seminex” days. It is happening again, if indeed it ever went away. The Conservatives want to: purify, always purify, the LCMS toward their way of thinking, and will never be satisfied until they are standing, few, alone and proud with their interpretation of the way the LCMS is supposed to be. A synod no longer merely advisory but rather hierarchical and self-servingly patriarchal, no longer capable of adaptation to the reality of Gen X, Y or Z, clutching the church-as-practised in their past, (except for German language and life insurance policies), to continue down the path of shrinking and greying church membership by insisting on stale and memorized litanies mumbled beneath organ music from islands of people in an otherwise empty sea of pews for the 1,000th time; rationalizing that pastors sit at their desks waiting for an unsaved (non-LCMS) to wander into their offices and get instructed instead of involving themselves in the community around them or praying with grieving people of public disasters; uncomfortable to sing a lyric or tune written after the 17th century, fearing an overhead projector near the front of the church or measuring soul winning success as these are the thing of CGM heresy. Making ignorant scientific pronouncements or other church policies by majority vote at a convention instead of changing the by-laws, brain-washing women into actually wanting to submit to ‘men,’ even to not let them hold office or perhaps even vote (!), producing 10 point DVDs to continue blatant politicizing and dividing the church with their way or the high way list of demands. Secret oxymoronic koinonia conferences, not-so-secret Lutheran Witness propaganda to make their coordinated tactical points like in the old days of Christian News, so ready already to shout Heresy! Heresy! at anyone who wants to talk about things they failed to discuss in Sunday School or during seminary indoctrination. Proof texting that laymen or (gasp) women right out of reading an Old Testament lesson from a lectern or touching a wafer before it touches someone else’s tongue. No woman can ever be in the pulpit, after all, because our German and historic Jewish/Greek/Medieval male-only traditional exegesis, by men for men, that draws that line in the order of creation sand (give us time) while those women called by the Holy Spirit slip between their fingers. For to step beyond that line leads to the abomination of desolation: gay ministry! This may be the way so-called confessional Lutherans NEED to practice ‘their’ particular faith and worship and even more so thus demand EVERYONE who can rightly call themselves of the LCMS to do the same, wherever they go from north to south, east to west, to Africa and beyond. It’s all a farce made up, you know, your need to keep from the communion rail anyone that does not match your perfect definitions exactly, as if you can ever really know or judge a human spirit that from the altar side of the kneeling rail. You take, in closed communion what the Lord wanted to keep us as One and use it to divide. But it is not the only way and it likely is not the way of Jesus or His Gospel. You know its just possible that you are wrong or closed-minded or need to ask repentance instead of insisting that people who disagree with you are heretics or must leave your 19th century Walther church. It may be comforting to practice the way you’ve always done it, to read the Bible as the Baptists do, to cast the first stone at someone without real evidence or personal knowledge, to produce DVDs or emails, or letters or articles or anonymous texting drawn from the imagined evidence that metastasizes in closed, fevered minds. To create boogeymen or enemies to divide and conquer under the sign of the cross perhaps because you NEED to know you are right and in power and control. And NEED to be surrounded only by people you NEED to be right. ..Doctrinally pure and perfect people here on earth before the Lord returns. Humbleness, love, the good news of Jesus, come in second place here and now, don’t they?
IGNORANT AND SELF-SERVING CLERGY WHO BRAIN-WASH PEOPLE….A very accurate description of the LCMS!!! Well said!
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I absolutely support Pastor Harrison. He is calling out error as he is supposed to do.
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I stand with LCMS President, Matthew Harrison. He is correct, and he has the right to express publicly the pain he feels over what was going on. I support him 100%.
It seems to me that unbelieving “clergy” spouting anti-biblical and heretical words, ignoring Confessional doctrine (which they take an oath to uphold), should remove themselves to a church body which already teaches the heresies. Perhaps ELCA is the right place for Mr. Becker. But then, I would like to see the “L” removed from that Body’s name as they are most definitely NOT Lutheran.
Well said, Maria. I agree entirely and certainly stand with Pr. Harrison in this matter. The ELCA will be a perfect place for Mr. Becker and any other liberal ” Lutherans” who find the Lutheran Confessions ” outdated.” Why shouldn’t a church set its own standards as to who they accept as ministers among their own ranks? It’s an issue that doesn’t really need to exist. If the liberals are unhappy with the LCMS, I’m sure their LCMS pastors would bless their departure to a church that more fully meets their own needs and expectations. Some of us actually take our promises to uphold the teachings of the Lutheran Confessions seriously ( I’m only a local church council member, not a minister) and there is no real need to distort the plain and simple meaning of the words written therein, unless the ” interpreter” has a political agenda.
I’m surprised that the LCMS was as patient as it was and absolutely agree with the decisions of its leadership. Biblical fidelity and Confessional loyalties are more important now than ever, as we see the fruits of liberal actions both spiritually and politically in the United States.
Staying faithful to God’s Word was never promised to be easy. What is easy nowadays is turning away from Law and Gospel ministry while still claiming to serve Christ. The ordained pastor of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod promises at his ordination these words, “Yes, I believe and confess the canonical Scriptures to be the inspired Word of God and the only infallible rule of faith and practice.” Furthermore this promise is made, “Yes, I make these Confessions my own because they are in accord with the Word of God.” If our confessions are a result of social constructionism, then they are under no eternal foundation and are subject to change. Yet upon our confession we agree that what we confess is in accord with the Word of God and therefore should be considered immutable.
Brethren, this open letter fills me with profound sadness, and I wish to express my total dissent from it inasmuch as it advocates the retention of teachers in our fellowship that deny scriptural doctrine. Our scriptural and confessional stance is clear, and by his public teaching Dr. Matthew Becker has publicly witnessed his repudiation of that stance. I support our synodical president, and I pray for all of you and our synod. Lord, have mercy.
It wasn’t until 1956 that LCMS even integrated blacks into our white congregations, now considered an obvious non-biblical stance and most would consider a black eye in how close minded we used to be not that long ago.
Now the ordination of women is being discussed with the current LCMS leadership refusing respect all God’s people by holding onto a vague biblical stance? When my young teen daughter expressed a desire to become a Lutheran Pastor she was told by an equally closed-minded Baptist relative, she could not, even in our family’s Lutheran faith. That is the last time my daughter stepped foot in our church. I still am a member of an LCMS church but hope to be part of the solution not the problem.
Which side of history to you want to stand on – as a Lutheran?
“Which side of history” does not matter at all. If the “wrong” side of history is the one which is Biblically sound, Confessionally correct, etc., then I suppose that puts me on the “wrong” side of history and, in that case, that’s exactly where I want myself, and my church, to stay.
My daughter, now in college, knew from as early as she could understand that being a pastor was for men only. At our congregation, so is being an officer, being a voter (yes), and serving at the altar — and, would you believe, she’s OK with all that, even convinced? (perhaps her upbringing might factor in here . . . nah . . .). She also knows, in her college town, to not even set foot in the ELCA church out there (there’s no LCMS in that area).
The last thing I’m going to do is use the idea of “progress” or “moving ‘forward’ ” to gauge my doctrine and practice. Just look at society if you want examples of why that’s bad anyhow when it comes to moral issues (that is a right assessment, no?).
Your Baptist relative or in-law (you don’t specify which he or she is to you) is actually right on that particular point, even if not with many other things theological.
Something is doctrinally inverted when folks use the contemporary mind-set of their children as a gauge to determine the legitimacy of their doctrine. We have parishioners in our LCMS church who have left because their children didn’t want to attend a “sexist” church or one that practiced “closed communion”, they said. They now attend a locally popular church-growth/non-denom church that practices all kinds of amusing heresies in order to accommodate contemporary political correctness and the broadest market possible such as dual baptism (“we do both infant and ‘believer’ baptism”… whaaat??). I truly wish them well but fear they have succumbed to what Isaiah talks about in 5:20 and Paul talks about in Romans 12:2.
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