Wednesday, August 23, 2006

On Leaving the LCMS

(A note of explanation: in an online discussion, some were criticizing those who have left the LCMS to become Roman Catholic or a variety of Eastern Orthodoxy. This is my response).

And perhaps there are those who are weary of church being a place to fight. And perhaps those same people have realized that leaving the LCMS is not the same as leaving the church.

It should be pointed out that -- regardless of what some wish to say -- the LCMS is a heterodox church body, in which there is no unity in worship. In which those on the clergy roster can believe whatever they wish, and there will be no consequences. I bring up the tiresome examples of Paul Bretscher and Ted Strelow. It was known for many years what Bretscher believed and taught, and no one did anything until finally in 2003 -- after some 30 years of open, published heresy. And I had the unpleasant task of listening to Tim Fangmeier (on the evening of Dec. 14, 1998, in the adult classroom at Redeemer Lutheran Church, in Burlington, NC, to be specific), then "Mission and Ministry" coordinator for the SED, argue that Bretscher's unitarian poodle Ted Strelow, who -- just incidentally -- denies that Christ is God, denies that the Bible is the word of God, and teaches that we work our way to Heaven -- that Strelow should be allowed to remain on the LCMS clergy roster because his family was "third generation LCMS"[!]

Perhaps those leaving the LCMS are just weary of dealing with the constant, non-stop bilge of the LCMS, and suspect that it will not change for the better, but rather for the worse. Those who leave for the "old and venerable" might be doing so out of conviction, rather than some supposed seeking refuge.

The reality is that the LCMS is fraught with errors: of doctrine, of worship, and of practice. Perhaps it is less festooned with error than Rome or Constantinople, but in that case, we're just arguing numbers, and that's hardly the unity that supposedly is at the heart of the LCMS. The LCMS no longer tolerates error; it celebrates error. Our triumphalism over against other erring Christians is hardly becoming. I suspect that many who leave the LCMS do so because seeing it is pointless to stay and fight with people who no longer recognize what makes them Lutheran (i.e., confessional subscription). So these folks leave. They leave for a place that -- while imperfect, like the LCMS -- is a movement away from being one of the whining people who increasingly spend time grumbling about the LCMS's errors. The "leaders" in the LCMS no longer care about what the synod's Lutheran minority believes. As long as people stay -- and pay -- they will happily tolerate our whining. The only thing these people understand -- given their propensities -- is money. Leave, stop paying, and -- while they won't change -- we will thereby help to prevent them from propagating more error.

For those who think the LCMS is going to "turn around," more power to them. I would only ask that they carefully consider history, and ask themselves which religious body has EVER "turned around." If they can't think of one, perhaps it's time to consider leaving this one, too. Rome is a bad choice. So is Constantinople. But there are other choices. And because some of the choices are bad doesn't mean that the LCMS is good: only, perhaps, that it is less bad. Perhaps. It used to be said that the LCMS didn't tolerate persistent error. That hasn't been true for a very long time. Pretending that it is true doesn't change anything.

4 comments:

Dixie said...

I suspect the number of reasons for leaving the LCMS are about as many as the number of people who leave. Each leaving comes down to a personal decision...a choice. Do some leave to take refuge elsewhere? Sure...that's possible. Do some leave because they find theological errors in Lutheranism? Sure. Do some leave because Lutheranism has become just another valid choice and they like the folks down at First Methodist better? That, too. Regardless of the ultimate reason...what you describe as the situation in the LCMS is precisely what causes people to leave.

For many (most, I would hope)...starting yet another Lutheran sect is not a solution. When the splinter groups start splintering that's a sure sign something ain't right. Plus, I was taught the Lutheran church was the church catholic not a denomination...to me leaving for a new Lutheran sect smacks of denominationalism.

Some people have decided to use 1 Cor 7:20 as a guide and just stay where they are while the sky falls in. But for some people, the problems in the LCMS have forced them to seriously examine Lutheranism and decide whether or not the Lutheran faith delivers the Truth in full.

When I told my former Lutheran pastor I was leaving for Orthodoxy, he said he couldn't trade one set of errors for another. I completely agree with him...I never would have left the LCMS if it was just a matter of exchanging one set of errors for another. I don't recommend anyone make that kind of move.

Bill Kope said...

Sorry Dixie, but there are no known theological errors in "Lutheranism". Actually, "Lutheranism" is not a correct identifier of those who believe and confess what Lutherans,true Lutherans believe. When a synod goes into heterodoxy at a run, it is time to rethink that synod. Missouri has adopted heterodox practices over many years and has done nothing to correct those errors. In fact, those committing those errors have been glorified among the ministers and laity alike. When one finds error and cannot correct that error, it is either time to abandone those in error or become part of that error. Missouri is in error and many of us have left it and are searching for fellowship among those others that believe as we do. Presently there are several small bodies that hold to the same confession and in time these will work themselves out for the benefit of the Holy Catholic Church. This is not the Roman Catholic Church, but the true catholic church on earth.

Chris C said...

Perhaps those leaving the LCMS are just weary of dealing with the constant thoughts of what state their salvation is in being in fellowship with such hetrodoxy.

"Flee idolatry" 1 Cor. 10:14
"do not share in the sins of others" 1 Tim 5:22
" If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him.
Anyone who welcomes him shares in his wicked work. 2 John 1:10-11

Chris C said...

Dixie says:When the splinter groups start splintering that's a sure sign something ain't right.

Who said "something ain't right"?

Matt 7:13-14
"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.
But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

Luke 12:30-32
For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them.
But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.
"Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.

"Do not be afraid, little flock"
Maybe that little flock will be a splinter group.

"And only few will find it"
Maybe that few will be a splinter group.