Ecumenism And Unionism Alive And Well In The LCMS-Eastern District

Ecumenism and Unionism.

I thought about both today (as well as Syncretism too) after reading how US President Barack Obama spoke at the annual National Prayer Breakfast (where he had some choice words for Christianity as if we're the ones beheading people if not shooting them and setting them on fire!), and that this year's event was attended by none other than the Dalai Lama himself.

This isn't going to be a political piece though, which is why I want to go back and revisit the topics of Ecumenism and Unionism so please settle in since this is gonna be a long one I think.

Perhaps they are the "New Sacraments" of our day, especially if we are to believe the FiveTwo/Wiki14 crowd if not the Christian Liberal Progressives (often the "Lutherans-In-Name-Only") too.

After all, how often are we told nowadays that you can't have "true" unity without an "ecumenical" spirit? That is, this notion that Christians who want to be united need to realize that denominational differences (i.e., like subscribing to a different confession of the Christian faith "that was once for all delivered to the saints" than someone else who also calls themselves a Christian) is actually "divisive" and a "barrier" or "stumbling block" to the desired true unity.

Really? Is that really true though?

Here's an excellent commentary on "Ecumenism & Unity" from Hermann Sasse...


"And what about the Lutheran Churches of America? They would have been entitled to speak and act for the Lutheran Confession at that time. In the thirty years which now have passed since the formation of the L.W.F. at Lund they have increased in stature and in favor with man. Whether also in wisdom and favor with God remains an open question. They have sent their young men to Europe to get a European degree in theology, preferably a German one which is supposed to be the seal of perfect wisdom and knowledge. The time may come when our American brethren will realize that 'authentic scholarship' and 'relevant scientific theology' does not save churches…. It was a false 'critical' theology which has destroyed the Word of God instead of explaining it. A theology is false and a nuisance to the Church which destroys the dogmatic substance of the church under the pretext to make it plain or to express it in 'relevant' terms which modern man would readily accept. 
It is true of mankind in all ages: 'The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God,' even not the man who has reached the state of 'maturity.' Why do neither the church historians nor the dogmaticians nor the practical theologians examine these claims? Why does no one ask, in an age of alleged deeper Biblical studies, what the New Testament teaches on Church, church unity, the ministry? Why do we all take modern concepts of the ecumenical movement for granted? Who tells us that God wants all who call themselves Christians to be united in one big visible church? Certainly not our Lord and His Apostles. We read that into the New Testament. Who has invented the idea that the Church as the Body of Christ consists of churches and that this body is unfortunately divided? The body of Christ cannot be divided, neither the sacramental nor the spiritual body. 'A sumente non concisus / non confractus, non divisus / Integer accipitur.' Who has invented the myth of an 'Ancient undivided Church' which must be 'reunited' into the 'Future Reunited Church'? Who has invented the idea that by means of a dialog we can attain unity? In some cases it may be possible, in others not. Most certainly it will not be possible if this dialog aims at a minimum of doctrine and at formulas of compromise. A lot of these have been written in our time to overcome the doctrinal differences concerning the sacraments. No formula has been found yet to overcome the contrast between those who teach that the consecrated bread is the body of Christ and those who teach that it is not. Even if in Holland, the home of Cornelis Hoen from whom Zwingli took over his doctrine, Roman Catholics now try their hands at a compromise by suggesting a new doctrine of 'transsignification' ('In Holland everything changes in the Church except bread and wine'), the alternative remains. And all compromises on the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Baptism are marred by the fact that when unity seems to be reached the representative of the Quakers and the Salvation Army rises and states that all is nice and good, but that external sacraments are not necessary. Then you may try to convince him that this is wrong. In the very moment when the Quaker admits, he ceases to be a Quaker and must be replaced by another Quaker. So the dialog must be continued until the last member of the Society of Friends has accepted the sacraments. 
And the dialog itself? We already hear alarming statements that our separated brethren in Rome, after they have converted the other churches to a renewed Catholic Church wish to extend the dialog to the Jews, the Mohammedans, the Buddhists, the Marxists and atheists. But it may then happen that not only the walls between the Christian denominations become transparent (Edmund Schlink), but also other walls. 
We quote only one example. At the meeting of the International Missionary Council at Tambaram, Madras, in 1938 Walter Marshall Horton spoke of his friendship with 'a Buddhist priest whom to this day I persist in regarding as my brother in Christ. He gave me a picture of a Bodhisattva . . . which to him perfectly symbolized the spirit and attitude required by his simple creed: ‘to cleanse the heart of evil, and endeavour to make this world a kingdom of God.’ There is a faint smile of self-congratulation on that picture face, which reminds me of the great gulf that remains forever fixed between Buddhist self-discipline and the Christian sense of grace toward sinners; but when I talked with the priest who gave me the picture, that gulf was not there. Differences of tradition seemed to vanish between us, as I often felt them melting away between Christians of different communions at ecumenical gatherings, and our souls met in something less tangible and definable than forms of speech and thought, but infinitely more real and authoritative. If I belong in any sense to the Body of Christ,-then he does too. It would be blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, the Wind of God that bloweth where it listeth, for me to deny my Buddhist brother his place in that Body. When I ventured to say as much to a group of Christians in Kobe the next day, I was sternly reminded that ‘There is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved’; but I thought to myself that I have rather have the Spirit without the Name, than the Name without the Spirit' (Tambaram Series vol. I, 'The authority of Faith,' London 1939, p. 149f.; emphasis added). 
This is the end of the dialog, if consistently carried on. We all should love our pagan brother in Adam. He is a sinner, as I am a sinner. But to make him my Brother in Christ, this is the denial of Christ, the only Saviour of sinners, of the Holy Spirit, of the Living God and His eternal Word." 
*- Hermann Sasse, "Confessional Churches In The Ecumenical Movement," The Springfielder, XXXI:1 (Spring, 1967), 25-27.


I wanted to open with that reminder for good reason.

As you know, my family and I are in a transition phase as we're in the process of leaving the LCMS Church that we're currently members of (the church that's associated with the Lutheran Day School my kids attend and that my wife works at) to go find a more faithful Lutheran congregation to become members of.

Sadly, this has been a very difficult task here in the LCMS-Eastern District although we think we may have finally found a place to call home.

Below is just one of the many reasons why this has become an easy decision for us. This appeared in the February edition of the "Trinity Church Tidings" online monthly newsletter.



LENTEN JOURNEY 2015 
Trinity will be hosting the West Seneca Community of Churches’ Lenten Journey on Wednesday, March 11th at 7:00pm. We will be providing refreshments after the service. If anyone is able to donate a finger-food snack, baked good or can assist with set-up or clean-up, please contact NAME REMOVED (PHONE # REMOVED). Here is a complete list for this year’s Lenten Journey services. All services are at 7:00pm: 

Feb. 25, 2015 - St. Peter’s United Church of Christ (Pastor Hope Mould). 
Theme: “Why Can Lent be a Time of Trial?”

March 4, 2015 - Queen of Heaven Church (Father Hyde). 
Theme: “Testing of the Saints of Old”

March 11, 2015 - Trinity Lutheran Church (Rev. Dennis Krueger). 
Theme: “Temptations of Jesus”

March 18, 2015 - Ebenezer United Church of Christ (Rev. Richard Zajac). 
Theme: “Lead Us Not Into Temptation”

March 25, 2015 – St. Nicholas (Msgr. William Gallagher, Pastor Emeritus). 
Theme: “The Joy of the Hard Way”


This is an annual series of ecumenical church services that take place at different churches throughout the West Seneca, NY community that feature "Guest Pastors" all in the pursuit of Christian unity.

Why in the world would an LCMS Church want to take part in a series of events like this!?! I mean, come on! Why doesn't the Pastor just dip his fingers in a petri dish containing the Ebola Virus and then make the sign of the cross on his parishioners foreheads instead of using the traditional ashes this year?

If you think I'm being "too harsh" with a statement like that, then please prayerfully consider the spiritual poison this under-shepherd of His flock is encouraging the sheep to feed on by encouraging them to receive false teaching from not one, but from four different heterodox denominations (one with a female "Pastor" too!) during this upcoming season of Lent!

It just makes me so mad and sad.

Now, you might be wondering why all the fuss. "What's the big deal, Jeff?" The "big deal" is that this kind of joint worship service is what we call "ecumenism" and "unionism" and it's the kind of thing our Synod infamously experienced in the Worship Service after 9/11 held at Yankee Stadium as well as the brand we saw after the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.

Most importantly, it is expressly forbidden by our Lord in His Word, and our Lutheran Confessions have a ton to say about this sort of thing, why it's bad, and why we should always avoid it at all costs.

   

Unionism is “taking part in the services and sacramental rites of heterodox congregations or of congregations of mixed confession.” (Constitution, Article VI., Paragraph 2. b., LCMS 2010 Handbook, p.15). The emphasis is on “services and sacramental rites.” That means that a pastor saying a prayer at a Fourth of July rally to start the annual community parade is just fine but saying a prayer at Fourth of July community worship service is forbidden. We will say more about why it is forbidden below. Unionism is when a pastor does this with heterodox Christians (those who mix false teaching in with true teaching such as Roman Catholics, Baptists, Methodists, etc.). Syncretism refers to the same only with pagans (Muslims, Jews, Hindus, etc.). If you do not commit to the fact that God’s Word is true in every single phrase, word, jot and tittle, (inerrancy) then you will cave to the culture and which is nothing more than starting down a long "slip and slide" that eventually leaves you with no truth at all. 
*- Pastor Tim Rossow


Sorry, but I will not stop protesting false doctrine peddled by false teachers just for the sake of "get-alongism" and some flimsy veneer of unity. Not gonna happen! Not when it's the #YOHBT .

My dear friends, my faith in Christ was almost D-E-S-T-R-O-Y-E-D by such false teachers and their spiritual, sweet-sounding poison (1 Timothy 1:19). Of course, none of this should be surprising to us.


2 Timothy 4:2-5 (ESV) 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 5 As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.


You can call me a "hater" all you want (I hope you don't), but I love you too much to sit quietly without making you aware of the things that we need to know are harmful to our souls.

Let's just recall, for a moment, the Apostle Paul's ministry and his response to false teachers and their false preaching and teaching. We'll cite Hermann Sasse again when he wrote on the subject of "Selective Fellowship" (a taboo subject in Christianity today for sure) based on the actions and divinely inspired words of St. Paul.


"Paul, like every missionary, has great patience with immature Christians who have still to grow into the full understanding of the Gospel. Thus with great patience he argues with the people at Corinth who denied the resurrection of the body, an idea so strange to Greeks, as also Acts 17:32 shows. He refutes the errors existing in Corinth concerning the Lord’s Supper. He would have dealt differently with these people, had they insisted on their errors and proclaimed them as truth contrary to Paul’s doctrine. Even a heretic is to be excommunicated only after the first and second admonition (Titus 3:10). A heretic has to be avoided, as John understood it in the case of the deniers of the incarnation even in private life. The tradition of John’s last admonition 'Little children, love ye one another' and of his refusal to be in the same house with Cerinthus is an excellent illustration of the way how for him love for Christ and strict rejection of heresy belong together. The strong language which Luther sometimes used when criticizing heretics has often been regarded as a deplorable and unchristian lack of love. He and the great champions of orthodoxy in all ages have followed the example of the apostles (e.g., 'serving their belly,' Romans 16:18, cp. Philippians 3:19, where probably the same heretics are meant as Romans 16:17 f., since Phil. was written in Rome). We do not say that to excuse Luther’s every expression or similar utterances and ways of speech in dogmatic controversies. We only want to state how abominable to the apostles (as also to the Old Testament prophets) the rejection of God’s Word was. 'Serving the belly' is, by the way, a very true and not only picturesque description of men for whom theology is a means of satisfying their own desire for fame and an easy life (comp. the profound description of sin in its various aspects, 1 John 2:16)."


"Love for Christ and strict rejection of heresy belong together." Wow! As a "Newtheran" myself, it's amazing to me how much the Lutheran Church has forgotten such Biblical truths.

There's really so much more I could write in response to this "Lenten Journey 2015" like some words on the "unity of the church" by Johann Gerhard.


Whether the union of members with each other and with their head is a mark of the Church. 
§ 231. The first section. Is the union of members with each other and with their head a proper and genuine mark of the Church? We respond. 
(1) We confess that the Church is one on the basis of the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds. The reasons for this unity we explained earlier (§ 34), among which the chief is the unity of faith and doctrine (Ephesians 4:5). 
(2) Therefore unity per se is not a mark of the Church. Rather, it must be connected with faith and doctrine, Ephesians 4:5: “One Lord, one faith;” v. 13: “. . . until we all attain to the unity of faith” (Athanasius, Letter ad Antioch.). “Only that is the true concord which is of faith. Without that, it is the best dissent; the most destructive concord,” as Gregory Nazianzen writes (Orat. 1, de pace). 
(3) Not just any unity of faith and doctrine is a mark of the Church, but only the unity of true faith and doctrine, that is, of prophetic and apostolic doctrine, for that alone is of immovable and perpetual truth. Therefore the unity of faith that is a mark of the Church must be based on one foundation of doctrine: the apostolic doctrine. Accordingly, the Church is said to be “built upon the foundation of the prophets and apostles” (Ephesians 2:20). It is said about the heavenly Jerusalem that “its wall has twelve foundations and on them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb”( Revelation 21:14). Accordingly, in Zechariah 8:19 “truth and peace” are joined. 
In fact, truth is set ahead of peace so that we may understand that God approves of only that peace, concord, and unity which enjoys the foundation and bond of truth. John 8:31: “If you remain in My Word, you are truly My disciples.” John 17:21: “That they may be one in Us.”  
(4) Although the true Church is one and its true members agree in one religion, yet we cannot infer from this that, wherever there is unity and agreement in religion, there suddenly is the true, apostolic Church. You see, there are two kinds of unity, as Thomas teaches (on Ephesians 4, lect. 1): “One is good, the other is bad. One is of spirit, the other of flesh.” “The unity of piety is to believe correctly; the unity of wickedness is to believe wrongly,” as Ambrose says somewhere. As God’s Church is one, so the devil’s Babylon is one. Christ says, Matthew 12:[26]: “If Satan is divided against himself, how then will his kingdom stand?” There was unity among those who demanded the making of the golden calf (Exodus 32). All the priests of Baal were unanimous in opposing Elijah and Micah. At the time of Jeremiah all the people were unanimous in opposing the true worship of God. Christ was condemned to death by the common counsel of the priests and elders and with the assent of the entire people. The entire city of Ephesus rose up against Paul. After Christ’s ascension, Jews and gentiles fought against Christ’s Church. Although heretics may differ from each other, yet they are agreed on one heresy. In Revelation 13:16 we have this prophecy about the Antichrist: “It causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave to be marked on the right hand.” The Jesuit Ribera comments on this passage: “The apostle means the infinite number of those who will be adherents of the Antichrist” (surely in harmony and peace). All this shows that not just any unity but the unity of faith and doctrine, and not any unity in faith and doctrine but the unity in the true apostolic doctrine and in the truly catholic faith is a mark of the Church. 
(5) The statements of the ancients belong here, in which they teach that we must evaluate unity on the basis of the truth of faith. Cyprian (De unit. ecclesiae) says: “The Church is one just as the light of the sun is one, though the sun has many rays; just as a tree is one, though it has many branches; just as a spring is one, though it has many streams. Unity is preserved in the origin.” Here he takes the origin to mean Christ and the doctrine of Christ. ** The pagans once reproached Christians with the charge that “unity of faith does not flourish among them.” Augustine, De ovibus, c. 15: “Only this has remained for those” (evil-speakers) “to say against us: ‘Why do you not agree among yourselves?’ The pagan heathen who have remained, having nothing to say against the name of Christ, reproach the Christians with the disagreement of Christians.” Clement of Alexandria, Stromat., bk. 7: “This, then, is the first thing they cite against us; they say that one ought not believe because of the disagreement of the sects [haereses], for the truth is slowed and deferred when some people set up some dogmas and others establish other dogmas. To them we say that there have been more sects among you Jews and among you philosophers who were held in the highest esteem among the Greeks,” etc. ** 
When the Arian Auxentius boasted about the unity of the Arians, Hilary gave him this answer (at the beginning of Contra Auxent.): “Indeed, the name of peace is lovely and the idea of unity is beautiful, but who doubts that only the unity of the Church and of the Gospels is the peace of Christ?” Afterwards he adds: “The ministers of the Antichrist boast of their peace, that is, of the unity of their wickedness, behaving not as the bishops of Christ but as priests of the Antichrist.” Gregory Nazianzen, Orat. 1, de pace: “It is better for a disagreement to arise for the sake of piety than to have a corrupt concord.” Jerome writes (Letter ad Theophilum, against the errors of John of Jerusalem, vol. 2, p. 185): “We, too, want peace, but the peace of Christ, true peace, peace without hostilities, peace in which war is not covered, peace which does not subject people as foes but joins them as friends.” When Augustine (domin. 2. post octavas paschae de pace et unitate, Sermon 1) had diligently recommended the pursuit of peace, he added: “But this peace is to be guarded with good people and those who keep the commandments of God, not with the hostile and wicked, who have peace among themselves in their sins. The peace of Christ is beneficial for eternal salvation. The peace which is in the devil leads to eternal destruction. We must always have peace with the good and war with the vices, since the evils of wicked men should be hated,” etc. Hugh, De claustr. anim., bk. 3, c. 9: “Another peace is considered, that of the wicked and of this world. Another is pretended, that of the devil and of heretics. Another is commanded, namely, that we not fight against heretics.”


I know this is all quite academic already, but in an attempt to emphasize the spiritual dangers involved in such practices of ecumenism and unionism, I want us to go a little deeper.

I found the following from Grace Lutheran Church in Elgin, Texas that I think is the type of easy-to-understand summary that could be copied, pasted, and printed out for distribution and use with those who need to prayerfully consider this issue.


What's Going On In The Missouri Synod? Unionism And Syncretism 
In simple terms, syncretism is joining in worship with non-Christians (Exodus 20:3; 1 Corinthians 10:14-22; 2 Corinthians 6:14-17). Unionism is joining in worship with other Christians with whom we are not in agreement in doctrine (Romans 16:17; 1 Timothy 6:3-4, 11; 2 Timothy 3:1-17; 2 John 1:9-11).   
The actions of unionism and syncretism are expressly forbidden in our Synodical Constitution. Article VI of the Constitution of The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod lists the "Conditions of Membership." It says, "Conditions for acquiring and holding membership in the Synod are the following: Acceptance of the confessional basis of Article II. Renunciation of unionism and syncretism of every description, such as: serving congregations of a mixed confession, as such, by ministers of the church; taking part in the services and sacramental rites of heterodox congregations or of congregations of mixed confession; participating in heterodox tract and missionary activities..." 
(There are 7 conditions in all) 
"LCMS pastors and congregations agree as a condition of membership in the Synod not to take part in the services and sacramental rites of heterodox congregations or of those of mixed confession. But what is meant by a public worship service? According to the historic LCMS understanding, a worship service is any occasion in which the Word of God is preached and prayer is made to Him by a fully authorized church worship leader" 
(A study of Fellowship principles) 
Thus our Synod's constitution and by-laws are specifically concerned with pastors, as official representatives, and public situations (services) where participation would imply joint worship to either false gods or with those who hold false teaching about the true God. 
Concerning worship with those Christians with whom we are not fully united in doctrine, the Scriptures say, "I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them" (Romans 16:17). "I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment" (1 Corinthians 1:10). "But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed" (Galatians 1:8). 
Therefore syncretism and unionism is both a breaking of our Synodical constitution, and also forbidden by the Holy Scriptures. 
In September/October 1998, the Synodical President together with his presidium, disciplined a District President for participation in a unionistic and syncretistic service in accordance with our Synodical Constitution which requires the renunciation of unionism and syncretism of every description. 
On September 23, 2001, District President Dr. David Benke participated in "A Prayer for America," an ecumenical service which opened with an invocation and closed with a benediction and included the readings, songs and prayers of many different Christian denominations, as well as Muslims, Jews, a Sikh, and a Hindu clergy. Prior to Benke's participation, Synodical President Dr. Gerald Kieschnick determined that Dr. Benke's participation was "permissible and appropriate." 
"My counsel to President Benke was based primarily on the Synod's collective understanding of the teaching of Holy Scripture, expressed in Resolution 3-07A of the 2001 Synod Convention (p. 232-233). Further, as indicated in Part I of my Report to the Synod, I agree with and uphold the position of the LCMS that pastors of our Synod should have the freedom, tempered with the accompanying responsibility, of 'offering prayers, speaking, and reading Scripture at events sponsored by governments...' if the organization in charge does not restrict a Christian witness, and if this can be done without any compromise of our Scriptural, Confessional and constitutional commitments." (2004 Convention Proceedings, p. 77) 
Formal charges were brought against Dr. Kieschnick for his counsel, as well as his own participation in an ELCA service. Due to the opinion of the Committee on Constitutional Matters (CCM) that the President of the Synod is only accountable to the convention of the Synod, the merit of these charges were never considered. 
Formal charges were brought against Dr. Benke. Although he was initially suspended from the clergy roster, his appeal to a Dispute Resolution Panel resulted in his reinstatement on the basis of a CCM opinion. That CCM opinion determined that the prior approval of President Kieschnick, who serves as Dr. Benke's ecclesiastical supervisor, means that Dr. Benke cannot be charged. Once again, the merit of the charges is not considered. 
The 2004 Synodical Convention passed Resolution 3-06A, "To Commend the CTCR Document Guidelines for Participation in Civic Events" (GPCE) which effectively denies the existence of syncretism by claiming that Christian and non-Christian clergy could "take turns" offering prayers without it being joint worship. 
The CTCR document states the unresolved disagreement. "The members of the Commission disagree about the issue of so-called 'serial' or 'seriatim' prayers involving representatives of different religious (Christian and/or non-Christian) groups or churches. Some members of the Commission believe that under no circumstances is it permissible for LCMS pastors to participate in any type of an event in which various Christian and/or non-Christian leaders 'take turns' offering prayers, holding that such an activity by its very nature constitutes 'joint prayer and worship.' The majority believes that in some instances it may be possible and permissible for LCMS pastors to participate in such an event as long as certain conditions are met (e.g., when the purpose of the event in question is clearly civic in nature, and when it is conducted is such a way that does not correspond to the LCMS understanding of a 'service'; when no restrictions are placed on the content of the Christian witness that may be given by the LCMS pastor; when a sincere effort is made by those involved to make it clear that those participating do not all share the same religious views concerning such issues as the nature of God, the way of salvation, and the nature of religious truth itself)." 
The minority opinion speaks to the ambiguity of this document in guiding future actions. "Everyone knows that the notion of 'civic events' has been used to justify participation in the notorious 'A Prayer for America' in Yankee Stadium in 2001. The undersigned recognize that the CTCR has not been asked for an opinion on that particular event. However, the guidelines requested of the CTCR in the aftermath of that event can and indeed ought to be expected to be so clear and unambiguous as to rule out any repetition of such participation in similar occasions of syncretism in the future. Instead, it was stated in support of the document that both sides in the argument about the Yankee Stadium affair were entitled to appeal to the Civic Events document." 
A man commits adultery with his neighbor's wife. The man's wife asks him, "Did you commit adultery?" The husband responds, "I firmly believe that it is every husband's right to have appropriate relationships with other women, provided that those associations do not impinge on my marital vows to you." The wife asks, "Did you commit adultery?" The husband responds, "In questions of marital judgment, you will need to trust me that I am committed to our commonly agreed upon marital principals." The wife asks, "Will you commit adultery again?" The husband asks, "Can't we just put all this behind us and move forward with our marriage?"


All that can be boiled down to this: Unity at the expense of truth is not Biblical.

Haven't we learned anything from the manner in which our Synod was born? Apparently, it would appear as if the majority are suffering from spiritual amnesia.

I hope you can see why this is a serious problem and one that should not to be taken lightly. If not, then I'll end with these words...


To disapprove of interfaith services in our day is unpopular. It goes against American civil religion and political correctness. The prevailing notion in our culture is that “all roads lead to God,” and the spiritual smorgasbord that interfaith services offer falls right in line with that false belief. Even if a clergy participant is well-intentioned, and his portion of the service contains no false doctrine per se, the unavoidable effect is to support the “whatever works for you” overarching message. ... And I encourage you to speak up, in a winsome way, on various forums, comment sections, social media sites, etc., as to why our church does not approve of our clergy participating in interfaith services. It is not out of arrogance or lack of pastoral concern, but rather, just the opposite. It is so that, in venues–not necessarily high-profile ones–in venues both public and private, we can offer a clear and unmixed message, and people can hear that true hope is found in Jesus Christ our Lord, the one and only Savior of all men everywhere, and in Him alone. 
*- Pastor Charles Henrickson


I hope this lengthy commentary and study has been enlightening to you and that it will serve as a definitive resource on this critical topic.

After all, it was only last week when Rev. Matthew C. Harrison, LCMS President, issued the following public statement for the entire Synod to prayerfully consider.


Concerning The President’s Duties 
Key Excerpt: 
LCMS Constitution, Article VI (Conditions of Membership) 
Conditions for acquiring and holding membership in the Synod are the following: 
1. Acceptance of the confessional basis of Article II. 
2. Renunciation of unionism and syncretism of every description, such as: 
a. Serving congregations of mixed confession, as such, by ministers of the church; 
b. Taking part in the services and sacramental rites of heterodox congregations or of congregations of mixed confession; 
c. Participating in heterodox tract and missionary activities.


In light of the "Conditions of Membership" listed above, I'm sad to say that Trinity Lutheran Church in West Seneca, NY is not an LCMS Church (at least, it shouldn't be considered one despite what the sign out front says).

So, what does that mean, exactly? What are the real-world ramifications?


LCMS Constitution, Article XIII (Expulsion from the Synod) 
1. Members who act contrary to the confession laid down in Article II and to the conditions of membership laid down in Article VI or persist in an offensive conduct, shall, after previous futile admonition, be expelled from the Synod.


In other words, instead of the church expelling me from being a member of the congregation just because I spoke up and spoke out about these inconsistencies, the Synod should be expelling the church from being a member of the LCMS.

By contrast, the new LCMS church I visited with my family last week is doing the Lent round-robin with other LCMS churches in the area that they obviously have pulpit fellowship with. That's the way it's supposed to be done and it was nice to see.

May God continue to have mercy on His faithful under-shepherds as they seek to serve Him as a beacon of truth in a world of half-truths and outright lies despite the unpopularity of such actions and words.

May we all remember the truth of 2 Corinthians 5:20 and Galatians 1:10 and pray for the Lord's grace to allow it to be our guide at all times rather than simply "agreeing to disagree" so that we can all worship at the "Altar of Political Correctness" under the banner of "love" and "unity" to the potential detriment of countless souls.

To quote Rev. Matthew C Harrison from his comments during the Newtown controversy, "I most sincerely desire to avoid deep and public contention in the Synod. Our mission is too vital, our fellowship too fragile for a drawn out controversy."

With that in mind, I hope it's clear that it's not my intention to only point the finger so I have something to write about for this blog, but to call attention to a dangerous practice taking place in our Synod and in my District, while also trying to commend my brothers in Christ for their faithfulness, and to perhaps encourage others like them to remain faithful as well.

Please pray for Christ's Church, pray for bold, confessional, courageous Pastors to remain steadfast for God's glory and our protection, pray for each other, and please pray for hometown.

In a Lutheran layman's terms, there can be civility and love for sure, but there can never be true unity in faith without unity in doctrine (Ephesians 4:1-16), because there can be no unity without unity in the truth about the Truth Himself (John 14:6).



NOTE: I'm not a called and ordained minister of God's Word and Sacraments. I'm a layman or a Christian, Candy-Making, Husband, Father, Friend who lives in the "City of Good Neighbors" here on the East Coast. To be more specific, and relevant to the point I want to make with this note, I'm also a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism a little over a year ago. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is inconsistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and point us back to) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Finally, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier pieces I wrote on this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that category since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a Christian "Book of Concord" even existed (Small/Large Catechism? What's that!?!). In addition, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by those old beliefs of mine. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because we now have this disclaimer, and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Most importantly, please know that any time I engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always closely follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible and/or include references to the Book of Concord unless otherwise noted. Typically, I defer to what other Lutheran Pastors have already preached and taught about such passages since they are the called and ordained shepherds of our souls here on earth. Finally, I'm going to apologize ahead of time for the length of most entries. I'm well aware that blogs should be short, sweet, and to the point, but I've never been one to follow the rules when it comes to writing. Besides, this website is more like a dude's diary in the sense that everything I write about and share publicly isn't always what's "popular" or "#trending" at the time, but is instead all the things that I'm studying myself at the moment. For better or for worse, these posts tend to be much longer than most blog entries you'll find elsewhere only because I try to pack as much info as possible into a single piece so that I can refer to it again and again over time if I need to (and so that it can be a valuable resource for others -- if possible, a "One-Stop-Shop" of sorts). Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Grace and peace to you and yours!

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2 comments:

  1. Precisely why yesterday's post about the "Lutheran Manifesto" (http://www.lutheranlayman.com/2015/02/a-lutheran-manifesto.html) is so important to us Confessional Lutherans in the LCMS today. I've had enough of this nonsense and I've only been a Confessional Lutheran for a couple of years now. Lord, have mercy!

    Grace And Peace,
    Jeff

    ReplyDelete
  2. Here's an excellent summary of all the latest instances of syncretism/unionism within the LCMS that need to be addressed and why...

    "What Does The LCMS Reap By Sowing Confusion Among Its Members?"
    http://steadfastlutherans.org/2015/03/what-does-the-lcms-reap-by-sowing-confusion-among-its-members/

    Grace And Peace,
    Jeff

    ReplyDelete

Thank you for visiting A Lutheran Layman! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question since we do not exercise censorship. We've seen a similar policy with other blogs and it's worth repeating: Please act as if you're a guest in my home, and we'll get along just fine. I think anyone would agree that the kind of back-and-forth that is characteristic of blogs/chat forums is becoming tiresome for all of us. Still, we should confess, edify, and love (and contend and defend when needed). Bottom line? Search the Scriptures! Apply Acts 17:11 to anything and everything you find here and, if you do happen to disagree with something you find here (which is certainly ok), or think I'm "irresponsible" and "wrong" for writing it, then please refute my position by supporting yours with...Scripture and/or the Confessions. I don't think that's an unreasonable request, especially for those who identify themselves as "Christians" here, right? Besides, Proverbs 27:17 tells us "Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend" and 2 Timothy 3:16 says, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness." If you have an opinion that's great, I welcome it, but try to support it using God's Word. I mean, if the goal here is to help us all mature spiritually (myself included) then it should be easy to follow through on this one simple request (I'm talking to all you "Anonymous" visitors out there). Grace and peace to you and yours!