The following statement was read today to the saints in Wheatland, regarding the LCMS convention, which was held this past week :
Four years after he published the ninety-five theses, Martin Luther was called before the emperor to answer for his false teaching. Of course, Luther could have faced death, having been excommunicated from the church. But that was not really the hardest part of the Imperial Diet at Worms. The Papal authorities knew that Luther claimed to love God and the church, despite his attacks on the pope. The previous year, the Ottomans had laid siege to Vienna, Austria. It seemed that Europe might fall to Muslim forces at any time. The thing that was most needed for the church to survive was unity. Luther, in refusing to yield, was threatening not simply the survival of the pope’s authority, but the survival of the Christian church itself. What did it matter if Luther was right, if the consequence was that Europe was conquered and turned to heathen teaching.
The response of Luther “Here I stand” has been portrayed as perhaps a defiant shout of one who will not yield, or maybe a timid squeak of one who finds himself in over his head, but can not back down. I suspect that there was also a bit of sadness that despite his love for the church, and the consequences not only to himself, but to all of those he loved, and everything he had ever known, he could not betray the truth of God’s word.
This past week, the LCMS met in convention. Many good resolutions were passed. In living memory, there has not been a convention with such collegiality regarding resolutions, nor with such overwhelming majorities either to pass or decline to pass them. For this we give thanks to God.
And yet, not everything was good, right, and salutary at this convention. There was a resolution to commend the Concordia Universities for their faithfulness over the years. Our Lay Delegate spoke to this resolution, recalling that in her time at one of our Concordia’s, theistic evolution was taught in the biology department. She wanted to inquire whether such things were still taught, before she voted in favor of commending their faithfulness.
The reaction of many in our synod’s leadership, to their shame, was not to answer her question, or to try and ascertain if this was the case, but to attack her for daring to speak the truth. She was pressured to admit from the floor of the convention, that she had broken the 8th commandment, or to admit that such teaching was not widespread. She was informed – erroneously – that her comments had caused great scandal and were a threat to the unity of the synod and to the viability of her beloved alma mater.
She refused to back down. To their eternal credit, President Harrison supported her, as did the entire delegation of Wyoming District Pastoral delegates, including our circuit visitor, Pastor Maas. Many other delegates, some known and some unknown to her, voiced their support for her statement, and told her that indeed such things had been taught, from the 1970’s to as recently as 2006. And yet, despite these shows of support, the pressure was brought to bear on her alone.
It is my pleasure to report to you that she held up admirably under the pressure, refusing to yield. She issued a statement that went no farther than merely clarifying her remarks, while yielding nothing.
We are called to confess and to suffer for the sake of the Gospel at unknown times and places. We must always be ready to give a defense for the hope that is in us. And the persecution of those who stand, as the prophets once did, declaring boldly the truth of God’s word, stands as beacon and encouragement to others to take up the banner of God’s truth, and speak, even under threat of persecution.
Today, in honor of our member’s bold stand for the truth, I would invite you all to stay for a few moments and enjoy Christian fellowship – along with some coffee and cake, as we give thanks to God for her faithful witness, and as we pray that all who suffer for the name of Jesus will be found faithful.