I really love being a pastor and teacher in the Wyoming District. Our pastoral conferences are focused on theology. I’m not saying other districts don’t do that. I haven’t been there. I don’t know. But after spending three days last week talking about our unity with Christ, which by extension we share with all those who rightly believe, teach, and confess his word, I’m really appreciating the theological focus of my district. Six different district pastors delivered papers last week, followed by discussion. There was also worship, gemütlichkeit, great food, and the opportunity to spend some time acting the part of tourist and seeing the local sights with brothers in ministry. All in all, pretty much what a pastor’s conference should be.
The downside to our intensive theological focus is that there isn’t much time for business meetings. OK, so technically, that’s a good thing. A very good thing. But sometimes resolutions come along that need a significant amount of time to discuss, debate, amend properly, and finally go to a vote. And last week, we got cut short on that. A resolution – one about weighty theological matters – was introduced, but the orders of the day were called before we had a chance to vote on it. That’s sad because, although it is “business” in the strictest sense of the word, it is also theological. Although, if you’re going to have a problem, I suppose that “Not enough time to vote on resolutions because you are studying theology” is the sort of problem you want in the church.
In any event, here it is, the resolution that was introduced, but never acted on by the pastors of the Wyoming District. Maybe, even though it never got to a vote, it would be of some use in starting discussions throughout the church. (Theological ones. I’m not really interested in any other type. My kids can verify this for you, if you don’t believe me.)
To Caution the Congregations of the Wyoming District regarding certain errors at the Saint Louis Seminary
In the past, the Wyoming District has invited to our district various synod officials when there are theological concerns in our synod. This has led, among other actions, to recommending against congregations of the Wyoming District attending the National Youth Gathering. This decision was not reached lightly, but with due diligence and love for our synod and her faithful confession of Christ’s truth. In that case, the Wyoming District formally raised concerns in a number of fora over a period of years, and inviting the head of Youth Ministry for the LCMS to speak to our district.
In recent years, certain problems have arisen at the Saint Louis seminary, and the Wyoming District, her congregations and pastors, again seek to respond faithfully and in love. Among the various concerns which we have are the following:
- Intinction. The Chapel at the Saint Louis seminary encourages the practice of intinction for the reception of the sacrament, including the following notice in their chapel bulletin: “If you would prefer not to drink wine directly from the chalice, you may intinct the bread by dipping it into the chalice.” This directly conflicts with synod resolution 619a of the 1944 convention, which states, “We definitely reject intinction, because while distributing the bread the Savior said, “Take eat!” Matt. 26:26; Mark 14:22, and while giving the wine He said, “Drink ye all of it!” Matt 26:27; Mark 14:23. Intinction would be a direct violation of the words of institution.”
- Two Kinds of Righteousness (2KR). Introduced to the church in the late 1990s, 2KR seeks to recover a supposedly lost theological paradigm of Luther. Dr. Joel Biermann wrote his doctoral thesis on the topic, eventually getting it published by Augsburg Fortress Press. In that, he states, “Although the law/gospel dynamic might be assumed to be the authentically Lutheran framework, it is not only incapable of managing all the realities and challenges of life and doctrine but, used as an overall framework, it is finally detrimental to the vitality of Lutheranism.” (The Case for Character: Toward a Lutheran Virtue Ethic, Dr. Joel Biermann, pp. 117-118) This is in direct conflict with our confessional commitment in the Formula of Concord, which states:
The distinction between the Law and the Gospel is a particularly brilliant light. It serves the purpose of rightly dividing God’s Word and properly explaining and understanding the Scriptures of the holy prophets and apostles. (FC, SD:V)
In response to this new teaching, Dr. Biermann was invited to speak to the Wyoming District in the fall of 2014. His response did not address the concerns raised, nor did he renounce the false understanding of Law and Gospel as “inadequate”. The Wyoming District in Convention subsequently rejected that teaching.
- Exegetical Concerns. In a published essay, Kloha states that the textual critic “feels able to select freely from among the available fund of variants and choose the one that best fits the internal criteria.” (As quoted by John Warwick Montgomery in The Global Journal of Classical Theology, Vol 12 No. 3) As Montgomery notes, “This is, of course, the very opposite of an understanding of the biblical text as an historical account of events, determined simply by taking the best manuscript reading as representing the authorial text… Kloha’s approach to the biblical text altars it from an historical account into a constructed literary narrative, and as such denatures it.”
- Worship life. The seminary has, on various occasions, publicized their chapel services with materials that are neither consistent with our confessions, not faithful in their practice, using the terminology and practices of Arminian worship, including Arminian songs, and encouragement and support for Christ in the City/Crave Saint Louis, a former church converted into so-called “Coffee Shop ministry”.
Whereas, a Confessional Lutheran Seminary is responsible for the training of future pastors in the church, and must teach and practice faithfully in order to prepare pastors for a life of faithful teaching and practice, and
Whereas, the pastors of the Wyoming District are concerned that, if the above mentioned errors are being taught and practiced, Concordia Seminary, Saint Louis has strayed from that standard, and as scripture warns, “a little leaven leavens the whole lump.” i.e. theological error in one area will cause errors in other areas, and
Whereas, Concordia Seminary, Saint Louis, if it is to be of benefit to the church, must faithfully engage the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the above errors would preclude that if they are allowed to continue, and, may God forbid, were they to increase, would work against the cause of the Gospel, and
Whereas, the Wyoming District pastors have a responsibility to their congregations, to each other, and to the church at large to insure that the doctrine believed, taught and confessed in the district and synod is pure, therefore be it
Resolved that the Wyoming District pastoral conference expresses her concern regarding reports of the above named teachings and practices at Concordia Seminary, Saint Louis, and for the damage that such teachings and practices would cause in the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, and be it also
Resolved that the Wyoming District pastoral conference encourage the conference committee to invite the leadership of the Saint Louis Seminary, specifically the President, Chairman of the Board of Regents, and other such members as necessary, to address our district and either show where we have misunderstood their doctrine and practice, or explain how the doctrine and practice of the seminary will be changed so that it is consistent with historic Lutheran doctrine and practice, and be it also
Resolved that the congregations of the Wyoming District be cautioned when calling pastors, that the pastors can demonstrate that they reject the above mentioned errors, and that we encourage our District President and Circuit Visitors to discern and give counsel regarding these as well as other significant theological matters to congregations that are calling pastors and be it finally
Resolved that the Wyoming District, her pastors and congregations be encouraged to give thanks to God for the many faithful pastors, from both of our seminaries, who have served and continue to serve the church, to pray for the church that she remain in the doctrine of the blessed apostles, and also pray that the Lord of the Harvest will send faithful workers into the harvest fields.