Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A Letter from President Harrison to the CTCR

A friend of mine, who is a pastor here in the middle-western part of the United States, forwarded a copy of a letter that Rev. Matthew Harrison, the President of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, sent to the Synod's Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR). The letter was sent in September 2011. "Larry" and "Joel" are respectively the asociate executive director and executive director of the CTCR.

I do not know how my friend got this letter. It was shared on Daystar last month, so more than 1000 people have read it there, as did I.

This letter helps to explain why the CTCR acted so quickly to condemn my dissent--without actually engaging its specific contents. They received direct pressure from the Synod President to do so. After all, why bother with the specifics when you are told, rather papally, "from above": "The question [Becker] raises are anything but new. They have been decided clearly and definitively by the Word of God and affirmed by the Synod on numerous occasions."

Naturally, the presupposition of these sentences is that the Synod cannot err in its collective interpretation of the Scriptures on the matters I raise in my dissent.

The CTCR issued its public condemnation of my dissent just two months after receiving this letter from Pres. Harrison. That has to be a record for the CTCR! (Remember that the CTCR has NEVER officially responded to a similar dissent brought to the CTCR by fellow LCMS clergyman, Arnie Voigt.)

I think the letter is instructive, as it indicates the mindset of the current Synod president (and the majority on the CTCR) about matters that he/they may feel have been "clearly and definitively" decided by the word of God, but about which others in the Synod remain unconvinced. The CTCR has certainly not convinced me and many other synodical members that the contents of my dissent are contrary to the Word of God.

Until I read the letter I had no idea that Pres. Harrison thinks I've been "abusing the dissent process." No one has indicated this to me, not my circuit counselor nor my district president nor the few members of the CTCR with whom I met last year.

Finally, it pleases me that my fellow LCMS clergyman, Bob Stuenkel, who was the subject of the first part of this letter, was fully exonerated on appeal. President Harrison did not get what he wanted in that case. Bob remains in good standing on the Synod's roster of clergymen--as do I, for that matter.

Here's the letter:

Thursday of Pentecost XII, AD 2011
September 8, 2011

Dear Larry, Joel, and members of the CTCR

Grace and Peace

This is a brief note requesting of the CTCR the quick dispatch of two matters
which have to do with the Commission's role in assisting the President of the
Synod in maintaining doctrinal unity in the Synod (Bylaw

1. I hereby request the CTCR provide a clear, brief, and forthright answer ("NO"
would suffice) on whether or not it is proper for an LCMS clergyman to be
communing at an ELCA altar. This matter of course has to do with President
Golter's continuing challenge with a pastor in his district. I know the details
of this case and know too that it has been handled with great care and pastoral
concern. I support President Golter completely, and it is past time for all of
us to support him and be clear about it.

The Constitution of the Synod is clear in Article VI which calls for
"Renunciation of unionism and syncretism of every description, such as:.... b.
Taking part in the services and sacramental rites of heterodox congregations or
of congregations of mixed confession..."

Also note that among the wealth of documentation which be amassed for this
question, I simply wish to provide Article VIII on the church from Walther's
Kirche and Amt, which (thesis and the entire book) was re-affirmed as the
Synod's doctrinal stance at the 2001 convention. Thesis VIII states that no Christian should be communioning at a heterodox altar:

Although God gathers for himself a holy church (Kirche) of elect also His Word
is not taught in its complete purity and the sacraments are not administered
altogether according to the institution of Jesus Christ, if only God's Word and
the sacraments are not denied entirely but both essentially, (wesentlich)
remain, nevertheless, every believer must, at the peril of losing his salvation,
flee all false teachers, avoid all heterodox congregations (Gemeiden) or sects,
and confess (bekennen) and adhere to orthodox congregations and their orthodox
preachers wherever such may be found.

A. Also in heterodox and heretical churches there are children of God, and also
there are the true church is made manifest by the pure Word and the sacraments
that still remain.

B. Every believer for the sake of his salvation must flee all false teachers,
and avoid, fellowship with heterodox congregations or sects.

C. Every Christian for the sake of his salvation is duty bound to acknowledge
and adhere to orthodox congregations and orthodox preachers wherever he can find

2. I request that the CTCR give a quick and decisive opinion on the dissent
recently submitted by Matthew Becker. The question he raises are anything but
new. They have been decided clearly and definitively by the Word of God and
affirmed by the Synod on numerous occasions. It is necessary for a quick and
immediate response because Rev. Becker is abusing the dissent process and both
aggressively advocating his errant views and acting upon them (participating
most recently in the installation of a female chaplain at Valpo).

While I have and will continue to publicly advocate for dialogue and work toward
growing consensus where there are differences in Synod, I will not and cannot
suspend Synod's doctrinal positions. Nor can the Koinonia Project hope to bring
consensus with those who, openly, intentionally, and with determination preach,
teach, and act against the clear word of God and our public confession. Your
quick action will assist me in the next steps I need to take in trying to
resolve this unfortunate situation according to the Constitution, Article XIB.

Thank you for your work. It's a pleasure to work in the office with both Joel
and Larry.

Matthew C. Harrison, President
The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod


  1. Dr. Becker,

    No one had told you that you were abusing the dissent process? Come on, you know that is not true. There has been plenty of such talk. Just as one example, there are 32 pages of posts about your dissent and the CTCR's response to it here:

    Among these posts are some which speak of your abuse of the process, as you should remember since you responded to some of them.

    1. Pr. Bohler,
      Please read my post more carefully than you have. The pertinent paragraph is this one:

      "Until I read the letter I had no idea that Pres. Harrison thinks I've been 'abusing the dissent process.' No one has indicated this to me, not my circuit counselor nor my district president nor the few members of the CTCR with whom I met last year."

      Pres. H., my dp (the one who has immediate ecclesiastical supervision of me), my circuit counselor, the Ind. dp, the members of the CTCR--none of them has indicated to me that I've been "abusing the dissent process."

      Since my dp has official oversight of my public teaching, you'll understand if I defer to his official judgment rather than to your private opinion.

  2. My apologies, Dr. Becker, for misunderstanding you. But why should President Harrison have told you that he felt you were abusing the dissent process since, as you write, it is your DP who has immediate ecclesiastical supervision of you and your teaching? If President Harrison HAD told you that he felt you were abusing the dissent process, what difference would that have made for you?

    1. He would have to make the case through my district president. Pr. Harrison has erred by not working through established channels. It is another reason why he should not be re-elected.

      I'm encouraged by the recent CCM rulings in response to the questions from the six district presidents re: the ecclesiastical supervision of the synod president.

  3. So, President Harrison is to be faulted for not telling you that he thought you were abusing the dissent process. But had he done that himself, that would have been out of line too. Instead he is supposed to have contacted your DP, told him he felt you were abusing the system, and then what? Ordered your DP to tell you that? But then I suspect you would accuse him of cowardice and tyranny, because he did not confront you himself. So, should he have asked your DP to tell you that? But what if your DP declined? Would that be President Harrison's fault too? And how do you know that President Harrison did not say something to your DP but he failed to follow through? Have you asked your DP? And even if President Harrison had spoken to your DP, and he to you, what what you have done?

    Honestly, your whole pouting over President Harrison's words that you have been abusing the process is silly. And you know it. MANY people have told you that, and you have ignored them or argued against them. You know President Harrison's position on your teaching these things. If you did not suspect how he viewed your continued teaching them in defiance of the findings against you, you are pretty....naive (that's the kindest way I can think of to put it).

  4. Pr. Bohler,
    Who's doing the "pouting" here?

    Members of the Synod may dissent from synodical resolutions and statements that they think are contrary to evangelical doctrine. That is what I am doing and will continue to do.

    Please re-read the paragraph on dissent in the Synod Handbook. That paragraph does not specify a "dissent process." The Handbook does not specify such a process, as far as I can tell. The Handbook does not forbid the actions I have taken to make my dissent known among my peers. I fail to see how those actions can be an "abuse" of a dissent process that is not spelled out with any great clarity in the Handbook.

  5. Dr. Becker,

    It was President Harrison who wrote that you are abusing the dissent process (as the letter you quoted above shows); it is you who has complained that you were not informed of President Harrison's claim of your abuse of the dissent process. Now you crticize me for using the same terms (dissent process and its abuse) which President Harrison and you have introduced? Really?