Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Less Room in the LCMS Brotherhood

Since my ordination into the ministry twenty-six years ago this month, I have had to address several informal and formal accusations of "teaching false doctrine" or "teaching doctrine inconsistent with the public teaching of the LCMS." These accusations have included:

(1) denying the inerrancy of the Scriptures;
(2) advocating for the ordination of women to the pastoral office;
(3) rejecting rectilinear prophecy in the OT; and
(4) denying that the first chapters of Genesis must be understood literalistically, as an actual historical account (and holding that the data explained by the theory of evolution need not necessarily contradict our faith in God the Creator).

Prior to April, 2015, I have endured four formal charges of false teaching. Three of those trials had to do with the first, second, and fourth issues above. The process for each of those three cases took between four and five years, lots of energy, lots of money, and reams of paper. (The fourth case--having to do with the third issue above--was dismissed by my District President almost immediately for reasons I will not share here.)

I endured the process of those four cases because I thought the principles involved were worthy of exploring/defending and I thought my accusers were setting up a doctrinal standard that was sub-Lutheran and inconsistent with Article II of the LCMS Constitution. I thought those struggles were worth the effort. I leveled my dissent within the Synod for the same reason.

All of these previous cases ended with my exoneration. That includes the most recent case (issue number two above), the one a NW District Referral Panel finalized in my favor last October.

What was supposed to be "final," however, turned out not to be "final." President Harrison attacked me on his Facebook page, as did others elsewhere on the internet. Several LCMS district conventions have now also passed resolutions that call upon me to repent of my teaching. For more on this, see my "For the Record" here.

But now a new charge has been brought against me that deals, once again, with issues one and four. Last April the Rev. Terry Forke, the Montana District President, initiated this latest case. He accuses me of failing to defend the LCMS position that Gen 1-3 are "an historical record." He's also upset that I have failed to reject the theory of evolution. In his letter he calls upon me to recant what I have written in my online essay, "The Scandal of the LCMS Mind," which you can read here.

In light of this most recent charge--and given everything else that has happened since President Harrison's Facebook post against me--last week Rev. Paul Linnemann, the NW District President, asked me to resign from the LCMS.

After a few days of thinking over and praying about his request, I let him know on Friday that I could not in good conscience resign. I told him that I thought such a decision would lend credence to the accusations of my accusers in the Synod, namely, that I have indeed acted improperly and taught falsely. More importantly, I believe that for me to resign would go against my ordination vows and undermine the principles I have sought to defend in each of the cases against me.

Perhaps in some future post I will comment further on the theological issues here. I do think the synod is hamstrung by some of its official documents from its past (e.g., Brief Statement; A Statement of Scriptural and Confessional Principles). As I've tried to point out over the years, there is a better way of articulating the confessional doctrines of creation, sin, and redemption than by insisting on six-day creationism and a literalistic approach to the first chapters in Genesis.

Today I received official notice that President Linnemann has decided "to initiate formal proceedings under Bylaw 2.14.6 and request [my] expulsion from Synod." As an automatic result of this action, I am on "suspended status" under Bylaw 2.13.4.

According to Bylaw 2.14.6c, I have 15 days to appeal my suspension.

Nevertheless, I have told President Linnemann that I will not appeal his decision. Having suffered through those three previous heresy trials--which burdened nearly 17 of the past 26 years of my ministry--my family and I have come to the point of saying, "Enough! No more!"

Consequently, on July 15, I will be removed from the LCMS.

Yesterday I began to make inquiries into the process for becoming rostered in the ELCA. Later this summer my family and I will be joining Christ Lutheran Church (ELCA), here in Valpo.

My imminent expulsion from the synod has saddened me, since this church body that has been my spiritual home for nearly 53 years will no longer be that. As one of my seasoned LCMS teachers told me over the weekend, when I spoke with him about the situation, "This is no longer the synod of Emil Jaech and Emil Becker..."

I am also at peace. I have a clean conscience. Vis-a-vis these five official cases, I don't believe I have said or written anything that goes against my ordination vows or that contradicts or muddies the doctrinal content of the evangelical-Lutheran faith. I do believe that God's grace is sufficient to cover my sins, errors, and failures--and I remain open to correction. (I'm sorry, but the district resolutions that call upon me to repent of my teaching have not convinced me that I am guilty of teaching false doctrine in these matters.)

So I am shaking the dust off my worn sandals and moving on. I am grateful to be able to continue my teaching ministry here at Valparaiso University.

I am grateful, too, for the support I have received from many kindred spirits across and beyond the LCMS. They and the LCMS remain in my prayers.

Addendum on 7/5/15:
Just to be clear:
(1) I hold that "inerrancy" is not a helpful category for understanding the nature of biblical authority. Even Martin Luther, back in the sixteenth century, acknowledged that there are "errors" in Scripture.

(2) I am convinced that the Scriptures do not clearly prohibit women from serving in the pastoral office today.

(3) I do not reject predictive prophecy. The biblical prophets made prophetic-predictive statements about the future, including the future age of the Messiah, but this fact does not mean that the prophets saw directly and clearly to Jesus of Nazareth and made their predictions based on that vision. Direct prophecies are rare in the OT. More common are typical prophecies. These have an immediate meaning for their own day and an ultimate meaning that points toward the Messianic Age. God always has a way of surpassing biblical prophecies in unexpected ways.

(4) The genres in the early chapters of Genesis do not fit with the literary form of "historical report." The literal contradictions between the two creation accounts in Gen 1-3 are sufficient to push us in a different direction. The history of the exegesis of these chapters--beyond American Protestant Fundamentalism and its inroads in the LCMS--also helps to steer us away from interpretive dead ends. Finally, basic data discovered within the disciplines of the natural sciences also helps us to avoid literalistic, simplistic interpretations that are just plain wrong-headed and theologically unfruitful.

The referral panels and synodical officials who investigated the official charges against me that had to do with the above issues concluded that I was not guilty of advocating false doctrine.

78 comments:

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  3. From the topic I started on ALPB:

    "While I am not in agreement with Dr. Becker on numerous issues (as all here know), and while I understand and respect Pres. Linnemann's decision, I am saddened to see Dr. Becker go in that it will decrease the chances for full discussion of pressing issues within the culture that impact the life of the church. We need to have the ability to discuss pressing issues openly, without fear of retribution, if we are to remain a healthy church body.

    "I am not saying that Dr. Becker's approach fostered such a free and open discussion. I think he could have taken a very different tack that would have avoided charges and now being asked to leave. That is why I say that I respect Pres. Linnemann's decision. However, I am still saddened in many ways that it had to come to this point."

    http://www.alpb.org/forum/index.php?topic=6005.msg373575;topicseen#msg373575

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  4. If this unfortunate situation plays itself out as described, please know for sure that you are most welcome in the ELCA where there is a wider chance to openly and critically discuss issues of all kinds without fear of official and political reprisal. And on a more personal note, I am full of joy that you might be headed in our (ELCA's) direction. God's peace, Matt.

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  5. Dr. Becker,
    The LCMS will be much poorer for its loss. The ELCA and greater Lutheranism will be richer by far. Peace to you and your family in this difficult time.
    Dan Pharr
    Former Concordia St. Louis student
    Pastor, Christ Lutheran Church, Prattville Alabama

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  6. Very sorry to hear this. Thank you for all you have done. 2 Timothy 4:7

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  9. As we can see, Dr. Becker, you will leave behind much unloving, arrogant, hateful, and narrow-minded people.

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    1. Not ALL LCMS members or rostered church workers feel this way....please refrain from making such sweeping statements....see my comments below Dr. Woodworth.

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    2. Obviously I am referring to the negativity of the above posts.

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    6. Dr. Woodworth, I take offense at your broad and inaccurate slam. Broad, because it felt much more like you had it aimed at all who may disagree with Dr. Becker. Inaccurate, because you said " unloving, arrogant, hateful, and narrow-minded people." Broad brush strokes each intended to smear the recipients and their reputations. Even if you agree with Dr Becker, you could have exhibited some Christian decorum and best construction on this reply. You could have stated that, while there is an obvious serious dogmatic disagreement, and you are glad Dr. Becker will no longer have to fight that fight, the folks on the other side of the issue areChristian Lutherans fighting to uphold the faith and the teachings of the LCMS as they see those teaching, and they,when best construction is applied, were doing their duty as they see it. You may disagree with them on the specifics, and cite where you disagree and why, but instead you chose to attack with unkind and hurtful words of description. Now, I know only a little of the history of Dr. Becker within the LCMS, but calling his opponents unloving, arrogant, hateful, and narrowminded does not sound like best construction. It sounds more like earthly destruction, exactly the kind the Enemy wants to see. Words of division, and no words of possible reconciliation, or even words of love for brothers who may have erred, in your eyes, of course. No, what I read sounded petulant and tactless. Sort of the three year oldentality of the playground. Let's take our ball and run. I encourage you in the future to please be aware of how your words may be perceived as less than Christ-like

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  11. Dr. Becker,
    I am saddened by the spiteful and hateful comments by my LCMS brothers and sisters contained in this blog response as well as on yours and President Harrison's Facebook page in the past months. As a former student of yours at CU Portland, I always appreciated that you taught us to think for ourselves and to dive into the meat of scripture contextually and apply it to our lives spiritually. Although I do not agree with you about your interpretation of scripture and the doctrinal positions you have taken, that doesn't change my love for you as a brother in Christ. You were always friendly to this little freshman and I enjoyed your classes and the out-of-class discussions we would have about life, faith and doctrine. You always made time for me and I will never forget it. As a 17 year LCMS church work veteran, I have grown in my faith and understanding of scripture and although I have a lot to learn about our God and His church, I know one thing for certain....Jesus said..."LOVE ONE ANOTHER, AS I HAVE LOVED YOU" Some of you may respond saying that to "love" means to point out sin....that has already been done my friends. That job is over. Let it go..... God calls us to show mercy and love not to continue to trample on a man when he is down. "Let he who has not sinned cast the first stone". Dr. Becker I wish you the best sir and I will continue to pray for you and your family as you together seek God's will for you. And btw...I WILL sign my name and not post comments in a cowardly fashion.... Gerod Bass.....DCE. Our Savior Lutheran Church, Tacoma, Wa.

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    1. Thank you, Gerod, for your comments. I'm glad that I could be your teacher at Concordia, Portland, which is also my alma mater. Most especially, I'm grateful for our partnership in the gospel, even if we might disagree about some matters of biblical interpretation. Thank you, too, for signing your name. (I will delete comments that do not include a full name.)

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    2. It is neither spite nor hate to believe that your views, however sincerely held, do not accord with Scripture or the Confessions. I am a Valpo grad myself. I don't hate you, nor do I believe that most of those who object to your writings hate you. I just think you're wrong, terribly wrong.

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    3. Sadly the direction of synod seems to harken back to the days of Seminex...thanks for your comments, Gerod. Many of us are grieved by what we are observing. Blessings to you and your family, Matt! Jan DeQuin Grassel

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  12. Dr. Becker,

    Why did you choose to go to the ELCA? Why not some other denomination?

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    1. Because Christ Lutheran here in Valpo is a vibrant congregation, centered in the gospel and sacraments, focused on evangelical mission and ministry, and full of caring people. The preaching is excellent and many of my colleagues from VU are members.

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  15. Is it too simplistic to ask (with sincerity) - If the battle has been over Truth, why retreat to a haven of greater error?

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    2. Truth is not something that is grasped Kevin, but rather someone that grasps us. Truth is not a characteristic of belief, no matter how purely a particular church would seek to define it. In fact, the attempts by some Lutheran and other churches to ensure that they "defend the Truth" (to the extent of excommunication for mild disagreements as in the case of Dr Becker) is actually a subtle form of idolatry. The idol is the perceived infallibility of a particular doctrinal position. That is: the elevation of one's own beliefs to a position of greater importance than the subject of those beliefs - namely Christ himself. This is surely problematic when sin pervades all aspects of our lives, including the very beliefs we hold.
      Therefore I would say to LCMS: recognise the fallibilty of your beliefs, confess that your doctrine is not the Truth, and re-examine how Christ is calling you to mission to his world.
      Amoa

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  16. Welcome. You have fought the good fight, speaking truth to power.

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    1. Yes, the lawless Matthew Harrison and his cohorts should be resigned for the sake of the synod's health, peace, and progress in mission. Those bigots in leadership has stained the public image of LCMS with their ideological idolatry.

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    2. Indeed. Living in the ashes of Christendom, my generation has to begin the long task of rebuilding what our fathers' idealogical idolatry destroyed. If God wills it, the LCMS will be one of foundations.

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  20. I have to agree with Dr. Woodworth regarding his comment: "much unloving, arrogant, hateful, and narrow-minded people." One can look into the history on how the LCMS, particularly Barry, Preuss, Mueller, Harrison and their cohorts, handle conflicts, from the Yankee Stadium to Newtown. After spending three decades in the LCMS system (including the years in the seminary system), I can only conclude that over 80 percent of the LCMS clergy are bigots and idolaters of the worst kind narcissism (i.e., those posts by the Steadfast Lutherans and Wittenberg Trail). They are careless about the mission and the people. They persecute (of course in the name of Lutheran confessionalism) missionaries, pastors, and laity who try to reach out to people with the Gospel. They proof-text and pick-and-choose Scriptures to uphold their ideology. Their hermeneutical methodology is out-of-date (pre-historical critical history, even before the WWII) and their ways of doing theology is underdeveloped (a regurgitation of Luther's and Walther's from the 1500-1900's). Their ways of looking at textual and literary criticism is locked into the cultural lens of the Germanic Waltherian outlook (in the case of Jeffrey Kloha and other scholars in the synod). Since the mid-1980's, the Synod's leadership can only be described as a bunch of lawless and demonic (i.e., they circumvented the constitutional procedure to silence and expel scholars who don't speak their lingua franca). Scholars, such as Dr. Becker, must QUACK like Waltherian ducks and read Scriptures like Harisson-Preussian bats in order to be faithful and confessional. The LCMS has become systemically and culturally blind to humanity--LCMS is a cultural bubble for the clerical club of bigots.

    It is better for Dr. Matthew Becker to leave the LCMS's bigots behind after 26 years of struggle (better for his health and family). The LCMS's bigots will probably hijack the ship again at the next Synodical Convention in 2016: the synodical ship is sinking with such ignorant leadership. Rather than spending his time to deal with bigots, the progress of the Christian Church will be more beneficial with Dr. Becker's freedom in teaching and theological contribution.

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    1. You sound bitter. Accusing 80% of LCMS clergy of being "bigots and idolaters of the worst kind narcissism" is about as "unloving, arrogant, hateful, and narrow-minded" as you describe others. Sad.

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    2. Wow 80%??? Such a specific number...are you sure it isn't 79.825%? Do you know 80% of LCMS Clergy, sir? There are around 5,300 seminary trained LCMS Pastors in this country, Are you saying you have met, talked to and know that 4,200 of them are bigoted? I seriously doubt it. You sound like a smart man but for someone who uses a lot of big words you make yourself sound like a fool when you keep spreading such selfish propaganda and making sweeping ignorant statements about people who are your brothers and sisters in Christ (what a concept huh?) While I agree that the leadership of the LCMS needs to be a lot more open minded and mission focused, Christ calls us to speak the truth in love....where is the love in your statements sir? Have an opinion, that's fine, but seriously, you sound like a punk looking for a fight. I feel sorry for you.

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    4. This is very interesting. Very interesting indeed! Whenever I threw out a number, people immediately assume that my number was a generalization or bias against the LCMS without even bother to inquire about my background.

      Mind you, Gerodbass, my background is in statistical analysis and I had done statistical analysis on the consulting job for about a decade in sampling data. During part of Barry’s and the whole Kieschnick’s presidency, I had spent every summer driving throughout the Midwest for mission fundraising. Yes, Gerodbass and Engebretson, please swallow that 80% bitter pill and take a look at yourselves in the mirror to see whether you are “unloving, arrogant, hateful, and norrow-minded” instead of trying to get on a defense. As far as I know for certain (and with some help from friends the Midwest (Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, and Nebraska), the LCMS is still as ignorant and arrogant as ever. Please look at the maps on LutherLeak’s Facebook. How many LCMS congregations are located in the Midwest––and how many LCMS Districts were involved in Dr. Becker’s expulsion? Since I am a “punk” and “looking for a fight,” here is a breakdown of that “over 80%” of the arrogant and ignorant bigots: 60% LCMS are hateful bigots and pitbulls, and 20-30% are silent and spineless to social injustice.

      What do people expect? The graduates of LCMS (from CSL and FTW) studied and certified based on how much they can regurgitate from Walther’s, Pieper’s, and Marquart’s. Mind you Gerodbass, only a small number of those 5,300 clergy actually have taken the time to read out of the LCMS traditions. Therefore, as you would have wished: over 80% of the clergy have been brainwashed to the point of irredeemable. They have been thoroughly brainwashed that anyone who is not LCMS is in grave error of committing heresy or heterodoxy. They are blinded to the point that whatever they read, they read through the lens of pre–archaeological and pre–scientific age. They are ignorant and arrogant to the point that they are committing the same errors as those fundamentalist Muhammadian literalists: magically, God dictated to illiterate writers like Moses, prophets, Evangelists, and Paul, and the actual Paul wrote the pastoral letters to a non–contextual worldwide Church saying that women should never be bishops, regardless of the local cultures.

      Am I angry? No, I am not a kumbayah guy to lie about the cultic state of LCMS. And please keep that song about "brothers and sisters and breaking the 8th Commandment" to yourselves. To keep the 8th Commandment is not to lie about what have regularly happened in the Synods. Last time I had to sit through a session, and I was harassed by a bunch of ignorant synodical pitbulls waving the two out–of–dated documents in my face: “A Statement of Scriptural and Confessional Principles (1973)” and “Brief Statement of the Doctrinal Position of the Missouri Synod (1931).” Yet, those pitbulls were clueless of hermeneutics, and all they did were to sit there reciting word for word from the two documents. When I pointed out the publishing dates, they move on the attack telling me that I have no humility. They were ignorant to the point that they did not know that there is a big difference between humility and cowardice. My conclusion is the LCMS clergy were systemically brainwashed to believe that they are correct, that they are the only people who will go to heaven, that they should actively persecute anyone who attempt to teach anything that sounds un–traditional within their clerical bubbles, and that they should in turn redeem and cleanse the world/Christian Church of its grave errors. That is a pathetically narcissistic mask to justify their bigoted “divine position.” The LCMS leadership is an alternative of the radical ISSIS.

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    5. Don...first of all check where your sources and info are coming from.....THE MIDWEST. There is your first problem. Guess what? Did you know that there are LCMS churches in other states besides the Bible belt???? What a concept right? lol I am from Seattle sir and things are a wee bit different out here. We and a lot of other brothers and sisters around the globe are not under the thumb of Mr. Harrison and friends from St. Louis despite your silly ramblings that actually prove my point. By making such sweeping accusations, you make yourself appear to be the close-minded ingorant fool you say you despise. It's like the homosexual, left-wing community who lash out at Christians and conservatives while not realizing they are doing the exact same thing they speak out about. It's two-faced. I tell you what though Don, I have a challenge for you sir....There is a growing movement within the LCMS you might have heard of. "Five-Two" I challenge you, if you are brave enough, to check out www.fivetwo.com and join us for the gathering this coming Sept. in Katy, Tx. After the gathering, let's have coffee and then you can sit and tell me if you still think a majority of LCMS brothers and sisters (YOUR brothers and sisters in Christ remember) are brainwashed. If you don't accept this challenge, then I question whether or not you are actually serious about your convictions. Will you ACT on them or continue to just give lip service? I am curious... :)

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    6. Re: Donald Kim - I just caught up with the replies over the last few days. This will be my last. Your accusations claim to know all clergy as well as their minds and hearts. Perhaps you are growing into omniscience. You also have clear disdain for the the LCMS and its pastors. So be it. I have no time for such arrogant hatred. Continue on with your disdain. It will do nothing to the LCMS or its mission.

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    7. LCMS clergy are such indescribable ignorant and arrogant people like Gerodbass and Engebretson. Didn't I say in my above posts that each and every clergy is a bigot? Didn't I say over 80% of you guys are bigots? You two are irrational to the point that you want to cover up all the evil acts done by the LCMS over the past 40 years or so (since the seminex) to humanity.

      At a master level, I expect you two look into the data I pointed out (i.e., the mapping of LCMS congregations located in America, the German Evangelical Church is not LCMS). What I didn't expect was that someone with an MDiv. lacking qualitative and quantitative research skills keeps coming back to me saying that I don't know "their minds and hearts" and those "brothers and sisters" in Seattle. I suggest you two, Gerodbass and Engebretson, take couple of statistic classes to comprehend the gravity of which the LCMS is sinking: LCMS is a disgusting and dehumanizing institution in people's view. What can I expect from someone who is under the leadership of a spineless Linnemann (who gave in to the synodical bulldogs Matthew Harrison, Terry Forke, and others)?

      Furthermore, I expect an MDiv does a little better than pointing to that little group FiveTwo in Katy TX to invalidate my estimated 80% statistic. How big is FiveTwo? Less 5%? Didn't I read somewhere on those BJS's blogs that the bigots have tried to shut down FiveTwo and persecuted/ousted Bill Woolsey in the last two years?

      People around the globe are catching up with how LCMS has harassed and persecuted faithful and intellectual Christian scholars. Earlier this week, St. Louis Post Dispatch published an article on how the LCMS (Matthew Harrison and his cohorts) unjustly ousted Dr. Becker by breaking the synodical bylaws and resolutions. What can people expect from an institution when only 5 out of 45 professors remained after the seminex? What can people expect from a scholarship when an institution still adheres to an out-of-dated hermeneutical methodology (dated back to 1931 and 1972) meanwhile textual and literary criticism have advanced with archaeological discoveries in the last 40 years?

      I do hope that the bigoted LCMS disappears in the Christian community in the near future. With its aging state (a median age over 65 years old) and membership loss of 30,000-35,000 members annually out of 2.1 million members, LCMS can join the Mormon cult to look better, membership-wise. After all, LCMS is becoming as cultic and radically fundamentalistic as the Mormon cult. LCMS is pathetically shameful!

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    8. Bigots? Is that the word for anyone who disagrees with you?

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  21. Dr. Becker, as a Valpo grad one of my most formative experiences was the night David Truemper told us his version of this story. I remain to this day proud of my alma mater, where good and conscientious theologians and Bible scholars that Missouri blacklists and persecutes find a home, and as safe a place as there may be to practice their callings. I know it can't have been an easy choice to leave the LC–MS for the ELCA, just as it wasn't for Dr. Truemper, or anyone associated with Seminex. You have fought the good fight in and for your church until it could not reasonably be fought, and I look forward to you continuing your career in the ELCA on exactly those principles. God's blessings on your work!

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  24. i have been "suspended" by the same Now district president Linnemann for four years now. My offenses was standing up for local congregational control and decision making that challenged his position on joint ministry with congregatiobs that left the rica. Everyrhing we did was approved by his own predecessor district president schumacher. Linnemann had to ignore The district bylaws and his own written promises to me to accomplish the suspension and he is unworthy of his office.

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  27. Congratulations. Keep up the good work. Unfortunately, the Missouri Synod has become a very unhealthy system--a system based on fear and control, which are the very opposite of the character of the Gospel.

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  28. Thanks for posting your clarifications. As God wills it, the Synod will be able to investigate the "referral panels and synodical officials" who originally cleared you and take appropriate action.

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  29. Not only there must be a thorough investigation into the "referral panels and synodical officials," but also why was there a breach in the synodical dissent procedure by the SID, the NID, the Montana District, and those BJS's. Moreover, Matthew Harrison and those DP's must be disciplined for violating and circumventing the synodical bylaws/resolutions after the panel ruling (Fall 2014) and the COP's ruling (March 2015).

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    1. We must obey God rather than men.

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    2. Tim - the great commission says nothing about persecuting brothers in Christ. Dr. Becker is the victim of "group think" and group think is very much an exercise in obeying men.

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  30. You were one of my favorite teachers at Concordia. I learned the most from you because you did ask me to question and be able to defend my views. I believe you are lead by God. Apologetics are important, and without discussing our beliefs we will never be able to grow in the word. I am saddened to hear this news from the LCMS and I support you all the way.
    Cindy (Gardner) Carney

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  31. Rev. Dr.Becker, I am a former LCMS longtime member, now Catholic. I think part of this dilemma shows the problem with Sola Scriptura. There is, must be, a greater authority, one that incorporates the blessed Scriptures, yet supersedes and completes them. I propose that is The Church, (1Tim. 3:15). Your understanding of Genesis and evolution is, I think, close to Catholic teaching. Just a thought for you. I wish you the best. -John Payne

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    1. That authority is not in magisteria but is in the living Gospel found in the New Testament. See Galatians. Romans 3-6. Jesus Christ is a living Savior, Lord and God who is personally for you. Jesus said that God was not the God of the dead but of the living ala Mark 12.

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    2. Also this Gospel message says that this living God is for you and not against you. It has its own intrinsic authority and does not need a separate outside source to provide authorization on it.

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    3. The authority, indeed, is found in the Gospel. There is nothing in that authority to justify the expulsion of Dr. Becker. Rather, the authority is found in a statement of scriptural and confessional principles - a document that is other than LCMS' formal confession. And, the authority is found in the LCMS constitution, which prescribes procedures for expulsion - procedures which, in this case, were not followed.

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    5. You claimed that it was a matter of authority. You implied that it was the authority of the Gospel. Yet, if it really were a question of the authority of the Gospel, Dr. Becker would still be rostered in the LCMS.

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  32. I am so sorry that you, your family, and your church have had to endure this controversy. I have met enough people who have either left or been pushed out (informally) from their denomination to know that this can be incredibly painful.

    Thank you for your attempts to reform-from-within the church you have loved. Whether or not I agree or disagree with the official policy of the LCMS, I believe that regularly examining the policy of earthly authority in faith matters is important to the survival of the church as a whole.

    While no authority or representative, my experience is that if you elect to pursue a transition to a rostered leadership role within the ELCA, your faithful questioning and critical thinking will be an asset to the church that I was raised in and love. As a candidate for ordained ministry in the ELCA, I would welcome you as a future colleague.

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  33. Our redoubtable LCMS has far too many folks who believe that, in Eternity, we shall appear before Our Lord–Who will immediately pepper us with a “Lutheran Confessions” theology exam—and you’d better get a perfect score!
    The LCMS has done enormous good since its inception in the middle of the 19th century, but is also a diva-like brand of Lutheranism very adept at shooting itself in the foot. I am sad for its leadership: They know not what they do.

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  34. I just read of this story in our paper in Washington State. I am a scientist that believes in God and the Bible. Science has proved everything in our Universe was created in “The Big Bang” 13.7 billion years ago. Since all scientific laws such as gravity, particle physics, relativity, evolution, DNA, etc. were all created at the same time as space, time, energy and matter, there can be no conflict between science and God. God created all of them at the same time. Science has no explanation of why the Big Bang happened, or what was in that void of space and time before the Big Bang. Any apparent conflict between science and God, or science and the Bible is due to the inadequacy of our feeble human minds to understand the mind of God. Just as humans are still struggling to understand God’s science, so those same limited minds are still struggling to understand the Bible. I pray for anyone who believes their mind fully understands God, or thinks they fully understand the Biblical message. That is highly egotistical, bordering on putting your mind equal to God. Instead be humble in the face of the power of God. Instead, love your neighbor as yourself and you have fulfilled God’s requirements (Rom. 13:8-10), What just happened to Matthew Becker is not love.

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    1. I agree, NWDon. Christianity does not have an argument with science. Christianity's argument is with some of the assertions that might be postulated, based on science, but have not been tested within the limits of the scientific method. Science can neither prove nor disprove the existence of God. It is outside the scope of science to even pose that hypothesis.

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    2. I came to this blog to comment on the injustice I felt the treatment Dr. Becker received. I agree with you, but want to narrow the discussion to the issues at hand. I read Dr. Becker’s article, “The Scandal of the LCMS Mind” and find it includes a sincere attempt to explain how Evolution is not in conflict with Genesis. It appears to me that this conflict is caused by a decision by LCMS to treat Genesis as “History” and thus the six days of creation are in conflict with our science’s timframe of 13.7 billion years. Thus, their conclusion that Evolution must be rejected.

      In 1957 Leon Festinger published his work on “Cognitive Dissonance” ( Google it for more). In a nutshell we all have a problem with receiving ANY information that is in conflict with strongly held beliefs. Here is a simple example. Suppose after careful shopping you spend $30,000 on a new car and are sure you made the right choice. If I show you two magazines on your new car, the first showing your car on the cover calling it ‘Car of the Year”, and the second is a Consumer Report stating your car failed safety tests and should be recalled. Cognitive Dissonance theory predicts you will choose the positive article because it reinforces your strongly held beliefs, and reject both the message and the messenger of the unfavorable article since it is uncomfortable to try to reconcile your purchase with the fact you made a mistake.

      I bring this to the attention those in LCMS to point out that those who oppose Dr Becker have sincere, strongly held beliefs, but are susceptible to cognitive dissonance if presented with conflicting viewpoints. This is one of the most common causes of conflict in our world today, including politics, economics, international relations, and husband-wife disagreements. Fortunately Paul provides a Christian answer to how to handle these issues in Galatians 5:10-13.

      Quote: (NLT)

      “13 For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. 14 For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”[c] 15 But if you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Beware of destroying one another.”

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    3. Correction: Scripture ref is Galatians 5:13-15

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  35. Matt, How I came upon this news today is too long a story to tell, but I remember you from the days you were at Univ. of Chicago and I was finishing up at LSTC. After 14 years in ministry as a Lutheran pastor, the theological and moral meltdown in the ELCA forced me to reexamine the very foundations of Reformation theology and thought. Long story short, resigned my last "call" in Dec. of 2005, my wife, Marie, and I were received into "full communion" in the Catholic Church on the Feast of the Holy Cross, 9/14) of 2006... and I am currently serving as a DRE at a great parish and school in Wilmington, NC. (Living where other people only get to come on vacation!) Check out stmarkcatholicchurch.com and drop me an email at dre@stmarkcatholicchurch.com. Paul Abbe

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  36. Dear Dr. Becker. I read about the action of LCMS in removing you last week in the Kansas City Star. I am very sorry to hear about it, but as you know the inflexibility of the Missouri Synod in aspects of biblical literalism goes back a long way. In 1957, at fifteen, I was fortunate enough to meet Rev. Robert J. Hoyer in St. Louis while I was on a Walther League-related trip. He had practically built Redeemer Lutheran Church in my hometown of Salt Lake City, and his artistic skill and craftsmanship could be found throughout that little sanctuary. After I stayed overnight with his family in St. Louis, he took me on a tour of Concordia and bought me lunch before my departure. I'll never forget our conversation that day. I had made a slighting comment about a fellow Walther Leaguer who was trying to reconcile the Book of Genesis with evolution, and Pastor Hoyer said, "I believe Genesis is a symbolic book, not a literal story"--or something to that effect. In later years I wondered how he had fared in the purge of more thoughtful teachers and students at Concordia, and I see he ended up at Valparaiso. That conversation was the beginning, though not the sole cause, of my disaffection with the church and abandonment of Christianity as a spiritual pathway, but I admire the people like Pastor Hoyer who try to bring a reasoned humanism and emphasis on the human condition to biblical interpretation in the face of growing rigidity and fundamentalism.

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  37. Dear Dr. Becker,

    I am sorry for what you and your family have endured. You have undergone great scrutiny faithfully, with scholarly integrity, and with humility.

    I am sad for the Missouri Synod, which has become dominated by those who espouse and demand biblical literalism that is in line with fundamentalism, but not Lutheranism. They fail to understand the different literary forms in scripture and are intolerant of good biblical scholarship as embraced by the vast majority of Christians worldwide. They create conflict with science that turns scripture into something it was never intended to be. This is a poor witness to the Gospel in that it leads thinking people to view Christianity as primitive and outdated. It is also a poor witness because it reveals the pettiness of the church body rather than demonstrating the love of God.

    I fear for many friends who remain in the LCMS. The same literalists are on a witch hunt (or maybe an inquisition) and they will go after others. They demand doctrinal purity in their very narrow view. They are driving people away from the synod and others are choosing to leave.

    I am happy for the ELCA. They are getting a first rate theological scholar and pastor!

    I am grateful to you. When I was ready to take up an Internet sword for you months ago, you gave me very pastoral caution about engaging; you helped me keep focus on spreading the love of Gospel instead of getting down in the mud with the swine.

    I am hopeful that you will enjoy a new found freedom that will allow you to focus on your teaching and studying. May you develop many more ecumenical relationships, receive the Eucharist from women of God, distribute communion to openly gay children of God, and enjoy a scholarly freedom that you should have had right along.

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  38. As a former member of the LCMS and now a pastor in the LCMC I would love to see you join this dynamic association. I am afraid you may encounter the same hierarchy issues in the ELCA only for different reasons.

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