Friday, April 22, 2016

A Parting Shot

Just over one year ago a Montana LCMS pastor (who is also the district president there) officially accused me of teaching false doctrine. The issue? Six-day creationism, or more precisely, my online essay, "The Scandal of the LCMS Mind," in which I raise both scientific and theological criticisms against six-day creationism. That formal charge eventually factored in to the NW District President's decision to suspend me from the LCMS clergy roster. In his view it was just a matter of time before the Council of LCMS District Presidents would act to remove me from that roster. When I did not appeal my suspension, I was expelled (July 15, 2015). My family and I have now become members of a local ELCA congregation, and I will soon be seeking to become rostered in this church body.

So I was surprised to learn earlier this week that a 2015 overture directed against me by the Indiana District has now been published in the 2016 LCMS Convention Workbook. Already last spring I was surprised by this overture, since no one from the Indiana District ever met with me face-to-face to discuss his/her concerns, let alone give me an opportunity to respond to the district's overture, which was adopted and then submitted to St. Louis so as to become a synodical overture. During the years (2010-2014) that I served an LCMS congregation in Indiana, I met with the Indiana District President several times, always to discuss that interim situation and the congregation's pastoral care. Never once did he raise any concerns with me about my public teaching or preaching. Just the opposite. He repeatedly told me, as late as the day the new pastor was installed there (Mar 2014), that he had been very pleased with the pastoral care, preaching (which he could observe online), and teaching that I had provided the congregation during its difficult pastoral vacancy. I don't know if the Indiana District President ever spoke against the overture at the district convention, or tried to encourage the people behind it to meet personally with me, but he never spoke with me about it, nor did anyone else from that  district.

To read the whole resolution (4-22, p. 335), it can be downloaded here.

Here are some excerpts:

To Publicly Call Rev. Dr. Matthew Becker to Repentance

Whereas, Holy Scripture warns, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Matt. 7:15); and

Whereas, Holy Scripture warns, “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. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naïve” (Rom. 16:17−18); and

Whereas, Holy Scripture warns, “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, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Tim. 4:3−4); and

Whereas, Holy Scripture declares, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16−17); and

Whereas, Rev. Dr. Matthew Becker has stated on his own blog, Transverse Markings: One Theologian’s Notes (, that he has three goals for the LCMS, all of which are contrary to the Scriptures and the positions of Synod:
1. To encourage members within the Synod to think differently about two issues, namely (a) the Synod’s understanding of Scripture that insists that only qualified men may serve as pastor in the Synod; and (b) the Synod’s understanding of Scripture that requires one to interpret the creation accounts in Genesis to be literal, historical descriptions of what God did in the not-too-distant past over the course of six actual 24-hour days (“six-day creationism”);
2. To have the Synod change its position that restricts the office of pastor only to men;
3. To have the Synod reject “creationism” in favor of “a more robust doctrine of creation, one that sets forth a theological understanding that better accords with the language and genre of these Genesis texts and that better accords with what people today know to be true and valid about the natural history of our planet”; and

Whereas, Rev. Dr. Matthew Becker has filed dissent, yet continues to publicly teach and promote false doctrine including woman’s ordination, having published articles on his own blog and on Daystar, where he published an article titled “An Argument for Female Pastors and Theologians” in which he states: “There is no legitimate biblical or dogmatic rationale for why the LCMS should now prohibit women from serving as theologians and pastors in the church” ( theologians/); and...

Whereas, Rev. Dr. Matthew Becker continues to teach and promote false doctrine publicly, including promoting a figurative interpretation of Genesis 1 and 2 by stating in his post, “The Scandal of the LMCS Mind”...“Scientific data about the reality of physical death in the animal and plant kingdoms prior to origin of human beings (e.g., fossils of animals that lived long before the origin of human beings) must lead those who interpret the Bible in light of scientific knowledge to restate the nature of God’s good creation prior to the advent of human sin (e.g., such a good creation must have included the reality of death prior to the existence of human beings) and the character of the historical origin of sin (e.g., the advent of sin is to be traced to the first hominids who disobeyed God’s will but not necessarily to their having eaten from a tree in an actual place called the Garden of Eden several thousand years ago)”; and

Whereas, the LCMS Commission on Constitutional Matters (CCM) has ruled, ‘While the filing of dissent does not constitute a case for removal, the member is required to teach and practice in accord with Synod’s stated confessional position during the dissent process. If the member fails to honor and uphold the stated confessional position of the Synod during the dissent process, the member becomes subject to disciplinary action due both to the violation of the doctrinal position of the Synod and the offense against the other members of the Synod created by such failure (Constitution Art. XIII 1). In such case it is incumbent upon the ecclesiastical supervisor of the member to exercise disciplinary action against the member who fails to teach and act within Synod’s stated confessional position, whether apart from or during the dissent process (Bylaws 2.14.4; 2.15.4; 2.16.4)” [Opinion 13-2694, June 13, 2014]; and...

Whereas, President Matt Harrison stated on the “Witness Mercy Life Together” blog: “When a public teacher on the roster of Synod can without consequence publicly advocate the ordination of women (even participate vested in the installation of an ELCA clergy person), homosexuality, the errancy of the Bible, the historical-critical method, open communion, communion with the Reformed , does not change its inability to call such a person to repentance and remove such a teacher where there is no repentance, then we are liars and our confession is meaningless. I do not want to belong to such a synod, much less lead it. I have no intention of walking away from my vocation. I shall rather use it and, by the grace of God, use all the energy I have to call this Synod to fidelity to correct this situation”; therefore be it

Resolved, That the Indiana District in convention commend President Harrison in his diligence to uphold the teachings of Holy Scripture and also the Constitution and Bylaws of the LCMS: And be it further

Resolved, That the Indiana District encourage President Harrison to provide a full report to the Synod of this matter involving Rev. Dr. Matthew Becker; And be it further

Resolved, that the Indiana District request the Synod in convention publicly to call upon Rev. Dr. Matthew Becker to repent and recant, or remove him from the clergy roster of the Synod; And be it finally

Resolved, That the Indiana District encourage everyone throughout the Indiana District to pray fervently to the Lord of the Church that His Holy Spirit, working through the holy and inerrant Word of God, would lead Rev. Dr. Matthew Becker to repentance and to confess once again with us in doctrinal unity what we believe, teach, and confess.

Indiana District

The decision to include this overture--and another one that is similar to it--in the 2016 Workbook was ultimately up to Matt Harrison. Why publish these overtures ten months after the condemned one has already been expelled from the Missouri Brotherhood? Harrison's version of an Auto-da-Fés? A public warning not to rock the LCMS dinghy? "Never again will we allow this kind of critical-theological questioning!" That would make some sense, I suppose, given the fears and outcries of Harrison & Co. That others have found this decision of his questionable is clear from the statement that a former synodical official recently made: "How an overture regarding someone who already left the denomination got published is troubling to me, because it didn't have to be. So that's a smile upside down from me."

These overtures will initially go before "The Committee on Life Together." As one who got the boot, who was told that he doesn't belong any longer in the fellowship, I do wonder what the basis for life together in the LCMS is these days. Unity in the gospel and in the sacraments administered in accord with the gospel? That's the clear and sufficient basis set forth in the Augsburg Confession. But what is the basis in the LCMS? Certainly not this rather slim Augsburgerische one. The LCMS basis is much more maximal and includes that church's body's equivalent to canon law: "gemeinsames Leben durch das synodische-kanonische Recht..."

1 comment:

  1. We became members of CLC last weekend. During the meetings to prepare for membership discussion occurred about the state of the Missouri Synod. We skipped the second meeting because our family had beat this horse to death.

    We received a curt certified letter booting us from the church a full two weeks before joining CLC. Our only correspondence with anyone had been through weak sporadic e-mail correspondence with one elder.

    Irony is strong on the part of criticism leveled toward you from the leadership of the Missouri Synod about six day creationism. I wonder if Matthew Harrison has examined Ken Hamm for wounds in his wrists, feet and side.

    Matthew, I believe the synod is dying. This condition is due to idolatry and self-centeredness. From their perspectives it's about the buildings and the traditions. My accusation is the synod has become a "going through the motions church". Due to this condition the leadership is frustrated and projecting their frustration anywhere they can to avoid responsibility. The only thing that can stop this is to allow the Holy Spirit to regain control.

    We did our due diligence. We have nothing to prove.

    We'll talk more about the "gravity and mass" of the situation over a couple of "Old Styles" ;).