Thursday, February 9, 2012

Change or Die: The Sequel

Dear Readers,

You may have seen that there is another Change or Die conference taking place in the Milwaukee area this year. Here is the link.

If you have any questions or concerns about this conference, we urge you not to make your comments to us, but rather to make your comments or concerns known directly to the participants in this conference or to your pastor or district supervisor.

The IL Editors


Perry Lund said...

Dear IL Editors,

Last year, I talked to my pastor, emailed my circuit pastor, and was advised by my district president to write a letter directly to Mark Jeske. I did write to Pastor Jeske and he wrote back telling me that my concerns were noted but that he saw nothing wrong with church growth in the Milwaukee area. Pastor Jeske asked me not to share the contents of the letter on the Internet last year. I am not sure I even kept it in my paperwork here at home.

While I would be happy to write another letter, I am not sure how it would affect the Change or Die conference planners to see the problems and offenses they give to WELS laity here in the rural heartland. I am sure I would get another well written letter from Pastor Jeske, but I am sure he would not agree with any concerns I would write about. My pastor agrees that Pastor Jeske would likely not change his position or attitude about Change or Die.

Now, I am not trying to dampen anyone's spirit about writing a letter to the speakers, but I suggest a counter-conference a bit like the BJS Conference I am attending this weekend, where the confessional Lutherans get together to discuss doctrine and practice and why things like Change or Die lead to problems and potential the inroads to false doctrine. I am not accusing anyone of false teaching, but the fact that poor practice begets the weakening of doctrine.

I also note that the 2012 Conference site is much more covert in its outward presentation of the contents of the conference to avoid drawing fire like last year. Is anyone Intrepid enough to sign up and attend the conference to offer counter point to the proponent of Change or Die?

Daniel Baker said...

I would definitely attend such a conference if one existed in our Synod, Mr. Lund. I empathize with your thoughts about letter-writing, as well. My attempts at such (and even in-person meetings) have basically been efforts in futility. It seems the time spent writing these letters would be better spent networking with actual Confessional Lutherans in our Synod (few as they may be), as you suggest.

Pastor Jon Kehren said...

I believe that the WELS Conference of Presidents made a request last year that WELS pastors not participate in the 2011 Change or Die Conference. Does any one know if a similar request has been made by the COP this year?

Unknown said...

My heart is heavy and saddened this morning because a WELS brother has found my actions of posting about Pastor Jeske and linking it to Facebook to be offensive. So I now reflect on my actions and the angst it causes me. Upon reflection of my post above, I say in all honesty that it was done with brotherly love and with no malice.

For everyone reading the Intrepid Lutherans and discussing this via social medias like Twitter or Facebook, I want to be clear that writing a letter is a fine action to take with regard to making your concerns known about Change or Die. I did so in 2011 and appreciated the response from Pastor Jeske. While I disagree with him, I respect him and know he loves the Lord.

I have been rebuked for publicly stated that I wrote a letter to Pastor Jeske and that that action should have been kept private. (Matthew 18) To be clear again, that contents of my letter to Pastor Jeske and his response were between he and I. The contents have never been shared with anyone else either physically or electronically. Pastor Jeske requested this and I have honored and kept that request.

For WELS pastors whom deal with divisive issues on a daily or weekly basis, you may laugh this off and say Mr. Lund needs to get a thicker skin. I am thin skinned when it comes to my giving offense. I see my sins daily, but trust in the Lord and His mercy. For those who continue to see my posted concerns about this matter of WELS participation in Change or Die as "wrong doing", forgive my offense.

Blessings on all of your weekends.

In Christ,

Perry Lund

Anonymous said...

Mr. Lund,
Do not let your conscience be burdened. You had a legitimate concern, and expressed it in the way in which you were directed. When asked to keep correspondences private, you did.
Pastor Kehren has outlined part of the problem. What does it say about practice in the WELS when the COP recommends not attending a conference held by one of its pastors?
I agree with Mr. Baker's comments, networking with confessional Lutherans is a better use of your God-given time.
Scott E. Jungen

Joe Krohn said...

Buck up, Mr. Lund. I would say the other party is the one who is thin skinned. I was questioned for having certain friends on my FB account. My own pastor deleted me...when I was an Elder. And they call us legalists?


Tim Niedfeldt said...

Take heart Perry. Don't get down about detractors from your expressions of concern. That is usually just an admission of personal insecurity about the issue on their part. I personally don't have much time for those who can't stand seeing an idea or notion challenged. Of course I don't win awards for winning friends and influencing people, but I never argue. I only debate. Arguing is personal. Debating is not. So perhaps your friend can take off the crybaby pants and buck up a bit on the free expression of ideas and opinions on public matters.

You have every right to express concern that TWO WELS pastors are participating in a conference with ELCA and LCMS pastors that is NOT a free conference. In fact, this is a conference where churches will be expressing their commonalities in how to make a church grow. You can say what you want about how this is not about doctrine but about methodology and pragmatic approaches blah blah blah...we'll just call it CG...but it still implies that there is a fellowship that doesn't exist. It is the same reason the RSO status for ToG is an issue because it pushes the limit on clear fellowship practices.

For your friend to be offended because you mentioned your opposition and a subsequent conversation about the issue, that for all intents and purposes could and should be as public as the nature of the offense, I would say that the issue lies in your friend's insecurity about the issue at hand and a desire to perhaps use the "offense" card to silence dissent or a sense of discomfort. That does seem to happen a lot in the WELS. The "I'm offended" card is pulled all over the place.

Well I guess I'm just spouting off this morning. (However, I won't be apologizing for it...because of course it's never personal. It's only debate.) I think WELS people seem to just need to buck up and start debating these things in the open and then let the cards land where they may. It's time to stop worrying about what discord looks and feels like and start doing the things that need to be done.


Tim Niedfeldt

"I'd agree with you but then we'd both be wrong" ;]

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

No, Perry, don't laugh it off and try to get a thicker skin. It really isn't funny or fun to be accused of wrongdoing, or to have one who holds the Office reprimand you for something that isn't sinful.

I agree heartily with Tim above about those who wish to squash all discussion, even of public events. And any pastor who says that you violated Matthew 18 by simply revealing that you wrote a letter to the offending party for his public participation in a publicly advertized event should go back to seminary for a refresher course. Better yet, he should return to the Scriptures and to the Large Catechism to learn what Matthew 18 really says.

I think you have displayed a genuine Christian spirit in what you have written and said, and I commend you for it.

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

Actually, Tim, for the sake of accuracy, the head count, according to the agenda, is as follows:

3 WELS pastors
3 ELCA pastors (including one pastorette)
1 LCMS pastor
1 LCMS lay woman

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that this conference displays a unity in, at least, matters of adiaphora for the worship service (as a means to grow the church). But I thought such matters have been dealt with in the Ep and SD on adiaphora.

"Do not be unequally yoked..." (2 Corinthians 6)

"In a similar way in such a situation ceremonies should not be regarded as genuine free adiaphora, or matters of indifference. This is because they make a show or pretend that our religion and that of the papists (or fill in the blank: Baptist, Pentecostal, etc.) are not far apart..." (FC SD X 5)

And in regards to discussing doctrine without the "I'm offended" card coming out:

"We also believe, teach, and confess that at a time of confession, when the enemies of God's Word want to suppress the pure doctrine of the Holy Gospel, God's entire church, indeed, every single Christian, but especially the ministers of the Word, as the directors of the community of God, is bound by God's Word to confess the doctrine freely and openly." (FC SD X 10)

I hope I'm interpreting these passages correctly. If not, I'm more then willing to be instructed and corrected.

Mitch Forte

Pastor Jon Kehren said...

The Change or Die Conference website shows that the conference is connected with an organiztion called "Ten Talents for Christ INC." Has anyone heard of this organization? Their website says nothing about who they are and what they are about except that they are collecting registrations for this conference.

By the way, the conference title "Change or Die" is rather off-putting to me. What comes to my mind is the heretical John Shelby Spong's book "Why Christianity Must Change or Die." Just my thoughts.

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

Jon, I wondered the same thing. The address of "Ten Talents for Christ" listed on their website is:

2323 N. Mayfair Rd., Suite 104

Coincidentally, that's right down the road from the synod office, and it's in the very same building as WELS Kingdom Workers:

2323 N. Mayfair Rd., Suite 400

Maybe someone at WKW could provide more information.

And you hit the nail on the head about Spong's book.

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...


This is part of a comment that came in unsigned. I thought you should see it.

When did Matthew 18 become a gag, to use for laity or those who disagree? Me thinks they dost protest too much. Thank you Mr. Lund, for doing what most of us can't. Pax Christi!

Anonymous said...

I wondered the same thing.

The Registered Agent with the State of Wisconsin of Ten Talents for Christ Inc is one -

Danae S Oldenberg, who it appears is an agent for Thrivent and who's office appears to be 2323 N Mayfair Road Suite 104.

Ten Talents for Christ Inc has not filed paper work with the state of Wisconsin to be recognized as a Charitable 501(c)3 Organization yet, but is a NonStock, Non-Profit Corporation.

Was not able to find out Board of Directors.

The above is all from Public Records available in Wisconsin.

Hope this helps.

Lee Liermann

Anonymous said...

Conferences such as these and the WELS pastors participating are a symptom of a larger problem. As much as we'd like to see the synod go back to the 'old days' or the way it used to be, that camel is in the tent and it seems like it's here to stay. The time is coming when we'll all be making the serious choices that will pit us against family, friends, old classmates, and other pastors. I have not officially left the WELS, but factions of the WELS have certainly left me.

-Rhonda Martinez

Anonymous said...

"...all joint expressions and demonstrations of a common Christian faith — call them church fellowship or by any other term ("Change or Die"?) — are essentially one, that they involve a unit concept, and that they are therefore all governed by one set of principles" (WELS Proceedings, 1959, p. 165).

What changed that WELS pastors would think it'd be in keeping with the WELS unit concept to participate in a conference with other clergy not of the same confession of faith in order to teach a particular philosophy of ministry?

What is most troubling to me about these conferences, however, is the philosophy of ministry that a "growing" church must be doing it right and a "dying" church must be doing it wrong. Classic anti-Lutheran (i.e. biblical, confessional), Church Growth theology.

- Rev. James Schulz

Anonymous said...

A possible answer to Rev. Schulz's question: The divide between doctrine and practice. Many see them as mutually exclusive. This is why the Church Growth parasite is able to infect the Church. If we regained a proper understanding of the relationship between doctrine and practice, then we wouldn't be begging the Protestants to teach us. "Change or Die" is a relatively small symptom of the much larger disease, although it is not at all unimportant.

Jerod Butt

Pastor Jon Kehren said...

I tried to send an e-mail to the contact person on the "Church or Die" website to get more info about the conference but it came back as "undeliverable." Has anyone tried to contact them and had any success?

Pastor Jon Kehren said...

The "Change or Die" conference is promoting the idea that in order for the Lutheran congregations to "grow" we must "change." One of the pastors on the agenda is an ELCA female pastor. She is probaly a nice person and I don't look down on her because she is female. But the Scriptures have spoken about the role of men and women in the Church.

Does not this conference give the impression that the biblical principles regarding the role of man and woman are "changeable"?

Many of us confessional Lutherans have borne a heavy cross for taking a stand on this issue. We have sadly seen members leave our churches and been ridiculed and scorned for it. I cannot see how WELS pastors can participate in this conference without causing great harm and offense to fellow Christians.

Anonymous said...

I suppose organizers of this conference would not have invited Jesus to speak because of what happened after the feeding of the 5,000: "After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him" (John 6:66).

Why did they turn back? They said it themselves: “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” (John 6:60)

Jesus did not "change or die" to gather more disciples. Rather, he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”

What Jesus said is reflected in what confessional Lutherans believe and teach: "the Holy Ghost is given, who works faith; where and when it pleases God, in them that hear the Gospel,..." (Augsburg Confession, Article V)

A "successful" church is one that is faithful to the doctrine and practice of the Gospel through means of grace ministry, not necessarily one that is numerically increasing in membership statistics.

- Rev. James Schulz

Anonymous said...

Mr. Kehren,

I've tried twice with no avail.

Mitch Forte

Anonymous said...

In the intro to Krauth's Conservative Reformation, Lawrence Rast talks about the progressive Lutherans having this same attitude...change or die. I wrote a recent post about it and my frustrations entering Lutheranism.

Pastor Jon Kehren said...

Some have suggested that a person keep their comments about any concerns they have about these public conferences on a private level with those who are participating. Certainly one must direct concerns to those participating to give them an opportunity to hear and respond to those concerns.

These conferences, however, are very public events that advertise themselves to Church at large. They seek to teach and influence church leaders and laypeople.

Anyone making a public comment should guard against judging motives, or saying anything that would unduly harm another's repuation. But isn't it equally important to express concerns publicly when concerned about the well-being of souls who may be receiving confusing or misleading messages from these public events?

It seems like, more and more, pastors and local ministries view themselves as spiritual entrepreneurs free to innovate in order reach more and more people as if their own congregations and ministries were their own private small business rather than a part of a larger body, the Church. We are united as one body - the Church. That means we are concerned for and about one another. As confessional Lutherans in the WELS, we have also pledged ourselves to walk together as one.

The "Change or Die" conferences provide a platform advocating certain ministries models for congregations to follow in order to grow. If we are concerned about what is being offered as models of ministry in our midst, is it not good and right to express that concern publicly?

"God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its part should have equal concern for each other." (1 Corinthians 12:24-25)

Pastor Jon Kehren

Anonymous said...

Any updates on this seminar? Participation by WELS Pastors hasn't been nixed by District Presidents or the Synod President by chance?

Lee Liermann

Pastor Spencer said...

Mr. Liermann,

Thanks for the question.

I can tell you this much - Pastor Hunter has withdrawn as a speaker. However, sadly, he has been replaced by Bruce Becker, a former WELS Pastor.

I can also tell you that President Schroeder is dealing with the matter.

Pastor Spencer

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