Wednesday, June 27, 2012


Dear Readers,

 The post below contains some of my thoughts in reflection on our recent conference in Oshkosh. They were written on the train-ride back to Arizona, in the wee, small hours of a very dark night, rolling across the flat-lands of western Kansas, as I sat all alone in the lounge car listening to the rhythm of the rails. It is my opinion, nothing more, nothing less, and as such not necessarily the opinion of the management and staff of Intrepid Lutherans, Inc.

 Intrepid Lutherans: How Am I Ambivalent About Thee –

Let Me Count the Ways!

Well, as of the first of this month we've been in operation for two years. There have been two years of articles, comments, editorials, and we have recently completed our first national conference. About seventy people showed up at that meeting in Oshkosh, from the WELS, ELS, LCMS, and a couple of Protes'tants. But among all these were very few WELS Pastors. And when we look a bit closer, the same is true of articles, comments, and "signers" on Intrepid Lutherans. As any good Lutheran might ask, "What Does This Mean?"

 Does it mean that the other Pastors of the Wisconsin Synod don't care about doctrine and practice at all? No, I don't believe that would be accurate. The fact is, the vast majority probably still don't even know Intrepid Lutherans exist in the first place!  Of the fourteen hundred or so ordained ministers of the Gospel in the WELS, I would venture to say that about two-thirds to three-fourths don't know anything about Intrepid Lutherans. Of those that do know, most are leaders – District Presidents, Administrators, and Circuit Pastors. I know, because two years ago I personally sent each and every one of the men in these categories an introductory email about us. So, this opinion piece is not about them – repeat, NOT about them. I'll save that for another time.

 So, besides the leaders, I figure maybe another two to three hundred WELS Pastors know about Intrepid Lutherans and what we're trying to do. Of that, I believe maybe a good one-third or more are dead-set against what we stand for. Ok, where does that leave us now? Perhaps a hundred to a hundred and fifty Pastors in our synod know about us and don't oppose us outright, maybe even vigorously agree with our general aims and objectives. I think we could add to that number another fifty or so from the ELS. So, the question then becomes – why only about twenty Pastor "signers," and about that number at our meeting earlier this month? The answer, in my humble opinion – and once again, that's all this is, just my opinion – is sheer ambivalence, nothing more, nothing less. Now, the question is – why?

 I can think of a few reasons, and these are in no particular order of importance.

- There are those that truly don't care. Oh, they care about doctrine and practice, just not about problems and issues with doctrine and practice in our church body. Also, many in this group simply refuse to believe that there ARE any problems or issues with doctrine and practice among us. They just do not want to know or believe in such. They don't want to get involved, period! They believe it is just none of their business. This attitude can best be summarized by what an older Pastor said to me many, many years ago, when I was starting up my "Orthodox Lutheran Forum" (an early fore-runner of Intrepid Lutherans). When I asked him for his help and support on this earlier venture, he said, "I take care of my congregation. I let God take care of the synod." But let's examine that philosophy for just a second or two. I replied to him something like, "But what if Martin Luther had thought that way – where would we be now!?" To which he quickly replied, "So, now you think you're a Junior Martin Luther?" Ouch! Touché! No question, I do not put myself in Father Martin's shoes! And OK, I will admit that, technically, "reform" was a part of Luther's Call and position as a "Doctor of the Church." That's the way he saw it. He felt he HAD to do what he did – like it or not. Fine and well. So, who are the "Doctors of the Church" today in the WELS, who have the explicit Call to reform it, if necessary? Certainly we could say that District Presidents, Seminary Professors, and Circuit Pastors have this right and responsibility. But is that all? Really? I believe that in our system today all Pastors are charged with maintaining doctrine and practice throughout our church body. We are all our brothers' keepers in this regard, and we all have a right and a duty to hold each other accountable in this regard. If I'm wrong on this, I invite correction.

- Much like this attitude is another one like it – maybe we're right about our concerns, but we're going about all the wrong way. I've been asked, "Haven't you ever heard of 'channels?' And what about the 8th Commandment? Matthew 18? Proper procedure?" All these issues about proper channels, correct procedure, and supposedly speaking ill of others behind their backs and so on, have been addressed over and over and over again on Intrepid Lutherans. I maintain that we are not guilty of any of these "sins." If we are, then we have certainly not been formally charged with such. The fact that such has not happened proves either that we are indeed not guilty, or that those who should make such charges are themselves ambivalent. In addition, part of the "channels" we are encouraged to use are conventions, conferences, and other such meetings. But ask just about any WELS Pastor today about these gatherings, and if robust discussion and debate takes place there anymore, or actual thorny issues and difficult problems are addressed and argued, and most will have to admit such is most certainly not the case. Why? Once again, ambivalence raises its ugly head.

- Then, of course, there is . . . fear. Fear, as we all know, is a very powerful motivator, both for action and inaction. What should WELS Pastors fear when it comes to publicly and openly aligning with Intrepid Lutherans? Ah, now there is an excellent question! It is also an almost impossible question to which to give finite and definite answers. Indeed,  there may be as many answers as there are Pastors in our synod! And how can it be answered right now without reverting to suspicion, gossip, and slander? I could give free reign to my thoughts and speculation here, but that's all it would be, and would solve or answer nothing. Suffice it to say for now that I believe fear is out there and it is a very strong and basic reason why we have so few Pastoral "signers," or Pastors willing write for us, or even to comment on our site. That having been said, I also think we can all agree that fear is lousy motivation for an historic, orthodox, confessional Lutheran Pastor to do or not do anything!  

- Finally – at least for now – another reason for ambivalence is, I am told, most Pastors believe they just don't have the time or energy to get involved with broader synodical matters. Really? Oh, come on! I don't know of a single Pastor who doesn't have some "extra" time these days. If we don't, there's something very wrong with our time management! [That too, is a topic for another occasion!] Besides time with our families, which, of course, is essential, we still have time leftover. Time to play computer games. We have time to post on Facebook. We have time to golf, hunt, fish, go to baseball and football games, and so on, and so on, and so on. We have more "free time" than our ancestors could ever even imagine. So, what it comes back to is that getting to know and getting involved with wider church issues is just not a priority to many. The attitude is, very simply – "I don't want to talk about it or think about it or know about it – please just leave me alone!" Fine, but don't say there isn't "time," because that's just not correct. Once again, it's just pure and simple ambivalence, nothing more.

So, I have reached the conclusion that, basically, a certain percentage of my brother Pastors want nothing to do with Intrepid Lutherans or any kind of discussion over possible problems in doctrine and practice among us. Another percentage know about us, but would like to silence us. Yet another percentage know and agree with our objectives but don't want to join us publicly. I believe many of my dear brothers think "something should be done by somebody," but just not them, or even us. These believe that we must all simply trust our leaders and have patience. Maybe things will be taken care, maybe they won't. If not, oh well, that's ok too. And that, my friends, is ambivalence! Like it? I hope not.

 I also hope that this little opinion piece will prick at least a few consciences and move a few more of my dear brothers to care enough to stand with us openly and publicly. Come on, men, take a chance. Stick your necks out. Be bold. Be brave. Be  . . . INTREPID!

Deo Vindice!

Pastor Spencer


Ken Engdahl said...

I would add a few more to your list. The bad timing of your meeting that conflicted with district conventions, pastor institutes and such. Most can't go to one conference then to another conference then to a Pastor's Institute. Add to these the cost of this for those outside of Wisconsin. Add, Health problems, family problems, congregational problems and a host of other concerns. On the bright side, I think that many more than those who were able to come would like to see papers or other items from the conference.

As to fear,I would like to believe that we are not petty or paranoid as to have "lists" of enemies, friends or those to shun. That would make a mockery of the call process.

Pastor Spencer said...

Thanks for your comments, Ken.

Yes, I'm sure there were other, quite legitimate "impediments" interfering with attendance at our conference. I hope everyone understands that I am not mad or upset because "we played the pipes and few came dancing." That wasn't the point. We were very excited to have the attendance we did, both laypeople and Pastors. My point was simply that after more than two years now, there are still very few Pastors - shepherds and leaders of flocks - who are willing to publicly acknowledge their agreement and support of Intrepid Lutherans. Many are quick to point out what they see as our faults and failings - accurate or not. But they will not join and help us do better. They will not lend us their talents and abilities. And why not - one answer is a general ambivalence; a kind of "let George do it" attitude? In my humble opinion that does not bode well for the future of the WELS as an orthodox confessional church body. Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't think so.

By-the-way, I believe all the presentations have now been made available for reading and viewing. If you have any trouble doing so, please let us know.

Thanks again - yours was one conscience that did not need pricking. Your support is greatly appreciated!

Pastor Spencer

Mr. Douglas Lindee said...

Pastor Spencer said: "By-the-way, I believe all the presentations have now been made available for reading and viewing. If you have any trouble doing so, please let us know."

Yes, this is correct. All the video we were able to publish, along with all of the accompanying papers, have been published on this site. If someone knows of anyone who is anxious to read the papers and view the video, but hasn't been as anxious to visit the blog frequently enough to receive reports on the Conference, including the video and papers, as they were published over two full weeks following the Conference, or who hasn't instead signed up to receive blog updates in a newsreader via RSS, please direct them to the following link: 2012 Conference of Intrepid Lutherans.

For those worried that posting this link in a comment is too obscure, please note that this same link is posted at the head of every page on this site.

Hope this helps.

Anonymous said...

Ambivalence, fear, (depending on district & whom may above that dear Pastor, well warranted so I'm told)and that sad word, apathy. No, there are not as many Pastor's, but what Intrepid does have, is laity abounding! Sheep may be stump dumb, but they notice when something is up & they know when something isn't right, & something is dangerous/unhealthy to their faithful existence. Identifying one's self as Confessional, is risky, for both laity & Pastors. However, gems so I'm told, are rare, but priceless. Just a pew few opinion.
Dutch Gray Stoeberl

Mr. Douglas Lindee said...

I'll also very emphatically add, regarding Conference attendance, that not only were we pleased with attendance, but that, given the number of signers we are privileged to have, given their disparate locations, and given the location of the Conference itself (in an area we were relatively certain would draw few supporters, but hopefully more of those opposed to our mission and message), our expectations were, in fact, vastly exceeded. We planned and budgeted for almost half the attendance we actually received, and were not confident as we planned that we would receive even that. Our Conference attendence thus turned out to be a great blessing to us, and a strong affirmation of our purpose.

As for our attendees, I was more than gratified to learn that the nature of the issues we represent and the content of the presentations we offered were of sufficient weight to draw concerned Lutherans from all over the Midwest -- from Michigan to western Minnesota, to Iowa. It was quite a humbling experience to have been a part of it.

It is clear to us, especially from the discussion among attendees during the Open Forums at the Conference, as well as during informal discussion with individuals throughout the Conference, that the issues we presented are recognized as substantive matters, and are of great concern to many. Thus, we are already in the very preliminary stages of planning our next Conference. We have discussed holding the next one further west than WELS NWD. We have also tossed around topics and a date.

Do any of our readers have suggestions for location, date, and topics?

Anonymous said...

Somewhere in Minnesota would be great, although that's just because I'm living there! But at the same time it would be nice to see if some MLC, Bethany, and Bethany seminary students could be recruited to come (that is, if the date were during the school year).

As far as topics go, I would really be interested in talking about justification thoroughly. Also, the Divine Service would be another great topic. Rev. Berg's presentation was outstanding. For next year, with Rev. Berg's presentation as the bread and butter from last year's conference, it would be great if it was more zoomed in on dealing with sectarian worship vs. the historic Lutheran Liturgy. Maybe expand upon the bound will and why sectarian worship undermines it as well as a treatise of Ap IV, 49. Oh! Maybe another topic could be on the Office of the holy Ministry? Those are just some very candid thoughts of mine.

In regard to this original post, it is truly sad to read/hear about Pastors being afraid to come out in public support of IL. Either support it, or don't. Hiding behind anonymity in secret "support" of IL does nothing. You might as well be on the other side of the cause. It's sad that pure faith in something doesn't lead to action. It reminds me of faith and works -- the tree and the fruit -- you can't have one without the other. In regards to the Church, apathy disgusts me whether you're a layman, DP, President, or Pastor.

I'll close with this quote from Nicolaus. Hunnius in his Epitome Credendorum: It is not sufficient for a shepherd to lead his flock on good pastures; he is also required to prevent the wolf from doing mischief, and to keep his flock from straying into pastures that are filled with dangerous herbs and poisonous waters. If he is not considering this to be his duty, then he must be said to be a faithless shepherd. Now erroneous teaching is nothing else than a poison to the soul and heretics and other seducers are like ferocious wolves and, accordingly, every minister that is not warning his flock for them is to be considered as a unfaithful shepherd.

Christian Schulz

Anonymous said...

What do differently...well.., my better half's (attendee) suggestions were, a pre conference packet for attendees. That way they know or can equate themselves with terms, topics, & information not readily available or known to laity. Speakers, notes, not word for word reading, from packet or prepared speech. More time for discussion & communication, per topic. Date, if it's a priority to you, you'll make a point to attend, like everything else. Location, it was 2 hrs for us. We would have gone to MI (never been), MN or IA. It's that important to us. Things happen, but it's about importance & priority.
Dutch Gray Stoeberl

Unknown said...

After reading Pastor Spencer's article here on the lack of pastors signing on to support IL with their names, I began to think a bit about the pastors that I know and their calls and ministries around our area. I believe Pastor Spencer lays out good reasoning and he certainly is more than connected to know many of the reasons. My point of view comes from a lay person awaiting a call into the teaching ministry, who still holds a high view of the divine call and the process.

The pastors that I know including my own, seem genuinely concerned about the issues that come and go in the synod. By come and go, I simply mean that the issues come to their attention on occasion and then fade away. I will say that from my monthly meetings with our pastors at winkles, the pastors are rightly concerned and occupied primarily with their local ministries and those issues in our circuit.

Those issues rightly come first and foremost, and in 3 out of 5 ministries, there are significant local concerns that keep them busy. None of those issues are doctrinal or practical issues - praise the Lord. What impresses me most is that those pastors talk to each other and encourage each other in the circuit to help each other with their issues they face as pastors.

That being said, these pastors also know the synod has its issues at times and they are discussed at fall and spring conferences sometimes. Prayers of intercession are offered and they trust God to guide the leadership. Do each of them have more time to give to being involved in district or synod issues. Probably in some cases, some of these pastors do have time. I know a couple younger pastors do not have time in their called ministries as local church work is overwhelming right now.

I can not speak for these men's motivations in not signing on with IL. I believe all of them know I attended the IL Conference and I did provide photocopies of the papers presented and linked the information for people to download and read. Several of the pastors (WELS and ELS) took some of the papers to read. I think that is a positive response in and of itself.

I believe in some cases many pastors, not just those in my circuit, are looking and reading those papers and monitoring the discussions. Perhaps they are testing the waters as it were about IL. Remember, many pastors are serving in areas without any doctrinal or practical issues. It takes time for them to go against their instincts that WELS might have issues in some cases. These issues have grown slowly in most cases, been forgotten in other cases, or believed to have been dealt with in other cases.

I have babbled on for too long and I am not sure I have added anything positive to the discussion. For myself, I find IL to be a positive force for awareness and education on doctrine and practice. The IL Conference on June 1/2 was done as professionally, orderly and positively as the district and synod conventions I have attended. If IL continues to be positive and encouraging, while yet INTREPID in its tenor in discussions, I believe other pastors will sign on as supporters.

In Christ,

Perry Lund

Pastor Spencer said...


I don't think you have "babbled" at all. And you have added a good perspective to the discussion. Thank you.

In addition, you yourself are to be commended for taking such an active interest in the ministries of the Pastors in your area. I'm sure they are also the better for it. Keep up the good work.

Pastors need to understand that it is not a matter of "either/or" - either I do my own parish work or I pay attention to wider synod issues - but rather a matter of "both/and" - take care of the local parish, and give some active attention to issues involving the church-at-large.

Thanks again.

Pastor Spencer

Daniel Baker said...

I am blessed to work with many WELS pastors who share some or most of the views of our group. Unfortunately, many of them seem to be influenced by the factors that Pr. Spencer illustrates, primary among which are either fear or a failure to recognize the problem. Then there's my home parish, where I have tried to share Intrepid Lutherans with my brothers in Christ on numerous occasions; I fear that ambivalence reigns there. All in all, however, my hope for our Synod still flickers. Whenever I start to feel despondent, without fail something always seems to spark my resolve. In the end, all we can do is continue to sound the warning on Zion's wall as best as our vocations allow. I think that history has shown us that the Lord is more than capable of turning hopeless situations radically around; after all, even pagan Nineveh was brought to repentance by the efficacious Word of God.

As it pertains to Mr. Lindee's inquiry, I would like to see the next conference in a larger city. This will come off as biased, but to the best of my knowledge the greater Milwaukee area is (at least for now) considered the center of the WELS world; I think that it would make a more suitable meeting location, and perhaps facilitate a larger attendance. Alternatively, other centers of WELS life like Watertown and New Ulm would be amicable.

I would also like to echo Christian's thought when it comes to furthering the examination of the Divine Service that we began at this conference. Aside from Justification, the matter of worship has to be at the core of our message. To that end, it seems to me that there is no better way to emphasize the importance of the Chief Divine Service than to actually celebrate it. As awesome as it was to experience the Divine Offices for the first time in a corporate setting, they pale in comparison to the Communion Liturgy. Just my two cents though. You also might consider consulting a more competent musician. ;-)

Anonymous said...

For the next conference I would like to hear an expanded discussion regarding Vocation.

Lee Liermann

Mr. Douglas Lindee said...

Dutch, Christian, Lee, Perry --

Thank you all for your suggestions! And keep them comming everybody! Maybe we should start a new thread on this topic?

Here a a couple more questions.

1. How long would you be willing to spend at such a conference? One day is not enough -- we know that now. Is two days enough? Is four days too much? And when during the week? I'm thinking a Thursday-Saturday conference, followed by the full Divine Service at the host church the following Sunday morning. This would mean Wednesday and Sunday are travel days for most folks. Probably doable for students and maybe pastors, not so much for regular folks with only two or three weeks vacation a year. I am assuming that summertime (with kids and teachers out of school) is the best time of year. What do you think?

2. Would our readers be offended if we declared the IL conference a "Free Conference" so that we could invite speakers outside ELS and WELS? This could be done if we kept a DS, joint prayer, etc., off the agenda (while offering Matins/Vespers/DS as off-agenda opportunities for those desiring to attend). I ask since there are some topics, like Vocation for example (which should definitely go on the list of topics), for which I personally know of no competent speakers in WELS, much less competent speakers willing to appear at a conference hosted by Intrepid Lutherans. Potential speakers from the ELS may be a different story, but if not, then we may have to go If we want the best speakers on the topics we choose, we may have to go outside WELS. What do you think?

3. Finally, I might as well ask this, too. For a multi-day conference, what would be the maximum you would be willing to pay, per day, assuming we also provide light breakfast, lunch and dinner?

Okay -- now I'm thinking that these questions, and responses thus far, need to be made into a new post... since they have too little to do with Rev. Spencer's topic in this post. If we get any replies to these questions, I'll do that...

Mr. Douglas Lindee said...

OK -- since I kind of hi-jacked this post and mistakenly created a separate thread of discussion within it (i.e., regarding our next Conference), I created a new post out of those comments for our readers to consider and respond to: The Next Conference of Intrepid Lutherans...

This post is hereby rededicated to the important issues Rev. Spencer wanted it to focus on!

AP said...

Regarding ambivalence, this passage from Tolkien came to mind for some reason:

"I have seen three ages in the West of the world, and many defeats, and many fruitless victories.”

Aaron Palmer

Rodney Dietsche said...

Just a note, a brother pastor told me he would have attended but he had a wedding that day. I was grateful to here that. Finally I think it is great that there was a conference. The portion I attended was very helpful as I listened to the translation discussion at the Northern Wisconsin District Convention.

Anonymous said...

I agree that many pastors and laity may not be aware of Intrepid Lutherans and the most excellent work Pastor Spencer and his crew are doing to further the awareness of the many issues that need to be discussed and/or remedied in the WELS today. Would it somehow be possible to email the entire roster of pastors to get the word out and 'introduce' IL to the entire group of pastors and churches? How about bulletin inserts to all the congregations or a small poster for the church bulletin board to get the rank and file interested? I suspect apathy and ambivalence do run rampant in certain circles but we cannot say for sure until we know everyone has had the opportunity to participate in or support IL in some manner, even simply being a 'signer'. My husband and I signed in support of this group early on and have suffered no ill effects from it. Thank you to ALL of you involved with Intrepid Lutherans who take time out of your schedules to further this cause. I do consider you modern day Martin Luthers. Back in his day, Martin Luther saw the errors in HIS church and didn't have the benefit of websites, email, and social media to spread the word as we do today. No wonder he felt the need to write it all down and pound it to the church door for all to read. Imagine HIS frustration! Keep up the good work. You are appreciated!

-Rhonda Martinez

Pastor Spencer said...

Thank you very much for the kind and encouraging words, Rhonda!

As I mentioned, I sent an initial email to nearly 200 WELS Pastors two years ago - all members of the District Presidia, all CPs, and most chief Administrators. I received very few responses, very few positive, most quite negative. I asked the CPs to share information about IL with the Pastors in their Circuits. I don't know how many did so. This is a very common way of communication in the WELS. Quite often CPs such as myself receive requests like this from synod headquarters or various entities in the WELS. However, some groups are able to send mass emails to the entire ministerium of the synod. We would like very much to be able to do this, but putting together such an email list on our own would be tremendously time-consuming. We do not have a "staff" to help us with such a task. So, we rely on word-of-mouth, both at Pastoral meetings and via email. IL also has a Facebook page.

We greatly appreciate your open and enthusiastic support, and we are very pleased that your support has not brought you any ill effects in connection with your WELS membership. Even though your Pastor is not an IL Signer, he is a good friend, a very fair-minded man, and agrees with some of our concerns. I believe the same is true of many dozens of WELS Pastors. They are not ambivalent, just cautious. WELS Pastors in general, however, seem to be concerned that there might be some unpleasant side-effects for them and their ministries should they be identified as supporters of IL. A lot depends on what District they are in. While there is no stigma attached to open support of groups like the former "Church & Change," or the current "Time of Grace," I'm afraid the same cannot be said of Intrepid Lutherans. Such is life in the WELS.

Again, thank you for your comments - and your support!

Pastor Spencer

Anonymous said...

Ambivalence is the attitude of the hireling, right before he runs away. (John 10:11-13).

Rick Techlin

Joel Lillo said...

Color me ambivalent.

I have been coming to this site since it was founded (if that is the right word). One of the main contentions of this site is that there is a deep divide in our synod when it comes to doctrine and practice and that we all have to be intrepid to stand up to these "trying" times.

Thus far, after reading a majority of the posts over the last couple of years, none of you have managed to prove to me that there is any kind of significant divide in our ranks.

When it comes to doctrine, you have not published one single solitary article demonstrating any kind of false teaching going on in our ranks. (The argument over UOJ doesn't count because it is a completely insignificant "controversy.") There have been plenty of articles published about the *possibility* that false doctrine could creep in because of the use of non-liturgical kinds of worship service used by some of our churches, but you have presented no actual evidence of false teaching in individual congregations or among groups of pastors and teachers in our midst.

As far as false practice is concerned, again, I don't see it. There is definitely a difference of opinion about the different styles of worship in our midst. You have your opinion that one kind of worship style is better than another. However, you have not presented any evidence from Scripture or the confessions that one form of worship is wrong and one form is right.

I'm not saying that we're perfect as a synod. There is definitely a problem with nepotism and there are a few who like to play politics a little too much. However, I look around and see the amazing blessings that God has given us in the faithful confession that he has kept alive in our fellowship through his Word.

I guess you would probably label me an "unintrepid" Lutheran. I prefer to think of myself as a content and grateful confessional Lutheran.

--Joel Lillo

Anonymous said...

I appreciate Joel Lillo's insight for that is probably why many pastors don't "sign on".

Scripture finally determines "thou shall vs thou shall not", and from the pastors that I speak to and know express Mr. Lillo's pov when they read the Bible as the final authority.

In these pastors pov, there seems to be just as much articles published about the *possibility* that false doctrine could creep in with the supporters of Intrepid because of adiophra in Scriptures.

Other pastors read that God does not say that the use of non-liturgical kinds of worship service used by some of our churches is a sin rather is an adiophra.

Fact is to some pastors, if God does not say in scriptures " thou shalt only use common cup" that claiming God does is no less false doctrine creeping in because God does not specifically command to do so.

Then there is the expansion of what a sacrament is defined as.... really, a pastor is a "sacrament" ?

I'm not saying that we're perfect as a synod either .. but I do not see any of the alternatives as being one also.

Jon Rehborg

Anonymous said...

Have you read the Confessions regarding the Mass? Seriously? How can a CoWo guy honestly be upholding AC XXIV -- reverence, usual ceremonies and all -- when he's running around like a Protestant. I think it comes back to picking and choosing what parts of the BoC *really* apply to us which just brings us back to a quatenus subscription. With that, Article II of the WELS, ELS, and LCMS constitutions are violated. So tell me, really, honestly, how a hardcore CoWo guy has the same subscription to the Confessions as, well, one who actually upholds AC XXIV and the related articles. That right there is not fellowship but rather pure disunity. It causes offense to those of us who are upholding the continuity of the Confessions we subscribe to and it saddens us when we can't honestly recommend any random church within our own "fellowship".

I disagree with you on UOJ as well, but I doubt a debate on it will be fruitful.

Christian Schulz

Daniel Baker said...

Pr. Lillo,

With all due respect, your argument is premised on a fallacy. You state that the Editors of this blog have not published "one single solitary" piece of evidence demonstrating false teaching in our ranks. Well, perhaps not, when the measure of false teaching is based on the arbitrary standard of what you deem to be "significant." However, I for one consider the chief doctrine - that on which our faith stands or falls - to be of the utmost importance. Do you really expect us to be convinced that evidence demonstrating the diversity of teaching that exists on this topic is unimportant simply because YOU say it is?

But let's ignore justification for a moment. How about the "Change or Die!" conference? That was a clear example in which members of our fellowship were engaging in a conference premised on manifest heresy. Or how about the case of Mr. Rick Techlin, who was unjustly excommunicated from one church, refused acquittal by the District Presdium, and yet continues to receive the Blessed Sacrament from other faithful Pastors in our midst? Do these meet a level of theological importance significant enough for you?

And then you make the completely unfounded implication that the Editors have failed to conclusively demonstrate the problems laden in mimicking the heretical sects. Did you read Pastor Rydecki's "Do We Want to Be Dresden Lutherans?" Or "The Consequences of Church Growth Theology" by Pastor Boehringer? Both do an excellent job of demonstrating the problem with clinging to the doctrine and practice of the heretical sects at the expense of the pure orthodoxy of our own Confession.

Now I will grant you that it would be welcome to many of us if the Editors chose to publish every example of self-evident heresy that they come across. But the few examples I came up with on-the-spot provide ample evidence of the rift among us and the importance of sticking to pure doctrine and orthopraxy.

In short, I think it is apparent to anyone looking at the situation from an objective perspective that there is a great deal of difference between "all people are forgiven" and "only those in Christ are forgiven;" or, "the Mass is not abolished among us, but is maintained with the highest reverence; likewise the series of lessons, prayers, vestments, and other like things" and the "real, relevant, and relational" worship of pop corn, soda, and praise bands. I think these meet MY standard of significance, which is the "least stroke of the pen" of Holy Writ as confessed by our Symbols.

Joel Lillo said...

Mr. Baker,

You've raised a number of points and I won't respond to all of them. I really cannot comment on your points about the Change or Die conference or Rick Techlin's excommunication. I can't say anything about the former because I really don't know enough about it to comment. I can't say anything about the latter because I've only heard Rick's side of the story and that, frankly, is not enough for me.

I will respond to two of your points. I know that many of your who post approvingly of IL like to quote AC XXIV as proof that Lutherans always have to worship with the full Western Rite. It doesn't say that. Remember, one of the Confessors' purposes in writing the AC was to demonstrate that they were not trying to start a new church, but reforming the existing church. They wrote a fair amount to show that they were not (if you will excuse the expression) wingnuts. They were saying, "Look, you shouldn't regard us as heretics because we are so similar to you." They were not saying that the Lutheran Church HAD to worship using all of the Western Rite perpetually into the future. It is more of a descriptive passage, rather than a prescriptive passage.

A passage that can properly be read as prescriptive is found in the FC SD X.

8] But as regards genuine adiaphora, or matters of indifference (as explained before), we believe, teach, and confess that such ceremonies, in and of themselves, are no worship of God, nor any part of it, but must be properly distinguished from such as are, as it is written: In vain they do worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men, Matt. 15:9.

9] Therefore we believe, teach, and confess that the congregation of God of every place and every time has, according to its circumstances, the good right, power, and authority [in matters truly adiaphora] to change, to diminish, and to increase them, without thoughtlessness and offense, in an orderly and becoming way, as at any time it may be regarded most profitable, most beneficial, and best for [preserving] good order, [maintaining] Christian discipline [and for eujtaxiva worthy of the profession of the Gospel], and the edification of the Church. Moreover, how we can yield and give way with a good conscience to the weak in faith in such external adiaphora, Paul teaches Rom. 14, and proves it by his example, Acts 16:3; 21:26; 1 Cor. 9:19.

31] Thus [According to this doctrine] the churches will not condemn one another because of dissimilarity of ceremonies when, in Christian liberty, one has less or more of them, provided they are otherwise agreed with one another in the doctrine and all its articles, also in the right use of the holy Sacraments, according to the well-known saying: Dissonantia ieiunii non dissolvit consonantiam fidei; "Disagreement in fasting does not destroy agreement in the faith."

These passages say that the Lutheran church has no official order of service. Local congregations can choose to use or not to use different parts of the order of service as they see best.

By the way, side note: Can we please agree not to call it "The Mass." I know, I know, Luther called it the Deutsche Messe and the Formula Missae. However, the name either (depends on who you believe) refers to the most unimportant part of the Lord's Supper (the people are sent away at the end of it) or injects false teaching into it (the body and blood of Christ are sent up in an unbloody sacrifice). Let's call it the Lord's Supper, the Sacrament of the Altar, the Lord's Table, or even the Eucharist. Let's let the Roman Catholics call it the Mass.

As far as UOJ is concerned... You show me one person who teaches UOJ who says that a person gets into heaven without being brought to repentance of his or her sins and to trust in Jesus for forgiveness... ONE... and I will concede that this is an important issue.

I remain unconvinced that there is a major divide in our synod.

--Joel Lillo

Daniel Baker said...

Pr. Lillo,

Thank you for the response. I do not expect you to comment fully on the examples I've cited; I'm hardly qualified to either. I simply would appreciate an acknowledgment on your part of their existence, and that they conflict with the contention you raised that "not one single solitary" piece of evidence has been put forth by the Editors of this blog. You may deny or question the evidence, but can you at least agree that it has been put forth? Otherwise, you seem to be painting a false picture of this organization.

As to your other responses, I fully agree with you concerning the descriptive nature of AC XXIV. In fact, I don't think any of the Confessions are prescriptive. They are not Canon Law or the new Magisterium. They cannot prescribe what Christians everywhere MUST believe or face excommunication or eternal fire. Rather, they describe what those who subscribe to them believe and how they will live out that belief. It is an entirely voluntary exercise.

To that end, I reject your contention that FC SD X is prescriptive. I certainly think it is accurate and a correct expression of Scripture's teaching, but it is the latter which prescribes things to me. FC SD X is a description of what I think Scripture has prescribed. AC XXIV is a description of how I will live out my faith life in lieu of Scripture's prescriptions, and as a member of a fellowship which in no way "varies from the Scriptures, or from the Church Catholic, or from the Church of Rome as known from its writers" (AC XXI:5).

So while your contention that the Church has no "official" order of service is correct - there have always been regional manifestations of and changes to the Liturgy; just look at the differences between East and West! - to say that someone who subscribes to the Book of Concord is free to hypocritically deny one part of his confession but not another is something with which I cannot agree. Someone who claims he will do something in his confession but leads a life in complete opposition to it is a hypocrite and a liar, and Holy Writ has a very low opinion of these.

As to your side note, I empathize with the concern over using the term "Mass" (I was only using it as a loose reference to AC/Ap XXIV). It has fallen out of use in our circles, and I much prefer other terms, such as those you cite, or "Chief Divine Service." However, the word itself is not evil, and while it may have come to be equated with such things as the "abomination of the mass," I don't feel comfortable binding consciences as to its use or disuse.

Finally, concerning "UOJ," one does not have to say "you can get into heaven without being brought to repentance of your sins and trust in Jesus for forgiveness" for manifest heresy to be present. You will be hard-pressed to find any Christian communion which would make such a claim (aside from the liberal wings, but I find it difficult to apply the Christian moniker to those sects anyway). Even the Papists claim that grace alone is all-sufficient for salvation. The radical sects claim we are justified by faith alone. But each means different things than we mean when they make such claims. So too, those who adhere to "UOJ" may claim the importance of repentance and faith, but do they mean the same things we mean? I used to think so, but now I am not so sure.

Thank you for the dialogue. It is much appreciated.

Warren Malach said...

I also feel rather "ambivalent" about IL, for the reason that I believe that there is a "vagueness" and "lack of specificity" in the IL Statement of concerns that leaves one unsure just WHAT IL wants to accomplish. In that sense, I can construe being asked to agree with the Statement as being similar to being asked by a lodge to take an "oath" before the "secrets" are revealed. What of a SPECIFIC nature is going to be accomplished if no SPECIFIC problem is being publicly addressed?
The Statement can be understood and construed differently by anyone. All I know FOR SURE is that IL is against the NIV2011. "Fear" was mentioned as a concern in the WELS--does IL "fear" to be more specific?

Anonymous said...

For the record, I was not excommunicated. Excommunication is for unrepentant sin. The leadership of my lifelong congregation terminated our fellowship because they said I was a persistent errorist, meaning that I am persistently guilty of false doctrine. A persistent errorist is someone who follows their conscience with regard to doctrine, but their doctrine is wrong.

I am not aware of the leadership of my congregation accusing me of anything other than persistent false doctrine. It is inaccurate and damaging to my reputation to say I was excommunicated. They did not excommunicate me, and they made no accusation to me of unrepentant sin.

Further, at no point, did my pastors or anyone on the church council communicate with me about this termination of fellowship. At no point did they say retract this, or face termination of fellowship with the WELS. The only communication they had with me was a certified letter telling me that they had terminated our fellowship, and the only reason they cited was my two letters. That is it.

They cited my January 2011 letter (which incorporated my November 2009 letter), and stated: "Rick, by your own words you have declared that you are no longer in fellowship with St. Peter Ev. Lutheran Church and the doctrine of the WELS." They then informed me that they had already voted to terminate our fellowship, and concluded: "In carrying out this action, St. Peter is simply acknowledging what you have already declared to be true in your 'Letter to WELS 2011.'"

That is it. I am not aware of any other accusations. There is no other "side" to this story.

Those letters are now a matter of public record. Anyone can judge the letters for themselves, but they should not pretend there is another "side" or some secret reason out there that they should just assume exists.

Again, I was not excommunicated, and there is no other "side." Moreover, when we terminate fellowship we must make it clear what the doctrines are over which we disagree. This is so that others may take warning, and the errorist has an opportunity to recant. My letters were clear where I stood doctrinally, and I have not recanted. The leadership of St. Peter congregation merely said about my two letters: "by your own words you have declared that you are no longer in fellowship with St. Peter Ev. Lutheran Church and the doctrine of the WELS."

Let me reiterate: Every communication about our termination of fellowship that I received from St. Peter congregation was in letter format. Those letters were posted. No one from St. Peter congregation spoke with me about this issue.

There is no other "side." And if this other "side" exists, the leadership of St. Peter congregation is about a-year-and-a-half past their due date for communicating it to me. If this other "side" cannot be communicated to me, then it is not worth considering or imagining that it even exists.

Finally, "our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." (Ephesians 6:12). That is why I strove to do everything by the book, and focus on doctrine.

In terminating our fellowship, the leadership of St. Peter congregation commended me to my own spiritual care. However, I pray that the Lord Jesus will continue to guide, protect, and defend me. I am not ambivalent about the attacks of the devil against individual Christians and Jesus' Church.

Kyrie eleison.

Rick Techlin

Warren Malach said...

Dear Mr. Techlin: I scrolled back up this thread to see if there were previous posts about this subject, but couldn't find any. Can you point me to earlier posts about the subject you raised in your post? Thank you!

Jon said...

It is unfortunate that Mr Techlin has felt the need to defend himself.

And what about the reputation
...of St. Peter congregation,
.....the accusation of "refused acquittal by the District Presdium"
......and the lack of spiritual discernment from other faithful Pastors in our midst

It would not come as a surprise if one would someday learn that the "Do or Die" conference has been addressed among the princible parties involved between those who particapated and the Church leaders. No doubt things will be handled in a scriptural POV and any actions that result will come from such a spirit in private rather than on a web cam for everybody to see.

Lest all of us forget the seriousness of the 8th commandment, Jesus says:

Matthew 12:36
But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.

Jon Rehborg

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...


Thank you for reminding us about the 8th Commandment. In fact, it's that very commandment that urges us to "defend our neighbor," which includes defending him in the shameful treatment he has received by the official actions of his former pastors and congregation.

I would urge you to keep the 8th Commandment by doing the same thing. Since you find it unfortunate that Mr. Techlin defends himself, perhaps you will take up his cause, since every official channel of defense in the synod turned its back on him.

And perhaps you could suggest to Mr. Techlin just what course of action he should take. Where should he go to church, in your opinion? What should he do?

Jon said...

Rev Rydecki,
It was to this situation that I was directing the unfortunate circumstance of Mr. Techlin.

"I am not aware of the leadership of my congregation accusing me of anything other than persistent false doctrine. It is inaccurate and damaging to my reputation to say I was excommunicated."

Since you ask for my opinion... I would start by whatever means available,

1) to ask for forgiveness from our Lord
2) to correct the inaccuracy of facts being circulated which is damaging to his (and other parties involved) reputation. If the inaccurate information has been communicated publicly, then publicly... if in personal conversation (non-web), then in person.

The way I read his reply, Mr Techlin is himself defending St. Peter congregation and subsequent leadership in so far as refuting an accusation of an action in which was not done.

I am not in the position to conclude whether or not every official channel of defense in the synod turned its back on him and to judge if shameful treatment he has received by the official actions of his former pastors and congregation. For you to conclude this is based on information that I'm privilaged to have (nor do I want to know) for I do not want to be party to second hand information.

Where should he go to church, in your opinion?
In my POV ...that's up to Mr. Techlin and his conscience and God. To recommend something is not my place, nor should it be.

Sometimes time heals wounds, but I must admit that it will be harder for that to happen when others keep stiring the pot. I for one do not want to stir anything that doesn't produce being a peacemaker. Matthew 5:9

What should he do?

Pray for peacemakers to be giving Godly advice.
Pray for friends for support in giving Godly advice.
Pray that "everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way"

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God."

Show love. Love is patient, love is kind. It.. keeps no record of wrongs.

Jon Rehborg

Intrepid Lutherans said...


As someone who reached out to Mr. Techlin long before his fellowship was terminated by St. Peter congregation, I can tell you that Rick has done everything he was asked to do by the district officials. "Fitting and orderly way" definitely describes Rick's principaled discussion with his pastors, congregation, and district.

I was present at a meeting called by the district presidium in late March of 2011. In attendance was Rick, five pastors who supported him and shared concerns, and another lay person who did the same. Also present were the pastors of St. Peter, and the circuit pastors of anyone involved (including mine).

At the end of the meeting it was agreed that all of us present would make a concerted effort to talk to one another in an effort to bring a peaceful resolve among us. Just two weeks later Rick received the certified letter telling him that his fellowship was terminated. What has always amazed me is that his pastors and congregation did so without ever informing him that such an action was even being discussed or taking place.

I commend you for wishing to be a peacemaker. Having stood with Rick throughout this time, I'd like to see peace reign as well. Yet, I believe it would take more honesty on the part of St. Peter--as well as a sincere apology--for peace to be realized. Rather than work toward that end, most people involved in this case decided that "time heals all wounds."

Even if "people" stop "stirring the pot" as you say, it would be better for those who refused to continue working this through with Rick would seek reconciliation so that Rick can move forward.

Pastor Paul Lidtke

Warren Malach said...

Is it public knowledge where Mr Techlin is now receiving spiritual care?

Joel Lillo said...

He has stated that he is receiving spiritual care at St. John's in the town of Center. His pastors would, then, be Jeff Suhr and Micah Martin.

Daniel Baker said...

Mr. Techlin et al,

I apologize for causing offense and instigating this argument with my use of the term "excommunicated." I did not use it as a slight against anyone, but rather in its strictest meaning, i.e., "excluded from the communion." However, after reading one of the original posts on Mr. Techlin's blog, Light from Light (cf., I now realize that St. Peter's Constitution highlights a difference between the acts of "excommunication" and "termination of fellowship." I apologize for ignorantly using them in a synonymous way.

In any event, I think it behooves us to read the well-documented articles on Mr. Techlin's site rather than belabor the point here. As I mentioned in my discussion with Pr. Lillo above, I only brought up the situation as a defense against the malicious charge that this blog has submitted no evidence pertaining to divisions among us.

Warren Malach said...

Is it common practice in the WELS for "termination of fellowship" to be used instead of church discipline leading to reconciliation or excommunication? It sounds to me like an easy way to "deal with" members who "cause problems." Is the practice provided for in WELS congregational constitutions?

Jon said...

First there was an error in one of my statements .. it should have read:
For you to conclude this is based on information that I'm --->>> not <--- privilaged to have. (makes a difference :|
Pastor Lidtke,

I appreciate that you took the time to explain though I do not know if I'm entitled to an explanation.

As you know, pride has no boundries. I am guilty of that countless times and no doubt there is some in everybody, in every church.

I know there is justification for being proud of doing what is right and good in the eyes of our Lord and I know of the guilt, shame and embarrassment that comes from pride that my sinful nature hold on to. I thank my Lord that he does not keep a record of my short comings.

I take so much comfort from Paul when God reminds him and us that:

Romans 5:1
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,

Romans 12:18
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

Romans 14:19
Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.

If I may interject God's Word for all of us that we keep in mind:

James 5:16
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

All that I can say is to pray for Mr Techlin, pray for St. Peter congregation and pray for those who feel hurt, offened and unrepentive. For if we can't do that for those who are of the family of believers... how then can we do so for the truly spiritually lost we deal with.

Lord help us.

Jon Rehborg

Joe Krohn said...

"Is it common practice in the WELS for "termination of fellowship" to be used instead of church discipline leading to reconciliation or excommunication? It sounds to me like an easy way to "deal with" members who "cause problems.""

Indeed. It is the default mechanism. Once you are deemed one of those who 'cause problems', it becomes a 'fellowship issue'. And if you refuse to meet about discussing the fellowship issue, you will be accused of refusing a doctrinal discussion...when that is what you wanted in the first place.

Joe Krohn

Warren Malach said...

Is "termination of fellowship" also used to "prune the congregational rolls" of those who have stopped coming to church, i.e., for those who have not "caused a problem" in the eyes of the congregational leadership, but with the same result of "getting rid of them"?

Joe Krohn said...

"Is "termination of fellowship" also used to "prune the congregational rolls" of those who have stopped coming to church, i.e., for those who have not "caused a problem" in the eyes of the congregational leadership, but with the same result of "getting rid of them"?"

Hardly...although that should be more the rule. Inactive members are left on the rolls to keep the numbers up, because after all that is what church is all about these days: GROWTH! No one wants to appear to be shrinking, even though it is 1000 lb. gorilla in the room and the Bible speaks clearly of it in the last days. No, sadly those members who goad the leadership to be faithful to the Word are sent packing because the church is now in the business of dressing itself not for Christ, but for the world.


Warren Malach said...

With reference to Mr. Techlin's case, what are the fellowship implications for those who support Mr. Techlin? Are they "out of fellowship" with Mr. Techlin's former congregation and pastor? Are they "out of fellowship" with the district/synod which has not resolved the matter in Mr. Techlin's favor?
Is the case going to be brought to a district or synodical convention for resolution?

Warren Malach said...

I have just been in contact with Pastor Robert Wehrwein of the Reformation Lutheran Conference, and he reports that the next volume of THE WAUWATOSA THEOLOGY is at least another year away. He asked me to encourage anyone interested in the series to contact NPH to encourage continuation of the project. He also forwarded to me an email from the translator of John Schaller's PASTORALE PRAXIS, who continues on the project despite challenges in his personal life.

By the way, does anyone know of anyone who has and might be willing to part with their copies of the WELS MINISTRY COMPENDIUM volumes from 1992? I would really like to be able to get ahold of a set for myself. Would the WLS library allow a non-student/graduate to purchase books donated to the library for WLS students?

Jon said...

Pastor Lidtke,

If I may comment about this last paragraph...
"Even if "people" stop "stirring the pot" as you say, it would be better for those who refused to continue working this through with Rick would seek reconciliation so that Rick can move forward"

You know that this situation is not unique. I can sympathize Mr Techlin's trials.

If St. John's Lutheran Church Vliet St. means anything, one of my sibblings was a member there at the time that was transpiring and went along with St. John's Church. To certian people including my sibbling, it's still an issue that remains unresolved but has come to accept the situation for what it is in order to have some peace of mind. But I can assure you it has not pleasent to deal with over the years.

I am reminded of the disagreement between Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15:36-38). It would have been good to know how the two resolved their differences to the point of Paul writing Romans 12:16. I do not believe Barnabas was considered an unbeliever \ going to hell.

Anonymous said...

The WELS' mailed fist of fellowship is legendary. In light of the synod's penchant for heavy-handedness and unilateralism, I find startling, but in no way surprising, the parallels between Mr. Techlin's experience and the Protest'ant Controversy. It's heartening to see so many standing with him. I also echo Mr. Malach's concerns about the ramifications for St. John's, Town Center; anyone remember JP Koehler?

My wife and I had the pleasure of attending an organ/chorale concert at St. John's, 8th & Vliet, some weeks ago, which was well attended. We went back the next week for a Sunday service. Apart from Pastor Hastings, the usher, and three youths from the neighborhood, we had the church to ourselves. I'm still depressed by that. Nevertheless, what a joy it was to use The Lutheran Hymnal and the page 5 liturgy! Earlier in the morning, I had been reading a portion of the Apology in the new CPH edition. I think it was in the intro to Article XX on works that the editors specifically mentioned verse 9 of TLH 377, Salvation unto Us Has Come. Out of curiosity, I checked my copy of CW to see if this verse was included, which it is not. So, of course, which hymn should we sing in closing at St. John's? You guessed it...all ten verses! As if reading my mind, during the post service announcements, Pastor Hastings mentioned how each and every verse of this hymn is so full of sound Lutheran doctrine that it's a shame it's abridged in so many newer hymnals. How can you pick and choose which ones to leave out?

Should IL choose to meet in the Milwaukee area, my vote for a post conference worship service would most definitely be for Bading's and Brenner's church.

Daryl Meyer

David Jay Webber said...

"Salvation Unto Us Is Come" in the Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary (ELS, 1996) includes four additional verses that even TLH left out.

Anonymous said...

Just as Speratus intended...good for the Norwegians!

FWIW, the WELS' 1912 English hymnal also has ten stanzas, nine of which made it to TLH. TLH adds another. Translations are somewhat variable between the two.

Daryl Meyer

David Jay Webber said...

Who are "the Norwegians"? Is it some kind of honorific designation, similar to the notion that people with surnames like Spencer, Lindee, and Rydecki are "Germans"? The members of the committee that prepared the Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary had French and German surnames. No Norwegians there.

Do you know how many Norwegians I have in my current ELS church in Arizona? Zero. Do you know how many I had in my first ELS church in Missouri? Zero. I did, however, have three of them in my second ELS church, in Massachusetts. But I had way more Mayflower descendants than Norwegians - at least seven or eight of them.

Anonymous said...

I need to correct myself (this is what I get for shooting off the cuff)...I meant Hagedorn's 1917 "Book of Hymns" and was confusing it for the Missouri's "Evangelical Lutheran Hymn-Book" of 1912. I don't know if this is true for all, but my edition of "Book of Hymns" lacks copyright and publication dates, but does begin the Easter table with 1913.

Daryl Meyer

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