Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Witch Hunt Has (Officially) Begun

The following paragraph is from WELS District President Doug Engelbrecht’s summary of the recent meeting of the WELS Conference of Presidents, sent out to the pastors of his district:

PD.02  Intrepid Lutherans
·         Another item involved the Intrepid Lutheran website.  There is a concern that those who still wholeheartedly support this group by being “signers” are also supporting a pastor who has been removed from the ministerium of the WELS for doctrinal reasons, because he has been given a forum on their website.  The consensus was that each district president should approach pastors in their district who are listed as “signers” on the website and determine whether or not they are in support of the false doctrine that the suspended pastor espouses.   

As for me being "given a forum on their website,” the fact is, it’s our website.  I am still part of it (actually, still the chairman of Intrepid Lutherans, Inc.), much to the chagrin of the WELS leadership.  No one is "authorizing" my posts here.  Each of us posts independently, sometimes running our articles by one another for input, sometimes not.

Also, I don’t know how much clearer we can make this so that the COP will understand, but “being signers” on this blog has never meant anything more or less than what we have stated from the beginning on our Stand With Us page:

In what do we invite you to join “with intrepid heart, willing to appear before the judgment seat of Christ?” To what do we ask you, with great consent, to subscribe your name? To the Biblical and Confessional contents of What We Believe. We are not asking you to subscribe to the contents of every post and comment that will appear on this blog.

No error or false doctrine has ever been identified or pointed out to us on our What We Believe page, which has not changed since the first day Intrepid Lutherans rolled out.

The only change we have recently made to our Stand With Us page is to remove the reference to ourselves and our signers as “members of WELS.”  This was never entirely accurate in the first place, because, technically, even lay members of a WELS congregation are not “members of WELS,” since only pastors, male teachers and whole congregations can be “members” of the synod.  As it now stands, there is at least one fully and unmistakably non-WELS member who is an Intrepid signer:  Yours Truly.

Of course, it was not my choice to be a non-WELS member.  That decision was made for me by DP Buchholz back in October.  During one of his visits to my congregation in which he labeled me a heretic and tried to convince my flock to rescind my call (before my suspension), one of my members told him point blank, “This sure seems like a witch hunt.”

DP Buchholz was visibly agitated by that comment, and referred back to it several times over the following weeks.  He assumed that it originated with me, but it didn’t.  My members—most of them, anyway—could see with their own eyes what was going on.  He was indignant at being accused of orchestrating a witch hunt.  The truth hurts, as they say.

Now the witch hunt has become official.  I don’t know what else you call the above “consensus” that was reached by the WELS COP.   Apparently there is some new doctrine of “blog fellowship” lurking around out there in the shadows.  Apparently, since DP Buchholz has labeled me a heretic to be “marked and avoided” (Rom. 16:17), the entire COP has reached a consensus that every WELS pastor must “mark and avoid” me and my "false doctrine," even in the blogosphere, on threat of interrogation and other more sinister repercussions.

Let’s remember what, again, they would have me “marked and avoided” for.  What was that wicked heresy that I was teaching—that unscriptural, unlutheran, “novel” doctrine?

That sinners are justified before God by faith in Jesus Christ, and only by faith in Jesus Christ.  Grace alone. Faith alone. Scripture alone.  Sola gratia. Sola fide.  Sola Scriptura. 

Luther has surely turned over several times in his grave.

But since the COP apparently wants to continue the discussion about justification with WELS pastors, I will assist them by attempting, over the coming months, to make my position crystal clear here on this blog, so that they can judge for themselves whether “the suspended pastor” espouses “false doctrine,” or whether the suspended pastor is the one proclaiming the true Gospel, the doctrine confessed in the Lutheran Confessions, the faith once delivered to the saints.  Then readers of this blog will have all the information necessary to make an informed judgment about whether I am someone to “mark and avoid” or someone with whom to stand in solidarity.

In either case, although being a signer of Intrepid Lutherans doesn’t mean you agree with everything I say or write, it has, nonetheless, just become a little more dangerous.  Dear WELS reader, you should be outraged at the witch hunt that has been enacted by the COP.  This is no time for fear.  It’s time to be intrepid!

32 comments:

Anonymous said...

Five characteristics of a cult:

1) cults tend to centralize power in the hands of a single individual or small group that is considered beyond question

2) they treat all questions about the group and its beliefs as intolerable challenges to the group's authority and authenticity

3) they demean all those who do not share their beliefs and sow fear and mistrust amongst their believers about all such people

4) they typically cut off all or most opportunities for members to interact freely with those outside the group

5) they take revenge upon those who choose to leave the group in ways which include cutting them off from all relationships with those who remain inside, confiscation of material goods and even physical harm

From "The Thin Line between Religions and Cults"

http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/panelists/brad_hirschfield/2009/04/the_bright_line_between_religions_and_cults.html

+ Pr. Jim Schulz

Daniel Baker said...

Anathema to the council of presidents and their popish behavior. God will not be mocked by their treachery against His holy Church.

Joe Krohn said...

Those points were hauntingly familiar to the experience we had, Pr. Schulz. I would say that until the WELS jettisons the business model, it is doomed for much more of this. There is too much 'group think' going on. Re-visiting what the Office of the Ministry is and what it isn't would also go a long way.

Oh, and by the way...I have been a non-WELS signer now since 2011. I am in good company. :)

Tim Niedfeldt said...

I'll be a non-WELS signer soon enough Joe. Remember way back when when certain people warned me of what happens to the best of intentions and where the path of CG leads? (Doug Lindee, everybody on BW, and eventually even you) Also remember I said I would leave when I felt that discipline had been lost and the post-modernism, relativism, and CG crept in? Well it's that time. I'm not going to be a prick and leave them high and dry on my technology duties but I am tutoralizing a new person to take over my Sunday morning role and hopefully by the end of February I will extricate myself.

I will become more active again...It's time to shed the slide down the slippery slope..and let others know not to go down it.

Tim Niedfeldt

Anonymous said...

There definitely is such a thing as "blog fellowship" now. I contribute to a blog called Ecclesia Augustana (http://ecclesiaaugustana.blogspot.com/). So far there are three names listed as contributors (more to come), two of which are WELS and then me -- not WELS. Of the two WELS laymen one is an MLC student. Big wigs at WLS got wind of it, phoned the big wigs at MLC who in turn asked to meet with him. During the meeting and since then, they've asked him to take his name down from the blog because it would "be in [his] best interest" (use your imagination on what that means). They listed that my congregation voted to leave the WELS and how a certain article about fellowship was really out there and he needed to be aware of it. They also told him that he's not allowed to perform organ concerts at non-WELS churches anymore because it wouldn't be in his best interest. Yes, concerts, not worship.

Point is, yes, you aren't even allowed to have your name next to someone who presents topics for discussion that may differ from the WELS' doctrine. If the WELS would ever be consistent, MLC should then, logically, stop hosting free conferences. WELS pastors should never present papers at any free conferences. I guess it's okay if they're live streamed and hosted at physical locations but once it's a blog it's criminal. It's also okay when it's Mark Jeske teaching alongside those outside of WELS' fellowship on how to do Ministry at the Change or Die conference (http://www.intrepidlutherans.com/2011/03/change-or-die-issues-etc-comments.html). They also should ask their brother in the ELS, Pastor Joseph Abrahamson, to stop contributing on Brothers of John the Steadfast (steadfastlutherans.org) or any WELS/ELS pastor from ever contributing a single comment on any forum where there are also people outside of WELS' fellowship. This is scary stuff if you really think about it. My mind keeps going back to the first comment on this thread. Well, at least DPs are actually examining the pastors in their District. Too bad it's not with Chemnitz's Enchiridion and too bad it's not to weed out those who are killing souls with the third use of the Law. Instead, it's to weed out those who teach along with the whole Catholic and Apostolic Church that sinners are justified and considered righteous by God, freely, by faith alone (Ap IV, 88-89) Witch hunt indeed, witch hunt indeed...

Christian Schulz

Anonymous said...

I, too, am a fully and unmistakably non-WELS member who is an Intrepid signer. I left WELS by choice, in no small part due to the increasingly cultish collectivism of the synod bureaucracy.
"The Holy See of Milwaukee"

Fellow laymen, ensure your pastor is preaching the Scriptures and upholding the Confessions. There is more at stake than congregational identification; our pastors have a unique responsibility for our souls and will be held accountable by God. Support these good pastors through your prayers and your voices.

Spenglergeist.

Joel Dusek
Aurora, Colorado

LPC said...

This reminds me of the time when I used to belong to a Pentecostal denomination that uses similar tactics.

The book by Ronald Enroth, "Churches that Abuse", should be updated with this recent development.

LPC

AP said...

I'm sure some out there are questioning the use of the term witch hunt here. What is now apparently happening in WELS meets the major criteria of a witch hunt:

1. An insecure leadership or governing authority who for some reason feel threatened. A historical example would be the Puritan ministry in 1690s Salem after the colony had lost its charter.

2. The perception (and only perception) of some secret, internal enemy that is blamed for all that is wrong with society (or in this case church). This enemy is organized, there is never just one, and there is some leader. At Salem, former minister George Burroughs was thought to be the leader or a secret society of witches.

3. An inquisition of some sort, meaning an effort to uncover members of this secret organization. Guilt or innocence is never the issue at these "trials". The point is to get the accused (who is already presumed guilty) to name names.

4. Overreach. Eventually, the witch hunt goes too far, and slowly the absurdity and flat out wrongness of it all becomes apparent. It usually takes some very brave souls to stand up to it, often to go down for it, for the thing to end. Giles Corey was pressed to death at Salem for refusing to offer a plea before the witch hunting court. His brave stand was a turning point. Guilty people do not die for principle.

It seems that Intrepid Lutherans have now become the "enemy within" as John Demos calls the victims of witch hunts. Let us hope that the absurdity of an inquisitorial witch hunt in WELS will become quickly apparent and that a rising swell out outrage will shame the powers that be into stepping back from the cliff.

Dr. Aaron Palmer

Paul McCain said...

While I have no spoon in this soup, I would simply like, with respect for all involved, to say that if a church body has determined for itself a doctrinal position and has chosen persons and processes for assuring that members of the church body in fact adhere to those doctrinal positions, it should come as no surprise when a person who has been removed from said church body and still is running a blog site involving members of his former church body causes those members to come under suspicion of sharing in that person's positions.

I can't see how, as a matter of principle, the actions of the WELS Council of Presidents can be faulted.

It seems only natural that the WELS would wish to assure itself that those who participate on this forum do not share in the opinions and positions of the person who was recently removed from the WELS.

And if they do, would they not also be duty bound to leave the WELS and find their church fellowship elsewhere?

AP said...

With sincere respect to Pastor McCain, who is quite right on the NNIV:

I have been hearing this argument over and over. It is based on logical fallacy and faulty assumptions.

This silly notion of blog fellowship is rooted in a classic fallacy: Pastor Rydecki believes X. Pastor Rydecki is a member of Intrepid Lutherans. Therefore, all Intrepid Lutherans believe X. It would be like saying, Thrivent gives financial support to WELS. Thrivent gives financial support to ELCA. Therefore, WELS and ELCA are in full doctrinal agreement. The fallacy isn't even then applied consistently.

Moreover, why is it so difficult for people to read the original statement that we endorsed when we signed onto Intrepid Lutherans. It clearly explains what a signature here means and what it does not mean. So why is it logical to assume anything different? You are talking about pure "guilt" by association here, which was actually one of the strongest forms of evidence used against so-called witches in the early modern period.

I agree that the COP's job is to oversee doctrine and practice in WELS. I wish they would in fact! I would like someone, for example, to explain to me why it has allowed questionable (the kindest word I can use) practices adapted from heterodox sects to freely flourish in WELS. I hear the LCMS has the same problem. Seems like selective prosecution to me.

Dr. Aaron Palmer

Anonymous said...

Amen, Dr. Palmer.

Christian Schulz

Anonymous said...

WELS J.P. Koehler in “Gesetzlich Wesen unter uns,” "Legalism among Us," put it this way (pp. 238–39; emphasis in original):

"Owing to the Lutheran emphasis on justification and faith, it is natural that among us doctrinal presentation receives emphasis for the purpose of preaching the gospel. . . . by this term I understand such adhering to orthodoxy where the stress is shifted from faith to correct faith. . . . Such adherence to orthodoxy is primarily of an intellectual kind and functions by demanding and with an admixture of consciousness of one’s own being in the right or having everything right.

This bravado of orthodoxy feeds on the factious spirit which opposes the ecumenical spirit. For that reason it gets caught up in words instead of living in the facts. The result is traditionalism which has lost the spirit of the words, the spirit of the gospel. All of this is of a legalistic nature and opposes the gospel, and shows that in the course of doctrinal controversy the adherence to orthodoxy has deserted the basis of the gospel."

+ Pr. Jim Schulz

Anonymous said...

In the situation with Ecclesia Augustana, Rev. McCain, the contributor hasn't broken the WELS' fellowship laws. The only thing they were right about, according to their doctrine, was that he couldn't play the organ at a Vespers hosted by a non-WELS, but confessionally Lutheran, parish (which actually, ironically, agrees with WELS' Article II of the constitution). He did, in fact, pull out of that service (which is much more than Rev. Mark Jeske did with the Change or Die conference). The most significant thing, however, is that they have now gone beyond their written fellowship doctrine and have now included, ex cathedra, blog fellowship -- the same thing as free conferences which they actively host and participate in. In addition, according to his meeting with the high ups, he can't perform organ concerts. Concerts, before this, we're never in question; Worship services were. But then again, being selective, whether it's our contributor or Rev. Mark Jeske, is ridiculous. They'll pick on a confessional college kid but refuse to discipline liberal, non-subscriber of the BoC, Rev. Mark Jeske, as mentioned in my previous comment. Same with all organ players who perform concerts in their local AGO chapters. This is the new, de facto and massively hypocritical, doctrine and ridiculousness of the WELS' leadership.

In regards to justification and Fr. Rydecki, again, the Lutheran Confessions are all (including the Scriptures of course) the pastors subscribe and swear to, as I hope you are aware. Not other booklets produced in the 90s or 30s, etc. So according to the WELS' doctrine, Article II of their constitution, Fr. Rydecki has done absolutely nothing heretical.

So with these two anecdotes, it should be be shown that neither of these men have violated WELS' doctrine according to Article II of their own/previous constitution. If the WELS wants to be honest they should include This We Believe in Article II of the constitution and get on that stat. Same with their old, and now ex cathedra, theses on fellowship.

Christian Schulz

Pastor Spencer said...


To all readers, especially those engaged in this current discussion -

Many times over the past several months, I have said that I will not allow this blog to become absorbed in the justification debate going on in the WELS. I have said this to proponents on both sides and to various of our synod's leaders.

Upon further consideration, I have come to believe that I was wrong. I was being stubborn and arrogant. Who am I, after all? I do not "own" Intrepid Lutherans. It does not belong to me. If people want to debate this issue and want to do so on this blog, they should have the right to do so. While I may not think it is as important as, say, the translation issue, others may feel different. This is, after all, a "discussion forum," not a wholly-owned subsidiary of Pastor Spencer. I for one am not beyond admitting when I make a mistake or act arrogantly and prideful. This was not always the case in my younger days. I hope I have grown and matured in this regard, at least somewhat.

In addition, I believe I am following the thinking of Gamaliel, which God the Holy Spirit inspired St. Luke to record in Acts 5:33-42. Let Pastor Rydecki thoroughly explain exactly what he believes, and what he does not, and why. Let others argue and debate with him as much as they want. If his ideas are truly opposed to the Gospel of Christ, they will come to nothing. However, perhaps in the process we can all learn something, deepen our understanding, explain God's plan of salvation even better, and grow in our faith. Thus, I see it as a win-win situation. Again, if people don't want to debate this or even hear about it or see it on this blog, they will "vote" with their keyboards and wallets, and we will go out of business post haste!

Oh, and no one has asked me to step aside and allow this discussion, and I have not received any pressure or "advice" from either side. This is my own decision. For myself, I still hope to remain on the good Lutheran middle path, and serve mainly as a referee.

One thing: I urge both sides to keep your comments civil and brotherly. You can be firm, make strong statements, and even be strident and passionate. However, there is a big difference between a heretic and a damned heretic! If I see any comments which declare people on either side as "going to hell" or words to that effect, and I can reach the delete button first, they will not see the light of day. I hope my fellow moderators will follow me in this. Marquis of Queensberry debate rules, if you please.

OK, go to your corners and come out punching. And may God defend the right!

Pastor Spencer

Anonymous said...

Pure doctrine is simple and easy to understand. To paraphrase Dr. Luther: "For, thank God, a child seven years old knows" what justification is:

Justification is by faith alone.

nnuf said.

Cf. Formula of Concord - Solid Declaration III:25

+ Pr. Jim Schulz

Anonymous said...

Let the witch hunt begin. That is not what COP comments said. This is not a civil response in my humble opinion.
Rod Dietsche

Joe Krohn said...

Pr. Dietsche, it is not what the words said but what is implied. These signers will be 'interviewed' and systematically 'encouraged' to withdraw their names from the roll, or else. As one who has witnessed the dark side of the WELS; Whereas; in one meeting with a future DP, there was a fleeting moment where I feared for my physical safety; Pr. Rydecki was not removed from the WELS ministry for false doctrine, but because he would not adhere to their agenda. I am not 'grinding my ax' as some are wont to say, but to simply state the truth on what I have seen.

In the spirit of fraternal admonishment,
Joe

LPC said...

The tenor of the COP comment implies that these DPs want to know the colours of the signers of IL.

So, to the IL signers, show your colours when they come around to ask you through your pastors whether or not you stand or oppose Pr. Paul Rydecki on Justification. It is not Pr. Rydecki who is forcing this, it is the COPs, so OK fair enough. I am quite glad that it is not Pr. Rydecki who is forcing the issue for it shows he has no interest in being divisive, but just to articulate his faith, his conviction, as to what he believes the Scripture teaches.

IMO, I do not think any IL can be in the middle here; at least if we read the statement made by the COPs as documented in this post. It appears an IL signer is required to state where he/she stands.

By not showing where you stand, by default you have announced your colour - it is yellow. Thus, let them know. This is a great opportunity to make your confession known.

LPC

Anonymous said...

This is starting to put things, around me, in a certain perspective.
What does this mean, to laity, who signed, those deemed non members?

What exactly, is being done & what are those who stand fast & firm, in for?
Heidi Stoeberl

Pastor Spencer said...

Heidi,

I'm not sure, frankly, what this means. I have spoken to the synod President about this. It is my understanding that each District President will handle this in his own way.

I can say this much: I have had dozens of contacts from Pastors around the synod who have said they are not going to change the way they preach and teach, namely, that we justified freely by grace and saved by faith in Jesus given by the Means of Grace. To a man, they have deemed this debate "an argument over words." Ovbiously, Pastor Rydecki does not see it that way, and neither does the CoP. So, exactly how this will play out in the end - God alone knows. Again, I say, let Pastor Rydecki explain his position thoroughly and completely, and let the Pastors and people "test the spirits." (First John 4:1)

Thank you.

Pastor Spencer

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

Just to remind everyone, I was perfectly willing and even eager to continue studying the doctrinal issues with my brothers in the WELS in order to determine if it was all just "an argument over words." I wasn't the one condemning people as false teachers or calling on them to repent for their teaching on justification. Not once. It was the WELS leadership that determined I was the false teacher and called on me to repent for teaching that sinners are only justified through faith in Christ. So at this point, if one believes that it was all "an argument over words," then what will he do with the WELS COP that has condemned a man (and divided a congregation) over a simple matter of words? It seems to me that one cannot sit on this fence for too long.

AP said...

What follows may seem yellow or like fence sitting to some. If so, my apologies, but what follows is sincere. I'm not a theologian. There are far more theologically learned men than me who should be addressing this issue.

I do not ever remember hearing the terms “objective” or “subjective” applied to justification when I was in confirmation class, though the terms did appear in the blue catechism. I don’t remember ever hearing these thing in my high school religion classes either.

When I took my theology courses for synodical certification, I certainly heard those terms. Let me be entirely clear here: I find nothing about what I learned in those classes or read for them to be doctrinally objectionable. The way I was taught, objective justification is essentially a synonym for Christ’s work of atonement. So, I find myself agreeing with Pastor Spencer here: the debate to me is largely about words, at least as long as “subjective justification” is used only as a synonym for the atonement.

I think someone who is strongly on the side of using the objective / subjective construction needs to step forward and explain why these terms are so important and where they come from. Personally, I don’t understand why we have to go beyond the words used in the Book of Concord. I entirely agree with Pastor Spencer’s statement “that we justified freely by grace and saved by faith in Jesus given by the Means of Grace.” This is the gospel that I have heard during my entire lifetime membership in WELS congregations.

I find the whole objective / subjective thing to be clunky and confusing. The words of the confessions—especially of Luther in the Large Catechism and of Chemnitz—are much better to me. I can live with objective / subjective, which, as I was taught it, is not universalism. A good example of using these terms without falling into universalism can be found in Koester’s “Law and Gospel” from NPH--a great book that I find no doctrinal fault with. I can, however, see how these terms might lead into something like universalism. I can also see how, on the other side, one might run into issues with limited atonement or election. Words matter. Should we not take the utmost care in what words we used to explain such an important doctrine as justification?

I understand why some are so adamant about the terminology for justification. It is no small thing we are talking about, but rather the central doctrine of the church. That is why I’m so amazed that we cannot seem to have a serious discussion about the issues Pastor Rydecki has raised and whether or not the objective / subjective construction is really the best. There was absolutely no reason for Pastor Rydecki to have been tossed out of the WELS with no real discussion, dialogue, etc. He has, in a temperate and scholarly way, raised some important issues that we as Lutherans need to discuss, debate, learn from, and explore through more scholarship, conferences, councils, etc. But, then again, it seems we can’t have real discussion about anything important in the WELS anymore, so maybe I should not be surprised at all.

Dr. Aaron Palmer

Daniel Baker said...

Whether or not certain pastors and teachers in the WELS and abroad have expressed theology pertaining to "objective" and "subjective" justification in an orthodox or semi-orthodox way really misses the point. What matters is that the synod's semi-official pronouncements clearly say:

"We believe that God has justified all sinners, that is, he has declared them righteous for the sake of Christ. This is the central message of Scripture upon which the very existence of the church depends" (This We Believe IV:1).

There is no sense in which this excerpt can be "properly understood." Either God has fallaciously and ineffectually declared the whole world righteous, or He only declares righteous those who are made one with His Son in Holy Baptism. There's really no wiggle room here. Either Pr. Rydecki is promulgating false doctrine, or the This We Believe statement is heretical and blasphemous.

There is no room for "both/and." This is not a confusion of terms. The devil is out to play, and once again he's attacking the Chief Doctrine on which the Church stands or falls. He's playing the same old "Did God really say?" card. Did God really say that we are only declared righteous in faith, or did he say that the whole world is declared righteous whether it believes it or not? I stand with Pr. Rydecki in confessing that the unbelieving person "is condemned already" in God's eyes, not righteous, and with the Solid Declaration in saying that "the unbelieving and unconverted...person is not reconciled with God." To stand anywhere else, in my opinion, would be to stand on sinking sand.

Paul McCain said...

Just one more suggestion, if I may.

I'd suggest doing all you can possibly do to put as much distance between yourself and that wacko Greg Jackson as humanly possible.

I urged Pastor Rydecki to do so, but he remained very silent, which I found more than a bit disturbing.

It's one thing to stand up for what you think is truth, but quite another sort of total foolishness to allow your church body to be trashed in such reckless, and frankly, psychotic fashion, by Jackson, a man who is championing "your cause" as he sees it.

FWIW.

Intrepid Lutherans said...

Dear Rev. McCain,

Your ad hominem attack and personal insult against Greg Jackson is irrelevant, unchristian and out of place, especially here where we have made it clear that such personal attacks are unwelcome.

You may consider yourself banned from making further comments on Intrepid Lutherans.

Anonymous said...

Pastor Spencer,
That was a wonderful response & I thank you for it. Although, it was not what I intended. If some are being asked, not to post or remove their names, that is what I needed to know. I will not, however, what can we expect at this point, should laity choose not to?
Pax Domini Sit Semper Vobiscum,
Heidi Stoeberl

Pastor Spencer said...

Anonymous said...
Pastor Spencer,
That was a wonderful response & I thank you for it. Although, it was not what I intended. If some are being asked, not to post or remove their names, that is what I needed to know. I will not, however, what can we expect at this point, should laity choose not to?
Pax Domini Sit Semper Vobiscum,
Heidi Stoeberl

Heidi,

I apologize if I did not answer your question precisely. I do that sometimes. A bad pastoral habit.

The simple answer is that - again, as I understand it from President Schroeder - no one, Pastor or layperson, is being officially asked to remove their names from Intrepid Lutherans.

What may, and I say, may, happen, is that Pastor signers might be contacted by their respective District Presidents in the very near future and ask if their signing on Intrepid Lutherans indicates support for Pastor Rydecki's position on justification. I doubt very seriously if individual laypeople will be contacted by District Presidents, and since it is not always possible to tell to which congregation a particular layperson belongs, I'm not sure how they would even know which Pastor to contact to ask those Pastors if their members support Pastor Rydecki's position. So, that's the short answer; namely, there is no official, blanket request from the CoP for all WELS Pastors and/or laypeople to remove their names from Intrepid Lutherans. I hope that is the kind of answer you were looking for.

Continued . . .

Pastor Spencer said...

Continued . . .

That being said, there are a couple of issues remaining with the CoP's actions: First and foremost, Pastor Rydecki's position has not been fully and completely explained in public that I know of. He has asked questions at Pastoral conferences, he has made various statements at his church and elsewhere, he has spoken very briefly on the topic of justification in a paper at the Intrepid conference in Oshkosh. And, by-the-way, in that last instance, after a slight revision in that paragraph, his words were accepted as adequate and not false doctrine. Also, his position has been characterized by others, both fellow Pastors and leaders in the WELS, and has been commented on by various theologians in both WELS and the LCMS. But he has not really written a definitive and all-inclusive explanation or account of his position. I know that he is working on such, but is not close to being finished with it. Thus, I think it would be very difficult for most WELS Pastors, including our signers, to adequately and truthfully, with any real integrity, answer a question from their DPs as to whether or not they agree with or support, at any level, Rydecki's position. This goes doubly true for the vast majority of laypeople. I would hope that the DPs would wait until such a full and complete explanation is produced and available for study by all before they begin asking their questions. But that is completely up to them.

Now, to be fair, our District Presidium believed they had more than adequate information upon which to base their actions. But, the vast majority of this information came through private talks with Pastor Rydecki, a couple of meetings with just his congregation, and finally a private phone call between our District President and Pastor Rydecki on the day of his eventual suspension. Naturally, the Presidium desires and expects that their judgment will be trusted and that such trust will be enough for anyone else who has questions in this matter. That is entirely understandable. The situation is, however, somewhat complicated by the internet and instant world-wide communication. Many, many more people have gotten involved - whether they should be or not is moot - throughout the WELS and beyond. This case has taken on somewhat the import of the Kokomo case of many years ago. There have been a number of such instances in the history of Lutheranism and of the WELS; i.e. the so-called "Cincinnati case," the Protes'tant Controversy, and so on. While this has yet to rise to those levels, such is a distinct possibility. This is why I have been urging people on both sides to keep cool heads and speak cautiously, carefully, and precisely, and to withhold final judgment until everything is fully laid out in a clear, simple, and understandable way.

Then, of course, there is the very inconsistent manner in which discipline has often been meted out in our church body in the past. But that would be a post in and of itself, and I simply do not have the time right now to go into all that. Maybe another time in the future I will.

I hope this better answers your questions and concerns and gives you a clearer picture of what is going on.

I urge everyone to "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem," (Ps. 122) that is, that Christ's kingdom on earth, this part of the old Church Militant, be granted true peace and tranquility through God's holy Word!

Pastor Spencer

Anonymous said...

One of the few advantages of unemployment is the free time to read. So, I did some reading on the Protes'tant Controversy. I started with Prof. Friedrich's 1984 paper to the Minnesota District Pastor's Conference. Then I moved to the Beitz Paper and ended with Koehler's Gutachten. I could not help but be struck by the thought that history is repeating itself! Am I alone? Does this strike anyone else?

Scott E. Jungen

Anonymous said...

Asking as a WELS outsider I have been trying to determine if there are any theological differences between WELS and those congregations which currently affiliate with the Protes'tant conference. Can anyone help me with the current understanding of differences between the two groups, if they do exist? Thanks

Alan Lubeck

Pastor Spencer said...

Alan,

That is an excellent question!

Rather than attempt to speak for them myself, please go to their web page and then contact them with any questions you may have.

http://www.protestantconf.org/

Thank you.

Pastor Spencer

Anonymous said...

I am an ex-WELS member who left the church due to doctrinal differences.
The issue on this board appears to be directed at - This We Believe lV Justification By Grace Through Faith, first sentence, 1. “We believe that God has justified all sinners, that is he declared them righteous for the sake of Christ.” Now let us take that statement apart, but in doing so I am going to use some definitions that I am sure some people will not agree with. That being the case, here goes:
What does justification mean? It includes forgiveness, which means removal of sins. Romans 5:6 says,
“For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” Justification means imputing Christ’s perfect righteousness to man. Romans 5:16-19

What does righteousness mean? It means man has been put into right standing with God. Man has been made acceptable to God through Christ’s blood. Romans 5:8-15
2 Corinthians 5:19, “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.” Reconciliation means, to produce harmony, return to favor; atonement: “the state of being at one” (reconciliation, Romans 15:11).
Objective Justification – God objectively declared all of mankind to be righteous at the cross. What does that mean? It means, he declared all sinners be put into right standing with God; therefore, not guilty of sins because Christ took our place and our sins upon himself and shed his blood for us at the cross. 2 Corinthians 5:21. Christ did not make all men saints when he died, he only pardoned man, or proclaimed man not guilty, but man must believe what Christ did to gain the benefit of this pardon (subjective justification).
Subjective Justification – the individual sinner who was declared not guilty must come to faith through the Holy Spirit working through the word and sacraments, man must be quickened in spirit, suddenly believing and trusting that Christ truly died in his or her place at the cross. This is regeneration as described in 2 Corinthians 4:6. Man is completely passive in this process and all is the work of God, John 6:29.
So what does this mean? – It means that forgiveness must precede faith as faith without first having forgiveness will not save anyone. An analogy – if I give a person a check that person can only benefit if the account has money in it so they can cash the check. If the account has no money the check is of no value. So if forgiveness of sins is incomplete according to John 19:30 faith cannot save. Once again, I must stress man was not made a saint when Christ died. Man was proclaimed not guilty in God’s court of law.
Objective justification is Bible fact, but is only the first step in man’s eternal salvation as subjective justification is required to complete the process. Again, an analogy, Baptism only saves if a person comes to faith. Water is only a sign and has no saving grace on its own; it requires faith as stated in Ephesians 2:8 that does not talk about Baptism. Both justification and baptism are processes requiring steps managed by the Holy Spirit working through the word.
What about election? Salvation was offered to all (1 John 2:2) at the cross, but some reject it (John 8:24). John 6:37 and Romans 8:29-30 talk about the elect and those are the believers who will be saved. All of the elect are believers and all of the believers are the elect.
Based upon the above, my position is that WELS is correct, but they tend to keep this particular teaching a secret from its members and are not flexible when it comes to questioning any of its teachings.
Donald N. Gretel

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