Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Unintended Consequences

by Larry Beane

God's Word and the avowed confession of our synod and its members notwithstanding, I believe we will see the next generation of LCMS pastors and laypeople overwhelmingly support the world's evolving definition of marriage and the mainstream Protestant church's requirements for admission to the pastoral office. 

I think it is absolutely inevitable (and these two issues are intertwined, actually the same issue).

I believe that when this occurs, at most, 20% of the pastors and congregations of the LCMS will leave the synod and form one or more new synodical associations. Some conservatives who remain in the LCMS will grouse about it, but they will try to fight within the synod rather than leave. They may try some form of "a state of confession" - but the tide of time and culture will wash over them fairly quickly, and the leadership of the synod will eventually deal harshly with them.

I believe within the lifetime of my son, there will be openly gay pastors and district presidents. There will be a lady president of one of our seminaries. I firmly believe this. She may well defend the Genesis account of creation and reject the higher critical method of biblical hermeneutics, and will thus be considered a "conservative" and may even see opposition from the more liberal element within the LCMS.

This path (like the one that has now seen the Boy Scouts accept homosexuality within their ranks) is the result of a "normalization" that comes with something that was once unthinkable simply becoming commonplace through the passage of time and by routine exposure. This process of normalization is undeniable and over time drives what is acceptable in our secular and ecclesiastical cultures. A simple comparison of television programming over the past few decades illustrates this point. You may like it or not like it, but that is the trajectory we are on.

I also believe we will eventually see churches that "discriminate" based on "gender" (whether in ordination, employment, or marriage rites) will lose their tax exempt status from the IRS - especially if the Roman Catholic Church were to capitulate on these issues. Right now, the sheer size and power of the Roman Catholic Church would make such a move difficult - and even now, we see the Roman Catholic Church beginning to be challenged by the state and pressured to conform to secular standards.

And in accordance with Luther's explanation to the 8th commandment, I believe this to be the unintended consequence of very well-meaning people.


  1. Your predictions do not take into account the possibility that a different world-power could overrun America. I shudder to think: could persecution of Christians and running the Church underground be something that would result in a reversal of America's current trajectory?

  2. Dear Susan:

    That is certainly a possibility. Or the persecution might come at the hands of our fellow Americans.

    Of course, persecution in a day and age of widespread apostasy among denominations could result in even more syncretism and unionism. I think one way or another, confessing biblical Christians are going to be a remnant. We need to prepare the next generation to be courageous, innocent as doves and clever as serpents, and to be able to confess and articulate a solid biblical defense for the catholic faith.

    And we need to pray fervently for our Lord's return. "Come, Lord Jesus" is not just a table grace.

    Thanks for your thoughtful observation!

  3. There are already professors at the seminary that are "willing to float the possibility" of ordained, female "assistant pastors" as long as there is a male senior pastor over them. I believe the normalization will start like that.

    1. Name names. It's important that people in the Saint Louis and Fort Wayne areas know so that they can begin the process now of charging these men with the teaching of false doctrine.

    2. Since these things were taught publicly in class, I named names to their department chairs and trusted professors at the time.

    3. Dear Joshua,

      Did anyone get defrocked? Fired? Did anyone have to buy somebody a beer for Gemuetlichkeit? Docked a penny?

      I suspect that at best, such profs were told "ixnay on the oman pastorsay!" and nothing else happened. The kinds of things that 1) pastors in the LCMS can do and not get defrocked, combined with 2) the kinds of things pastors are removed from their congregations for, makes me more pessimistic than Paul's upbeat prognostication. I've also heard from a former deaconess student that one of her profs was okay with WO. I think the seeds are sown: "An enemy has done this..."

      Come quickly, Lord Jesus!

  4. What are we doing to prepare for a 'wilderness' theology? What I mean is this: are we preparing the next generation, through teaching, on how and what the life of a confessional Lutheran looks like when there are little to no churches near him that he can partake of the Sacrament at? These things need to be discussed. I already have youth going to college that cannot find a faithful LCMS church to commune at. It seems we would do well to start looking at and discussing how our Lutheran forefathers dealt with the lack of places to commune at when first coming to America. It seems we would do well to start looking at Elijah, and Noah a little more closely, who were in the wilderness of paganism.

  5. In my opinion, we are more likely to see smaller groups leave The LCMS because of the Synod's stand on homosexuality and women's ordination.

    They will join either the NALC (pro-women's ordination types who wish to remain relatively liturgical) or just join up with the ELCA itself (those who support gay rights).

    I do not see The LCMS changing course on either issue.

    Perhaps Rev. Beane should hold off on the extra shot of espresso in his morning Café au lait, or check to make sure they are not putting something in the chicory at Cafe Du Monde to cause him these visions of doom and gloom.

    : )

    Speaking of which, I sure could go for some beignets about now.

    1. The LCMS does not have to change its official doctrinal stance in order to slide down that slope. Some of your colleges (e.g. CUNE) allow female students to read Scripture or to lead prayers during worship. This is not an isolated occurrence, and it has been going on for decades. When you train your pastors, teachers, and lay leaders in that kind of an environment, the "normalizing" effect has already begun. A split is probably inevitable, and I hope you are right that we will find the confessionals in the majority. But it would not surprise me at all to find the opposite happening within my lifetime.

      "And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short" (Mt 24:22).

    2. Paul, I too am optimistic and agree with you, but I look around... in my circuit (as asked at a circuit meeting) I am the only one who would not serve a known Methodist if they show up at the communion rail. I am the only congregation that does not have Contemporary Methodist worship services, the only congregation where the pastor uses the pulpit, the others will have women reading Scripture, women leading portions of the service, women giving the children's sermon, women serving communion. Also, several are promoting Methodist books for their Bible study, Methodist sermon series, I think all are using the Methodist VBS programs this year...so why would I think that any of these congregations will remain Lutheran in the next generation?

  6. I hope you're right, Paul. It's just that you usually aren't. Kidding! Maybe it's different in the hinterlands outside of the Beltway. But there is a large liberal (for lack of a better term) contingent in the LCMS. The gender issues are the wedge. A few generations ago, women voting would have been unthinkable. Then women reading the scriptures. Then deaconesses teaching adult bible class. Then deaconesses at the altar glad in alb and stole. It is a desensitization going on. This stuff really does shape attitudes. Again, I hope your optimism is on the money. But just in my 8 years in the LCMS, I've lost my ability to be shocked at the kinds of things that go on in our churches.

  7. Deaconesses in alb and stole? Where?

    1. One example of a church that had a lot of pictures of ladies wearing albs and stoles was Redeemer (LCMS) in the Bronx. The pictures seem to have been deleted - but if you do a Google Image Search for the following words: redeemer lutheran bronx new york - you will see a thumbnail picture off to the right. When you click on it, it is a dead link. Best construction: this was a practice the pastor inherited and has since abolished it. That would be my assumption - but it is only an assumption.

      Of course, there is nothing in Scripture that prohibits women from coming to church in albs and stoles and serving with the clergy at the altar - but in my opinion, it provides a less than clear confession of the office of the ministry.

      See, I'm not even shocked any more. Women in albs and stoles? In the LCMS? Meh...

    2. I don't know about stoles, but a few years ago I hauled four kids out of an LCMS church minutes before start time upon learning that a Scripture lesson would be read by a "vested" lady, who would also assist with the distribution. The church was St. Paul, Melrose Park IL. (Try Apostles. Just down the road and starts 15 minutes later for your relocation convenience.)

      I also have secondhand information on a St. Louis faculty member explicitly advocating women's ordination and communion at non-Lutheran altars to a deaconess class. I was not a witness myself.

      I share Pastor Beane's pessimism with regard to the topic in general and believe that the ongoing practice of not ordaining women in the LCMS is supported mostly by theological apathy among the laity, a dubious partner. I also do not know what to think about the popularity among the theologically conservative of nominating/appointing theologically conservative ladies to public Synodical positions. Sure, she's Rev. Litur Gee's wife. She also his wife.

  8. Who says they are UN intended?

    Will the LCMS exist in 20 years?

  9. I am seldom accused of being optimistic but I must be Polly Anna compared to Fr Beane. I really do not see any evidence to support the conclusions. I might be wrong. I often am. The strong leadership of our Synod President, the unwavering witness of at least one full seminary and half the other, and the structures in place right now seem to suggest that Paul McCain might be correct. There is a general slow down in some of the strangeness in the past. My own District has a solidly confessional leader slowly undoing and redirecting us from a course once thought nearly impossible to change. If there is any realignment coming, I think it will be that some decide that there is little to keep them here, given the general direction of things, and will leave so that they can practice their evangelical identity without constraint. I guess I am just too old on one hand to predict the demise of the Synod as we know it. I was around when JAO was elected and people insisted the Synod was dead and I was there when Jerry was elected and different people insisted the Synod was dead. Maybe a decade ago I would have been a bit more hesitant but now I am cautiously optimistic that our direction will be sustained. Will we be pure as some think we should be. Probably not. But that is not something I have ever expected. Reform is ongoing even when it is a return to a confessional integrity associated more fully with a previous era. If anything the radical moves of the ELCA have made it easier for Missouri to be faithful. Everyone knows where you can go if you disagree with the evangelical and catholic direction of our leaders (elected and appointed). There is less need for Missouri to be more like ELCA now than ever before. Even the people advocating for priestesses and the addition of a third gender (gay) know what happens -- a blood bath that leaves you weak and broke. I believe that those who think we are headed in the wrong direction confessionally have an even greater reason for leaving and shoring up the leaking ship of ELCA more than ever. Yes, there are the NALC and LCMC options but they are really the same tea without the fruit or sugar and not yet a significantly different church identity. I have more reason to believe that these will come and go more so than Missouri. But as a said. I am often wrong and even more often reminded of this fact.

  10. Fr. Beane,
    Thanks for the blog post, it makes me think of the following excerpt from “Ministry In Missouri Until 1962” by John C. Wohlrabe, Jr. © 1992.

    Rev. Wohlrabe ask the questions; “Does doctrine change?”; “ … is the definition of ordination truly an adiaphoron …?”; and “… is it appropriate to redefine or reformulate theology and church practice according to government definitions or societal norms?” Please read his conclusion as follows.


    The change in the Missouri Synod' s understanding of the doctrine of the
    ministry raises a number of questions which an historical analysis cannot answer
    in and of itself. For this, one must go back to Scripture.
    The first basic question which arises from any observation that a church
    body's doctrinal position has changed is: Does doctrine change? If something
    was considered Scriptural and therefore true in 1851 or 1951, is it not also true
    in 1962? Or were the theologians of the Missouri Synod wrong before 1962,
    particularly with respect to the pastoral office, the call, and the congregation?
    Could it possibly be a matter of a differing application? If so, where is the
    Scriptural warrant for the new application? Is it a matter of differing
    paradigms? Can this be considered a" remapping of beliefs or world view" , and
    if so, is such "remapping" necessarily appropriate?
    Secondly, is the definition of ordination truly an adiaphoron if, by adopting
    a new definition, one changes the understanding of the doctrine of the ministry
    and the doctrine of the church (Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope,

    Third, if it is still maintained that the public office of the ministry is divinely instituted in a concrete form and is to be identified with the pastoral office and if Scripture (particularly Titus 1:5) identifies this office with a local congregation, is it appropriate to establish that office apart from a congregation? Or, is it appropriate to separate office and function?
    Fourth, is it appropriate to redefine or reformulate theology and church practice according to government definitions or societal norms?
    Finally, questions arise concerning the polity of our church body, the growth of the synodical bureaucracy, and the actions of certain boards, committees, and the College of Presidents outside the purview of the Synod and the sanctions of the synodical convention. Can pastors and laymen still judge doctrine and practice by way of a synodical convention every three years? Has the synodical bureaucracy grown out of hand? Have certain boards, committees, and synodical officials taken on more power than authorized by the synodical constitution and the convention of the Synod? And what about those individuals and groups who have set their own agendas for the Synod apart from the will of the synodical convention and established doctrinal standards?
    In order to determine if these questions have been addressed after the 1962 convention, a continuing historical analysis of the doctrine of the ministry within the Missouri Synod is needed, particularly from 1962 to the present. Many of the archival manuscripts from this period will not be accessible for years to come. However, public documents are available and current practice can be readily observed. It is hoped that these questions can and will be addressed anew, based on an informed understanding of the events and positions of the past, and that Scriptural answers will be forthcoming.”

    Steve Harris
    Head Elder and Subdeacon
    Saint Pauls Evangelical Lutheran Church
    Kewanee, Illinois

  11. I agree that human nature is such that we could easily, almost imperceptibly, slouch our way into great unfaithfulness, all the while patting our backs for being faithful Lutherans, much as the ELCA has done. (I have found Frederik Schiotz' autobiography "One Man's Story" highly illustrative of the process.) I agree that a generation might arise who knew not Moses, er, I mean David Scaer, and who might radically change the Missouri Synod despite having had the most orthodox teachers, much as happened with Erlangen and, for that matter, the Missouri Synod after WWII. I agree that the Missouri Synod has been battling on the Western front for so long that it is unclear to us soldiers in the trenches whether the situation is static or going for or against us; all we can think of are the losses. And there have been times when I could have written the same sort of post as Larry Beane has written, although the issues would have been somewhat different.

    But I know that the church is not in Matt Harrison's hands any more than it was in Kieschnik's or Walther's. The church has a Lord and He is not merely human. Moreover, this same Lord has commanded us not to worry about tomorrow, let alone what might happen in our children's lifetime. Be faithful today. Be faithful with all your might. Teach faithfulness to the next generation. But let the Lord worry about what will happen when that generation grows up. Otherwise you will succumb to despair, and despair is a grave sin, far worse than mere "great shame and vice."

  12. Dear Dr. Kellerman:

    Yes indeed! The Church endureth forever!

    Synods come and go; bureaucracies rise and fall. Whether faithful Christians who confess the Augsburg Confession are called "Lutherans" or belong to a "Missouri Synod" or not matters little. But I do think we should think about those unintended consequences when it comes to various "normalizing" relationships with church bodies that practice unscriptural pagan rites such as WO and the idolatry of homosexual "marriage." I don't believe our synodical and district leaders are doing the synod any good by engaging in practices which muddy the waters in matters of fellowship with ecclesial bodies with mixed-up theologies of "gender" - even if it is for military chaplaincy or malaria eradication. The letter to Thyatira in Rev 2:18-29 comes to mind. God will defend his Holy Catholic Church, but he will judge individual churches (and synods of churches) that worship on the high places, "tolerate that woman Jezebel," yoke themselves with unbelievers who tolerate and even encourage encourage pagan rites, and cause those little ones who believe in Him to sin.

    I believe we need to be clear in our confession, especially *because* the Lord will continue to protect His Church. We are to warn our synodical leaders, our clergy, our laity, and ourselves by the constant call to repent. We must use our "prophetic voice" in this time of cultural confusion that is even infesting the Church as antichrist.

    There is a difference between heeding the Lord's Word not to worry vs. being lax and lackadaisical about what we proclaim and teach in word and in deed, intended or unintended. We need to speak out, and not lull ourselves into a false sense of security, resting on our laurels and becoming self-satisfied because, "Thank God we're not the ELCA" and "Thank God Matt Harrison is the president." To quote theologian Axl Rose: "Nothing lasts forever, even cold November rain."

    1 Peter 5:8-9.

  13. Indeed. Let us remember what we are actually doing here:

    For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ (2 Cor. 10:4-5).

  14. Larry, to the extent that your original post is a clarion call for faithfulness *now* and for being aware of the dangers of the way that we might unintentionally be making compromises *now* that will have disastrous consequences later, I think your words are fine counsel. We need greater faithfulness *now* to prepare for the troubled times in the future. But to the extent that the post was simply a lament that "we're all doomed because the church is lost," which is how it came off, I would vigorously disagree. We don't know the future of the church. The church in the United States (not to mention in world history) has fallen on far worse times than today's. We may decline as you imagine--or not. In a sense, it is irrelevant which occurs. Just be faithful today and try your best to make the next generation faithful and leave it at that. And, of course, being faithful involves far more than just electing the "right candidates" at synod conventions. But you know and acknowledge that.

    One of the troubling things about us confessional Lutherans is that we like to pout and have pity parties for ourselves. We like to read about dystopian futures that may never happen. In that sense, we're very much like the dispensationalists we despise. These jeremiads about how bad things are or will get are like spiritual pornography that deaden our souls to the real working of God. We've been doing it ever since the days of Elijah--and God has been disapproving of such pity parties for equally as long. Instead we need to have the confidence that God's Word works and that it can smash spiritual strongholds (as Joshua has posted above) and that hell itself is defenseless against it.

    Luther's explanation of the sixth petition is a useful antidote for this kind of thinking. The main temptation of the devil isn't to get us to commit a particular vice so much as to get us to adopt a false belief and then to be disappointed when it doesn't pan out. False belief and despair are the two great evils. It is only when we have first been hoodwinked into thinking that there is no hope that great shame and vice follows.

    1. Dear James:

      I was not "pouting" but was giving an honest assessment of what I see. I could well be wrong; I hope I am wrong. But I am being honest. We have seen formerly faithful church bodies fall into idolatry and apostasy by playing pattycake with the gender issue. I believe the LCMS is heading down an unfortunate road, and I know this punctures the pride of a lot of people who have almost a triumphalistic view of Our Beloved Synod. And nowhere did I say the "church" was lost. The LCMS is not the one holy catholic and apostolic church. It is a denomination, a church body, a bureaucracy (even the word "synod" is a misnomer).

      So, I have quite a dilemma: tell the truth and sin by falling into "that great shame and vice" by assessing the situation negatively (like a doctor giving an opinion that the patient has a malignant tumor and will die without treatment) and pointing out that this is indeed where I think the trend is headed, or, lie, play along like the townsfolk in The Emperor's New Clothes and fawn over the regal birthday suit - which would break the 8th commandment. What to do?

      So, I guess the only way to avoid sin is to say nothing. Is that really an option for pastors who are called to preach? Should we bully all dissent into silence? I realize what I have written won't make it to the Lutheran Witness or be a featured paper at one of our Concordias - but like I said, I am calling it like I see it - and I do hope I am completely wrong.

      I think we Lutherans are too quick to accuse anyone who disagrees with us on any issue of "sin." I have actually heard Lutherans explain that voting for a Democrat is a "sin," that voting for a Republican is a "sin," that voting for a third party is a "sin," and still others who say not voting at all is a "sin." And of course, we are all sinners, so it all fits well into our theology. Tada! Nevertheless, maybe all of those accusations are false.

      But I am a little tired of being called to repentance for honestly expressing an opinion about where our trajectory is headed. I never accepted a call to be a soothsayer and to tell people what they want to hear.

      A few years ago, ELCA bishop McDaniel gave a sort-of swansong address to the Ft. Wayne Symposia in which he compared himself to Marley from A Christmas Carol. He warned us of the things I'm speaking of now. He pleaded with the LCMS not to follow that same path.

      I'm no Bishop McDaniel, I'm no Marley, and I'm no prophet. I'm certainly fallible, and I earnestly hope my assessment is wrong. But I think invoking Luther's "great shame and vice" line and accusing someone of pornography and applying this to someone who says: "You know, I think maybe we should not keep driving down this road when the sign said 'Bridge Out' does not actually qualify for what Luther was talking about.

      And, as always, I may very well be wrong about that. ;-)


  15. I agree that a word of warning is in order. People thought that JAO Preus was the second coming of Jesus and that all of synod's problems would be solved in two or three years. Later other people thought the same when Al Barry was elected. In 1995, when I attended the synod convention and saw Barry elected to his second term of office and given a 1st VP more to his liking, you would have thought that Missouri had so changed that a Yankee Stadium event would have been unthinkable. And yet six short years later it took place. You are right to disabuse people of the triumphalism that permeates Missouri, as if "it could never happen here." In fact, I will go one step further than you: if the Missouri Synod were to go down the path that you predict, they still wouldn't be in fellowship with the ELCA or its heirs, and it would be because of the triumphalistic streak ingrained in our synod. We might be twenty times more craven than the ELCA is today, but we'd still pride ourselves on being twenty times more orthodox. We'll substitute parochialism for orthodoxy. (Well, actually we've already being doing that for decades now, but we'll do it even more so.)

    On that note, I really do recommend reading Schiotz's autobiography, because you see how someone who grew up in a fairly orthodox (albeit somewhat pietistic) Norwegian-American household grew up to become a defender of liberal theology. As he outlines the changes in his thinking, he argues that he is a better Lutheran for it. He was the one who defended higher criticism in the ELC and later in TALC, and he was a player on the international ecumenical scene. But he really thinks that he is much better than his stodgier counterparts. If you drop the lefse and lutefisk and throw in a brat and sauerkraut, you could have the future history of the Missouri Synod.

    And so I welcome a pointed warning to Missouri. What I objected to is to your foregone conclusion that the Missouri Synod will be lost and will be as vapid as the ELCA is today. I admit it is a distinct possibility and one should think about whether our decisions today are making that possibility more likely or less likely. But it is one thing to warn people that "let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall" and it is quite another to argue that Missouri is doomed. The former is good and salutary; the other is a sign of despair.

  16. Dear James:

    "If you drop the lefse and lutefisk and throw in a brat and sauerkraut, you could have the future history of the Missouri Synod."


    Pure gold!


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