Friday, January 24, 2014

Sabre of Boldness Goes to Rev. Michael Brockman

The Sabre of Boldness was awarded to Rev. Michael Brockman on Thursday evening, January 23rd, on the campus of Concordia Theological Seminary after the Symposia banquet.  The editors of Gottesdienst selected Pastor Brockman from a slate of six nominees, all of whom we count honorable and worthy of the award.

Rev. Michael Brockman returned from missionary service in Venezuela in the 1990s to serve in Scottsbluff, Nebraska, doing Hispanic outreach.  Then, after serving briefly in Iowa, he took a call to serve Christ Lutheran Church in Hutchinson, Kansas.  From the beginning of his tenure in Hutchinson, district officials were hostile to traditional Lutheran preaching and practice, attempting to force Church Growth methodology upon Pastor Brockman and his flock.  Through the Spirit-inspired preaching and instruction of Pastor Brockman, his flock was able to resist, but twice the district managed to foster and abet the fomenting of open rebellion in the congregation.  Still, Pastor Brockman and his little band were able to stand on God's pure Word and endure, but the  devastation wrought by the failed coups left the faithful with a Pyrrhic victory, and they were never able fully to recover financially or institutionally.  In order to remain preaching in Hutchinson and serving these heroes who stood with him against false doctrine, Pastor Brockman took pay cut after pay cut and part-time jobs.  The congregation, to buy some time, eventually sold the parsonage, and the Brockman family moved into a rental. At length, Pastor Brockman's sacrificial service to the saints in Hutchinson cost him his career and his income, and caused terrible mental anguish.

After nearly two decades the congregation was forced to close its doors, and when the Church should have been handing Pastor Brockman a retirement bonus and asking him to teach young pastors in the way, instead he has now been called to an unpaid position at a Lutheran Church in Wichita with a friend and compatriot Pastor Geoff Boyle, with whom he continues humbly and faithfully to proclaim the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for the life of the world.

Honored to know Pastor Brockman, the editors of Gottesdienst are pleased to announce him as the recipient of the Sabre of Boldness, and commend his faithful and humble service as an exemplary pattern of a Christian life.


  1. Don't forget to mention his time at St. James Lutheran Church in Scottsbluff Nebraska. When I served there from 2007-2010 I worked to carry on Pastor Brockman's legacy of Hispanic outreach and Lutheran renewal, amid a climate of Romophobia and especially anti-Hispanic racism.

    One little fireside story I like to tell is of a processional crucifix purchased during Brockman's ministry which was placed on the altar with the corpus facing the back wall, exposing mounting screws and everything. Soon after arriving I saw it sitting backwards in the sanctuary so I turned it around. The next week the corpus was facing the wall again. This took place a few weeks in a row until I asked the president about it.
    The people were led to believe that it was only appropriate to look at it on Good Friday, so he was "fixing it".

    The only time I used it as a processional was for the Baptism of two youngest children in a Hispanic family next door. The father, an Venezeulan immigrant who spoke little English, went through adult classes with me one on one with a Spanish/English catechism. He would read a section in Spanish out loud and I would explain it in English. He remarked that in his home land everybody was Roman Catholic by name but did not take it seriously, whereas we genuinely believe and practice our Faith.

    It was a great moment for me to rejoice with so many of their friends and family at the Baptism and adult confirmation. Sadly not a single member of the parish showed up to share it with us. The attitude toward this family was often openly hostile. I was informed that the church had tried to minister to the Mexicans once before, under Pastor Brockman of course, but didn't gain a single new member or dollar in the offer plate. It was seen as a waste of time and investment.

    I am glad to see my brother receive some public recognition for his labors.

    1. This is not a criticism of ministering to Hispanics who enter the USA legally or illegally, surely the Word of God is preached and taught to all. However, is there a reason to consider the two hands of God when encountering illegal aliens? Illegal aliens are after all criminals by their very presence in the USA. I think it is good to minister to them, but also to insist that they notify the local authorities of their status. What do you think?

    2. I have never asked a parishioner for proof of citizenship. Shouldn't the 8th commandment impel me to presume that my parishioners - black, white, or brown - are not 'criminals'? I even have some with foreign accents, people who are obviously not native. And in Louisiana, the natives are often the ones with the 'foreign' accent.

      Unless one is an ICE officer, it seems that we don't have the vocation to snoop about visas and passports, nor should we make presumptions about people based on accents, skin color, or cultural differences. The Lord's kingdom is "not of this world," and the City of God (as described in Revelation) is filled with multitudes of every tribe, race, and culture.

      I'm sure the state would like nothing more than to enlist pastors into a kind of immigration Stasi to sniff out all sorts of people - as well as those who confess to being drug users, those with politically-incorrect attitudes, and other matters. I don't think that is any of the church's business.

    3. This is not a criticism of ministering to Hispanics who enter the USA legally or illegally, surely the Word of God is preached and taught to all. However, is there a reason to consider the two hands of God when encountering illegal aliens? Illegal aliens are after all criminals by their very presents in the USA. I think it is good to minister to them, but also to insist that they notify the local authorities of their status. What do you think?

    4. I do also think there is a danger in accepting the state's definition of who is legal and who is a criminal, especially when that status is only a matter of a person's ethnicity, not based on the person committing an act of aggression.

      After all, hiding Anne Frank in the closet was a crime, by defintion. The law was clear: Anne Frank's citizenship status forbade her from living outside of the ghetto, and anyone who aided her in breaking the law was a 'criminal.'

      I would hope Lutherans in Germany didn't make the argument that the authorities needed to be informed about such matters pertaining to citizenship and legal status and hiding "criminals" from the authorities, and that illegal Jews should have turned themselves in to the authorities - but I do fear they probably did. :-(

  2. Father Beane,

    Good response, I suppose I am not up to speed on the doctrine of God's left hand and God's right hand on earth. So, maybe a pastor is exempt from the law of the land by virtue of the confidentiality of Confession and Absolution? I agree that race and ethnicity do not bar anyone from heaven. Maybe only lay people are under the law of the state in God's economy? Still as a citizen, it seems good to encourage criminals to seek to follow the law of the country they reside in. I would think that in a state of confession, of a criminal act, that the pastor would not only forgive the sinner, but encourage the sinner to amend their ways and confess to authorities what they are guilty of for the good of the community? I agree that a pastor should not become an arm of law enforcement under the state of confession and absolution. Even Richard Speck sought forgiveness from an LCMS pastor before, or perhaps, after his arrest for murdering 7 or 8 nurses in Chicago a long time ago.

    Stephen Harris,
    Head Elder and Subdeacon at St. Paul's Ev. Lutheran Church in Kewanee, Il.

  3. Dear Stephen:

    There is no legal requirement for anyone to rat people out. Moreover, unless someone were to confess to me that they are 'illegal' - how would I know? And if they did confess it, I'm really not in a position to say anything.

    But at any rate, we have a lot of Spanish-speaking people in America who benefit from missionaries like Father Michael. And that is, in fact, how our ancestors came to be Christians. :-)

  4. Dear Pater Beane,

    "There is no legal requirement for anyone to rat people out."

    Well, what do we say to Romans 13 and "... Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's." It is the Christian's vocation, as well as Luther's three estates, to comply with just laws of the land that do not violate God's Holy word. I do not believe that a sovereign nation is in violation of God's word when it endeavors to secure its borders. After all if anyone can freely cross our borders, then it is highly likely that a Muslim, all of which are terrorist, could do so also, they are vehemently anti-Christian, anti-Jewish, anti-infidel, and do not integrate into the society they migrate to. Even the Pentagon is considering allowing soldiers to wear turbans and sport beards. Turbans do not do a good job of protecting the head and beards do not seal gas masks. It's madness! We need to profile enemies of the state.

    "Moreover, unless someone were to confess to me that they are 'illegal' - how would I know? And if they did confess it, I'm really not in a position to say anything."

    From the stand point of confession and absolution, a pastor must not, even under threat of judicial punishment, to reveal what a penitent confesses. As was the case, I am lead to believe, of the case of Richard Speck. The LCMS pastor did not testify in court what he had heard in the confessional. However, if a person reveals to you, outside of the confessional, that he or she is an illegal alien, what then, as a citizen, is a pastor responsibility to the state?

    "And that is, in fact, how our ancestors came to be Christians."

    My German ancestors came to the USA via Elias Island. I do not know how my British ancestors came to the USA. I think they may have preceded the revolution? At any rate I do not understand your statement.

    BTW your may have determined. by now, that I oppose amnesty.

    Yours in Christ,

    Stephen Harris

  5. Dear Stephen:

    US law does not require a citizen to report someone else breaking the law. Otherwise, you would be under obligation to phone in violations to the police every day: speeding, littering, people parking in the handicapped spot, etc. Again, it is not the law of the land that you must rat anyone out. If you see someone steal something from the store, you may indeed report them. That would be a good and moral thing. But again, there is no federal or state laws requiring it.

  6. Dear Stephen:
    Sometimes my phone locks up before I finish writing as above. I'm sorry that ended abruptly! Anyway, our ancestors became Christians in the vast majority of cases long before Ellis Island, thanks to missionaries like Patrick and Boniface.

  7. Dear Stephen:

    Okay, I'm on my laptop now (sorry for the barrage, there is a bug in the phone interface).

    I think we need to be careful that we don't allow talk-radio show hosts to whip us up into a frenzy, the way that Jews were dehumanized by many a good Lutheran in World War II Germany, or right here in our own country when we built internment camps with barbed wire and watchtowers to "relocate" and "detain" peaceful Asian families. All the appeals in the world to the legality of Hitler's or Roosevelt's policies based on Romans 13 are not going to make a very good argument for Christian concentration camps.

    The "all Muslims are terrorists" statement might be one to run by Pastor Hicham Chehab - who was himself a Muslim and converted to Christianity. He engages in outreach to American Muslims (sometimes he even wears a turban). If they are *all* terrorists, and Pastor Chehab eats at table with them (remember that Jesus had a disciple named Simon the Zealot, and the Zealots weren't exactly poly-sci majors in tweed jackets debating interest rates while smoking pipes around a mahogany table), maybe he should be investigated for aiding and abetting terrorists? If "all Muslims are terrorists" then Pastor Chehab is a threat to the United States, so it follows from your premise.

    Scripture teaches us that Jesus died for all people regardless of color or language, even if they smell like garlic or curry, even if the men wear turbans or the women wear scarves, even if their skin is brown, and even if they have bushy eyebrows or watch soccer instead of football. US Army veteran Timothy McVeigh was a terrorist. My India-born Muslim friend of 25 years, Bhaya, who has a nice wife and family, works hard and pays taxes, and lives in New York, is not a terrorist.

    I say this with respect and genuine fraternal affection, I really think you should retract the "all Muslims are terrorists" statement and reconsider how that is not compatible with the 8th commandment. It's one thing when statements like that are thrown around in the abstract for entertainment shock value to sell 1-800-flowers or Lifelock, but its something else when you consider that these are real human beings created in God's image for whom Christ died.


  8. What an interesting exchange, which I just now read for the first time.

    First, I think Fr. Beane's stance toward immigrants is the stance every pastor must take. We are not agents of the State, and we are obligated to put the best construction on things.

    That said, I do not think Stephen meant to say that all Muslims are terrorists, but that all terrorists have been Muslim. That would be an argument in favor of profiling by the TSA, which I would support even if I were Muslim. It would not, however, be an argument in favor of looking sideways at a person of Arab descent in one's congregation.

    Immigration laws and the debating of them is a matter for lawmakers to take up in earnest, and I certainly do not think our churches should advertise themselves as places of asylum for illegals. Comparisons to Nazi Germany don't quite work, in my opinion, since no one is advocating concentration camps or firing squads. On the other hand, as Christian citizens we are obligated to do good to all, as St. Paul says in the Epistle we heard just yesterday: If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men (Rom. 12).

    1. Well, a phrase a phrase such as "a Muslim, all of which are terrorist" could very easily be understood to be meant to say that all Muslims are terrorists. In fact, it would put some strain on the epistemological principles generally accepted in the Western world to understand it in any other way.

      It is news to me that Timothy McVeigh was Muslim, and George Habash (of whom it is generally claimed that he was born and raised in a Christian family and never converted), and Rote Armee Fraktion, and Action Directe, and the Blekingegade Gang, and all other terrorists ...

  9. Father Eckardt and Father Beane,

    Thank you both for your input on issues involving Christian citizenship, church and state, etc. I think my posts, in response to Pastor Harris, were out of place and detracted from the honor due to Pastor Brockman. It was good for my wife and I to be present at The Sabre of Boldness award this year.

    In Christ's love,

    Stephen Harris
    Head Elder and Subdeacon at St. Paul's Ev. Lutheran Church in Kewanee, Il.

  10. The story was just updated to fix some minor inaccuracies.

  11. Another interesting interesting tidbit about Pastor Brockman is that he would let local homeless and Native Americans set up a tent on the parsonage lawn. This upset certain very upstanding and stogy German patriarchs and matriarchs so much they were still complaining about those "damn Indians" to me twenty years later.
    (Cecil. Are you a troll or do you genuinely hold to these ideas? There is a stereotype that all Germans and thus Lutherans are bigoted Nazis. What are you doing to counter this stereotype?)


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