Wednesday, May 07, 2008

You Should Be Aware

Those of you in the LCMS who read this should be aware:

1. That if you or your congregation are donating to Missions or Board of Human Care, they are not getting your money. Your money is being held in a general fund investment account so that the the Synod, NOT the BOHC or missions, gets the proceeds from the interest. In fact, most of the funds going to Human Care have been frozen, very possibly for political reasons, since Rev. Matt Harrison has indicated he would be willing to run for president of the LCMS next convention. I know that even if you wouldn't specifically call yourself liturgical or confessional....you might be very concerned about this.

2. That the LCMS is at least 20 million dollars in debt. Not only that, they are taking that debt and dividing it among its ministries, forcing them to support the weight of this debt. So ministries such as KFUO, for instance, the oldest Christian radio station in the nation, has $300,000 added to its budget that they have to meet, rather than simply meeting the costs of running the radio station. They also are continuing to pursue financing that takes us further in debt.

Because of these budgetary restraints (at least reportedly), one casualty has been the radio show "Issues, Etc.," a very popular show for the thinking Christian, that has been a very successful outreach and support to Christians worldwide (because it is one of the few that has managed to successfully utilize podcasts and modern technology that is more convenient and used by those who know computers...at least so my eleven year old tells me ;) ) . This decision to cancel our most successful ministry through KFUO was done without knowledge of the board that immediately supervises KFUO, the Board of Communications, and it seems the only other person aware of this decision to do so was President Kieschnick himself. (as of late, almost 7500 signatures by Lutherans and those outside our denomination have been added to a petition to restore Issues, Etc., and five synodical districts have issued resolutions encouraging Synod to restore the program and to apologize to Pastor Wilken and producer Jeff Schwarz for the way this situation was handled).

This also happened during Holy Week, immediately after an interview with Rev. Harrison (see #1) was aired twice in the previous week (common practice with Issues Etc.) regarding the book that he published containing issues from some of our Synod's leading minds concerning women's ordination.

3. Also, when you donate to LCMS ministries such as KFUO, the Lutheran Foundation takes a rather large cut of the money that comes in. I rather like the Lutheran Foundation. They do good things and help support congregations. But I believe that those who donate should be aware of that 30 % of your donation goes to them.

4. You should also know that our missionaries have been called home in DROVES. We basically no longer have a mission field in Latin America, an area that once was thriving. Missionaries who have devoted their entire lives to reaching out to the lost in our world, who have abandoned all comfort for the sake of Christ are simply being given a letter saying that funding is stopped and thank you very much for your service. We haven't heard from them much because they are hoping for the opportunity to be allowed to serve again, to get called to congregations in the United States, and to have means to care for their families.

5. The amounts for Synod debt currently are roughly comparable to the cost of the Ablaze (TM) program that our president has promoted.

6. Funds acquired by Ablaze to support churches who are reaching out have been used to support churches that are teaching false theology and refusing to use the name "Lutheran" in their names, a violation of a synod resolution regarding the use of mission funds.

7. The president of our synod has also suggested that the president should be the one to pick heads of synodical boards, rather than the voters at the conventions, because it would be more efficient to have board heads who are in line with his goals. This president also said publicly at the Indiana District Convention two years ago, that those who did not share the goals of synod (the current administration) were welcome to leave.

8. At our last convention, the administration proposed a convention to draw up a new constitution. It will take place immediately before the next synodical convention in 2010. The group responsible for composing and leading the process to change the constitution is the administration that made the previous suggestion.

9. Those that are expressing doubt and concern about any of these issues, rather than being met with invitations to dialogue, to open the financial records of the synod, or to address any of these concerns, have instead been met with generic exhortations to follow the 4th Commandment (respecting and trusting authority) and the 8th Commandment (using it as an encouragement to 'think the best' of the people who are the decisionmakers).

Please prayerfully consider these things. I am not the best source for information that is going on in the synod (and I don't necessarily understand accounting), and the Synodical website and publications certainly are not.

But Lutherans have taken to the internet to disperse information, and there are many reliable sources here as well. I point your attention to Save the LCMS, Augsburg 1530, and a great social connecting site specifically for Lutherans where discussions about these things and all other things Lutheran, Wittenberg Trail. There are others, but I leave it to you to mine the depths of the rich Lutheran Blogosphere.

13 comments:

elephantschild said...

Thank you for writing this up. It's good to have all these things listed in one place.

Marie N. said...

My friend told his services would no longer be needed in Togo. He never even got there, but spent the last two years preparing to begin while in Burkina Faso. I didn't realize many missionaries were called home. I do know synod prefers to send DCEs and English teachers rather than pastors as missionaries.

Polly said...

Thanks for this distillation. I read all those angry lutheran type blogs, but my eyes tend to glaze over after a while and I am missing things.

Thursday's Child said...

That's a shame. I hope they can get new administration SOON. Sounds like it's sorely needed.

tlotliso said...

RPW, I'm curious about your point #6 above. Can you give a specific example of the false theology being taught at a funded church (or a link to an example)? Thanks.

The Rebellious Pastor's Wife said...

tlotliso,

Because it is late, and my hubby wants me to get my butt off of the computer and come and spend time with him, I am going to give the token example that is going about right now, partially because it is such a good example.

http://www.jhchurch.org/pages.asp?pageid=13502

This is the "about us" page at Jefferson Hills Church in a suburb of St. Louis.

First look at the mission statement: Our Mission is Love God. Connect People. Impact the World. – Passionate commitment to living out this mission is the best way we can be authentic followers of Jesus!

The focus is completely on what I am doing. There is very little about what Christ did for me. Being a follower of Christ isn't about how we love God, it isn't about how we reach out, and it isn't about how we impact the world. It is about Christ crucified. It is about what HE has done for us. We tell others about Christ and show love to our neighbors because Christ loves us. Not because that is what the Christian life is about. Lutheran theology would say the Christian life is about returning every day to the cross and repenting of our sins and in faith, receiving His forgiveness.

There is precious little gospel here. Even the parts that proclaim the gospel are so much less clear than the promise that if you become involved in this church and its programs, that you will be enriched and blessed. That is not Christianity.

Membership:

Since when has an LCMS church denied membership to anyone desiring to be fed and nurtured in a congregation to someone who will not tithe or does not attend a Bible Study group? Membership is about baptism. A person is part of the body of Christ if they are baptized and they believe. Who are they to refuse membership to someone who confesses the faith because they do not want to tithe? We certainly hope that a person would want to return some of the blessings that God has given them, but to make that a key part of their requirements for membership in a congregation is ridiculous and terribly legalistic. The whole thing sounds like more what you would agree to if you joined a lodge or a country club.

Look at the Covenant Statement at the bottom of the page. There is no mention of what Christ did to save us. There is no confession of faith. There is a signed covenant with the church that you will go to their Small Groups, attend worship, and help out in the community. Noble things...but not what being part of the body of Christ is about.

Theology of Worship - Worship for this congregation is about having a message so that someone who has never heard the gospel can walk through the doors and come to faith. Obviously we all want people to hear God's Word and come to believe in Him. However, Lutheran theology holds that worship is not for the lost...it is for the believer. We come to God's house because He has called us there as lambs in His flock to feed us, nurture us through the Word and Sacrament. Then we go out into the world and show His love. But we need to be fed and strengthened.

They would say that is what the groups are for. But the groups also minimize the theology of the called pastor. They emphasize so strongly the priesthood of all believers that they minimize the fact that God does place shepherds over us to proclaim His love, teach us, and administer the sacraments. Small groups eliminate much of what the undershepherd is supposed to be to the flock. The undershepherd is not able to supervise what is being taught so that proper doctrine is taught, so that he knows what the members of his congregation confess. Instead, that is up to the community of the small group.

The key theological error here is a very strong confusion of Law and Gospel, which is the ultimate doctrine in Lutheran theology. Law tells us what we are supposed to do. It convicts us because we cannot do it. It also guides us so that we do know what God's will is, and as those who are saved through faith in His death and resurrection, we can show love to Him and to our neighbor.

The Gospel is the good news that we don't earn our own forgiveness, because we can't. We know we can't. Christ saved us by dying on the cross and rising again. Through baptism, we are made one with that death and resurrection.

They turn the moment that a person becomes a member of Christ into a promotion and a car wash event!!!

This church confuses this. They do proclaim we are only saved through faith...but they also proclaim a method to obtaining a fulfilling relationship with God which is based on their mission statement. They focus on the Law right from the start, and never move to the Gospel, except in its little anagram in passing.

Luther stood against this very thing in his fight against the Catholic Church and against the Anabaptists. C.F.W. Walther wrote the cornerstone of the LCMS doctrine "Proper Distinction of Law and Gospel" about this very error. Yet this church bases their whole identity on it. These pastors went to our seminaries and were trained in how to properly distinguish law and gospel. Yet they are binding the consciences of their flock by tying their membership and relationship with God into a list of steps and levels of participation in the goals of an individual congregation.

There are worse congregations out there. I've seen them before. Right now, I don't have the links. I don't know all of which receive mission funds. I do know of mission churches that have really good theology though that have been denied missions funds because they weren't modern enough or doing enough to attract people from the community.

If anyone else knows of any, feel free to list some names.

Rebekah said...

RPW, thanks for putting this together. One thing that cought my eye was your comment that there is almost no mission work going on in Latin America. Just yesterday I received the e-newsletter from a very Ablaze! church of my past, which included this prayer request:

MISSIONARY PRAYER. Remember the Abaze! Alliance Missionaries as you pray for the Lord to bless the leadership of LCMS World Mission and partner church bodies in Latin America as they discuss future partnerships in the region.

I wonder what this could mean?

The Rebellious Pastor's Wife said...

Rebekah,

I honestly don't know what it means. I am sure we still have a few missions, but Ablaze also focuses very strongly on short term missions, such as congregations sending groups to Latin America to do mercy trips and such. These are good things. But in the past, these groups were there to assist and encourage the missionaries that were there. We have abandoned the model of having missionaries go and plant churches, instead we now send people there for a short period of time to tell people about Jesus and kind of hope they start their own churches.

We also according to the letter that is going around, are requiring our missionaries to raise $120,000 a year to support themselves abroad, while they are in the field and doing it themselves. No wonder that missionaries look frantic when they come home on sabbatical and start their whirlwind tour to the churches that have been sponsoring them. This letter can be found on Weedon's blog and on Augsburg 1530.

shieldwolf said...

Thank you for the information. Most of the time such information comes from the "Angry Confessional" types who wear the metaphorical "we worship better than you" sweat shirts. These problems need to be addressed openly and honestly. You can have modern music styles and such, but you must keep the Lutheran theology---especially that of Law and Gospel or you might as well admit you are a Zwinglian/Reformed Church as it sounds this one you quote is.
Blessings,
RK
Lansing,MI

Jane said...

Thanks for this post. A nice summary of things that have been happening.

rr adventurer said...

Thanks for adding another blip to blogosphere -- but with a somber note rather than an angry one.

There is a new 'Ablaze' church in our county: The circuit closed down an existing LCMS church (forcing lifetime members to migrate to area churches: this includes elderly who have had their church taken away from them, it seems. It was seen as the solution instead of "just" letting the congregation "die out". Sunday mornings they now rent the space to another denomination. They are now using Ablaze money to "re-open" the "church" with a new, non-lutheran name.
http://www.gcnews.com/news/2008/0307/Community/067.html

creative? yes. But is it wise stewardship to go through the song-and dance to close a congregation, in order to get ablaze money to support "something new"?

Anna said...

As someone who wants to go into mission work, I'm somewhat ashamed to admit that I've considered leaving the LCMS because they're cutting opportunities and funding for missionaries. When it gets to the point that the hearing of the Gospel isn't worth much in a church, what do you do? Especially when on paper, the doctrine confessed is still scriptural.

I find it interesting the the LCMS just dropped a church - an entire church body! - in India and willingly gave it to the ELS. What's next? All of southeast Asia? Let's throw Africa into the mix as well.

Bob said...

My letter to the Synodical President about the deepening fall of Missouri, was passed to an assistant who gave me the One People, One Mission, One Message spiel. The tone seemed like it or leave.
The clergy are also not immune to being "kicked out". If they are considered too Lutheran, too conservative, they are given the ultimatum.