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MARTIN CHEMNITZ PRESS
A MIGHTY FORTRESS LUTHERAN CHURCH
Pastor Gregory L. Jackson, Ph.D.
6421 W. Poinsettia Drive
One WELS member has been trying to deal with the rampant unionism in his synod. The synod leaders all say that they must addressed first when there is a question of false doctrine. This, of course, is not Scriptural, since public sins ought to be addressed publicly. Nevertheless, when these synodical scribes and Pharisees are visited or written, in abject humility, they respond by personally attacking the layman and his family.
Unionism is a joint religious activity with another person or denomination where the confessions of faith are not in harmony. The term comes from the forced Prussian Union, when the Lutherans had to give up efficacy of the Word in the Sacraments and conduct themselves as Reformed, forbidden to criticize false doctrine. The Lord’s Supper became symbolic only. Baptismal regeneration was repudiated. Doctrinal indifference grew like a cancer because spiritual discernment was forbidden by law. The Missouri Synod and Buffalo Synod were established in America to escape enforced unionism.
Recently I forwarded a note from a WELS layman about his experiences with the situation at Wisconsin Lutheran College (WELS), where the college invited Martin Marty, a Roman Catholic archbishop, several other Roman Catholics, a Baptism minister, and others to speak on the topic of religion. I copied the letter to WELS seminary professor James Tiefel, WELS district president John Seifert, and Larry Olson (Doctor of Ministry, Fuller Seminary) the C. Peter Wagner Professor of Church Growth at Martin Luther College. Seifert has never responded, although he told me WELS was opposed to unionism, giving me booklets from WELS denouncing the LCMS for tolerating that notorious liberal Martin Marty. Olson wrote once to say that any email from me would be considered spam. Tiefel, who organized his World Council of Churches worship conference at Carthage College, did write back. His note is in quotations below:
JAMES TIEFEL LETTER
“All this letter does is prove there is another sinner in
the WELS. Hardly earth
James P. Tiefel
Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary
11822 N. Seminary Dr.
Mequon, WI 53092
END OF TIEFEL LETTER
Tiefel’s response is typical of WELS and ELS answers to questions about recent apostasy. Instead of contrition, we find arrogance. Instead of listening to concerns from the members and pastors, we see defiance. (One ELS pastor responded to polite questions about doctrine by visiting the person’s in-laws and threatening to excommunicate them.)
This is one more shameful episode in the apostasy of WELS. Archbishop Weakland has already spoken at a luncheon at Wisconsin Lutheran College. One district president tried to spin this as a few select students having lunch with the servant of the anti-Christ. However, the hand-out invited everyone to attend (not that the actual numbers mattered) and clearly advertised the religious topic of the address. In this way, since WELS president Gurgel defended the action, the synod expressed unity with the Church of Rome. Perhaps they should read Catholic, Lutheran, Protestant.
When ELCA expresses unity with the Church of Rome, the conservative Lutherans are quick to excoriate the largest Lutheran group in America for unionism. However, that is ELCA’s expressed doctrinal position. WELS, Missouri, and the ELS are being horribly hypocritical when they denounce ELCA for expressing its doctrinal position. WELS, Missouri, and the ELS violate their doctrinal positions every day, then try to hide what they are doing. If someone asks them about the facts of the matter, may God have mercy, because the synod won’t.
The ELS, often promoted an alternative to WELS and Missouri, is no better. When Erling Teigen at Bethany College (ELS) opened the Ylvisaker Center, he asked a Roman Catholic bishop to speak. No one minded. When a local pastor asked about the public identification of Bethany with the anti-Christ, since the event was in the Mankato newspaper, Teigen responded, “I thought we were friends.” Teigen is the editor of Logia, advertised as a confessional Lutheran journal! (No wonder the ELS had nothing to say about James Tiefel’s World Council of Churches Worship Conference at Carthage College [ELCA].)
So how does one stop the rampant identification of the LCMS, WELS, and ELS with ELCA, the Reformed, and the Church of Rome?
1. Zero tolerance of unionism. Pastors and laity must note the facts of unionistic activity and then object strenuously to those activities. Clergy and lay indifference have allowed the leaders (whether Al Barry and Paul McCain in Missouri, or Tiefel and Gurgel in WELS, or Orvick and Teigen in the ELS) to plunge ahead and do even worse things.
2. Store the facts in a file. I prefer to use my database, Megatron, since a database can call up the facts, verbatim, and do so in a given order.
3. Study the Internet. What synods say about themselves can be quite telling. Missouri listed two insurance companies and ELCA—with links--as “ministry partners” on their website, left it that way for months, then got huffy when I pointed this out in Christian News.
4. Study the Scriptures (KJV or NKJV) and the old Lutheran writers. The Synodical Conference theologians and the General Council men published great books where they repudiated unionism.
5. Study Luther and the Book of Concord. One should refuse to join in religious activities with other confessions out of conviction, not in a spirit of Pietistic superiority.
6. Repudiate open communion, semi-open communion, and “don’t ask, don’t tell” communion. A) Open communion allows anyone to commune. B) Semi-open communion pretends to be close communion, but opens the door to anyone who speaks to the minister at least 10 seconds. C) “Don’t ask, don’t tell” communion simply avoids any announcement in the bulletin or any effort to find out if the participants belong to the same synod. One WELS pastor communed a woman and her young son, who did not even know what denomination of church they were attending for the first time. (Another variation is to commune the first time anyone who comes forward, then visit the person and explain why that was wrong. One WELS circuit pastor did this.)
MAJOR BLUNDERS IN THE OLD SYNODICAL CONFERENCE
Pastors and laity have missed important opportunities to blunt the surge of unionism in the Missouri Synod, Wisconsin Synod, and the Evangelical Lutheran Synod. I will list a few of them.
A. Missouri and WELS joined the liberals in Lutheran World Relief. This is called “fellowship in externals.” The excuse offered is that Lutherans can pool their efforts in sending clothing and other goods overseas, as long as they are not caught praying together. Old man Pfotenhauer, the last orthodox LCMS president, said, “Resist the beginnings.” Patsy Leppien, who wrote What’s Going on among the Lutherans?, told me she thought Lutheran apostasy started with joint relief work after World War I.
B. Missouri, WELS, and the ELS allowed themselves to be sucked in as auxiliaries of the fraternal insurance companies. Although mere ownership of a fraternal policy is not a sin, the congregations and synods must all work together and promote each other in order to get a few bucks from AAL or LB.
C. WELS never resisted the temptation to praise herself for breaking with Missouri, (in the 60s) when in fact, the action came only when the WELS and ELS threatened to unravel from leaders and congregations quitting. For instance, an ELS president quit the ELS, and the WELS seminary president quit WELS. Can anyone imagine David Valleskey leaving WELS in opposition to unionism?
D. Missouri never resisted the temptation to praise herself for winning the Seminex war, even though the LCMS quickly began capitulating to Seminex supporters within the synod.
E. Missouri, WELS, and the ELS, crowing over their doctrinal purity, sent all their leaders to Fuller Seminary and began promoting (through world missions, then American missions) Reformed doctrine and methods. Almost no one objected to the Church Growth Movement.
F. When tongue-speaking invaded the LCMS, nothing was done to repudiate the doctrinal foundation of people who act as if they “swallowed the Holy Ghost, feathers and all,” to quote Luther. WELS has been a little more critical of the charismatics.
G. Cell groups. Promoted by the Church Growth Movement, cell groups are an ideal way to introduce tongue-speaking and women ministers.
H. Books. Missouri and WELS have let orthodox books go out of print while promoting non-Lutheran books packed with false doctrine.
I. Legalism. Creating man-made laws will not perfect our nature. Legalism quickly gives way to lawlessness, thus: “I can pray at my house with them at meals, but I can’t pray with them at their house at meals. I can send blankets to Hottentots with them but I can’t go to their worship service. I can go to their worship service as long as no one catches me praying. I can worship with them as long as no one reports it in Christian News.” In fact, ELS President George Orvick and Bethany Seminary president worshiped with the LCMS at the Ft. Wayne seminary’s graduation service. They smiled and said, “Don’t put this in Christian News.”
J. Missouri and WELS began sending leaders to Willow Creek Community Church. Many LCMS congregations belong to two denominations at once now, since they are members of the Willow Creek Association.
K. Pastors refused to confront the false doctrine of leaders, making convenient excuses for them. The LCMS structure is almost completely controlled by Church Growth advocates. WELS has done nothing about James Tiefel, Larry Olson, David Valleskey, Paul Kelm, Wayne Mueller, James Huebner, and many others. One MUST take Kelm’s course in Reformed doctrine in order to graduate from Wisconsin Lutheran College. Hey, isn’t that the college that had the Roman Catholic archbishop speak on religion?
L. Talking about women’s suffrage and ordination. The conservatives lost the syntax war by allowing themselves to be painted into a corner. The Bible does not address suffrage since voting is a foreign concept for the Scriptures. Likewise, the narrow term of women’s ordination welcomes the camel’s nose into the tent. (The camel parable has a camel asking only that his nose be allowed in the tent at first. Later, the entire camel is in and the poor Arab is out.) The Biblical terms are “women usurping authority” and “women teaching men.” Women can usurp authority without voting. One sect has women coming to the voters’ meeting and whispering their commands in their poor husbands’ ears. James Tiefel had WELS women teaching men at his Sadie Hawkins Worship Conference at Carthage. Roger Kovaciny, ELS missionary to Greater Russia, had a non-Lutheran woman teaching his adult class. Mike Nitz, the son of a district president, had a woman leading a cell group on Sunday at St. Paul in Columbus.
Some unfortunate things can happen, often because of the pressure of the moment. Nevertheless, orthodoxy is not defined by being perfect but by faithfully adhering to the principles taught by the Scriptures. If an error has been made, it can be corrected. The more public the error, the greater the need for public correction, repudiation, and retraction.
If someone resists taking remedial measures, it may be because he believes in what he is doing. He may be trying to boil the frog by slowly increasing the temperature in the pot of water. I warned people that WELS leaders were being guided by The Frog in the Kettle, by Church Growth guru George Barna, who advocates introducing change slowly. Soon after, a WELS member told one of my members that he was given a book to read by his pastor – The Frog in the Kettle. (Confidential to WELS members: you are the frog.)
We do not owe love, friendship, or tolerance to errorists. It is far more loving, in the genuine sense of the word, to repudiate their error than to condone it. We can be friendly to heretics, in the hope of having the chance to speak the Word of Truth to them. But when they teach against God’s Word, against God Himself, our attitude should be, quoting Luther, “May God dash you to the ground.”
Ironic note: James P. Tiefel, once the pope at GA, the WELS secret initiation rite for seminarians, fought against the liberalism of Theodore Hartwig, specifically his infamous “Second Isaiah” paper, which was never retracted, in spite of synodical promises. Later, both served on the same joint commission to create the new, dreadful WELS hymnal, Christian Worship. On the same commission was Iver Johnson, who was “under discipline” and kicked out for promoting women’s suffrage.