MARTIN CHEMNITZ PRESS
A MIGHTY FORTRESS LUTHERAN CHURCH
Pastor Gregory L. Jackson, Ph.D.
6421 W. Poinsettia Drive
Pastor Daniel Wagenknecht wrote an odd letter to former WELS members. Below I am quoting only what he wrote about me.
Wednesday, November 25, 1998 12:23 PM
I have not heard the rumors about Pastor Jackson. I only know him from
his writing: Liberalism, Its Cause and Cure (excellent book!), letters
and articles in Christian News (which I no longer read), and the letter
posted on our email forum. From what he writes and from my experiences
with the Seminary and the pastors I have acquaintance with, I know he has
many valid points, but which he also mixes with accusations that I do
not believe to be true. But I don't wish to get into a debate or fight
Pastor Dan Wagenknecht
I find it interesting that this pastor claimed that he did not wish to get into a debate with me. Here he has written that I have published falsehoods “accusations that I do not believe to be true,” but nothing at all is mentioned as a falsehood. The person who wrote him wanted to know his opinion about the secret WELS initiation rites. That would be a good time for Wagenknecht to indicate what is true and not true. This is typical WELS banter: I won’t debate, but I will tell you this. Some is true, but it is exaggerated, mixed with falsehood, etc.
This is the second time I have heard from Wagenknecht, through someone else. He did in fact debate with me on the WELS email chat service, but he did not offer me the courtesy of a copy of his letter. Another WELS pastor forwarded it to me, and I answered Wagenknecht. So he is apparently willing to write about me with an understanding and concerned all-GA audience, but he is not able to write to me directly. And yet WELS pastors will respond to objections about published false doctrine that Matthew 18 has been violated. They demand that their false teachers have a personal audience, face-to-face, with their accusers, but they do not attempt direct communication. That is why so many of their communications have the freshness of a stale locker room story.
Below is the entire text of the letter sent by Wagenknecht
to his WELS audience. I have added a few comments in square brackets [ ].
Date: Wednesday, November 04, 1998 7:50 AM
Subject: [winkel] Re: Initiation Abuse
Greg Jackson paints with a broad brush. It is amazing to see him blame
GA for WELS problems, then, point out the "same" problems in ELS that has
[Pastor Gregory L. Jackson – The article was about all WELS
initiations. In fact, many ELS leaders have graduated from WELS schools –
George Orvick, Bill Peterson, Gaylin Schmeling.]
When I attended WELS prep school, freshman initiation was fairly abusive.
"Running" for Seniors and Juniors was considered part of being a
freshman, not just initiation week, but the entire year. It was a pain,
but not intolerable. By the time I was a Senior, initiation was being
toned down, and that trend continued after I graduated. Same thing at
NWC. I am sure that at MLC there is less of that than at NWC. As far as
I know, Bonecruncher and GA have been toned down a lot, too, mostly
because of the merger of colleges. I also think that at all levels of
our Worker training system, these problems with initiation are being
addressed. Contrary to the Reverend Jackson, we are not all in denial
about initiation abuse and GA abuses.
[Pastor Gregory L. Jackson – Some are in denial. Some WELS pastors claimed that the leaders have no knowledge of initiation, which takes place during school time on school property. Others claimed that their rites were approved and supervised. Some comments were crude and abusive, proving the substance of my article.]
I must say, it doesn't bother me to have Jackson spill the beans about
GA. I think that he overestimates its importance. GA was fun, and
indeed there were some brainwashing types of results. But I don't think
that those who avoided GA were persecuted. And I don't think that it
made WELS pastors into synodical puppets who believe our leaders can do
no wrong. It wouldn't bother me if GA were abolished. (But it would
probably continue underground anyway, with more opportunity for abuses.)
If someone perceives it as a problem, it is not so easily solved.
Jackson has a point with regard to the homosexual jokes. They ought not
to be. Homosexuality is a serious problem for some. It is even possible
that at an all male school the problem can be triggered in some. "Avoid
even a hint of sexual immorality."
[Pastor Gregory L. Jackson – I am glad for this concession.
I believe the confirmation of a problem with homosexuality would be enough
reason to reconsider the whole issue of initiation. No other synod has an
official initiation system. WELS has one at the prep, college, and seminary
If GA has one great unifying factor, it is probably this: In order to
become a WELS pastor it is important to have a sense of humor. Those
that don't will have a difficult time with GA, an unpleasant time at Sem,
and perhaps a gloomy ministry.
[Pastor Gregory L. Jackson – If the GA songs are examples of
humor, then WELS could use a lot less of that. It is possible to have a lot of
fun without crude and cruel jokes. Only a WELS pastor in training would think
it good fun to put up “Buffalo Crossing” signs at the teacher’s college, Dr.
Martin Luther College.]
I know of two "GA injuries" from my sem days. One was a sprained ankle
from running between buildings. The victim played it up as he visited
NWC students. The other was a large bruise in the crotch, incurred by
falling off a chair and onto a bottle. Sleep deprivation and mystery
were big part of GA. I would go through it again, myself. But we need
to be understanding of those who don't like it.
[I understand that another letter from Wagenknecht declared that I had no right to criticize WELS. According to him, neither did former members who left WELS! But WELS has a right to criticize every other synod, including and especially the ELS. The worst comments I ever heard about ELS pastors came from WELS pastors. I think the Wisconsin Synod is a tempting target for many because the leaders are so humorless, self-righteous, and thin-skinned. Herman Otten has often commented to me about how touchy the WELS pastors are. Would they be worse without GA, or better?
I have a lot of friends who are WELS pastors, including some driven out of the ministry by WELS, for no other reason than they dared to hint that WELS was less than perfect. I received a significant number of hostile letters about initiation in WELS, but also a lot of letters backing me up. One pastor said that I should have written much more.
Pastor Wagenknecht is receiving a copy of this letter. He is free to respond to all or part of it. I will be glad to forward his response to my entire mailing list, which goes all over the world. I would like a list, point by point, of every single factual error in my article. If Pastor Wagenknecht cannot do this, he should apologize and stop violating Matthew 18 and the Eighth Commandment.]