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MARTIN CHEMNITZ PRESS

A MIGHTY FORTRESS LUTHERAN CHURCH

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson, Ph.D.

6421 W. Poinsettia Drive

Glendale, Arizona 85304-2419

623-334-8014; chemnitz@uswest.net

 

 

INSTANT NEWS; A TWO-EDGED SWORD

 

I sent around some snide remarks by Pastor Jay Webber, who sent them to Pastor Mark Tuffin. Pastor Tuffin forwarded them to someone who forwarded them to me. Tuffin phoned her to say Webber was mad at him, because Jackson “a most indiscrete man,” sent it around.

 

In “Webber on WELS,” I copied his message calling WELS “our Weaker Evangelical Lutheran Siblings.” My definition of indiscrete is a man who collects money from WELS and is in fellowship with WELS, then makes fun of the name in an email to someone else. Webber has always had this attitude toward WELS and often said the ELS should break fellowship with WELS. ELS pastors are not fond of their fellowship with WELS. Gay Schmeling, the new seminary president, said on the floor of the ELS synod meeting that the ELS would break fellowship with WELS if Wayne Mueller got elected as synod president. (Instead, Gurgel was elected.) Orvick made a sour face when Schmeling voiced this opinion.

 

Those unfamiliar with the ELS and Thoughts of Faith should realize that the organization, led by Pastor John Shep, has always considered itself trans-synodical. This is convenient for everyone. When they are raising money in the ELS and WELS, they are ELS. When they raise money from Floyd Stolzenburg and Marc Schroeder in Columbus, they are an independent organization. I have had ELS pastors insist that Thoughts of Faith is not an ELS organization. So I ask them why ELS President George Orvick commissioned John Shep, Jay Webber, and another man to work in the Ukraine, at an ELS convention! I was there with my wife and watched it happen. Two ELS men told me Roger Kovaciny was not an ELS pastor. I asked them why Kovaciny was listed as one of their ministers on their official list in the directory.

 

My thought is this – Don’t do what you are ashamed of doing. If you have to deceive people about what you are doing, then you should stop doing it or at least stop lying about it.

 

Email is a big problem for the failing, flailing synods. The geriatric leaders do not really understand the Internet and email, but they are used to controlling information. For instance, CLC president Dan Fleischer was furious that people started an email list, called “the CLC Slinger” for news about calls, jokes, comments. Fleischer made sure that he was in charge of all content on the Slinger. He did not want any doctrinal discussions. It was not officially CLC, but it had to submit to his authority. So of course there was a secret list for the insiders. In an organization like the CLC, which is no more than a circuit, one crusty old man can order people around and they obey. After all, a significant number of them are Fleischer’s blood relations!

 

In the larger groups, the ELS, WELS, LCMS, email connects all the pastors, very quickly, all too quickly for some. I am sorry to say that most pastors are not very studious. My friends are exceptions. Overall, pastors are engaged in advancing their careers by making clever moves, undercutting others, avoiding issues, posing as conservatives until elected to high office. I am old enough to have seen young men leave seminary and turn into synodical monsters in a few years, driven by ambition, locked into a life of manipulation and self-serving actions.

 

Email serves as an extended coffee hour, full of gossip, complaints, opinions. I chat with lots of people on email, talking about the weather, etc. It is too bad that most pastors have not taken advantage of the speed and scope of email and the Internet. With three programs, Word, eFTP, and MS Publisher, a pastor can write articles and load them on the Internet, in a free website with no ads. Some sites with ads make loading files especially easy. If you rewind my computer science career, you will find a moment when I did not have a clue about how to design and upload a site.

 

This is the point I want to make about this email business. I think most pastors have wasted most of their time by complaining in a safe way about conditions in their synods. It is true that Orvick, Gurgel, and Barry have been ineffectual leaders because they have avoided the teaching office and favored the political methods that got them their jobs. But they will soon be replaced by clones who promise more but deliver even less. Crying in the beer will not change this. However, if pastors write honestly about doctrinal issues, and their members support them in this effort, the Word will have its effect.

 

The Greeks had a saying, “A chameleon can turn every color except white.” Too many pastors have been Church Growth advocates when it was convenient, against Church Growth when it convenient. They are coffee hour conservatives who agree with their brothers that something must be done during the break, but turn into jellyfish during the actual meeting. I do not advocate any particular action except applying the Word and doing it consistently, as Luther said to George Major:

 

Luther to George Major:

"It is by your silence and cloaking that you cast suspicion upon yourself. If you believe as you declare in my presence, then speak so also in the church, in public lectures, in sermons, and in private conversations, and strengthen your brethren, and lead the erring back to the right path, and contradict the contumacious spirits; otherwise your confession is sham pure and simple, and worth nothing. Whoever really regards his doctrine, faith, and confession as true, right, and certain cannot remain in the same stall with such as teach, or adhere to, false doctrine; nor can he keep on giving friendly words to Satan and his minions. A teacher who remains silent when errors are taught, and nevertheless pretends to be a true teacher, is worse than an open fanatic and by his hypocrisy does greater damage than a heretic. Nor can he be trusted. He is a wolf and a fox, a hireling and a servant of his belly, and ready to despise and to sacrifice doctrine, Word, faith, Sacrament, churches, and schools. He is either a secret bedfellow of the enemies, or a skeptic and a weathervane, waiting to see whether Christ or the devil will prove victorious; or he has no convictions of his own whatever, and is not worthy to be called a pupil, let alone a teacher; nor does he want to offend anybody, or say a word in favor of Christ, or hurt the devil and the world.”

            F. Bente, Concordia Triglotta, Historical Introductions to the Symbolical Books of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 94.  

 

Last of the Stalinists

Stalinism supposedly died with the Soviet Union, but the Lutheran synods continue as museums of Stalinism. The current Lutheran leaders have no qualms about destroying lives and careers out of spitefulness. Nor do they mind propping up clergy sex offenders and embezzlers, or covering up murder.

 

No one has refuted a fact I have shared with the Lutheran world. I am always happy to correct or make more precise something I have published. But there is so much hatred about my articles that anyone known to be associated with me is threatened and abused. I am extremely careful about isolating my sources, so a synod mole does not go after one of my friends. The leaders are so insecure, though, that they can detect a lack of synodical loyalty. I recently sent a list (no names) of pastors abused by WELS for being good pastors who addressed issues honestly. Not one was a false teacher. All of them did their work. They were not adulterers, murderers, or sex offenders. All of them have been treated horribly. Most of them have been driven out of the ministry or would like to leave WELS if they could. Multiply that in the LCMS many times over.

 

By the way, I have always expected trouble, because I am polemical. But these other men have been punished for being good pastors. And they are quite loyal to their synods, until they are broken in pieces. It reminds me of a true story of the Stalin era. A woman was an absolute loyalist to Stalin’s regime. They took her to jail for 10 years. She protested that she had always supported Stalin and was innocent of all charges. The police said, “We know. Otherwise you would get 30 years.”

 

Let me ramble about one instance. For starters I know that the late Robert Preus was not perfect and I saw him operating as a politician. However, I also respected him for the good he accomplished and for his position as a seminary president. When Bohlmann had him fired, not once but twice, it was the swan song of the Bohlmann Reign of Terror, as one wit called it. Barry was swept into office in a squeaker election. All the conservatives worked very hard to overcome the Bohlmann advantage and elect Barry in 1992. Al Barry immediately began compromising with the liberals who hated him. Barry’s administration was extraordinarily rude to the conservatives who elected him.

 

I was in the office of Paul McCain, Al Barry’s campaign manager, elevated to his assistant when the election succeeded. McCain told me that he figured losing that election would mean being forced out of the LCMS, with Barry. But they won. Hooray. McCain at that point was 3 years from seminary graduation. He went to Ft. Wayne under Robert Preus. (One year Preus loyalists were not given calls, because of Bohlmann’s spite and envy.) McCain made it very clear that he and Barry loathed Preus and would not support him in any way.

 

At that time I also attended a meeting of LCMS conservatives. Barry spoke. He made it clear that he was reluctant to speak to this group. He was urged by his staff not to go. But he did it anyway. (These were some of the conservatives who walked on fire to elect him.) He seemed to be saying that his duty as synod president was to love the unlovable. Rolf Preus, son of Robert, attended the meeting and asked Barry to apologize to his father for what had happened. I am not clear on what had developed with Robert Preus at this point, but the idea was that Barry should apologize for the LCMS, not for his own actions. Barry refused. It would have been a fine, Christian effort on the part of Barry. It was disgraceful the way Preus had been treated. Barry was actually worse than Bohlmann in this regard, as things developed. But it would have been good for the Missouri Synod and for all Lutherans to see contrition and forgiveness. I am sure that the final blow shortened the life of Robert Preus. It is far more difficult to be at the top and be humiliated than it is to be thrown out the window on the first floor.

 

Bohlmann’s treatment of a seminary president and Barry’s subsequent actions sent a clear message to all pastors and their children. Now there is a shortage of pastors. Notice that no one has done this to Johnson, the Concordia St. Louis president. He is no different from John Tietjen, but he is left alone.

 

What does this have to do with email and Webber? I think Lutheranism has collapsed because of all the political maneuvering behind the scenes and the extensive dishonesty at the leadership level. As I mentioned before, leaders lie about things that are easily and quickly refuted, such as whether TOF is ELS or whether Kovaciny is ELS. And they lie about taking money from Floyd Stolzenburg, even though they have profusely thanked him and have been quoted in his newsletter for praising him. (I am indiscrete because I quote the liars and then point out the facts.)

 

The rebuke to George Major speaks well to all pastors. Laity must also understand how it applies to them. Pastors have been rewarded for being man-pleasers and for wiggling around every issue. Ministers have also been punished for doing their work. The laity must support their pastors and deal with them as men called by the Holy Spirit through the congregation. The Word is no longer trusted or respected in general, so this has led to a loss of trust in the pastoral office and a lack of respect for ministers in general.

 

Members should consider the following in their relationship with the pastor:

  1. The pastor’s calling is to preach, teach, and visit. The members should respect this and not make him the Recreational Director of the Love Boat.
  2. A full-time pastor should live at the level of his congregation. The members should not murmur and bellyache because having a minister is a cost to them.
  3. The members should maintain a parsonage as well as their own homes, making repairs as quickly as they would their own homes. Neglect of the parsonage is a quiet message of unthankfulness, whether intended or not.
  4. The members should move to a housing allowance, if possible. The advantages are obvious, since special rules apply to the military and to ministers.
  5. Costs to the parish should always be viewed and explained as costs, not as pastoral income. If he visits, his car allowance is not income but a parish cost. Continuing education is not a vacation but a benefit to the parish. Office and computer expenses should be cheerfully repaid by the congregation.
  6. People count their salaries as income but the entire ministerial compensation package as income. Laity should add all their benefits to calculate their real income and should reduce the pastor’s income by items that are repayment of costs (car, education, book allowance). Pastors should also realize that a salary, parsonage (housing allowance), health benefits, etc, add up to a bundle.
  7. The real message is attitude. If the members have a helpful, friendly, and eager to learn attitude, the pastoral ministry is a joy, in spite of difficulties.

 

The pastoral ministry is collapsing, thanks to decades of Stalinist Lutheranism. It started long ago, so I don’t blame Barry, Orvick, and Gurgel alone. But then the current leaders have only accelerated the process. Soon there will be a vast shortage of pastors and no way to replace them. I will write about that later.