The Daniel Preus letter
In considering former First Vice President Daniel Preus’ objections to Res. 7-02A (Reporter, Sept ’04), he and the Synod should keep in mind what the Commission on Constitutional Matters has already said. In the minutes of its Dec. 13, 2003, meeting, the CCM “noted in Opinion 02-2309 `that when an ecclesiastical supervisor discovers error in his counsel, it is incumbent upon that supervisor to correct or amend it. The member should then be held to consider the corrected counsel.’ The protections of the Synod as expressed in Opinion 02-2309 are protections of one’s membership in Synod and not a protection from the duty and responsibility to constantly consider the appropriateness of one’s actions in view of the Word of God. No one is immune from responsible, God-pleasing conduct and behavior or personal accountability before God.”
The opinion says bad advice is to be corrected when it comes to light, and it does not imply that we are not responsible before God for our behavior.
As for his objections to Res. 8-01A, it seems to me that lay people still have ways to question and hold their pastor accountable for his teaching and practice — they just cannot immediately bring charges against him. A lay person who has questions about the pastor’s teaching could discuss the matter with him (a good first step in any case). If the matter is not resolved, he can talk with other members of the church, especially the elders. If the congregation becomes convinced the pastor is teaching falsely, the members can bring charges (it is the congregation as a whole that would then be bringing charges). The member also can consult the circuit counselor or even the district president.
It seems to me that neither of these resolutions removes from anyone the responsibility, to the best of his or her abilities before God, to remain faithful to their Lord, to His Word, and to their ordination/commissioning vows. Nor does it remove from anyone accountability for his or her actions. It does make perhaps a bit harder — surely a bit more deliberate — the process of kicking them out if necessary. Surely, our priority should be to correct errors when they are made, not to decide theological issues by heresy trial and dispute resolution.
Rev. Daniel Fienen
In the latest Reporter, Daniel Preus is quoted as asking what is accomplished by forming a new “14-member synod.” The bigger question is, what’s the purpose of a synod at all?
A synod serves a good purpose for Christ’s church only as far as it is faithful to God’s Word and gives a true confession. When a synod is unfaithful, it is worse than having no synod at all. Indeed, a synod of 14 members is useless if the synod in question is not faithful. But if a synod of 14 members is true and faithful, that synod can be of great use to the church.
Having a synod with thousands of members — like the LCMS — is likewise useless unless we are clearly teaching the Word of God and faithfully confessing our faith. Gideon’s example is a good one. He beat the enemies of God with only a few men, but in the power of God’s Spirit. When Jesus died, there was only a handful of faithful women to bear witness to His sufferings, death and resurrection. Numbers are unimportant. What matters is faithfulness.
May God grant a renewal of faithfulness in our Synod. And if God chooses not to grant that, may the people of God recognize the false confession and leave to join with others who endeavor — by God’s grace — to be faithful to God’s Word.
I was pleased to read Dr. George Wollenburg’s letter in the August Reporter on every-Sunday Communion.
Years ago, when the Lord’s Supper was celebrated less frequently, it seemed more meaningful. Some communicants would even skip breakfast so that their first food that day would be at the Communion table. Members planning to commune would arrive 15 minutes early for a confessional address by the pastor, then they would celebrate Holy Communion at the regular worship service, which followed.
Perhaps, if that custom were revived, it might separate those who hunger and thirst for the Sacrament enough to prepare themselves adequately in advance from those who routinely just “follow the crowd.”
Rev. Otto T. Zeeb
The September Reporter includes a letter from Pastor Michael Brockman that responds to an earlier letter by Dr. George Wollenburg. Pastor Brockman wrote that he hopes Dr. Wollenburg will teach and guide all Montana pastors and congregations, and even lead all district presidents, “not only in the use of examination, but also in private confession, use of the chalice, long-term catechesis, head-of-the-household use of the Small Catechism, the liturgy, fasting and other outward training before participating in the Supper so that all of us in Synod may be properly prepared to receive the Supper every Lord’s Day.”
Perhaps I have misunderstood Pastor Brockman. We, too, use the Small Catechism in our congregation, and in it Luther wrote, “Fasting and bodily preparation are certainly fine outward training. But that person is truly worthy and well prepared who has faith in these words: ‘Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.'” Isn’t faith in Christ and His words that which makes us properly prepared, and not some long list of our own actions?
Rev. Steven Hayden
“Letters” may be sent via e-mail to REPORTER@lcms.org or by mail to REPORTER Letters, 1333 S. Kirkwood Road, St. Louis, MO 63122-7295. Please include your name, postal address and telephone number. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.
Posted Oct. 4, 2004