Thursday, October 14, 2010

Why Don't We Simply Follow The Procedures?

(This is standard procedure for liberal members of Synod: trump Holy Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions with By-Laws and Procedures).

After the LCMS Synodical Convention declared his position to be one that 'could not be tolerated in the Church of God', Seminary President John Tietjen stated to the Convention:   "I believe I have been grievously wronged by the Convention, and I should like to state a number of reasons why.  The Convention Workbook contains any number of overtures which ought not to have been included in that workbook because they are unconstitutional in that there are provisions in the constitution and bylaws for handling the concerns that were expressed in those overtures."

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Why Do Church Members Stop Coming To Church?

Because their social needs are not being met (lack of closeness and friendship; a “cold congregation”, isolation, rejection)

Because they are not willing, finally, to accept the responsibility of church membership. (not interested in shouldering responsibility, treating church as a spectator sport)

Because they no longer agree with the church’s position in some matters.

Because of outright unbelief.

Because they are “cold” toward the Word of God. (lack of desire for the Means of Grace)

Because of sins that particularly bother their conscience.

Because of laziness: physical and spiritual. (lack of motivation)

Because of self-righteousness and work-righteousness. (they feel they don’t need to go to church)

Because they lack love and concern for their fellow Christians.

Because of work conflicts.

Because they allow their sinful flesh to rule them. (they don’t get anything out of the service; they are bored; would rather be doing something else)

Because of peer pressure. (they are around un-churched people much of the time who often ridicule church-goers)

Because of hurt feelings, anger and frustration over something that was said or done by the pastor or a member of the church. (or didn’t get their way, or can’t come to grips with the situation)

Because of personality clashes.

Because of disagreement with the way the church is run.

Because they may not have been ready for Confirmation. (or they feel that Confirmation is “graduation” and they don’t have to go anymore)

Because of negativism and rebellion. (they don’t feel they have a need to go to church)

Because of mixed-marriage difficulties. (spouses being members of different Christian denominations)

Because of greed or miserliness. (they don’t want to give; they resent being confronted with offering plates or envelopes, or hearing about stewardship)

Because they may not perceive the Body and Blood of the Lord in the Lord’s Supper. (and are not alarmed about this)

Because the devil has robbed them of their faith.

Because they have become captivated by worries, cares and wordly desires, which destroy the good effect of God’s Word on them. (materialism and pleasure)

Because of family problems. (raising children, money, family friction, disagreements, hurt feelings)

Because of health problems. (physical, mental or emotional)

Because when they do come to church, they let the devil perch on their shoulder. (they dwell on their sins, guilty even after their sins are forgiven)

Because they feel sorry for themselves. (“Sunday is the only day we have to …”)

Because they don’t get anything out of the sermon. (they don’t understand the purpose of a Lutheran Law & Gospel sermon)

Because they don’t like such things as hymns and the liturgy and they refuse to adjust.

Because it’s too much bother to bring their young children to church. (too busy trying to keep the kids quiet; or, the church lacks a nursery, when often the simple fact is that they don’t have their children under control)

(This list came from the WELS Elder handbook)

Walther League

Some members keep stating that our current youth group (LYF) is simply a renamed Walther League.

I remember hearing that the old Walther League (eventually replaced by the Lutheran Youth Fellowship) was thrown out or disbanded because it had become too liberal or out of control.

Actually, the Walther League was the youth organization of the Synodical Conference, which no longer exists, although that's not the reason the Walther League isn't around any more.

The Lutheran Encyclopedia has a detailed history of the problems.

-----------------

But how was this corruption allowed to happen in the first place? An old book published by the Missouri Synod listed only one reason for the Walther League's existence. The Walther League, an association of young people which has the object of keeping our boys and girls, as they grow up, faithful to their confirmation vows.

From The Story of Our Church in America (Told in Simple Words). Th. Graebner. Concorda Publishing House, St. Louis, 1922.

Synodical Numbers

1922:There were 3,675,000 baptized Lutherans in the United States.

Of that total:

1,000,000 baptized members were in the Missouri Synod.
260,000 baptized members were in the Wisconsin Synod.
13,000 baptized members in the Slovak Synod.
6,500 baptized members in the Norwegian Synod.

The Missouri Synod consisted of 3,309 congregations and 858 preaching-stations, with a total of a little more than a million souls, served by nearly 2,500 pastors and professors and more than 1,000 schoolteachers.

1932:

The Missouri Synod consisted of 3,898 congregations and 906 preaching-stations, 1,189,000 souls, served by 3,127 pastors and 1,885 teachers.

The Wisconsin Synod (WELS) had 206,000 baptized members.
The Slovak Synod had 14,600 baptized members.
The Norwegian Synod had 7,300 baptized members.

From The Story of Our Church in America (Told in Simple Words). Th. Graebner. Concorda Publishing House, St. Louis, 1922 (and 1932 Supplement)

Past Elders

Reading through our church council and voters' assembly archives I found some reports from the Board of Elders dating from the late 1940s to the early 1960s.

Instead of peaceful release (what we call leaving us to join a non-LCMS congregation) the term they used back then was defection.

Instead of self-exclusion the term they used back then was despising the Word and Sacrament.

What Can Each Member Do For His Synod?

1. He can pray for it. Let us all remember the missions and colleges of our Synod when we say: "Hallowed be Thy name; Thy kingdom come!"

2. He can tell others about his Synod, its history, its faith, its works. And in order to be able to do this, every one ought to read the papers published by our Synod, Der Lutheraner and The Lutheran Witness, which explain to all men what we teach, what we stand for, and which also tell our Christians what our Synod is doing.

3. He can and will give of his money for the support of colleges and missions. He will try to give regularly, and according to his means. Sometimes he will go to the minister and hand him an extra donation and say, "Please give this money to a poor student," or, "The Lutheran Witness says that the treasury for Negro Missions is empty; here are five dollars," or he will ask his congregation to introduce the envelope system, by which everybody is enabled to give a little every Sunday for missions.

Do you know how much we would have for our missions and colleges if of our 600,000 confirmed members only 500,000 would give, every week, five cents for these purposes? One million and three hundred thousdand dollars -- or four hundred thousand dollars more than we now receive! But why should we give so little? Has not Jesus given His life for us? Shall we not do all we can to bring others to faith in Him?

From The Story of Our Church in America (Told in Simple Words). Th. Graebner. Concorda Publishing House, St. Louis, 1922.

Schwan Constitution!

In the early years of the Missouri Synod, Pastor Schwan (future Synodical President) found himself being told over and over again by fellow pastors that his poor small congregation needed a constitution. This is what he submitted:

Title, constitution and by-laws of the German Evangelical Lutheran Congregation at ...

(1) In our congregation all divine and spiritual matters are to be done in accordance with Scripture and Luther's doctrine (Concordia, 1580).

(2) But all other matters to be done in accordance with love.
From The Heart of Missouri: A History of the Western District of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, 1854-1954. by August R. Suelflow (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1954.)

My Old Missouri Books

Zion on the Mississippi (CPH, 1953), hardback, 2nd printing

Service Prayer Book authorized by the Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Missouri, Ohio and Other States, Second Edition (Army & Navy Commission, 1941)

Abridged Treasury of Prayers (CPH, 1930)

Book of Concord reprinted from the 1917 Concordia Triglotta by Bente/Dau with Historical Introductions by Dr. F. Bente (CPH, 1922)

Die Bibel translated by Dr. Martin Luther -- Old Testament, New Testament & Apocrypha (CPH, 1910)

Starck's Prayer-Book, from the German edition of Dr. F. Pieper; translated/edited by W.H.T. Dau (CPH, 1921)

Celebration Book of the 100th Anniversary of the Saxon Immigration (Local Printer, 1939)

Dietrich's Katechismus -- Luther's Small Catechism w/ Explanations by Dr. Johann Conrad Dietrich (CPH, 1904)

Luther's Small Catechism w/ Explanation (CPH, 1943) -- original would have been solid dark-blue, this is probably the 1950s/1960s reprint

Evangelical Lutheran Hymn-Book, Abridged Edition (CPH, 1927) - pocket-sized hymnal

Kirchen Gesangbuch (CPH, late 1910s/early 1920s)

Kirchen Gesangbuch (CPH, 1909 printing/1892 copyright)

Not in Picture:

Hymnal for Evangelical Lutheran Missions (CPH, 1905) -- a small olive-tan pocket-sized hymnal with the words Lutheran Hymnal on the front cover

Old Intercession for Communicants

Intercession for Communicants from the 19th Century Saxon Liturgy of the Missouri Synod

Lord Jesus, who callest unto Thee all those that labor and are heavy laden, to refresh them and give rest unto their souls, we pray Thee, do let these guests also experience Thy love at the heavenly feast which Thou hast prepared for Thy children on earth.  Keep them from all impenitence and unbelief, that no one may partake of this holy sacrament to his damnation.  Take off from all of them the spotted garment of the flesh and of their own righteousness, and adorn them with the garment of the merit earned by Thy blood.  Strengthen their faith, increase their love and hope, and once make them sit at Thy heavenly table, where Thou wilt give them that are Thine, to eat of the eternal manna and to drink of the river of Thy pleasures.  Hear us for Thy own sake.  Amen


Dr. Robert Preus on Luther's Theology of the Cross

Transcript Excerpt from Luther’s Theology of the Cross by Dr. Robert D. Preus
(Audio Cassette by CURE/Christians United for Reformation, 1995)
Question from Audience:  As far as a person in the pew, who’s seeing the preacher wandering away from this great truth that we’ve discussed here tonight, what can he or she do to help bring him back.
Dr. Preus:
Boy, that’s an all-embracing question.  I mean, you got a preacher who won’t preach the Gospel, now what do you do about it?  Well, I know what one old Norwegian lady in the Midwest when I was a little boy said. “Why don’t you preach more Christ and less Jortland?” Jortland was the name of the preacher.  I’m not sure that she made any impression with Rev. Jortland but we used to go listen to him (he’s dead now) as seminary students up at St. Paul and we would count the minutes until he mentioned Christ and sometimes he didn’t mention it after preaching forty minutes.  So you didn’t have to wait for neo-orthodoxy or anything else – this was way back when I was a student.  I don’t know what you do.  I think you play it by ear.
Nowadays people react with their feet.  They just join another church; it’s a free country.  Most of the time they probably joined another church for the wrong reason.  If it’s for that reason it’s a good one. 
I would certainly try to talk to the pastor and I’d try to get other members of the church to talk to him and say “you’re simply not preaching what God called you here to preach – you’re a hireling!”  That might get some reaction out of him, I don’t know.
I’m reading a book right now on musical pulpits or something like that.  It shows how many Baptists and Methodists and Presbyterians are getting kicked out of churches.  They don’t mention Lutherans because Lutherans don’t tell.  We’ve got these district presidents – they don’t want people to know how many guys they’ve gotten rid of.
But if you were to look at these musical pulpits you’d find that very seldom does a pastor get put out for the right reason.  They just don’t like the way he parts his hair, or his personality, or he’s not dynamic enough, or … oh I got the one!  He doesn’t have people skills.  Have you ever heard that one?  Oh boy!  Every time some Missouri Synod pastor gets shoved out he didn’t have people skills, which means he didn’t conform to the world.  Well, pardon my dogmatism.
I could talk all night, but I think every situation is going to be different.  I’m one that thinks he should stay and fight, but if he refuses to speak the Gospel it’s a dead church.  I don’t care how much growth they have.

Do You Remember Your Confirmation Vow?

YOUR PROMISE TO GOD
From the 1941 Service Prayer Book of the Evangelical Lutheran  Synod of Missouri, Ohio and Other States (later known as the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod).

Do you remember it?

On the day of your Confirmation you made the highest and holiest promise you have ever made or ever will make. When your pastor took your hand, he was standing in the place of God. You were making a promise to the Most High. You renewed your vow once made when in Holy Baptism you entered upon a covenant with God Himself. Never again, as long as you live, will you make a more solemn vow. It was an either-or promise; either you keep it and are blessed in this world and the world to come, or you break it and unless you repent are lost for time and for eternity. It will make or break your life from now on.

It was not a promise made in private or before a single person. Think of all who were listening as you made your vow. Your pastor was listening. He must report to God that you kept or broke it. Your parents and friends were listening, hoping and praying that you would never forget. And above all, invisible but surely present was your Savior Himself, Who died on the cross in order that you might be able to make your Confirmation vow.

Perhaps there will be men and women in your life who will forget a promise you made to them. God never forgets. Even on the Last Day, when heaven and earth shall pass away, He will ask you before His throne on high concerning the vow you made before His altar on earth.

Do you remember that vow?

"Do you as members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, intend to continue steadfast in the confession of this Church, and suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it?"

"We do so intend, with the help of God."

"Do you intend faithfully to conform all your life to the rule of the divine Word, to walk as it becometh the Gospel of Christ, and in faith, word and deed to remain true to the Triune God, even unto death?"

"We do so intend, by the grace of God."

God never forgets. Do you remember?

Lord Jesus, without Thee I cannot keep my Confirmation vow. Help me, I pray, to remember and keep it forever. Amen.

Schismatics

Quoting Hollaz:  “Are schismatics true members of the church? I answer: Those who knowingly, willingly, maliciously, contrary to their own conscience, and moved by admiration of their own virtues and the purpose to offend others, incite trouble in the church, are not true members of the church.  Schismatics, properly so called, are those who voluntarily and deliberately separate themselves from the church and cause divisions in it without any just cause, purposing only to disrupt its unity. (C.F.W. Walther—The True Visible Church and the Form of a Christian Congregation Pg. 31-32)

Let Them Rage On

As good pastors, you cannot refrain from rebuking people’s wickedness.  But since they refuse to listen to and heed your reproaches, let them rage on.  We have done our duty and can therefore have a good conscience. (Luther: Letters of Spiritual Counsel, Pg. 299)

Dr. Robert Preus on Firing Pastors

I’m reading a book right now on musical pulpits or something like that.  It shows how many Baptists and Methodists and Presbyterians are getting kicked out of churches.  They don’t mention Lutherans because Lutherans don’t tell.  We’ve got these district presidents – they don’t want people to know how many guys they’ve gotten rid of.

But if you were to look at these musical pulpits you’d find that very seldom does a pastor get put out for the right reason.  They just don’t like the way he parts his hair, or his personality, or he’s not dynamic enough, or … oh I got the one!  He doesn’t have people skills.  Have you ever heard that one?  Oh boy!  Every time some Missouri Synod pastor gets shoved out he didn’t have people skills, which means he didn’t conform to the world.  Well, pardon my dogmatism.

Dr. Robert D. Preus on Luther’s Theology of the Cross (Audio Tape)

Friday, October 8, 2010

Feelings In Church

Transcription of a conversation with Pastor William Weedon on Issues, Etc.
(Lutheran theology radio program formerly on KFUO AM St. Louis):


There used to be a pastor in this city named Timothy Quill.

He once told a story: he was a Circuit Counselor, a pastor who helped other pastors in the area, and a person had come to him complaining, saying "You know, I just don't get anything out of my pastor's worship service. Nothing. Nothing."

And Quill puckered his brow and said. "I'm confused. Does your pastor speak to you the Word of the Absolution and does he forgive you sins in Jesus' name?"

And the lady says "Oh yeah, he does that."

And he said "Well, does he read from the Word of God to you?"

And she goes "Well, Yeah, yeah ... he does that that every week."

"Does he preach to you about the forgiveness of sins that's yours because of Jesus' suffering, death and resurrection?"

And she says "Oh, every week ... without fail ... he does that."

"And does he put into your mouth the Body and Blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins?"

And she goes "Well, yes ... without fail."

"Then I don't understand. What is it you're not GETTING out of worship? You get the forgiveness of your sins, you get the gift of eternal life, you get the Lord's Body and Blood. What were you're looking for?"

And the answer is: "I was looking for a feeling." But then, as she listened to Pastor Quill talk, she walked away thinking 'Well maybe there's a little more going on here than my feelings alone.'

The gift of God in worship -- the gifts of God -- are objective and real whether you feel great about them or whether you feel nothing. And that's one of the most beautiful things about Christian worship. It doesn't DEPEND upon your feelings.

Pr. Wilken: Should we be anti-feeling?

Pr. Weedon: No. When the feelings are there enjoy them, as they are in every other part of your life. You know? And when they are not there, don't sweat it. They'll come back.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Obstacles, Offenses and Absurdities

Christians must be taught to see themselves not as whimsical patrons or "customers" of the church, waiting to be pleased and pampered, but as sons and daughters of the living God, "like newborn babies" craving for the Source of Life in Word and Sacrament, despite all the obstacles, offences, and absurdities of men.

Rev. Dr. Kurt E. Marquart, Anatomy of an Explosion: A Theological Analysis of the Missouri Synod Conflict, Pg. 72

Saturday, July 31, 2010

How To Destroy A Church

President Mirly's article in the Missouri District Newspaper Voice of Missouri.  His contact with our congregation was the primary source for the article.  http://mo.lcms.org/

Oh, How They Loved One Another

How to destroy a church:
1. Teach false doctrine.
2. Find something that you do not like in your church, get others in the congregation to agree with you, but do not go to the pastor or other church leaders to tell them what it is you dislike and why.
3. Spread gossip, share rumors, participate in “parking lot” meetings or use e-mail to gripe and complain.
4. Demonize the pastor or other congregation workers or leaders.
5. Withhold your offerings because you are upset about something that happened in your congregation.
6. Expect others in the congregation, other than yourself, to change their negative behavior.
7. Fail to follow Matt. 18:15-18 when you feel like someone in the congregation has done something wrong toward you or someone else.
8. Expect the pastor, congregation leaders or fellow members to know that you are upset, what you are upset about, and to “fix the problem” without telling them what it is that upsets you.
9. When asked to serve on boards or committees, decline.
10. Be against every new idea without studying it, praying about it, discussing it, and joining all the members to make a decision about it.

One would think that only the teaching of false doctrine would be sufficient to destroy a congregation. Frankly, Missouri District congregations are not willing to put up with false doctrine. Members know what the Bible says, have put to memory Luther’s Small Catechism, many have studied Luther’s Large Catechism and a goodly number the Lutheran Confessions. Most everyone knows when a doctrine is being taught correctly.

Amazing as it might seem, the rest of the list above is not fictitious. Unfortunately, numbers two through 10 happen fairly regularly. The devil knows us well, doesn’t he? He can get us to do so much damage to one another’s reputation that our ability to proclaim the Gospel is severely compromised. He can get us to think that only our ideas are right and those that do not agree with us are wrong. He knows how to cause us to take our eyes off Jesus Christ.

Do you or I really believe that having the reputation as a fighting congregation, district or Synod enhances the proclamation of the Gospel? Do we believe that our attempts to destroy the reputation of fellow members, congregation leaders, the pastor, those leading the district or Synod is going to make our congregation or the LCMS stronger? The Old Adam in each of us loves the negative! He loves to hear someone tear down the good name of someone else. He wants us to destroy one another.

In the Holy Scriptures we read these simple words, “Oh, how they loved one another.” Jesus said, “Love one another even as I have loved you.” St. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 13 what Christian love looks like.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, Jesus tells us to build one another up. The Holy Scriptures encourage us to pray for one another; encourage one another; defend one another; and forgive one another. Martin Luther in his explanation to the Eighth Commandment says that we should “put the best construction on everything” we say about our neighbor.

Your pastor and lay leaders cannot read your mind. I encourage you to speak with them first before you speak about them to anyone else. Jesus encourages us to be a “light unto the world.” That light is Jesus Christ! We do this when we speak the Gospel and also live out the Gospel in our lives.

God in Christ has reconciled us unto Himself. Even as Christ has reconciled us with our
heavenly Father, so through Him we become reconciled with one another. Imagine that it is said of all of us, “Oh, how they loved one another."

Monday, April 5, 2010

Missouri District Final Report on Zion Congregation


Final Report

April 5, 2010

Zion, Poplar Bluff, MO

Rev. Gene Wyssmann

 

I wish to begin by thanking those members of the Reconciliation Committee who have, and who continue to work tirelessly, to bring peace and unity to Zion Lutheran Church.  May God continue to bless their efforts!  I also thank each of the congregation members who have prayed, worked, and provided input to improve the ministry of Zion congregation.

 

THE PROCESS:

 

            The conversation to work toward reconciliation for Zion began in 2007 when the District President sent a Vice President to visit with the pastor and congregation. 

 

            In 2008 Pastors Dissen and Wollenburg met with the congregation in an effort to bring about reconciliation.

 

            Many contacts and letters of concerns were sent through 2008 -2009 to the Missouri District office.

 

            Beginning on May 30, 2009, President Mirly and Pr. Wyssmann met with a small group of people to begin addressing the issues.  From that meeting the reconciliation committee was formed.

 

            The next meeting was held on June 30 with the reconciliation committee at which time they prioritized the issues of concern they had identified.  In order of priority:

            1. Unity of the congregation.

            2. A more loving church

            3. Peace

            4. Genuine Lutheranism

            5. Aloofness of leadership

            6. Church attendance

            7. Outreach

            8. Inviting to the public

Out of this meeting the reconciliation group was to engage the members of the congregation about their feelings on these issues.

 

            An intervening event, in my opinion, challenged efforts toward reconciliation when a motion was brought to the July voters’ assembly to ask the pastor to place his name on a call list. This took place before the reconciliation committee could effectively begin their work.  I believe that this caused a lingering sense of an unresolved issue until the voters resolved the issue at the subsequent voters meeting three months later.

 

            The next meeting was held on Aug. 4, and it was an open meeting to congregational members.  An estimated 70–80 people were in attendance, and they gave voice to the deep division within the congregation between “those who favor” the ministry of the pastor, and “those who do not favor” the ministry of the pastor.  Each group was passionate and vocal in their position.  From that meeting, it was determined that the reconciliation group would continue their efforts.

 

            At the subsequent reconciliation group meetings, efforts were focused on gathering the congregation together in cottage meetings, to discuss issues about the priority of the congregation.  Since that time they have been working to enhance fellowship in the congregation, begin a choir, and work to improve the physical properties.

 

            In the past several months repeated requests have been made to the congregation members, to set up one on one visits with the Pr. Reed, with Pr. Wyssmann serving as a facilitator of the conversation.  One individual was willing to have that conversation, but no one else came forward to take advantage of this opportunity for reconciliation.  Additionally, one small group meeting with Pr. Reed, Pr. Henrichs (circuit counselor), an elder, and five persons with concerns about the pastor’s ministry was held. This meeting brought up no new issues, and reaffirmed the division in the congregation.

 

            There have been a total of eleven visits by District staff since May 2009, with over 4000 miles traveled to and from Poplar Bluff. 

 

ISSUES:

 

            The primary division in the congregation focuses on the pastoral ministry.  For sake of description, the two groups are identified as “those who favor” the pastor’s ministry, and “those who do not favor” the pastor’s ministry.  The primary concern that was expressed by “those who do not favor” is that during the time of Pr. Reed’s ministry, worship attendance and financial support for the congregation has declined. “Those who do not favor” the pastor’s ministry express that the only thing that will bring about a change in the welfare of the congregation, in their opinion, is for the pastor to leave.  This concern is based upon the pastoral style that they perceive as being focused more on law than gospel, and they believe that offensive statements and actions have alienated people from the congregation.

 

            By contrast, “those who favor” the pastor’s ministry, have expressed no concerned over the pastoral style, and have expressed appreciation for the pastor’s ministry among them.

 

            Perhaps a point of clarification would be helpful to understand who has the authority to issue and to rescind a divine call.  That authority rests with the congregation.  Just as the congregation issues the call for a pastor to serve them in the Holy Ministry, so it is only the congregation that has the authority to rescind that call.  Districts serve only in an advisory capacity.  According to the doctrine of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, there are three reasons for which a pastor might be dismissed from service.  In each case, charges need to be officially brought forward, and legitimate proof must be demonstrated and substantiated, before action can be taken by a congregation to rescind a pastor’s call from office.  The three reasons for dismissal are the teaching of false doctrine, living an immoral lifestyle, and willful negligence of duty.  Although many concerns by “those who do not favor” the pastor’s ministry have been expressed, nothing has been clearly shown that would give cause for dismissal based on the three reasons for dismissal previously stated.       

 

            My opinion is that the congregation, through its established decision making gathering, the voters’ assembly, has brought resolution to the issue as to whether or not they desire for the pastor to continue in his ministry among them. At the Oct. 11, 2009 voters’ assembly, the congregation with nearly a 2/3 majority, voted that the pastor not place his name on a call list.  A troubling concern is that while a definitive decision has been made with regard to the issue, reconciliation has not been reached, reconciliation being a mutual repenting and forgiving of one another, that brings a genuine sense of peace and unity to the congregation.  While the issue has been resolved, the division continues.

 

MOVING FORWARD:

 

Study God’s Word together and individually.  Be faithful in worship and Bible Study.  Search the Scriptures and discuss our Lutheran Confessions in light of God’s Word.

 

Communication is a major concern.  There is a sense by some that those in leadership positions are trying to “control” the congregation.  The perception seems to be that in the past, leaders have made decisions, but those decisions have not always been clearly communicated to the general congregation.  Particularly in situations where there is a lack of confidence and trust, it becomes even more important that communication is clear.  Clear communication at Zion would be a priority.

 

            It would also be suggested that those who are in decision making positions would be very intentional about presenting issues and seeking input and discussion about those issues prior to presenting them to the voters’ assembly for a decision.  There is a sense among some in the congregation that leaders make decisions and “spring” them on the congregation without advance notification.  For the sake of moving forward in peace and unity, it would be important that full disclosure and discussion take place prior to decision making in order to promote harmony.

 

            One of the priorities listed by the reconciliation committee was to promote genuine Lutheranism. We need to be clear in communicating the teachings of our Lutheran heritage, and in order that  the gospel of Jesus Christ is presented in a winsome way, it is important to be clear about the basis of what we believe, teach, and proclaim.  Some confusion has been expressed by the members of Zion as to whether the congregation is founded upon the Holy Scriptures or whether it is founded upon the Lutheran Confessions, the Catechism, etc. While both are true it is very important to be clear that we are Christians who follow the inerrant and inspired Scriptures, the Bible (Sola Scriptura), and that the Lutheran Confessions are taught by us, because they are a clear exposition of what the Scriptures proclaim. Some have expressed concern that it seems Zion follows the Lutheran Confessions more than Scripture itself.  It is critically important that people clearly hear that our LCMS is built solidly upon the Word of God.  

 

            A major concern in the past few years has been the decline in worship attendance and financial support for the ministry.  An important part of moving forward would be to refocus efforts on reaching out to the community with the gospel of Jesus Christ, and an intentional focus on Christian stewardship would be most appropriate. It would be recommended that the congregation develop an intentional plan for ministry to encompass spiritual growth, outreach, service, and improved stewardship.                

 

Finally, work tirelessly toward true reconciliation.  There is resolution to the issue, but reconciliation still is needed.  Divisions happen in the church.  The Apostle Paul was clear about that when in I Corinthians 1:11-13a he said “My brothers, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, ‘I follow Paul’; another, ‘I follow Apollos’; another, ‘I follow Cephas’; still another, ‘I follow Christ’. Is Christ divided?” 

 

People will always have different opinions and different points of view, and although it is important to share those differing ideas, often when given voice they will tend to separate and divide.  It is important to be mindful that the one thing that brings God’s people together is the common mercy and grace that sinful people have received through our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.  When people focus on each other, it is easy to see the differences, but if we focus our attention on God’s Word and “fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith” Heb. 12:2, then we will see the One who has united us in His suffering, death, and resurrection.   Study the Scriptures together.  Talk with one another.  Discuss the issues that cause division.  Repent when you are wrong, and forgive one another, just as for Christ’s sake, God has forgiven you. 

 

Paul writes, “I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.” I Cor. 1:10

 

Again Paul writes, “If you have any encouragement from being united in Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.”  Phil. 2:1-2

 

Respectfully submitted in Christ Jesus,

Rev. Gene A. Wyssmann

Assistant to the President for Family Life & Youth, and Congregational Health