Sunday, April 20, 2008

Confessional Lutherans Need Not Apply

Reprinted below is the story of one group of Lutherans whose request has been repeatedly rejected. Their unreasonable request? To start a Confessional Lutheran church. They call themselves Christ Lutheran Mission, and are located in Princeton, MN, which is in the Minnesota North District of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. According to the Minnesota North District, the District's mission is "to further the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) and to assist congregations as Great Commission churches." I thought Minnesota was a conservative part of the country. It appears that the Gospel in Minnesota will only be allowed to be preached under a very specific set of circumstances. Apparently, the "Historic Lutheran Liturgy" doesn't qualify. Judge for yourself.

This post was first published at Laughing Martin. Republished by permission of the author.

The Story of Christ Lutheran Mission

Two years ago two families began talking about forming a new church in Princeton. It was agreed this would be a confessional/orthodox congregation using the Historic Lutheran Liturgy. The LCMS churches in the circuit were all moving away from this practice and we felt there was a need.

We approached the pastor of the congregation both of us belonged to at the time Faith Community Lutheran in Zimmerman, MN and Rev. Jim Walburg about Faith Community Lutheran becoming a mother church. We were told that the time was not right. In our discussions with Pastor Walburg it became clear to us that the time would never be right, especially for a congregation that was to reject the Church Growth Methods and be Lutheran to the core.

This left us with the following options. The country church about 7 miles outside of Princeton, Zion, to the west Zion, Crown and to the north Saint Paul's Milaca. All three of these congregations had or were in the process of throwing their confessional orthodox pastors out unscripturally and were in turmoil. The option to approach them was not there, besides these congregations were not like minded to what we had a vision for a Church in Princeton. A decision was made to proceed with a weekly Bible study.

We communicated our intentions to the MN North District mission facilitator Rev. Strochiem and began meeting. Pastor Strochiem suggested we do a study on natural church growth; we were skeptical about this program but went along. We were blessed to find the services of a retired LCMS pastor who lived in Princeton to lead our studies and began with 6 families.

After a year and a half of meeting in Bible Study we had grown to around 20 and had outgrown the home we began in and started meeting in a local business storefront on Main Street. The people meeting were ready and asking for the Divine Service. We found two pastors who shared our vision and were in good standing with the LCMS, Rev. Paul Anderson and Rev. Robert Lawson Sr. both lived in Princeton and were without a call. They agreed to conduct services for us.

We then approached the MN North District office for their blessings to start holding Divine Service on Sunday mornings. We asked for no funds from the district -- just their blessing to begin holding Divine Service on Sunday morning. We met this time with the President of the MN North District, President Don Fondow and asked for the districts blessing. We explained we wanted to be an orthodox/confessional congregation using the historic Lutheran liturgy. We were told he would put us on the agenda for the next meeting of the MN North Board of directors as they would need to approve of the mission start.

So we waited even though we knew it was not required of us to do so. The Board of Directors meeting came and we were not given an answer but were told they were formulating a letter and that they wanted to present it to us in person at the district office. A date was set for this meeting. A snowstorm hit Minnesota on that date and not all were going to be able to be in attendance. The district office wanted all to be there so the meeting was rescheduled for a month later.

I asked President Fondow if we could go ahead and start meeting in Divine Service. His response was do what you need to do. I asked him if this meant to do what we needed to do but just do not tell him about it and he said yes. We took this as a green light and held our first service on Ash Wednesday.

After meeting a couple of weeks we were uncomfortable conducting divine service without a called pastor per Article 14 of the Augsburg Confession. The congregation extended a call to Rev. Robert Lawson Sr. and he accepted. Pastor Lawson is a pastor in good standing with the LCMS having colloquied into the LCMS from the ELS.

The date finally came for our meeting at the MN North District office. Rev.Paul Anderson, Rev. Robert Lawson Sr., Ron Rickers and I all attended. We walked into the large conference room and were meet with Rev. David Cloueter Jr., Rev. Strochiem, President Fondow, Rev. Halverson, Rev. Jim Walburg, Rev. Zellers and Rev. Brill.

The inquisition then began. We were required to defend what we were doing, which is only what the Lutheran church has been doing for hundreds of years. We were asked repeatedly what was more important to us -- the Historic Lutheran Worship or reaching out to the unchurched. Our answer was that you cannot separate the two and they were not exclusive with each other. They still kept asking us if we would be willing to compromise the service to win more souls for Christ.

This went on for three hours. Then they told us they wanted us to rescind the call to Pastor Lawson. We indicated that we were not happy about doing that and that we could not make that decision the whole congregation would have be involved in a decision like that, and that we had concerns about Article 14of the Augsburg Confession. They responded that the call was not proper as a colloquies pastor, Pastor Lawson needed to be placed in his first call. Our response was that since we are not officially an LCMS congregation we were acting as an independent Lutheran congregation.

It then was suggested that we find a sponsoring congregation that could then call Pastor Lawson to serve the people at Christ Lutheran Mission. We went home feeling like we had been through the ringer.

The congregation at Christ Lutheran Mission came to unanimous consent not to rescind the call and set out to find a sponsoring congregation. We found one that appeared to be willing to do this at Saint Paul's, Ogelvie, outside of the Rum River Circuit but a half an hour north of Princeton.

Word got out to the pastor's in the Rum River Circuit that we were going outside the circuit. Now suddenly a congregation appeared in our circuit that was willing to consider being a sponsor -- Pastor Zellers at Saint John's Webber (North Branch), at the far reaches of the circuit some 45 minutes away.

A meeting was set between the leaders at Saint John's and Christ Lutheran Mission. We arrived at this meeting and the first thing we were hit with was that Pastor Zellers had been in communication with President Fondow in the district office and Saint John's would not be calling Pastor Lawson to serve the congregation at Christ Lutheran Mission. We were confused to say the least, as we understood this to be the advantage to us having a sponsor. We also were required once again to defend how we worship using the Historical Lutheran Liturgy. We use page 15 out of TLH, the pastor and the congregation both chant and we practice closed communion. All things have stood the test of time and have been done by the Lutheran Church for hundreds of years.

The congregation of Christ Lutheran Mission then decided to take a different option which we always had available to us. We stopped all efforts to become a mission congregation of the MN North District of the LCMS and determined to officially establish ourselves as an independent Lutheran congregation then to apply for admission to the MN North District of the LCMS.

We began working on our 501 (c)(3) and were told by President Fondow that to apply for admission as an established congregation all we needed to do was submit our constitution and when accepted we would be in. We have done this and are awaiting an official response from the Constitution Committee of the MN North District.

In the mean time President Fondow and Rev. Strochiem (Mission Coordinator) attended a Winkle of the Rum River Circuit. The recommendations that have come out of this meeting was that the circuit pastors wanted to put together a committee to come and interview each and everyone of our members individually. The congregation of Christ Lutheran Mission felt this was just a fishing expedition to find a reason not to admit us and unanimously declined to attend another inquisition, and since we have already faced two inquisitions that this is not required of us.

We now have been informed that the pastors of the Rum River Circuit have sent a letter to the District Office indicating their non support of Christ Lutheran Mission. We are now waiting to hear from the District Office on the acceptance of our constitution. The committee met over 1 month ago and we have not received any official word.

What is most surprising to me is that all this is happening in what is supposed to be one of the more conservative districts in the LCMS.

Lord have mercy!



Susan said...

Reading your article made everything hurt inside. It's hard believe the LCMS could sink so low, yet not hard to believe in these difficult days.:(

The one thought that kept crossing my mind was the new Lutheran synod (ULMA) that Pilgrim Lutheran Church started. It looks like they may be a place that would receive them. Does this new church know about them?

Their website is:

Scott Diekmann said...

Thanks for your comment Susan. I forwarded it on to Richard.

Richard said...


We are aware of ULMA, ELDoNA and ACLC and know pastors in all of these organizations. There is also a possibility of one of the non-geographic districts of the LCMS taking us in.

Anonymous said...

I was greatly pained as I read this...

I have recently seen on other blogs (Pr. Weedon's and others) of this new phenomenon / approach the church growth / Jesus first churches are taking to further their ends... satellite churches...

I recently heard that a Missouri church is starting a "satellite" in the Southern ILL District... and it seems that they have found a way to do this and by pass the Dist President.

What is wrong with "fighting fire with fire" as it were : )

Find a confessional Lutheran Church anywhere... and ask to be a satellite church of their church : )

Just a thought...

Matt B.