Wednesday, May 21, 2008

President Kieschnick's Letter to LCMS Pastors

Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod President Gerald Kieschnick sent out a letter to LCMS pastors today, a portion of which I'll post below. As a little "food for thought," I'll first offer to you the definition of Irenics, as found in the Christian Cyclopedia, for your own edification, as well as for that of the good Doctor:
Theology which tries to arrive at Christian peace. Irenics presupposes polemics, which in its true character should have no other aim than irenics. The “bond of peace,” Eph 4:3, embraces all Christians, and “speaking the truth in love,” Eph 4:15, deserves to be emphasized at all times. But he who truly seeks ecclesiastical peace well-pleasing to God will find himself compelled to engage in controversy. True irenics does not exclude polemics, but is another way of gaining the same end. The danger of polemics lies in the direction of separatism and magnification of unessential differences; irenic efforts are prone to degenerate into syncretism and unionism; love of revealed truth guards against both dangers.

Here is a portion of Rev. Dr. Kieschnick's letter:

A Pastoral Letter to
Pastors of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod
From President Jerry Kieschnick
May 21, 2008

Dear Brothers in Christ,

A word from St. Paul: "I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Eph. 4:1-3).

The unity we have as Christians is a precious gift of God. If it then behooves us as Christians to "maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace," how much greater is our responsibility in this regard as ordained ministers of the Gospel?

While much could be written about these few verses in Ephesians, I find a comment in Kretzmann's Popular Commentary worth sharing: "By striving after the virtues named by the apostle: love, peace, meekness, humility, long-suffering, patience, the Christians maintain the unity of the Spirit given to them in the Word. As soon as these virtues are disregarded, the result is dissension and disagreement, division and sectarianism." It's my prayer that all of us-and I begin with myself-will exhibit these virtues and maintain the gift of unity given us by God's Spirit.

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Theological unity and division

Eph. 4:1-3 also was on my mind as I wrote a paper that I presented last month to the Council of Presidents. The title is "Theological Unity and Division in The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod." In it, I addressed such questions as how united or divided we are as a synod, on what do we agree, and the nature of any disagreements.

The number of doctrinal points on which we agree may surpass that of most other Christian church bodies. In my document I cited 32 such points of agreement. While I won't list them all here, they include the following, by way of example:

-That this God created the world and everything in it, including the first man, Adam, and the first woman, Eve, in six days.
-That since the fall of Adam and Eve into sin, all people are born with original sin and are altogether incapable of pleasing God by their own merits, works, or behavior.
-That God promised a Savior to Adam and Eve and, through them, to all people.
-That this Savior is Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, through whom alone we receive forgiveness of sin, life, and salvation.
-That we are saved by God's grace alone, without any merit or worthiness of our own.
-That Christians are called to proclaim to a lost and dying world the doctrine of justification, the good news that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not counting mankind's sins against them.
-That the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible, written Word of God in all its parts.
-That the Symbolical Books of the Evangelical Lutheran Church are a true and unadulterated statement and exposition of the Word of God.
-That the pastoral office is the only divinely instituted office.
-That all baptized Christians are members of the priesthood of all believers.
-That church fellowship has as its basis complete agreement in doctrine and practice.
-That the Scriptures clearly teach that women are not to hold the pastoral office.
-That in, with, and under the bread and the wine of Holy Communion, we receive Christ's true body and blood for the forgiveness of sins and the assurance of eternal salvation.

What about our disagreements? I repeated to the COP what I said in my report to last summer's Synod convention, in which I included as points of disagreement in our Synod:

-policies of admission to Holy Communion;
-the respective roles, responsibility, authority, and accountability of pastors and lay people;
-the service of women in the church; and
-various expressions of worship.

To those I added the matters of:

-inter-Christian relationships;
-what constitutes unionism and syncretism; and
-issues related to participation in civic events.

Finally, there also have been disagreements related to administrative decisions, official opinions, and adjudicatory judgments of panels, boards, committees, commissions, employees, and officers of the Synod.

About such disagreements, I ask: Do they deal with doctrinal matters, or with matters of implementation of doctrinal principles? Are the divisions or disagreements among us primarily matters of faith and practice, or are they for the most part differences of opinion in matters of adiaphora? Is the LCMS deeply divided, or are our disagreements primarily related to the fact that for a variety of reasons, some members of the Synod have grown to dislike or to distrust one another?

I invite and encourage you to read the entire paper-it is available online at -and to join in the conversation, perhaps at circuit meetings or other gatherings. Most importantly I invite and encourage you to pray our Lord's blessing on the Synod, that He would help us all "maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."

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Susan said...

Perhaps, it is fitting to contrast President K's writings to these?

C.F.W. Walther in his 4th evening lecture on Law and Gospel:

"When a theologian is asked to yield and make concessions in order that peace may at last be established in the Church, but refused to do so even in a single point of doctrine, such an action looks to human reason like intolerable stubbornness, yea, like downright malice. That is the reason why such theologians are loved and praised by few men during their lifetime. Most men rather revile them as disturbers of the peace, yea, as destroyers of the kingdom of God. They are regarded as men worthy of contempt. But in the end it becomes manifest that this very determined, inexorable tenacity in clinging to the pure teaching of the divine Word by no means tears down the Church; on the contrary, it is just this which, in the midst of greatest dissension, builds up the Church and ultimately brings about genuine peace. Therefore, woe to the Church which has no men of this stripe, men who stand as watchmen on the walls of Zion, sound the alarm whenever a foe threatens to rush the walls, and rally to the banner of Jesus Christ for a holy war …Let us therefore, bless all faithful champions who have fought for every point of Christian doctrine, unconcerned about the favor of men and disregarding their threatenings. Their ignominy, though it often was great, has not been borne in vain. Men cursed them, but they continued bearing their testimony until death, and now they wear the crown of glory and enjoy the blissful communion of Christ and of all the angels and the elect. Their labor and their fierce battling has not been in vain; for even now, after 1500 years, or, in the last-named case, after several centuries, the Church is reaping what they sowed. Let us, then, my friends, likewise hold fast the treasure of the pure doctrine. Do not consider it strange if on that account you must bear reproach the same as they did. Consider that the word of Sirach, chap. 4:33; ‘Even unto death fight for justice, and God will overthrow thy enemies for thee.’ Will come true in our case too. Let this be your slogan: Fight unto death in behalf of the truth, and the Lord will fight with you ”

Romans 16:17-18 is perhaps also instructive:

"I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obsticles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. for such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people."

Anonymous said...

With all due respect to President Kieschnick, I seriously question the notion that holding some, if perhaps most, doctrines in common makes a church body united. Further, does minimizing the differences make for greater unity? Does it not rather make for greater disunity, since others may feel as if they are being slighted?

The Rebellious Pastor's Wife said...

Synod means "walking together." The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod was created to unify congregations that agreed to walk together in doctrine AND practice. It was more efficient for a group of churches to publish one hymnal so that worship would be similar, to pool their resources to train pastors in the same teachings (funny, Synod doesn't fund our seminaries anymore), and to keep each other in line as far as doctrine and practice.

Now we are being asked that for the sake of some doctrines that we share, to forsake all of the others and most of the idea of similar practice so that we can continue to walk together.

Only, this isn't walking together. Walking is something that you DO, not something that you think. We can contemplate walking in many different ways, but if we don't actually make the effort to actually walk in the same direction, we aren't walking together. One person may have a little more of a bounce to his step, one may have a heavier footfall...and that is fine. But the direction should be the same.

The president is asking us to agree to the proposition that we are walking together when we are walking, running, and dancing in many different directions and ways. Worship is important, closed communion is important. Not only that, but there are many points on that list that we supposedly all agree to that we don't. There is a church in Coronado, CA that actively attacks any confessional pastors that come into San Diego, and also puts womens ordination forward at every synodical convention. Why are they still there if this is something we ALL agree on? Why have THEY not been invited to leave or why has their pastor not come under discipline?

What about the pastoral responsibility that not only is the Body and Blood of Christ in with and under the bread and the wine, but that no one should be admitted to the table who does not believe this, and that it is a pastoral responsibility to protect their flock, and that person as well, from the Supper being taken wrongly? (which is one reason why smaller churches are MORE desirable than larger ones).

And he says that Christians are called to proclaim justification to a lost and dying WORLD. Not just upscale neighborhoods so in need of Lutheran teaching that we will give it to them without the traditions, and without letting them know it is Lutheran...apparently for their own good (not that American upper-middle class isn't a mission field that needs to be addressed...but we are not addressing that, we are robbing our own churches and non-denominational churches from their church-hoppers). But we will neglect the poor, the suffering, and the foreign who need the gospel's comfort as well.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Zelwyn.

Belief and practice can be millions of miles apart -- and they often are.

What Kieschnick said proves nothing.

Barb Sullivan said...

Is this the entire letter? Is there a context that prompted this letter since it is pretty much a restatement of his April letter? After a somewhat quiet week, I'm now left to think.....uh, oh, what's about to happen next?

Anyone hearing "methinks he doth protest too much" in their heads?

Scott Diekmann said...

President Kieschnick sends out a monthly letter to pastors. It is a sort of random thoughts infomercial to keep the troops informed, or in line. There was more to his letter than what I posted, but the rest was unrelated.

The letters eventually are posted on the LCMS website, but this one hasn't been posted yet.

a little tired said...

Kieschnick's letter demonstrates either his disregard of sound doctrine or his lack of comprehension when he lists communion practice as if it were an area where we could have a legitimate difference of opinion. So.
1. Is it the real presence or not?
2. Is the true presence always there, whether received worthily or unworthily?
3. Does it require faith in the promise to recieve it worthily?
4. Does faith presuppose knowing something (a promise) in order to have something to believe in? (Rom 10:17)
5. If a pastor gives the real presence to someone who does not believe (for whatever reason) can it harm them?
6. Are we more concerned about #'s and $s than we are harming someone spiritually?
7. Or is all that Word and Sacrament stuff from my grandfather's church?

Lutheran Lucciola said...

This is a good discussion, thank you for posting the letter and definitions for newer Lutherans!