Monday, June 15, 2009

Unionism in the Northwest District?

One of the resolutions that will be presented for adoption at the Northwest District Convention (June 18-20) is Resolution 2-07, the text of which follows:



WHEREAS, the Lord has given a command to all His followers to “make disciples of all nations,” (Matthew 28:18-20) and

WHEREAS, we members of the Northwest District are part of the followers of Christ who make up the “One, Holy, Christian (catholic), and Apostolic Church,” and

WHEREAS, the task of reaching those who do not know Christ is greater than we can do alone, therefore be it

RESOLVED, that we give thanks and praise to God for all our brothers and sisters in Christ in the whole Christian Church on earth, and be it finally

RESOLVED, that the Northwest District encourage congregations, boards and agencies of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, to work with congregations, boards and agencies of various Christian bodies to give direction as to how we can more effectively and appropriately work with other Christian church bodies in reaching out to those who do not know Christ.

This resolution certainly has a commendable goal – to further spread the Gospel, yet it does so at the expense of that very same Gospel, by promulgating church fellowship with unspecified entities which do not necessarily hold to an orthodox understanding of the Gospel.

The resolution seems to operate under the assumption that since “the task of reaching those who do not know Christ is greater than we can do alone,” it is therefore acceptable to unite with non-Lutherans to perform outreach efforts. While the Formula of Concord is clear that we desire union with other Christians, “We do yearn with heartfelt pleasure and love for unity. On our part, we are sincerely willing and anxious to advance that unity (according to our utmost power)...,” that union can only be achieved in a manner “ which God’s glory remains unharmed. We willingly advance unity where nothing of the divine truth of the Holy Gospel is surrendered, no room is given to the least error, and poor sinners are brought to true, genuine repentance, raised up by faith, confirmed in new obedience, and justified and eternally saved alone through the sole merit of Christ” (FC, SD, XI, 96). In the case of the resolution, the cart seems to come before the horse, abandoning any consideration of doctrinal truth in favor of a pragmatic missional outcome. There can be no church fellowship with entities which do not share our Confession, because our Confession is a correct presentation of Scriptural truth, and uniting with those who do not hold to the teaching of Scripture is sinful.

This proposed joint effort falls under the definition of unionism, defined in the Christian Cyclopedia as the “non-biblical term applied to various dedegrees of coorganization, joint worship, and/or cooperation between religious groups of varying creeds and/or spiritual convictions.” While you might not consider a joint effort between your church and the Methodist church next door to repaint your mutually shared fence unionism, a joint evangelistic effort certainly would be.

The Constitution of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, in Article VI, contains the conditions for acquiring and holding membership in the Synod, including the following condition:

Renunciation of unionism and syncretism of every description, such as:
a. Serving congregations of mixed confession, as such, by ministers of the church;
b. Taking part in the services and sacramental rites of heterodox congregations or of congregations of mixed confession;
c. Participating in heterodox tract and missionary activities.

Some people may not view this resolution as unionism, because it doesn’t involve “pulpit and altar fellowship.” But fellowship involving churchly functions is pulpit and altar fellowship. God grows and sustains His Church through the means of grace – Word and Sacrament. These means of grace flow from the pulpit and the altar, and all other forms of church fellowship begin here, whether it is joint prayer, a worship service, or a joint evangelistic effort that is involved.

This resolution lacks discernment. It makes reference to the Great Commission, “(Matthew 28:18-20),” but omits the majority of its content, ignoring Christ’s mandate to baptize and teach, thus minimizing any doctrinal differences between Lutherans and other denominations. It references the “followers of Christ who make up the ‘One, Holy, Christian (catholic), and Apostolic Church,’” yet it ignores Augsburg Confession Article VII, which defines the Church as “the congregation of the saints in which the Gospel is purely taught and the Sacraments are correctly administered.” It also promotes an individualistic effort towards church fellowship, a sort of cafeteria-style arrangement, encouraging fellowship with groups as small as individual congregations, again ignoring the possibly heterodox confession of the church body to which that particular congregation is attached.

It should come as no surprise that this resolution exists, coming at a time when the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod welcomes, embraces, and adopts the doctrinal errors of “internationally known consultants,” “strategists,” “facilitators,” and “futurists” from the four corners of the doctrinal globe. What a contrast with that of the biblical witness found in Galatians chapter 2, in which James, Peter, and John would not extend the right hand of fellowship to Paul and Barnabas until they were convinced of their unity in the grace of Jesus Christ, in which Paul would not yield in submission to false brothers even for a moment, so that the truth of the Gospel might be preserved, and in which Paul opposed Peter to his face because his conduct was not in step with the truth of the Gospel.

While our postmodern times revel in unionism at the expense of truth, for the sake of the Gospel, we cannot afford to do the same.

Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works. 2 John 1:9-11 ESV


Anonymous said...

The debate on this one ought to be spirited and very interesting. You have to stick to the issues, and go back to the Confessions--any other argument is doomed to failure. If this one passes, the LCMS in your district will cease to exist. I can hear the argument: "There will always be an LCMS." Oh, yeah, but what does it stand for? Nothing, really, just another branch of Evangelicalism.


Dennis Peskey said...

Scott - I propose an 11th Commandment: "Thou shalt not rend the Word of the Lord." This is the violation of Resolution: 2-07. In the first "WHEREAS", the authority of the Great Commission is claimed, yet only the segment “make disciples of all nations,” is acknowledged.

As you correctly surmised, the "baptising them ..." is ignored as is v20 "teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you." The work and grace of Jesus is cast aside for a glory rooted in human effort. This resolution, in effect, calls us to return to the Mount of Transfiguration and pitch our tents to the Lord. Yet, it clearly ignors the Father's last words spoken to Peter, James and John (and us, as well); "This is my beloved Son; listen to him." (Mk 9:7 ESV)

We, as a Synod, will go nowhere if we do not first remain steadfast to God's Word. The sin of cafeteria christianity is selectively - pick the part of a passage that suits the purpose and ignor the rest. This is a most reprehensible form of disunity. Is this not exactly what Satan did when he tempted our Lord following his baptism?

We cannot condone a "gospel" other than what Jesus has given to us and for us. To "unite" with other denominations in an effort like this is to deny our teachings we confess in the Book of Concord. If we deny our beliefs, the truth is not in us and it is not the Gospel we proclaim.

Now, I must take leave to find my Pastor for absolution for proposing to add to God's Word. Since Commandment 11 is contained in the First Commandment (and I'm not particulary good at keeping this or any of the other nine), I'm content to remain with what God has taught us and to do all that he has commanded, in teaching, preaching and missions.

-Josh- said...

I am astonished that this is a resolution in your district. I should not be, but I am nonetheless. Johannes is right. If this passes then the Missouri Synod ceases to exist. I wonder though, most resolutions are brought forward to institutionalize practices already happening. So in a way, they're being honest with everybody. Keep us posted, Scott.

Anonymous said...


Thank you for the heads up on this. I have emailed my pastor sharing with him my concerns over this resolution. In addition to the problems you have pointed out, I also see that the last paragraph of the resolution institutionalizes consulting with church growth gurus and whomever else a congregation would choose to seek "advice" from in the name of "mission". This resolution will give carte blanche to congregations who want to "do church" in any way they like. This is already a problem, but this resolution will officially make it ok.

Robert Shipe said...

Why all the fuss? The only thing that surprises me is ; What took so long? What took so long for Unionism, which has been deemed "OK" or been spinned to make one believe it is OK, to go from New York (actually that was Syncretism but let's not get too technical on false doctrine) to Washington state? It took 8 years for this teaching (note: Doctrine) to spread accross the country? Wow!! Someone didn't try very hard, did they?

Mr. Diekmann does a great job with keeping the laity posted on the happenings of Synod as well as keeping us in the WORD (for example his Just quote was a most excellent read as was the Peskey post that followed)but nobody who has followed Synod should be surprised what the Northwest District is proposing. I am a bit confused, though, regarding their second "whereas" and their first "resolved." Seems to me there is a contradiction of the una sancta involved.

The groundwork for this proposal was laid 8 years earlier. While the district president who took part in Unionism/Syncretism was not reprimanded by his "ecclesiastical supervisor" those of us who signed the TTMBO document were deemed "schismatics" and "incessant purificators." The one person who did try to reprimand the false doctrine of D.P. Benke was fired from LHM (which is verrrry interesting since a previous LHM speaker, who was one of 44 signers of a document in 1945 was revered and let alone by Synod). But now I am rambling and apologize for doing so.

I do want to conclude by saying that anyone who thinks that this will be the death blow of synod is completely mistaken. Not enough people care and too many Pastors are too concerned with their Concordia plans to seriously take a stand. Also, those who think that this will mean Missouri "ceases" to exist are also wrong. That happened a very long time ago. At least as far back as that 1945 document, maybe even further back than that.

Robert Shipe said...

Unionism is such a bad thing to practice, accept and believe. Not unity of doctrine. That is a different thing entirely. In fact unity of doctrine is the antithesis of unionism because unionism is totally indifferent to doctrine. Doctrine isn't important and what's really ironic is that most of the time the driving force in practicing unionism is the Great Commission of Jesus. "We must bring Jesus to all people. That is what Jesus says in His great Commission" is the cry of those like David Benke and the proponents of the Northwest District resolution. Well? Do these people think they have the market cornered in conversion? In outreach? In witnessing? Do they actually think that doctrine which Jesus Himself talks about in His great commission is a stumbling block in converting people to Christianity? Like others have commented in Mr. Diekmann's blog; there are two parts of Christ's great commission. Baptizing and teaching. It's interesting that neither are mentioned in the Northwest District's first "whereas." How can we make disciples without Baptizing and teaching? According to Jesus' own words, we can't!

I found an interesting quote from "Popular Symbolics." On page 106 it says: "Unionism, which asks the various denominations to form a union, or at least to maintain church fellowship among themselves, despite their disagreement in doctrine-that allegedly being a matter of indifference- is a gross violation of the divine command. Furthermore, it does not serve the cause of unity, but perpetuates division,since it demands toleration of the original cause of division, false doctrine. It sins, further, against charity; instead of warning the errorist and the erring Christians, it palliates error. It is immoral; it pretends a unity that does not exist and operates with dishonest, ambiguous formulas of union. Finally, it involves a denial of the truth since he who consciously compromises with error, compromises and betrays the corresponding truth, Matt. 12:30, and since it springs from indifference and fosters indifference, it tends to bring on the loss of the entire truth."

In "A Summary of Christian Doctrine" Edward Koehler says; "Insistance on purity of doctrine is by no means narrow minded bigotry on the part of the Church. A false doctrine can never produce a right faith, nor can false teaching direct us in the right way...False doctrine creates a false faith in those who accept them, and only the right doctrine can create the right concept in the mind and the right faith in the heart. To make men disciples of Christ the Church must teach ALL that Christ has commanded and nothing but what he has cammanded (Matt. 28:20). (P. 249)

The confessions state; "And to the true unity of the Church it is enough to agree concerning the doctrine of the Gospel and the Sacraments" (A.C., Art. VII). Does the Baptist, Catholic (Rome) Methodist, and all other denominations have these agreements with the Lutheran Church?

Those who propose unionism in the name of discipleship obviously have not read these words. Nor the words of St. Paul. Nor have they really read and understood the very words they quote of Christ Himself.