Thursday, September 27, 2007

Worship Service VS Divine Service

The past few days I have been reading over the Lutheran Confessions and reflecting on my own spiritual journey and asking myself some questions. How and when did the divine service become transformed into a Worship Service led by a Praise Band? Does doctrine lead worship?

As I read the Confessions a portion of a text jumped out at me:

The impiety and tyranny of bishops cause schism and discord. Therefore, Paul commands that bishops who teach and defend a godless doctrines and godless services should be regarded as accursed. Gal. 1:7-9. (Concordia the Lutheran Confessions, pages 328-331)

Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope, The Power and Jurisdiction of Bishops

It seems that historically the Lutheran church has clung to the liturgy as a form of worship focused on Christ and the clergy protected this form of church. The center of the service was Christ and his saving work on the Cross. Yet over the last decade or so it seems to me that the WELS theologians turned their focus from the historical Lutheran liturgy to the culture at hand. I imagine this shift occurred slowing and some say the WELS is walking in step with Missouri just a decade behind. Those of you more learned may know when this shift in the focus entered the WELS church service. And so I ask is the focus still “strongly” and ritely focused on Christ.

At a blended or contemporary WELS service I attended not long ago. The service began with the announcement to greet your neighbor. After the worship leader (not the pastor) quieted the people, the children were asked to come up front for their message. The children were ushered out of the service after this children’s message so that they could go have their puppet show elsewhere (children’s church). What I wondered is why even have the children’s message in with the adults. Then I remembered the old show “Kids say the darndest things.” So there usually is a comically moment like the time I saw a young 3 year old sprinting around the room as mommy chased him and the audience (congregation) laughed.

So then the adult praise band began to play as the powerpoint proclaimed “Here I am to Worship.” After a few more pop songs the reverend walked amongst the people and held an interactive Bible study. I recall that the Lord’s Prayer was observed but no creeds or confessions. The blessing at the end did happen but I felt sorry for the young children in the other room missing out on this part.

Is this an example of a godless service? Now I know some readers will scream you are focusing on style again. It is only a worship style that isn't listed in the 10 commandments. But I say don't forget about the 3rd commandment. It is interesting that in the statement above godless doctrine is listed and then godless worship. So is impure doctrine creeping into the WELS as Praise Band worship takes hold?

Monday, September 24, 2007

Throw me a bucket

Through this blog I have highlighted a few “observations” that I have witnessed in the WELS including a pastor allowing a woman to lead a co-ed Bible Study and a young girl giving a children’s sermon. As well as a perceived double standard on how a few on the cop choose to treat or discipline some clergy. The “officials” choose to exercise doctrinal discipline on some yet allow questionable and unscriptural practices to go unchecked and the cry is to put the best construction on his case (cause he’s got a synod name) while someone else gets the boot.

I have also continually brought up the divisive nature of the Church and Change group. I believe, divisive in nature by its very name and its history of inviting heterodox Unitarian speakers.

There have been many comments on the blog about how the WELS perspective on the OHM has shifted (or not). We float along as "every member is a minister" becomes the slogan of the day and then no one is left to shepherd the people.

Some posters have commented about the struggling school system. Is it because of a lack of support from the church? or are the educational standards not high enough? Lutheran schools are struggling.

I have said that maybe the struggles financially are a call to repentance.

So the good ship WELS continues to drift along. The layman is left to bail water. Maybe a Confessional clergy will throw a bucket now and again.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Extreme Theology

So do you think the innovative ideas of Church and Change -- could lead to EXTREME theology?

Those that follow maybe led into this relevant type of extreme theology. When a focus is on the works we do instead of what Christ has done for us this is what happens -- Rick Warren's Purpose Driven Dribble which leads to self-fulfillment void of the suffering, death, and resurrection of Christ.

What denomination is this church? mythbusters

If you still want to register for the Church and Change conference just look on the synod website.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Open Forum

A few posters have asked that Bailing Water address a different avenue of topics.

So I will open up the blog for topics of concerns and issues facing the WELS. I believe that a major transformation that is needed is open lines or forums for communication and discussion.

Communicating clearly, concisely, consistently, accurately

This link leads to Pres. Schroeder’s recent e-mail newsletter and is an attempt to begin filling the information void. Also, here are some news items from

  • After consulting with the Synodical Council and the Conference of Presidents, I've asked all areas of ministry and synodical agencies to give me an opportunity to review plans for filling existing or new positions, even if they are funded by the current budget. I'm thankful to the Board for Parish Services for their recent decision to delay calling for a vacant position in the area of parish consulting.
  • Communications Director Joel Hochmuth has been asked to prepare a comprehensive strategy to improve communications; this e-newsletter is the first step.
  • The Ad Hoc Commission established by the convention to provide long-range plans for the synod's financial health will be appointed in mid-September.
  • A sincere thank you to congregations and individuals that participated in recent efforts to send special offerings to support the synod's budget. Also, sincere thanks to congregations that have increased their Congregation Mission Offerings in response to appeals by their district presidents.
  • September's WELS Connection was sent to all congregations. I would encourage all to use what has proven to be our most effective communication tool.

Let me know what you think are the pressing issues that need to be addressed or discussed.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Role of Men and Women

Since no one has jumped into the discussion on whether or not a woman may lead a Bible study in which both men and women are present I looked a bit on the question and answer section on

It seems that the answers are vaguely clear in their position that it would be permissible. Here is a snippet:

The Scriptures clearly do not forbid women from engaging in all manner and types of teaching. The Scriptures clearly do not forbid women from engaging in all manner and types of teaching Scripture. Finally, the Scriptures clearly do not forbid women from teaching Scripture to men in every kind of circumstance and fashion. Colossians 3:16 assumes that the people of God will "teach and admonish one another.

So from what I can perceive the wels (Answer man) does not see anything wrong with this practice. To me this seems to be a significant shift from traditional Lutheranism practice that a woman remain silent (1 Co 14:34) and that a woman should not teach a man (1 Ti 2:11,12).

Yet in returning to the upcoming Changers conference link you will see that this conference is encouraging this shift as there are several training session for women leaders.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Who's Who

Church and Change group (C&C):

“Church and Change is a growing group of WELS Christians who desire to think and work like the Apostle Paul who said, "I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some." The Church and Change group is interested in practicing and promoting innovation in ministry methods throughout the WELS especially at the "grass roots" level.”

The perception has been given that this group was endorsed by the previous synodical administration because of the conference registration link and other promotional information found on the official WELS website.

Board of Directors:
Pastor Ron Ash - Chairman
Jeff Davis Vice - Chairman
Sarah Owens - Secretary
Barry Spencer
Caleb Cordes
Pastor Bruce Becker
Pastor John Huebner
James Skorzewski
*Pastor Dave Kehl – synodical administrator / Conference presenter

Issues in the WELS:

“… The purpose of this group is to meet from time to time to discuss these issues. We wish to offer input and give support to our Synodical leadership as they strive for unity of purpose and give direction to our Synodical family.”

This group recently invited newly elected Pres. Schroeder to participate in an upcoming form.

Motley Magpie:

The Motley Magpie was a quarterly journal dedicated to the promotion of Lutheran ceremonia in the evangelical catholic tradition as confessed in the Book of Concord AD 1580/1584.

Rev. John W. Berg: Author and Editor of the defunct Magpie. Berg was suspended by AZ/CA presidium (led by DP Janke) for thoughts written and condoned in the Magpie. Rev. Berg’s congregation was also given the boot when they chose to back Berg. Many clergy / theology professors believe Berg’s views were not unscriptural.

Rev. Peter M. Berg: Contributing author to the MM. Given the boot by his WELS bishop. Pastor of Our Savior Evangelical - Lutheran Church, Chicago and unconditional subscriber to the Lutheran Confessions, who is playing for that other team now.

Bailing Water

A blog originally started by Aaron in order to keep the discussion going about concerns in the WELS.

Please feel free to add your who to the who's who in the WELS ~

Monday, September 10, 2007

Sword of the Spirit

Here are a couple of comments that I thought I’d bring to the top as sometimes the comments from older posts get passed over:

"I heard somewhere that we should be glad the convention was about money and not about doctrinal problems in the WELS, which i (sic) believe we dont have."

Doctrinal problems? How is that possible in a synod where everyone is in the Office of the Ministry?

And what's this business about Pr. Berg being a false teacher? I'm curious to hear what you know, Anon.


Another poster –

Rick said...

…John in this blog has lamented his view that our Synod is fractured. I don't agree but sometimes it seems that people who dislike Church and Change are bent on driving in the wedge.

It is very evident that the problems that have arisen stem from theological issues (ie doctrinal problems). The missing unity in doctrine and practice is very evident. Rick I would disagree with you. The synod is fractured. I believe you are wrong when you say that those who dislike the C&C group are driving in the wedge. Maybe they are striving, with passion, to cling to a remnant of Confessional Lutheranism found in the divine service. Unless you mean that the sword of the Spirit, (the Law and the Gospel), is being pounded home with full force.

I, too, wonder what mr. anon. means that Pr. Berg is a false teacher. Is this anonymous the mysterious deep throat who holds the Watergate (Magpie) tapes from the AZ/CA presidium. Was Pr. Berg a false teacher because he was too catholic and didn’t have a praise band in the sanctuary?

Sunday, September 9, 2007

“Change” back - guest perspective

A very interesting comment from a reader of the Church and Change email list..


Steve Reagles ” own reflection upon the process of change and the “intuitive” notion that more contemporary, non-European, styles of worship ought to be at the heart of evangelism and mission work, as neighborhoods and their ethno-centricities shift. Could it be that the most expedient, and seemingly counter-intuitive, direction that churches ought to be shifting toward is “change” back toward the authentically traditional in its rich “tradition”?

This might be one of the most important kinds of inclusions that would help “balance” the American cultural notions evident in the Church and Change Conference, October 15-17.

In the face of many, most(?) Lutheran churches considering a shift to the “contemporary” worship model the new “contemporary” could very well be retro “traditional” as in pop culture the new contemporary revives “retro.” Below is one link to a leader in the evangelism model of worship who has backtracked entirely from her previous “contemporary” model. The second link is to a conservative “Confessional Lutheran” LC-MS church in the Washington, D. C. area that is thriving. In times of “Church and Change” there are also many Christians longing for the unchanging, the staid, Confessional doctrine of the ages. Gene Veith, whose books are popular in our circles—and who keynoted a conference at WLC a few years back--attends the church I’m told. Over against the style of worship of other LC-MS churches and ELCA churches, and perhaps, some of our churches in the area (?), for whom the contemporary worship paradigm has been recently adopted and which—from a worship viewpoint--look much like each other on the respective websites [or in the telephone book], this church has hit a chord they believe to be perpetually contemporary—being old and new simultaneously. These days, a church that “brands” itself as “Confessional Doctrine; Traditional Liturgy” rather than seeming “dated” may bring to a community a truly unique and authentic Confessional Lutheran worship “experience.”

Reading His Word Matters

How in the world did Michigan lose again? It seems the first lose may have been because they overlooked Appalachian State but what about the loss to Oregon? Maybe it was because they weren’t prepared. Maybe they didn’t read the playbook.

How do we stay prepared to remain true and pure in doctrine and practice? We must read and apply the playbook. Sometimes we overlook the opponent and turn a blind eye to what is happening. Oh, maybe its ok for the young gal to deliver the kiddie message during the divine service. And who really cares if a woman leads the church Bible Study? Before we know it we are overlooking the Devil’s schemes. We stray from the play book –His Word read through the lens of our Confessions. One loss leads to another and another.

So what must we do? Again I believe reading matters. Those of you old enough might remember Terry Anderson, Chief Middle East Correspondent of the Associated Press, who was kidnapped on March 16, 1985, in Beirut, Lebanon. Nearly seven years after his abduction, he was the last of thirteen American hostages to be set free by his Shiite captors. Throughout his 2,454 days in captivity, Anderson waged an inner struggle with his worst fear: that he “would lapse into some kind of mental rot.” As horrendous as his experience was, Anderson kept his brain alive through the sustaining power of language. Even though he was isolated from his fellow captives most of the time, his ordeal did not prevent him from communicating with them – first by teaching them a sign language and then by developing a system of taps against the wall. And through his captivity, he fought to keep his brain alive by badgering his captors for books, and more books, until they were eventually delivered by the box load. Terry Anderson knew all too well that reading matters.

Reading is the major tool our Lord uses to transmit his saving Word. “Faith comes from hearing the message.” Reading matters. Simply look at how our Lord had his plan of salvation transmitted. He chose to use “the Word” – to be read by us. We can remain pure and true by reading His Word.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Treading Water

I would like to let you know that I appreciate the open and honest discussion that has been occurring. Aaron chose the title for this blog some have suggested a name change. Some funnier than others. But it seems we do need to be patient and hope we don't grow tired of bailing. Maybe we do need to start treading the waters of Lutheranism as we wait for the ship to be righted. I also want you to know that I am studying and growing through what I have been reading. I have also been doing research.

As you know I have conveyed that I am offended in my faith by what seems to be a synodically sanctioned link to the Church and Change registration on I have contacted the synod office about this offense. I have been assured that this and other policies are under review.

I do invite any other comments on the questionable practices I have presented. I am trying to grow in my patience with my perspective and understanding. But I am shocked by some of what I have seen. Yet I am also aware that there are many faithful pastors clearly presenting the Word and holding up the sacraments. I honestly believe that a deep study of His Word and the Confessions is the way to guide the ship. I do mean that the clergy lead the people through a study of the Word and Confessions.

Holding my head above water ~

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Fractured WELS

A commenter wrote….

Though, even with the factions that seem to become more polarized with each passing day, we are being fed the lie that we are a "unified" body and everyone not on the "bandwagon" is "divisive"...."sigh"....for those of us caught in the middle...what are we to do??

A DP told me not long ago that the WELS is usually about a decade behind Missouri. It seems to me about a decade ago the LC-MS began to become even more splintered from the Jesus First group to the move by some out of Missouri to the Orthodox Church.

I sense that the splintering in the WELS has happened. I believe that the Church and Change group ran ahead like loose cannons and many methods and choices went unchecked. Even today you can register on the official WELS website for the latest Changer conference. So maybe it is officially sanctioned and we’ll never catch up to them.

Then you look across the aisle to the issue group which according to their statement arose because of strange things going on in the WELS. I see meetings have been held and issues discussed but what has been accomplished? I still see strange things happening in the WELS.

I noticed on the issues website a letter from Pres. Schroeder to the Issues group.

Has he written a letter to the Changers? I would assume so but I can’t find it on their website.

I’m told now that the young men coming out of the LC-MS seminaries are much more confessional than the veterans. So maybe there is hope that in a decade the young WELS seminary grads will dust off the Book of Concord and take hold of the Confessions.

I guess we are caught. Keep on Bailing Water..with a view from the pew.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

The New Administration

The comment discussion has turned towards the hope for a new direction under a new administration. I would imagine that Pres. Schroeder is trying to sort things out and get a hold of his new direction. As the waters of the WELS have become muddied, divided, and misguided. I can imagine that in two years Mueller would decide to step aside also. I am happy that the prez has put forth a direction. So I guess I will hold off on posting those 95 theses as Jared suggested.

What I am wondering is how he will prioritize the synod needs. I believe he realizes that the administration became very top heavy over the last decade. I know that he is a strong proponent of the Lutheran educational system. Someone mentioned how the ELS has made a concerted effort towards opening and supporting their school system. I would think that would be a move in the right direction. Our schools have been pitted against other ministries and have lost too much ground.

I believe that Schroeder must take a hold of those pastors that are trying to shed their Lutheran identity in order to grow the church. I believe that Schroeder does need to address the Church Growth inroads and address the fellowship issue. Again, I believe that Satan is working hard even amongst the DPs. I also feel that he needs to commend pastors to take hold of the office of the holy ministry.

What do you think his top priorities should be?

I appreciate the commenter who made the suggestion to write the president. I will and I will invite him to read the blog. I will also continue to bail water.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Lukewarm Water of Apathy

While I was thinking about the testing the water post below, I thought that maybe some would call the water lukewarm. I think that the church militant has become lukewarm.

Jesus commanded us to fight against the powers of darkness in this world. Darkness can appear within the heads of churches and synodical offices. During the time of the reformation Luther fought the powers of the office the papacy of Rome. The pope was misleading the Church he was supposed to serve. In fact the powers put a bounty on Luther’s head.

The hooded bounty hunters were sent out to silence this writer from Wittenberg. The Devil continues to work within in our midst today. The Devil tries to silence those that speak the truth. So the church militant must rise up for the sake of Christ crucified. Yet the issues are silenced. Keep your head low and be safe is the mantra.

The Church and papacy even fought the use of the printing press because then the mass would know. So too today suspend the authors of the journal and shut down the discussion on the blogs.

The lukewarm apathy towards doctrine, practice, and double standards should be rooted out. Questionable practices must be questioned. Yet the fear for each pastor has become if I remain Confessional those in charge won’t approve.

It was suggested that I look at Prof. Brenner’s recent essay. He does an excellent job of outlining how the church militant has struggled for truth and purity through its history.

He concludes his thoughts by recognizing that the church is struggling with theological issues involving fellowship, church and ministry, and the role of men and women. These are the very same items I have brought forth with specific examples.

Strength lies in teaching and preaching Christ crucified. Not turning a blind eye while a wing nut spins out of control.

The word of the day in the world is “tolerance.” We must tolerate the alternative lifestyle. We must tolerate that stray pastor and that wing nut of ideas. Yet the rank and file in the pew want and need to hear Christ crucified. Tell me when has the rank and file ask for the blended approach to worship or when did they say stop using the creeds? We must tolerate pure doctrine and practice!

So what is the answer? The church must gather around the Word and holy sacraments. We should look to the Confessions rather than Leonard Sweet. Those in the preaching office must realize their calling and take hold of this office. Carrying the cross is difficult and painful. But we can rest assured that our Lord says a remnant shall remain. We have the confidence to stay vigil. With that then the lukewarm tide waters of apathy can be turned.

Matthew 10:34 Jesus said "Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. 35 For I have come to 'set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law'; 36 and 'a man's enemies will be those of his own household.' 37 He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. 38 And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. NKJ


1 Peter 5:8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. 9 Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. NKJ


2 Timothy 2:2 And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. 3 You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. NKJ

Ephesians 6:10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. NKJ

Test the Water

What do you do before you jump into the pool? Usually you put a toe in to test the water. Then you jump in and someone shouts.."how's the water?" From what I sense the WELS water is cold. So we start bailing out the cold water.

One commenter asked why I started to this blog. Actually I restarted this blog. One reason was to pick up synod discussion where Aaron left off. The discussion was revolving around the convention. But the the cold water runs deep.

Another reason is I have serious questions about the erosion of doctrine and practice in the WELS. Again, I was told that I made broad generalizations. Yet I gave specific unscriptural examples. I have brought these concerns up the chain. What happens is a blind eye is turned which indicts a lot. And simply look at most authors in FIC. The strong, sacramental and liturgical pastor or churches aren’t highlighted.

I am wondering if the church and change conference will eventually offer a workshop on how to conduct a liturgical service. That would be a change for many.

I was also asked again about the double standard in the WELS. One private commenter shared their story with me. I listed my issues below. Again, I wonder why a blind eye is turned. I believe most all are familiar with the case the DP Janke brought against Pr. Berg. Oh my, the kids at the college are talking theology brought on by thoughts from a Magpie. The synod wants no part of this and out goes Berg. And this list of resignations out west goes on and on. An Apache pastor is giving the locals too much control. A charge (later dropped) is drummed up and another one is ousted. Ok..then along comes the cover up…a charge against an ole’ synodical boy from the southwest. This charge is covered up. We must not hurt this man’s name. It does seem that there is a double standard. I wonder if a study should be done on resignation (or in most cases forced resignations).

How's the water? Test the water.