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?


Anonymous said...

The Magpie advocated communing infants.

That's false doctrine.

Case closed.

Anonymous said...

Then the Church and Change conference is a symposium of false teachers, because they advocate, among other things, antimomianism.

Anonymous said...

What is the Magpie??

I'm a bit loss...who is Berg??

Can we have a post to clarify who people are and what various groups are??

I know Issues in the WELS...C&C....but beyond that...totally lost!

Rob said...

YEs, if someone could give us the Berg story or a link to an explanation, that would be great. Last year I attempted to research but found nothing on the internet and an email to Berg went unanswered.

Anonymous said...

Your proof, please, that communing baptized infants is in fact false doctrine. I can prove just as easily that withholding the sacrament until the arbitrary age of 14 is also false doctrine..

Another Rick

Anonymous said...


"The Magpie advocated communing infants.

That's false doctrine.

Case closed."

A few comments/questions about out this.

1)False doctrine was not given as the official reason for Pastor Berg's suspension.
2) I hope this is not the way you always evaluate false doctrine, i.e., no evaluation or proof, just conclusions without citations to scripture and the confessions.
3) Pastor Berg didn't write the article about infant communion.
4) Pastor Frey's article about infant communion is well done--I encourage you to read it.
5) To the best of my knowledge, Pastor Frey is a WELS pastor. To use a clasic WELS paragigm, "If infant communion is false doctrine, how can someone who wrote an article about infant communion be a WELS pastor?" That one is rhetorical.

I encourage you read the article again, if you haven't already, and explain why exactly you consider exploring infant communion to be fale doctrine. "Case closed" just isn't good enough.

Anonymous said...

When queried regarding the cause of Pr. Berg's removal, WELS Q&A refused to give a reason saying his case was reserved to the district, "WELS does not carry out discipline of its called workers on the synodical level. All disciplinary matters are wholly carried out by the district in which the minister serves. So I cannot answer your question on our synodical Web site. "

The secret removal of a minister from the roster of a synod presumes a papist reservation of cases that is contrary to scripture and our confessions (1 Pet. 5:3; AC, XXVII). The members of the synod are powerless to overturn an unjust removal. The true cause of the removal is never made public and open discussion of the issues is forbidden. Secret removal is an offense against the unity of Christ's church and is never justified.

Anonymous said...

Daniel Gorman,

Did you bother to ask the district? It seems to me to simply be a matter of good order, not some secret papist agenda. The synod shouldn't be expected to make official statements about district business. Perhaps before you start slinging accusations around you should check with the people who were actually involved.

Rob said...

John Berg got a short mention in District President’s Report to the Arizona-California District Convention, June 12-14, 2006, Mesa, Arizona

Our district roster of congregations grew smaller this past biennium when three congregations were suspended from the district. Hope, Fremont, CA, chose to continue being served by Pastor John Berg, who had been suspended from our ministerium. Redeemer, Lovelock, NV, chose to continue being served by Pastor Daniel Schaller after he had accepted a call to serve a congregation not of our fellowship. And Trinity, Duncan, AZ, chose to seek the services of a pastor not of our fellowship. I’m saddened by the break in fellowship with pastors and congregations who have long been members of our synod. But I’m always grateful for the efforts of circuit pastors, district vice-presidents, and lay leaders who devote time and energy to solving problems that arise in the district.

Anonymous said...

So, Berg's issues revolved around paedocommunion??

Oh and is Pastor Frey...Pastor Aaron Frey?? Which Frey is it?? Where can I find the article? Again, totally loss.

This is really frustrating. I need a post that just breaks it all time in a nice time-sequenced manner.....

Anonymous said...

To anonymous with the many questions: A good place to start is The article on Infant Communion is in Vol. 2, No. 3. At the end of the article, Pastor James Frey also responds to letters it generated. To the anonymous person that accused Pastor Frey of being a false teacher, I challenge you to read this article, read the letters and his responses, and again reevaluate.

Anonymous said...

anonymous asks, "Did you bother to ask the district? It seems to me to simply be a matter of good order, not some secret papist agenda. The synod shouldn't be expected to make official statements about district business. Perhaps before you start slinging accusations around you should check with the people who were actually involved."

What would that accomplish? Private correspondence with a WELS district can not be made public without its express written consent. Until the veil of secrecy is publicly lifted by the district and the synod, the Berg removal will remain a papal reservation of cases.

The removal of a pastor from the WELS synodical roster was reserved to the District President and him alone with no possibility of oversight or review by the district or synod at large. That is good order for a dictatorship or a papacy but not for a Lutheran synod that has denounced such lordship over Christ's holy church.

rak said...

John Berg and Peter Berg are brothers who, with James Frey, published the Motley Magpie -- a neat little 24 page newsletter which, over the three years, irritated their synod, WELS of Milwaukee.

John is now independent, Peter is now LCMS (last I heard), and Jim is still in WELS, not having made quite so much an issue of things as did the Bergs. WELS was wrong removing both of them. Their crime was merely being more high-church than WELS likes (since WELS tends more toward the Reformed) and being a bit vocal about things.

I thought one needed to be examined before Holy Communion and be able to confirm his faith and beliefs before being allowed at the Altar Rail. Doesn't that let out infants? It may be that 14 is too old an age, but 6 months seems a bit iffy to me.

Rob said...

Daniel, there is some oversight. According to Synod bylaws:

Section 8.20
Jurisdiction and Procedure in Disciplinary Actions and
Removal from Office at the District Level

(a) In cases of discipline among pastors, teachers, and congregations of both self-supporting and
mission status, the district in which such pastors, teachers, and congregations hold
membership shall exercise original jurisdiction. The Synod Board of Appeals shall exercise
appellate jurisdiction.

Anonymous said...


Thanks for the reference to synodical by-laws. I see a few problems with an oversight system that only kicks in when a minister appeals his removal.
1. The minister knows he was justly removed and, therefore, does not appeal. However, if the reason for his removal is never made public, rumors may swirl about that he was unjustly removed. These rumors are never laid to rest and they become a perpetual scandal within the synod.
2. The minister knows he was unjustly removed. However, by not appealing, he believes that he can protect others from unjust removal or persecution.
3. Whether a minister's removal was just or unjust, the failure to publicly disclose the reason for a removal and be subject to oversight is lording it over the church and her ministers. Popes may say, "Roma locuta est, causa finita est" but not a Lutheran District President who has sworn to uphold the Augsburg Confession.

I would caution all who have stated a reason for Pr. Berg's removal without citation to an official statement of the synod or district to carefully review the Large Catechism's explanation of the eight commandment.

Rob said...

Daniel, I agree with you that there should be glasnost in disciplinary proceedings. Scripture tells us, Those [elders] who sin are to be rebuked publicly, so that the others may take warning. [1 Tim 5:20] In other words, God WANTS us to make some information public in order to teach others and (presumably) avoid recurrences of the sin or false teaching.

Unfortunately, WELS has a long history of keeping secrets. We see it at the local, district, and national level. (I'm not an anthropologist, but I suspect that it's a family trait we inherited from our German ancestors.) In his paper The Synod: Theological Basis and Historical Development {Presented at the IIW Forum in Appleton, WI on August 12, 2007}, WLS Professor John Brenner commented on "The Protes'tant Controversy" [apostrophe indicates altered pronunciation], It is difficult to gain an accurate understanding of the controversy because the Wisconsin Synod by resolution, stopped writing about it . . . [emphasis mine]. Wow! If you don't write about it, it never happened. This problem with disclosure goes WAY back, and IMHO our Synod's reluctance to deal with sin and false teachings of called workers OPENLY is the single, greatest problem we have as a Synod.

Rob said...

From Q&A . . .
Q: Where might I find a list of false teachings that may have crept into WELS congregations and with which WELS circuit pastors or district presidents may have dealt in the past few years? Our adult Bible class is studying the Book of Concord, and we don't have contemporary factual examples of Christian discipline, so our discussions are hypothetical, based on rumors, or stuck in previous centuries. If we had solid examples of recent doctrinal mischief the devil has been causing inside congregations, we might be better Bereans.


A: No such list exists. The Conference of Presidents, charged by our WELS constitution with overseeing doctrine and practice in our church is always dealing with a number of issues and individuals. The confidentialy of Christian discipline precludes citing any ongoing cases, but there are no secrets in regard to the general subject matter.

In the last ten years the COP has dealt with issues regarding the administration of the Lord's Supper, the application of man and woman roles, the doctrine of the divine call, the application of church fellowship, and the qualifications of those who serve in the public ministry.

There is remarkable unity in the WELS in regard to the basic doctrines of the Augsburg, such as the deity, original sin, the person of Jesus, justification, and the gospel in word and sacrament. Discussions of the Augsburn focusing on contemporary issues might include Church and Ministry: Articles V, VII, VIII, XIV, XV, XXVII, and XXVIII; and a Christian's civic duties and responsibilities: Article XVI.

The doctrinal unity we enjoy in the WELS, however, derives from the fact that all of the Augsburg is regularly under discussion and study. What goes around comes around in terms of false doctrine. For instance, recently the Da Vinci Code and the Gospel of Judas have attacked what we confess in Article III about Jesus. The ELCA made an agreement with Rome that sets aside the precious teaching of Article IV on justification. The Baptist and Evangelical influence in our country opposes the clear teaching of Article IX. All of the Augsburg is valuable for study both for inside and outside pressures for false doctrine, for now and in the future.


Rob's comment: In the past few years I have taken pastors to task for what I believe are errors. Here are two examples. On the role of the Holy Spirit, does the Holy Spirit need our help to make sure that we extend divine calls to the "right" candidate? After all, in one pastor's opinion, elections with multiple candidates are merely popularity contests and should be avoided. He says that steering calls "only makes sense." On repentance and forgiveness, a pastor teaches that God's forgiveness trumps all, therefore there is never a need to ask a brother's forgiveness. Neither of these positions is consistent with WELS theology, yet these pastors will not yield. Our national policy and tradition of secrecy hinders our ability to deal with errors.