Monday, June 22, 2009

An open letter to WELS laymen in advance of the synod convention

The letter below was sent to me for discussion...

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[Dear Friend in Christ],

[A number of folks] and I have been corresponding for some time regarding pressing issues of Church Practice in the WELS, issues which are potentially revealing doctrinal disunity, and which with all certainty, are going to surface during the 2009 WELS Synod Convention. Although I doubt these issues will be agenda items, they will undoubtedly surface in conversation among laymen, in committee discussion, and possibly in floor discussion resulting from committee reports, motions or even Memorials. I have been in contact with many individuals across Synod. I know that these topics will be raised, whether on the agenda proper, or not. Indeed, one internet source has proclaimed, "This 2009 convention will be the great divide. The laity will have to do their share -- and more than their share -- to move toward sound doctrine."

[Someone] informed me that he had briefly spoken to you regarding these issues, and he has asked me to share these issues with you by having me to forward to you pertinent information. There is a lot of it. I hope you don't mind reading. I will list the internet and attached document sources below, in order, providing a developing picture of the issues. My intent is to provide you with a reading of source material so that you can come to your own understanding of the gravity of these issues, can develop your own opinions, and be prepared for what may well be one of the most important Conventions since the amalgamation debate. I will provide an overview, and then only brief summaries for each source I link to.


Summary

Briefly stated, there seems to be a growing rift in our Synod's unity resulting from decades of tolerating the aberrations of the "Church Growth Movement" (CGM). While those who have imported these teachings from sources in greater American evangelicalism, and have promoted them among us, claim to have "cleaned them up" and "made them Lutheran," the damage created by these teachings is now surfacing in the form of divergent and sectarian practices within our congregations, especially worship practices, which are in turn not only exposing possibly divergent theological convictions of those in WELS who engage in these practices, but are most certainly exposing our people to heterodox perspectives as the practices themselves teach them, are watering down our public confession as our distinctiveness from the sectarians becomes less acute, and are eroding the consistency of our Fellowship standards, and thus also the firm testimony against doctrinal error that Fellowship is intended to communicate. This trend has not gone unnoticed by Synod. As a result of growing, and vocal concern, the WELS Council of Presidents (CoP) has recognized such influences among us, declaring under the "Doctrine" heading of its January meeting minutes:

5.D.03 Establishment of "non-traditional" ("new style") congregations We feel that the underpinnings of this "non-traditional" type of worship cannot be ignored. We also feel that the issue is extremely complex and will take great care to be careful to walk the "narrow Lutheran road" between legalism and ignoring and failing to admonish where practices are contrary to or a danger to the principles of gospel proclamation and the efficacy of the means of grace. We move that an ad hoc committee be convened that can study and address this issue and produce a study document that can be shared with circuits and also congregations for study and careful evaluation of practices in worship, sacraments, outreach, organization, music selection, etc. Motion carried.

5.D.05 C & C and outside speakers
We recommend that our Synod President and District President(s) continue to work with the representatives of Church and Change to come to an understanding of our desire for them to withdraw their invitation to the speaker proposed for their next conference.

The speaker referred to by the CoP, in 5.D.05 above, is Baptist "Church Growth" expert, Ed Stetzer -- and this specific issue has been a lightning-rod of controversy in the WELS for almost a year. But this is nothing new for the group Church and Change (C&C) -- an external group of WELS laymen, pastors, and theologians who seem to thrive on such controversy. In 2005, they invited the Methodist "Emergent Church" expert, Dr. Leonard Sweet, to instruct them, in order to disseminate his advice directly to WELS congregations through their organization. C&C was asked at that time by Synod to cancel their Conference because of their invitation, but C&C ignored this request. Because of the political positions in Synod occupied by those associated with this organization, C&C seems to have had free reign to "largely ignore them" (a quote from one of the papers I source, below). This year, it seems, they have finally been effectively pressured to "uninvite" the heterodox teacher, Ed Stetzer, but it remains to be seen whether the inclination to invite similar experts has also been reversed. In addition, many of our wealthy members seem to have gravitated to C&C leaders, perhaps because of their celebrity status, perhaps because of the “success” that their meticulously researched marketing plans seem to guarantee. As a result, several individuals have set up large endowment funds to finance the efforts of C&C -- perhaps without realizing the theological compromises and dangers of the Church Growth Movement that they are supporting. The fact is, C&C and its constituency have been active doing this sort of thing for decades, exposing laymen to "Church Growth" theology/methodology by sponsoring trips to evangelical Mission events, like the Exponential Conference and the Drive Conference, by holding their own Conferences celebrating heterodox keynote speakers, by encouraging our pastors and professors to attend grossly heterodox institutions (like Fuller in Pasadena, CA) to learn and import these practices into our Synod, by erecting supporting power structures within Synod (the Board for Parish Services, for instance), and by ultimately implementing these -- often very expensive -- CGM practices in their own congregations and by encouraging others to do the same. The sad fact is, even the statistical measures by which CGM promises “numeric growth,” CGM has instead proven to be an utter failure in those church bodies that have believed in its statistical promises and practiced its methods over the past generation. No evidence of growth in the Church can be found as a result of the methods promoted by CGM. Even Barna Research -- a Christian research firm founded many years ago with the purpose of providing congregations with marketing data and various other forms of research as they seek to implement the methods of CGM -- has declared CGM a statistical failure, showing that over the past generation of its use in greater American Christianity, despite over $500 billion invested in CGM methods over the past 30 years, no evidence of growth is discernible. At most, all that can be seen is denominational shift. Barna, almost five years ago, publicly has given up on CGM. If you think that the decline in numbers we face in WELS today is bad, the fact is, American Evangelicalism is in precipitous decline, the youth are leaving in droves for either liturgical churches, for the open apostasy of the Emergent Church (which seems to be overtaking Evangelicalism), or for nothing at all, and the ineffective Church Growth missions and mega-churches are closing down. CGM, far from helping, has ruined Evangelicalism in America. It has ruined most of Lutheranism in America, and threatens us, now.

Many are tempted to say, "Since false teaching is not tolerated among us, the 'Church Growth Movement' must be orthodox." The first problem is that CGM falsehoods are subtle yet insidious, and when cloaked in otherwise wholesome evangelical zeal, these subtleties (which expose horribly false foundations when they are closely examined, such as the decentralization of the Marks of the Church and the replacement of the Means of Grace with the means of man) are easily overlooked. The second problem is that CGM, in order to bring about the results it promises, requires an organizational power structure, and creates this power structure for itself as its "programs" are carried out. Thus the vaunted role of Parish Services. The Church Growth Movement has transformed WELS into a political institution (this is shown in one of the papers sourced, below). The fact is, several of our pastors and theologians have reportedly come out
against the errors of CGM, and as a result have been forced out of their positions and parishes through political pressure. Others have left for reasons of conscience. Reportedly, many pastors are reluctant to say anything as a result. But the struggle continues. One of the papers sourced, below, is a paper received by the 2008 Michigan District Convention -- a sweeping condemnation of CGM, and a call to repentance issued to those who have been deceived by it.

What follows is a listing of the sources I have found compelling, and which I invite you to read in order to be up to date on the issues as they are being considered today, and in order to understand how the "Church Growth Movement" has negatively impacted not only doctrine and practice and created division in our Synod, but is in large part responsible for our current financial situation (outside of ambient economic conditions that effect everyone equally, that is).


The Details

What is the "Church Growth Movement?"

Read the attached paper, Tendrils of the Church Growth Movement. (also reproduced online, here)
This is the paper that was delivered to the 2008 Michigan District Convention. It was commissioned by the MI District Convention in 2003, and represents five years of research by a team of WELS pastors and laymen. Presented in 2008, it is a comprehensive analysis, and sweeping condemnation, of the "Church Growth Movement." As I understand it, Rev. Aaron Frey (who was principal author of this paper), is active on C&C lists calling "Church Growth" adherents to repentance. He has been doing this for a number of years now, but it is unclear if there has been any change of heart among them.

The Plague of "Contemporary Worship" and the Role of the Lutheran Confessions

So-called "Contemporary Worship" is one of the hallmarks of CGM theology/methodology. In order for man to "grow the church," he must make it inviting for the unregenerate, by presenting worship in a way that is entertaining. It is easy to promote among us, since the prevailing thought is that "worship practice is adiaphora without qualification." The fact is, there are bounds to worship practice -- Scriptural bounds which are elucidated in our Confessions. The Lutheran church, as our Confessions inform us, is not only evangelical, it is also catholic, apostolic, and orthodox, and these facts underly the use of traditional hymnody and liturgical forms. Worship practice is not merely and entirely a matter of personal choice. Among the leading voices against the "Church Growth Movement" in WELS is a layman who writes under the name of "Freddy Finkelstein." He has contributed mainly to the blog, Bailing Water, a blog created and maintained by another WELS layman that is dedicated to discussing issues in Confessional Lutheranism, particularly in the WELS.

http://bailingwater.blogspot.com/2008/11/traditonal-service-contempo-service-rob.html
Read Freddy Finkelstein's post in response to "Ben." The links he provides to other blog entries and articles on Bailing Water are quite important, so follow those links and read their content. Some of the blog entries he links to are quite extended with commentary, so search these pages for "Freddy," and specifically read his contributions. Read the surrounding material too, if you've got the time.
http://bailingwater.blogspot.com/2008/10/reformation-and-restoration.html
Read Freddy's light commentary regarding Confessionalism, and his response to those supposed Lutherans who find the Lutheran Confessions irrelevant -- especially since they restrict supposed adiaphora in practice. Read also a full and authoritative Confessional assessment (by Rev. David Jay Webber, ELS) regarding Communion frequency, here.
http://bailingwater.blogspot.com/2008/10/crusaders-unite.html
Read Freddy's quote from C.P. Krauth's Conservative Reformation. It was reposted on Bailing Water (here) and elsewhere on the internet. Also in this blog entry, read Freddy's response to "Mr. Seeking Truth, not Hysteria."
http://bailingwater.blogspot.com/2008/12/christmas-miracle.html
Read the "extended reparté" between Freddy Finkelstein and Rev. Tomczak (WELS). Read the articles referenced by Freddy, as well -- especially the list of articles in his final comment.
http://bailingwater.blogspot.com/2009/01/anything-that-isnt-unbiblical-is-fair.html
This is an excellent commentary, as Freddy sounds off on an "alternative WELS church" that is running a coffee shop and calling it Divine Worship (now known on the internet as "Latte Lutheran"), and is then grilled by C&C Church Growth advocates. Worship is not a Means of Grace. Worship is not evangelism. Sectarian worship is not catholic worship. Profane amusements have no place in an Ecclesiastical worship setting. Etcetera. Of great benefit, is the old worship resource he points to: Dr. P.E. Kretzmann's 1921 book, Christian Art, in the Place and in the Form of Lutheran Worship (this is a full length book, worth perusing if you have the interest -- it is not necessary reading to get a grasp of the issues at hand).

http://bailingwater.blogspot.com/2009/04/they-sold-their-soul-for-rock-and-roll.html

This blog entry started off with a commenter warning of the inherently pagan nature of modern entertainments, and on this basis, questioning their use in the Divine Service. Freddy chimes in somewhere in the middle with two back-to-back posts, one addressing "Cultural Discernment" in our selection of forms, and the second, a lengthy quotation from C.P. Krauth defining the Confessional Principle, particularly "the independently normative nature of the Lutheran Confessions."

The Lutheran Church is a Liturgical Church, according to the Lutheran Confessions...

http://www.blc.edu/comm/gargy/gargy1/liturgical_church.html
This article is linked to at least twice in Freddy's commentary, above, but I link to it directly for the sake of this email, because I agree with Freddy regarding its importance and helpfulness. An anthology of statements from the Book of Concord, this article was compiled and edited by Rev. David Jay Webber of the ELS, and was published originally in 1992, in their theological journal, Lutheran Synod Quarterly. This online version includes an addendum that has since been included, indicating the suitability of certain Byzantine Rite liturgies in addition to the Western Rite, based on the recent experience of the Ukrainian Lutheran Church. Liturgical worship forms and traditional hymnody are antithetical to the objectives of the "Church Growth Movement," hence its insistence on so-called "Contemporary Worship". The Confessions very clearly indicate, however, that rites are necessary, that the liturgy belongs to the Church, not to individuals or to single congregations, and that catholic practice by definition is to embrace the expression of the Church, not that of the sectarians.

What is "catholicity"?

http://four-and-twenty-something.blogspot.com/2008/12/congregational-catholicity-pastoral.html
This is a good blog entry on Lutheran catholicity from a conservative LCMS pastor (Gene Veith pointed this one out on his blog). He starts out defining and describing catholicity, and indicates how it is manifest in both doctrine and practice (first several paragraphs). He then goes on to apply it to the specific political problems in LCMS -- which may or may not be interesting. This, in combination with the previous link and with Freddy's numerous quotes from C.P. Krauth, should provide clarity on this term regarding how it is used in reference to Worship practice.

What is "lex orandi, lex credendi"?

http://pastorstrey.wordpress.com/2009/02/05/lex-orandi-lex-credendi/
This is a blog entry from Rev. Johnold Strey (WELS), defining and defending the latin liturgical term lex orandi, lex credendi, which seems to pop up frequently in these discussions. He recently wrote an article that appeared in WELS' theological journal, Wisconsin Lutheran Quarterly(WLQ), to which I link, immediately below. Another excellent resource discussing this phrase, and sound Confessional Lutheran practice in general, is a recent book by Rev. Klemet Preus (LCMS) entitled, The Fire and the Staff: Lutheran Theology in Practice. It is a very accessibly written book, suitable for consumption by laymen and clergy.

"Contemporary Worship" teaches that Worship is a Means of Grace

Read the attached paper, Proclaiming the Gospel in Worship. (accessible online, here)
This is the paper that Rev. Johnold Strey (WELS) wrote and which was published in the Fall 2008 issue of WLQ. It can also be accessed online via his blog, here. In it, he examines the worship practices of the sectarians, especially the phenomenon of so-called "Contemporary Worship" and insists that the false teaching of "Worship as a Means of Grace" is at the root of it. Freddy Finkelstein, in many of the links, above, observes this same fact. Not only is "Contemporary Worship" rooted in false doctrine, it teaches these same false doctrines through its use (lex orandi, lex credendi).

"Church Growth" is not Lutheran evangelism

http://bailingwater.blogspot.com/2009/01/calling-all-confessional-pastors.html
This is another Bailing Water blog entry, highlighting the recent sermon by Rev. Webber (ELS) in which he calls out and condemns "Church Growth" by name. More of our pastors need to do this. In the course of discussion, it became clear that there was confusion regarding how to interpret Christ's statements in the Great Commission. Freddy Finkelstein offered two posts, one of exceptional importance which explained the Great Commission, and further demonstrated how Church Growthers, for all of their evangelical zeal and despite the fact that they use the Great Commission as their clarion call, are in reality teaching and acting contrary to Christ's Commission.
http://web.me.com/trinityh/Site/LCMS_Convention_Blog/Entries/2007/7/15_Pastor_Henson_Blog.html
The issue of Evangelism is central to "Church Growth" theology/methodology, but it is a wrong approach to evangelism. One of the hallmarks of CGM practices is to turn the Divine Service into an Outreach Event -- to turn Worship into Evangelism. Freddy sounds off on this at length, multiple times, in the links, above (especially, here). But this is not unique to Freddy. It is a legitimate concern in greater Confessional Lutheranism. The link at the head of this sub-section is to "Day One" of Rev. Henson's (LCMS) 2007 LCMS Convention blog. His congregation memorialized the Convention, calling the LCMS to repentance for many of the issues also outlined by Freddy. One of these issues is the nonsense that "Worship is Evangelism." Read through "Day One" -- it is relatively benign -- and at the bottom, click "Next." It will take you to "Day Two." Read through "Day Two", etc., through "Day Five." Pay attention to "Day Three", however, where Rev. Henson points out that "[t]here are some in the LCMS who maintain that by 'natural knowledge' non-Christians can worship the true God, though they are not saved." This is the rationale used by Church Growthers to justify the ordering of worship around the preferences of the unregenerate. Needless to say, Rev. Henson's congregation left the LCMS. Many others have followed him, most recently, and notably, Rev. Heimbigner's Texas congregation (his bio is here). Most LCMS congregations who leave under these circumstances continue as independent Lutheran congregations.

The Political Nature of "Church Growth" in WELS

Read the attached paper, Fifteen Years Under the MOV. (also reproduced online, here)
This is a paper that was (presumably) written by Rev. Marcus Manthey (WELS) and delivered to an "Issues in WELS" conference in 2005, prior to that year's Synod Convention. He traces the development of Synod reorganization with respect to Strategic Planning efforts that are necessary for the "success" of CGM, and centered on the creation of the Board for Parish Services. This Board subsequently declared for itself in 1992 that "Parish Services has primary responsibility for carrying out the goals of the synod's Mission-Objectives-Vision Statement". Naming many of the names associated with the Church Growth Movement in our Synod, he examines their statements in light of the Scriptures, in light of the WELS Constitution, and in light of the scripture doctrines of Church and Ministry, and very politely deprives CGM advocates of sound foundation. He expresses grave concern over the unbiblical and unbrotherly centralization of power (which is called for by "Church Growth" programs), noting that it bypasses the local congregation and deprives the Pastor of his Divine Call. Further, he emphasizes, the creation and centralization of distinct power structures has transformed WELS into a political animal, into something that, twenty-five years ago, it was not.
Read the attached paper, Reflections, Concerns, and Questions about our Beloved WELS. (also reproduced online, here)
This is a letter written by Rev. Kurt Koelpin (WELS) in 1992. Originally meant for internal consumption among the clergy only, this letter has since seen fairly wide public dispersal. In it, Rev. Koelpin clearly recognizes aberrations caused by the Church Growth Movement in WELS, even at that time, and warns against them. Shortly after writing this letter, Rev. Koeplin suffered a stroke. In an apparent effort to protect the designs of CGM, its proponents in WELS allegedly responded by referred to Rev. Koelpin as having been “brain damaged” when he wrote the letter, and thus successfully kept his concerns from being regarded seriously enough to prevent CGM from advancing among us.
http://randomintolerance.blogspot.com/2009/01/promised-rant.html
In this blog entry "Random Dan" (a WELS layman of some connection, it seems), complains, first, about the C&C Ed Stetzer invitation, mentioned above. Then, he goes on to detail some of the internal politics involved in the recent call of Rev. Paul Kelm (WELS) back to the Board for Parish Services, to serve (again) as a BPS consultant. He was called from St. Mark in DePere, WI, where he was serving with Rev. John Parlow. For your information, St. Mark seems to be “the seat of Church Growth" in our Synod - "contemporary" or "new style" congregations in our synod almost universally look to St. Mark as their model. Other hotspots that I am aware of include southern Ohio, Texas, Arizona, and the West Coast -- with the leaven of "Church Growth" teachings working just about everywhere nowadays. In this blog post, Random Dan makes plain some additional issues. One of them is the infamous practice among "Church Growth" congregations of "borrowing" from heterodox sources, verbatim. Often, entire sermons are regurgitated nearly word-for-word, and heterodox "outreach resources" are used verbatim and without qualification. This has happened at St. Mark more than once, and even though these issues have been brought before their DP several times, nothing has been done. More importantly, in one of the final paragraphs of Random Dan's blog post, he points out that St. Mark DePere is a member of the Willow Creek Association (WCA). Read WCA's "About Us" section, and you'll see that WCA is an ecumenical ministry, and that its members are collaborators and beneficiaries of this ministry. Further, members are required to subscribe to WCA's Statement of Faith. WCA, in describing membership, states:

"While we do not oversee the ministry expressions of individual churches, WCA Membership is intended solely for churches that hold an orthodox understanding of biblical Christianity. All WCA Member Churches have affirmed the central doctrines of the Bible reflected in the WCA Statement of Faith and also presented in the historic creeds of the Christian faith. WCA Membership is open to churches of any size or denomination that are marked by a deep commitment to furthering the cause of Christ."

St. Mark stands in "ministerial association" with WCA, and is in clear violation of the Bible's teaching on Church Fellowship (and, yes, their membership in WCA has been widely reported and is well-known in WELS). Their union with WCA unites the congregations of WELS with all "Christian groups" in WCA (this is called pan-unionism), including the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago, the ELCA, LCMS, various Reformed and pop-church Evangelical groups, and Pentecostals. In addition, there are Unitarian congregations (congregations that reject the teaching of the Trinity) which are also members of this Association -- if you recall from the Athanasian Creed (which we confess without reservation) such congregations cannot be regarded as Christian. St. Mark unites us in fellowship with them. Click here to view all of the churches on the WCA roster. The commentary accompanying Random Dan's blog entry illustrates the purely political nature of continued tolerance toward St. Mark, and other WELS congregations who follow them.
http://together.wels.net/2009/1/19
This is President Schroeder's 1/19/2009 entry on the WELS Insight blog, a WELS news service, in which he addresses the resolutions of the CoP, mentioned above. President Schroeder is a strong, confessional leader, and is, by all reports, working against the inroads of the "Church Growth Movement." Because of the institutional power structures erected by "Church Growth" advocates over the past two decades, this is by definition as much a political task as it is a Confessional and doctrinal one. He needs the help of the laity -- the WELS ministerium, while not powerless, seems to have been rendered impotent with reluctance or fear (apart from a few who are outspoken and bold). Here is an example of his attempt to communicate with the laity and build support.
http://bailingwater.blogspot.com/2009/01/what-kind-of-pastors-do-we-need.html
In case you hadn't received your February issue of Forward in Christ (and oddly, at mid-February, many people still had not received it...), you can read President Schroeder's article at the head of this blog article. Apparently, Bailing Water received an advanced copy of Schroeder's article, and published it online. It is tremendous, and represents a frontal assault against the "Church Growth Movement." Several C&C Church Growthers responded on Bailing Water by jeering at Schroeder, and at those who support him and sound Confessional Lutheranism in WELS. Several "Confessional Crusaders" responded by expressing relief, as if their job is finished. Freddy Finkelstein wrote two responses illustrating the doctrinal complexities involved, and indicating that the real work has only begun.

The Great Financial Cost of "Church Growth" Spending

Read the attached paper, The Kuske Report. (also reproduced online, here)
This paper is a research paper that Rev. Paul Kuske (WELS) wrote and posted on the "Issues in WELS" website in February of 2007. This site has been taken down (since the "Issues" were seemingly resolved with the change in Synod leadership), but the document is available from various individuals in WELS. This is the paper which exposed the extent of mind-boggling and irrational "Church Growth" spending and financial mismanagement that WELS has suffered over the past 20 years, and which is in many ways responsible for our Synod's current financial condition. It covers the same period of history as Manthey's Fifteen Years Under the MOV, above, and together they paint an interesting picture of how "Church Growth" power structures and financial control seem to go together.
http://together.wels.net/2009/2/16
This is President Schroeder's 2/16/2009 entry on the WELS Insight blog. While his article paints a bleak financial picture, he echoes key points made by Rev. Manthey and Rev. Kuske in the papers referenced above. Here are some excerpts (emphasis mine):

We are faced with the simple and painful fact that the level of funding available to support our synod's mission and ministry will be significantly less in the next two years than it is today. While support from congregations has been commendable and steady in these difficult times, expected support from other sources has dropped significantly. The blunt reality is that we will need to reduce our synod's budget by approximately $8 million, from about $38 million today to approximately $30 million in the next fiscal year. When the Synodical Council presents a balanced budget to the convention in July, which it is required by the constitution to do, significant reductions will need to be made in all areas of our synod's work.

...Our desire to proclaim the gospel to more and more people has led us to adopt ambitious plans across the synod. That is a noble goal, but we have often looked to support those plans on anticipated gifts from foundations, individuals, and other sources. We are now in a situation where some of those large gifts have been suddenly reduced. As commendable as our plans may have been, we simply do not have the financial means to continue at the same level as before.

...the Synodical Council will not simply be wrestling with the short-term reduction in the budget. It will also be looking to the need for providing long-term stability to our finances. The Synodical Council will be considering at least one proposal to achieve this goal. This proposal for long-term stability will not enable us to avoid difficult cuts now, but it will seek to provide a new approach to budgeting and planning that will greatly reduce the likelihood of a similar situation occurring in the future. One main element of the proposal is a commitment to planning our ongoing ministry based primarily on our most stable source of funding (Congregation Mission Offerings) and using large donations from other sources for one-time or limited-time programs.

The first paragraph I cite, above, is a straightforward high-level explanation of the reality. However, the second paragraph I cite admits that the funding priorities and methods of Church Growth have gotten us to our current situation (as the The Kuske Report obviates), and the final paragraph I cite indicates the currently favored solution as one which restructures budgeting and planning -- from one dictated by centralized Church Growth priorities to one reflecting our congregational polity. Elsewhere in Schroeder's article, he admits that sweeping Administration cuts and changes will need to be made, reminiscent of the concerns expressed in Manthey's Fifteen Years Under the MOV.
There are other, more salacious, internet sources detailing the massive costs of CGM methods, the extent to which many congregations in WELS have given themselves over to such ideas, and the willingness of our Synod's wealthy to underwrite these efforts through the establishment of external Trusts and Foundations devoted to the issuing grants for these purposes. It is too bad that this money, given in good faith, is used to support efforts founded on such ill-conceived financial notions as those expressed in The Kuske Report. Just because you build it, doesn't at all mean that they will come...

Conclusion

It is amazing that, in a church body such as WELS, which upholds purity in doctrine and true confessional unity, CGM has gained such a foothold among us, and now poses such a threat. After years of failed action in some cases, and of inaction in most other cases, Confessional Lutherans in the WELS stand exposed, organizationally, financially, ecumenically, and doctrinally. Today, there is a suggestive lack of unity in Practice among us as a result of "Church Growth" teachings/methodologies, a lack of unity that is, more-and-more, exposing a growing divergence of opinion among us regarding Scripture teaching. Left unaddressed and uncorrected, the result can only be a rank disunity of the sort tolerated in LCMS -- even celebrated among them in some quarters. Yet, it is tempting for our pastors, in an effort to emphasize our unity, to downplay the reality of these threats. After all, to admit the reality would only prove disturbing for lay members who may not have the capacity to fully understand or appreciate the issues, and would only erode confidence in their leadership and in the Synod's guidance. Regardless, these issues are real, they are serious, and they are going to surface one way or the other. I would encourage you to read the documentation above. Do so without interference from others, and draw your own independent conclusions. I would also encourage you to send this information, along with the attachments, to your fellow laymen, whether delegates to the 2009 Convention or not, that they, too, may be prepared for the 2009 WELS Synod Convention and will be prepared to respond to these issues as they may arise in their own congregations.

In Christ,

[Your Friend]

39 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this. The laity need to do what the pastors will not do.

Phil said...

Speaking of pastors/laity and what they need to do, are you guys getting any impressions from your District conventions as to what will be brought to Synod Convention in July?

Anonymous said...

Wow, where does one begin with a letter like this?

First, anonymity on the part of the author of the letter, pen names like Freddy Finkelstein and sweeping generalizations like "lots of people from across the Synod" are not very convincing, especially when charges such as are contained in this letter are being made. Anonymity allows for things to be written which may not have been written if names were required. If the writer of this letter feels so passionately, then he should express his convictions along with his name and location such as accompany the memorials to the Synod Convention. Years ago, a woman in the church I served told me as we were transitioning to Christian Worship that "a lot of people in the congregation were really upset and were thinking of leaving the church." It turned out that two or three people didn't like the new hymnal mostly because they were unfamiliar with it, that only she was upset and nobody was thinking of leaving the church. This was her way of trying to bully the church to get her way. Christian people can have different views on ministry decisions. But how much credence should be given an anonymous letter making reference to blog postings with only a pen name listed as the author and vague reference to lots of people around the Synod? John, I am disappointed that you chose to put online these kinds of charges without the name of the author.

Then to the Synod's financial situation... To give the impression that the Synod is where it is because "all" the money was spent on Church Growth boondoggles is just wrong. The Synod is in the shape it is in because two years ago, when the Synodical Council called for the Synod in convention to make some hard decisions because we could not afford to do everything we had been doing in the past, the convention rejected that call and decided that not only could we do all we had been doing but that we could do more. Instead of accepting the budget proposed by the SC, the convention restored the proposed cuts and in the second year of the budget increased expenditures. Then the economy tanked, big donor gifts on which the budget depended were not given, CMO decreased somewhat and the result is missionaries, professors and synodical workers loosing their positions. It's sad but it's hardly the result of some grand conspiracy. It's the result of what in my opinion were some bad decisions by the last convention compounded by an economic downturn over which our synodical leaders had no control.

Does the Synod have issues? Sure because we are sinful people living in a fallen world. But anonymous open letters published on blogs are not, in my opinion, the way to deal with those issues. What does our Lord Jesus in Matthew 18 tell us to do with what we perceive to be a sin?

I'll sign my name.

Rick Johnson
Corona CA

Anonymous said...

Rick,

You are correct the synodical financial situation does not solely standing on "CG boondoggling." This trouble does not only rest on the shoulders of the '07 delegates. The mismanagement of funds and double dipping goes back many years. The current economic crisis has compounded the financial situation. However, it does seem that this current crisis just might be a call to repentance. A clarion call to the synodical leaders, pastors, teachers, and lay people that will usher us back to Scripture and the Confessions.

It bothers me immensely that the recent new mission starts have all fallen into the evangelical trappings of Rock and Roll worship. These misguided starts are alarming because of the synodical funding they recieve(d).

I'm surprised that you are disappointed at John. I give him credit for continuing this blog that started over two years ago. The synodical information has improved over the last 2 years but many faithful members are in the dark about the CG methods being used from coast to coast. I believe blogging helped in the process of "uninviting" of Stetzer.

Since our Lutheran schools are struggling I understand that their is another current trend to follow Crosswalk's lead and create Charter school's as a means of outreach to the community. What are your thoughts on this? It would seem to me to be a cloaked attempt to draw in government funds and build up the church through another "means." This avenue leads down a dark path.

I am WELS schooled and I recognize that because of a culture of fear that was perpetuated the last 20 years confessionals have a difficult time speaking out. Being from the district you reside in you well know how liturgically confessional Lutherans were targeted. Granted this is changing. I hope that this culture of fear has given way to the church that stands on and for the truth.

WELS folk are often times trained to follow blindly those that are leading. I remember many unity and love sermons prior to important congregational voters meetings. Can't we just get along? Forget the issues. I say let's talk about the issues rather than labeling the dialogue "a grand conspiracy." Maybe just maybe we can get down to the core values of our church. What rock do we stand on?

A frustrated member..

Gregory L. Jackson said...

Pastor Rick Johnson - you are a died in the wool Church and Changer. You posted your own offering figures and they were awful. Then you erased them and said it was unclassy to publish them. People use pen-names because the Changers get out the knives whenever they get the chance, yelling, "Unloving. 8th Commandment! Matthew 18!" I don't mind signing my name. The Changers should list their membership, to be honest.

Anonymous said...

Anon1234 writes: "It bothers me immensely that the recent new mission starts have all fallen into the evangelical trappings of Rock and Roll worship. These misguided starts are alarming because of the synodical funding they recieve(d)."

That is simply not accurate. As one who has served on a mission board, I can confirm that most new starts in the last few years are NOT Rock and Roll worship. In fact, there are some (not all, but some) mission boards who are doing what they can to prevent new starts from going in that direction. Their reasoning is not just that it threatens our confessional Lutheran heritage, but also that it simply doesn't work well. There are examples of WELS missions started in the last decade that are VERY conservative, and have done well. There aren't any contemporary worship missions that have boomed, with the exception of Crosswalk in Phoenix.

That brings me to the point of funding. The vast majority of the Rock and Roll missions do NOT receive their funding directly through WELS. They apply for grants from foundations. Now, you can argue that these foundations might take away money that would otherwise go to WELS ministry, but that can't be verified. Finally, if there is some foundation that has a board with an affinity for contemporary worship, what can we do about it? Nothing. But the point is, the WELS is not giving BHM money to a lot of "Rock-and-Roll" missions. That is a massive fallacy. I believe there were 10 "new starts" in the last biennium (if I read my BORAM correctly). I don't think ANY of them are Rock-and-Roll styled.

Anonymous said...

For once I actually agree with Pastor Jackson. Rick Johnson is an avid supporter of Church Growth false doctrine. He's everything that's wrong with the WELS. I'd feel a whole lot better giving money to the WELS if I could be sure that it wasn't going to end up in the hands of pseudo-Baptists like him. And I'm definitely not alone. If the WELS laity knew that their money was actually going to the proclamation of the gospel, there would be a flood of offerings. But when our money goes to buy news amps for the latest rock and roll church or a new female pastor for a coffee club church, you can't blame us for not giving.

Howard said...

Gee whiz get to the point - not many are going to read a 15 page long essay on this. I agree with what you say but come on!
I also have to say much of the dialog on this website really reflects poorly on the WELS. It's my impression many pastors post here - if so - please stop. This isn't the place for it. Use a more private medium like a newsletter or email list.
Kind Regards,
HMunson

Rick Johnson said...

Pastor Gregory Jackson (if it really is Greg Jackson who posted since there is a spelling error and that would be ironic),

I have been to only one Church and Change Conference ever. If that makes one a "died (sic) in the wool" Church and Changer, then you have a strange definition for dyed in the wool.

Anonymous, you said "It bothers me immensely that the recent new mission starts have all fallen into the evangelical trappings of Rock and Roll worship." I don't think that's correct. In my district, I don't think the most recent new mission starts in Las Vegas and the Reno area fall into that category. All encompassing generalizations don't generally encompass all.

My disappointment with John is not that he allowed the letter to go on his blog --that's his decision as blog moderator-- but that he allowed it to go on his blog with no signature and with references to posts by Freddy Finkelstein whose name I am guessing is probably not the real name of the poster. If these kind of things are important enough to make public, then the identity of the author should not be hidden. And if the author chooses to not reveal his identity, then, in my opinion, it amounts to little more than gossip. John, if you want real discussion and dialogue, then only approve comments that are signed with real names. Having to take responsibility for one's words has a way of making those words more well considered.

And finally to Greg Jackson or whomever it was who used that name, doing what Jesus says in Matthew 18 is not hiding behind Matthew 18. But ignoring Matthew 18 is clearly disobeying our Lord.

Rick Johnson

Lemkeel said...

It appears to me that much of this current controversy over Church Growth vs. Lutheran Confessions/Scripturally-based is not so much about doctrine but more about tradition, style, preference or choice, flexibility or lack thereof, and other characteristics that represent more about (sinful) human nature than the nature of God. From what I’ve learned in my education in synod schools, worship style is considered adiaphoron. Clearly, some people enjoy a different style of worship, while others enjoy a more traditional, gymnastic-style of worship (i.e., standing up and down on several occasions). Aside from enjoyment, some people are drawn more to some styles of worship than others, for whatever reasons. If someone is born and raised in a traditional Lutheran style worship service, odds are that same person will have that preference when s/he’s an adult. Same thing if someone is born and raised clashing cymbals and beating drums in a smaller, informal gathering place twice a night by a fire odds are that that person will likely have a preference for that type of worship when s/he’s an adult. Of course, there’s a chance that the person who was raised in that type of worship environment may grow to have a completely different preference when s/he grows up. There are so many factors at play that determine so many things. Life is rarely clear black and white or categorical, it’s more dimensional and foggy in nature. Of course, some things are black and white, such as John 3:16.

I understand cause for concern in the ‘how’ that people come to believe. If Church Growth people honestly think that they are the reasons that people come to have faith, then there’s a real problem. But if they don’t think that, if they think they’re just assisting God and being “mouth pieces,” then what’s truly wrong with that? It’s a different style, a different method. As long as the substance is still the same, there shouldn’t be an issue. For those who argue that Church Growth is an abomination and it’s false teaching and preaching, what is it about their behavior that’s so alarming? They’re trying to reach out to people and be warm, friendly, and inviting. In some sense, they’re witnessing through their actions/behavior and trying to follow the greatest command of Jesus. Don’t you guys too say you witness through your actions/behavior? What’s the real difference here? It would appear on the surface that one group is perhaps doing a somewhat better job of witnessing through actions/behavior than the other group. That’s just speculation though. I don’t agree with Church Growth’s ideology that their methods actually will “grow God’s Kingdom.” I do agree, however, with their efforts at trying to reach people where they’re at, to be more open and flexible, and to reinforce that having faith and believing in the message of salvation is key to eternal life. I am coming at this from a lay person’s perspective who’s profession/career/calling is not a full-time minister. Thus, in a major sense I don’t see what all the fuss is about.

Lemkeel said...

Cont.--

I do think, though, that some people are portraying themselves to be right-winged extremists (or left-winged) which basically means that happiness and content will be a long time coming for such people. Trying to find a balance on both ends or extremes would be my solution to the angst and resentment that’s going on with some folks. Trying to fit people into your size, shape, and color of box will prove frustrating if not impossible. That’s just the way it is. I know people who would be turned off from traditional Lutheran style worship cause they don’t know the rhythm and melody of Lutheran hymns. That paper on Church Growth presented to the 2008 Michigan District Convention would have been much better if it had explained the methodology the authors used to construct the paper. I would have liked to see some statistics too, because it is possible that those who are advocating against Church Growth are actually a small number of people who just have loud voices. It is possible that a small group of people who fear not being objected to but rather fear change and breaking away from non-traditional styles of worship are trying to do all they can to keep things status quo and will even go to lengths of quoting scriptural passages that will justify their stance/belief. Hmmmmm……

The synod’s financial crisis is not due to Church Growth alone, nor is it the main reason, as that reasoning is absurd. There are many factors that have led up to the synod’s financial crisis. That’s just the way it is. Something that I am more convinced of however is that characteristics such as stubbornness and fear of change are potentially causing more grief than good.

Anonymous said...

>>>And finally to Greg Jackson or whomever it was who used that name, doing what Jesus says in Matthew 18 is not hiding behind Matthew 18. But ignoring Matthew 18 is clearly disobeying our Lord.<<<

Yikes, it's scary to think that a WELS pastor wrote this. The ignorance here is astounding.

Public false teaching demands public rebuke. Ask Jesus. Ask the Apostles. Ask Luther. They all forcefully and publicly rebuked false teaching.

Church and Changers abuse Mt. 18 to silence those who would dare to publicly rebuke their false teaching.

Anonymous said...

Good thing Jesus didn't default to Anonymous rebuking of false teaching.

Phil Eich

Anonymous said...

Rev. Johnson,

Welcome to the conversation. Finally. Whether one agrees with whether a letter such as the one posted above is necessary, the source material it refers to covers about a year's worth of public dialog in this forum and others. Where were you during this discussion? Secure enough that you couldn't be bothered with the broad and growing concerns of laymen in our Synod, I would imagine. Evidently, you feel threatened today. I wonder why? Change is a frightening thing, isn't it?

You intimate the cowardice of those who “hide behind anonymity,” but the discussion we have had during your absence has revealed the fate of laymen who challenge the Church Growth establishment in WELS. No, it's not cowardice that prompts our anonymity, but pragmatism. We have our reputations to protect, the reputations of our families, of our congregations, of our pastors and laymen. While we desire to keep Fellowship, we also have grave concerns to which we wish to give voice, and seek solidarity with others who have the same ideas and concerns without getting beaten out of Synod. Besides, some of us actually have day-jobs, or may be looking for a job sometime in the future, where discussion of these sorts are a matter of public record for future employers to examine.

You cry foul of “sweeping charges” and the like. All I see is a summary of a conversation that is well-known to most of us who frequent this blog, and others similar to it, or who otherwise bother ourselves with such issues. You don't like it that the authors refer to Mr. Finkelstein – but who can argue that he has been a leading voice on these matters? Why should they not prominently refer to him? And charges? I'll admit that the authors editorialize a bit here and there, making their own opinions unmistakable to the reader, but their intent is also clear: they start and end with their desire that readers investigate for themselves the material assembled and draw their own conclusions, without interference. This is called respecting the intelligence of the reader. In addition, throughout their letter they make conspicuous use of terms like “allegedly,” “reportedly,” “seemingly,” “possibly,” etc. No, the authors clearly have concerns, they present those concerns, and present the material on which those concerns are based. That is all I see here.

Finally, permit me to notice a common tactic among those in the Church Growth establishment. When ideas they espouse are substantively challenged, rather than discuss the ideas, they take personal offense and accuse the challenger of being unbrotherly, of violating the eighth commandment, etc. In short, they make a discussion of abstract and/or public matters into a personal ones, to draw their challengers out of public discussion. It won't work this time. Most of us familiar with this discussion have long since read the final section of the Large Catechism's explanation of the Eighth Commandment (that's in the Book of Concord, by the way), and understand full well how public offense differs from personal offense. The Church Growth Movement is a matter of public offense, and the issues surrounding CGM are now a matter of public discussion, and they have been for some time. They concern substantive issues of public practice, theology, Confessionalism, and unity. What's more, the discussion is widening as more and more laity have been growing in their concern and are discovering that others share their concern. Perhaps you're surprised by this? This stuff has been going on for at least thirty years. I wouldn't be surprised, if I were you. It's high-time.

You know it, a showdown of some sort is brewing. It may or may not be this July, but it is coming. There are folks on both sides of this issue who are entrenched. Some folks may be leaving us as a result. Are you entrenched in your Church Growth perspectives?

Safely Anonymous

Anonymous said...

Game on! The line has been drawn. The teams have been determined. The reinforcements are being brought in.
The stakes are high. The CG music begins....

It's the eye of the tiger, it's the cream of the fight
Risin' up to the challenge of our rival
And the last known survivor stalks his prey in the night
And he's watchin' us all in the eye of the tiger ...

Confessionals "Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is."

Anonymous said...

If you're speaking the truth, there's not a need to hide behind the anonymity. You can say things like your job is on the line/my family/etc, but then my mind is drawn to the Christians praying in the Coliseum (also spelled Colosseum for you sic'ers) or saints looking up to Heaven as the stones were about to be thrown.

When does satire stop and plain truth begin? If someone is offended or struck by what you said, I would say let it be because you have spoken the truth the clearest way possible, rather then the mix of truth and sarcasm and anonymity.

-Phil Eich

Anonymous said...

>>>The CG music begins....
It's the eye of the tiger, it's the cream of the fight
Risin' up to the challenge of our rival
And the last known survivor stalks his prey in the night
And he's watchin' us all in the eye of the tiger ...<<<

You know, the sad thing is that I can very easily picture Rick Johnson or his CG buddies having their rock bands play this song in worship. "Well, you see, it could be understood correctly, because, umm, it says 'he's watchin us all' and that could be referring to how God watches over us and stuff, and that song is so nice and familiar and comfy for unbelievers that they can come to church and not even realize they're hearing about God at all! See, it's all about love for the unbeliever! We have to water down the gospel out of love!!!"

There was an episode of South Park once in which one of the characters wanted to win a bet by getting a platinum album. He decided the easiest way to do this would be to start a Christian contemporary band. Coming up with songs was easy. "All you have to do to write a Christian contemporary song," he said, "is take any love song off the radio and change the word 'baby' to 'Jesus'." And the CCM crowd bought his albums like crazy!

If the Hollywood atheists who write South Park can see how shallow Christian contemporary music is, why can't Rick and his gang? No wonder young people are streaming away from rock and roll churches in droves! Rock and roll church is only for out of touch baby boomers who think they're hip when really they're just making fools of themselves.

JR said...

It's clear that this disagreement threatens our unity as a church body. Therefore, it is a synod imperative to address these concerns in a definitive statement on the use of so-called Church Growth methods.

When the synod clearly states whether or not these methods are scriptual and permissible, then I will look over their rationale, reconcile it with my understanding of the Bible, and make whatever membership changes may be necessary.

I hope that something of this sort comes out of the Synod Convention this year. If not, I may need to look at a membership change anyway.

Anonymous said...

This is a more direct question.

Are we to expect MORE cuts. Already I have heard a number of missionaries have been recalled as well as a number of professors at prep schools have been let go.

Are we to expect more personnel cuts regardless of whether option A or B is chosen?

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

>>>Are we to expect more personnel cuts regardless of whether option A or B is chosen?<<<

Oh yeah. The big cuts still haven't happened. We've just seen the tip of the iceberg. If Option A is chosen, dozens and dozens of world and home missionaries will lose their calls. If Option B is chosen, dozens of professors will lose their calls.

Anonymous said...

To the poster berating Rev. Johnson, have you ever been to his worship service to warrant such uncharitable words lobbed at him? Grow up and act like an adult. Also, I will pray for you if filth like South Park is something you watch to be entertained. The fact that you choose to spend time watching something so crude and immoral says a great deal about your ability to discern spiritually! It also casts great light on your words thrown at Rev. Johnson.

Lemkeel said...

Anon@2:23, it's hard to take your words serious when you yourself cast judgment on the anonymous person attacking Rick Johnson. I strongly believe that you can watch "filth like South Park" with discretion. I think it's related to the phrase "keep your friends close, and your enemies closer." Accordingly, by keeping stats on what others are doing, you yourself are in a better position to respond appropriately, without the harsh judgment that you've resorted to. I wouldn't be surprised if the person you were referring to blows you off because of the way you confronted him.

Anonymous said...

>>>The fact that you choose to spend time watching something so crude and immoral says a great deal about your ability to discern spiritually!<<<

Yup, the classic attack of a Church and Changer. Rather than responding to the substance of the argument, they immediately make a personal attack. I suppose they realize they can't win a debate using Scripture and substance, and so they have to resort to saying, "Well, you're a bad Christian and I'm a good Christian, thus C&C is right and you are wrong."

Of course, they usually aren't as crass as the above attacker. Usually they cloak their personal attacks by saying something along these lines: "Well, the people who like liturgical worship are weak in their faith. They are stuck in the past. They don't like unbelievers. We on the other hand are really strong Christians. We are so much more open-minded and loving than them. Thus, anything they say, even if it comes straight from Scripture, even if it has solid and substantial reasoning to back it up should be ignored and everything we say should be believed, because, again, we're much better Christians than them."

Anonymous said...

Oh, and by the way, I've never seen the episode. I read a description of it. The C&Cers talk a lot about the 8th Commandment, but they sure don't put the best construction on things, do they?

Lemkeel said...

Anon@7:47, I don't know who you are personally (that I am aware of), and I don't know your name, but I can tell which posts you author, based on your crude language and basic lack of tolerance to anything that goes against your creed. My personal opinion, according to what I've read of yours, is that you basically like to write on this blog just to be able to "slam" people almost as a means of venting. It appears that you enjoy this type of thing, slamming people and using harsh language, for no real purpose or reason, just cause you like to do such a thing. If I were moderator of this blog, I would caution you and give you warnings. After a few (or more than a few) failed attempts, I would block your posts from this blog. You seem to offer nothing more than attacks, many which are vicious in nature.

Anonymous said...

>>>I don't know who you are personally (that I am aware of), and I don't know your name, but I can tell which posts you author, based on your crude language and basic lack of tolerance to anything that goes against your creed. My personal opinion, according to what I've read of yours, is that you basically like to write on this blog just to be able to "slam" people almost as a means of venting.<<<

See what I'm talking about? Once again, the substance of the debate is completely ignored in favor of personal attacks and accusations about my character.

Church and Changers, we can see through your flimsy method of argumentation. It's old and pathetic. Why don't you try debating the actual issues? Do you really have so little to stand on that you have to resort repeatedly to this nonsense?

Anonymous said...

Pastor Johnson,

I have a couple of questions for you.

1. I noticed on your church's website that you have a liturgical service and a contemporary service. Don't you see that such an arrangement completely negates one of the most beautiful things about worship? Worship is a time for people of all ages, races, backgrounds, traditions, personal likes and dislikes to come together in unity and to be a part of something that transcends our petty tastes and trends. By having two different services which put personal preferences above this unity, you seem to be driving a wedge in your congregation and creating division where there should be unity.

I belong to a congregation that has an early service and a late service (both liturgical), and even then there seems to be two distinct congregations: the 8:00 people and the 10:30 people. I can't imagine how much greater the division would be when people are divided not only by time but also by personal tastes.

2. I noticed that your contemporary service is called "Faith for Today". Don't you realize how (unintentionally?) offensive that is to those who value the liturgy? The implication is that the liturgy has no application to today or today's people.

I would wholeheartedly disagree. If anything, contemporary worship is what's disconnected from today. Christian contemporary music is widely mocked in the music scene because it is always a cheap knock-off of music that was trendy about 3-5 years earlier. My own kids roll their eyes whenever they hear Christian contemporary music because they recognize how cheesy and out-dated it already is.

The liturgy, on the other hand, transcends trendiness. It has applied and continues to apply to people of all ages and races and backgrounds, spread across time and across the globe. Thus, the liturgy is both a "Heritage of Faith" and "Faith for Today".

Anonymous said...

http://www.religion-online.org/showarticle.asp?title=1723

Not even written by a 'dyed in the wool' Lutheran but still hits the nail on the Church Growth head.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:13 p.m. What do you mean by "the liturgy"? Do you mean THE liturgy from CW or TLH or LSB or some other publication? Or do you mean an order of service? Does CW have a more trendier version of the liturgy than TLH? Does the CW Supplement have a trendier version of the liturgy than CW?

Rick Johnson said...

To all those who post anonymously,

The point of my first post regarding the open letter was that, in my opinion, anonymous posts are not the way to carry on discussion on important issues. I think that is true whether the anonymous posters attack or ask questions. Since that's my opinion, if you sign posts with a real name, I'll join in the discussion. If not, what's the point? That's when some blog posts tend to degenerate into name-calling and generalizations and are not discussions. To the gentleman or woman who checked out my church's website, email me with your real name and we'll talk.

The blog belongs to John Carter so he sets the rules and norms for it. I would hope it can be a place for serious discussion of important issues in the WELS by those who are of the WELS. In my opinion, it isn't because of anonymous posts and the bombastic language that anonymity seems to bring with it.

Rick Johnson

Anonymous said...

>>>Anon 11:13 p.m. What do you mean by "the liturgy"? Do you mean THE liturgy from CW or TLH or LSB or some other publication? Or do you mean an order of service? Does CW have a more trendier version of the liturgy than TLH? Does the CW Supplement have a trendier version of the liturgy than CW?<<<

You clearly don't even understand what the Liturgy is. The Liturgy is the Liturgy. There are not different liturgies. Liturgy isn't just a big word for "any order of service". There are different musical settings of the Liturgy, but there's only one Liturgy. I'd advise that you do some research about what the Liturgy actually is (and what it isn't).

>>>To the gentleman or woman who checked out my church's website, email me with your real name and we'll talk. <<<

I'm not the person who asked those questions, but I'd very much like to hear your answers to his/her questions. I think they were very excellent ones. What's wrong with publicly defending what you yourself have publicized on your website?

Anonymous said...

You are kidding me, Rev. Rick. You come on here and post a slam which creates dialogue. You then won't address the many questions that have been asked of you.

Anonymous said...

>>>You are kidding me, Rev. Rick. You come on here and post a slam which creates dialogue. You then won't address the many questions that have been asked of you.<<<

Yup, typical Church & Change strategy. Disparage anyone who would dare challenge C&C and then claim to be above the fray when challenged.

Also, notice his insistence on having the names of anyone who would challenge him. The C&Cers are infamous for hunting down and kicking out any pastors with the gall to question them. Rick knows exactly how that works--a very Confessional pastor just up the road from him was kicked out, while he was allowed to continue his Church Growth heresies.

Anonymous said...

anon 9:25 pm said "there's only one Liturgy"

There you have it folks. There is only one liturgy. Love it or leave it.

Anonymous said...

>>>There you have it folks. There is only one liturgy. Love it or leave it.<<<

Huh? Do you disagree? You seem to be offended, as if I'm claiming that the Liturgy has been passed down from the hands of God himself exactly as it exists today and that it's a sin to worship in any other way. That's not what I'm saying at all.

I think you fail to grasp that the word "Liturgy" is a historical designation for a specific order of service which includes the Ordinary (Kyrie, Gloria, etc.), the Proper, and the Meal. As I said, there are many, many different musical settings of the Liturgy, but the word "Liturgy" refers to this one particular order of service with those specific parts.

It's a common misconception that "liturgy" simply means "any order of service". That just isn't what the word means.

I'll give you an example. Down South, they call all soft drinks "Coke". They'll say, "I want a Dr. Pepper Coke, I want a 7-Up Coke, etc." But actually Coke is the brand name of one specific kind of soft drink.

In the same way, many people talk about all orders of service as liturgies. (In fact, many contempo advocates claim they are still liturgical because they have an order of service.) But actually the word "Liturgy" is the "brand name" of one very specific order of service which has been passed down for millennia.

Gregory L. Jackson said...

This blog does not belong to anyone. Someone named John is the manager. I think he is the third editor since WELS would not tolerate open discussion of the issues. Rick would like to identify everyone who does not bow before the idols of Fuller and Willow Creek, but I find no one leaving a name on Ichabod. Lots of pro Church and Chicanery comments are posted, but never with any names given. Maybe Rick is one of them. Rick has yet to offer a doctrinal defense of Church and Chicanery.

The Lund's Lives as Lutherans said...

Gentlemen,

It is very difficult for lay people like myself to take seriously those who are accusing and name calling behind anonymity of person(s) whom post here. I would surmise that there are some extreme opinions that have some basis in fact, but they are well overblown by the dialogue here.

I believe it is wise to be cautious of the changes and take any change slowly as the lay people need time to adjust to the small things like hymn supplements or even minor things like when the choir sings during the service.

Taking away the anonymous post capability would put things in a better light for me.

Lemkeel said...

Lund - don't assume everyone on this blog, particularly this string are men! Thanks. Just a quick remark on being slow to change - that sounds nice but sometimes people need a little more encouragement than what is most "comfortable."

Anonymous said...

I have been to Rev. Johnson's services several times. Ho-hum sermon, shallow music, lots of rhythm, and a lot of worshipers from surrounding WELS churches. It seems superficial rhythm is more important than spiritual depth to a lot of WELS members. It is a shame to throw out the baby and keep the bathwater.