Reliable sources in the U.S. and Hong Kong tell Congregations Matter that President Harrison and his United Lister Board for International Mission (BIM) are selling a reported $35 million of LCMS Hong Kong properties to bail out Synod finances in St. Louis. Quietly, and without contacting our partner church in Hong Kong, the BIM is moving their Asia headquarters to Taiwan to ready the Hong Kong property for sale. According to sources in Hong Kong who saw a note on the door of the headquarters building, the move out of Hong Kong and into Taiwan will be completed by March 1st. It seems that Synod’s chose Hong Kong properties for sale because of their high value — and because it is one of the few locations where expatriation of money to the states is allowed after the sale of properties. Have such plans been approved by the LCMS Board of
LCMS Boards populated by members whose names were on the infamous United List were elected at a 90% rate at the 2016 Milwaukee convention. It’s been eighteen months since their elections. What do we know now about their decisions? We know United Listers have increased centralized control. Contrary to our Constitution and Bylaws, they’ve handed ecclesiastical supervision to one man to enforce a dark conformity over congregations, pastors and rostered workers. In May, 2017 United Listers on the LCMS Board gave powers to the Synod President which radically changed Synod. Membership is plummeting — 68% faster than ever before. How did this hierarchical, centralized takeover of our Lutheran church happen? A United Lister named Sias became Secretary at Milwaukee. He disagreed with decades of precedent and wrongly advised the United Lister Board it is OK to take ecclesiastical authority away from District Presidents (DPs). Many brave DPs sent public letters
“Faithful churches cultivate character.” Thus writes Concordia Seminary Professor Joel Biermann in his book, A CASE FOR CHARACTER: Towards a Lutheran Virtue Ethics. 1 Rev. Dr. Biermann recounts how Lutherans are unfairly portrayed as soteriological reductionists pitting law and gospel against one another. Some critics say Lutheran theology and ethical teaching simply don’t fit together. Biermann admits some Lutheran preachers have indeed spent too little pulpit time on clear Scriptures regarding how we Christians ought to live. Dr. Biermann’s prescriptions for re-emphasizing our Lutheran Confessions’ solid commitment to character and virtue ethics are valuable. His book’s message is also timely as we witness widely-known men losing leadership positions due to their wrongful actions toward women as revealed via the #metoo movement. Joel reminds fellow pastors, “Christian people need to be trained in virtue. A noble character does not simply happen.” He also believes community can still shape and sustain a
The History, Theology and Practice of Congregational Self-Governance in the LCMS In terms of governance and order, the Missouri Synod has throughout its history balanced power between the baptized and the ordained. We have made our decisions at conventions through votes mediated by an equal representation of clergy and laity. These votes were not to be viewed as mandates, but as carefully crafted and thoroughly dialogued advice. In a fun, tongue-in-cheek essay, the Editorial Staff of Congregations Matter has provided another brief history of the LCMS on one issue: Congregational Self-Governance as opposed to the current Synod trend towards hierarchialism. The essay reviews our history, theology, and the unfortunate, current tendency of our Synod to move from prizing the Priesthood of All Believers and Congregational Polity toward a foreign, non-Lutheran emphasis on maintaining and growing the structure itself and fulfilling its needs at the expense of the our “first love”:
As 2016 drew to a close and Synod President Matt Harrison’s salary ballooned to $252,573 from $210,156, Harrison ended his lucrative year by laying the blame for declining LCMS membership in the laps of what he considers not-pregnant-often-enough LCMS women.
In the past months, several District presidents wrote powerful pastoral letters in opposition to the recent Ecclesiastical Supervision contrived and enacted by the Harrison administration. Use these links to review each of their letters. Council of Presidents Chairman, Rev. Ken Hennings, President of the Texas District. Past Council of Presidents Chair, Rev. Larry Stoterau, Current President of the Pacific Southwest District Rev. John Denninger, President of the Southeastern District Other District Presidents have done the same. More and more LCMS leaders are voicing their opposition to the unconstitutional change to Bylaw 2.14. President Harrison sought this power. But Harrison couldn’t do it alone. With the support of the United List majority of the Synod Board of Directors (BOD), President Harrison and Secretary Sias bypassed the Council of Presidents and the expressed will of the Milwaukee Synodical convention.
With a letter to the congregations and rostered members of his district, District President (DP) John Denninger of the Southeastern District joined the growing number of LCMS leaders voicing their opposition to recent and unconstitutional bylaw changes giving final ecclesiastical supervision to President Harrison. At President Harrison’s request and Secretary Sias’ hand, the United List majority of the Synod Board of Directors (BOD) wrested the constitutional, historic responsibility of ecclesiastical supervision from District Presidents. Without vote or action of the Milwaukee Convention, the BOD gave this responsibility to one man. The President of Synod now is the de facto ecclesiastical supervisor of the LCMS. Harrison has taken ecclesiastical supervisory decisions away from our 35 District Presidents. He relocated those life-changing decisions to his own desk inside the secretive International Center in St. Louis. Wrested Power Over Congregations First, Council of Presidents Chair, Texas DP Hennings stood his ground against this dangerous
Last Friday District President (DP) Ken Hennings sent an unprecedented, public letter to the rostered members of his district. The letter explains the drastic change that the United List majority of the Synod Board of Directors adopted in May regarding ecclesiastical supervision. But Hennings did more. The letter explains why District Presidents in Synod are no longer the final ecclesiastical supervisors of churches, pastors, teachers, DCEs and other church workers. Our new, changed reality? Synod President Harrison has taken that job for himself. District President Hennings clearly warns of the consequence this bylaw change brings: “It is necessary that I personally make you aware of the significant changes to the process of ecclesiastical supervision in our church body. The board of directors of the Synod has adopted bylaw changes that give the ultimate responsibility for your (and your congregation’s) ecclesiastical supervision to the President of the Synod. In other words, if
In a surprise announcement from Concordia University Portland (CUP) Board of Regents, CUP informed LCMS congregations that Synod requested that Portland leave the Concordia University System (CUS) and become an independent Lutheran university. You can find the full text of the announcement HERE. This announcement sent shockwaves throughout the Concordia University system of 9 colleges and universities and congregations across the nation. The Problem Isn’t Portland — It’s Synod’s Request Announced on the CUP website on the Friday afternoon of the Memorial Day weekend, Concordia Portland leadership assured the congregations and families it serves that they will consider any action on this request with great deliberation. Congregations Matter© couldn’t agree more. We have full confidence in President Schlimpert’s leadership of the CUP team in response to Synod’s request. CUP will be blessed by his delayed retirement to handle this issue. Dr. Schlimpert isn’t the problem. Nor is Concordia Portland. The problem is the request. Congregations in the
We all expect, even demand our “rights” – right to life, liberty, civil rights, human rights, women’s rights, rights of the unborn. As Americans, we have a “Bill of Rights.” As followers of Jesus and members of the LCMS, we have rights within our Synod. That is, until someone tries to take them away. “The Congregation’s Rights” in the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod also demands our attention. Our Synod has a history of drifting away from our foundations, a tendency in our history to lift up the human organization of Synod, or the clergy, or Synod leadership above the congregation. Sometimes there’s a group – or an individual – pushing us down that road away from an advisory Synod. It is happening now. We need to push back. Executive Summary Before the Synod was formed in 1847, the Saxon immigrants under Pastor (later “Bishop”) Martin Stephan had a polity in