Countdown to the Eighth Annual ACELC Free Conference, Kearney, Missouri – "Christ For Us: Unionism & Syncretism"
August 28, 2018, 9:00 AM
Join a Mailing List
Verse of the Day

2017 Free Conference Resources

Evangelical Lutheran Communion Theses

The Spirit of Missouri

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters” (Geneses 1:1f).

What an awesome picture these opening verses of the Pentateuch paint for us regarding the beginning of creation from God's perspective! Note in the last sentence the words, “the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” These “waters,” – what Luther calls “an unformed mass so that the unformed earth was surrounded by unformed heaven or mist” – which were created by God out of nothing and over which the Spirit of God hovered, served as the material substance and elements of all that was created in the first six days. Perhaps that is why one well known Hebrew lexicon suggests the “hovering over” words could be understood as “brooding and fertilizing” (BDB, p. 934). It is an interesting thought, and something which intrigues me even more in light of the phrase, “The Spirit of Missouri,” especially as it relates to the context in which I recently read it.

The words, which I found both heartening and uplifting, originated from a Lutheran commentator of the Ohio Synod in 1922, on the occasion of the LCMS' 75th anniversary. In the midst of the tremendous numerical growth the LCMS was experiencing, Dr. R.C.H. Lenski was commending the Missourians for their faithful commitment to Scripture and The Confessions! Here is what he wrote.

“If there ever was a strictly conservative body, it surely is the Missouri Synod. Nevertheless, this growth! Here is a historical fact that refutes all talk trying to persuade us that we must be liberal, accommodate ourselves to the spirit of the time, etc., in order to win men and grow externally. The very opposite is seen in the Missouri Synod. Missouri has at all times been unyielding; it is so still. In this body the Scriptures and the Confessions have been, and still are, valued to their full import. There was no disposition to surrender any part of them. With this asset Missouri has been working in free America, abounding in sects and religious confusion, and now exhibits its enormous achievements. What so many regard as Missouri’s weakness has in reality been her strength. This fact we might write down for our own remembrance. It is a mark of the pastors and leaders of the Missouri Synod that they never, aye, never, tire of discussing doctrine on the basis of Scripture and the Confessions. That is one trait that may be called the spirit of Missouri.

People who thus cling to doctrine and contend for its purity are of an entirely different nature from the superficial unionists who in the critical moment will declare five to be an even number. God will bless all who value His Word so highly. Gratitude towards God, who has granted this division of American Lutheranism so much glorious blessing, and through Missouri has communicated this blessing also to other parts of the Lutheran Church, will be the basic note of this festival celebration. May God keep Missouri and us and all Lutheran Christians faithful in the doctrine and confession of His Word and grant us His blessing for our external growth and prosperity” (Source: “The Abiding Word,” St. Louis: CPH, 1947, vol. 2, 515f, Emphasis added).

Perhaps it is a bridge too far to make this comparison, but it is almost as if Lenski is describing “the spirit of Missouri” in his day as one which “broods and fertilizes” a commitment to cling to and contend for the doctrine and confession of Scripture and The Lutheran Confessions no matter what, because, (in Lenski's own words), “God will bless all who value His Word so highly!” Yes, God's faithfulness to His own promises has been seen over and over again in Missouri's history, and that is why he ends with this plea: “May God keep Missouri and us and all Lutheran Christians faithful in the doctrine and confession of His Word and grant us His blessing for our external growth and prosperity.”

Would that the LCMS had plastered the spirit of Lenski's strong words of encouragement, like a banner, as the forward on every official document and planted them deeply into the hearts and minds of every pastor, congregation, and catechumen! But alas, the veritable slip 'twixt the cup and the lip has in the intervening 95 years led Missouri down the slippery slope of compromise in an array of doctrine and practices (e.g. A Fraternal Admonition to the LCMS).

What was once a legitimate claim – “In this body the Scriptures and the Confessions have been, and still are, valued to their full import” – has not been true in Missouri since the refusal of Synod to deal forthrightly with the Statement of the Forty-Four in 1945. At that time, instead of applying the Word of God and the Lutheran Confessions to the text of the Statement, the false teachers were actually granted a platform, through the Praesidium of the Synod, to bring forward to the Synod as a whole an ongoing study of their false teachings.

What was once a valid and sound assessment of the LCMS' commitment to Scripture and The Confessions – “There was no disposition to surrender any part of them” – took on a whole new meaning in Synod, just 23 years after Lenski wrote these words, as numerous issues challenging Synod's former doctrinal purity employed the same tactics used in dealing with the Statement of the Forty-Four, thus setting a pattern for continued erosion of Synod's doctrinal purity, which plagues us to this very day. Notice how this change in unyielding commitment took place so quickly!!

What was once true – “Missouri has at all times been unyielding; it is so still” – has long been a fantasy since before the days of the Battle for the Bible in the 1960s and 70s and the subsequent Seminary Walkout controversy (1969-1975). This controversy ultimately resulted in about 100,000 members of the LCMS in some 250 congregations departing the Synod to form the AELC (Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches). Unfortunately, “many more supporters of Higher Critical Biblical Interpretation and promoters of ecumenical unionism remained within the Synod and often on the roster of pastors and teachers of the Synod” (Our Lutheran Heritage, Part II, pp. 18f).

What Lenski calls for Missouri an “asset” and a “strength” in the 20th century, many LCMS pastors and congregations in this 21st century see and treat as a handicap, liability, or weakness. Not so the congregations of the ACELC and we encourage you and your congregation to check us out by visiting exploring our website, or better yet, by contacting any member of the Board.

Pastor Bruce G. Ley
Documents Chairman, ACELC


Contact Us  
P.O. Box 1761
Independence, Missouri 64055
Phone 816.651.8047

Donate to the ACELC


Question or Comment?

Just click on the link above under "Contact Information"

Contents © 2018 Association of Confessing Evangelical Lutheran Congregations | Church Website Provided by | Privacy Policy