What follows is a copy of a recent article from Affirm (in their July, 2010 issue) besmirching the reputation and motives of the founders of the ACELC, and the authors of the Fraternal Admonition. Following that you will find an unsolicited response to the Affirm article written by Pastor Emeritus Neil Schmidt, of St. Louis. Pastor Schmidt, by the way, has no connection with the ACELC, did not contact the ACELC prior to sending his letter to Affirm, and only after the fact sent us a copy of his response. Since receiving it, we contacted Pastor Schmidt for permission to publish what he wrote, and he graciously consented to allow us to publish his letter. We will simply allow the actions of the people at Affirm to stand on their own merit without any further comment from us, other than to say that we will leave it up to you, the readers, to decide whether or not their response to our Admonition was an appropriate way for brothers to deal with one another. For what it's worth, as you read this you might remember that Dr. Barry died in 2001 and Conensus wasn't formed until 2002.
Barry Had His Consensus To Deal With; Harrison Has His ACELC To Deal With!

We certainly do not think that we would have an article like this warning against the harm that right wing conservatives would do to the Harrison administration until perhaps November or December. Al Barry had about three months of peace until right wing conservatives began accusing him of not working faster to remove moderates and dual membership congregations from the Synod. But Matthew Harrison is still a month away from being installed and already the right wing is providing hope for the moderates.

How so? One only has to recall that in regard to the last three incumbent presidents not reelected, it was because of perceived mistakes that they had made. We have already detailed those of President Kieschnick’s administration. Dr. Harms was not reelected because of the perception that he was not dealing properly with the false teachers at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. Dr. Bohlmann was not reelected because of the perception of his views in regard to levels of fellowship, his accusations against Robert Preus and his involvement in a number of Fort Wayne students who were not certified.

What is the hope of the Jesus First Gundermans, Coynes and Gartons in not having Matthew Harrison reelected? Here is our answer. Affirm not only spoke with conservative delegates but you will often find us speaking with supporters of Jesus First because a number of them are out friends. They tell us that their greatest fear is that Matthew Harrison will run with the right wingers and soon they will take over the Synod with their legalistic, unloving attitude.
 
We disagree with them entirely that Matthew Harrison will do that. In fact, his recently announced appointments of his three assistants (Dr. Albert B. Collver, Rev. Jon D. Vieker and Barb A. Below) demonstrates that he will be choosing individuals that not only are not right wingers but who have the desire, goal and motivation to work with all sides in having our beloved Synod walk together again.

The reason moderates have hope again is because of a document dated 2 days after the election of Matthew Harrison signed by 12 pastors who, like the Consensus folk, have decided to set up a schismatic organization within the church based on teaching and practice contrary to the Synod. Membership in their new association is only possible for those who think like them. Their purpose is “to make the errors with our Synod public through the publication of those errors in a letter to all LCMS congregations.” They reject use of the Synods’ appointed Dispute Resolution Process which means that they will be breaking the 8th Commandment in walking together.
 
They call themselves the Association of Confessing Evangelical Lutheran Congregations with the plan of becoming a legal entity in early 2011. Their document clearly contradicts the doctrine and practice of the LCMS in regard to exceptions to closed communion and calling “illicit” that vicars provide the Lord’s Supper to shut-ins. They refer to women reading Scripture during worship as an error and have several other anti-synodical complaints. We will have a further analysis of the document as well as how some of the these pastors are connected with another group of congregations, some of which are not members of the LCMS.
 
Their document not only does not provide the new Harrison administration time to deal properly with their concerns but is being perceived as a lack of trust in the Harrison administration. The pastors who signed the document are David Boisclair, Richard Bolland, Dan Bremer, Steven Flo, James Gier, Bruce Ley, Robert Lydick, Drew Newman, Rick Pettey, Tim Rossow, Andrew Simcak, Jr., and Mark Stirdivant.
 
Unsolicited Response By Pastor Neil Schmidt, Emeritus, Hope Lutheran Church, St. Ann, Missouri
 
To: Editorial Group of AFFIRM
P.O. Box 8390
St. Louis, MO 63132-0390
 
RE: Volume 34, No. 4 – July, 2010 – Barry Had His Consensus To Deal With: Harrison Has His ACELC To Deal With!
 
Dear Sirs,
 
Greetings in the blessed Name of our one and only Savior, Jesus the Christ!
 
The response is given to mostly anonymous people, since the article I wish to respond to did not have a name attached. However, since Affirm’s policy for unsigned articles are approved by members of the Editorial Group, the “Dear Sirs” is a proper greeting.
 
The July 2010 issue of Affirm was received on Saturday July 31, so I will address comments first to that article listed above.
A copy of the letter from the group noted in the Affirm article as the Association of Confessing Evangelical Lutheran Congregations [ACELC] was given to me a day later by my Pastor on Sunday, August 1, 2010. I will speak to that document last.
 
Your Article
 
Since I had not yet received a copy of the letter to which the Affirm’s article dealt with, perhaps you can help with some of my observations.
The article is a “warning against the harm that right-wing conservatives would do to the Harrison administration.” Does {this} refer to the thinking of supporters of Jesus First that these right-wing conservatives have an legalistic, unloving attitude?” Is this opinion shared by the unsigned writer(s) of the article? It appears it is.
 
I did not know that Affirm could have a conversation: “Affirm not only spoke….find us speaking..” Who spoke? If that person(s) did not wish to be identified, why not “Some people connected with Affirm spoke…” Those pastor noted at the end of the article were not ashamed to sign their names. So who wrote this article?
 
The ACELC “have decided to set up a schismatic organization … on teaching and practice contrary to the Synod.” The word schismatic assumes false teaching or a form of heresy. What is the heresy? What is mentioned in the article does not appear to be heresy at all.
Your article notes that there is a clear contradiction to the doctrine and practice of the LCMS with regard to closed communion. But when I read the article of the ACELC, they did not deal with exceptions but the simple doctrine of close/closed Communion. This means that your article misrepresented their position. You added what they did not say. Isn’t this bearing false witness?
 
Your article also noted vicars who provide the Lord’s Supper to shut-ins as illicit. Article XIV was invoked by the ACELC letter: “Of Ecclesiastical Orders they teach that no one should publicly teach in the Church or administer the Sacraments unless he be regularly called.” [Book of Concord – CPH 1952, page 14] “Order in the Church – It is taught among us that nobody should publicly teach or preach or administer the sacraments in the church without a regular call.” [The Book of Concord – Tappert – Fortress Press 1959] Now the seminaries give permission for Vicars to give Holy Communion if the congregation gives their permission. So the Office of the Keys given to the congregation is upheld.
 
One may not see that giving such permission is a good practice, but it is not “illicit”. But the ACELC refers to “supervising pastors of the Synod illicitly insisting that their vicars consecrate and administer the Lord’s Supper …” So the “illicit” is referring to some supervising pastor.
Since the Book of Concord refers to “he” and “regularly called” or “regular call” one could argue that the Vicar is called by the congregation they are serving and that the congregation would give or withhold their permission regarding Holy Communion. It appears that there is room here to discuss the issue and that one should put the best construction on the ACELC wording rather than jumping to a negative conclusion. Isn’t this also covered in the 8th Commandment?
 
There is also a reference in the Affirm piece about women reading Scripture during worship “as an error.” The ACELC notes several items in practice today which they consider as errors. Again, assuming that the men who signed the ACELC letter were faithful pastors seeking to remain true to the doctrines and practices of God’s Word and the Confessions, why not put the best construction on this as a sign for discussion rather than noting them as “right-wingers and schismatic.” Doesn’t the 8th Commandment have something to say about this?
Your article ends with the ACELC concerns and issues as “being perceived as a lack of trust in the Harrison administration.” I don’t know who is having that perception. It is you? It wasn’t me, and since no time limit is set on the issues named by the ACELC I don’t see how your article can say it would hamper the Harrison administration in dealing properly with these concerns.
 
The Letter From The ACELC
 
I’ve read the letter and the concerns. In my opinion it is orthodox, although a few points could be discussed in terms of doctrine and practice. However, the concerns are valid and need to be addressed in our LCMS, and not only that, but {they also need} to be resolved {by providing) a clear solution that is true to the Scriptures and our Confessions.
 
That is why I consider the Affirm article to be fault-finding, improper, and causing trouble. The article was not {written with} a pastoral approach. Your warning merely exacerbates ill feelings. More than that, it besmirches the reputations of the men noted in the article. The 8th Commandment has been broken. You need to write an apology in Affirm, and to the men who were named.
 
I did not see any references to God’s Word or the Confession in your article. Only references were made to the Synod and the Synod’s appointed Dispute Resolution Process [DRP]. You say that by rejecting use of the DRP the 8th Commandment was broken. Surely the writer(s) must know that the DRP is futile in resolving any doctrinal abuse: the DRP is in the words of this week’s Old Testament Lesson merely “vanity.”
 
Of all the legitimate concerns voice in the ACELC letter it is appalling that Affirm should find fault with and warn against these orthodox pastors. There are serious questions of doctrine that are not being followed in the LCMS. The majority of the ACELC concerns are with these matters. There are other doctrinal concerns, the application of which needs to be addressed so that a solution may be made and followed. Should we not tune our minds and efforts to the real doctrinal problems in our church first, and then deal with those other doctrinal concerns?
It appears to me that Affirm is doing precisely what has been going on in former administrations of Synod: intimidating those who are seeking uniformity of doctrine and practice in our Synod. That worthwhile goal was the strength of our church and was divinely blessed. So I hope that none of the twelve pastors are intimated by this unfortunate and misleading Affirm article.
 
We pray for all our members and pastors in the LCMS who are concerned with the pure doctrine, that they deal in godly, loving conversations with one another to resolve our mutual concern for the Scriptures and the Confessions in our LCMS.
 
Alive in Christ! Now and Forever!
 
Rev. Neil R. Schmidt
Pastor Emeritus
Hope Lutheran Church
St. Ann, MO
 
P.S. – If the unsigned writer(s) wish to speak to me about this in person, I’m happy to comply. However, please remember that the matter is now in the public domain.

 

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