February 29, 2016 - Christ, Dispute Resolution and the Church
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Christ, Dispute Resolution, and the Church
“Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.” (NKJV Luke 17:3).

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ 17 And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.” (NKJV Matthew 18:15-17).

Christ began His public earthly ministry with the words: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17). Martin Luther understood the daily import of Jesus’ words for the Christian when he penned the first of his 95 Theses: “1. When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, “Repent” [Matt. 4:17], he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance” [LW, vol. 31, p. 25]. It is unthinkable that a Christian remains Christian while refusing to repent, and King David serves as a sterling example of such a pseudo-Christian after his sin with Bathsheba and those that followed in his attempted cover up (c.f. II Sam. 11 & 12).

St. Paul reminds Timothy, and thus the Church: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (II Tim 3:16). The particular word for “reproof” carries the sense of not just the charge itself, but also the truth of the charge in such a way as to have the accused acknowledge its truth and silence him by convincing/convicting him of his error. Couple that with the next word, “correction,” which carries the sense of correcting faults or failures, and we have the elements leading to repentance!

What’s the point? Scripture convinces/convicts its hearers of its truth; and Christians (as opposed to pseudo-Christians) respond to the call of God to correct things – be it a need to repent or an urging to go forth in our vocation on a particular matter. When it comes to Dispute Resolution in the LCMS, we need to ask ourselves a very important question, not so much as individuals who may or may not be involved in a dispute, but as a Synod. Can the LCMS, based on God’s Word, admit it has erred and repent? It matters not if we speak of something from our past or something in the present. Is the LCMS, as Synod, willing to publicly confess it has erred if such error can be demonstrated from Scripture?

Consider the historic evidence as set forth in the soon to be published Lesson 13 (Why the ACELC?) of the Study Guide for the DVD titled: “If Not Now, When?”.

“We watched it all happen. Over the decades we watched it all, from the misled ecumenism of the Statement of the 44, in 1945; through the 70's Battle of the Bible for the veracity of the Word of God; past the Charismatic Movement within The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod; through the introduction of Folk Services; Polka Masses; Clown Worship; Liturgical Dance; and we were dismayed that no adequate response was ever provided to correct error in our Synod. We watched again as The Church Growth Movement with its theology of glory approach to the mission of the Church and the resultant abandonment and/or pollution of our liturgical heritage was not corrected. We watched as unionism and syncretism went on display at Yankee Stadium and Newtown without real rebuke. Yes, we watched how the deterioration of faithfulness to the Word of God and our Lutheran Confessions had sadly become a fact of life within our Synod.” (Emphasis in original)

In one way or another over the past six years – direct mail, DVDs, Bible Studies, conferences, email blasts, blog, etc. – the ACELC has set before the members of Synod, and the elected and appointed leadership of the Synod, virtually all of these misguided, misinformed, and misled efforts (plus a few more not listed above). And the response? Outside of brief, but not “formal responses” to our three official dissents – wherein the CTCR asks us to “hold … in abeyance” our dissents – it has been dead silence (you can view the full response from the CTCR here)!

I leave it to the reader to do the math, but I do ask you to do it with the following question in mind relative to the above paragraph: How is it possible that the LCMS – which in Article II of the constitution states: “The Synod, and every member of the Synod accepts without reservation: 1. The Scriptures … as the written Word of God and the only rule and norm of faith and practice; [and] 2. All the Symbolical Books of the Evangelical Lutheran Church as a true and unadulterated statement and exposition of the Word of God, …” – has existed for 169 years and never had a heresy trial?!

Clearly Scripture and The Lutheran Confessions have to be ignored, or badly distorted, to allow for such undisciplined hanky-panky over the last seven decades. And all this while we claim to be an orthodox (right teaching) Synod. Enough already! The very change in nomenclature in our Synodical Handbook from pre-1989 (Reconciliation, Adjudication, and Appeal) to today (Dispute Resolution of the Synod) betrays a serious weakness in that the former reflects a judicial settling of matters, while the latter a negotiated settling of matters. Doctrine is not negotiable to some common denominator, but is God’s unadulterated Word on a matter. Doctrine does not change, it is what God says it is! Jesus’ Word is clear regarding those who are rebuked and refuse to repent: “If he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector” (Matt. 18:17).

Frankly, I am baffled, embarrassed, and deeply saddened by the lack of outcry in the LCMS over this serious dereliction of duty in the areas of Dispute Resolution and Ecclesiastical Supervision. Our synod’s unwillingness to publicly repent and beg the Lord’s mercy in this and other areas of doctrine and practice is just more one corroboration of St. Paul’s warning: Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons” (I Tim. 4:1).

We hope you will give serious consideration to joining us at the Sixth Annual 2016 Free Conference in Nashville, TN (April 26-28, 2016) where we will zero in on these Dispute Resolution matters through the lens of Biblical, Confessional, cross-focused Lutheran eyes.

Pastor Bruce G. Ley
Documents Chairman, ACELC
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