Monday, June 22, 2009

An Open Letter to WELS - From a Layman


[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 rein 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 affect 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 underlie 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.

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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]



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Anonymous
has left a new comment on your post "An Open Letter to WELS - From a Layman":

More and more self-aggrandizing pastors seek out the heady role of cult leader. This blog has pointed out a number of them for closer observation. None of them seem interested in work of an old fashioned pastor -- something they claimed they wanted to do.

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Freddy Finkelstein has left a new comment on your post "An Open Letter to WELS - From a Layman":

"Even Barna Research... has declared CGM a statistical failure... despite over $500 billion invested in CGM methods over the past 30 years, no evidence of growth is discernible."

Yes, this is true -- and this didn't come out just yesterday, either. It was like five years ago. His yearly "State of the Church" report for the couple years prior to this were quite shrill, to the point of practically shrieking, that Evangelicalism in America was about to collapse. Rumour has it that he went into some kind of depression over the failure of CGM.

Today, however, Barna seems to be advocating for the Emergent crowd -- with his recent books like Pagan Christianity attacking historic church practices, and his active support for home churches and the new-old apostolic way of "just being church" rather than "doing church" (realize, with really no doctrine of the Church, folks like Barna confuse Invisible with Visible Church). He has also identified and is now describing American "Christianity" in terms of "faith tribes," causing one to wonder where Jeske, and possibly other prominent Lutherans, gets the idea to refer to his public Confession as merely tribal membership (this was discussed on Bailing Water back in March, in case anyone missed it).

Freddy Finkelstein




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Mary Thompson wrote:

It may be entirely too late for WELS as an institution, for although it is heartening that some awakening seems to be occurring 40 years after the orchestration of systematically destroying the foundations, including the process of dispatching the reliable KJV to the dustbin of history, began in another convention (1967). When I was "terminated" by a WELS congregation in 1977, what I wrote in an open letter to the congregation has come full circle. A lot of conventions have come and gone since, but unless the fundamental mistakes made 40 years ago are understood and corrected, the next convention will only result in a temporary one step back for the agents of change who will emerge with two steps forward again.

EXCERPT from letter to Peace Lutheran Congregation, Santa Clara, CA (1977)

"Students of history always identify turning points resulting in long range changes in institutions. Rarely recognized as pivotal at the time, it generally takes a period of time before the fruits of the such events begin to manifest themselves to the general body of an institution. If such a 'turning point' were to be identified for the current (1977) facilitation of change' in synod, it would be the year of 1967. Two resolutions adopted at he 1967 Convention set the stage for fundamental, far reaching changes only recently coming apparent.

1) The resolution was adopted which provided the technical loophole which was used to justify the government grants to WELS schools. It set the stage for the idea that government educators had something constructive to offer Christian education, for in addition to monetary considerations, programs and philosophies of these educators have been assimilated into Christian schools until the distinction between church and government schools is becoming less distinct by the year.

2) The second action of that 1967 convention was the authorization of the restructuring of synod organization from a truly representative form of governance to one of Systems Analysis (Planning, Programming, Budgeting System). The name itself defines the management system. More than a budgeting system, PPBS also restructures the WAY decisions are made.

Plans are predetermined by an elite planning body. All factors involved are known only by that planning body. Programming for acceptance of the pre-determined plans are implemented to create the "need" for the planned goal or to obtain the necessary "feedback" to identify strong opposition, and if necessary, adjust the plan so it WILL be accepted by members at large who can be persuaded through various means to be receptive to the plan. They in turn ultimately legitimatize the predetermined plans with a vote in congregation, district, or synod. This process is in motion now to discredit the King James Version and condition for acceptance of NIV.

"The nature of PPBS is manipulative from the top. There is no escaping the ESSENCE of the process........the system should be denounced.".............

"As in every other church body including those calling themselves Lutheran, WELS will experience continued controversy. There can be no true peace or unity once a church body is divided on what the very Word of God is! If history repeats itself, and the pattern follows that which every other church embarking on similar paths...,.WELS will become more and more subjective. Larger and larger promotional synod-wide programs will multiply........Expect increased encouragement of emotional responses at all levels of church life. With more and more methodologically contrived situations designed to elicit subjective responses, there will be less and less doctrinal emphasis......." MT

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These days criticism of the assimilation of Systems Management is often expressed as "management practices" or "business method", etc. not appropriate for the work of the church. But the SYSTEM is more than mere consideration of how dollars and cents are spent.

PPBS, MBO, or whatever name by which it is identified, is a dialectical process which was introduced into military, and civic government at all levels as well as government schools from national to local applications. Not be considered outside the prevailing times, WELS and others ran after the methodology of the pied pipers of change which were "unfreezing the system" (a term used by RAND Corporation to define the process in government schools), a process which has proven as destructive in that secular arena as it has in WELS and elsewhere. Those of us who were battling the outrages in the government schools in the late 60's and 70's recognized what was afoot, and hearts sank when we learned that our own synod had hopped on board the PPBS bandwagon.

Unless that restructuring of synod governance is addressed and undone, and the issue of Reliable Bible translations addressed, the Church Growth Movement will remain symptomatic of a much deeper problem, with Church and Change the visible agents to bring the undoing about.

Mary Thompson

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