We urge our readers to pray for Mr. Techlin, his congregation and its leaders, and the Northern Wisconsin District and its leaders, so that error might be addressed and rooted out in a God-pleasing manner. We fully support Mr. Techlin in his resolve to restore confessional Lutheran doctrine and practice in his congregation, and we hope that all WELS pastors and laymen in that district will recognize the need to stand behind Mr. Techlin for the preservation of the Gospel.
It's a very frustrating situation, all the more so because it doesn't seem like there's anything that the average WELS layperson (or pastor) can do about it.
Mr. Adam Peeler
Yes, there is something laypeople can do. They can call, write, email, their own Pastors, CPs, DPs, and the synod President, and express their frustration with leaders like the NWD DP, and support for men like Mr. Techlin, and the Intrepid Lutherans. And they can do so over and over and over and over again. And they can encourage others to do the same. What we need are thousands of calls, letters, and emails, all saying the same thing; demanding that the false teachers be dealt with - NOW! Believe me, that will make a difference, one way or another. Do it today - and pass the word! Don't hesitate. Don't wait. Don't bide your time. NOW is the time to act. Do not let this opportunity pass. Strike! Defend confessional Lutheranism! Attack the sectarian forces that are threatening to destroy the WELS as an orthodox Lutheran church body! You can do it!
As one of the five pastors who've engaged the Northern Wisconsin District Presidium in discussions concerning the doctrine and practice of St. Peter, Freedom and the CORE, Appleton, I can say that your frustration is shared by us and the two laymen who join us. (One of those laymen is Rick Techlin, the author of the two letters.)
WELS President Schroeder is aware of our concerns. He has recently met with President Engelbrecht of the Northern Wisconsin District. Finally, after months of asking that President Engelbrecht set up a meeting between our group and the pastors of St. Peter and the CORE, it looks as though a meeting might finally happen in the next week.
During the past year we have had a couple of face-to-face meetings with the NW District Presidium, and shared thesis papers on the areas of doctrine that concern us. In early December they did agree in principle with each of those areas of doctrine. However, they were not going to request a meeting with the pastors of St. Peter and the CORE. Now we'd like to see them take the next step, insisting that continued practice that is opposed to Scriptural doctrine be halted.
Please understand that it is not up to the WELS President to unilaterally remove leaders from their positions of leadership. The WELS Constitution (section 8.20) says, "The two district vice presidents with the concurrence of the district circuit pastors may suspend the district president from his office. The president shall have 60 days thereafter to appeal this suspension. If there is no appeal within 60 days, the action shall be final and the officer is removed from office. If he appeals, the appeal will be heard by the District Board of Appeals."
Furthermore, "In the case of district vice presidents and secretary, the president with the concurrence of the circuit pastors may suspend another officer. The district officer shall have 60 days thereafter to appeal this suspension. If there is no appeal within 60 days, the action shall be final and the officer if removed from office. If he appeals, the appeal will be heard by the District Board of Appeals."
Also, "The conduct of review shall rest with the District Board of Appeals. The board shall have the right and power to examine all documentary evidence and correspondence and to require such testimony
that in its judgment is relevant. The decision of the District Board of Appeals may be appealed to
the Synod Board of Appeals. Upon the appeal, the Synod Board of Appeals may review the action
of the District Board of Appeals."
I'm normally not one who quotes the synod Constitution. Yet, it is how we've agreed to do things in a proper and fitting way.
Pastor Spencer is correct. Pastors, teachers, laypeople must make it clear to their leaders that they cannot condone the doctrine and practice that is taking place at St. Peter, Freedom or the CORE. The more we do so, the more our leaders will know that Confessional Lutheranism is something we do want to defend.
Though I'd love to say that you're wrong, I can't disagree with your assessment that "the people of the Northern Wisconsin District keep electing leaders who refuse to stand for Confessional Lutheranism, and, in fact, seem to protect false teachers."
Elections in the NW District are never discussed publicly. We simply race through the election process, usually with the same results. At one of the face-to-face meetings with the NW District Presidium, our small group of pastors was asked, "What would you do if you were us?" There is little disagreement that we would stand for being intentionally Lutheran--confessionally Lutheran. I'm not sure why our leaders are timid in doing so, except that those who aren't intentionally Lutheran will declare them to be legalistic.
To end on a positive note, I am very encouraged when I see laypeople like Rick Techlin stand for the truth of Scripture. Rick is not grandstanding. He is a very humble, thoughtful person who refuses to allow God's Word to be compromised in any way. For the NW District Presidium to ignore him in the way they are, is hard to accept.
Thanks, Mr. Peeler, for your continued concern for this situation and your continued contributions to Intrepid Lutherans.
Pastor Paul Lidtke
Please keep us informed as to the outcome of these meetings. Please resist all efforts to keep this public doctrinal matters "confidential". As you well know, the WELS likes to "sweep it under the carpet". God bless Rick Techlin, may we be blessed with more wonderful laymen like him!
Scott E. Jungen
Thanks also for the quotes from the WELS Constitution. It seems to me that that particular section of the Constitution is ill-conceived. It's reasonable to expect that if a majority of voters elect a district president who is minded to tolerate false doctrine, they will also elect vice-presidents who share the same mindset, making the removal of the president virtually impossible. It would be like making the vice-president of our country the one with sole authority to impeach the president--"not gonna happen". There needs to be a separate, separately-elected authority in charge of such issues, whether it's the synod praesidium or the other district presidents or something.
I suppose the age-old question applies: "Who watches the watchmen?" The answer, in this case, seems to be "no one".
If the WELS continues to demonstrate that it is willing to tolerate false doctrine and practice, and that it is willing to tolerate leaders who tolerate false doctrine and practice, and there is no recourse for discipline and correction, at what point must Confessional Lutherans leave the WELS?
Mr. Adam Peeler
"In May 2010, District President Engelbrecht sent out an undated letter responding to my
November 1, 2009 letter and the March 5, 2010 meeting with me and the five concerned area
pastors. On every page of his letter, District President Engelbrecht stamped in large red letters:
"CONFIDENTIAL." I will let most of this letter remain confidential, but not the aspects that
touch doctrine. This is because the doctrine of a district president is not confidential. A district
president's doctrine is not confidential when he communicates it to others. A district president's
doctrine is not confidential when he doctrinally instructs laymen and other pastors. A district
president's doctrine is especially not confidential when his defense of false doctrine is used as
justification for other pastors to continue shaping a public ministry around that false doctrine."
In his letter, Mr. Techlin gives many scripture references to justify disclosing portions of a confidential letter. However, none of his citations permit the secret sins of a DP (false doctrine) to be made public before the due process of Matt. 18.
I disagree with you.
As Mr. Techlin rightly points out, the doctrinal teaching of a pastor (and district president) is a public matter. Christ himself made the point that he taught openly and publicly, he didn't hide any of his teachings. Pastors should not be writing or teaching things privately that they aren't willing to teach or write publicly. In other words, pastors can't teach false doctrine, stamp "confidential" on it, and then rest secure because that false doctrine will never be exposed.
Now, if, for example, a pastor privately loses his temper and calls someone a dirty name, that would be a private sin which should remain private. But the teaching of doctrine does not fit into that category.
Furthermore, you cite "due process", but one of the most disturbing facets of this situation is that there seems to be no due process available to Mr. Techlin. How can you "tell it to the church" when the church refuses to listen to you?
Mr. Adam Peeler
Please note that the comments I offer below are not just pertaining to WELS, or to any other specific church body, but address general principles of admotion, church fellowship, and related matters, which can and should be applied whenever and wherever the situation may call for it.
I would say that when all procedural avenues for correction of error in a church body have been exhausted, and those who are erring still do not receive the correction, the next step would not necessarily be to leave the church body in question, but to enter into a public state of confession. This would be a declaration that an impasse has been reached, and that altar and pulpit fellowship will now not be practiced with the offending parties or with those who support them, but will continue to be practiced with those who join in the state of confession against the error. A public declaration of this nature would serve as a rallying point, requiring everyone else in the church body then to decide which side in the dispute they are going to take. At the end of that process, if repentance on the part of the false teachers is still not forthcoming, this "division of the house" would likely then result in a split - either through the expulsion of the false teachers, which would keep the church body orthodox; or through the expulsion of the confessors, which would mark the church body as recalcitrant in its heterodoxy.
But of course, such a step should not be taken until there is no other God-pleasing recourse left, and only when the confessors are indeed ready to be expelled, if that is what it comes to.
Moreover, the problems in that district are not limited to St. Peter or the Core. There are several other congregations in the Green Bay and Appleton areas that have gone down the same path (though perhaps not as blatantly) as St. Peter.
I'm just left amazed by reading Mr. Techlin's account. Honestly, how bad do things have to get before someone with power in this synod publicly says enough is enough?
Dr. Aaron Palmer
If pastors do not repent, their "confidential" false teaching will be exposed under Matt. 18.
Mr. Adam Peeler: "Now, if, for example, a pastor privately loses his temper and calls someone a dirty name, that would be a private sin which should remain private. But the teaching of doctrine does not fit into that category."
The 8th Commandment recognizes only two categories of sin: private sin and public sin. If a pastor has only taught his false doctrine privately, he must be given an opportunity to privately recant before his false teaching is publicly exposed via Matt. 18.
Mr. Adam Peeler: "Furthermore, you cite "due process", but one of the most disturbing facets of this situation is that there seems to be no due process available to Mr. Techlin. How can you "tell it to the church" when the church refuses to listen to you?"
Yes, that is a problem. Bureaucratic obstructions and a veil of secrecy imposed by the DP have made it virtually impossible for Mr. Techlin to obtain due process.
The DP should never have stamped his teaching of public doctrine "confidential" (John 18:20). But two wrongs do not make a right. The 8th commandment makes no exception for privately taught false doctrine. Instead of improperly disclosing a confidential letter, Mr. Techlin should have rejected the letter and insisted that all discussions of public doctrine be made a matter of public record.
Isn't that exactly what's going on here though? Mr. Techlin has made every effort to follow the steps of Matthew 18, going through the proper channels, with the result that he was ignored and dismissed. As I asked before, how can you tell it to the church when the church won't listen?
Mr. Techlin is simply using the last recourse available to him by publishing these matters and making them available to the church at large. In my opinion, by refusing to meet with Mr. Techlin and to hear his admonition, President Englebrecht has abdicated his right to keep this matter private. It is now a public matter to be heard and judged by the church at large.
In any case, questionable interpretations of Matthew 18 have been used far too often to silence dissenters in the WELS, almost like lawyers who try to get a valid case thrown out of court on a technicality. I don't want our side discussion on the interpretation of Matthew 18, Mr. Gorman, to distract the discussion of this very serious issue. If you want to argue that Mr. Techlin didn't follow the letter of the law, fine (though I'm convinced he did). He certainly followed the spirit of the law and certainly has been wronged and betrayed by his pastors and his church leaders. That's the real issue here.
Mr. Adam Peeler
The assertion that Mr. Techlin failed to follow Matthew 18 is absurd. His private meetings with his pastor, church leaders, circuit pastor, and district president were all steps along the Matthew 18 lines. He followed all of their prescribed measures, including his restriction from secret "pastor only" meetings and forced attendance at interrogation sessions - he even endured the censoring of his blog!
The letter he initially sent abided by this narrow view of Matthew 18. That was more than a year ago. How long should Mr. Techlin endure the perpetual false doctrine of his so-called shepherds until he makes the matter public?
God bless you, Rick!
Pastor Luke Boehringer
Grace Evangelical Lutheran
GJ - Notice that a Doctrinal Pussycat is surrounded by plenty of protection for his job and title. But he can violate the Scriptures, run people into the ground, gerrymander a district, advocate false doctrine, and remove a pastor at will.
WELS is vulnerable to the charge that they do not have one pope but many infallible popes.