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I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. 1 Timothy 2:1-4

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Pastor Paul Rydecki's Letter about Justification by Faith - 2012

October 15, 2012

To the presidium of the Arizona-California District of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, President Jon Buchholz, First Vice President Steven Degner and Second Vice President David Clark:

Dear members of the AZ-CA District presidium, I write to you in reply to your letter suspending me from the ministerium of the WELS, and also in response to your shameful behavior over the past year.  Since you have formally and publicly condemned me as a false teacher, I no longer address you as brothers in Christ.

Your shameful behavior

I was surprised, President Buchholz, to get a phone call from you on Tuesday morning, Oct. 2, announcing the presidium’s resolution to suspend me.  This surprised me because you stood in front of me and my congregation just six days earlier and explicitly promised, “We will continue to study this issue with your pastor.”  Many of my members expressed to me after that meeting on Sept. 26th how encouraged they were by your promise to continue studying this doctrine with me.  But you have proven yourself to be a liar.

When one of my members questioned your dishonest behavior, you responded with this:

When I spoke with Pastor Rydecki this morning (October 2) we agreed that we are at an impasse.

That is a lie.  You asked me if I thought anything had changed between the meeting on Wednesday (Sept. 26) and that morning (Oct. 2).  I said that I didn’t think anything had changed in those six days.  I certainly did not agree that further study would be unproductive or unnecessary, especially given your public promise that such a study would take place.

You also wrote to my member:

Following last Wednesday’s meeting I took the opportunity to seek advice and counsel from the faculty of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary and from the Doctrine Committee of our WELS Conference of Presidents. All of the theologians agreed without hesitation or reservation that the statement “God forgave the sin of the world when Jesus died on the cross” (John 1:29; 1 John 2:2; Romans 5:18; 2 Corinthians 5:19; Apology IV, 103) teaches the truth of God’s Word and the historic teaching of the Lutheran Church in a simple, clear, and unambiguous way.

So you admit that you were emboldened to break your word to my congregation by the support you received from the seminary faculty and from the COP.  You have thus implicated them in your papistic attempt to establish new doctrine ex cathedra and to force your own made-up statements upon the pastors and congregations of the WELS on threat of suspension.  One would think that those who bear the name of Luther would shun such behavior, but instead you have embraced it—to your shame and disgrace.

I will mention more of your disgraceful behavior.  You had numerous communications with members of my congregation behind my back prior to my suspension, meddling in another man’s divine call.  You tolerated a pastor of this district making a public accusation against me of heresy on the district convention floor—in my absence, no less! —without denying his charge or clearing my good name before the assembly.  You have tolerated any number of slanderous accusations made against me behind my back by pastors of this district, knowing full well that not a single one of them has communicated with me in any way, even to seek clarification from me of my doctrine.  And if they are getting their impressions of my teaching from you, then they certainly are getting the wrong impression.

Your shameful misrepresentation and your confused doctrine

You have repeatedly misrepresented my doctrine, both to my congregation and to various pastors of our synod.  You have written:

Pastor Rydecki: Jesus died and rose again so that the sin of the world could possibly be forgiven.
Scripture: Jesus died and rose again, so that the sin of the world is forgiven.

“Could possibly be forgiven?”  You know I have never taught this.  But neither do you understand the Scriptural doctrine that God forgives sins through the Means of Grace, and that forgiveness is a present-tense divine promise made to “whoever believes and is baptized,” rather than some sort of past tense “reality,” as you like to call it.  All your talk about “possibilities” and “potentialities” and “realities” is worthless philosophical drivel.

Pastor Rydecki (a false and unLutheran teaching): Faith causes a person to become forgiven.
Scripture: Faith trusts the truth that Jesus has forgiven (1 John 2:2; John 1:29; John 19:30; Apology IV, 103; Apology XII (V),94; Smalcald Articles Part 2, Article 1).

Again, you do not understand the Gospel or the Lutheran Confessions, so you do not understand my teaching.  Whenever I have referred to faith as a cause of justification, I have been careful to point out its role as an instrumental cause, just as the orthodox Lutheran Fathers did. Faith is a cause of justification just as much as the grace of God, the merit of Christ and the Means of Grace are causes of justification.  They are not causes in the same sense nor do they have the same role, but they are necessary components of the article of justification, so that without any of these “causes,” sinners are not justified.  This is clearly explained in FC:SD:III:25.

Pastor Rydecki’s gospel is: You can be forgiven, if you believe.
The true good news is: Christ did forgive you. This is preached, so that you may believe.

My gospel is not the one that you state above. You knowingly corrupt both my teaching and the “true good news,” demonstrating again that you do not comprehend the concept of divine promise or the role of the Means of Grace.  The true good news is that “Christ did make satisfaction for your sins by His death.  Repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins! Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.”  Or, speaking to the baptized, the true good news is that “Baptism now saves you also,” or “In the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ, I forgive you all your sins. Your sins are forgiven.  Go in peace.” Or, “Take; eat.  Take; drink…for the forgiveness of sins.”

Perhaps the most disturbing condemnation you have made is exemplified in your criticism of my Easter sermon, where you write:

Pastor Rydecki’s teaching is subtle and deceptive. In many cases it is found not in what he overtly says, but it is hiding behind what he refuses to say or in the ways he limits or qualifies the gospel. The following notes were drawn from Pastor Rydecki’s writings and sermons and compiled by Pastor Degner of our district. The highlighting is his:

Paul Rydecki:  Adding Faith to the Proclamation of Forgiveness
Compiled by Steven Degner to show how the incorrect teaching on justification by faith permeates the preaching and teaching of Paul Rydecki:

Easter Sermon
But for those who want a sure refuge from God’s wrath, for those who want to be reconciled to God, for those who want Jesus for a Savior, the gospel reveals this truth: that Jesus was delivered up for our sins and raised to life for our justification. His death was sufficient payment for all sin, for every sin, for the worst sinner, for his most bitter enemy; and his resurrection means that all who hope in him, all who trust in him, all who look to him for forgiveness of their sins are absolved before God’s courtroom in heaven. The empty tomb means the justification of all who believe in the risen One.

Here, Pastor Rydecki limits the work of Christ only to those who believe. He refuses to acknowledge that the empty tomb was for the justification of all people.

In person, you accused me of preaching a “conditional Gospel” here because I mentioned faith.  I am amazed that you have so directly condemned the Scriptural and Lutheran Gospel of justification by grace through faith and redefined the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ to exclude faith from its proclamation.  Simply put, Pastor Buchholz, your “gospel” without faith is not the Gospel.

Your suspension letter

Now, addressing specifically your letter of suspension:

I am deeply disappointed that you have turned away from the teaching you learned in your ministerial training and have instead denied the truth and fallen into error.

On the contrary, my ministerial training prepared me in the Biblical and confessional languages so that I could search the Scriptures and the Book of Concord and study them in context.  My ministerial training taught me to rely on God’s Word alone and not on this or that seminary professor’s interpretation.  My ministerial training taught me that learning from God’s Word and from history is not to cease when one graduates from the seminary.  And thankfully, my ministerial training taught me that men and synods err; it taught me to avoid the Romish practice of ascribing infallibility to a human organization and of formulating new doctrines and then trying to read them back into the Scriptures and Confessions.

After numerous conversations with you and repeated efforts to admonish and instruct you from God’s word, you have made it clear that you are not in agreement with the doctrine of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS).

You have never attempted to instruct me from God’s Word.  Instead, you have attempted to instruct me from your personal interpretations, rationalistic conclusions and philosophical assertions.  The doctrine of the WELS and the doctrine of God’s Word are not necessarily the same thing.  Neither I nor any pastor nor any congregation has ever subscribed unconditionally to the WELS doctrinal statements, and yet you have continued to insist that such a subscription is mandatory for all WELS pastors.  You have insisted that we must confess This We Believe as our “own personal confession,” in addition to the Book of Concord. This is pure sectarianism.

I have opened up the Scriptures to every supposed sedes doctrinae for your universal justification and attempted to walk through the exegesis with you and discuss the historical Lutheran exegesis of these same passages in context. But rather than showing me where my exegesis was faulty, you simply insisted that you have personally studied these things, written a synod convention essay on it, and therefore, you must be right.  You have boldly claimed that the WELS cannot be wrong on this issue, and that the doctrine of justification can only be studied to demonstrate how the WELS is right.  There can be no study done by the pastors of our district that might call into question the WELS position.  This is pure Romanism.

Specifically, you have refused to acknowledge and confess that God forgave the sin of the world when Jesus died on the cross (John 1:29; John 19:30; 1 John 2:2; Romans 5:18; 2 Cor. 5:19; Apology IV, 103).

First, I find it interesting that you have chosen the word “forgave” rather than “justified” or “declared righteous,” since this whole discussion has been over the article of justification.  Granted, “forgive” and “justify” are closely related and often used synonymously.  But then, justification is also used synonymously with “regeneration” throughout the Book of Concord.  Why the switch?  Is it perhaps because the Confessions so clearly teach that there is no justification apart from faith, and you have found one paragraph in the Apology (IV:103) that does use the words “forgave” and “all” in the same sentence?

Secondly, as I have confessed in your presence on numerous occasions, 
I believe and teach that Christ…
  • o   has died for all people and paid for the sins of all people;
  • o   has made atonement for the sins of the world;
  • o   has been obedient to the Law for all people and has made satisfaction for the sins of all people;
  • o   has earned and acquired righteousness, forgiveness of sins, life and salvation for all men;
  • o   has redeemed the world;
  • o   wants all men to be saved;
  • o   truly offers and gives the forgiveness of sins in the Word of the Gospel, without any merit or worthiness on our part.

But you are correct. I have refused to acknowledge your made-up phrase that “God forgave the sin of the world when Jesus died on the cross,” because, as I have confessed in your presence, the Scriptures do not say this.  What they do say is that God forgives sin only through the ministry of the Word as the instrument through which the Holy Spirit alone creates faith in Christ the Reconciler and thereby justifies believers, not because faith is a good work, but because faith lays hold of Christ, the Mediator.  “Faith is imputed for righteousness.”  This is the “righteousness of faith” spoken of by the Apostle Paul in Romans and taught throughout the Lutheran Confessions.

Your made-up Scriptural support

I will address the passages you have mistakenly cited to support your contrived gospel of justification apart from faith.

John 1:29 (NKJV)   29The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”

This is a beautiful passage that you have corrupted to force it to say more than it says.  It speaks clearly about the universality of Christ’s sacrifice, but it says not a word about the application of Christ’s sacrifice to the world, as if all men had already been forgiven or justified on account of it.  Christ surely bore the sin of the world and suffered for the sin of the world, and so has merited or earned forgiveness of sins for all people. “By His death, Christ made satisfaction for our sins” (Augsburg Confession:IV).  Therefore, John the Baptist rightly directs his disciples to “behold” the Lamb of God, that they might become partakers through faith in the forgiveness of sins that He merited for all (or, at that time, would merit) through His sacrifice.

The Apology explains it this way in Ap:XXIV:53-55:

The Levitical sacrifices for sins did not merit the forgiveness of sins before God. They were only an image of Christ’s sacrifice, which was to be the one atoning sacrifice, as we said before. To a great extent the Epistle speaks about how the ancient priesthood and the ancient sacrifices were set up not to merit the forgiveness of sins before God or reconciliation, but only to illustrate the future sacrifice of Christ alone. In the Old Testament, saints had to be justified by faith, which receives the promise of the forgiveness of sins granted for Christ’s sake, just as saints are also justified in the New Testament. From the beginning of the world all saints had to believe that Christ would be the promised offering and satisfaction for sins, as Isaiah 53:10 teaches, “when His soul makes an offering for sin.”

The Confessions clearly and consistently distinguish between the satisfaction made by Christ and the justification that results for those who believe in Him.  For maintaining this distinction, I have been branded a heretic.  It is hard to believe.

John 19:30 (NKJV)  30So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.

I find it incredible that you cite this passage to prove your novel doctrine.  Just because you want to slip justification into the “It is finished” spoken by Christ does not make it so. 

It can properly be said that Christ finished earning or winning the forgiveness of sins on the cross, as you know I have said repeatedly, and as Luther also says in the Large Catechism.  But when I have explained my position in this way, you have said that it is still not enough.  According to you, one must also say that “God forgave the world” or “God justified the world” or even “Jesus saved the world. Past tense.”   To this I have objected.

Do you really mean to prove that God finished forgiving sins when Christ died, or that His work of forgiving sins and justifying sinners is the “it” that was “finished” when Christ died on the cross?  So much for the Absolution!  “If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven” (John 20:23). So much for the Third Article of the Creed!  “In this Christian Church he daily and fully forgives all sins to me and all believers.”  And so much for Baptism that “works forgiveness of sin, delivers from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare.”

The Lutheran Church has a name for the work of Christ that was “finished” on the cross.  It is called “Redemption” (cf. Small Catechism, Second Article). It is not called “justification” or the forgiveness of sins (cf. Small Catechism, Third Article).

For as much as you pay lip-service to the Means of Grace, District President, your inclusion of the forgiveness of sins in the “it is finished” of Christ nullifies any efficacy you might claim for the Means of Grace.  What you give with one hand, you take away with the other.  You know you should say that God “forgives” sins through the Means of Grace, so you say it when pressed (although not all of your followers are as quick to say it), but your doctrine of “forgiveness finished” and declared once-for-all from the cross negates whatever efficacy you might claim for the Means of Grace.

1 John 2:2 (NKJV)  2And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.

This is another beautiful passage that you have corrupted by inventing new definitions for words and by ignoring the surrounding context in order to prove your contrived doctrine.  That Christ is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world is agreed upon without controversy, and you know very well that I confess this.  But propitiation is not the same thing as remitting sins or justification.  As Apology:XXI:31 says,

For we know that confidence is to be placed in the intercession of Christ, because this alone has God’s promise. We know that the merits of Christ alone are a propitiation for us. On account of the merits of Christ we are accounted righteous when we believe in Him, as the text says, Rom. 9, 33 (cf. 1 Pet. 2, 6 and Is. 28, 16): Whosoever believeth on Him shall not be confounded.

But we needn’t rely on the Confessions alone for this understanding.  The Apostle John himself in the immediate context of the verse you cite explains when and how and for whom sins are forgiven:

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.  My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.  And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world (1 John 1:8 - 2:2, NKJV).

Romans 5:18 (NKJV)  18Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life.

This verse does not say (or even imply) that God has already justified or forgiven all men.  Adam’s offense earned condemnation for all men, but not all men are, in fact, condemned, for “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1) and “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life” (John 5:24).  In the same way, Christ acquired the benefit of justification for all men, but not all men have been, in fact, justified or made alive, but only those who believe in Jesus Christ, as the Apostle teaches throughout Romans 3, 4, and 5, culminating in the first verse of this same chapter, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God…”

Gerhard says the same thing.  Hunnius says the same thing.  Luther teaches the same thing. Luther’s own interpretation of Romans 5:18 is rather embarrassing for those who swear by This We Believe, which cites this verse to prove that “God has justified all sinners, that is, he has declared them righteous for the sake of Christ.”  Luther says,

For in the same manner also St. Paul writes in Romans 5[:18]: “As through one man’s sin condemnation has come over all men, so through one man’s righteousness justification has come over all men.” Yet not all men are justified through Christ, nevertheless he is the man through whom all justification comes. It is the same here. Even if not all men are illumined, yet this is the light from which alone all illumination comes (Luther’s Works: Vol. 52: page 71).

This is not only Luther’s consistent interpretation of Romans 5, but, even more importantly, it is the interpretation of the Book of Concord as well:

Therefore, it is considered and understood to be the same thing when Paul says (a) we are “justified by faith” (Romans 3:28) or (b) “faith is counted as righteousness” (Romans 4:5) and when he says (c) “by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous” (Romans 5:19) or (d) “so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men” (Romans 5:18). Faith justifies not because it is such a good work or because it is so beautiful a virtue. It justifies because it lays hold of and accepts Christ’s merit in the promise of the Holy Gospel. For this merit must be applied and become ours through faith, if we are to be justified by it (Formula of Concord:III:12-13).

The Book of Concord says that Romans 5:18 means the same thing as “we are justified by faith,” or “faith is counted as righteousness.”  This directly contradicts your assertion that God has already justified all people, whether they have faith or not.  It is you who are teaching contrary to the confessional writings.

2 Corinthians 5:19 (NKJV) 19that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.

It is certain that Christ has made reconciliation between God and men.  He Himself, as the God-Man, is the perfect Mediator between God and Man.  “God was in Christ.”  He is where the two parties are brought together and reconciled with one another.  He is the One who has satisfied the offended party (God the Father) and who, through the ministry of the Word, continues to call out to the world, “Be reconciled to God!” (2 Cor. 5:20).

The present-tense participles in this verse in no way indicate a one-time act of “having forgiven” or “having justified” all people that supposedly took place at the cross.  God uses means to reconcile people to Himself.  Through the ministry of the Word, He brings people to Christ the Reconciler and does not impute sins to believers in Christ (clearly expressed in Rom. 4:5-8).  This verse from 2 Corinthians does not teach that the world has already been justified, and was never used by any of the Lutheran Reformers to teach such a thing.  Melanchthon, Chemnitz and the Wittenberg faculty all clearly taught that this verse does not mean that anyone was justified without faith (I would have been happy to study this exegetical question with you, but you were unwilling).  In fact, this “key” verse for your teaching of justification doesn’t make a single appearance in the whole Book of Concord.  Instead, here is the teaching of the Book of Concord:

Formula of Concord:SD:III:23-25
The righteousness of faith before God consists in the gracious imputation of the righteousness of Christ, without the addition of our works, so that our sins are forgiven us and covered, and are not imputed, Rom. 4, 6ff.
But here very good attention must be given with especial diligence, if the article of justification is to remain pure, lest that which precedes faith, and that which follows after it, be mingled together or inserted into the article of justification as necessary and belonging to it, because it is not one or the same thing to speak of conversion and of justification.
For not everything that belongs to conversion belongs likewise to the article of justification, in and to which belong and are necessary only the grace of God, the merit of Christ, and faith, which receives this in the promise of the Gospel, whereby the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us, whence we receive and have forgiveness of sins, reconciliation with God, sonship, and heirship of eternal life.

Finally, you cite one section from the Book of Concord to support your “orthodox” teaching that God forgave/justified all unbelievers, without means, at the cross. And yet it is only one phrase in that entire paragraph upon which you base your novel teaching.  If that whole paragraph is cited in context, then your assertion falls to the ground.

Apology IV, 103-105
103] Here and there among the Fathers similar testimonies are extant. For Ambrose says in his letter to a certain Irenaeus: Moreover, the world was subject to Him by the Law for the reason that, according to the command of the Law, all are indicted, and yet, by the works of the Law, no one is justified, i.e., because, by the Law, sin is perceived, but guilt is not discharged. The Law, which made all sinners, seemed to have done injury, but when the Lord Jesus Christ came, He forgave to all sin which no one could avoid, and, by the shedding of His own blood, blotted out the handwriting which was against us. This is what he says in Rom. 5, 20: “The Law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” Because after the whole world became subject, He took away the sin of the whole world, as he [John] testified, saying John 1, 29: “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” And on this account let no one boast of works, because no one is justified by his deeds. But he who is righteous has it given him because he was justified after the laver [of Baptism]. Faith, therefore, is that which frees through the blood of Christ, because he is blessed “whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered,” Ps. 32, 1. 104] These are the words of Ambrose, which clearly favor our doctrine; he denies justification to works, and ascribes to faith that it sets us free 105] through the blood of Christ. Let all the Sententiarists, who are adorned with magnificent titles, be collected into one heap. For some are called angelic; others, subtle, and others irrefragable [that is, doctors who cannot err.] When all these have been read and reread, they will not be of as much aid for understanding Paul as is this one passage of Ambrose.

Both Ambrose and the Lutheran Reformers who cite him explain where and how exactly Christ “forgave to all sin which no one could avoid.”  He forgave to all and continues to forgive to all “after the laver of Baptism,” so that “faith is that which frees through the blood of Christ, because he is blessed whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.”  Here Ambrose clearly states that the “all” whose transgression is forgiven are the same “all” who have been justified through Holy Baptism and faith.  Melanchthon summarizes this teaching of Ambrose in the words that follow, “He denies justification to works, and ascribes to faith that it sets us free through the blood of Christ.” 

I know you are not alone in citing this section from the Apology to retrofit your universal justification into the Book of Concord.  But an honest reading of the Apology does not permit it.  For you to assert that this snippet from the Apology somehow proves “the central message of the Bible” (as This We Believe calls it) that all people have been justified without means and without faith is not only absurd.  It is disingenuous.

Do not imagine that I have attempted to answer your claims exhaustively.  Many pages—indeed, many books! —could be written to demonstrate the folly of your position.  To be sure, the entire Bible and the whole Book of Concord teach that sinners are justified by faith alone in Christ.  But let these explanations suffice for now.

We expect you to acknowledge and confess the truth that God forgave the sin of the world when Jesus died on the cross, because this statement expresses the truth of God's Word and the historical teaching of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in simple, clear, and unambiguous terms.

If it were “the truth,” I would certainly acknowledge it. But as you teach it, it is neither the truth, nor the historical teaching of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, unless by “Evangelical Lutheran Church” you mean “The WELS.”   More sectarianism. 

Even so, there are many faithful pastors and congregations of the WELS that do not teach this absurdity that God has already declared all people righteous whether they believe in the Righteous One or not.  You would be surprised how many laymen understand the simple Gospel perfectly, without your confusing explanations and redefinition of terms.  Most WELS members, even lifelong WELS members—even multi-generational WELS families have never heard your “gospel” before. 

You would also be surprised how many WELS pastors do not claim This We Believe as their own personal confession.  Some still take their ordination vows seriously—to uphold the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions, period.  Some still believe that the WELS is fallible.

As an aside, here is your teaching in “simple, clear, and unambiguous terms.” 

a  God has forgiven all people, but if you don’t believe, then you’re forgiven but not forgiven, even though all people are forgiven, and you stand both righteous and condemned before God at the same time.  ?????
a  God declared all people righteous on Easter Sunday—which includes the wicked souls in hell.  ?????
a  Jesus saved all people, but not all people are saved. ?????
a  All people were justified before they were born, but stand condemned already at the time of their birth. ?????
a  God has changed the status of all people to “righteous,” but still counts unbelievers among the “unrighteous.”  ?????
a  God has declared all people righteous, either by imputing to all people the righteousness of Christ apart from faith (as many WELS statements teach), or by not imputing to them the righteousness of Christ at all (as Pr. Buchholz teaches).  ?????
a  God has acquitted all people in his courtroom of divine justice, but sentences those who have been acquitted to eternal death if they don’t believe it. ?????
Can you not see the folly of your position?  It’s one thing to accept a paradox that is found in Scripture.  But your manmade paradox is recognized as folly by Jesus’ sheep, who do not hear their Shepherd’s voice when you speak about God having already justified sinners before His Holy Spirit brings them to faith in His Son.

You have stated openly that you reject the portion of the article on justification in our WELS confession This We Believe that says, “We believe that God has justified all sinners, that is, he has declared them righteous for the sake of Christ” (Article IV, 1). You have publicly acknowledged your disagreement with WELS doctrine and have made it clear that you do not walk together with the WELS in your teaching.

Until now, I have treated you all as brothers and have been willing to study and discuss these doctrinal differences with you without condemning anyone as a heretic.  But in true papistic fashion, you have refused from the beginning even to admit the possibility that you could have erred or that the WELS doctrinal statements may be wrong.  You called me to repentance for preaching that “all who trust in Christ are absolved before God’s courtroom.”  You stood in front of my congregation and called me a false teacher for teaching the Gospel that sinners are justified by faith alone in Christ, and now you have suspended me from the ministerium of the WELS.

By your words and actions, President Buchholz, you have revealed yourself, together with the presidium of the Arizona-California District of the WELS, as enemies of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  I plead with you to turn from your human philosophies and return to the Word of God and the confession of the Church catholic, as summarized in the Augsburg Confession:

Article IV: Of Justification.
Also they teach that men cannot be justified before God by their own strength, merits, or works, but are freely justified for Christ’s sake, through faith, when they believe that they are received into favor, and that their sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake, who, by His death, has made satisfaction for our sins. This faith God imputes for righteousness in His sight. Rom. 3 and 4.

I will pray for you, that the Holy Spirit may turn your hearts to see the error of your doctrine and of your actions, and may bring you back to repentance and faith in Christ.  I will also continue to pray for all the faithful pastors, teachers and congregations in the Arizona-California District and throughout the synod, that they may be encouraged to study this important issue, that they may be protected from persecution at your hand, and that they may be strengthened in the conviction and the confession that sinners are justified by faith alone in Christ. 

Lord, have mercy on the WELS!

Christ’s unworthy servant,
+Rev. Paul A. Rydecki

cc: The Pastors of the Arizona-California District


GJ - Someone who received this letter forwarded it to me for publication. The original email said, "Share," so so I am sharing.

District Leadership

District Leadership

District Presidium

Rev. Jon Buchholz
Buchholz Jon D (90) [Sandra E] 1821 E Apollo Rd
Phoenix AZ 85042-9111 -- 602-323-5655;
Off: 480-344-3781 office;
Emmanuel Lutheran Church‎
715 West Southern Avenue
Tempe, AZ 85282
(480) 967-3991

Rev. Steven Degner
First Vice President
Degner Steven C --
Star of Bethlehem Lutheran Church WELS on the Central Coast
4465 South Blosser Road 
Santa Maria, California  93455
Phone: 805 937-0339

Rev. David Clark
Second Vice President
Clark David R (83) [Bonnie E] 7709 W Comet Ave
Peoria AZ 85345-6781 -- 623-412-0470;
Off: 623-842-4704 x 303;
Grace Ev. Lutheran Church 
5600 W. Palmaire Ave. 
Glendale, AZ  85301
Phone: 623-937-2010
Fax: 623-937-4390

Rev. Daniel Schroeder
Schroeder Daniel M --
Risen Savior Lutheran Church, 625 Otay Lakes Road, Chula Vista, CA 91913 / 
P: (619) 482-7748  F: (619) 482-7793 Email:

Circuit Pastors

Apache Conference

Rev. Andrew Luehring
Apache Circuit
Luehring Andrew T (06) [Nicole] 725 Pine Spruce Ln
Pinetop AZ 85935-7113 -- 928-369-8208;
Immanuel Church's Address:
4839 Vllery Ln
Lakeside, AZ 85929
Phone: 928-368-564

Black Canyon Conference

Rev. Paul Rutschow
Grand Canyon Circuit
Rutschow Paul D (97) [Johannah] 1280 E Fir St
Cottonwood AZ 86326-4871 -- 928-634-0630;
Off: 928-634-8727;
Peace Lutheran Church
1450 E Fir Street
Cottonwood, AZ 86326-4885

Rev. Fred Casmer
Metro East Circuit
Casmer Frederick W (80) [Susan C] 3832 E Captain Dreyfus Ave
Phoenix AZ 85032-6672 -- 602-403-8310;
Paradise Valley Evangelical Lutheran Church
14845 North 40th Street 
Phoenix, Arizona  85032
Phone: 602-992-4981

Rev. John Ehlers
Metro West Circuit
Ehlers John P (98) [Susan] 8642 W Rose Garden Ln
Peoria AZ 85382 -- 602-904-3501;
Off: 651-308-5822;
Cross of Glory Lutheran Church & School (PreK & Elementary)
10111 W. Jomax Road 
Peoria, AZ  85383
Phone: 623-224-8839

Rev. Martin Spaude
Superstition Mountain Circuit
Spaude Martin P (86) [Deborah L] 1270 N Dobson Rd
Chandler AZ 85224-8548 -- 480-963-9397;
Calvary Lutheran Church
1270 N. Dobson Road
Chandler, AZ 85224

Northern California Conference

Rev. Michael Carr
Golden Gate Circuit
Carr Michael T (03) [Christina M] 2405 Lincoln Ave
Clovis CA 93611-6224 -- 559-940-7345;
St. Peter Lutheran Church


PHONE 559.360.1203

2550 Gettysburg Ave.

Clovis, CA 93611

Rev. Guy Marquardt
Sierra Circuit
Marquardt Guy M (94) [Linda R] 13021 N Elderberry Ct
Lodi CA 95242-9276 -- 209-369-8853;
Christ Ev. Lutheran Church
420 S. Central Ave.
Lodi, CA 95240
(209) 368-6250

Southern California Conference

Rev. Donald Pieper
Las Vegas Circuit
Pieper Donald J (83) [Karen S] 280 Cordero Drive
Henderson NV 89074-0986 -- 702-435-5371;
Off: 702-454-8979;
Green Valley Ev. Lutheran Church
Henderson, Nevada 

Rev. James Proeber
Los Angeles Circuit
Proeber James N (82) [Suzan M] 760 Vala Dr
Santa Barbara CA 93111-1542 -- 805-967-3570;
Off: 805-967-1128;
Our Redeemer Lutheran Church
770 Vala Drive, Santa Barbara, CA 93111

Rev. David Salinas
Mountain View Circuit
Salinas David J (04) [Katie K] 16700 Green Tree Blvd
Victorville CA 92395-5616 -- 760-694-3561;
Off: 760-245-9090;
St. John Lutheran Church (WELS) 
 760-245-9090 16700 Green Tree Blvd 
Victorville, CA  92395

Rev. Michael Foley
Orange Circuit
Michael L Foley -- thefoleys@dslextreme.comt
Rev. Aaron Boehm
San Diego Circuit
Shepherd of the Hills Ev. Lutheran Church
9191 Fletcher Parkway 
La Mesa, CA  91942
Phone: 619.469.4197
Boehm Aaron D --

Gadsden Conference

Rev. Steven Spencer
Chiricahua Circuit
Spencer Steven D --
Trinity Orthodox Lutheran Church
4422 East Snyder Boulevard, Sierra Vista, AZ
(520) 458-5897 

Sierra Vista, AZ 
Rio Grande Circuit
Rev. Nathan Kassulke
Saguaro Circuit
Kassulke Nathan P (05) [Elizabeth A] 5980 N Edenbrook Ln
Tucson AZ 85741-3754 -- 520-293-2935;
Off: 520-623-6633;
Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church
830 N First Ave, Tucson, Arizona 85719, United States
Phone: 520-623-6633



My prayers go out to Pastor Rydecki and to all those who support him. Funny that those "other" pastors "ain't" been suspended(?) Pastor Buccholz has dishonored his position as District President; this is not acceptable behavior on his part. I am very VERY disappointed in the COP and seminary leaders actions of not wanting to have an honest discussion over the Doctrine Of Justification. This issue has been brewing for some time, and did not just come to light earlier in the week! Sorry about the comment that Pastor GJ had to moderate.(aka he did not post it) I'm sure the drugstore will provide you with more smelling salts. Everyone needs to read that letter. I will pass it up the line....WAY UP! The WELS is in trouble, and the leaders must face issues that dwarf the perils of the Intrepids.(well at least one Intrepid for now) See the verses from Galations chapter 3: "Even as Abraham BELIEVED GOD AND IT WAS COUNTED TO HIM FOR RIGHTOUSNESS. Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. And the scripture forseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, IN THEE SHALL ALL NATIONS BE BLESSED. So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham." "That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith." "But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith is come, we are no longer under a school master. For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptised into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." Here are some passages form David J Valleskey's We Believe-Therefore We Speak: (Warning, it is not like the Galations verses.) "It is important for the evangelist to understand what faith is. Perhaps the simplest definition is that faith is the hand that receives the the benefits of the finished work of Christ. It is the hand into which God places the forgiveness of sins and justification won by Christ." "Faith is not the cause of justification. To say, "A person is declared righteous in the sight of God...because of having believed," is to fail to distinguish properly the relationship between faith and justification. Faith is not in any way that which brings about the sinner's justification. The cause of justification is the perfect life and sacrificial death of Christ. Faith is simply the way by which the individual sinner apprehends the salvation won by Christ." Brother David, you got's some splannin' to do! Yes you borrowed from Pieper, Walther, and Millard J Erickson. I/we cannot let this go, and one cannot hide behind Matthew 18. The Matthew 18 crawl space is geting a little crowded these days. In Christ, Rebecca
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Mr. Hieb, yes, it needs to be on the internet. The WELS has published that Pastor Rydecki was suspended and offered no explanation as to why. He certainly gets the opportunity to defend his good name. As with Pastor Rydecki, I am truly bothered by DP Buchholz promising one thing and only a few days later taking action contrary to what he promised. As Brett Meyer has said, this is really refreshing to finally hear someone (other than us undesirables who post on this blog) challenge the false teachers in the WELS.
Ichabod - I read [this] Pastor Rydecki's letter to DP Bucholz, and I cannot help but think that the Scriptural substance is above and beyond this DP. I hope and pray that Pastor Rydecki will move on quickly and pay no mind to these ecclesiastical dead horses. After this excellent letter, I would think that there is no more reason to waste one's time beating the Bucholz synodical horse. At some point, one has to conclude that it is humanly fruitless to prevent the blind from leading the blind. Nathan M. Bickel
Justin: It was being discussed privately between the District President, Pastor Rydecki, and other pastors. He was finally booted from the WELS for teaching that sinners are justified by faith alone. Does that not raise a red flag? Especially during the Reformation month? He certainly didn't need to do anything in private, but he did, probably in the attempts to have the WELS see their error. He could have gone public right away, but didn't. Public error certainly needs public rebuke so others won't be led astray. All the WELS publications that proclaim their "universal justification" are public. Why on earth do we discuss public sin privately? Have you read Luther's explanation of the 8th Commandment? "All this has been said regarding secret sins [Febreeze - Matt. 18:15]. But where the sin is quite public so that the judge and everybody know it, you can without any sin avoid him and let him go, because he has brought himself into disgrace, and you may also publicly testify concerning him. For when a matter is public in the light of day, there can be no slandering or false judging or testifying; as, when we now reprove the Pope with his doctrine, which is publicly set forth in books and proclaimed in all the world. For where the sin is public, the reproof also must be public, that every one may learn to guard against it." It turned from a matter of discussion to him being labeled a heretic. Does anything in this letter stand out to you? The only thing you have concern with is Pres. Buchholz' integrity? How about Pastor Rydecki after falsely being charged with heresy? The WELS has shown itself to teach a different Gospel than what has been handed down to us. P.S. This isn't mudslinging.
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It's refreshing to hear a Christian speak freely in defense of Christ's doctrine and in opposition to false teachers who teach contrary to Christ and His Church. It won't be long before the (W)ELS spin machine produces people who will say to Pastor Rydecki, "I hear you believe Pastor Jon Buchholz did you wrong ..." What they don't understand is that the false teachers are inconsequential. The world is the devil's and most serve him in one capacity or another. The issue is the false doctrine which his minions preach which has as it's sole intent to separate men, women and children from the forgiveness of sins and salvation. Buchholz labeled himself a heretic in his 2005 WELS Convention essay teaching the false gospel of Universal Objective Justification. <i>Jon Buchholz, “In each example, the mark of heresy is to go as far as Scripture goes – and then to go one step further.” Page 7 "God has forgiven the whole world. God has forgiven everyone his sins." This statement is absolutely true! This is the heart of the gospel, and it must be preached and taught as the foundation of our faith. <b>But here’s where the caveat comes in: In Scripture, the word "forgive" is used almost exclusively in a personal, not a universal sense. The Bible doesn’t make the statement, "God has forgiven the world."</b> Page 7 "God has forgiven all sins, but the unbeliever rejects God’s forgiveness." Again, this statement is true—and Luther employed similar terminology to press the point of Christ’s completed work of salvation.16 <b>But we must also recognize that Scripture doesn’t speak this way."</b> Page 8 "God has declared the entire world righteous." This statement is true, as we understand it to mean that God has rendered a verdict of "not-guilty" toward the entire world. It is also true—and must be taught—that the righteousness of Christ now stands in place of the world’s sin; this is the whole point of what Jesus did for us at Calvary. <b>However, once again we’re wresting a term out of its usual context. In Scripture the term "righteous" usually refers to believers."</b> Page 8</i> What Pastor Jon Buchholz is accomplishing is blantantly showing the heart of UOJ. Since it is a false teaching that doesn't exist in Scripture or the Christian Book of Concord but from the pit of man's reason it is a constantly moving target. There is no BOC style confession of UOJ: this we believe, this we reject. Buchholz clarifies the false teachings and in comparison with the many versions being taught in the (W)ELS, CLC, LCMS, ELCA it shows the disunity that the Lutheran Synods have over their common chief article of their religion. For those who hold to Christ's doctrine of one Justification solely by Faith Alone, the official doctrine of UOJ taught in all Lutheran Synods eliminates any question whether any religious denomination in the world is Christian. Based on their common perversion of the chief and central article of Christianity here are no official religious denominations that are Christian. There are certainly Christian people and individual churches but there are no religious denominations that are Christian. It is a sign of the times, the last days of a wicked world. May others take Pastor Rydecki's example to publicly and boldly suffer all for Christ and His true Word and continuing in that Word endure unto life everlasting as a witness to a world that is increasingly falling into abject apostasy. We now return you to the (W)ELS news channel....<i>Moderator: "The beatings will continue until moral improves!"</i>
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okay clearly some things were said that shouldnt have been said. And scripture needs to prevail over all else. But did this really need to be up on the internet for everyone to scoff at? no. what ever happened to Matthew 18:15? Shameful. Its shameful that we have resorted to all of this mudslinging.
okay clearly some things were said that shouldnt have been said. And scripture needs to prevail over all else. But did this really need to be up on the internet for everyone to scoff at? no. what ever happened to Matthew 18:15? Shameful. Its shameful that we have resorted to all of this mudslinging.
I may not be the brightest bulb in the stadium, but I don't see how UOJers can read Pr. Rydecki's letter and continue to label JBFAers as Arminians, semi-Pelagians, synergists, or as people who put faith in one's faith (according to No Call Paul). The SynCon has destroyed the Means of Grace and the Sacraments. I would label them as semi-Revivalists. Why? Because even if unbelievers are justified, then Baptism is just an "act of obedience;" the Lord's Supper is only a "memorial meal." We are certainly capable of rejecting the Gospel, but the Holy Ghost gets all the credit when we believe. Is the unrepentant thief also in Paradise?