Ichabod explores the Age of Apostasy, predicted in 2 Thessalonians 2:3, with an emphasis on UOJ, Church Growth, and Emergent Church heresies. The antidote to these poisons is trusting the efficacious Word in the Means of Grace. John 16:8. Most readers are WELS, LCMS, ELS, or ELCA. This blog also covers the Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodoxy, and the mainline denominations.
In an official Synod address, though in a most even mannered and gentlemanly way, Rev. Mark Schroeder, President of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, excoriates the Church Growth Movement (CGM) and Sectarian Worship within our midst, and in their place emphasizes fidelity to Scripture and the Confessions in doctrine and practice, and uplifts a deliberate, unified and unique Lutheran identity under them. The first 42 minutes of this address is well worth a congregational study.
[As an aside, notice Schroeder's use of Power Point (PP). Black lettering on white background. Nothing to look at. Nothing to distract his hearers from what he had to say. According to the latest in leadership studies (and statistical research regarding the helpfulness of PP), if an organizational leader is forced to do PP to his audience, Schroeder's method is the way to do it: no color, no animations, no diagrams, no silly pictures; only black lettering on white background (which has been proven to maximize PP retention). Anything else, while increasing audience approval (i.e., they enjoyed it more because it was more entertaining, giving them the impression that they "got more out of it"), results in much lower retention of what was actually said. Preferably, it is increasingly being advised, if the actual words of the speaker are important enough to be retained and considered by his hearers, studies and theory are beginning to show that doing PP to one's audience ought to be avoided. It is only useful for summary of detail, and only when the speaker and his words don't really matter.]
NOTE that this video is no longer available. Perhaps there is a desire that it no longer be seen by anyone... More than likely, however, access to video simply lapsed. Someone should look into that. In the meantime, here is a link to the report itself:2009 WELS Convention Presidents Report (beginning on pg. 98). I doubt very much that WELS will ever see CGM referred to so directly, in the negative, at a Synod Convention, again.
"WELS describes itself as a confessional Lutheran synod. That means that we subscribe unconditionally to the Lutheran Confessions as contained in the Book of Concord of 1580 not insofar as (quatenus) they are a correct exposition of biblical teaching but because (quia) they are. It means that our synod boldly, and without qualification or hesitation, upholds the doctrine (what we believe and teach) as articulated in the Confessions and is committed to reflecting those doctrinal beliefs in our practice (how we express our faith and carry out our mission). Our unity in faith is created by the power of God’s revealed Word and shaped by the doctrines of Scripture; it is expressed in our common commitment to the Lutheran Confessions as correct expositions and explanations of biblical truth. Since the time of the Reformation, Lutherans have recognized the importance of articulating not only what we believe as Christians, but what distinguishes Lutheran belief and practice from that of other Christian churches that have departed from scriptural truth."
"There is no doubt that the early fathers of our synod were filled with a fervent zeal for mission work, but not all of them were fully committed to Lutheran doctrine and practice. They were sent to America by mission societies in Germany in which the distinction between Lutheran and Reformed teachings was blurred at best and virtually non-existent at worst. Their roots in pietism also resulted in a lack of commitment to sound Lutheran theology. True to those roots, they preferred to emphasize the importance of subjective feelings over the objective truth of God’s Word, sanctified living over justification, and the power of prayer over the efficacy of the means of grace. They emphasized the priesthood of all believers to the point where they downplayed the importance of the public ministry. John Muehlhaeuser, the first president of what would become the Wisconsin Synod, gave evidence of this doctrinal laxity when he said, 'I am in a position to offer every child of God and servant of Christ the hand of fellowship over the denominational fence.'"
"By God’s grace that orientation soon changed. In 1861 John Bading was elected as the second president of the synod. In contrast to Muehlhaeuser, Bading regarded the Lutheran Confessions as a proclamation of God’s truth for every age and was committed to sound Lutheran doctrine and practice. In his first address as president, he encouraged the young synod to sacrifice 'blood, life, and limb and suffer all rather than depart one hair’s breadth from the truth we have learned.' In the years that followed, we are grateful that through his leadership and through the beneficial influence of the Missouri Synod, God transformed our synod into one that was truly committed to the doctrines of Scripture and to the Lutheran Confessions.
"Striving to remain faithful to the Scriptures — and to maintain our confessional identity — does not involve a single battle fought and won. It is an ongoing struggle for the church militant. When the battle ends on one front today, Satan opens another front tomorrow. That’s why each generation needs to recognize this struggle as its own and engage in it zealously. Each generation, including ours, needs to resist the temptation to be led astray by false teachings, both blatant and subtle... When orthodoxy is assumed or taken for granted, it is likely soon to be lost.
"As Confessional Lutherans we are committed to holding on to the truth of God’s Word and to defending against all error. We do that, however, not merely to keep that Word for ourselves, but rather to share that message with the world now and for generations to come. It is a false antithesis to say that faithfulness to doctrine is somehow opposed to, or detracts from, a commitment to sharing the gospel. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The truth of Scripture, entrusted to us by God, is what gives us a message to proclaim. A truly correct understanding of biblical doctrine always produces a correct understanding of the mission of the church and recognizes the compelling need to share God’s truth with the world."
"As Confessional Lutherans we will look for every opportunity to proclaim God’s law in all its harshness, and we will be zealous to share the sweet message of the gospel to every sinner convicted by God’s law. But we will never adjust or hide or downplay a single word of God’s truth in order to make it somehow more attractive. To do that is to empty the gospel of its power and to lose the gospel itself."
"Doctrine and practice are intimately related to each other. Therefore, it’s essential that we be wary of methods and practices that have their roots in evangelical and reformed theology and that may inherently reflect that theology. For example, these 'theological underpinnings' can show themselves in worship and outreach methods that emphasizes subjective feelings over the proclamation of God’s objective gospel truth; or that gives the impression that prayer is a means of grace; or that emphasizes the role of praise over against the centrality of the Word proclaimed and the sacraments administered."
Those of us who remain publicly supportive of Synod President Schroeder's leadership recall this address with fondness. It remains evidence of his intention to lead in the direction of confessional Lutheran unity, of his fidelity to Scripture and the Confessions, and of his trust in the efficacy of God's Word. May such continue among us.