This upcoming Sunday, October 5th, will mark the end of my first year in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. It was, and has continued to be a breath of fresh air. It’s not that my previous 16 years in the Christian & Missionary Alliance were terrible. I had sound pastors that cared for me and always pointed me to God’s word, and although we now disagree on several key doctrines, I am still thankful for the care and instruction they gave me.
Nonetheless, my last year and a half in the C&MA, although educational, was extremely taxing. Our long term pastor was elected to the District Superintendent seat. The ensuing pastoral search process really opened my eyes to short comings in the C&MA doctrinal confessions. The C&MA doesn’t really have a large or detailed confession. It is primarily a conservative non-sacramental denomination that pitches its tent on “The Fourfold Gospel” as laid out by founder A.B. Simpson along with a subscription to premillenial eschatology and a focus on missions. It’s simply a conservative evangelical denomination. The glaring weakness, which some promote positively as inclusive, is that there are no confessional stances on justification, soteriology, free will, election, etc. So in a sense, each congregation within the denomination can be theologically autonomous (within reason) as the pastor is the rudder that steers doctrine within the individual churches. This make things rather complex when trying to replace a pastor. When the theological framework is shaped by the pastor instead of the institution, finding a replacement can be rather difficult. Add in the fact that since many congregants never attempt to figure out or settle on the vast nuances of the faith, incoming pastoral candidates are judged more on their charisma than their beliefs. Of all the candidates that I saw before I left, one thing was clear, both my fellow congregants and the pastoral candidates were infatuated with being “missional” and “wanting application.” I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised. It is the current fad within Evangelicalism. Christian Publishers are pumping out missional materials as fast as pastors can write them. Look at the success of the David Platt’s and the Kyle Idelman’s of the world. Missional radicalism is all around and I’m convinced it’s the new legalism…but I digress.
Having methodically researched my own beliefs over 5 years, I knew that I would be making a change no matter whether the new pastor was solid, squishy or somewhere in between. As an adult Sunday school teacher and worship leader I was in a no-win situation. My views on baptism and the Lord’s supper had drastically changed and I knew that if I taught what I now believed, I would stir division in an already temperamental environment. On the contrary, if I remained silent and taught against my believes, I’d be lying. Realizing that it was I who had changed, not the C&MA, I withdrew my membership and began looking for a denomination with a strong confession that taught what I believe the bible teaches. I found this in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. Having just gone through a tough, stressful and incomplete pastoral search while dealing with week after week of fill in pastors who waded no deeper than a theological mud puddle , I was ecstatic to see the Lutheran confessions clearly and succinctly laid out in the Book of Concord. As I studied, I discovered that the LCMS church lined up quite well with the list of theological superlatives that I had created over my 5 years of in depth study.
The search was over and I was finally home.
Fast forward to last week. It was then that I was first introduced to the FiveTwo network which is a spawn of CrossPoint Church (LCMS) and its pastor, Bill Woolsey. I was aghast at what I saw. The same missional jargon that was festering in the C&MA and other Evangelical Churches was now repackaged ever-so-neatly in confessional Lutheran wrapping paper. The video’s I watched spoke of the necessity for each of us to be “Sacramental Entrepreneurs” which is post modern speak for a strange and innovative “pay it forward” view of the sacraments. Not only is the language confusing and misconstrued, it is in no way confessionally Lutheran. We are not sacraments, nor will we ever be. We can only be receivers of the sacraments and receiving them does not transform us into sacraments. Even though sacraments do effect us as they either gift or strengthen our faith, we never, at any point, become the sacraments. This is clearly stated in Article V of the Augsburg Confession. As I sat at my computer, mouth agape, I could not believe that this garbage was infiltrating the LCMS, the very place that I sought refuge from this brand of false teaching. As I continued to research FiveTwo and Pastor Woolsey, I came across Wiki14 which is a conference hosted by the FiveTwo Network. My Twitter feed was inundated with #wiki14. Some of my twitter peers were present and gobbling it up while tweeting snippets for us watching at home. I soon learned that even some district presidents were present (it’s my sincere prayer that they attended for evidence, not for corporate indoctrination). Soon, videos of the conference began to surface. What I saw angered me to the core. Pastor Woolsey clearly rejects Article XIV of the Augsburg Confession. Here is the video.
In addition, here is a video of FiveTwo’s Vice President of the Board of Directors Mark Junkans talking about communion. This is in opposition to 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 as well as the Lutheran teaching on the Lord’s Supper. The Lord’s Supper is a corporate act done in church unless the communicant is physically unable to attend (such as eldery shut-ins, the disabled or those on death’s door). A small group of people passing a “good” bottle of wine around the table at home may be an enjoyable intimate gathering, but it is not the Sacrament of the Altar.
There are so many questions running around my head. I can understand this sort of false teaching infiltrating a denomination with a weak confession, but the LCMS has a lengthy detailed confession that each pastor must profess to uphold. When there is blatant rejection then, reprimand, repentance and removal should take place. On the flip side, I sincerely wonder why on earth would Pastor Woolsey desires to stay in the LCMS? What is in it for him? Why would he want to cause division?
Then there was this…
I am increasingly thankful for my congregation at Trinity Lutheran in Toledo, Ohio and appreciate the leadership’s desire to stay true to our confession of faith. Even so, I am deeply concerned for the synod as a whole. I am not sure how deep the FiveTwo roots are, but the synod should be proactively fighting to secure its confessional future. I do not want or desire a church split but I am in favor or removing cancer before it metastasizes to a terminal stage. False teaching is cancerous and the stuff that FiveTwo is pedaling will be the downfall and eventual death of the LCMS if action is not soon taken. What we need now is strong leadership. We need our leaders protecting us and carrying the torch of our confessions against the winds of change. I left the Christian and Missionary Alliance because I had changed and could not serve faithfully within the context of their beliefs and teaching. I wish Pastor Woolsey and his network would take a similar path.