By Jack Cascione
Christian News, July 1, 2013
“What is a Sacerdotalist?” you ask. Two definitions are as follows:
Merriam Webster: Sacerdotalism - Religious belief emphasizing the powers of priests as essential mediators between God and humankind.
Dictionary.com: Sacerdotal - Relating to a doctrine that ascribes spiritual or supernatural powers to ordained priests.
“Who believes this false doctrine?” - The Catholic Church, the Episcopal Church, the ELCA, and many clergy in the LCMS.
The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod at its founding rejected this false doctrine and adopted C. F. W. Walther’s book “Church and Ministry” as the official doctrine and practice of the LCMS. Walther’s “Church and Ministry” quotes the Bible, the Lutheran Confessions, Luther and other church fathers in support of congregational polity and voter supremacy.
After a 5-year struggle the 2001 LCMC Convention reaffirmed Walther’s “Church and Ministry” as the official doctrine and practice of the LCMS in Resolution 7-17A. After the untimely death of A. L. Barry, the Convention also elected Gerald Kieschnick as president when Christian News exposed Dr. Dean Wenthe’s refusal to endorse Walther’s “Church and Ministry.”
Kieschnick, a District President, was obsessed with the Church-Growth board-of-directors model of congregational government and was theologically incompetent. The LCMS lost a quarter million members during his presidency. Board-directed polity disenfranchises voters’ assemblies in the name of corporate efficiency versus sacerdotal clergy who disenfranchise voters’ assemblies in the name of God. Regrettably Robert Kuhn and Daniel Preus both refused to allow their names to stand for election in 2001.
Now in 2013 the pendulum has swung all the way back from Church-Growth mentality to Sacerdotal-Episcopal hierarchy.
The Rev. William Cwirla is scheduled to be an essayist at the 2013 Convention. In 2001 Pastor Cwirla testified before Committee 7 that adopting Walther’s “Church and Ministry” was against the Gospel. He and many other pastors condemned Walther’s book from the Convention floor.
The Convention Chaplain Rev. William Weedon, who once considered joining the Greek Orthodox Church, wrote a glowing review of LCMS Sacerdotalist Rev. Berthold Von Schenk’s biography. He also likes the tile “Father Weedon.”
You may ask, “What is this attraction to Sacerdotalism? By the late 1980s many LCMS pastors became painfully aware that women suffrage (adopted in 1969) and voter polity do not mix. LCMS congregational administration was in meltdown. Difficult decisions often brought voters into conflict with each others’ marriages. The clergy divided on two solutions. Many adopted the closed-meeting corporate board-of-directors model for church administration. Others decided that Walther was wrong and ordination is a sacrament for clergy on the order of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. They follow early church father Ignatius’s dictum as published in the 2007 Fort Wayne Cornerstone, “Wherever the bishop appears, there let the congregation be; just as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the catholic church.”
Now every time a congregation issues a call, they have to ask themselves “Did we get a CEO or Bishop?” The WELS and ELS have avoided much of the chaos and maintained congregational polity by preserving male suffrage even though the WELS believes Synod is church.
In 2005 LCMS Sacerdotalists rewrote the Lutheran Confessions until the Wisconsin Synod published a scathing expose and CPH was forced to publish 16 pages of corrections as a paste-in addendum. In the fallout Paul McCain was demoted, Harrison gave Mark Sell a position in LCMS World Relief, and others were no longer asked to work for CPH.
Now, LCMS President Matthew Harrison has retranslated Walther’s “Church and Ministry” before the 2013 Convention to say that the Synod is Church. In LCMS doctrine [not WELS], if the Synod is Church, Harrison is the Pastor of the LCMS and is the chief administrator of the Office of the Keys in the LCMS. In other words Harrison has turned the Synod from being an advisory organization to a divine church body.
Now that the 2010 Convention has adopted the District Presidents’ plan to “reorganize” the Synod there isn’t anything the delegates can do to reaffirm congregational polity and voter supremacy. The delegates can’t vote, they can’t speak at the floor committees, and they can’t bring up “controversial” resolutions from the floor. The District Presidents have removed the evils of politics from the LCMS Convention by instituting COP dictatorship. Many Americans may also presumably prefer to remove the politics out of Congress by making the President the supreme leader. Lazy laypeople have said, “Let the COP do it.”
During the drama, politics, and conflict of the 2001 Convention (this is how real men make decisions) Floor Committee 7 Chairman, Montana District President Doctor George Wollenburg, directed the entire adoption process of 7-17A through two stormy 45-minute sessions, one in the morning and the other in the afternoon. In the midst of heated debate, Wollenburg held up a copy of “Church and Ministry” over his head and shouted, “This is Synod’s Magna Charta.”
Walther’s “Church and Ministry” was adopted 73.1% to 26.9%.
In 1999, at the Fort Wayne Symposium, this writer, after significant resistance from other pastors, including the current LCMS President, asked the sainted LCMS President, A. L. Barry, with some 700 in attendance, “What is the Synod’s official position on Church and Ministry?” When Barry answered that it was Walther’s “Church and Ministry” no one applauded as they had for his answers to other questions.
A few months later, a survey was sent to both seminary faculties, asking if they supported Walther’s position that the congregational assembly was the final tribunal in the congregation. Only six from Fort Wayne and three from St. Louis agreed. Many from St. Louis would not reply.
In three successive Symposium banquets at Fort Wayne, this writer was the primary subject of derision and humorous ridicule for publicly defending Walther’s “Church and Ministry.” They were led in song by the current LCMS President and current President of the Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne.
In 2008 Harrison apologized for his behavior and said he now supported Walther’s position. We made him the featured speaker at the Walther Conference.
It appears that Harrison has changed his mind again.
What choice does the Convention have? Either the Synod will be bled dry by District President-CEOs or led back to Rome by paternalistic Bishops.