Posted publicly on FB. Posted in its entirety.
by Rev. Richard Anton Bolland
The first thing I’d like to address to the Missouri Synod before I leave her is my sincere gratitude. What I mean by that is my deep gratitude for the last 60 years of my life having been grounded in the theology of The Book of Concord of 1580 as the correct exposition of the Word of God, the Holy Scriptures.
While many in the Missouri Synod have minimized this treasure of the Church, and others have abandon our theological heritage almost totally, there remain many more who have continued to embrace the true Lutheran/Christian faith without apology and will keep their ordination vows to the death if it should be required of them. For exposing me to this treasure, for teaching me, and providing me a seminary education at our Fort Wayne seminary that was a world class preparation for the Office of the Holy Ministry, I will remain eternally grateful. I am also profoundly grateful for the thousands of faithful laymen and women who have shown me how the Christian faith lives in the lives of God’s saints. In many ways I learned more from you than I did at the seminary.
As I part ways with the LCMS, I would offer a few words of advice to this, my beloved Synod. First, (and this is addressed primarily to the leaders of our Synod, but it applies to all who are servants of the Church,) remember that an earthly institution of the Church must have, as it’s primary objective, the maintenance of pure doctrine. Without the singular focus on this most significant aspect of our faith and our lives together, the Synod simply cannot remain a Synod in any meaningful sense of the term. Without a catholic agreement among us regarding what we believe, teach, and confess, there can be no true fellowship, no true agreement, and no true ability to be a manifestation of the true, visible Church on earth.
The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod cannot be merely an association of congregations, pastors and other church workers that is held together by the benefits of the Concordia Plans. For that, any insurance company would do. Our Synodical “Walking Together” is fundamentally grounded on our common, catholic doctrines of the Christian faith. If it is the Synod’s primary focus to simply maintain the stability of the institution (as it often seems to be), then we have lost our way.
What I have observed over the more than 60 years as a member of the LCMS is a slow deterioration of our commitment to the maintenance of our catholic faith. It seems that when false teachers arise among us, we are reticent to actually deal with them unless the unblinking light of publicity forces those in authority to finally take action against the false teacher. We have rostered workers who openly advocate for the ordination of woman into the Office of the Holy Ministry. We have rostered workers who publicly give testimony that they have and intend to continue to participate in unionist and sometimes in syncretistic worship services with those with whom are are not in doctrinal agreement. We have rostered workers who openly and publicly espouse the current “New Measures” of the Church Growth Movement who have abandoned our historic liturgies and who no longer rightly administer the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. These examples are merely illustrative, not exhaustive.
And why has the LCMS continued to permit such blatant false teachers to continue to poison their congregations and the Synod with their aberrant teachings? The only reasonable explanation is that those ecclesiastical supervisors whose sacred duty is to safe guard the unity of our pure doctrine either agree with the error themselves or they value the maintaining of institutional stability more highly than they do the maintenance of pure doctrine. If the maintenance of a false “peace” in Missouri is built upon the foundation of the toleration of false teaching, then the Synod simply cannot survive as anything other than a loose confederation of congregations without a common faith. Indeed, such a church body has become what Walther describes as a heterodoxy church body.
The second piece of advice I would offer is specifically to the Council of Presidents. I know some of you personally and some of you are good, faithful servants of the Word. Others I have come to know as men of political ambition who have actively sought the office you hold. Some DP’s consider themselves to be officers of the institution first and conduct themselves accordingly while others understand they are servants of the Word of God first and institutional officers in a secondary sense. I would hope that those who have sought out the high offices of the Synod and its Districts would repent of their prideful sin and resign their post. I would hope that those of you who see yourselves as a sort of “Prince” of the Church would do the same. Missouri needs leaders who hold the Scriptures and The Lutheran Confessions above the Constitution and Bylaws of the Synod. Wherever the Constitution and Bylaws of the Synod prohibit taking biblical actions they need to be changed. We are a Synod in which we believe in Faith Alone, Grace Alone, and Scripture Alone; and the Constitution and Bylaws of the Synod cannot be permitted to inform the doctrines and practices of the Church. It must be the other way around.
My third piece of advice is for the recent crops of Confessional Lutheran men graduating from our two seminaries. I love your zeal for all things Lutheran and traditional, but you need to check your egos at the church door. What I have observed is a dismissive arrogance from some of you, not all, that is an embarrassment to the office you hold. Some have conducted themselves as though there have never been “real” Lutherans in our Synod prior to your arrival. Those who came before you are often treated like men who have nothing to offer you when we could have served as a valuable resource for you. I have seen some of you disrespect the voters of your congregations changing fundamental practices of the congregation without ever doing the hard work of patiently teaching your people why such changes are good, right, and salutary and without even giving a thought about seeking the permission of your congregation’s voters for your proposals thereby making these changes as a congregation rather than as just the pastor desiring it. I have observed a disregard for a congregation’s Constitution and Bylaws that are the agreement the congregation has made about how it will conduct the ministry God has called them to do. If you believe that the congregation’s Constitution and Bylaws require revising, then there is a process to go through to achieve that end. Don’t just ignore them and do whatever you want. At times, other people’s opinion have just as much value as yours.
So, I must bid my time with The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod farewell. I am not leaving for another Synod. I’ll admit I have considered that option a number of times as I saw things happening in the LCMS that seemed to be ignored when it should have garnered action by our appointed ecclesiastical supervisors. I am leaving for the Church Triumphant. My doctors have told me that my cancer is not curable and that, after a time of travail, I will draw my last earthly breath. My 75 years of this earthly life will come to an end. Soon I shall rest in the arms of my Lord and stand before His throne of grace.
Thank you Missouri for all you have given me in my decades of service to God’s people as a Lutheran teacher, a school principal, a Director of Christian Education, and as a pastor. A more wonderful life I could never have wished for. Be faithful Missouri. It’s not about the institution, but the maintenance of the treasure of the Church, her pure doctrine. As former Synodical President Al Berry rightly said, “Keep the message straight, Missouri.”
In his parting message to LCMS Rev. Richard Anton Bolland states “… an earthly institution of the Church must have, as it’s primary objective, the maintenance of pure doctrine”. Surely our primary objective, as sinners saved by God’s grace through our Saviour, is to bring other sinners to salvation using God’s true Word. If we are more interested in academics than people we are failing our “Great Commission” (Matt. 28:18-20) as mandated by Jesus.
If you don’t have the right doctrine, how are you going to lead anyone to the truth? And what happens if you get doctrine wrong?
For example, you cite Matt 28 which has been called the Great Commission and has been used to try and crowbar people into doing things they’re clearly not gifted for.
What if the correct understanding of this was an instruction to His apostles and not to all believers for all time? And that all the damage caused by this misunderstanding could’ve been avoided?
The pursuit and maintenance of right doctrine is of critical importance. This pursuit has to be careful about getting into legalism and forgetting that there is also a need for mercy.
I happen to believe LCC has the correct doctrine and that is why I am still a member. I was referring to pursuing doctrine at the expense of missing opportunities to connect with people. Giftedness aside, we are all witnesses by our words and/or actions. We are part of the priesthood of believers, operating with God’s true Word through which the Holy Spirit works faith in unbelievers.