Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Missouri Synod Misery

If your pastor says unpleasant things about you to others in your church, do you have any redress? What if you end up excommunicated (disfellowshipped)? Must you just "take it on the chin"?

It seems these issues will get tested in Minnesota after an elderly couple were excommunicated from their Missouri Synod congregation. The Minnesota Supreme Court has agreed to hear LaVonne Pfeil’s argument that judges should have a role in sorting out what’s said in church if it damages someone’s reputation far beyond the congregation.
“I lost my church, I lost my husband, lost my reputation, lost a lot of money,” said Pfeil, who’s 79 years old. “I can go to a grocery store. If people see me, they turn around with their cart. I used to know everybody. Now I have no friends.”
Some of us might be reminded of parallels in other religious organisations.

Predictably the LCMS isn't backing down.
That prospect would be a “terrible and dangerous decision,” according to the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, which filed an amicus brief in the case: “Courts should not pry into the mind of a pastor with respect to his judgment that a member of his congregation sinned.
"Terrible and dangerous"? Perhaps not nearly as bad as a ministerial entitlement to ruin people's lives.

Meanwhile the LCMS hierarchy has launched "what various members consider the equivalent of a modern-day heresy trial" against Matthew Becker, a pastor and academic.
Becker is a theology professor at Valparaiso University, an independent Lutheran institution in Valparaiso, Ind., about an hour’s drive from Chicago. Becker has raised questions about the church’s stance against the ordination of women, as well as its teaching of creationism, or the literal reading of the biblical book of Genesis. 
Becker’s insistence on talking about such issues has led certain members of the church to file charges against him to the synod, triggering several investigations. 
To the disappointment of some, including [LCMS President Matthew] Harrison, church panels handling the investigations have consistently cleared Becker, allowing him to remain in the church. 
Yet, Becker, 52, was officially ousted last week, suddenly no longer a member of the church in which he was raised, though he remains on faculty at Valparaiso University.
Can't you just feel the love!


  1. The WCG had a really bizarre version of excommunication. I recall hearing a sermon on excommunication at the Field House in Big Sandy in the early Seventies. (I am sure there are those who would like our collective memories to fade away. And I think of how much WCG strangeness is yet undocumented.) The minister stated that the WCG Ministry had the unchallengeable right to disfellowship members. And among the brain washed, the idea of excommunication was a consummate fear. Such people would likely end up in gehenna. But the minister went further to define the boundaries of ministerial power through the concept of loosing and binding. He explained that even if the minister was wrong about a particular case, god would back up the minister's decision. In other words, if a minister mistakenly decided that you needed to be disfellowshipped but in your case this was not justifiable, the mistaken decision made by the minister would be backed by god as if it were truth. This then, makes the WCG minister actually more powerful than god. The ministers power to loose and bind could not be challenged by god. What an ego-trip for those with a murderous and vindictive spirit. And this doctrine so configured informs the lay membership that there is no recourse not matter how well-reasoned and true their counter-arguments might be. The truth does not matter.

    I do not know if this was ever practiced in this way. I just know it was stated in that way back in the early Seventies in front of a large audience of people in Big Sandy. Unfortunately, I do not remember the name of the minister who made the statement. Nor did I ever hear any controversy surrounding this view.

    -- Neotherm