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Unveiling Truth: The Divisions and Deceptions Within the LCMS Community

How truthful are you? I’m sure we’d all say, “I’m pretty truthful. Sure, I have those moments where I tell little white lies to others…and to myself…but, overall, I’m a pretty honest person.” 

As a Jesus follower, you know this truth. You lie. I lie. We’ve sinned and are far from God. We’ve all run in shame to hide from what we’ve done, or not done. That is the truth. 

You also know and believe this truth. God loved you so much that He sent His one and only Son to be the Truth for us, bearing our sin—all of our sin—on Calvary’s cross. How do you know and experience this truth? You are baptized. God claimed you as His own through water and the Word. The sacramental reality of God’s love for you in Christ Jesus is as true as anything in all of creation. 

As Christians, I believe we can all agree on the truth of the Gospel delivered by faith to fallen sinners, each of us being the chief of sinners. 

I pray we can also agree on the big questions for us to consider in our life together in the LCMS. 

Why are there still divisions between us in the body of Christ in the LCMS? 

Why have we created labels around certain people and groups, hampering us from learning and growing with one another? 

Why do some LCMS leaders try to control “their people” from speaking to those who may challenge or offer different perspectives, all under the umbrella of our Christ-confessing church body? (I have examples.) 

Why do many pastors and leaders live in fear regarding the man-made controlling constrictions agreed upon at Synod conventions by thin majorities (i.e. CUS and Pastoral Formation)? (FYI - Synod resolutions are advisory, not mandatory, for local congregations.)

Why do LCMS leaders in St. Louis struggle (refuse?) to tell the full story of missionary expansion, past and present, in various contexts across our Synod?

I know the reason, and so do you. 

Politics. Petty, power-hungry politics. 

Politics is defined as “the activities associated with the governing of a country or other area (i.e., the church), especially the debate or conflict between various people or parties having or hoping to have power.” 

Politics have taken deep root in the LCMS. Any time leaders constrict the free expression of ideas that do not fully align with their own, we are “playing politics.” To be clear, I understand the role of the ULC in the “political conversations” in the LCMS. We are collectively calling for more freedom on behalf of the local congregation seeking to deploy the priesthood of all believers to reach their varying contexts with the Gospel. We are striving to bring diverse voices into the conversation, though many reject the conversation.

The ULC call for Christian freedom is not a compromise on Lutheran doctrine. We strongly believe the truth of the Gospel outlined above. 

Nonetheless, we believe that many in LCMS leadership positions are leading out of fear of a loss of political power. How do I know this is true? This gets back to the topic of truth. There is little talk, written or verbal, of what is actually true in the LCMS. 

We have declining churches, many of them close to closing. Truth

We have over 700 churches without a pastor, and this number will be much higher in the next decade. Truth

We have declining student enrollment in our seminaries, with a widening gap between seminary administrative opinions and what is actually needed in local congregations. Truth

We have declining commissioned ministers (teachers, administrators, DCE’s, etc.) through our Concordia University System. Truth.

We have increasing distrust between individual Concordia Universities due to closures and the recent CUWAA struggles. Truth

We have national LCMS leaders removing many of our best and proven entrepreneurial leaders from institutional succession “lists” because they are not the “right” type of Lutheran likely due to labeled relational associations. Truth

We have heard little to no vision from LCMS national leadership for solving our congregational problems, let alone hearing a vision for church revitalization and church planting. Set Apart to Serve from the Office of National Mission is a step in the right direction, but I hear next to nothing regarding the actual numbers of leaders needed by when or else. Truth

May I offer a solution to the above problems? 

Leaders discern what is true. They use data to assess reality, problem solve, and cast vision for the future. Leaders want differing voices so they get all perspectives on their quest for the truth. They resist power-laden triangulation. They find peace in the midst of inevitable instability so they can collaboratively make the best decisions possible with all the data on hand. They must. Or, their organizations and churches will decline and die. 

Where have all the leaders gone in the LCMS? Will no one in national leadership truly identify what is honestly happening on various fronts in our Synod and put together a plan to address it by the power of the Holy Spirit? 

When leaders fail to speak the truth, ultimate motivation and intent is always questioned by those not “at the table.” Conspiracy theories fill the less than honest void. Unfortunately, national LCMS leadership has helped create a culture where those who ask honest questions (as I did above) regarding our truthful problems facing the local church are the enemy rather than a kind questioner.  

We end up cornering (cannibalizing?) the honest ones in the hope no one will see the truth of what is occurring. There are many honest, creative, courageous, and humble leaders in the LCMS who have been summarily sidelined because they have honestly assessed the present and future. 

This saddens the heart of Jesus. More than that, disunity through passive-aggressive deception dampens our Christian witness in our unbelieving culture. 

Will speaking the truth be difficult? Absolutely. 

Yet, to do otherwise, over time, will be far more difficult and will have eternal consequences. This appears to be the choice of many in national LCMS leadership positions. 

Sad, but true.

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Great article. Thanks for creating a space for dialogue. Love your podcasts and conversations. Have you reached out to Synod leadership to share their perspectives?

Replying to

Yes. I have tried to talk to many leaders. They either ignore or decline the invitation. The invitation still exists.

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