Another Memorial that Wasn’t Sent In

I don’t know how well this formatting will come through, but it’s worth a try anyway. This is an educational memorial. I’ve seen several like it. A large part of the purpose is to educate the delegates and pastors at convention about various things. In this case, it’s about events beginning with the untimely adoption of the PMW. Thanks, Harry, for your permission to post your words.

MEMORIAL – Subject: Toward needed correction and healing for the synod

WHEREAS, There has been sad division in the synod ever since the 62-38 % adoption at the 2005 convention of the PCM document titled “The Public Ministry of the Word,” and increasingly so more and more since its subsequent use by the Reverend John Moldstad, president of the synod, in removing the Reverend Rolf Preus from the ministerium of the synod a little more than half a year after its adoption; and

WHEREAS, the “Guidlines for Synodical Discipline and Apeals” lists only the following reasons for suspending pastors and teachers from their position: “adhering to false doctrine, unscriptural practice, living an ungodly life or neglecting his duty,” – these being the only legitimate reasons on the basis of God’s Word both warranting and calling for removal from office in the ministerium of the synod, as well as from the pastorate of a congregation; and

WHEREAS, Pastor Preus, though He was the legitimately called pastor of River Heights Lutheran Church, East Grand Forks, Minnesota, was suspended by the president of the synod, without being charged with any one of these offenses warranting and calling for removal; and

WHEREAS, the River Heights congregation rescinded Pastor Preus’ Call and thus deposed him from office, not at all because he had committed any one of the offenses noted above in the synods “Guidelines” (in fact, only two weeks earlier their Voters Assembly had voted 19-0 that he had been a faithful servant of the Lord, always preaching to them according to the Word of God throughout the eight years he had been their pastor), but alone because they were told by the synod president that the only way for their congregation to remain in the synod was to remove him from office and to call another pastor of the synod; and

WHEREAS, when Pastor Preus appealed his suspension to the synod, and an Appeals Committee was elected by the 2006 convention to hear his appeal, a motion was then made from the floor that the synod instruct the Appeals Committee to make their judgment of the case solely on the basis of whether or not Pastor Preus had been guilty of any of the above listed offenses, but this motion was immediately ruled out of order by the president; and

WHEREAS, opportunity was to have been given on the floor of the convention to discuss the list of those who had been nominated as candidates for the Appeals Committee, but such discussion was denied by the president of the synod, thus actually rendering the election of the Appeals Committee illegitimate and therefore null and void; and

WHEREAS, Johann Gerhard, arch theologian from the period of Lutheran orthodoxy, wrote: “We should never allow the rashness of the people or the arbitrary will of those in power to remove a minister from his position and throw him into exile without recognition of a legitimate cause and the examination of the same. Such acknowledgment of cause pertains to the whole church. If anyone without due process and for causes which are not legitimate and sufficient…is put out of office, then the one who takes his place is not to be regarded as the true, legitimate and called minister.” (Gerhard XII, 175ff.); and

WHEREAS, Martin Chemnitz, chief author of the Formula of Concord, the last of our Lutheran Confessions in the Book of Concord, wrote: “Therefore, as long as God endures in the ministry His minister who teaches correctly and lives blamelessly, the church does not have the authority to remove someone else’s servant. But when he no longer edifies the church by doctrine or life, but destroys it, then God Himself removes him. Hos. 4:6; 1 Sam. 2:30. Therefore, there are two reasons for which God removes unfaithful ministers from their office: (1) because of doctrine, when they teach error. Mal. 2:7: ‘The lips of the priest should guard knowledge, and they should require the Law of his mouth.’ (2) Because of life, when they act in such a way that the name of the Lord is blasphemed…I Sam. 2:30. And then also the church not only can but also should remove such a one from the ministry. For just as God calls, so also does he remove through means. But just as a call in keeping with the instruction of the Lord of the harvest, so also, when someone must be removed from the ministry, it is necessary that the church can show with certainty that this is the judgment and this is the will of God. And just as the call, so also does the deposition pertain to the whole church in a certain orderly way.” (Loci Theologici II, 703.) (The reasons for removal noted in the synod’s “Guidelines…” noted above are comprehended and condensed in these reasons set forth by Chemnitz.); and

WHEREAS, there is to be no lordship in the church among brethren (as there, however, is in the Roman Church), as Philip Melanchthon in the “Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope,” one of our Lutheran Confessions in the Book of Concord, wrote: “First of all, therefore, let us show from the Gospel that the Roman bishop is not by divine right above all other bishops and pastors. In Luke 22:24-27 Christ expressly forbids lordship among the apostles. For this was the very question the disciples were disputing when Christ spoke of His Passion: Who was to be the leader and, as it were, the vicar of Christ after his departure? Christ reproved the apostles for this error and taught them that no one should have lordship or superiority among them but that the apostles should be sent forth as equals and exercise the ministry of the Gospel in common.” And “According to John 20:21 Christ sent his disciples out as equals, without discrimination, when he said, ‘As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.’ He sent out each one individually, he said, in the same way in which he had himself been sent. Wherefore he granted to none a prerogative or lordship over the rest.”; and

WHEREAS, the synod’s “Guidelines for Synodical Discipline and Appeals” state: “In special and urgent cases where no resolution is reached, the president shall exercise the power of suspension from synodical membership. He shall report his action to the convention.”; and

WHEREAS, there was nothing special or urgent about this case with Pastor Rolf Preus warranting and requiring his suspension, for he had simply asserted firmly that he could not accept the document titled “The Public Ministry of the Word” which was adopted by the convention by the 62-38 % vote at the 2005 convention, and had explained thoroughly why he could not – because, he asserted, some of its assertions had no Scriptural support and therefore were unscriptural; the same thing which more than twenty other of our pastors had also firmly asserted and explained in their document “A Statement of Opposition to the PCM Document: ‘The Public Ministry of the Word’ Adopted at the 2005 ELS Convention,” though President Moldstad did not suspend them, and thus the supension of Pastor Preus was arbitrary; and

WHEREAS, it is wrong for a synodical president to suspend any of our pastors without Scriptural cause; and

WHEREAS, it is not by divine right that President Moldstad suspended Pastor Preus, which led River Heights congregation into the wrong of deposing him, but only by human arrangement, for which he has claimed authorization by the synod’s aforementioned “Guidlines,”; and

WHEREAS, several congregations and their pastors – namely, Reformation Lutheran Church, Hillsboro, Or and their pastor, the Rev. Steven Brockdorf; Wayfarers’ Chapel Lutheran Church, Fillmore, CA and their pastor, the Rev. Leslie Lanier; and St. Paul Lutheran Church, Escandido, CA and their Pastor, the Rev. Robert Lawson, Jr. – in September of 2006 issued a “State of Confessional Protest,” seeking to call President Moldstad to repentence for his wrongful action, and stating, in their deep concern for his spiritual welfare and that of those who supported him in this wrongful action, that they could not commune with him and those supporters, until there is the called-for repentance – brotherly concern for which these congregations and their pastors should be commended; and

WHEREAS, President Moldstad has declared these congregations and their pastors to be no longer in the ELS because of this, and expects the synod members to not have fellowship with these whom he has excluded; and

WHEREAS, we are not bound to accord to the synod and its officers Fourth Commandment status over us, as though we would be disobeying the Fourth Commandment if we did not go along with the suspension of Pastor Preus and the excluding of these congregations and their pastors from our synod and the directive that we should not have fellowship with them, as the esteemed Rev. Herman Amberg Preus, who emigrated to America in 1861, and was one of the organizers of the old Norwegian Synod and served as its second president, brought out so well in his 1865 convention address to the synod, writing, “But orthodox congregations also have to watch with the most extreme diligence that through their joining together and through their adopting a constitution for it…they do not, however, transfer to the synod or to the joint-church such rights or such power which the Lord has not only entrusted to the congregations themselves, but whose exercise by themselves is the best guarantee for the preservation of the pure faith, for example, installing and removing pastors, practicing church discipline…But even less must congregations give to the joint-church or its officers such a power and authority that their decisions should be binding law for the congregations by virtue of a divine authority which should be due them as those who are over them according to the Fourth Commandment – even if their decisions do not conflict with the Word of God. Such concession on the part of the congregations would make the synod a papacy which would be just as unchristian as the one which reigns in Rome. It would make congregations slaves of men and would place a yoke upon them which would be heavier to bear and more difficult to remove than that which imprisons and oppresses them in the state churches.”; and

WHEREAS, the Rev. Bjug Harstad, the first president of the reorganized Norwegian Synod (now the ELS), also expressed this very clearliy in his presidential address to the synod in 1919, stating, “If one of the equal brethren is elected to be president, then everyone must know that he has only received a human appointment to the office of servant, which everyone also otherwise actually has according to the Master’s example to wash the disciples’ feet and to dry them with the insight, knowledge and experience with which he can be equipped. At all times, however, he is only an advisor, and as other Christians, is in duty bound to point to what is written.” And

WHEREAS, with the apostles of our Lord we confess, “We ought to obey God rather than men,” Luke 5:29; therefore

BE IT RESOLVED, that we declare that the synod does not consent to the wrongful suspension and removal of Pastor Preus, nor to the wrongful removal of the above mentioned congregations and their pastors from the ELS; and

BE IT RESOLVED, that the synod cannot in good conscience countenance and honor the directives not to practice fellowship with those congregations and their pastors who have been removed; and

BE IT RESOLVED, that the synod implore President Moldstad and those who supported him in these actions against these congregations and their pastors, and at the same time also implore River Heights Lutheran Church which deposed Pastor Preus, to come before God with repentant hearts; (for to depose a pastor without Scriptural reasons, and to break fellowship also without Scriptural reasons, is indeed sin against our Lord Jesus Christ, God’s own beloved Son whose Call and Office and Church it is; yes, also against God the Father, who sent His Son into the flesh for our salvation, and has made Him the Head of the Church, and continually works with and through Him in everything He does, as when He calls men into the Office of the Holy Ministry for the up-building of His ChurchHidHhH; yes, also against God the Holy Spirit, who issues Christ’s calls to men through and for His Church, and who, through those whom He calls into Christ’s Office, goes about nurturing, building, and preserving the Church by God’s Holy Word and Sacraments as these are dispensed by those whom He calls, as He is sent by the Father and the Son to do so;) and that we further implore them in their repentance to look to God for forgiveness through Christ who has atoned for all sins and for all men, knowing that as Scripture says, “He who covers his sins shall not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them shall obtain mercy,” Proverbs 28:13, and again, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness,” 1 John 1:9; and

BE IT RESOLVED, that the synod rescind the actions which were taken against these brothers and invite, yes, implore those who are no longer in our fellowship because of all this, including not only those already mentioned, but also the congregations which Pastor Preus” under the Chief Shepherd now shepherds as His called under-shepherd – First American Lutheran, Mayville, ND, First Evanger Lutheran, Fertile, MN, and Grace Lutheran, Crookston, MN; as well as Faith Lutheran congregation, Litchfield, IL, the Rev. Stephen Schmidt, Pastor, which has also left us because of all this, to come back into the ELS with us; and

BE IT RESOLVED, that for the sake of peace and unity, the synod withdraw the document which has been so divisive titled “The Public Ministry of the Word,” and for the present no longer call it our synod’s doctrine, but that we give serious ear to all those who have very serious concerns about this adopted PCM document, that if perchance there may be found some things that are in fact unscriptural in it, we may work to bring it into complete conformity with the Word of God; and

BE IT RESOLVED, that we take the necessary actions to guard against becoming papistic, in conformity with our confession in “The Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope,” and the important words of our esteemed fathers H. A. Preus and Bjug Harstad quoted above, changing our synod’s by-laws as may be necessary in order to insure this, and that we exercise every caution and put forth every effort to be and remain truly an evangelical church body, as our name says, the Evangelical Lutheran Synod.

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