“Clarifying the Issues” and “Statement of the 44”

Consider this quotation I found in Christian News (which I don’t generally read through, so I’m glad this caught my eye) from Rev. Daniel Preus about the “A Statement” or “Statement of the 44,” which was issued in the LCMS of 1945:

Completely apart from the issues involved, the fact that a statement of faith and conviction which had been made and mailed to all LCMS clergy and was contrary to official church doctrine and practice was simply withdrawn from discussion without retraction was a very bright green light to those who wished to see Missouri embrace a more open fellowship practice. But the implications do not end there. When people were permitted to publish a position statement contrary to our doctrine, and were not disciplined or required to retract, it became apparent that people would be able to publish or set forth other statements contrary to our doctrine. To many who believed Missouri too rigid, the 44 became a heroic example of a new permissiveness which would slowly invade the synod and lead eventually to the deplorable positions held by the St. Louis Seminary faculty majority in the early 1970s…. The fact remains that these men were able to flaunt the doctrinal practice of the church body to which they belonged with no significant consequences…

(Quoted from the 1999 paper The Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod: Holiday from History.)

This is possibly an eye-opening revelation of the thought process behind the suspension of Pastor Rolf Preus from the ELS. It could be that the decision was based upon the notion that Preus’ paper “Clarifying the Issues” was equivalent to the “Statement of the 44.”

Let’s consider the merit of that notion. Do you think that the quote from Daniel Preus above speaks to the suspension of his brother, Rolf Preus? I don’t, and I’ll give you a reason right off the bat. First, a few supporting observations.

According to the Daniel Preus quote, the Statement of the 44 was aimed against a certain conservative rigidity of the synod, particularly on the doctrine of fellowship.
The paper “Clarifying the Issues” is not about fellowship, but about the doctrine of the ministry.
Daniel Preus points out that the LCMS president in 1945 failed to demand a full retraction of “A Statement.”
In 2006, the ELS president would accept nothing short of a full retraction of “Clarifying the Issues.”
Since the issue advanced in the Statement of the 44 was lax fellowship, the LCMS president’s failure to put that very same doctrine into practice was a virtual capitulation to “A Statement.”
However, “Clarifying the Issues,” by contrast, did not advocate laxity of any kind, but instead noted an unacceptable doctrinal laxity on the part of a synodical doctrinal statement.
Conclusion from the foregoing
In several ways, the positions in 2006 were reversed from the positions of 1945. The difference is that Pastor Preus did not soften his position as the LCMS president had done.
Another conclusion from the foregoing
Furthermore, a demand from the president to retract “Clarifying the Issues” was not needed in 2006 to avoid a capitulation to its position (as happened it 1945), because it did not advocate a permissive doctrine of fellowship. It could have remained on the table as raising some serious issues for public consideration, requiring close scrutiny and defense.

I wasn’t around in 1945. My grandfathers were still on their way back from the war. So maybe I don’t know what I’m writing about. If that’s the case, then please educate me.

One thought on ““Clarifying the Issues” and “Statement of the 44”

  1. You asked for feedback.

    *[J.J.: Yes! I did. Thanks for writing.]*

    Rolf Preus’s situation strikes me as different from the statement of the 44 situation that you described (which, I should say, I was not aware of previously). I agree with some of the observations you made, and with the general sentiment. Rolf is not a liberal.
    However, it’s my impression that he did come into the ELS with some bad habits learned in the LC-MS. The way he conducted himself was like a person who has been at a rock concert and then walks into a room where people are quiet. Such a person will continue to hear a buzzing in their ears, and will think they have to shout to be heard. Preus was always shouting, never listening, never engaging. “The heckler’s veto” is how I’d describe it (shout long enough and loud enough, and you’ll eventually get your way — at least to some extent, although you might only be successful in impeding the progress of your enemies). Convinced from the beginning that Synods and Synod Presidents are not to be trusted and that there is always a conspiracy, Preus railed and railed until he found out that, not only to do people in ELS not respond to that kind of foolishness, we, in fact, don’t tolerate it.
    You asked for feedback.


    # Response from J.J.:

    Thanks again for writing. If I understand correctly, you’re not addressing Rolf Preus’ *message,* but rather his *delivery,* to continue the speechmaking metaphor. You’re saying that because of the foolishness of his manner of delivery, he has not been given a hearing in the ELS, and is not even tolerated.

    I think you have a point. It’s overgeneralized, because some (though a minority) in the ELS have genuinely considered his message, and some of them have already drawn their final conclusions. However, it does seem likely that many have not given his message serious consideration, or have uncritically accepted a caricature of his position, and a leading reason for this may well be the manner in which Preus has delivered that message. I would hope we could all be more mature, and deal with the substance of the issues, especially where the Gospel may be at stake.

    It’s been said before that the culture of the ELS is “nice.” Whatever doesn’t qualify (and the Plucked Chicken is exploring that frontier) won’t fit into the microcosm. This could be the reason the ELS has thus far failed to integrate Pastor Preus and others — like the 3+ pastors and churches recently suspended for *their* rock-concert voices.

    Which makes me wonder. Is the ELS capable of resolving differences through common study of the scripture, mutual dialogue and positive rhetoric? Or have we reached a point where a common resolution can only be reached by means of authoritarian action?

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