Demanding Satisfaction

I refuse to link to descriptions of the class-action lawsuit that is being launched, naming LCMS Synodical President Gerald Kieschnick as a defendant. This is bush league.

This is not to say that some impropriety may not have occured. Yet those who support the lawsuit firmly believe that a wrong has been enacted against the Synod…and that two wrongs make a right.

What happened? Honestly, what happened to make it impossible for one man, one Lutheran man, to go to a brother pastor and have a conversation? What threw this train off the track so far that he can’t simply say, “Look, I’m concerned for what you’re doing. It looks like you’ve sinned. Can we talk about this?”

This public airing of all the dirty laundry is embarrassing. It’s embarrassing because, regardless of what the situation may in fact be, it proclaims to the world that the LCMS is nothing more than a bunch of dysfunctional pricks who don’t know how to sit in the same room together without drawing up resolutions against each other–and now worse, bringing about civil lawsuits.

I read an article a few months ago about the Pharisees. Anytime the word Pharisee is mentioned the first place people tend to go is legalism. But the author of this article had an interesting and compelling take on the Pharisees. His contention was that Jesus’ problem with the Pharisees was not that they kept the Law too strictly but rather not strictly enough. The carefully constructed hedge around the Decalogue, he wrote, enabled them to justify themselves by saying, “Yes, I did this. But it’s ok because it wasn’t that, that, or that.”

Current trends within the LCMS come off just like this attitude. Bringing a civil lawsuit against a brother pastor ignores a significant part of the Scriptures in order to address a perceived sin. Bringing official charges against another without significant work to address his perceived sin in private and in confidence ignores yet another significant part of the Scriptures in favor of another. I suppose it doesn’t directly effect me at this point, but I can’t begin to describe the personal pain it causes me. In fact, I would maintain that there is not one person in the Synod for whom any of this is a good thing. All it does is serve to hurt and destroy.

The title of this entry comes from a Simpsons episode. Homer learned that he could walk around with a glove in his pocket and challenge anyone who crossed him to a duel. The image breaks down after this point, but it seems to me a fitting picture of life in the LCMS these days. Don’t talk. Just threaten and fight.

Those I’ve just offended should know that I’m not advocating the tolerance of sin. Sin must be confronted. But the process is important. And we’re not doing it right.

Here’s a thought: stop posting about a person on the internet and instead call him up or email him. Express a concern personally to a person instead of about a person to the whole world.


4 Responses to Demanding Satisfaction

  1. Anonymous says:

    I agree with your observations. Elsewhere I commented:

    What does Holy Scripture say about this? As Gregory J. Lockwood states in his commentary regarding 1 Cor. 6 after excepting matters such as criminal cases (probably including quasi-criminal matters such as restraining orders) that should be handled by the state (Rom. 13:3-4):

    “But it is never proper for a Christian or a church to take fellow Christians or church leaders to a secular court, or to do anything which arises out of selfish motives or ecclesiastical divisions [cite]. The church should never wash its dirty linen in public.” [Lockwood, Concordia Commentary: 1 Corinthians, St. Louis: CPH 2000, 195]

    This is hard to hear when we’re the ones who are being treated wrongly and in the dilemma that takes place when one party is willing to have a case decided by an ecclesiastical judge– someone within the Christian community who is “wise” (1 Cor. 6:5) [See Lockwood] when the other party will not do so.

    As Lockwood goes on:

    “As Fee observes, our litigious culture has great difficulty “hearing” this text. “Our priorities,” he continues, “tend to be warped toward the values of this age rather than of the age to come. Here we have great need of deep reformation. Most legal actions on the part of Christians are predicated on ‘rights’ and the ‘pursuit of property’ in the present age. Until our thinking is genuinely overhauled on these matters, our approach to the text will be supine neglect, circuitous exegesis.” * [Ibid.]

    * G. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians. The New International Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987, 238. See also L. Vischer, Die Auslegungsgeschichte von I. Kor. 6, 1-11 (Tubingen: Mohr, 1955).

    We are steeped in the legal principle that equity will suffer no wrong to be without a remedy. But, sometimes we may have to accept that we are left without a God-pleasing one and, therefore, must suffer the consequences thereof.

    Then there are the practical ramifications of a legal action. In another discussion an LC-MS pastor asked:

    “A couple of honest questions:

    1. Are there any pastors and congregations still sitting on the fence over all of this? (Namely, the struggle between confessionals and the powers-that-be in St. Louis)

    2. If so, could a lawsuit, however justified, push those fence-sitters the other way? IOW, could it be used to paint confessionals in a very unflattering way? ‘Well, if those confessional guys go around suing when they don’t get their way, I want no part of them.'”

    The issue that the pastor addresses is whether the Doggett action will accomplish anything worthwhile. E.g., what if the plaintiffs win (which, from the facts I’ve seen so far is quite far-fetched)? What if a new election is required? Looking like a bunch of Democrats after the 2004 election may well result in a Kieschnick victory larger than the last one.

    Furthermore, what are the chances of a special election before the next Synodical convention? Slim at best. So, if they haven’t prevailed before then, how will the confessionals appear to the majority of Synodical voters? Whether right or not, they may well appear as a mean-spirited, litigious bunch of sore losers.

    Moreover, who do you think is going to pay President Kieschnick’s attorney fees if suit is initiated? You got it.

    This is my personal view. Obviously other reasonable-minded LC-MS pastors think differently.

  2. Preachrboy says:

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  3. OSC says:

    The issue that the pastor addresses is whether the Doggett action will accomplish anything worthwhile.


    The question is ill-asked when it is mostly concerned with the results of a proposed course of action. The other pastor whom you quote above seems to have an ends-justify-means mentality, which is contrary to Lockwood’s (I believe) correct understanding of this particular text. If ends really could justify means we’d have no need of a Savior–just a good lawyer.

  4. Anonymous says:

    “The question is ill-asked when it is mostly concerned with the results of a proposed course of action.”

    I understand and agree. That’s why I stated: “Then there are the practical ramifications of a legal action” after the Lockwood material. Obviously some reasonable theologians in our midst think that the legal action is justified. The “practical ramifications” were addressed to them. My recollection is that the other pastor I mentioned was thinking the same way. Kinda like, “Even if a lawsuit were appropriate in this situation look at the damage it could do, etc.

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