Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Dr. Matthew Becker to be Removed from the Synod

Numerous posts have been written on this blog over the years reflecting on and reacting to the teachings of Dr. Matthew Becker.  One post even ruminated on why he remained within the LCMS.  As of July 15 he will no longer be on the clergy roster of the Missouri Synod.  If interested you may read about this turn of events here on Dr. Becker's own blog.  He will be joining an ELCA parish, something many of us felt would be a much more appropriate 'fit' for his theological views and beliefs.  In all honesty I was frustrated over these last few years as I read the many papers and posts he authored and wondered how this could be tolerated in the Synod.  Perhaps what confused me even more was realizing that he was trained and educated as a pastor in the same system as I was, albeit at different seminaries. 

There should never be rejoicing over such events as if someone won and another lost.  It was the prayer of many that Dr. Becker would change his views and repent of those teachings felt to be at variance with the official doctrine of the LCMS.  That said, his departure officially closes the chapter on this blog that addressed his teachings.  My interest lay in the fact that we were both rostered in the same synod.  Now that he his leaving for the ELCA my need to post any further with regard to his views ends.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Who are the "Real" Christians?

I just read an article entitled "Dear Conservatives: There are Millions of Christian Liberals and We’re A Lot More Like Jesus Than You" from the Forward Progressives website.  I then read a related article entitled "10 Ways Conservatives Don't Act Like Christians" from the same site.  Both upset me greatly.  Yet not because I was necessarily offended as a conservative.  They upset me because of the generalizations, assumptions and stereotypes that are too often used to characterized people.  They upset me also because of the misinformation about Jesus and his teachings.  Especially when it comes to painting Jesus as a 'I-don't-care-what-you-believe-and-I-accept-everyone-as-they-are' kind of person.  Like a typical liberal might like to be painted.  But that is so off base.  Anyone who has read the Gospels knows that Jesus reached out to the poor and the forgotten and the neglected of his society.  Yet He also called to repentance those caught in sin.  To the woman who was about to be stoned for her adultery he said: "Go and sin no more."   Those who were already convicted of their sins He absolved.  As for those caught in sins more prevalent in our current time Jesus may have said nothing.  Like homosexuality, where Jesus' silence is touted as acceptance. But that is a stretch, to say the least.  Jesus also did not directly address beasteality, or polygamy, or bisexuality, or transvestism, or transgenderism, or a whole host of practices prevalent in our modern society.  However, He did underscore timeless principles that do speak to these practices.  Jesus very directly supported the traditional arrangement of the marriage of one woman and one man and spoke very directly against wrongful divorce (which in some cases was affected by overly liberal views of what was accepted).  And He grounded His teaching in the Old Testament.  Obviously homosexuality was roundly condemned in the Jewish culture in which He lived.  While it was practiced in the Roman culture in some quarters, it was probably not widespread in His area.  That said, based on today's outspoken approach to minority sexual practices, it would seem we should be critical of Jesus for not speaking up for these people, if indeed, they were in a "loving relationship" as currently defined.   If Jesus knew there were people who found love in relationships and arrangements that deviated from the majority, why didn't He speak up for their acceptance?  Was He afraid of the repercussions?  Liberals, who wish to invoke Jesus as the grand example of acceptance of all sexual practices need to explore these questions before they heap criticism upon those who claim the opposite. 

As to the other items spoken of in these articles, it occurred to me that we all major in highlighting stereotypes of all sorts.  If I support capitalism and criticize those who abuse public assistance, does this mean I care nothing for the poor?  If I support gun rights and capital punishment, yet speak against abortion, am I a hypocrite for condemning death in one case but not the other?  Admittedly broad and over generalized characterizations abound on both sides of the political spectrum.  I am sure there are liberal minded people who care deeply for the same people I do, and both of us extend an arm of charity.  But we need to stop the mud slinging.  It does nothing for the public dialog on the issues that need to be addressed. 

O.k.  I'm done with my rant for now.  Thanks for listening, if, indeed anyone reads this.....
10 Ways Conservatives Don’t Act Anything Like Christians

Read more at: http://www.forwardprogressives.com/10-ways-conservatives-dont-act-anything-like-christians/

Read more at: http://www.forwardprogressives.com/dear-conservatives-millions-christian-liberals-lot-more-like-jesus/
Dear Conservatives: There are Millions of Christian Liberals and We’re A Lot More Like Jesus Than You

Read more at: http://www.forwardprogressives.com/dear-conservatives-millions-christian-liberals-lot-more-like-jesus/
Dear Conservatives: There are Millions of Christian Liberals and We’re A Lot More Like Jesus Than You

Read more at: http://www.forwardprogressives.com/dear-conservatives-millions-christian-liberals-lot-more-like-jesus/
Dear Conservatives: There are Millions of Christian Liberals and We’re A Lot More Like Jesus Than You

Read more at: http://www.forwardprogressives.com/dear-conservatives-millions-christian-liberals-lot-more-like-jesus/

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

MISSION AT NUREMBERG: AN AMERICAN ARMY CHAPLAIN AND THE TRIAL OF THE NAZIS by Tim Townsend

Gifted to me by my daughter and son-in-law at Christmas, this was my first book of the new year.  Given that my father was a WWII veteran, and possibly present at the Nuremberg War Trials as an MP, this book held special interest for me from the beginning.  However, what captivated me most was the central character of the story: Pastor Henry Gerecke.  Pastor Gereke, a product of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod, became one of the chaplains assigned to minister to high ranking Nazi war criminals, chief among them being Herman Goering (who later committed suicide before being executed.)  Reaction to the Nazis even today is often one of revulsion and disgust, and for good reason.  They were responsible for the systematic execution and slaughter of countless people, primarily significant numbers of Jews.  Their brutality ranks as among the highest in history.  One can only imagine the challenge of a man sent to be the pastor of those responsible for such horrific crimes.  However, as a Lutheran Gereke understood the Gospel well.  He ministered to them as one who understood that none are beyond the grace of God.  His faith in power of the Means of Grace to convert and reconvert hardened sinners allowed him to do what lesser men would resist.  It may upset some to think that there were Nazi war criminals who actually communed on the body and blood of the Savior.  However, were these men fundamentally any different than the thief on the cross who was welcomed by Jesus into Paradise?  Chaplain Gereke faithfully led worship for all who would attend, preaching the Word without compromise.  He walked with each of his condemned flock to the gallows.  The experience nearly broke him, and as a Lutheran pastor for over 25 years I could only marvel at his ability to endure.  Townsend's book was a fascinating read with regard to this famous trial by someone closest to the defendants.  That said, for me the most engaging story was that of the man God used to bring the good news of salvation in Christ to the most unlikely candidates.  In some ways Gereke was a far more courageous servant than the prophet Jonah who ran away when called to minister to those who opposed God's plans.  I highly recommend this book to WWII enthusiasts as well as those interested in seeing the heart of Lutheran ministry at its best.

SALT, LIGHT, AND SIGNS OF THE TIMES by Ronald W. Stelzer

I just finished reading a fascinating biography of a great Lutheran teacher: SALT, LIGHT, AND THE SIGNS OF THE TIMES: AN INTIMATE LOOK AT THE LIFE AND TIMES OF ALFRED (RIP) REHWINKEL by Ronald W. Stelzer. Again, a book I picked up for a steal at a mere $5 at the recent Symposia in Ft. Wayne. It is published by Christian News and can be found here if you would like to order and read for yourself: http://www.christiannewsmo.com/Salt_Light_an…/4010000350.htm.
Rehwinkel, as some will remember, was the author of the very popular book THE FLOOD, originally published in 1951 by CPH, but has been reprinted many times over the decades (17 times when I purchased my copy several years ago.) In fact, it is still offered by CPH both in paperback and as an ebook: https://www.cph.org/p-261-the-flood.aspx.
Dr. Rehwinkel (1887-1979) lived well into his 90's. Ordained in 1910 he lived through a history of the LCMS that stretched from the early frontier days, when we were still establishing ourself in the U.S. and Canada to the turmoil of the 'Walk Out' in St. Louis in the 70's. Until I finished the book I had no idea of the connection between this man and the Rev. Dr. Gerhardt Hyatt, the president of my alma mater, Concordia College, St. Paul, who preached at his funeral (and was a graduate of Concordia-Edmonton). This book recounts the experiences of a man who lived in very primitive conditions in his early ministry in western Canada, rising to help found Concordia College in Edmonton (Now Concordia University College of Alberta,) to serving as president of St. John's College in Winfield, KS (which closed in 1986), to finally teaching at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis.
Again, a good read that I would heartily recommend!
(Note: I wanted to add a picture of the book's cover, but discovered that it is copyrighted.)

Monday, February 9, 2015

Update on Thesis

In about seven days the deadline arrives for my first draft to be submitted.  Originally I was aiming to meet that date.  At present the thesis is over 60 pages and part one is fairly well finished, except for editing.  If I stayed up late every night and burned the candle at both ends I might have made it.  But I'm not sure it would be the level of quality I want.  Furthermore, why is this date critical?  If I want to go through the commencement exercises in the spring it is necessary to meet this deadline.  However, there is nothing in my life requiring this to be done this spring.  Even if some opportunity opened up, having the actual certificate in my hand would not be essential, provided I met the requirement of the degree, which I hope to do by summer's end.  For now I have a lot of reading to accomplish for part 2......

Monday, January 26, 2015

Recent Exoneration of Dr. Matthew Becker and Dr. Harrison's Response

A while back I backed off of blogging.  My intent was to post on less politically charged issues in the church and concentrate more on personal interests.  That almost worked.  While I was in Ft. Wayne for the annual Symposia I learned of the official exoneration of Dr. Matthew Becker of all charges made against him for false teaching.  This did not seem surprising to me as he has taught this way for some years with seemingly minimal backlash. His posts on the ALPB forum were equally transparent.  It seemed that officially no one could really deal with this.  He was free to teach and write openly in defiance of the Synod's position on a whole range of issues: evolution, women's ordination, higher-critical interpretation of the Bible, and so on.  He even took issue with the Athanasian Creed.  I have documented on this blog what Dr. Becker has said and written contra our synodical positions and doctrine (which a quick search will reveal if you are so interested).  I also reported on my own interchanges with him both on ALPB and his own blog.  My comments there are public and can be reviewed.  With each interchange and each response my frustration grew.  So I backed off.  Furthermore I don't consider myself a sufficient academic heavyweight to spar with him effectively.  I left the online debating to others.  Still it seemed it would never be resolved.  A few spoke up.  A few challenged him.  Yet to what end? He appeared to grow even bolder in his defiance.  The higher levels of Synod seemed almost silent.  Until today.  When I read Dr. Harrison's response to Becker's exoneration I was stunned.  Did he really say that?  Yes, he did.  And now the issue cannot be quietly swept back under the synodical rug.  It's out there.  It has to be resolved.  Will this expose our long deep-seated divisions?  Yes.  But they have been there all along even if some would not admit to them.  The difference this time is that we are dealing with it as a matter of truth from Synod's highest elected leader.  We are confessing.  And for that I stand with my synodical president.  May the Lord grant him strength for the struggle to come.  I suspect the hordes of hell will fly free on this one. 

You may read Dr. Harrison's response here at the Witness, Mercy, Life Together blog of Synod.

Monday, August 11, 2014

THE ABBEY AND ME and the Story of the Takeover of the Alexian Brother's Novitiate IN 1975

Some books simply pull you in and won't let you go until you finish.  This was one of those books. In The Abbey and Me  J. Patrick Rick (2011)
shares a facinating story of a building and its history that can almost be described as simply tragic. At the heart of the story is the account of the takeover of the Alexian Brother's Novitiate in 1975.  However, beginning with the original construction of Jennie Peter's estate, begun in 1938 and finished in 1941 (built originally for her disabled daughter who died before construction was completed), Rick works though the years of the Peters family, through the brief history of the novitiate (1950-1968), during which the author was a novice himself for a short time, then into the takeover of the novitiate in 1975 by the Menominee Warrior Society, finishing with the history of the property to the present, which now only claims a gutted and aging edifice in a section of overgrown forest.  While reading the book I visited the property near Gresham, Wisconsin, but owing to the No Tresspassing sign I stayed at a distance with my camera and binoculars. The pictures here are the best I could get. If you look carefully at the center of the first picture you can catch a glimpse of the sole remaining building - the Peter's mansion. There are other pictures available from those who did get permission to enter.  But it's still a shaddow of its former self, a tragic ending to a property which once possessed so much potential.

Next year will mark the 40th anniversary of the take over, and I am curious how it will be remembered.  From reading the book I suspect that the current leadership of the Menominee Nation would probably prefer to simply put it deeply into the past, a story of a different era perhaps best left without too much attention. 

The book is available on Amazon for under $13, but I read a copy my wife secured for me through interlibrary loan.  Amazon gives this description of the contents:
Born from a film project, The Abbey & Me is a non-fiction account of invasion and seizure of a Midwestern Catholic monastery. The narrative chronicles a certain 1975 Native American act of Civil Disobedience and Thirty-Four days of armed occupation in harsh winter conditions. Researched and told by a former cloistered resident and novice-monk, this is a true contemporary, cavalry, Indian, and missionary story of hostages, vigilantes, renegades, and celebrity including the late Marlon Brando facing the Wisconsin National Guard.

I was a fourteen year old boy living in nearby Wausau in January 1975, and like many my age, I suspect, I had no real knowledge of this event, even though it was heavily featured in major newspapers around the country.  Coming on the heals of the Wounded Knee incident, the takeover in Gresham was part of the waning efforts of what was then known as the American Indian Movement.  In those post-Vietnam years some political movements, it seems, tended to be more violent and destructive.  Reviewing the history of the Menominee tribe, especially the history in the last half of the 20th century, helps you understand, in part, the frustration that led to the take-over of the novitiate.  This was the era prior to the successful casinos and lumbering businesses that now bring a comfortable revenue flow to the reservation.  But it is also a story of how the government, for a time, removed the tribal status from Menominee, causing all kinds of anger and resentment.

It is a shame that, in the end, this once beautiful building and the later additions added by the Alexian Brothers, had to be reduced to nothing more than an aging shell of brick and stone left to slowly rot.  The damage casued in the take-over and the vandalism and neglect in subsequent years put this once great edifice on the irreversible road to ruin.  I still hope that someone with sufficient capital eventually attempts to restore the last remaining building and then make it available again to the public.  But I am grateful to Rick for the labor of love he gave in researching and writing a story that was in danger of being lost and forgotten.  As the 40th anniversary approaches there will undoubtably be other articles - maybe even another book - as people rediscover this facinating yet painful period in our history and the shadow of a building testifying to past days of fleeting glory.   [Note: the links provided here, especially to Wikipedia articles, are very informative in gaining a basic understanding of the events chronicled by Rick in his book.]

Here are some additional links and pictures I originally posted on my Facebook page:
--Article and pictures (including a Google arial shot) regarding the Alexian Brother's Novitiate: http://americanurbex.com/wordpress/?p=2313
--Article and pictures on the Novitiate Ruins: http://travellingstrongs.blogspot.com/2012/08/ruins-of-novitiate-at-gresham-wi.html

Here is a link from the College of Menominee Nation containing various documents related to the take-over, including newspaper articles: http://content.mpl.org/cdm/search/collection/cmnlsc/searchterm/Alexian%20Brothers%20Novitiate/mode/exacthttp://content.mpl.org/cdm/search/collection/cmnlsc/searchterm/Alexian%20Brothers%20Novitiate/mode/exact