Tuesday, February 17, 2009

To Stay or to Leave

A debate has raged for some time now about whether the Missouri Synod is so lost that the only choice left is to disassociate oneself from her entirely; that to stay is simply to endorse the falsehoods and wrong practice by ones presence. I have seen a fair number of confessionally minded pastors peal off over the years for any number of supposedly greener pastures: Rome, Orthodoxy, ELS, WELS, independent, etc. The argument espoused also contains not a little guilt for those who remain. Are we sharing in the sins of others by not leaving? Are we complicitely participating in an organizataion that is heterodox by holding on to membership with those whom we openly disagree?

In the midst of this debate I have often thought about men like Martin Luther and C.F. W. Walther, who both ended up outside the church bodies with which they began their ministries. Luther was officially excommunicated by Rome and seemed to show no intent on leaving on his own prior to his forced exit. Walther, as I have read, later repented of his actions in that he felt he abandoned a divine call by leaving for America (although I am sure he always rejoiced that God used his departure for a blessed purpose.) Should Luther have left the church of Rome once he became aware of her many sins and false teachings? Was he technically not in fellowship with this church until they removed him? And as far as Walther is concerned, what is one to make of their call in deciding to stay or leave?

Church or denominational membership is a complicated matter. I still wrestle with the debate that continues around me.


Bob Hunter said...

I think we have to stay and fight for now rather than just turn it over to those we disagree with.

Don Engebretson said...

And I would agree with you, Bob. I don't think that there is a perfect synod out there to which we can flee; a place where all the messiness of church politics and misguided practice and false teaching simply vanish. Faithful churchmen of old have long lived and struggled in the midst of the tension between what they know should be and what is the reality at the moment. The same is true of the parish. After 20+ years I realize everyday that the Bride is only holy in Christ, not because of her behavior. She fails as much as do her members. Still, we pray for courage and strength to proclaim the fullness of God's Word, for only through that will hearts be changed.