Monday, May 26, 2003

To be free...

I visited a new church yesterday. I do really enjoy chanting and all the other "smells and bells" that go on during a service. It is amazing how I am becoming more "catholic" in my liturgical theology. It almost scares me, except I cannot accept the crap Rome throws upon one's conscience like purgatory and earning one's salvation. Actually, that latter point is also why I could never be an American Evangelical. "Sanctifying" oneself is extremely annoying, and a good dose of The Door will cure it. It will teach everyone not to take themselves too seriously.

Bad writting is bad writting. I am the master of pedantic, anoying, and obnoxious writing. Anything I cannot write about, I am sure I can find an extremely annoying link on the internet.

Well, if I have anything to write about soon, I will.

Friday, May 23, 2003

It was official as of Tuesday evening that I am no longer a member of any church. I am officially a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of No-mans Land. Which is basically to say, I hold to the symbols of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, I just have no congregation to be a member of. As you might expect, this shocked quite a few people. The thing is, I have been planning to leave for quite a while. My family does not understand why I made this move. As I mentioned before, I am extremely confident in this move and why I made it. The Benke situation has a lot to do with it. I wanted to make sure I am at a church that, in 2004, would bail out of the Synod if need be. I do not want to be part of a Synod that allows heterodoxy to mingle with orthodoxy.

Telling my handbell choir I am leaving went very well. They all seemed to understand why I decided to leave and why I went about doing the things I did recently. I like the people I directed, and I still consider them friends. Too bad I had to do this.

I am off to Alaska a week from today. I shall be cruising off the coast of Canada a week from tomorow. There should be internet acess on the ship, so I will blog my experiences in Alaska and Canada. It should make for some interesting reading, and also be a way for my friends (I have those) to keep up with what is going on.

Monday, May 19, 2003

I actually did it. Yesterday, I broke all ties with my church via a letter sitting on the secretaries desk. I emphasised my point by just leaving after the bell choir played rather than hanging around and partaking communion. The Vicar was, once again, consecrating the elements aginst the wishes, I have found out, of both seminaries and Augsberg Confession Article XIV. The joys of leaving the church. Surprisingly, this is one of the few descisions I have made with this much confidence in my life. I am almost overjoyed to be relieved of the burden I was under at that church (which shall continue to remain nameless, I think). I will miss some of my friends, but at least I know where I am going now.

My last, yet unofficial duty is tomorow. Before I completely disapear, I shall polish the handbells and go celebrate another wonderful season of playing. As you might expext, I am stepping down from directing the bell choir. At least they will not be in complete disarray when I leave.

Saturday, May 17, 2003

I have finished my letter resigning a a member of my current congregation. It takes effect after I direct the bell choir. I tried not to be too harsh, yet I had to get the point across. Being diplomatic is not my forte.

I am reading the book The Black Book of Communism right now. It brings the 1917 Revolution in a whole new light. The repression of the Russian people began almost immediately after the takeover by Lenin and his gang of thugs. Trotsky was in on destroying people's lives as well as Lenin. Both became good templates Stalin follwed. Right now, I am reading about the influence Communism International (Comintern) has on the world of communist parties. Fun light reading.

Friday, May 16, 2003

I have had a little time to stew over the whole Benke situation and what this means for me and my future in my local church, which is pro-Benke. First thing is I am leaving my current congregation this Sunday. I direct the bell chior and we are playing for the last time until fall this Sunday. I will miss being in the bell chior, but I have a feeling that in 2004, if I stay where I am, I will be on the wrong side of a probable split. Call it strategic positioning. I know where I'm probably going to transfer. I am writting a letter giving the reasons why I am leaving, but not where I am going. I have honestly contemplated leaving my church for over a year now, and I am finally going to have the, ummm, juevos, to take such a large step.

I went to see The Matrix Reloaded Wednesday night. I have to say it was awesome. If you are a martial arts geek like I am, you will love the film. I have to say, the plot is a little week and convoluted, but, if you, like me, enjoy badly-dubbed kung-fu movies, the plot in this is 1000 times better.

Remember, my address is If anyone actually reads this, send me something. If anyone else blogs, I find getting things off my chest here to be easy, yet to tell something to someone's face so difficult.

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Benke got off. I am mad. The man is no longer worthy of wearing the collar. If anybody thinks that we will just "try to get along", they are crazy and need to be put into a mental hospital. This issue isn't going away. As a matter of fact, it will simmer and stew until the 2004 convention, where, hopefully, we will have a new SP and a confessional VP core.

The Schulz Reprt on Benke-Yankee Stadium

I could sit here and whine, but I will do what I have to do. My church has been way too suportive of Benke, and I will sever fellowship with this congregation. I know of a good, confessional congregation being served by a wonderful, confessional pastor (ironically, he graduated from SEMINEX) in my area where I will now be attending on a regular basis. I cannot, in good conscience, stay where I am at right now.

Sunday, May 11, 2003

Professor Marquet is sending a letter of encouragement to the confessionals throughout the Synod. Take a look.


Having been asked by friends to address the plight of those who are so deeply discouraged by the turn of events in our Missouri Synod that they are tempted simply to leave, I humbly offer a few thoughts:

It is quite natural to become discouraged when things go wrong. To see our Synod--once known throughout the world for its firm, unyielding, and united stand for the pure Gospel of Christ--now awash in confusion and contradiction, even about such clear and basic issues as joint services with official representatives of paganism, that is of course profoundly and painfully sad.

And while the Lord founded His Church so solidly on Himself that the very gates of hell shall not prevail against her (St. Mt. 16:18), it is true that no visible church of a particular town, region, nation, or continent has the guarantee of remaining faithful to the truth forever. Indeed, history teaches us that even great and strong churches can ultimately abandon the truth. Think only Jerusalem, Rome, Wittenberg!

But now is not the time to abandon our Synod. It is not a false, heterodox church, but an orthodox church with serious troubles. For confessionally sound pastors and people to leave the Synod now, is simply to hand it over to those who hate its strict, confessional stand. Besides, we didn't get into this mess in a hurry, and we're not going to get out of it quickly either. But, to put it colloquially, "the old girl is worth fighting for"! Think of all the generations of devout souls who prayed and sacrificed for this Synod--and of those many who still do! Our Dr. Walther himself wrote to a confessional student in Erlangen, who wanted to leave the Bavarian Lutheran state church:

"I can advise separation from a degenerated communion which formerly had taken the right stand, only when it is notorious that it has 'hardened ' (verstockt) itself; and that is notorious only when everything has been tried to lead it back, but in vain . . . Would to God that I had had this understanding thirty-some years ago, then I would likely still be in America, yet not as one who had abandoned his office, but as an exile (Briefe von C.F.W. Walter, Concordia, 1916, pp. 196-197, my translation)."

And to another pastor in Germany he wrote:

"From a heretical or schismatic communion one must exit without consulting flesh and blood, also from a syncretistically constituted one; it is not so with a church which originally took the right stand, and in which false faith and unbelief still fight for the right to exist. Here it is a matter of leaving the sinking ship, not the one that has sprung a
leak (p. 194)."

It seems that most of our troubles in doctrine began as loose practice: open communion, neo-Pentecostalism, joint services with official representatives of false doctrine, and so forth. Then there came the pragmatic urge to adjust our formerly strong theology to our weak practice. The basic problem, it seems to me, is an organizational, bureaucratic approach to theology and church life. People want to justify any status quo that has become customary, and habitual--"like petty public officials [who] quietly approved the errors of their superiors, without understanding them." (Apology XII, 69, Tappert, p. 192).

The problem is not new: The Commission on Constitutional Matters (CCM) "now has well-nigh total and absolute power to turn any issue involving the practical application of the Confession into a constitutional one," and then to issue a "binding" decision! "The real question is the wisdom of such total concentration of virtually unchallengeable power in a small body of administrative appointees. Should someone be thinking of theological, churchly remedies?" (Church Polity and Politics, John Fehrman and Daniel Preus, eds, Luther Academy and Association of Confessional Lutherans, 1997, pp. 199-200).

The cat is fully out of the bag in the new CCM ruling that one can't be charged for actions for which one had prior approval from one's ecclesiastical supervisor! The practical import is that bureaucratic standing may now override Holy Scripture and the Confessions! For details see the argument in the attached resolution. You are free to use this resolution, or any part or aspect of it you find helpful, as you see fit.

Of course only God can help us. Relying on Him alone let us do what we can to encourage good outcomes at the 2004 Convention, and the one after that, and the one after that, etc. That will mean sharing relevant factual and doctrinal information, also at District conventions, sending in appropriate resolutions, nominating and electing confessionally responsible people, and defeating the dishonest emotional propaganda which seeks to exploit the sacred urgencies of Mission to sweep inconvenient doctrinal issues under the carpet.

Finally, the battle for the sacred truth of the Gospel must be fought with kindness and love. We must not demonize human opponents, but realize, as St. Paul teaches us, that "our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." (Eph. 6:12, NIV). The Lord of the Church bless us with zeal and courage and joy in Him Whose mercies are new to us every morning!

Fraternally yours,

Kurt Marquart,
Ft. Wayne, IN, 8 May 2003

Monday, May 05, 2003

Today is my birthday. It's depressing...

The Benke situation, for some reason, is driving me nuts again. The new issue of Forum Letter has some more comments on the general state of the LCMS and the Benke situation. Here, Read it for yourself.

"A Theology of Emotivism"
Rev. Prof. John T. Pless
Forum Lettter (May 2003)

It is a foregone conclusion. David Benke will be exonerated of the charges that led to his suspension. With the Synod's Commission on Constitutional Matters now dominated by partisans appointed by President Kieschnick, the stage is set for the ruling of Vice President Wallace Schulz to be reversed. The case will be decided not by appeal to clear scriptural and confessional teaching but by the manipulation of by-laws and an appeal to procedural matters. Now that the Commission on Constitutional Matters has decreed that a member of Synod cannot be charged if he or she secured the prior approval of the "ecclesiastical supervisor" for activities that run counter to the Synod's position, the way is cleared for the dismissal of the case. Even as the moderates' cry for a decentralized and less hierarchical synodical structure, they have succeeded in giving even more power to the synod president. This is a dangerous side-effect of the Benke case that might just come back to haunt the moderates on another day when the office of president is not occupied by their man.

In some quarters David Benke is venerated as a martyr. His own parish (St.Peter's, Brooklyn, NY) is hawking a full array of relics ranging from "Its OK to Pray" hats, coffee mugs, T-shirts (x-large only), and posters. The proceeds, of course, will go to the "David H.Benke Advocacy and Defense Fund." Free buttons will accompany each order. These items can be ordered from the congregation's website. Chalk up another point for consumerism in the church. The congregation has also established an institute with the ominous name "St.Peter's Institute for Religious Interfaith Tolerance" (SPIRIT).

The most troubling aspects of this unfortunate episode have nothing to with the outcome of Benke's case or the "Its Ok Pray" trinkets (although I think that they are tacky) but rather in what it reveals about the embrace of the ideology of tolerance in our world and more sadly in the church. In postmodern fashion, Benke's prayer at the Yankee Stadium service is seen as an exercise of toleration for other gods. This, many of his supporters argue is a noble and laudable thing. We are finally rid of the Old Testament notion that God is a jealous Lord who will share His glory with no other. Typical is a letter supporting Benke published in the December 7, 2001 issue of the Los Angeles Times. The Rev. Butch Henderson of the Claremont United Church of Christ writes "Many families of faith worship the one God. I'm not privy to any information which indicates that God favors one family more than another. Equality among religions is not as important as authenticity. When I participate in interfaith prayer, worship, and other activities, I am affirming, encouraging, and sharing the authenticity of other religions. Given a choice between the view that all religions are equal and the view that only my religion is authentic, I'll take the former every time…and I suspect God does, too."

A few have tried to defend Benke's prayer theologically. Some have suggested that Benke was not praying with representatives of other faiths but merely praying in their presence. Others contend that Benke was not there to worship but to bear witness to Christ. These defenses ring hollow with an empty sophistry that seeks a loophole where there are none. I applaud the honesty of ELCA theologian Ted Peters who celebrates Benke's involvement in the Yankee Stadium service "If we reduce Benke's public appearance to witness, then we inadvertently pit Jesus over against everyone else. What the civic situation calls for is cooperation or even solidarity between Christians and members of other religious communities" (dialog, Summer 2002, 84). Peters sees more clearly what many in the LCMS miss.

We live in a culture that is committed to tolerance and is governed by what Alisdair MacIntrye identifies as the "ethic of emotivism." This ethic maintains that there is no rational way to secure agreement on ethical matters. We are left with the power of emotion. Issues are decided not by reason but by passion. Failing to make a theological case, the appeal is made to the emotions. Doctrine is divisive but love, sweet love will unite us! In our time, emotions will carry the day. Lutherans have a theological category for this- enthusiasm. Such enthusiasm provides a spiritual veneer for our culture's attitude of tolerance. The coalition of Jesus First and DayStar, the political machines most vocal and active in support of Kieschnick and Benke have learned this lesson well. The March 26, 2003 issue of Jesus First carries an article entitled "The Breath of God" by the Rev. Vernon Gundermann, a veteran LCMS moderate. Gundermann is bold to identify where the Spirit is blowing in the LCMS. Not surprisingly one of the places that Gundermann sees the Spirit working is in the Commission on Constitutional Matters! One wonders whatever happened to that old Lutheran notion that the Spirit works through the Word and is known only there.

The editor of the Forum Letter asked me to reflect on life in the LCMS in the months following Yankee Stadium. It seems to me that this last year and a half have revealed several things about the current state of affairs. There is much that could be said about the lack of theological, churchly leadership in the Synod as well as the prospects for change in 2004. There is the matter of Synod's bleak financial picture and drastic cuts in missionary personnel. One could comment on the obnoxious removal of Wallace Schulz from his position as Lutheran Hour speaker. Most disconcerting, however, is the extent to which the acids of pluralism have eroded the theological integrity of the Synod. This can be seen from much of the rhetoric that has been used in support of Benke's participation at Yankee Stadium. Emotive arguments have been used that subordinate faith to love. Any critical, theological engagement of unionism and syncretism are dismissed as being "unloving." Forgotten is Luther's insistence that "We are surely prepared to observe peace and love with all men, provided they leave the doctrine of faith perfect and sound for us. If we cannot obtain this, it is useless for them to demand love from us. A curse on a love that is observed at the expense of the doctrine of faith, to which everything must yield-love, an apostle, an angel from heaven, etc! They would know that one Word of God is all and all are one, that one doctrine is all doctrines and all are one, so that when one is lost all are eventually lost, because they belong together and are held together by a common bond" (AE 27:38).

Rev. Prof. John T.Pless
Assistant Professor of Pastoral Ministry and Missions
Concordia Theological Seminary
Fort Wayne, IN

Saturday, May 03, 2003

Apparently no one is reading my rantings except a few of my friends (maybe). I am going to have to promote my blog better.

I went to see the midnight showing of X2 this early morning. I am paying for it now. Excellent special effects, good acting, hot babes playing in crucial parts. It's a winner.

I cannot just try to rant about the same old stuff I have been since I began this blog (my church, my synod, the state of Christianity in America in general). I have to be more creative. Maybe I will start trying to review albums and movies. Maybe not, since the review usually ends up like the above review of X2.

Now, just so you don't think I am hung up on problems with the synod, here are a few links I visit frequently.
National Review Online
I Think I Need a Stiff Drink
Front Page Magazine

Thursday, May 01, 2003

You know, it is always good to have friends around to e-mail you and tell you how much they enjoy reading your blog. Then again, they are your friends and their opinions are somewhat, ummm, tainted. As with anything, I would still like an outside opinion as to the soundness of this blog and whether my logic is on track.

You know, I need to give a little love to my man Johann. I am Lutheran and I am German. Therefore, I must love Bach. Nothing is more lovely to the mathematician's ear than to hear four lines of melody interfingering in the most imaginative ways and each line of melody serving as harmony to the others. Counterpoint is a wonderful thing. There is power in his works, unlike the moronic garbage being produced by the Christian Money Machine. Oh, "Christian Music" and "Christian Books" and "Christian Trinkets". I walk into a "Christian Bookstore" (where did the books go?) and I'm overrun with "Trinkets for Christ". I'm embarassed by most of the emotional garbage they sell there. I have taken to buying stuff off the internet just because I cannot find what I want in a Christian bookstore. For instance, how many of us can find Lutheran classics like The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel or Two Natures in Christ? No Christian bookstore will cary these. It drives me insane. They do not even cary any of the great classical works that have sustaned the Church for centuries. I have to go into Borders to Handel my love of Bach.

I love classical music in general. Yes, I love Bach most of all, but I enjoy other composers as well. I am interested in Medieval and Renesance Church music. As with many things, as I have come to find out, old does not equal useless. How many people can meditate to Michael W. Smith or Amy Grant or whoever else is popular right now?