For some time a controversy has been brewing at Valparaiso University, a school of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod (LCMS).  Long known for pushing the envelope, “Valpo” is home to Professor Matt Becker, a teacher pinpointed by conservatives in the Missouri Synod for promoting false doctrines that would be more at home in the ELCA.

Those charged with investigating and disciplining the man for false doctrine have exonerated him – basically saying that there is no problem.

The conservative President of the Missouri Synod, Matt Harrison, who has been trying to lead his church body back to firmer Biblical ground, has apparently had enough.   In an article posted this past Monday in Witness, Mercy, Life Together, Rev. Harrison draws some bold lines.  He writes:

“When a public teacher on the roster of Synod can without consequence publicly advocate the ordination of women (even participate vested in the installation of an ELCA clergy person), homosexuality, the errancy of the Bible, the historical-critical method, open communion, communion with the Reformed, evolution, and more, then the public confession of the Synod is meaningless. I am saying that if my Synod does not change its inability to call such a person to repentance and remove such a teacher where there is no repentance, then we are liars and our confession is meaningless. I do not want to belong to such a synod, much less lead it. I have no intention of walking away from my vocation. I shall rather use it and, by the grace of God, use all the energy I have to call this Synod to fidelity to correct this situation.”

The Missouri Synod has long been a house divided.  There are firm, confessional Lutherans in some corners, liberal, licensed “Lutherans” in other corners, and go-along-to-get-along folks in the middle.   These unresolved inconsistencies are what led to our own church body’s break in fellowship from the Missouri Synod more than 50 years ago.

Sober and serious Lutherans in our own Wisconsin Ev. Lutheran Synod (WELS) have always cautioned each other against chucking rocks.  No church body is immune from the intrusion of doctrinal error.  It happens gradually over generations.  The lines drawn by the Scriptures get blurred.  Preachers and parishioners itch to be like all those other church bodies who salute trendiness instead of truth, popular opinion instead of pure doctrine.  The infection often starts not with an outright denial of Bible doctrine, but with a subtle replacement of it – with practices and points of emphasis borrowed from the world or from the “whoopee worship” of TV land religious celebrities.

The ties that bind us together in genuine fellowship are precious and worth preserving.  Christ’s love for us, and our love for Him and each other summon us to guard against whatever threatens those ties.    Scripture challenges us “to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints” (Jude 3).  In our time too, God grant us the courage to draw the lines between truth and error – wherever we must, whatever it costs.