The President’s Column – “Skeletons in the closet.”
“Skeletons in the closet.” This has been the case in the Missouri Synod for a number of years. And recently one of those “skeletons” has emerged. It is a document which had appeared in that Synod back in September of 1945, called “A Statement” with the initial signatures of some 44 Missouri Synod pastors and professors. It contained slanderous charges against the Missouri Synod. It rejected the fundamental proof-texts against the sin of unionism and sought to reverse the Scriptural position which the Synod had previously upheld throughout the days of its orthodoxy. The issuance of this “A Statement”, or as it was also known, “Chicago STATEMENT of the 44”, created quite a furor within that Synod. The President, Dr. John Behnken, attempted to deal with the situation by appointing the Ten-Ten Committee which met for about 11 days in 1946. At first Dr. Behnken acknowledged that “A Statement” contained false doctrine and demanded that the signers retract the document. But, unfortunately, they refused and Dr. Behnken compromised by allowing them simply to withdraw “A Statement” as a basis for discussion. Thus instead of resolving the entire matter on the basis of Scripture it was resolved according to human expediency.
Although that document was withdrawn its doctrinal aberrations have been practiced for many years by various Missouri Synod pastors and professors. Now the skeleton has been brought out to public view after having been in the closet some 50 years! “Now, copies of the February 1996 Lutheran Forum, which contain articles about the impact of “A Statement” and its relevance for today, have been sent to all 5,200 LCMS parish pastors. Leonard Klein, Forum editor, said, ‘Some gracious friends’ of the quarterly’s publisher, American Lutheran Publicity Bureau, had provided funds for the mailing because of ‘the particular relevance’ the publication has for the LCMS. One of the issue’s articles is by Ralph A. Bohlmann, president of Missouri Synod from 1981 to 1992, when he was defeated by the current president, Alvin Barry, and given the title ‘president emeritus.’ Bohlmann says the major issues addressed by the 1945 document ‘cry out for the attention and concern of fellow Lutherans in every age, including our own.'” (From the Metro-Lutheran quoted in the Christian News, April 15, 1996)
When the Missouri Synod refused to remove the leaven of false teaching in 1945 according to Biblical principles, it no longer fit the description of an orthodox church body given by Dr. F. Pieper, one of its foremost orthodox teachers and president of the Synod from 1899-1911, “We Missourians consider a church-body, as a body, orthodox only when the pure doctrine is proclaimed from all pulpits and professors’ chairs and in all writings that become public within the communion, and when, on the other hand, every erroneous teaching is stopped in the manner prescribed by God as soon as it makes its appearance” (Lehre und Wehre, XXXVI, 261ff, official professional periodical of the Missouri Synod). The doctrinal aberrations of “A Statement” were never stopped in the manner prescribed by God. Consequently, as one old conservative Missouri Synod pastor so aptly put it, “The Missouri Synod’s downfall began with ‘A Statement’!”
We dare not forget that false teaching is an abomination in the sight of God. “Behold, I am against the prophets, saith the Lord, that use their tongues and say, He saith” (Jer. 23:31). False teaching is a leaven which eventually leavens the whole lump of Christian doctrine (Gal. 5:9). It deceives and subverts the souls of those whom the Lord Jesus purchased and won with His holy precious blood, “and this I say, lest any man should beguile you with enticing words” (Col. 2:4). God demands that we stand fast against false teaching “that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive” (Eph. 4:14). Thus we are not to “believe every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). Especially in these last evil days of the world as we observe the rise of many false prophets (Matt. 24:11), we must heed the warning of the Apostle Peter, “Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness” (2 Pet. 3:17).
By God’s grace, the pure teachings of God’s holy Word still sound forth from the pulpits of the congregations comprising our Conference. Do we really appreciate this? If so, then we shall receive that Word of Truth with humble and believing hearts, always striving to be faithful hearers and doers of that Word (James 1:21,22).
Your servant in Christ,
Pastor M.L. Natterer, President