Wednesday, May 14, 2008


I've blogged before about the Rev. James May, who was "recalled" from the mission field recently. That means fired, and is now without a call. We heard how he had to raise his own funds, despite the fact that thousands of congregations believe a portion of the checks they send to the LCMS go to world missions. Regardless, the official reason for Rev. May's termination is insubordination.

A serious charge. A legitimate reason to fire someone, even if the boss is a fool. So what did Rev. May do or not do? Here's what he said1,

I was sent to Ouagadougou to learn French. There are no Lutheran churches here. I was directed to take my family and worship at non-Lutheran churches. I was forbidden to plant Lutheran churches in Ouagadougou.

In my daily life I was often encountered by locals asking who I am and what I am doing in Burkina Faso. I explained that I am a Lutheran pastor and am learning French. Many people wanted to know more. In a country that is 80% Muslim and animistic, I was happy to confess my faith in the savior Jesus Christ. People wanted to know more.

So he began a Bible study. He became even more insubordinate as he relates the following:
My regional director had expressly told me that if someone wanted to be baptized I should send them to the Baptist church and NOT baptize them. Again I was insubordinate and preferred to disobey that order rather than break a relationship by insulting him and refusing to baptize his son. The father, Etienne Sam, has used his tailor shop to publicize and distribute Good News magazines.

The son was sick with dysentery and the family was afraid the boy would die. The Catholic church wanted $15 for a baptism (the man couldn't afford a $4 tuition charge even), and the boy was too young for the Baptists to baptize. So Rev. May did it, and the next morning the boy no longer had dysentery.

The final outrage:
Finally, Rev. Dr. Anssi Simojoki, the Vice President of LHF2 and director for the Africa region, was making a trip through West Africa and contacted me. His son is the godfather of two of our children. I offered our house for him to stay in. I received an email from Rev. Dr. Paul Mueller in which he stated that he had not given me permission to have Anssi stay in my house. I was not aware that my personal home is ruled by World Mission. Again I was insubordinate and allowed Anssi to stay at our house.

He admits his insubordination. And granted, beginning Bible studies and doing baptisms in a temporary locale, where the locals may persecute Christians for being baptized may be good reason not to do those things. I'm sure there is a thoughtful reason for these prohibitions.

But remember this story?
And when they had brought them, they set them before the council: and the high priest asked them, Saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man's blood upon us.

Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. (Acts 5:27-31)

Perhaps I am being dramatic.

1The entire letter may be found here.

2LHF is Lutheran Heritage Foundation. They mainly publish Lutheran materials in countless languages. They also employ Wallace Schulz, formerly a Synodical VP who adjudicated the Benke case which found Benke guilty of syncretism. Benke was exonerated by the Synodical President, and Schulz was fired from Lutheran Hour Ministries.


  1. Rev. Eric J Brown said...

    Wow. Just. . . wow.

  2. Mike Baker said...

    Where is the insubordination?

    All I see is a called minister of the Word properly administering the Sacraments and spreading the gospel in accordance with our confessions.

    Who among us wants to call that insubordination? I charge that those who would hinder this sacred work are the ones who are being insubordinate to the Augsburg Confession and to the Great Commission of Jesus Christ.

    No “thoughtful reason” exists on earth that can excuse refusing baptism to a parent who brings his child. The faithful Reverend May can go to the Lord with a clear conscience in this regard.

  3. Dixie said...

    This one seems more difficult for me because I just don't know the circumstances around the instruction not to teach and could be that was the arrangement the folks sponsoring the missionaries to come to learn French in that country had to make...I don't know. But it is possible there could be legitimate (for the program in the long run) reasons why the missionary was so instructed.

    The hosting of the visitor in the home is one that, at least on the surface, seems to be quite a lame charge, unless there was a reason that such hosting could compromise the program as well.

    Then, at least for me, there is the aspect of ecclesiastical supervision and corresponding obedience. But I am guessing that may not apply here because the LCMS doesn't generally have maybe "insubordination" in the corporation sense (as opposed to disobedience to ecclesiastical authority) is the more appropriate understanding of the situation.

    As a wage slave myself...I know when you work for "the man" are subject to his rules. And, accordingly, I have had to fire my boss and get a new one on a couple of occasions. (One of them ended up under house lie!!!)

    I know it isn't so simple with pastors. But this is a pretty good example why "church" shouldn't be "corporation".

  4. George said...

    It is a good example of why church shouldn't be run as a corporation. No body is saying that any sort of structure or institution is bad or unnecessary, because humanly speaking they are necessary. It's just when the tail starts wagging the dog that the problems begin. When the needs of the corporation & its survival begin to replace the purpose for which it was incorporated, namely to be in service to the church.

    There was perhaps good reasons for the strictures placed upon Rev. May. He was after all there in a temporary manner. But when you have someone coming to you & begging you to baptize their dying child, what should be one's response? "I'd really like to, but by-laws & contractual agreements prohibit me from doing so."

    Maybe Pastor May should've handed the man $15 to let the Catholics do it...