Saturday, April 4, 2009

Another Enters Orthodoxy

Pr. Ben Harju has resigned the clergy roster and will be received as a catechumen in the Orthodox Church tomorrow. Old news by internet standards--Ben announced it yesterday.

But the vitriol, angst, incredulity, accusations and so forth has already begun.

I've blogged about some others who have left the LCMS before. See these posts. What I've said before hold true here as well. God bless him for the courage to follow his convictions...and not try to make the LCMS into something it's not.

There are a couple of issues I'd like to explore. The first is, Why East? Why are so many leaving the LCMS and entering the Orthodox Church? I can name a dozen or more who have in the last four or five years. Maybe more. Granted, in a denomination of 8000 or 9000 pastors, that number is a pittance, yet there seems a trend.

Yet, how many LCMS pastors have become Baptists (I know of one)? How many non-denominational Evangelicals? Methodist? Episcopal? (I know of one).

Few, I imagine. And here's why. Because of our lack of oversight, integrity, honesty, support and standards, you can become almost any of those in all but name and stay within the LCMS. Some of them a pastor can "convert to" completely and be featured in the official newspaper and magazine and praised. Consider the "Emergent LCMS" churches in the St. Louis area.

Consider this and comment.


  1. Anonymous said...

    Pastor Hall,

    Amen! I have long said that this is the reason why we do not see Lutheran conversions to Baptist or Evangelical denominations. They can stay within the LCMS and still practice their religion as a "Lutheran." Those who convert to EO or RC are intellectually and spiritually honest enough to leave, but those who slide into Protestantism are able (and encouraged) to stay here and influence their congregations.
    Bethany Tanis

  2. William Weedon said...

    I'd be curious of the number who have entered (they might say, returned to) Rome, as well. I know of only one recently who was a pastor of the LCMS, but I'm willing to wager there are others.

    On the other hand, I do know of one LCMS pastor who was an Orthodox priest and another LCMS who was a Roman priest. It would be equally interesting to discover what they found in the Lutheran Church and her confession that led them to convert. I have some ex-Orthodox members, and numerous ex-Roman members. Their story would likely be of interest to.

    But LCMS becoming a "big evangelical tent" is rather undeniable, unfortunately and it will be the death of us if it is not corrected (can it be? I don't know.) But what it will not be is the death of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, the sum total of those who confess the Augustana as their confession of the Scriptural faith. Maybe like the Anglicans, our future is in other lands. I am reminded of this each Palm Sunday as I confirm and welcome the confirmands - not to the LCMS - but to the Evangelical Lutheran Church.

  3. orrologion said...

    Why East? Why are so many leaving the LCMS and entering the Orthodox Church?

    For the theologically inclined, I think it is finding a thoroughly traditional theology that does not fall into the trap of Catholic vs. Protestant, Lutheran vs. Reformed, LCMS/WELS vs. ELCA. There is a paradigm of tit for tat theological trench warfare that is refreshing to leave.

    For the historically minded, I think the attraction is how the historical church is embodied in so mnay aspects of everything in the Church. A cursory nod to history and the Fathers is not given before moving onto other things. Pr. Weedon and others are fighting a valiant battle to attempt to root and ground Lutheranism in history and the Fathers - some would say they are attempting to square a circle, but... Many find an objective reading of the Fathers and history (and then the Scriptures in that light) does not lead one to Lutheran theology or practice, even in the Catalog of Testimonies and in Chemnitz. Others see things differently; they remain Lutheran or something else.

    Why Orthodoxy over Rome has to do with a similar reading of history regarding the papacy and the sort of 'development' that seemed to accelerate in pace following Hildebrand and the Great Schism. There may also be a knee jerk form of anti-papism that has Protestants preferring a non-Rome, historical church. For those for whom being 'Western' is extremely important, they choose Rome (or throw up their hands to it all and become Anglican).

    My quickie two cents.

  4. Mason said...

    Pr. Hall,
    Your analysis is on target.

    Drums, guitars, khakis, coolness and motivational speeches are not only generally accepted, but widely promoted. Finger gesticulations, genuflections, incense, reverence, and sacramental proclamation are barely tolerated and mostly dismissed as archaic and ineffective. The less sacramental we become in our confession and liturgy, then those brothers who are sacramental will begin to explore other options. It should not surprise any of us. It should certainly not arouse such insecure, immature reactions.

  5. Dixie said...

    ...and not try to make the LCMS into something it's not.

    I imagine this can be a temptation for those so inclined. And the deception that comes from such an attempt can be quite damaging. My husband, the diehard Lutheran, calls it "Lutheranism the way it never was."

    Pastor Hall, I appreciate your kindness in this loss. I read on another blog where someone said Satan causes people to leave the LCMS and become Orthodox. I was quite shocked to read they thought the Orthodox Church was an agent of Satan's! It would be different, I think, if Ordination were considered a Sacrament in the Lutheran church and and if the Lutheran church thought the Church was confined to Lutheranism but without either of these conditions that accusation just didn't make sense. But, of course, I am see things from the other side of the river.

  6. Christopher D. Hall said...

    Thanks for the comments thus far. Dixie--you're dead-on in your last paragraph. But on the other hand, Lutherans believe that the doctrine confessed in the Book of Concord is the pure Gospel and any deviation from it is false, therefore of Satan.

    Secondly, our LCMS forefathers believed that the LCMS was the true Chruch of Christ on earth. They did not claim that the Gospel was absent from other confessions, but that there was delusion and danger, to be sure.

    It's a strange mix of pride and self-loathing, I think.

  7. Bryce P Wandrey said...

    The great thing about the Anglican Communion, in my humble opinion, is:

    1) We have episcopal oversight through a particular understanding of apostolic succession which is quite similar to Rome, Constantinople and portions of European Lutheranism. While Rome and Constantinople may not recognize our orders, the see of Canterbuy goes back to 6th century. And so, if oversight and "apostolic" orders are important to you, you can't actually be Anglican, in this sense, in the LC-MS.

    2) We do have a lot of, what I call, "gospel" freedom. You can have that in the LC-MS too. But because of point one, to a certain extent, you can't be Anglican in the LC-MS.

    And so, those might be two reasons that some would leave the LC-MS for the Anglican communion.

  8. Christopher D. Hall said...

    Bryce--I was actually thinking of you. And of course you're right. You can rightly be Anglican within the LCMS. Though you can certainly play Anglican (like some in the English district used to do).

    I should have revised that sentence to make it clearer.

    Thanks for reading and commenting!