Righting the Good Ship Missouri
The Goals and Purpose of the Lutheran Mission Alliance
When I was a young man, I served in the U.S. Navy. During my service, I made three tours to Vietnam. On one of those tours, I was assigned to the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Bennington. She was an older carrier, commissioned at the end of WWII and therefore not as sophisticated as the newer, more modern carriers. Often time’s things didn’t work as well as they should but this never affected her service performance or the ability to meet her mission. I can remember once when we were embroiled in the angry throes of a very strong typhoon, some of the crew doubted that we would survive the storm.
I had just finished eating and was leaving the mess decks to return to my duties when, climbing the ladder to the hangar deck, I happened to notice the listometer on the bulkhead. This is a device designed to provide an accurate, visual indication of how far the ship was listing (rolling), either to port or to starboard. The gauge could indicate up to 18 degrees of list. This was the calculated maximum roll the ship could endure before capsizing. As I looked at the listometer, I noticed on numerous occasions the ball in the glass pegged to either side of the instrument, indicating the ship had endured a roll much greater than she was designed for.
I bring this to your attention because that is where we are in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod today. The good ship Missouri finds herself smack dab in the middle of a theological typhoon. The waves of secularism are lashing at her sides, the white water foam of the “church growth movement” is washing over her decks, and the ship is taking on water and is imminently in danger of being capsized by a gigantic wave known as theological postmodernism. To add to her danger, the captain is steering the ship broadside to the waves and if she doesn’t turn into the wave, she will capsize and all aboard will be lost.
Today, sad to say, much of the LCMS is not Lutheran. Far too many congregations, who claim membership in the LCMS are in fact more Calvinistic, Reformed, or Wesleyan than they are Lutheran. Once in our righteous past if one was asked if they had read an article by M.L. the initials stood for Martin Luther, today when those initials are invoked, more often than not they stand for Max Lucado. Once, everyone who called themselves Lutheran understood their Christianity in terms of the Holy Scripture and Martin Luther’s Small Catechism. Today, one who calls themselves a Lutheran is apt to answer a question regarding their understanding of the Christian faith through the teaching of “The Purpose Driven Life” by Rick Warren. There is little or no Lutheran catechesis for fear of offending someone. Sad to say, but it looks like the Lord’s words of warning through the prophet Isaiah are ringing true, “this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men’ ” (Isaiah 29:13 (ESV)).
Worship services in years past in the LCMS were always liturgical, reverent, and holy. Today, time devoted to worship is little more than gatherings of emotion filled holiness societies exercising their pious egos. Worship, therefore, revolves around the American syndrome of instant gratification and entertainment. However, such an attitude toward worship denies the clear Word of God concerning this subject, “You shall keep my Sabbaths and reverence my sanctuary: I am the Lord” (Leviticus 19:30 (ESV)).
Many of our churches actually practice “altar calls”. Led by political correctness and a desire to assimilate into the collective, congregation after congregation denying the clear Word of God to remain orthodox, are actively involved in unionism. “If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain” (1 Tim. 6:3-5 (ESV)). Rather than the theology of the cross, many pastors preach a theology of glory, emphasizing the “What Would Jesus Do” theme rather than teach “What Has Jesus Done”.
District worker conferences (once known as pastor conferences) invite non-Lutherans to be the keynote speaker of the conference, many whose theology does violence to the Lutheran understanding of Word and Sacrament. Synodical opinions and resolutions are offered and passed, which clearly conflict with God’s Revealed Word, Holy Scripture. With each passing year, it is getting more difficult to find an LCMS congregation who truly follows Luther’s motto, “Sola Gratia, Sola Fide, Sola Scriptura”. Much of the LCMS have become heterodox and if this problem cannot be resolved, she will sink into the morass of the world and go the way of her sister church, the ELCA.
All of this not only changes our rich, liturgical, Lutheran worship but it adversely affects our doctrinal understanding and implementation. Thus, when a sound, orthodox Lutheran visits such LCMS churches for Sunday morning worship, they often have great difficulty recognizing where they are. An orthodox Lutheran rarely worships with such a congregation
Faithful and seasoned crewmembers can see the imminent danger the good ship Missouri is in, yet they find themselves in a quandary. As good sailors, they are supposed to follow orders and sail with the captain. Yet, if the captain is bent on destroying the ship because of his poor seamanship qualities, the question becomes, can they afford to blindly follow the captain to their certain doom. As good seaman, are they not to consider the safety of the ship and all her crew and do what is necessary to ensure the ship stays afloat to meet her duties of another day? The answer to that question is a resounding yes. Good sailors will do those things necessary to save the ship. They will join forces with the damage control team to aide in the repair of the storms damage while battening down the hatches, closing all watertight doors, and steering the ship away out of danger. This is the goal of the Lutheran Mission Alliance (LMA).
The Lutheran Mission Alliance (LMA) was formed in 2005 with the express goals of dissenting from the wisdom of the LCMS in convention. Specifically we dissented against the following: By-Law 3-08A (Service of Women) for violating the doctrine of the order of creation; By-Law 8-01-04A (Ecclesiastical supervision) for violating the Lutheran principle that sheep judge their shepherds; and By-Law 3-06-04A (Civic Events) for giving an ambiguous answer to the important issue of syncretism and unionism. Some within the original group were ready to leave the LCMS and go it alone. However, after considerable discussions, the decision was made by a majority vote to retain our membership in the LCMS. However, we would work to maintain an orthodox, liturgically sound, Lutheran body whose goal would be to preserve Lutheran orthodoxy through the establishments of orthodox Lutheran mission churches, sound Lutheran catechesis, publication of theologically sound doctrinal reviews, and orthodox liturgical teaching to name a few. The LMA is not an individual effort but rather a collective effort of like-minded congregations. Today, twenty congregations are members of the LMA and the LMA is sponsoring two orthodox Lutheran missions.
It has been said that the LCMS is no longer your grandfather’s church. In many respects, this is correct. However, the LMA is dedicated to ensuring the sound orthodoxy of our grandfather’s Lutheran church is preserved today, tomorrow, and forever.
Some will find fault with our position and statements. Some will even label us as mutineers. This is to be expected. Our Lord, Jesus Christ made it very clear when He said, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:11-12 (ESV)).
If you, like us, are concerned about the direction of the LCMS and the future of Lutheranism, then we invite all to examine the LMA by visiting our web site at http://www.lutheranmissionallinance.org.
Rev. Toby Byrd
Chairman: The Lutheran Mission Alliance.