More Views from the Outside

As promised, here is some information about another one of President-elect Harrison’s appointment.  He has returned to the well of Lutheran World Relief to tap the Reverend Doctor Albert Collver as one of his three executive assistants.  To be fair to both the appointer and the appointee you really should read the latter’s Logia article referenced below for yourself.  I believe I give an accurate description of what I read, but I was in the throes of making a statement of confession, so I would be biased.  Please remember three things.  My church and I entered into a state of confession on June 20, 2005.  There are only a handful of others who have done so (no more than .5% of LCMS congregations).  And finally, in keeping with the melancholy if not melodramatic ending to my 2005 letter, the appointment of the good reverend and doctor doesn’t bode well for this handful.  Good thing we are in not in the hands of men.

Saturday, Easter IV, A.D. 2005

April 23

Logia Editorial Department

314 Pearl Street

Mankato, MN  56001

Dear Editor:

In regard to “In Statu Confessionis: Origins and Development,” Eastertide 2005:  I found the article most helpful in tracing the lineage of that term.  Had the author confined himself to this, it would have been a laudable essay.  However, he was not content to show the term may have questionable value among us (Though Dr. Collver admits that for over 30 years in statu confessionis has been defined for use in the LCMS); he went on to question the value of making a confession which threatened to break fellowship.  Then in his conclusions you see that he is really opposed to a confession that says it will not stay in fellowship with error.

The real point of his paper is to make men think twice before stating that a particular teaching has no place in the kingdom of the right.  To this end he labels in stau confessionis “the perfect post-modern term.”  He goes on to link the term to things reprehensible to confessional Lutherans such as the Barman Declaration of 1934, the social gospel, the Reformed Church (The term “now belongs more to the Reformed than to the Lutherans.”), and activism in general.  He uses the favorite tool of the new-conservative, the reductio ad absurdum saying, “There seems to be no end to the sorts of issues that might prompt one to enter into status confessionis.”  He also uses the favorite tool of the devil, despair, “Thus, entering into staus confessionis may not have a salutary effect for anyone involved.”  Finally, in conclusion, after pushing all the right buttons of would-be confessors, he pushes the nuclear one:  “In light of the foregoing, a status confessionis protest against a church body does not seem to be a tenable option to those who take the Lutheran Confessions seriously.”

Is he serious?!  Granted the term in statu confessionis and even the concept of confessing against a church body’s error may not be found in Formula of Concord X, is there any doubt that Holy Scripture teaches we must identify and eventually separate from false teaching?  Is there any doubt that Scripture does not allow us to remain in fellowship by taking exceptions to our Synod’s confessional stance?  The official position of the LCMS is that praying at an American civil religious service with every religious body in America not only may be done but should be done in some circumstances.  Our official position is that this is not necessarily unionism or syncretism.  If you are on the clergy roster of Synod or if your congregation is on the roster, that is your position.  Neither Scripture nor Synod’s constitution allows you to pretend that it is not.  If you do not by some mechanism state to your congregation and to your ecclesiastical supervisors that this is not your position and call them to repentance, you are participating in their error.

Our Synod is ablaze with an error that will absolutely destroy the Gospel among us and Collver is content to fiddle with terms.  This reminds me of the Churchill story where someone took him to task for ending sentences with prepositions. He responded by showing his distain for the protestor saying, “From now on ending a sentence with a preposition is an effrontery up with which I shall not put.”  Confessional Lutherans in this dark hour cannot put up with this sort of pedantic effrontery found in this article.  Collver claims that the true confessional position is to stay in the Synod confessing the truth till they throw you out.  Rome never would have thrown out Luther or the Sanhedrin Stephen if they had spoken as Collver does.  Error will always tolerate truth sharing her bed.  It only reacts when truth identifies error as the harlot she is and refuses to share the bed with her.

Formula of Concord X may indeed only be about confessing when the State persecutes the Church, but the whole Formula of Concord is about the Lutherans refusing the right hand of fellowship to the Reformed.  Formula of Concord X may not be the source for being in a state of confession over against someone in the Church, but Romans 16:17 is.  The only alternative is to adopt the position of the Statement of the Forty-Four that Romans 16:17 is not to be applied to erring Christians.

By far, the most egregious thing this paper does is to call taking a public stand of confession in which you threaten to break fellowship “the easy way.”  This reminds me of the large sign in front of the U.S. Army’s Ranger School at Fort Benning, Georgia in the 1970’s.  It said that this facility was dedicated to those men who died for the cause of peace so that lesser men might have the freedom to cry, “Peace, Peace,” when there was none.  Dr. Collver is crying for peace.  I am crying for a bold, clear confession that we will not be in fellowship with soul destroying error.  I may indeed be “burned” even as the martyrs were, and no doubt men of Dr. Collver’s ilk will think this senseless, useless, and uncofessional.  Even so, no one helped a martyr in the agony of the flames by urinating on him to put them out.

In Christ,

Rev. Paul R. Harris


About Paul Harris

Pastor Harris retired from congregational ministry after 40 years in office on 31 December 2023. He is now devoting himself to being a husband, father, and grandfather. He still thinks cenobitic monasticism is overrated and cave dwelling under.
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