Keeping Your Powder Dry or Just Not Shooting

I loath long titles, so I apologize, but the war has been joined and one if by land and two if by sea didn’t seem to apply.  Our side (confessional, conservative Lutheranism) is electing to keep our powder dry.  Their side (American, liberal Lutheranism) has come out shooting.  I fear we’re really not keeping our powder dry; we’re just not shooting.

First a bit of explanation.  Pre-modern firearms didn’t have the powder powering the bullet in an enclosed case.  It was loaded in a pan (A total aside here: A flash in the pan is primary powder that goes off quickly without igniting the powder in the barrel and thus propelling the bullet.). Some more powder was put in the barrel.  If you loaded the powder too soon rain or even damp weather could slow its firing or cause it not to fire at all, hence the admonition to keep your powder dry.

This is the wisdom the leaders of the ACELC has followed.  Rather than holding a constituting convention in March 2011 of Lutheran churches seeking to call the LCMS to a no-nonsense return to our confessional roots, the ACELC is following the advice of the newly elected administration to hold off.  The best construction is that the ACELC is keeping their powder dry.  The worst would be they’re just not shooting.  I myself apply the former not the latter construction.  However, I assure you the other side is coming out with guns a blazing.  Their program by that name may have been a flop, but at shooting they are not.

Here is part of the Reverend Ken Hennings’, LCMS Texas District President, article in the “Texas Messenger” of the October 2010 Lutheran Witness:

The “woman of folly” has not gone away. She still cries out for the simple to follow her, but she cannot give life. Her voice can be heard today in the church as more and more regulations are being proposed. There are people who say that only one kind of worship is appropriate for the Lutheran Church. The person worthy of partaking of Communion is the person who agrees with every doctrine and practice of the Lutheran Church; otherwise they should be denied access to Communion. Mission is not as important in the church as making sure people who do not accept where we are on doctrinal issues leave. People believe that it is God-pleasing to point out every mistake of others and pass judgment on them.

You can read the article in its entirety here:

This is a direct attack on the doctrine of closed communion, the doctrine that has been reaffirmed at every Synodical convention sense at least 1956.  We have been assured time and again that everyone in the LCMS practices closed communion.  We have been told repeatedly that the other side just wants to preserve those extraordinary, emergency circumstances where someone of another confession ought to be communed.  And note how President Hennings feels free to lampoon our position, as stated in the LCMS constitution, of unity in worship, and how with impunity he derides the LCMS’ long history of being concerned with purity of doctrine.

I don’t think President Hennings will be won over by the winsome witness of the Texas based Lutheran Mission Alliance.  I don’t think he’ll be convinced by the leadership of the ACELC meeting for 4 ½ hours with the First Vice-President of Synod and two District Presidents and producing a statement saying nothing more than we talked; there are issues; we ought to be nice to one another when dealing with them, and we seek resolution.  President Hennings is calling us at best foolish and at worst fools, and we’re concerned with being winsome and patient.  Neville Chamberlain is alive and well and living in the LCMS.

But as I said, the best construction is that our side is keeping their powder dry.  Well, we ought to be advised.  The other side is shooting.  And note well, no one in the LCMS system of polity, no one charged with ecclesiastically supervising President Hennings is saying anything publicly about his attacking of the LCMS’ official position.  They too must be keeping their powder dry.

We who believe, teach, and confess that: unity in worship is a good thing; closed Communion is Biblical; and truth can have no fellowship with error may get blown right out of the good ship LCMS but our powder will be dry….at least until we hit the water.

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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6 Responses to Keeping Your Powder Dry or Just Not Shooting

  1. Jim Craig says:

    Pastor Harris,

    You may be correct, but I hope not. At this point I am perhaps naively optimistic that the passion I know Pr. Bolland has for true doctrine will not be quashed, and his fervor to see the fight through to the end will be unabated. That remains to be seen. As to your closing comments, I have never believed that confessionals in the LCMSs will be forced out. What would be gained by that. For those who believe diversity in doctrine is not something to be scorned, why not let confessionals hang around. More likely in my opinion, is that confessionals may feel at some point that their position of coexistence with error is untenable and voluntarily leave. That is precisely the reason I have never believed that Trinity’s in statu confessionis position would prompt any disciplinary action from the synodical leadership. Time will tell.

    Jim Craig

  2. Pastor Harris,

    I can assure you we in the leadership of the ACELC are not just attempting to “keep our powder dry” by the decision we made not to hold a “convention” to establish ourselves as a legal corporate entity. Nor are we unwilling to shoot should we find it necessary. That decision did not come at the request of anyone (least of all anyone from the newly elected administration), but was done very simply because we felt there were far too many folks who were concentrating way too much on the fact that we were seeking to become a corporation (and hence, in their minds only, another “synod”) than they were with the stated goal of our Association, that is, the addressing of the errors in our Fraternal Admonition.

    For what it’s worth, we will still be meeting in March, but not to seek legal corporate status. Rather we will be holding a conference, receiving members, and working to further the stated goals we have always had, that is, to address and ultimately resolve the errors our Synod is either tolerating, promoting or advocating so that we can return to our faithful roots grounded in Confessional Lutheranism.

    We have met once with Vice-President Mueller, District President Mirly and District President Sommerfeld. We issued a very brief joint “press release” from that meeting which says basically that the six of us are thus far in agreement that the Synod has some issues that need to be addressed under the Scriptures and the Confessions, and we in the ACELC are very hopeful that we will be meeting again soon to continue the dialogue. We have decided that it is most prudent that we not come out with guns blazing, but our powder is dry and our Kevlar underwear is nearby in case we need it.

    Yours in Christ,
    Rev. Drew Newman
    Member, ACELC Steering Committee

  3. Rev. Sherman Stenson says:

    Very astute observations, Brother Paul. I’m less concerned about the fact that such attacks are underway upon our confessional Lutheranism (I would expect nothing less, really) than that there seems to be no acknowledgment whatsoever by its opponents that at least a reasonable and identifiable degree of uniformity in worship practice, and a firm public commitment to the doctrine of closed communion, would be positive steps toward genuine unity in the LCMS (indeed, in Christianity). I’m also not sure how the “more and more regulations being proposed” being lamented in the article is any different in principle from the sweeping change proposals brought forward this year by the BRTFSSG; perhaps only regulations which tighten up doctrine and practice (rather than regulations which open up Pandora’s box to theological anarchy) are objectionable? At least I can be thankful that one time when I hit the water, my (baby) powder was dry… and the name of the triune God was applied to me forever. Pax Christi.

  4. Brothers,

    The representatives of the ACELC (myself, Rev. Dan Bremer, and Rev. Drew Newman), will be meeting for a second time with the same reps from the COP on November 12th at Holy Cross, Kansas City. Following that meeting the COP will meet and will receive the report of the three COP reps respecting the meetings held with the ACELC reps. One presumes that the COP will then need to come to some conclusion respecting whether or not they will respond to the ACELC effort publicly. To be sure there are those on the COP who do not view the efforts of the ACELC as anything other than “schismatic” or “divisive” (public statements from the Midsouth District, the Pacific Southwest District and now the Texas District fall into this category), and there are those who are supportive of our work.

    While the first discussion between the COP and the ACELC was genuinely brotherly and positive, it remains to be seen what the final report of the reps to the COP will be or what the response of the entire COP (if any) will be. We have done our level best to put the emphasis where it belongs: On our theology…on identifying errors…on resolving those errors.

    What the ACELC is doing is simply forming to support the first objective of The LCMS as stated in its Constitution, Article III, “The Synod, under Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions, shall — 1. Conserve and promote the unity of the true faith…and provide a united defense against schism, sectarianism (Rom. 16:17), and heresy.”

    Those who have a problem with the ACELC also have a problem with the Constitution of the Synod. Rev. Richard A. Bolland, Facilitator, ACELC Steering Committee.

  5. Scott says:

    So Rom 16:17 is being used by both parties labeling the other as “schismatic.” Interesting, so it sounds like the future holds much of the same ole, same ole “Rom 16:17 finger pointing (you know, “you’re the schismatic. No, you are dialog!).” When, ACELC will you ever be “happy?” There has never been a “golden theological age” in the LCMS since its inception, nor in the church general when everyone simply “got along” theologically so when will you ever be satisfied? This I believe is the confessional paradox. How do you suppose you will, “make the missouri synod functional again” when as has been the case historically any dissenting parties are simply written off as modern day Don Quixote’s?

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