Fiel pero desdichado

That’s the Churchill family motto since 1661.  It’s not Latin but Spanish, and nobody knows why. It expresses how I have frequently thought about my relationship to the LCMS.

“The first Duke of Marlborough’s father – Winston Churchill, was a royalist and in the civil war a staunch supporter of the king. As a consequence he lost his home and lands. When Charles II came to the throne he made many of those loyal to him knights with the right to have their own Coats of Arms. What he did not do was to recompense them for their losses. Thus the newly created Sir Winston Churchill chose the Spanish motto Fiel pero desdichado – “Faithful though disinherited” (

Some time ago I wrote the following, “I once was a brother living in the house with other confessional Lutherans with the Ft. Wayne seminary as cousins in a distant land.  Now I’m the crazy uncle that has been relegated to the attic.”  This change has come about over the following neo-confessional positions:

–        Women can do anything men can do in the world and in the church except be pastors.

–        Birth Control (S.B.K.A (Should Be Known As) Child Prevention) is a kingdom of the left issue and Scripture has nothing to say about it including the use of the Pill.

–        Psychology by therapy or by pharmaceuticals is unqualifiedly and unquestionably meet, right, and salutary and to be recommended if not promoted for all troubled people.

–        All members of the LCMS are to be communed by virtue of their membership in the LCMS.

If you gainsay or modify these positions, let alone assert the contrary, you are a fanatic, the crazy uncle in the attic. But then I was graced by a District President in my midst.

The Rev. Richard O. Boche, president of the Wyoming District of the LCMS, was in town visiting family.  He attended Divine Service, and he wasn’t too educated or proud or time constrained to opt out of Bible class either.  I do not wish to imply that he agrees with me concerning the above positions. I will only say that he personally, warmly, unpatronizingly thanked me for practicing closed Communion.  And when announcing, in notable contrast with other LCMS pastors, he was not chagrined, bothered, or condescending.

In 30 years of parish ministry, I have been thanked, and not infrequently, by lay people for practicing closed Communion. I have never, ever been thanked by a Synodical official.  I have been attacked, criticized, scorned, maligned, and ridiculed by circuit counselors and district presidents, but not thanked.  I am not ashamed to say that his thanks brought tears to my eyes.  It meant all the more because it came from a man who personally knows the strains, pains, and difficulties of having to be the one to say “no” in a world that says “yes” to just about everything.

So maybe I’m not so far in the attic as I thought.  Maybe my new motto can be that of Rev. Johann Bengel’s, 18th century Lutheran theologian: nec temere nec timide (Quest for Holiness, 252).  That is Latin, and it means “Neither Rashly Nor Timidly.” The motto has been and is still used by a whole host of people and organizations as disparate as the military and the university. Rev. Bosche is neither rash nor timid, and I was graced not really by his “presence” but by his words.

What’s that? The attic door just creaked open, and a shaft of light has fallen across me.


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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