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Wednesday, May 05, 2010 

Prayer And Spiritual Formation Workshop Part 4

Let me first state that the account of the discussions during lunch were not part of the Prayer and Spiritual Formation Workshop nor were they heard by all who attended said workshop. There were two professional church workers, two laypersons, and the presenter at my table but not everybody participated in the conversation. It is because these discussions were not heard by all in attendance that I felt that what was debated deserved to be set aside and handled in a separate post; this post.

The first thing that popped into my head when the presenter sat down at my table for lunch was the line from Casablanca when Rick played by Humphrey Bogart says “Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine” after an old love shows up in his bar one night. There were seven or eight other tables in the room that morning and the presenter picked mine to sit down and enjoy his lunch. What crazy random happenstance.

For what it’s worth I had absolutely no intention of asking the presenter any questions other than what I, or any other person for that matter, could ask during the workshop proper. When the pastor who was sitting at my table asked what I thought about the workshop before we started that morning I answered by stating that it seemed that what was being presented seemed to go against Scripture, the clear historical records, and our own Lutheran confessions but I also made it clear that as I was not a member of the congregation who was hosting the workshop and that since I was a guest, I would keep the majority of my concerns to myself, as I did not want be disruptive. The pastor I was chatting with made it perfectly clear that as the presenter was asking if anyone had any questions or comments that I should feel welcome to voice my concerns even if I was not a member of our daughter congregation.

Did I mention that the presenter sat with me during lunch?

The presenter and the other pastor at the table started up a brief conversation on why it was so important to teach a class like the one being presented. The gist of the presenter’s case was that church most folks “talk a lot about Jesus and the Father but we never seem to talk about Spirit and I think we need more talk of the Spirit in our churches.

I could not tell from the presenter’s remark however if he was referring to historic Christianity, the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, or what I call Americanized Christianity. I believe that in the context of the entire presentation the case could be made that the presenter may have been talking about all three groups but that is my supposition only. One thing is certain; the workshop was clearly focused on the Spirit in both the material provided as well as presenter’s discussions and instruction on how we are able experience things and how “access” the Spirit whether it is through imaginations, feelings, dreams, or the new prayer forms that were covered in the preceding posts. The Spirit was definitely front and center in the Prayer and Spiritual Formation Workshop.

After finishing up his short conversation on the importance of giving the Spirit right and proper praise the presenter turned his attention to me and asked, “Frank, what do you think of the class so far?

I respectfully said that he seemed to be teaching things that were neither taught by Scripture, Jesus, or the apostles. The presenter tried to make a case that we no longer look or act like first the Christians in our spirituality but never referred to the New Testament texts to validate his assertion. I also asked, “You said last night that the apostles had to develop and use these new prayer forms so that the Holy Spirit would come because they tried the Lord’s Prayer, which you skipped over when it came time to talk about how we pray, and that the Lord’s Prayer didn’t work; where is that in Scripture and how can you make such a claim? Where is that in the account of Pentecost?” After claiming that “it’s in there, Frank” while not actually being able to state where such a statement could be established through a clear and plain reading of the book of Acts chapter 2, the presenter declared, “Well, it worked didn’t it?

To be honest, hearing the presenter’s claim for what was the second or third time that Holy Spirit had come on the day of Pentecost not because of our Lord’s promise to send the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, but rather because of new prayer forms developed and used by the apostles but not listed anywhere in Scripture had me a bit flummoxed. Where does one go with someone whose epistemology is allowed to be influenced by his or her imagination, feelings, or individuals such as Julian of Norwich, Ignatius Loyola, Teresa of Avila, or a host of eastern mystics and monastics and not solely by Scripture?

Realizing that the I was getting nowhere appealing to the first two chapters of the Lukan account of how the Holy Spirit was sent to Christ’s church as Christ Himself promised, I thought I might make an appeal to the Lutheran Confessions and at least get us on the same sheet of music and then maybe we could work our backwards from there. I asked the presenter what he thought concerning our confessions when they condemned those who claimed they could experience and know the Spirit (or the Son or the Father!) through means other than God’s Holy Word. His response was that he simply didn’t think that any of our confessions spoke on the matter under discussion. When I got a bit too frustrated and insisted ACV and ACVII at bare minimum addressed the issue, the presenter simply said, “Frank, I’m just not all that familiar with the confessions.

This ended our discussion on the purpose for teaching the Prayer and Spiritual Formation Workshop as I just had no more to say as Scripture and the historic Lutheran Confessions were no longer going to be the standard by which the workshop could be judged.

The only other thing of note was that shortly before the class resumed the presenter was talking with a young lady who hopes to someday be a professional church worker. The young women told the presenter that it is her hope to serve the church catholic as a deaconess. The presenter, always willing to talk about gifts of the Spirit, told the nice young lady sitting next to me that he wished that the LCMS would ordain women as he knows so many who “have the gift” and that one of the women on the SED staff, a deaconess, would make a fine pastor and wished it could be so. When I asked the presenter if the epistles of Saint Paul (whom he had said the night before over systemized the Christian faith and might have placed too much stock in doctrine to the exclusion of spirituality) would have anything to say on the office of pastor being extended to women working in the church the presenter looked at me and said, “Frank, I’m just not going to argue with you on this.” My reply was “That’s good, because I have Scripture on my side of the debate.”

If one can come to some kind of understanding that it was the apostles developing new prayer forms that caused the Holy Spirit to arrive at Pentecost, should we then really be all that surprised when that same SED representative states that Saint Paul’s qualifications for who may be called to be a pastor, even if Saint Paul is an apostle called by Christ Himself and writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, are to be considered archaic with relative ease?

Sadly, none of us should be stunned with the discussions at our lunch table. It should have just been appalling to see a representative of the SED argue with a layman who says that Scripture alone is our formal principle and that Holy Spirit never, ever point to Himself but instead He points Christ and His cross claiming that the LCMS is too concerned with systematics and sound doctrine; but more and more this is becoming normative in our beloved synod.

Now, let me remind everyone again; all of this was not some private conversation over a beer with a couple of people playing devil’s advocate but rather a continuation of the earlier class conducted by a representative of the Southeastern District of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. The dialogue between the presenter and myself, and everything that was said at the table, was public and witnessed by multiple persons so it can’t be said that such discussions were not meant for public discourse.

Finally, I want it to be know that I have taken extraordinary measures to make sure that my testimony in this and the preceding posts is unimpeachable, accurate, and truthful even as I know there are some who doubt what I have reported as being imprecise at best or outright lies and slander at worst. If anyone feels that I have made a mistake in my account or that I have bore false witness; I welcome the chance to be corrected if I did in fact err.

Prayer And Spiritual Formation Workshop Part 1
Prayer And Spiritual Formation Workshop Part 2
Prayer And Spiritual Formation Workshop Part 3
Prayer And Spiritual Formation Workshop Part 5
Prayer And Spiritual Formation Workshop Part 6
Prayer And Spiritual Formation Workshop Part 7

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Frank, thank you for your report.

Lord have mercy! Frank, I think the veins on my forehead would have exploded if I sat through that conference and lunch with the presenter.

Thank you for bringing this to our attention.

An ordained LCMS PASTOR, a called and ordained LCMS Pastor is not familiar with the confessions? What, then, did he learn in seminary? I am going to go now and read my toddler the catechism... Lord have mercy.

Yikes.

"...the presenter simply said, “Frank, I’m just not all that familiar with the confessions.”

Give me a break. This is clearly an example of false reporting and demonstrates why this whole blog is a bunch of Horse @#@%^. No LCMS pastor would ever say that statement. Clergy in the LCMS are required to study the Lutheran Confessions in Seminary. An LCMS pastor would never be able to graduate without knowing the Confessions. These blog posts are all made up to slander the Ablaze movement.

Anonymous, three things…. First, I have never said that pastors are not required to study the Lutheran Confessions in Seminary. Never. In fact, I’ve said more than once what a great job the seminaries have done and it is not possible to leave either of our seminaries, even back in ’69, without having a better understanding than I do. So, if an ordained pastor makes such a statement while defending his position that we be “spiritual” apart from the means that God has giving he either has forgotten what the confessions state or he has rejected them. I have trouble believing any person smart enough to complete seminary education would be guilty of the former…

Second, this workshop had nothing to with Ablaze! or President Gerald Kieschnick’s Blue Ribbon Task Force on Synod Structure and Governance even if the presenter did bring them up. I certainly made no reference to Ablaze or any other goofy program that has us going out and counting critical events!

Third, isn’t it nice that I allow you to comment while hiding behind anonymity even as I post using my real name? I agree that what I posted would be slander if it were not factual. The problem though is that the material used to teach the class is up on the district website for all to see and there were WITNESSES. Do you really think I would open myself up for litigation if I could not demonstrate my truthfulness with corroborating evidence and witnesses? Think about that for a second. Seriously, think about that before you post your “Horse @#@%^” comment while hiding behind anonymity like a coward.

"No LCMS pastor would ever say that statement. Clergy in the LCMS are required to study the Lutheran Confessions in Seminary."

Yes, they are, and for many, that's the last time they do study them.

“No LCMS pastor would ever say that statement.”

While it is possible that the pastor was just being sarcastic with Mr. Gillespie, it is likely that he was simply wasn’t willing to debate the issue based on Scripture or the Lutheran Confessions alone as the sole authority of what the church has believed, taught, and confessed. There are an increasing number of pastors in the LCMS who look at our confessions as relics to be discarded for the sake of church growth. And it’s not just pastors shepherding congregations who think this way. Northwest district president Dr. Warren Schumacher once publicly called those who held that our Confessions properly express the Christian faith as “museum keepers.”

pg

Besides having to know what the Lutheran Confessions state before being certified by a Seminary, the standard installation service for pastors runs as follows:

"Do you believe that the Unaltered Augsburg Confession is a true exposition of the Word of God and a correct exhibition of the doctrine...the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, the Small and Large Catechisms.. the Smalcald Articles..."

All the articles and books in the Lutheran Confessions are mentioned in a typical installation rite. So, in light of this it is hard to believe that you heard correctly:

"...I’m just not all that familiar with the confessions.”

Ya sure. That would like a Dallas Theological Seminary graduate saying, "I'm just not all that familiar with the Bible."

Sounds like someone's got a serious case of denial on their hands. An eyewitness report, and other witnesses to corroborate, just aren't going to be enough for some people.

And I can easily believe that guys go through seminary, and years later are not familiar with the Confessions or are able to articulate what they teach. As Elephant's Child notes, many of them reject their seminary teaching to devote themselves to the study of other materials for the rest of their years as a pastor. Few (not all) pastors who graduate from any seminary will admit that they are not familiar with the Bible, though many are. But many have no problems admitting that they're not familiar with the confessions of their church body (i.e. the 1689London Baptist Confession of Faith).

But, trying to reason with someone who accuses of slander, just because they refuse to believe what a bad state the synod is in, is probably just a waste of time.

The proper response to an article like this is not to reject it out of hand as impossible but to find people who went to this particular seminar and secure any documentation with respect to this seminar. This needs to be investigated, either to corroborate what Frank has said or to bring evidence to the contrary.

Dan, I could not agree more. An investigation would make plain whether I am telling the truth or I am a liar who has bore false witness and through lies has tried to murder the good name of those connected with the workshop, the SED and whoever else felt offended by my posts.

One thing is certain, I’ve not hid behind the cowardice of anonymity so choosing the starting point of such an investigation should be a rather uncomplicated task for even the most bureaucratly minded of those in our beloved synod.

Rejecting it out of hand as an impossibility is easier, though.

To anyone out there who believes that this conversation just couldn't have taken place because it's so outrageous: would you stand by your outrage if it were proven to be true? Or would you just try to find a different angle to blame Frank?

This quote is very appropriate for the naysayers!
Don't Kill the Messenger
... The all too human tendency to blame the bearer of bad news.

Nobody's killing the messenger.

If anything, the messenger is killing Frank, since it's the messenger who has been saying that Frank can't POSSIBLY have this account correct since NO LCMS pastor would EVER say that they're not familiar with the Confessions.

I have corroborated the information through another attendee -- the presenter wasn't being sarcastic, just heterodox.

Frank

Couple of questions. How is this blog helpful in reaching the lost and growing the kingdom? Have you prayed for wisdom and guidance prior to posting this stuff? Have you approached this Pastor and Brother in Christ with all of your concerns directly as we are taught in the scriptures, prior to publishing on the Internet? Did you give him a chance to respond?

“How is this blog helpful in reaching the lost and growing the kingdom?” Reaching the lost and growing the kingdom is accomplished only by the Word preached rightly by men called to do so. If someone is teaching falsely they are not doing what they have been called to do and need to called out and asked to repent. Frank wrote in his post that he did this and the person conducting the class seems to be indifferent with Frank’s concerns. If this is truly the case and if what is reported is correct, this blog is helpful in making known what seem to be very serious problems in his church. j.

"How is this Reformation helpful for reaching the lost and growing the kingdom?" ask Pope Leo X and Charles V. "With the Turk closing in and Christians living so immorally, why bring all this nit-picky doctrinal division into our midst?" (This is always a handy way of saying, "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain." Just blame someone else for bringing problems to everyone's attention.)

You almost get the impression that the Gospel-- unhindered by bad teaching and a low view of the sacraments & Holy Scripture-- has *always* been important to Lutherans.

Anonymous, Let me answer the questions out of order: Yes, I did aproach the presenter with my concerns; mainly that what was being taught as prayer forms developed and used by the apostles was not found anywhere in Scripture when it was claimed otherwise. The response was “it worked, didn’t it?” When I asked the presenter how he could teach that through these prayer forms the Spirit make Himself known and would come to us in a revelatory manner which is contrary to what our confessions (see ACV) state, the presenter dismissed what I was arguing by saying “I’m just not that familiar the confessions” I don’t accept that at all. The fact of the matter is that the presenter’s epistimolgy or how we can know what is true is not guided by Scripture alone as confessed by the Lutheran confessions. He did say many times that Scripture should be the basis of what we do but he was teaching is grounded not in the apostolic era but rather in Roman Catholic monastic practices and desert father mysticism.

Did I pray for wisdom and guidence? Uh yeah, for over a month before I started writing my posts.

My blog has a couple of purposes and one of them is discerment. We are called upon to test all things and compare what is said or taught in the name of God with the actual Word of God. That has been the focus of the last few posts. Is it loving our neighbors and the lost if we allowed them to follow false teachings? Is the Christ’s kingdom grown by those who teach new doctrines and practices? I’ve been down that ugly road where spirituality becomes an experiential event driven by focusing in on our feelings, imagination, and practices where look to our own sinful hearts instead of Christ and His cross for “spirituality”. The lost are not reached by false teaching, period.

oh, J, the workshop was NOT held in at my church.

Frank,

I am all for defending the faith and the inerrancy of scripture. However, this method of doing so with a fellow Christian goes directly against God's word. In Matthew 18 it says "If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church..."

So I ask, did you sit down 1 on 1 and spend time with this pastor discussing ALL of your issues? Did you allow him to read this prior to publishing it to ensure you captured his positions accurately? Did you confront him with 1 or 2 others prior to publishing this? Did you take this to the church prior to publishing it to the world?

Based on your responses, it doesn't appear you did. I would encourage you Brother to examine your heart and motives here and repent and ask forgiveness for how you have handled this situation (in direct disobedience to God's word).

This is getting pretty silly. I'm enjoying the game of "Let's throw anything we can at Frank and see if anything sticks!" First, insinuate he lied. Then, read other motives into his reporting. Continue to deny his assertions when he points out that there were other witnesses. Suggest he didn't really pray about what he wrote, and he isn't concerned about the lost. Then, if that doesn't work, change your track (as predicted) and instead of denying the truthfulness of the report, criticize him for not following protocol that is not applicable to the situation. Ignore what he said earlier about how he DID raise his concerns with the pastor. Treat it as a capital offense to simply report information about a conference on your blog without informing the presenter that you're planning on doing so.

There is one thing you must never, never do: admit that there seems to have been problems at this conference, and that someone needed to bring it to light for the rest of us.

Anonymous, did you email Frank privately and discuss your concerns with him before you aired your concerns here in public?

No, I did not email Frank directly. Given he published this to the world, he needs to be held accountable publicly. It amazes me that no one else here can see the problem with this and how it is in direct disobedience to God's word. I thought Frank and this site were about defending God's word.

Kelly, this is not about attacking Frank. It is about correcting a Brother. And when you read about Frank's brief conversations with the Pastor, are you seriously saying that he followed what Christ prescribes in Matthew? I encourage you to read Matthew 18:15-17. Also, consider why Christ commands this, and I hope you come to understand the seriousness of Frank's actions.

Again, I pray that Frank repents and asks forgiveness in private with God, and then publicly via this blog.

"Given he published this to the world, he needs to be held accountable publicly." THAT is exactly the point, Anon. This workshop was not a private sin against Frank. It was public teaching, and it needs to be addressed publicly. And while you're kindly encouraging me to read Matthew 18:15-17, may I suggest you read Galatians 2:11-14?

Again... glad Luther didn't have such advisors before posting the Theses to call out problem teaching where he saw it. All he would have gotten was a quick cover-up from the powers-that-be.

I'm actually surprised at the opposition, since Frank wrote all of his original posts in quite a remarkably dispassionate way. It was the comment stream, with a number of us expressing our opinions, that actually reflected the strong dislike. If anything, you should be calling for censorship of comments or something, right?

“No, I did not email Frank directly. Given he published this to the world, he needs to be held accountable publicly.” Anonymous, you DON’T see the hypocrisy in that statement? You hold me to a higher standard than do yourself? Again, because you don’t seem to be listening, I DID bring up the issues I had with the workshop with the presenter. He maintained that such prayer forms were valid because the Holy Spirit came when the apostles used them in spite of no evidence from Scripture to validate that claim. And the fact that the presenter was dismissive of me bringing up our confessions shows his epistemology is something that will never be nailed down. If our conversation was brief, as you claim, it was because I wanted the debate to be grounded in Scripture and framed by our Lutheran confessions. Is that too much to ask at class on spirituality and prayer forms? 



And as Kelly reminded you, this was a public workshop advertised to numerous churches. Don’t you also see the hypocrisy in publicly rebuking me while giving the presenter and this SED sanctioned workshop a pass? The fact of the matter is that I more closely followed Matt 18 than you did. 



Another difference between you and me is that I don’t hide behind the cowardice of anonymity. 



Finally, why don’t you tell all of us what you think about the workshop? Do you think such things are good, right, and salutary and if taught reach the lost?

It's become very clear to me why Christ in Matthew and Paul in Corinthians commands us to settle disputes among believers between ourselves and within the church. Do you see the difference between posting on a blog for the world to see vs. handling an issue within the church? What if every Christian who disagreed with their pastor's sermon or something said at lunch posted it on the internet? Do you honestly believe that is Christ's will? I bet many non-Christians would view this as wrong and they don't have the benefit of the Holy Spirit and God's word to guide them. I wonder when non-Christians come to this site, what they think of us Christians and how we handle our disputes? At any rate, I just ask that you go to the Lord with this and seek further direction. I won't be posting any more, because you may be right, perhaps I am a hypocrite for calling you out on this in public.

I wonder what the heathen thought when, instead of settling internal disputes relating to public teaching secretly, without anyone else having a chance to know what happened, the Reformation went and occurred. The printing press was in full swing, and everyone had access to information they wouldn't have otherwise known about. What a terrible witness to the world, Christians arguing about doctrinal stuff that the pagans couldn't care less about! I mean, I'm sure that if Luther had just had a little chat with the Cajetan ahead of time, everything could have been smoothed over so nicely. Instead, Luther had to go and screw up all those witnessing opportunities to the lost!

...Are you still not getting the distinction between someone sinning against you privately (Matt. 18) versus questionable teaching happening at a very widespread public teaching event? People who put themselves out in public forums should not be afraid to have their output addressed publicly. I've self-published a book and made it widely available online. If some Christian blogs about the content and the replying posts are mostly negative, so what? There's such a thing as freedom of speech. If I held a conference tour, I would not be able to take issue with someone simply posting on their blog the content of the presentation, and letting those commenting form their own opinions accordingly. And yet Frank went further and actually did talk to this guy to express concerns. His concerns were dismissed. Problems like this only get solved when enough people are made aware of it, and are troubled by it, for any action or change to take place.

I suppose no apology is forthcoming to Frank for the libel accusation...

The reason anonymous didn’t email me (heh, this is just priceless) is that anonymous’ name would be one that I would recognize, immediately. I sorta figured as much. I also guessed that because anonymous never accused me of not being truthful like so many had done before that there was some, what’s the word… ah, I know, familiarity with what was presented and I was dead on right. Anonymous, you have to know that even if you post anonymously that you leave behind an IP address that can be tracked… dontchya? And as soon as I knew where you where at…

Anonymous just has to be a friend of the court, so to speak, don't you think? He couldn't illustrate the absurdity of the opponents of the faith any better if he tried. So, best construction would be that he is--trying to illustrate such absurdity, that is.

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