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Sunday, May 27, 2012

Pieper on Church Fellowship & Discipline

The doctrine and topic of Church Fellowship looms large in the area of Church History.  And the founders and teachers of the old (German) Missouri Synod were vehemently accused of isolationism and of not exhibiting an ecumenical spirit because they would not join with certain church bodies.  But these charges by various factions (there were many) are false, for it was Walther and Pieper who had the true spirit of ecumenism because they constantly looked for agreement based on God's Word, the doctrines of the Bible.  And they were disappointed when that agreement did not happen.  My original web page on Franz Pieper over 10 years ago exposed some of those false charges.
In 1890 (Lehre und Wehre, volume 36, pgs 261-263), Franz Pieper (F.P.) reported news on relations between the Missouri Synod and the General Council, a forerunner of the ELCA today.  In the report, Pieper made the following point:
We confess again that we Missourians judge a fellowship not by the doctrine which their official confession should be, but the doctrine which resounds in fact and without objection within a fellowship.  We think otherwise one would have to finally recognize each sect as orthodox (page 262) if they "officially" profess the confession of the orthodox church on the basis of expediency.  If the reporter does not want to hold the [General] Council responsible for the errors of it's individual members, although it allows it's leading men to teach “in an irresponsible manner and say what they want without rapping them on the fingers", then there is the sin about which the Scripture warns with these words: “...neither be partaker of other men's sins" (1 Timothy 5:22), not at all.  The "Missourian" standpoint is this: So unreasonable and unfair it would be if a fellowship which practices doctrinal discipline and eliminates emerging false doctrines of individual members towards God's Word, these errors wanted to put to account, so fair and right and demanded by God's Word it is, if a fellowship lets individual members, and now even their leading men, "say what they want".  We Missourians hold only a church fellowship as orthodox when the true doctrine is heard from all pulpits and lecterns and in all it's public writings, but every false doctrine rejecting the ways of God is put down as soon as it appears.  By that standard we judge others, and we also want others to judge us according to this scale.  We Missourians want to to be judged according to the public doctrine from each of our pastors, whether in San Francisco or New York, St. Paul or New Orleans, or in our magazines, whether they official or unofficial.  If one proved to us that just one pastor preached false doctrine or just one magazine stands in the service of false doctrine, and we did not put down this false doctrine, we would have stopped being an orthodox synod and we would have become a unionistic fellowship.  In short, the characteristic of an orthodox fellowship is that it is the same through out, that only true doctrine has applicability not only officially, but actually is in vogue. This is the basis of our whole church practice.
It was with this clear view of Scriptural fellowship that Franz Pieper, before he died, warned his "dear Missouri Synod" of the mixed teaching of the "opponents", the old Ohio and Iowa synods, forerunners of the ALC and today's ELCA:
I fear that some of our adversaries and former opponents themselves confess these Theses (Brief Statement 1932) and yet with the heterodox they promote a mixed belief.
There is a tradition at one of Indiana's universities that at home football games a short patriotic reading is made ending with the stirring words of the following phrase:
I Am An American!
I will amend this stirring phrase to have a spiritual basis:
I Am A "Missourian"!
... that is the Missouri Synod from above, not today's (English) LC-MS but the old (German) Missouri Synod.  I am in inward fellowship with all true Christians and rejoice when I read or hear of a confession of Christian faith.  I grieve whenever I read or hear of Christians suffering for their faith such as in Jewish "Israel" or in Egypt or other the Muslim lands of the Mid-East or Africa, or in the Far East such as China where Christianity is virtually outlawed.  And sadly, I cannot partake of the errors of virtually all of the external church bodies of today, including all who would call themselves "Lutheran".
There was a footnote in Pieper's report... it had to do with "Dance".  See my next post.

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