"Jesus First" Plays the Walther Card
By Rev. Jack Cascione


The May, 2000 issue of "Jesus First" is sent to every pastor in the LCMS by those trying to elect a President more liberal than Dr. A. L. Barry, current president of the LCMS.

"Jesus First" wraps itself in God's name and then claims the Bible and Walther don't speak to the doctrine and practice they want the freedom to change. In this issue, the publication team plays the Walther card but it turns out to be a "joker."

The publication team of "Jesus First" includes Rev. Vern Gunderman, Rev. Richard Lessmann, and Rev. David Luecke.

Gunderman is one of the seven "Church Growth/Leadership Training" pastors who usurped congregational authority and issued a call to Dr. Norbert Oesch to be in charge of the Pastoral Leadership Institute (PLI) as follows:

"January 16, 1998, to Mr. Stuenkel and Members of St. John's, Orange CA: (Letter from Rev. Greg. Smith, Chair Pastoral Leadership Institute in behalf of Dr. William Thompson, Rev. Michael Ernst, Dr. Stephen Wagner, Rev. Stephen Hower, Rev. Vernon Gundermann, Rev. John Kieschnick) 'After much prayer, the Pastoral Leadership Institute has issued a call to your pastor, Dr. Norbert Oesch.'"

This is the first time a group of pastors in the LCMS assumed for themselves the authority of the Voters' Assembly and issued a call to another pastor. In the Church Growth/Leadership Training mind, the pastors are the congregation and the people in the theater seats are the audience.

Lessmann is one of the promoters of "Renewal in Missouri" (RIM) an organization that has been promoting the charismatic movement in the LCMS for nearly two decades. The Synodical office has been "dealing with them" in perpetuity. Lessmann's name is on the masthead.

Luecke, a former Vice President of Fuller Theological Seminary, has been promoting the "Church Growth Movement" in the LCMS for the past ten years with books titled: "Evangelical Style and Lutheran Substance," "The Other Story of Lutheran's At Worship," and "Apostolic Style and Lutheran Substance."

During Dispute Resolution with me, in front of Judge Gene Schnelz, Luecke would not agree to confess one of the three Creeds once a month in a worship service without rewriting it, until Schnelz threatened his certification as an LCMS pastor. Luecke promotes contemporary worship but is unable to define what contemporary is, except that it is not what we used to do.

The May, 2000, issue of "Jesus First" features an article by Dr. August Mennicke, former First Vice President of the LCMS, titled, "Scripture, Lutheran Confessions and the Synodical Statements Are Not Equal."

First, Mennicke shows that the Lutheran Confessions confess the Bible and the Bible is the final authority in the church.

Mennicke then concludes, "A church body may pass resolutions in matters of practice and interpretation for the information and counsel and guidance of the membership. But it does not have authority to establish binding directives in matters not clearly mandated by the Word of God."

To support his view, Mennicke quotes Walther from his first presidential address in 1848 where Walther says Synod has no right to impose decrees and regulations to which Congregations have to submit unconditionally. Rather, the congregations have prefect liberty in God's Word.

Mennicke claims that the Bible doesn't speak to the issues of open Communion, worship forms, congregational structure, voting rights, decision making, limitations dealing with age or gender in various offices or services in the congregation, etc.

We agree that the congregations should only follow the Bible and as expounded in the Lutheran Confessions, but the Bible does, in fact, speak to a greater or lesser degree to every one of the issues Mennicke named above.

We quote from the same speech given by Walther in 1848: "Let us not surrender one iota of the demands of the Word. Let us bring about its complete rule in our congregations and set aside nothing of it, even though for this reason things may happen to us, as God wills. Here let us be inflexible, here let us be adamant."

What they call "Jesus First" is little more than a cover for antinomian opportunism that should really be called "Me First."

For example, where Mennicke says the Bible doesn't speak to congregational structure Walther writes just the opposite:

"The Congregational Meetings"
"Since, according to God's WORD, the congregation is the highest court within its circle (Matt.18:17; Col. 4:17), and the preacher has church authority only in common with the congregation (Matt. 20-25-26; 23:8; 1Peter.5:1-3; 2Cor.8:8), the preacher must be concerned that the congregational assembly, both regular and special ones as needed at times, be held in Christian order to consider and carry out what is necessary for its governing (Matt. 18:17; 1Cor. 5:4; 2Cor.2:6; Acts 6:2; 15:1-4, 30; 21:17-22; 1Tim. 5:20)." (Pastoral Theology by C.F.W. Walther, CN New Haven Mo., 5th Edition 1906 page 257)

We challenge "Jesus First," who deceives their readers into believing they follow Walther, to agree with this quotation from Walther on congregational meetings as the only agreed upon structure for all LCMS congregations.

With all this talk about Christian liberty, freedom of the Gospel, and congregational autonomy, the congregations are heading to someone's chopping block at the 2001 Convention. Whose chopping block will it be?

"Jesus First" and Mennicke write that the Bible doesn't speak to congregational structure.

Marquart writes: "Voter Supremacy" is worldly, political sloganeering. Zeal for any "supremacy" except Christ's is alien to His church. One might as well be shouting: 'All Power to the Soviets!' How's that for Hyper-Euro-Proletarianism?"

Revend David Anderson, Chairman of the Board of Regents at Fort Wayne, writes about my polling the faculty at Fort Wayne on Voter Supremacy, "So his [Cascione's] statement, 'At this time, 6 of the 33 professors at Fort Wayne have agreed with Walther's Voter Supremacy' doesn't mean too much."

The St. Louis Seminary only has three faculty who will agree with Voter Supremacy.

Balance Inc, and "Vision" claim the banner of true Lutheranism but refuse to support and defend Walther's Voter Supremacy for all LCMS congregations.

The Hyper-Euro-Lutherans claim that the Voters' Assembly has no Biblical authority over the pastor and are promoting a return to episcopacy.

The Pastoral Leadership Institute, promoted by the Counsel of District Presidents, that showcases the congregational structure of Board of Directors-led community churches like Willow Creek and Saddleback.

They all agree on this point: Walther was wrong about supreme Voters' Assemblies running their congregations.

About the history of the LCMS Mundinger writes in "Government in Missouri": "The removal of Martin Stephan on May 30, 1839, and all the misery that followed that event gave the laymen the necessary jolt to press for lay participation in the government of the Church. This misery drove them into the writings of Luther, and here the laymen found the weapons which they needed to win the battle for CONGREGATIONAL SUPREMACY from the power-jealous pastors." (p. 205)

Nothing has changed. If the lay people don't pass a resolution reaffirming Voter Supremacy for all LCMS congregations, they will lose control of their doctrine and church property and be enslaved to a hierarchy just like all the other legalistic, mainline denominations in the United States.

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June 8, 2000