2004 LCMS Convention Takes Away Laymen’s Right to Judge Clergy

By: Rev. Jack Cascione

 The LCMS Council of District Presidents (COP) has turned the LCMS into the kind of church that C. F. W. Walther, the Synod’s first President, said lay people should avoid.

The entire COP and the Synodical President claim that they hold the office of Pastor.  However, in the newly revised Dispute Resolution Process, Resolution 801A, the COP exempts itself from the same rules that are to govern parish pastors.

They have also made it impossible for laypeople to judge the doctrine and practice and to file charges against any pastor, District President, or the Synodical President.

The following is part one of C. F. W. Walther’s sermon titled, “The Sheep Judge Their Shepherds.”  In this sermon Walther shows from Scripture that God has given lay people the right and the duty to judge the doctrine and practice of any pastor.


1. That the Sheep Are Judges.

Christ says in His sermon on the mount, where not only disciples, but also a great multitude were present, "Beware of false prophets… Ye shall know them by their fruits." This admonition by the Son of God shows us plainly how entirely false the principle is that the preachers should teach and the hearers only listen, that the shepherds should lead and the sheep only follow, that the clergy should resolve and the congregation only acquiesce.

All that is taught in the church of Christ concerns our soul's salvation. In these matters no one shall be dependent upon some other person. No one shall establish his faith upon another person. Each one shall live in accordance with his own faith, and only by his faith be saved. No other person can die for us, no other person can appear in our stead before God. No other person can stand before his judgment seat in our place. Everyone shall sometime answer to God for his own faith and his own life. Then he will not be able to refer to another and say, "This one or that one taught me thus and I have believed and followed him." No, in matters which concern your soul, you shall not look with the eyes of another person, but with your own eyes. If you permit yourself to be deceived, you have deceived yourself. The responsibility is yours. God says, certainly, that He will demand at the hand of the false teacher, the blood of those he has led astray, but he says also that the deceived one shall die because of his sin. (See Ezekiel 3:17-21; Ezekiel 33:1-9)

In God's Kingdom we are all equal. Holy Baptism takes the purple from the king, and the rags from the beggar, and clothes them both in the robes of Christ's righteousness. In divine matters it does not depend upon learning, or holiness, or cleverness, or prudence. It often happens, rather, that the most learned are the most perverse. Human wisdom is foolishness to God. Human righteousness is to Him sin. If a learned man would enter heaven, he must climb down from the heights of his human wisdom and become a child. For God reveals His mysteries only to the babes who humbly acknowledge their natural blindness and darkness. Therefore in divine matters no one is excluded from the judicial office. All Christ's sheep are judges, both learned and layman, man and wife, bachelor and spinster, young and old, for it concerns each one's soul, his own life, his own salvation.

Therefore we find that even the holy infallible apostle praised the Bereans because they did not receive the apostles without testing them, but compared the revelation of the New Testament with that of the Old, and daily searched the writings of the prophets to see whether these things as preached by the Apostles were so.  Also St. John advises his hearers: "Beloved, believe not every spirit, (1John 4:1) but try the spirits whether they are of God". But above all it is noteworthy that St. Paul writes to the Corinthians whom he had several years before brought to the faith, "I speak as to wise men, judge ye what I say." 1Cor.10:15,  You see then, my dear ones, God does not desire that you shall, without testing, receive either a human book, or a human lecture, or a human resolution, or instruction.  You shall let no man rule over your conscience. "One is our master, even Christ." (Mat. 23:10) Such matters are not to be decided by majorities.  At the famous ecumenical church meeting at Nicea, there were three hundred eighteen orthodox bishops gathered from the whole world.  One only, and he a bachelor by the name of Paphnutius, arose against all, showed from God's Word the propriety of the marriage of the clergy, and because of this one voice, all three hundred seventeen bishops withdrew their vote and the one vote prevailed.

Oh, my dear friends, if you at one time had realized that the office of judge belonged to you, you would not have entered upon so many and such dangerous by-paths. Your preachers went on false paths and you followed without testing, in false confidence in man. How sorrowful the consequences have been. Therefore know and protect your right. "Prove all things and hold fast that which is good." But this leads me to the second part of our consideration, namely this, that if the sheep are to judge the shepherds, then they should also know the true doctrine and be sure of it.

For the entire sermon log on to http://reclaimingwalther.org/walther2/articles/sheep.htm


 Sunday, August 29, 2004

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