Pastor Rolf Preus’ Appeal of his
On February 1, 2006, President
Moldstad suspended me from the clergy roster of the ELS.
In a letter sent to the synod on January 26, he gave as the
reason for my suspension my refusal to retract my December 6 paper:
“Clarifying the Issues in the ELS Ministry Debate: A Response to
President John Moldstad and Professor Erling Teigen.”
He claims that this paper is tantamount to charging the synod
with false doctrine. He claims that I am guilty of “sowing seeds of discord
among brethren” (Proverbs 6:19).
I am appealing my suspension from the ELS in accordance with
synodical bylaws (Article V: Guidelines for Appeals to the Synod).
In this appeal I will argue that
the president has falsely accused me.
He has applied to me a double standard.
Instead of supervising my doctrine in a pastoral way he has used
the adopted document as a weapon against me.
I will show from his own words that he concedes that I have not
charged the synod with false doctrine.
I will show that it is the president, not I, who has sown seeds
of discord among brethren. He
has disobeyed the synodical bylaws, acted contrary to the Scriptures and
the Lutheran Confessions, violated my divine call, and led brothers into
sin. In making this appeal,
I am asking the synod not only to restore me as a pastor of the ELS in
good standing, but also to repudiate the president’s conduct and to
call on him to repent of his sin.
I Wrote “Clarifying the Issues in the ELS Ministry Debate.”
President’s Double Standard
The president has repeatedly
appealed to his responsibility to supervise the doctrine of the synod as
justification for suspending me from the ministerium of the ELS because
of what I have written in my paper, “Clarifying the Issues in the ELS
Ministry Debate.” If the
president is duty bound to suspend me from the synod for criticizing a
document after it has been
adopted, surely he had the duty as well to respond to my criticism of
the document before it was
adopted. The papers “Does
the Bible Teach a Limited Public Use of the Keys” and “Clarifying
the Issues in the ELS Ministry Debate” raise the same criticism.
The president’s double
standard is also seen in his failure to discipline over 20 pastors of
our synod who have taken the same public stance as I.
At the October, 2005 General Pastoral Conference of the ELS, “A
Statement of Opposition to the PCM Document: ‘The Public Ministry of
the Word” Adopted at the 2005 ELS Convention” was presented to the
conference signed by 21 pastors of the ELS.
This Statement contains the same criticism of the PCM document
contained in my papers. None
of the other signatories of the Statement of Opposition have been
President Moldstad responded to
my “yes” answer by saying that he had no choice but to suspend me
from the synod. Professor
Teigen then intervened and suggested that the last three minutes be
stricken from everyone’s memory.
I left the convention assuming that the matter had been closed.
The President then informed the synod on June 25 that this was
“a serious issue that will need careful attention.”
Attention to a Serious Issue
This is very misleading.
It would suggest that I was unwilling to talk to the president.
The very opposite is true. I
wrote him a letter on July 25 in which I confronted him with several
matters of deep concern that I wanted to discuss with him.
He had written me to press me on my “yes” response to the
question with which he badgered me on the convention floor.
I responded by asking him to answer questions I had raised in my
letter of May 17, which letter he had ignored.
Here is a portion of my letter of July 25:
when I raised biblical arguments against the PCM document it was your
duty as my brother and as the president of the ELS to respond to my
arguments. If my objections were wrong you should have shown this to me.
If they were right you should have revised the PCM document.
You did neither.
unity comes from God’s Word. When
we rely on anything other than the Word of God division necessarily
ensues because we are then relying on the flesh instead of the Spirit.
True consensus cannot be forced.
Our confessional subscription is completely voluntary. Only then can it be heartfelt and sincere.
How can you, as the president of a confessional Lutheran synod,
be willing to impose a doctrinal statement on brothers who repeatedly
brought to your attention their sincere and scripturally based
objections to it? How can
you tell me that I may not speak or write publicly against this
document? How can you
suspend me and threaten to suspend me again on the basis of my
disagreement with this document when you will not respond to my
biblically based objections to it?
My letter concluded with this
you and I can get together to visit sometime in October. . . Perhaps
we’ll be able to find a way graciously to extricate ourselves from
what is presently a rather difficult situation.
We ought to be able to come to a mutually satisfactory resolution
of this matter. . . I
sincerely believe that if we were to come together under the Word of God
we could overcome what divides us.
I’m sure you agree that the Word of God is clear,
authoritative, powerful, and fully sufficient to teach us all we need to
believe and confess.
After the president and I agreed
to meet to talk about the convention exchange he changed his mind about
meeting with me and suggested that we issue a joint communication
instead. I declined to do
so and suggested that we meet. I
emailed the president on November 3 and said, “I think it would be
good for you and me to meet as originally planned.”
After visiting with the synodical vice president he decided that
it would not be necessary to meet with me nor would it be necessary for
him and me to issue a joint statement.
I expressed a willingness to meet.
The president did not want to meet.
His implication that I have been less than forthcoming in my
willingness to talk candidly to him is false.
It is the president who attempted to avoid a conversation with me
about the concerns I raised in my paper of April 24, my letter of May
17, and my letter of July 25.
We did not have a face to face
meeting to discuss the adopted document and my criticism of it until
after the president informed the synod on December 14 that I would be
required to “withdraw [my] public charges against the statement as set
forth in [my] “Clarifying the Issues in the ELS Ministry Debate.”
This meeting took place on January 19 in Cold Spring.
The president insisted that he unilaterally set the agenda for
the meeting. I insisted
that we meet together as brothers mutually agreeing on the agenda.
Have Not Charged the Synod with False Doctrine
asked the question: “Am I charging the synod with false doctrine?”
and responded by saying: “No. I
am not charging the synod with false doctrine.” To this JM asked:
“That can be reported to the synod?” RP answered: “Yes.
I have never made the charge of false doctrine against the synod.”
The following conversation then ensued:
said: I am asking that you not demand anything from me. I am asking that
we leave this meeting, and not ask anything of each other. I’m
offering that we, as brothers, drop everything, and walk out of this
meeting as brothers—not
charging anyone with false doctrine; but acknowledge that Pastor
Preus’ statement is a personal objection and is
not a charge of false doctrine against the synod. He said: I
am not attacking the synod or my brothers, I am attacking a
document. The document should be rescinded because it is a bad document.
This document has caused division.
JM responded by saying
that he is happy to hear that there is not charge of false doctrine;
but he would like the assurance of that through the consideration of
withdrawing the Clarification from the public arena. (pg 3)
Again, RP said that he
was not accusing the synod, or any person, of holding to false doctrine;
but that rather the document itself is flawed. JM clarified saying he understands that there is no accusation of the
synod of false doctrine; but that the synod did adopt the statement.
The meeting concluded with JM again
asking for a retraction of the Clarification to which RP
responded: “I am not charging
the synod with false doctrine.” JM again asked, for the good of
the synod, to consider the retraction of the paper. RP replied by asking
JM to just drop the matter. Again, JM said, I am asking you to consider
retracting your paper; but I am not asking you to withdraw anything
else. Again, RP stated that
he had not been shown from the Bible that what he has said is contrary
to God’s word. Again, JM said; “I am asking you for the sake of the
brothers and sisters of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod who have decided
on their own that they have studied the matter and have adopted the
document. And it appears that a pastor is questioning the doctrine of
the synod.” RP replied: “You
can give them the assurance that I have not leveled any charge against
anyone.” JM said that he wanted the assurance of the retraction of
the paper to which RP said that he could not in conscience accept the
document, but that he does want to live in peace and does not want his
church hurt. (pg 4)
“An Explanation of the Suspension of Rev. Rolf Preus” that the
president sent to the ministerium of the ELS after suspending me, he
recounted the purpose of our meeting in Cold Spring with these words:
January 19, 2006, a meeting was held with Pastor Rolf Preus to
help me as president of the synod determine if a charge of false
doctrine had been made by him against our Evangelical Lutheran
Synod. (pg 2)
president met with me to determine if I had charged the synod with false
doctrine. At that meeting I
repeatedly assured him I had not charged the synod or anyone in it of
false doctrine. At that
meeting the president said to me, “I take you at your word when
you say there is no charge of false doctrine.”
That should have settled the issue.
On Sowing Seeds of Discord among Brethren
The president called me on December 14 to inform me that he would be telling the entire synod that I would have to retract my “Clarifying the Issues” paper. When I began to reply, he interrupted me and said, “Nothing you say will change my mind.” I urged him not to do so but his mind was made up before he called me on the phone.
meeting in Cold Spring on January 19 I assured the president of my
respect for the synod and my desire to live at peace with my brothers.
I told him that I did not intend for my “Clarifying the
Issues” paper to be a provocation. I
told him that I did not want any conflict with him.
I urged him to delegate the matter to others, so that he and I
could back away from confrontation.
I explained to him why I could not retract my paper.
If my doctrine is not sound I must be shown this by the clear
Scriptures. The president
would not show me where I had written anything untrue or contrary to
God’s word. By refusing even to attempt to show me from God’s word that
I had written falsely while insisting that I retract the entire paper he
was, in effect, requiring me to submit to an authority other than the
clear Scriptures. Since he
had highlighted the third to the last paragraph of my paper as
particularly troublesome, I suggested that my paper could be read
without reference to that particular portion of it.
He insisted that the entire paper must be retracted.
the president called me on the morning of January 26 informing me that I
would be suspended effective February 1, I urged him not to suspend me.
I asked to meet with him privately, one on one.
He refused. He
insisted that the entire paper be retracted.
I told him that what he was doing would do great damage to our
synod. He told me that his
conscience was clear.
January 31 I emailed a letter to the synodical president signed by
fifteen men in the congregation who attended the voters’ meeting held
the day before. In that letter I said:
is giving offense and taking offense.
I don’t believe I gave it.
I cannot deny that some have taken it.
For this I am sincerely sorry.
I have great respect for our synod . . .
back away from this conflict. Each
of us must respect the other’s conscience and integrity.
I acknowledge your responsibility to supervise doctrine in our
synod. I support you in
your efforts to do so. If
there ever comes a time when I feel obliged to charge my synod with
false teaching, I will bring my concern directly to you.
I ask that you acknowledge that I am not leveling any charge of
false teaching against the synod or anyone in it.
I sincerely regret the anger and hard feelings that have resulted
from what I have written. It
personally grieves me that this has occurred.
Please accept these sentiments as sincerely offered and as
sufficient assurance to you of my desire to live at peace with you and
all my brothers in the ELS. In
this way you can be faithful to the responsibilities of your office in
assuring the synod that I am not sowing seeds of discord among the
congregation is suffering from this and my primary duty is to feed the
flock that God has placed under my care.
Your father and my father both served this congregation.
So did Professor Teigen. We
have all preached to them the same saving doctrine.
I don’t want my congregation divided.
I want to work toward strengthening the unity of my congregation
and this will require that I leave the debate on the ministry within our
synod for the time being. Please
permit me to do so. I am
afraid for our synod, John. Debates
about doctrine should be debates about doctrine, but I fear that this
debate will descend into acrimony, division, and cause deep wounds that
will take years to heal.
have outstanding concerns about my paper, perhaps you and I could visit
with each other one on one and talk.
I ask you to withdraw your suspension of me.
John, neither one of us can walk away from the truth, but we can
both walk away from a fight. Let’s
do just that. Let me devote
myself to my pastoral duties here at River Heights Lutheran Church.
The president did not respond to
me. He did inform the
congregational chairman that I would be suspended from the clergy roster
of the ELS on February 1.
voters of River Heights Lutheran Church invited the president to East
Grand Forks to explain his suspension of their pastor.
He visited with the congregation on Thursday, February 9.
At the end of the meeting I pleaded with the president to
reconsider his decision to suspend me.
Here is what I said according to notes taken by Lyn Willoughby, a
member of the congregation in attendance at the meeting:
Preus requested that President Moldstad reconsider the untenable,
impossible position into which RHLC was forced.
They could not remove him, for he had not preached falsely to
them. Yet, if they did not
remove him without cause, then the Synod would suspend them.
He requested that President Moldstad lift his suspension and
allow him to continue preaching, and "punt the decision" to
the Synod Convention. The
Convention could decide the outcome.
He further stated that he did not expect Pres. M. to announce
such a decision publicly at that time, but that he might consider such
until the upcoming voter's meeting [February 13].
In return, Pastor Preus would, in the interim, allow the issue to
rest, and not publish or publicly comment on the issue any further.
president decided not to honor this request.
My suspension was not lifted.
self evident that where one has admitted the charge, no further
investigation or efforts at establishing witnesses and evidence is
necessary. Such is the case
with Pastor Preus.
This is not true.
I have not admitted the charge.
The pertinent bylaws that our synod has adopted are listed under
“Guidelines for Synodical Discipline and Appeals” Article I:
pastor or teacher of the synod is charged with adhering to false
doctrine, unscriptural practice, living an ungodly life or neglecting
his duty and, after the local congregation, in matters that fall within
its jurisdiction, has dealt with the matter of the basis of Scripture
and according to its constitution and has not been able to reach a
God-pleasing resolution of the matter, the following guidelines apply:
A. In cases of discipline involving pastors or teachers who hold
membership in the synod, the circuit visitor has original jurisdiction.
He shall hear the case and render a decision on the basis of
Scripture. B. If after due admonition the visitor’s decision is not
accepted he shall report and review the case in consultation with the
president of the synod. The
president shall arrange for a review with the visitor and the party(ies)
concerned. C. If the president finds a visitor’s decision to be in
keeping with Scripture, he shall urge the acceptance of said decision.
D. If after due admonition the president’s counsel is not accepted, he
shall appoint a review committee of five members (three clergy and two
lay). The chairman of the
committee shall be designated by the president.
The committee shall investigate the charges and decisions and, on
the basis of its findings, make recommendation to the president. E. If
further action is necessary, the president, together with the circuit
visitor and the review committee, shall again attempt to bring about a
resolution of the problem. F. In special and urgent cases where no
resolution is reached, the president shall exercise the power of
suspension from synodical membership.
He shall report his action to the convention. G. The suspended
party has the right to appeal the decision.
This appeal shall be addressed to the convention through its
president. (cf. Article V.) H. In the case of a congregation the same
procedure shall be followed.
The president’s cavalier
dismissal of the bylaws in this case raises a number of concerns.
The bylaws our synod has adopted reflect biblical
teaching. The involvement
of the congregation, the circuit visitor (or alternate visitor if
necessary), and a review committee are stipulated for the purpose of
preventing precisely the kind of abuse of power that has taken place.
The president appointed himself prosecutor, judge, and jury.
He claims that I admitted a charge that I repeatedly and
explicitly denied. Had he
at least attempted to follow the guidelines set out in the synodical
bylaws, the involvement of other men with a more objective and
sympathetic perspective on this matter may have brought a happy
resolution to the issue at hand. The
alternate visitor was not consulted.
No committee was appointed.
The congregation was not involved.
president defends himself for ignoring A – E and beginning the process
with F. The plain sense of the bylaws is that F is applied in those
“special and urgent cases” where steps A – E have already been
followed and yet there is still no resolution of the matter.
He defends excluding the congregation from the process by
arguing, “[T]his case did not arise from the vantage point of
the local congregation but involved a pastor’s public remarks toward
an officially adopted doctrinal statement of our synod.”
In excluding the congregation from the process, he not only
disobeyed the synodical rules that govern the discipline of a pastor,
but more seriously he set aside the biblical basis for those rules. The above cited bylaws explicitly stipulate the biblical
grounds for removing a pastor from office as “adhering to false
doctrine, unscriptural practice, living an ungodly life or neglecting
his duty.” When I was
being dismissed as pastor of River Heights Lutheran Church, an elder in
the congregation confronted the voters with the fact that none of these
biblical reasons applied to my case and so it was contrary to the
Scriptures to rescind my call. The
voters nevertheless rescinded my call without biblical grounds because
John Moldstad told them that if they didn’t do it he would throw the
congregation out of the synod. This is the evil that ensues when men place themselves above
the rules. The bylaws the
president dismissed as irrelevant were written in order to apply the
Holy Scriptures to our disciplinary process.
He argues that since I was the
circuit visitor “it was impossible to employ the assistance of the
circuit visitor in this case.” He
could have employed the assistance of the alternate visitor.
Why didn’t he? He
further argues that it was urgent to suspend me because of my office as
circuit visitor. Then why didn’t he suspend me as circuit visitor?
The fact is that the matter was not urgent.
I had already expressed my willingness to remain silent on the
issue. I made repeated
efforts to find a graceful way for him and me to extricate ourselves
from confrontation so that the issues at hand could be approached in a
calmer climate. His
“Explanation” of my suspension is nothing but a tortured argument
for his right to ignore the rules, deny me due process, and behave
unilaterally in a matter that requires the participation of the
brotherhood. Indeed, many brothers, whose counsel he ignored, urged him
not to suspend me.
this point I should point out several errors in the president’s
“Explanation” of my suspension.
He attributes to me the use of the words
“unconfessional” and “not in keeping with sound doctrine” to
describe the adopted document. These
are his words describing the Circuit 8 Revision.
They are not my words. He
cited an email he received from members of the River Heights board that
said I wrote my “Clarifying the Issues” paper after I told them I
“would be quiet on the issue.”
I did not suggest that I would “be quiet” until after the
publication of that paper. I made this suggestion in an effort to remove myself from the
center of the controversy. The
email also says that the board asked me repeatedly to retract my paper.
The board asked me to do so only once, as I recount below.
Perhaps when they said such things as “back away from
conflict” they meant “retract the paper.”
Outside the Authority of the Scriptures and the Confessions
have written anything against God’s word you must show me what it is.
I have asked you to do so several times and you haven’t done
so. I will stand corrected
if the correction comes from the clear word of God.
If it does not, I cannot in conscience retract.
Were I to do so I would be acknowledging an authority that is
greater than God’s word and that would be a sin.
In the Formula of Concord, Solid
Declaration, Rule and Norm, paragraph three we Lutherans confess that
the Holy Scriptures are the only standard by which all teachers and
teachings in the church are to be judged.
We thereby pledge ourselves to the sacred duty of appealing to
the written word of God when we judge the teaching of the church’s
teachers. The president has
judged that I should be removed from the clergy roster of the ELS on
account of what I wrote in my “Clarifying the Issues” paper.
Yet he has steadfastly refused even to attempt to show me from
the Holy Scriptures where this paper says anything contrary to God’s
word. If it is the
president’s opinion that statements in my paper are tantamount to
charging the synod with false doctrine, then he is required by his
office to require of me that I substantiate my charges.
Had he attempted to do so and had I refused to cooperate he could
have argued that I was sowing seeds of discord within the synod.
But he did not attempt to do so.
In fact, he did everything he could do to avoid engaging me in a
discussion of the theological issues, focusing exclusively on my alleged
charge against the synod, a charge I deny.
If I want to charge my synod with false doctrine I am perfectly
capable of doing so all by myself.
I don’t need any assistance from the president of the synod.
Three times during his meeting
with River Heights Lutheran Church in East Grand Forks on February 9 the
president said that all pastors in the ELS must “unconditionally”
accept synodically adopted doctrinal statements.
This places the PCM document on the same level as the Augsburg
Confession. The Lutheran
Confessions were adopted unanimously by those men who subscribed
unconditionally to them. Two things go together here as a matter of principle:
unanimity and an unconditional subscription.
The adopted statement on the ministry was opposed by 38% of the
convention. This does not
mean that the 38% accuse the 62% of false doctrine (or vice versa).
It means that the kind of consensus for which we all pray was not
achieved. This does not
mean that it cannot be achieved. A
shorter, simpler, clearer statement that says less but says it better
could still be written and accepted with great unanimity.
What is particularly offensive to the Scripture alone principle
that underlies our unconditional confessional subscription is the
president’s insistence that a pastor unconditionally accept a document
that he is not persuaded is entirely in agreement with the written word
of God. For the president
to know that a pastor is not convinced that a doctrinal statement is
entirely biblical and yet to insist that such a pastor unconditionally
accept such a statement is to place the authority of the synod over the
authority of God’s word. The
president’s suspension of me cannot be dissociated from his insistence
upon an unconditional acceptance of synodically adopted doctrinal
bylaws that require those wishing to join the ELS to give “a
declaration of unconditional subscription to the synod’s confessions
and teachings” (Chapter II, Application for Membership, Paragraph 2)
do not place synodically adopted statements (that are subject to change
and that have been altered in the past) on the same level as the
Lutheran Confessions. The
president’s opinion on this matter is a legitimate subject for future
fraternal discussion within the synod.
It is not a legitimate basis for unilaterally suspending a
confessional Lutheran pastor against whom no charge of false doctrine
has been leveled.
Brothers into Sin
January 16 our church board met and discussed my upcoming meeting with
the synodical president scheduled for January 19.
The congregational chairman had polled members of the board prior
to the meeting and began the discussion by saying: “We all agree that
we want you to be our pastor and we also want to remain in the ELS.”
I was somewhat taken back by the comment, thinking that he was
being an alarmist to suggest that they would have to choose between me
and the ELS. I assured him
and the board that I also wanted to be their pastor and I wanted to
remain a member of the ELS. During
and after the meeting the chairman and a couple of other board members
asked me if I could back away from conflict with the synodical
president. I assured them
that I would do my very best. Every
board member expressed his support of me, my doctrine, and their desire
for me to remain the pastor of River Heights. This gave me confidence that I had the support of the board
when I visited with the synodical president later that week.
the January 19 meeting with the synodical president the following
exchange took place as recorded by Secretary Ferkenstad:
RP then asked to be shown a passage in
the Bible that clearly supports a limited use of the keys. JM asked if
the members of his congregation support his teaching as they have not
filed an objection with the synod. RP replied that there is not one
member of his congregation who disagrees with his teaching. JM asked if
the minutes of this meeting could be shared with the congregation. RP
responded “Yes,” saying they don’t want controversy. (pg 3)
the minutes cannot show is the expression on the president’s face and
the tone of his question. It
was quite clear that he knew of opposition within my congregation of
which I was unaware. Both
of my witnesses at the meeting noticed the same thing.
What the minutes do not recount is that, in response to my
questions, the president made it clear that my congregation was on
record in support of the PCM document if they did not officially dissent
returned home from the meeting I called the congregational chairman to
tell him that I was calling a special voters meeting to be held on
January 30 (as soon as the constitution permitted) for the purpose of
asking the congregation to adopt an official dissent from the adopted
synodical statement on the ministry.
On Thursday, January 26, at 10:30am the synodical president
called me on the phone to tell me I would be suspended effective
February 1. The
congregation would be given three options: 1) Uphold my suspension from
the synod by removing me as their pastor; 2) Keep me as their pastor and
be removed from the synod and her fellowship; 3) Put me on a two week
paid leave of absence while they considered the first two options.
was the first I learned of the president’s intent to suspend my
I got off of the phone with the synodical president, a member of the
congregation came by the office accompanied by two board members.
I learned that the board had met without my knowledge on the
previous Tuesday. At that
meeting they had resolved to ask the voters to require that I submit to
the president’s request to retract my paper.
This was the first time the board asked me to retract my paper.
following Monday the voters met. The
synodical president reported this meeting in his “Explanation” in
the following words:
29, 2006— [January 30, RDP] River Heights Lutheran Church held a
special voters’ meeting. Three
motions were passed: 1) To
grant Pastor Preus a two week paid leave of absence (10-9); 2) To ask a
synod representative to explain the suspension of Rev. Preus; 3) To
inform the synod that the congregation does not agree with the PCM
In fact, four motions were
passed. The motion the president neglected to mention was to affirm
that I had been a faithful pastor, teaching and preaching nothing but
the pure doctrine for the eight years I had served at River Heights
Lutheran Church. The vote was unanimous.
the two week leave of absence expired, the voters met again and voted to
honor the president’s suspension of me.
The congregation’s constitution requires an absolute majority
of the voting membership to remove a pastor from office and there was no
such majority present at the meeting.
On February 27 the voters met again.
There were voters present who had not been to church in many
months. The acting chairman
shared with the voters the opinion of the synodical president that to
keep the pastor under suspension and not to accept the PCM document was
a contradiction. The 13-3
vote against the PCM of January 30 was reversed by a vote of 16-12.
Before the vote to rescind my call I addressed the assembly.
I told them how much I have loved preaching the gospel to them
and how sad I was that the last words that I would speak to them as
their pastor would likely be the law.
I quoted to them from St. Luke 10:16, “He who hears you hears
me, he who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects Him who
sent Me.” I urged them
not to vote to rescind my call. I
told them that they must show from God’s word that God wants me
removed as their pastor in order to rescind my call.
They voted two to one to rescind my call. The reason given in the motion was that I was no longer on
the clergy roster of the ELS. When
asked what the biblical basis was for rescinding my call, the acting
chairman replied that my call was being rescinded because I was no
longer a member of the ELS.
January 26 the president of the ELS rendered an ultimatum to my
congregation that required them to respond by February 1.
He threatened my congregation with suspension from the synod and
her fellowship if they did not remove me as their pastor.
He has insisted that he was not required to show that I was
guilty of false teaching, immoral living, or neglect of my duties in
order to remove me from the ELS. But
he knows – as all pastors in the ELS know – that such is most
certainly required in order to remove a man from office as the called
pastor of a congregation. He can argue that he didn’t violate God’s word in
rescinding my call. The
voters of River Heights Lutheran Church did that.
The man that threatened my congregation with expulsion from synod
unless they fired their faithful pastor may thus wash his hands of
responsibility for this sin. Nineteen
members of River Heights Lutheran Church voted to rescind my call.
They did so in defiance of God and in obedience to John Moldstad.
In appealing to the ELS to overturn my suspension from the ELS I
am also asking the ELS to hold John Moldstad accountable for leading my
brothers into this sin against Christ.
shown that the president falsely accused me of charging the synod with
false doctrine. The minutes
of our meeting in Cold Spring on January 19 make it clear that the
president himself took me at my word that I was making no such charge.
He has not exercised pastoral supervision of my doctrine.
He has rather suspended me from the synod while refusing to show
me where I have taught anything contrary to God’s word. He has used the adopted statement on the ministry as a
personal weapon against me. He
has denied me due process and ignored synodical bylaws.
He has taken away from me the oversight of the congregation that
the Holy Spirit gave to me. I
am asking that the synod rule that my suspension is unjust and to
restore me as a member in good standing of the ELS.
I am also asking that the synod reaffirm the biblical grounds for
removing a pastor from office. Finally,
I am asking the synod to provide good pastoral care for my brothers at
River Heights Lutheran Church to lead them to acknowledge the wrong they
have done and be given absolution in the name of Christ that they may be
reconciled to me and to their brothers and sisters in the circuit and in
the synod who have been scandalized by my unbiblical removal.
It is my fervent prayer that the gospel of the full and free
forgiveness of sins for Christ’s sake will bind our entire synod
together in true Christian love.