Why I Cannot Accept the “The Public Ministry of the Word” 

Adopted at the 2005 Convention of the ELS 

1)      The document speaks of the divine institution of offices in the church that have a limited public use of the keys (lines 53-57).  The Bible does not teach a limited public use of the keys.  None of our catechisms have ever taught this.  None of the Bible passages cited in the document (see lines 122-123) to teach a limited public use of the keys says anything about it (1 Corinthians 12:5,28, Romans 12:6-8, Philippians 1:1, 1 Timothy 3:8, 5:17).  None of them speaks of being “in” the public ministry of the word to this or that “extent” (lines 118-120). 

2)      The document says that a divine call for a Christian schoolteacher is “in accordance with Romans 10:14-17 and Augsburg Confession XIV (lines 134-135).”  The plain sense of Romans 10 is that the preachers are preachers (who are men) not schoolteachers (who are male and female).  AC XIV refers to called and ordained pastors, not parochial schoolteachers. 

3)      While previous ELS documents, such as “The Evangelical Lutheran Synod: Character, History, Doctrine, Mission” and the 1981 ELS Catechism speak of the congregation using the keys publicly by calling scripturally qualified “men,” the document speaks of calling qualified “individuals” to exercise the keys publicly.  This change is to accommodate the notion that women may be called to exercise the keys publicly. 

4)      The document does not clearly distinguish between what is divinely instituted according to the plain words of the Holy Scriptures and what the church institutes.  For example, the office of synod president “who supervises doctrine in the church” (line 108) is a human invention, not the divinely instituted office of preaching the gospel and administering the sacraments. 

President Moldstad purported to suspend me from the ELS because I refused to retract my December 6 paper, “Clarifying the Issues in the ELS Ministry Debate.”  The words from that paper to which he has repeatedly objected are: “This is why I cannot accept the PCM document.  I will not permit it to be a standard for my teaching and I do not acknowledge it as having any authority over me whatsoever.”  My rejection of the authority of the synodically adopted statement on the ministry in no way expresses any disrespect for the ELS or for those who support the adopted statement.  To the contrary, it expresses my conviction that I may not submit to any other doctrinal authority than to the Scriptures alone.  My confessional subscription was taken voluntarily and unconditionally because the Lutheran Confessions are in complete agreement with God’s Word.  For this reason their authority is divine.  I cannot acknowledge any other authority over my doctrine than divine authority.  For me to retract my paper would be to acquiesce to other than divine authority over my doctrine.  This would involve me in sin against my ordination vow when I bound myself to this pledge: “We pledge ourselves to the prophetic and apostolic writings of the Old and New Testaments as the pure and clear fountain of Israel, which is the only true norm according to which all teachers and teachings are to be judged and evaluated.” (FC SD Rule and Norm, paragraph 3) 

During the past month and a half I have repeatedly asked President Moldstad to show me from the Scriptures where I have taught anything contrary to God’s word.  He has repeatedly declined to do so.  It is out of love and respect for our beloved ELS that I will not retract my paper until I am shown from God’s clear word that I have written falsely. 

Pastor Rolf Preus
River Heights Lutheran Church
January 29, 2006

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