Today is the 49th anniversary of the severing of fellowship ties between the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and the Wisconsin Synod. If there’s one question I’ve fielded at least ten times since I’ve been here (other than the “How do you like Morgan?” variety), it’s about the split between Missouri and Wisconsin. For a more in-depth treatment, I recommend A Tale of Two Synods, by Dr. Mark Braun. (You can get it from Northwestern Publishing House if you’d like. He does a good job with the history.)
If you’ve ever wondered why we split from Missouri, here’s why, in a nutshell:
Back in the early 20th century, some in the LC-MS basically lost their faith in the Bible as God’s Word. This led to a whole host of problems. It led them to work together with people with whom they did not share a common faith – for example, many LC-MS military chaplains during the 1st & 2nd World Wars served everybody, not just Lutherans. This losing faith in the Bible as God’s Word also led them to seek out degrees from unbelieving universities, which led them further down the wrong path. In the 70s they had a big upheaval where some of their seminary professors and students left because they refused to teach that all the Bible was important and God’s Word.
Now they have several areas where they don’t teach what Scripture does. They don’t teach correctly in the area of church and ministry, for example- they say more than Scripture says (which is wrong). They also don’t have the Scriptural teaching on fellowship. The Scriptural teaching is that if you don’t share a common Christian faith with someone, based on the Bible, you don’t work with them in any way. The LC-MS believes that some things are okay and some are not when it comes to working together in church work or praying with someone of a different faith. (And they’re not all sure what the okay things are and what they aren’t. For instance, the LC-MS in their most recent convention voted overwhelmingly to continue doing charitable work with the ELCA, even though they officially repudiate the ELCA’s doctrinal errors.)
Overall, the Missouri Synod isn’t too bad – there are certainly worse out there – but there are some areas where I would feel compelled not to join in with them or that would make me not want to join. The LC-MS is pretty fractured. There are churches who look just like megachurches and want to be megachurches, there are churches that you’d think were Roman Catholic unless you read the sign out front, they’re that conservative and traditional, and there’s everything in between. There’s a lot of factions in the Missouri Synod and they don’t all get along. They’re a pretty political bunch (although to be fair, what church isn’t sooner or later.) I don’t want to bash anybody or try and air someone else’s dirty laundry, but these are things we should know.
Hopefully Missouri can right themselves and kick out those causing the trouble, or bring them back. Maybe we’ll even get back together with them one day. Until then, may God bless their efforts to preserve the truth and spread the gospel, and may He preserve His own.