That’s the name for a file folder in my email for the last 2 ½ years. I wasn’t trying to be flippant, but it is. As of 12 September 2019 in the year of Our Lord, I am no longer a member of the church I was born into, baptized, confirmed, and ordained by (Here’s my letter: http://www.trinityaustin.com/docs/lcms/Pastor-Harris-LCMS-Resignation-Letter.pdf). So I’m leaving the Synod I have been part of for 62 years and a pastor in for 36. Do I have “leaver’s” remorse? Of course I do, but I have more regret that I didn’t leave decades ago.
But I expected the regretting. I also expected no one else to follow me and to be criticized by many who stay. I know; I know; you’re staying till they throw you out. You’re “Martin-Luthering” the thing. You’re going to “be a pain somewhere in the anatomy of the LCMS”. “Good Luck with that,” as they say. Unless you attack the LCMS’ real principal of authority which is the confession that our Synod is beloved by God and men alike, you won’t get thrown out for anything less than “Matthew-Beckering” for decades. One of my members was amazed to learn that the synodical hierarchy handles liberal and confessional dissenters in exactly the same way. You can leave if you want to.
Right there shows why the LCMS will never approach anything like orthodoxy. No one is going to be disciplined for anything. Still, you won’t find me beating up your conscience for staying. I’ve been dunned, drubbed, and bludgeoned like that many times over the decades. It doesn’t matter if a pastor took years or decades to leave the Synod. Once he does, he binds you to leave immediately. That ain’t me, to quote a song.
In the end why did I leave? You can read all the theological reasons on Trinity’s webpage (http://www.trinityaustin.com/pages/independent.php). You can wade through 12 years of blogs and find more. But in the end it was a an article in World Magazine that sealed the deal. It was a state senator’s take on politics in America. He said the only two choices where decentralization or civil war. The issues of abortion, immigration, and LGBTQ-ism were so divisive that neither party could make peace once in power. So, it was either make the issues a matter of states’ rights (decentralize) or out and out civil war.
It wasn’t his two choices, though, that tipped be over the edge; it was the implied third choice. not civil war or decentralization, but compromise. And that was the road I was on. That still small voice of conscience kept justifying why I was in fellowship with a synod that allowed and sometimes defended open Communion, abortion, feminism, and LGBTQ rights.
So adios LCMS. I’m not breaking fellowship with confessional pastors or people in the LCMS, but with LCMS, INC. I am saying that I will no longer let one man determine who I’m in fellowship with as the LCMS constitution allows the president to do. As for communing me, it will be up to you. But you have the conundrum of communing those in the LCMS whom you know you have no fellowship with and not communing me with whom you know you are in fellowship. But whatever the case I respect and accept your decision.
The only individual in the whole LCMS chain of command that every tried to deal with me or my congregation theologically, pastorally, or personally is the current president of the Texas District, Rev. Michael Newman. I didn’t agree with his biblical, confessional response, but he at least made one (http://www.trinityaustin.com/docs/lcms/Rev%20Newman%20Response%20to%20Trinity%20Lutheran%20Church.pdf). Prior to that my circuit counselor suggested in 2001 that having elected Kieschnick the LCMS had shifted left and I would be more comfortable elsewhere. In 2005 the then Texas District president told me that I was doing everything right with my dissent. He asked how he could help. I replied, “Put me on a district floor committee.” Hear crickets here. President Newman, in meeting with myself and the Elders said that our dissent was Biblical, Confessional, and not contrary to Gospel proclamation. He also said that he too sometimes thought now was the time for whole new confessional Lutheran Church. Amen to that and adios to a former confessional Lutheran church.