09 April 2010
Can a Bishop Do Evil?
Jack Stanton, the Episcopal Bishop of Dallas, felt compelled to publish a book a few years ago in response to Jack Spong, the heretic Bishop of Newark. The title of this book was "Can a Bishop Be Wrong?" The very fact that this question must be asked has to do with the peculiar ecclesiology of the Episcopal Church.
As a Lutheran, my answer to that question is pretty straightforward. Bishops are human. As such, they are in bondage to sin just like the rest of us. And just like the rest of us, I suspect that most of the time they sin because of our fallen human nature, and sometimes they sin because they willfully choose to follow something other than Christ. Just like the rest of us.
For the latter category, I nominate the recent actions of Pastor Duane Pederson, ELCA Bishop of the Northwest Synod of Wisconsin.
Down in Eau Claire, one of the largest cities in the Synod, there are about a half-dozen ELCA congregations. Members of five of those congregations were very upset with the ELCA sexuality decisions of last summer. But, rather than start a fight within their local congregations, they decided to leave. Together, 60 members of the five congregations have formed a new mission church and affiliated with LCMC.
I have been working with these folks. They are hurt, they are lost. They feel betrayed by the church and yet God has comforted them as he has gathered them together as Faith Lutheran Mission Church.
They meet on Sunday evenings in LCMS church building(!). A number of us from the area have been serving as preachers for this congregation. Two of the individuals who were asked by the congregation to preach for them are rostered pastors of the ELCA who served in the Northwest Synod.
Now I thought it was the duty and privilege of a Christian pastor to reach out to the lost and hurting and preach the Good News. Bishop Pederson apparently disagrees. He has sent a letter to those two pastors declaring the folks at Faith Lutheran Mission Church to be schismatics. He has forbidden the pastors who serve “under” him to preach there.
I am tempted to go to a couple of meetings that I know that Bishop Pederson will be appearing at (I won't) and asked him this question: Jesus says you cannot serve two masters. Based on the facts I have just related above, and the fact that you have forbidden your pastors to preach the Good News to people in your synod who are lost,
when did you stop serving the Gospel and start serving the institution? And, as a follow-up, do you lose any sleep over that change in loyalties?