Why I No Longer Attend My Church

It is with sadness that I no longer attend my church (St. Peter; Freedom, WI) where I was baptized and am still a member.  Even though I am not a watchman (Ezekiel 33), the public act of no longer attending the church where I was baptized and am a member demands an explanation.

I have doctrinal disagreements with my pastors, my Church Council, and the District Presidium.  For the most part, I have kept these doctrinal disagreements private.  However, whether or not the Church openly discusses God’s Word is a theological matter.  (Isaiah 8:20; 9:2, 6-7).  The Word is communication, and God expects His people, His Church, to wrestle with His Word.  (2 Corinthians 13:5).  The Word is how God communicates light and truth into us, and we struggle with His Word only by reading and openly discussing the word.

The Word is communication, and it is through the Word that the Holy Spirit works to enlighten, sanctify, and keep the whole Christian Church on earth in the one true faith.  (Small Catechism, Explanation of the Third Article).  Therefore, we must communicate doctrine, and we must struggle with the Word openly.  Further, if there is pain and loss in that struggle, then that pain should be understood as a necessary step on the way of the cross.  (Matthew 10:34-39).

However, when the local church and District Presidium use endless procedures to stifle disagreement and discussion of the word, they are not struggling with the Word, but instead they are engaging in an earthly political struggle.  Temporal earthly kingdoms are built through political struggle.  On the other hand, citizens of the eternal kingdom of heaven must struggle with the word which involves open communication and sometimes the sadness of a cross.

The true Scriptural procedure for dealing with public doctrinal error and disagreement is to discuss the matters.  However, the Northern Wisconsin District Presidium has steadfastly refused to have a meeting where everyone sits down to discuss doctrine.  Instead, they have been completely hung-up on a never-ending series of frivolous procedures that no one can fulfill.  (For example, one is not allowed to invite the District President to a meeting without first asking the permission of the District President).

I am not the only man who disagrees on matters of doctrine and practice with my pastors and the District Presidium.  Other WELS pastors have also expressed disagreement.  Thus, there needs to be discussion of God’s Word.  That is the true Scriptural procedure.  Only God’s Word can make alive and heal.

I have written two letters dated November 1, 2009 and January 20, 2011 that detail some of the doctrinal problems I have seen at my congregation, St. Peter.  And it is in the spirit of the word (which is communication) and the theology of the cross (which is pain and struggle) that I share these two letters.  I had hoped that the second letter would have been unnecessary, and that neither letter would need to be shared.  Sadly, there is no other way.  (2 Timothy 4:2-3).

We all must lift our cross, and follow Christ.  (Matthew 10:38 & Mark 8:34-38).  May the Lord’s will be done.  (Matthew 26:39).

Postscript:  Since the second letter was sent, it has been reported that District President Engelbrecht is “very willing” to arrange a meeting between my pastors and the other concerned area WELS pastors.  Nonetheless, because District President Engelbrecht has handled these matters incompetently at best, he would best serve the Church by resigning.

6 thoughts on “Why I No Longer Attend My Church

  1. Dear brother Rick,

    I agree completely with your frustration!

    I have had discussions with some of the same men you have regarding unresolved doctrinal issues in the Northern Wisconsin District of the WELS. I have not been satisfied by their responses. Understanding that the church militant will never see perfection this side of Heaven because of our sinful nature, my hope is that the divisions in our district’s congregations and, among its members, will be resolved expeditiously by those entrusted with the care of doctrine and practice.

    In Christ,
    Tony Kubek

  2. Rick,

    I am deeply grieved to hear that you have been forced out of your home congregation. But, as you realize, it is the right thing. As the Augsburg Confession states, the true Church is where the Word is rightly taught and the Sacraments are properly administered, […].

    My eyes were opened to the current situation in the WELS through your plight (among others) and the commentary you have offered about it on this blog and elsewhere. Your circumstance has given me resolve to expose error in my own congregation. Though I fear that my situation may become analogous to yours very shortly, I take comfort knowing that godly men such as yourself have gone before and have persevered in Christ.

    We can take heart because, although we face adversity in this world, our Master has overcome it.

    In Him,

  3. Rick,

    I am deeply saddened to read of your troubles. As I read your first letter, I thought, “Surely this pastor will be run out on a rail for such plagiarism!” Things are indeed bad when the people and synodical leadership applaud such sinful behavior.

    It looks like you have done all that you can do. I would encourage you to simply wipe the dust from your feet and find a Lutheran church to attend where you can faithfully hear the Word and receive the Sacrament of the Altar.

    Every good wish in Christ,
    Christopher Esget
    Pastor, Immanuel Ev.-Lutheran Church (LCMS)
    Alexandria, VA

  4. Rick, I applaud you for having the courage to bring your concerns to the circuit and district leaders. I can feel your pain. I was forced out of my LCMS congregation in 1994 over doctrinal differences with the pastor-the congregation where I was baptized on 12/27/64 at the age of 2 months, confirmed on 5/6/79, and where I was a member for 30 years. This pastor took over a thriving church of over 700 members and dwindled it to less than 50 members in a little more than a decade. The church finally closed its doors in 2006. This wouldn’t have happened if the church leaders had opened their eyes to what was happening.

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