The Brothers of John the Steadfast (BJS) are a group of Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS) pastors and laymen who fight against heresy, including the “Church Growth Movement” and its methodologies, by working to promote the Lutheran Confessions, the historic liturgy, new Lutheran media, and by equipping husbands to be spiritual heads and strong voices “of leadership in their local congregations.” (BJS website description).
The Brothers of John the Steadfast held their third annual international conference on Friday and Saturday, February 11 & 12, 2011 at Bethany Lutheran Church in Naperville, Illinios. The featured speaker at Friday’s banquet was the newly elected President of the LCMS, Pastor Mathew Harrison.
The theme of the conference was the current threefold emphasis of the LCMS: “Witness, Mercy, and Life Together.”
Pastor Harrison is well liked, and received a standing ovation before he even spoke.
Mr. Fisher, Pastor Jonathan Fisk, and Pastor Charles Henrickson wait in line before the banquet.
The banquet was catered, and for dessert we were served flaming cherries jubilee.
During the banquet, I sat next to an LCMS pastor. When he learned that I was WELS (Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod), he told me he recently communed at a WELS congregation, but that most WELS pastors will not commune you if you are not in fellowship with the WELS. (I assumed he communed under a misunderstanding). The WELS practices closed communion. He, being an LCMS pastor on the other hand, practiced open communion because the Lord’s Supper is forgiveness, and he does not withhold the Lord’s Supper/forgiveness from anyone. On Judgment Day, he did not want to have to inform Jesus that he withheld the Lord’s Supper from anyone for not being a Missouri Synod member, because Jesus would ask him, “What is the Missouri Synod?”
I said this was my third BJS conference, and I have never communed at a conference. I asked somewhat rhetorically, “Isn’t closed communion also the rule in the LCMS?” He said, “I don’t know. Well, it’s probably the rule here” (at Bethany Lutheran in Naperville).
This amicable conversation was interesting to me because if the WELS does not start enforcing the practical aspects of our doctrine, then it will not be long before we also have malpracticing pastors who openly flout our doctrine, and then claim ignorance while they put eternal souls in danger. (1 Corinthians 11:29). Unfortunately for the WELS, that day may have already arrived.
It is good to remember that Jesus did not say, “Trust the WELS” or “Trust the LCMS” or “Trust whatever pastor you just happen to have,” but rather he said, “Watch and pray.” (Matthew 26:41).
On Saturday morning, Cantor Phillip Magness spoke about Christian witness.
Later, Timothy Hetzner, the President of Lutheran Church Charities, spoke about Christian mercy. According to Mr. Hetzner, at the time of Christ, the common cup was associated only with marriage. The only time the Jews drank from the common cup was for marriage. The symbolism is that the Church is the Bride of Christ.
Pastor Jonathan Fisk delivered the sermon at the Divine Service on Saturday, February 12, 2011 A.D. In the pictures above and below, Pastor Fisk is on the left. Pastor Fisk is best known for hosting the video blog Worldview Everlasting.
Pastor Fisk and company stand under the cross of Christ.
The third emphasis of the conference was “Life Together.” Christian life together involves communion. Unfortunately, within Confessional Lutheranism there are divisions, and not all self-identified “Confessional Lutherans” can commune together.
However, in the January 2011 edition of Forward in Christ, Paul T. Prange hinted that in the near future there may be free conferences between certain members of the WELS and the LCMS. (“One in faith?” Page 32). A free conference is a place to discuss doctrine “outside the framework of fellowship” for the purpose of determining whether there is fellowship: in other words, whether there is complete agreement about everything Christ commanded us. (Matthew 28:20).
In the Garden of Gethsemene, Jesus prayed that all believers would be brought to perfect unity. (John 17:21). Just as Jesus prayed to His Father: “Thy will be done,” so also we must pray: Lord Jesus, may Thy will be done.
Click here for additional pictures from the 2011 conference.