On April 11, 2011, the voters of St. Peter congregation met, and voted to terminate my fellowship with St. Peter Church and the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS). I was not aware of this meeting, no members of my family were present, and I was not afforded any opportunity to defend myself.
Out of the blue and without any warning right before Holy Week of 2011, I received a certified letter informing me that my membership in St. Peter and the WELS was terminated. (April 12, 2011 letter from St. Peter Church). That certified letter said:
April 12, 2011
Dear Fredrick (Rick) Techlin Jr.,
In your letter titled “Letter to WELS 2011” dated January 20, 2011 and published on your blog a few days later, you made the following statements:
“However, during our attempts to resolve the doctrinal differences reiterated by that letter, it became apparent that I disagree doctrinally not only with Pastor Glende and my Church Council, but also District President Engelbrecht, and other leaders in the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS).” (page 1)
“I do disagree with my pastors and Church Council over doctrine.” (page 11)
“My doctrinal differences with my congregation have been known by me for well over two years.” (page 29)
“Should I continue in fellowship with synod leaders who counsel laymen not to pray with other non-WELS Christians, but then defend WELS pastors who plagiarize the sermons of our theological enemies? The answer is no. I should not continue in fellowship with the theological blackguards of the WELS…’ (page 31)
Rick, by your own words you have declared that you are no longer in fellowship with St. Peter Ev. Lutheran Church and the doctrine of the WELS. On the basis of your published statements, St. Peter’s Board of Elders and Church Council recommended to the Voter’s Assembly that your membership in our congregation be terminated. At the Voter’s Meeting of St. Peter Ev. Lutheran Church on April 11th, 2011, this recommendation was acted upon and unanimously approved. In carrying out this action, St. Peter is simply acknowledging what you have already declared to be true in your “Letter to WELS 2011”. This action is in keeping with St. Peter’s Constitution, Article V, Section 5 – Termination of Fellowship.
We commend you to your own spiritual care and will continue to keep you in our prayers.
St. Peter Ev. Lutheran Church Voters, Board of Elders, & Church Council
According to St. Peter Church’s certified letter, “by your own words you have declared that you are no longer in fellowship with … the doctrine of the WELS” and that “St. Peter is simply acknowledging what you have already declared to be true in your ‘Letter to WELS 2011’.” However, my 2011 letter to the WELS also said:
… if I am wrong about the doctrine, then how am I supposed to be corrected if I cannot attend any meetings where these issues are being discussed? …
Therefore, I am sending this letter to the WELS Conference of Presidents (COP) in the hope that maybe I do not have to leave the WELS over doctrine. These are important issues, and if I am wrong, then I should be properly instructed so that I can be convinced by God’s Word… My strongest desire is not to leave the WELS, rather I more strongly desire that these doctrinal conflicts would be resolved with unanimous agreement. To that end, there needs to be discussion, and that is one of the primary purposes of these letters…
1. Is it the WELS doctrine that Christians can choose to believe God’s Word?
2. Is it the WELS doctrine that from our perspective God needs our service?
3. Is it the WELS doctrine that the sin of plagiarism is not a sin? …
If the WELS Conference of Presidents answers ‘yes’ to any of these questions, please have some kind person explain the doctrine to me in a way that I can understand. If I am wrong, then I will be wrong. I have no personal stake in being infallible, and neither should any other Christian. Further it is not my desire to leave the WELS without serious effort to at least understand these positions, even if I am unable to agree.
I cannot simply choose to believe that which I actually believe is false. I must be shown the truth in the light of plain reason or the Scriptures. This points to the fifth consequence of post conversion Decision Theology: There has been very little (virtually no) effort put into showing me the ‘light.’ I have been simply expected to choose to believe the St. Peter & The CORE doctrine. And if praise songs, popcorn, and big screen TVs are not enough positive motivation, then other negative motivators are applied. The goal is not to reveal the light of truth, but to motivate a choice…
(See also “WELS Northern Wisconsin District Doctrinal Issues“). The entire letter dated January 20, 2011 is basically a description of my efforts to discuss doctrine, and the total rebuffing of those efforts. This final act of terminating fellowship means that I am no longer a member of the WELS or of any visible Christian church.
St. Peter Church terminated my fellowship with the WELS under Article V, Section 5 of St. Peter Church’s Constitution. That section deals with Christians who are not accused of any willful sin (and thus can still go to heaven), but are still nonetheless guilty of false doctrine, and therefore must be excluded from the fellowship of the orthodox. It states:
Termination of Fellowship
A. Members who persist in an error that in itself does not make the presence of saving faith impossible and who otherwise are not under church discipline (cf Article V Section 2D and Section 3) may be excluded from the fellowship of the congregation
1. after they have been evangelically admonished by their fellow Christians in the spirit of Matthew 18:15-16; and
2. when their adherence to error becomes public and a matter of divisiveness (Titus 3:10) and thus an offense and obstacle to the truth of God’s Word (Romans 16:17-18).
B. This action shall not be used for removing inactive members as a substitute for the loving act of excommunication when impenitence is clearly evident.
C. Members thus excluded from fellowship shall lose all rights in the congregation and in its property.
That section of the Constitution cites Titus 3:10 and Romans 16:17-18. There Paul says: “A man that is a heretic after the first and second admonition reject” (KJV). Also:
The Scriptures cited by the St. Peter Church constitution contain the phrase: “mark … and avoid.” This means that St. Peter Church has marked me as a persistent errorist and a teacher of false doctrine that all WELS congregations and members should avoid.
St. Peter Church says I declared myself out of WELS fellowship. That is false. If I thought the WELS doctrine was wrong, and I believed that I could not be convinced of that doctrine, then I would gladly leave. I would not need to be without warning kicked out right before Easter.
In terminating my fellowship, St. Peter Church cited only my letter to the WELS dated January 20, 2011. That letter also references another letter dated November 1, 2009. Here are links to both letters:
People can judge for themselves whether there is false doctrine in those letters. I believe those letters accurately represent the doctrine of the Scriptures as interpreted by the Lutheran Confessions and as subscribed to by the WELS.
After the January 20, 2011 letter, the only meeting I had with the pastors of St. Peter Congregation was on March 25, 2011. The five concerned area WELS pastors had been trying to meet with the pastors of St. Peter & The CORE for over a year. However, the pastors of St. Peter refused to meet without the District Presidium, and the District Presidium refused to meet together with all the pastors. Finally, as a courtesy to the Synod President, the Northern Wisconsin District Presidium scheduled a meeting for March 25, 2011. The five concerned pastors were also able to secure an invitation for Tony Kubek Jr. and me. (See the post: “An Update“).
The Northern Wisconsin District Presidium continues to maintain that these public matters cannot be handled in a brotherly way if we publicly discuss them. However, St. Peter Church has publicly terminated my fellowship with the WELS, therefore, I should be able to at least say that the conclusion of this meeting was not: that I should leave the WELS.
No agreement was reached on any issue, nonetheless, I did not leave this meeting thinking that my fellowship with the WELS was about to be terminated. District President Engelbrecht encouraged everyone to keep our discussions private and to be willing to engage in further meetings. Nonetheless, two weeks later, St. Peter Church publicly terminated my fellowship in the WELS as a persistent errorist.
In their certified letter, St. Peter Church concluded: “We commend you to your own spiritual care …” I have done my best to resolve these matters Scripturally by attempting to discuss them. However, the leadership of St. Peter Church has been steadfastly adamant that there is absolutely nothing wrong at St. Peter Church, and therefore these matters will not be discussed in any way in which my concerns would be given any legitimate consideration. By their words and deeds the leadership of St. Peter Church has officially declared that we are not walking together, we do not have the same doctrine, and we do not belong in the same synod. Their persistence has forced me to agree, that we do not belong in the same synod.
I have appealed this wrongful termination of my WELS fellowship to the Appeals Board of the Northern Wisconsin District. That is as high as a layman can appeal. (WELS Constitution § 8.50(e)). If I lose this appeal and no other WELS congregation steps in to intervene, then my days in the WELS will be over. But at least I would know where the Northern Wisconsin District officially stands on doctrine.
Win or lose, the spiritual battle belongs to the Lord. (Ephesians 6:12).
It is unfortunate that the leadership of St. Peter Church in Freedom, WI chose to take these actions without warning right before Holy Week. As a result, I did not have time to find a place to receive the Lord’s Supper on Maundy Thursday in an orderly fashion. This was the first year since my confirmation that I was not able to receive the physical essence of our faith (the Lord’s body and blood) on Maundy Thursday. After hearing all the pleas to “take, and eat,” I felt like just watching the Lord’s Supper was hardening my heart, so I did not attend Good Friday or Easter Divine Services.
A number of faithful WELS pastors graciously promised to commune me if I came forward, but I decided that it would be best to refrain. The last thing I wanted to do was give District President Engelbrecht a technical excuse to discipline faithful pastors for communing non-WELS members. (Open communion is a serious infraction of the ordained ministry). Nor did I wish to spark a confrontation or a confessional crisis between two WELS congregations during Holy Week.
On Maundy Thursday, I received a second letter from St. Peter Church saying that if I disagree with my termination of WELS fellowship, then my only option was to write a letter to District President Engelbrecht. Anything else would be disorderly. (April 18, 2011 letter from St. Peter Church).
On Good Friday afternoon, I wandered around for awhile looking for a church to attend, but then gave up. I stopped at another Christian church in Freedom, WI in the hope that I could touch the water to just physically remind myself that I am baptized, but their baptismal font in the entrance was dry.
On Saturday, April 30, 2011, I wrote a letter to District President Engelbrecht announcing my appeal, and dropped it in the mail. In that letter, I also asked him to give me written permission to commune at any WELS church pending my appeal.