Once considered a stronghold for conservative belief, the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod is giving into woke ideology and purging traditionalists from its ranks.
It’s been an eventful year in the Protestant world. The Methodists continue to fracture. Some Anglicans have decided to separate from the progressives occupying Canterbury. The recent Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting saw some victories, but also major defeats, which have been less publicized, such as the condemnation of “nativism.” Protestantism is being subverted, and though this subversion has been occurring for the last century or more, it has recently been reaching into such formerly conservative religious strongholds, such as the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS). I have my own insight into this, having experienced it firsthand.
After experiencing a walkout of its theologically liberal members nearly 50 years ago, the LCMS’s identity has been one of theological conservatism. Because of this, the LCMS has branded itself as the sane, conservative Lutheran church that resisted the liberal takeover that has ruined other mainline Protestant churches. This was a well-earned reputation, for a time.
In January 2023, the LCMS released a new revised teaching resource called Luther’s Large Catechism with Annotations and Contemporary Applications. The volume includes a translation of Luther’s Large Catechism, one of the Lutheran confessional documents, bound together with dozens of essays, some of which import radical social agendas. After reading the essays, I published my critique online to Twitter on Jan. 21. I focused entirely on the theological content of the catechetical essays, pointing out their contradiction of the LCMS’s conservative reputation.
One essay argued that self-defense was immoral and that Scripture does not support a people’s right to bear arms. Another essay, the most infamous of the lot, twisted Matthew 7 to declare that sodomy, pornography, pedophilia, polyamory, and transgenderism were simply “specks in our neighbor’s eye” while (heterosexual) fornication was the log in our own. The essay on “God as Creator” attempted to bypass creationism, denigrating fundamentalists as simply discussing “scientific theories.” A couple of other essays explicitly focused on incorporating social justice theories and ideas about “economic and societal privilege” into Lutheranism. One essay declared urban gentrification to be a sin because whites moving into poorer neighborhoods and indirectly raising property values is, according to this new catechism, theft—due to the increased tax burden. Another asserts that social justice is a Christian necessity; even though perfect social justice is unachievable, we must aim for “proximate justice” (“proximate” being determined, apparently, by the author of the essay and his friends).
My criticisms quickly went viral, and various larger accounts on Twitter reposted and added to them. A feeding frenzy began as others dismantle the new catechism’s essays, remarking that my initial critique was too limited in scope. Some investigated the list of authors, noting an overrepresentation of Lutherans for Racial Justice and the Black Clergy Caucus, two extremely left-wing LCMS organizations. Much to everyone’s astonishment, however, was the inclusion of authors from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), and its breakaway, the North American Lutheran Church (NALC). The ELCA is the “Lutheran” church that makes headlines for its left-wing blasphemies, such as ordaining transgenders. The ELCA contributor, Steven Paulson, has caused other controversies, claiming in his book that Jesus Christ sinned while upon the cross when He said, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” These authors were all approved by the official channels, including the LCMS’s Committee on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR).
As the various critiques began circulating, the president of the LCMS, Matthew Harrison, received many letters from pastors and laymen. After only a couple days, Harrison decided to halt the new catechism from distribution. This caused several liberal pastors and laymen, some with high positions in the Synod, to come after me personally as the original critic of the catechism. Instead of engaging with my critique, most opted to insult me. Among these Synod officials included the LCMS’s most popular radioman, several essay authors, the editor in chief of the catechism, and members of the CTCR. Most of these people had Harrison’s ear, and many smeared me falsely as a neo-Nazi and a white supremacist.
Later, Harrison, a conservative, re-released the new catechism and declared the criticisms to be unfounded and hateful. After this turnaround, an Antifa group published a hit piece against a list of people whom they said were Lutheran “Fascists,” including me. The piece got quite a few details wrong, including calling me a fascist in the first place. Nevertheless, my father and I were concerned about the smear and took the piece to our congregation and asked to address and refute the charges in the hit piece. The response was one of incredulity, and we were assured that there was no need to address the issue at all.
Days later, however, the congregation one of the other laymen named in the Antifa article called the police, who confronted him at the entrance of his church and barred him from entering. This man’s friend, a regular face in the congregation, was pressured out as well; he later forsook Lutheranism entirely. President Harrison then released a statement condemning the so-called Alt-Right, and called for congregations to excommunicate anyone in that ill-defined group. Such a condemnation creates many concerns regarding the historical continuity of the LCMS’s beliefs, but frankly, the Synod leadership does not seem to care. Within two days, an elder in an Oklahoman congregation was subjected to a interrogatory meeting to determine if his views were Alt-Right. The interrogation was recorded, and after asking for a copy, the now ex-elder was denied.
Despite the assurances I got when I tried to be proactive in addressing these charges, within days of these excommunications my congregation set its sights on me. After I met with my local circuit visitor (a pastor charged with overseeing other pastors), I was told that I would have to meet with my pastor and an elder to discuss my online activity, and that the orders to question me had come down from at least the District President of Oklahoma, though they may have originated higher in the LCMS hierarchy.
The meeting quickly devolved into a counterfeit interrogation. Aware of the fate the ex-elder days earlier, I insisted on making my own recording. During the course of the discussion, I was ordered to disavow a man erroneously included in the Antifa hit piece.
I continued attending church for a while afterward. The elders held at least one meeting to brainstorm feasible charges against me. Then they demanded that I be subjected to a tribunal and demanded that I give up the social media platforms where I had posted my critique of the catechism. After my refusal, I released the recordings and the accompanying documents to the public. This led to me immediately being put on what I’m told is a stage one step before excommunication, which is where I remain today.
Last year, my story would have been thought to be impossible. The LCMS has always been synonymous with conservative Christianity. The idea that they would use allegations from an Antifa group against their congregants was unimaginable. While some may hope that this incident is isolated, I believe the stage is set in other “conservative” denominations. Most conservative Christian leaders and academics are concerned more with courting mainstream respect than anything else. Anyone to their right who comes under fire must be excised for the sake of the leadership’s social standing. To anyone within these other conservative churches who is confident that their leadership would never ally with Antifa, I advise caution. You must be prepared for false promises and betrayal.
Other conservative denominations are not as far along, though, so there is time to prepare. Cross-denominational support is vital. Those purging you want you isolated and contained. They hope that you will despair and give in. One of the main reasons that I have been able to persevere in my continuing ordeal is the support that I have enjoyed within my own and across other denominations. Many people already implicitly understand that it is better for everyone if the churches outside their own denomination are led by serious traditionalists. This needs to be explicitly used as a point of organization. I have more in common with a traditional Presbyterian than I do with a liberal or pseudo-conservative Lutheran. The same applies with a traditional Catholic, Anglican, and any other Trinitarian Christian. Our commonality can be used to our advantage, with the traditionalists rallying around and supporting whoever needs it. Such support can expunge the subversion within the Protestant churches, unseating faithless and fashionable “conservatives” and replacing them with faithful leaders.
So, while the recent stories from the LCMS are horrifying, my hope is that the resulting knowledge will be invaluable for other Christians. The old conservative leadership of many denominations has shown itself to be treacherous and willing to purge their congregations in order to gain mainstream prestige. Let my story serve as a wake-up call. I know that I am not the only Christian to be subjected to this kind of treatment, nor will I be the last. Traditionalists who want their churches to weather this storm must stand ready and stand together. Dispel your faith in the institutions, unseat the faithless, worldly conservatives, and should the circumstance require it, be prepared to replace them by building lasting communities of faithful men.