LCMS Expulsion of Matthew Becker
Posted by: Elizabeth Goodine
By now, many have heard the sad news that as of July 15 the Rev. Dr. Matthew Becker will be removed from the roster of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. Rev. Becker has been an LCMS pastor for twenty six years, and is currently a Professor at Valparaiso University after having also served several years in the Concordia University System. Rev. Becker has consistently and faithfully spoken out against increasingly narrow interpretations of scripture which in recent years have been embraced by synodical officials as mandatory for any who would consider themselves to be Christian. Go ahead — take the test: Do you believe that women are subservient to men? If not, you are not a true Christian! Do you believe that God created the world in six literal 24 hour days? If not, you are not a true Christian! Do you renounce every aspect of evolutionary theory? If not, you are not a true Christian! You can read the specific charges and Rev. Becker’s response at http://matthewlbecker.blogspot.com. The salient point for those of us who remain in the LCMS today is how to respond from this moment forward.
As of the 15th, Rev. Becker will be gone from the LCMS. The ELCA will benefit from his work with them. But what of us? I am no prophet but one does not need to be a prophet to see the writing on the wall. The machine of LCMS hierarchy is on the move. It is emboldened by its ability to expel Becker even after its own structures (the Referral Panel system set in place by synodical bylaws) declared him innocent of all charges against him. There is no doubt that having tasted success it will now move against other pastors and synodical workers. Indeed, the resolutions most recently brought against Becker have asserted the means to do just that. But that is not all. Congregations and individual members should not rest easy. Here’s what will happen: First, your pastor will go; he will be replaced by someone more appropriately narrow-minded. “We can stop that,” you might say, but you won’t because you will accept a call list from your District President and on it will only be names of those pastors who are suitable. Then will go your other rostered workers; the new pastor will see to that. Next will be your congregational officers and elders — good-bye free-thinking men, good-bye women, and absolutely good-bye to any whose gender identity is not certain.
The machine is in place. Who will stop it? Pastors and rostered workers cannot or will not. Furthermore, it is not up to us as laypeople to judge them and the decision they make when their feet are placed in the fire. Rather, it is up to us — individual members and congregations — to educate one another and to take a public stand. Martin Niemoller, a Protestant Pastor who spent seven years in a Nazi concentration camp for speaking out against that regime, wrote the following famous words:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
For each layperson and each congregation in the LCMS today, there is really only one question left: Will history remember me as one who stood up for free thought and for justice in this time and place? Or, will it remember me as one who protected myself — that is, until they came for me?