On Pentecost (ironically), the voters assembly of Bethany Lutheran Church in Violetville, a western neighborhood of Baltimore, moved to disband as a congregation of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, sell their building to their pastor, and re-constitute as a “non-denominational” church. (How this all will play out legally remains to be seen— let’s just say that the schismatics may be unpleasantly surprised.) Here’s Bethany’s website. You get the picture.
Meet Elias Abite Kao, erstwhile pastor of Bethany Lutheran Church, and now schismatic cult-leader of Bethany Whatever Something:
It all makes you wonder…
How could a man who has been thoroughly instructed in the teaching of the Book of Concord and formed by the best liturgical, pastoral, and practical theological training available in the fellowship of worldwide confessional Lutheranism make such an absurd and, finally, heretical, move?
The premise of the question is flawed, of course. The plain truth is that Mr. Kao was not thoroughly instructed in the teaching of the Book of Concord and formed by the best liturgical, pastoral, and practical theological training available in the fellowship of worldwide confessional Lutheranism. Not by a long shot. Do we really think that he was?
While we’re posing incredulous questions, here are a few more.
Can we just admit that Mr. Kao was, in all likelihood, never really a Lutheran in the first place and shouldn’t have been allowed to matriculate through the Ethnic Immigrant Institute of Theology?
While we’re on the subject, why does the Ethnic Immigrant Institute of Theology even exist? What good can come from cordoning off ethnic immigrant candidates for the ministry into a sub-par fast-track to ordination?
Answer: not much good, but plenty of things that would make hearts sing among the colloquized Seminex-grads who draw salaries in the echelons of the Southeastern District bureaucracy. It should come as no surprise that they, of all people, are big fans of all manner of “alternate routes” to certification.
Kao and those like him don’t just slip through the LCMS filter. The LCMS doesn’t have a filter. Or, rather, there are bureaucratic pipelines into the LCMS clergy-roster which are left deliberately unfiltered, so that guys like Mr. Kao can get in. This is the same as having no filter at all. It’s not rocket science. It’s not home pool care. It’s just Missouri-Synod church politics.
Wait a second…what do you mean ‘guys like Mr. Kao’? Is that some kind of racist comment? Are you… a racist???
I don’t know, chief. Denying racism never works, so I won’t try. In any case, I’m glad you’ve been triggered, and to answer your question, by “guys like Kao”, I don’t mean “Ethiopians” (I know some fine confessional Ethiopian Lutherans); I simply mean “non-Lutherans.” We might narrow that a bit, though, to “non-Lutheran immigrants of non-European ethnic extraction who are used as pawns by white liberal boomers in positions of ecclesiastical supervisory authority so that the latter can treat the districts under their purview like petri-dishes in which to perform decades-long crapulous socio-theological experiments which ruin churches.” There— that’s a bit more apropos to our discussion.
Let me project the meta-monologue for you:
“Hey, you! Yes, you with the darker flesh-tones and the Bible. Would you like to be a pastor in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod? What’s a Lutheran, you ask? Oh, never you mind that— Lutherans are just like you! We just love Jesus! Anyway, we’d love for you to be a pastor in our church, because we have loads of white guilt, and we’re sort of embarrassed by… well… absolutely everything about our Lutheran heritage. Having token brown people will make us feel better about ourselves! Anyway, we’ve got this program that you can go through that will more or less ensure that you retain all of your cherished heretical beliefs, if you have any. Hopefully you do— they will add to our diversity!”
…and then, after the required minimum processing, the SED takes said hapless individual— who may or may not know that he’s complicit in an effort to subvert the LCMS; after all, he doesn’t know the first thing about the LCMS other than what he’s been told by his white liberal handlers— and sends him to a middle-class white suburban Lutheran parish that has slowly been growing more confessional and liturgical but has recently lost its pastor. They’ve just gotten the savor of genuine Lutheranism in their mouths, and they think they’d kind of like to keep going with that, they just need some guidance from a pastor who loves Lutheranism as much as the last one. But… well… the District has other plans. “‘Behold, I am doing a new thing,’ says the Lord,” says the District.
“GASP! That is so racist. I can’t believe you’re saying this!”
No, it’s not racist. If you think that the color of a man’s skin matters more than the content of his confession, you’re the racist. Go ahead and clutch your white guilt pearls; nobody is going to steal them from you. I certainly will not.
The fact that the foregoing is not the modus operandi for absolutely all colloquy applications or alternate-route certifications in the LCMS is beyond irrelevant. It is the modus operandi for plenty of them. And this M.O. is a betrayal of the Lutheran confession. It is an insult to the millions of non-Europeans the world over who confess the Lutheran faith with unalloyed sincerity. It is at last a not-so-subtle Marxist nudge from white liberal vision wonks in the SED that ethnic-minority Lutherans are dabbling in “false consciousness” if they profess to love that “cold Germanic ritual that teaches God at a distance.” (<< Bill Woolsey, the idiot LCMS pastor who leads FiveTwo, described the Lutheran liturgy in these terms.)
You see (the white liberal LCMS vision goes), if these poor colored folk knew what was truly them, they’d get with something a little more blended, a little more “diverse”, a little more…oh, I dunno…tribal. Something less stodgy and white. “Here,” says the awkward white liberal synodocrat dressed in a mumu spun from his weird boomer neuroses and some Paul Tillich quotes, “let me pry that Lutheran Hymnal out of your old black hands. I’m going to help you worship like the ethnic arch-stereotypes in my head are all worshiping. Grab your maraca!”
It is absurd, it is deceitful, and it is really, truly racist, for it regards race as some trump-card in the “diversity for diversity’s sake” game. And you had better bet your sweet foot that this is the bread and butter of the Southeastern District.
If you think that any of the foregoing is a misrepresentation of business as usual in the SED, just visit the next district convention, or any one of the circuit meetings in the northern region of the district (where the erstwhile Bethany Lutheran Church is located). You’ll have a great time listening to well-paid district hatchet-men advocating with gusto for “lay ministry” (by men and women), recommending the closure and sale of local (confessional) churches, foisting “Afro-centric” “worship materials” onto congregations in which no one at all is requesting them, and generally inciting all manner of unionism and Schwarmerisch heresy.
“Oh. But these are outliers. This must be just the SED! Alternate route-certification isn’t abused in this way anywhere else.”
I don’t know if any LCMS Lutheran not currently under the influence of quaaludes/the smoldering hash of Ablaze! would actually raise the above imagined objection. But if there are some reading this who doubt, all I will say is…no. It’s not just the SED. It’s all over the Synod. Mostly in urban areas where white liberal boomers tend to congregate. Yes, that is an assertion, not an argument. Do your own homework; it’s not hard, and there are all sorts of people who can help you with the answers, i.e., attest that what I have said here is true. Or just open your ever-loving eyes.
In fine, Bethany Church’s exit from the LCMS shouldn’t be a surprise. Along with Berea Lutheran Church— which is still in the LCMS, and whose services are presided over by a woman and visiting Pentecostal ministers— Bethany had for some time functioned as a beacon and friendly port for syncretist Pentecostal-LINOs, over and against the objections of the members who are faithfully Lutheran, who have now been outnumbered, out-glossolaliated, and outvoted.
The irony of this whole thing is that the SED execs are probably sad to see Bethany leave, if only because, in their minds, there’s absolutely no reason why they couldn’t have stayed. Sure, Mr. Kao was regularly preaching at a Pentecostal church in Washington D.C. and telling his members that Baptism was meaningless and inefficacious. Sure, he was obviously not a Lutheran and should never have been certified, called, or ordained in the first place…but…but…but…
But what? None of this is an accident. Considered corporately, the Southeast District of the LCMS openly despises anything having to do with the Lutheran tradition. As Steadfast Lutherans reported last November, the SED president exuberantly (“frantically” is more like it) launched a new lay-deacon program as soon as the synodical task-force charged with examining the lay deacon program released a report which recommended its curtailment.
To say that the departure of Bethany Church from the LCMS “raises questions” about the adequacy of “Alternate Route Certifications” of the sort which allowed this fellow, Mr. Kao, to receive ordination in the Missouri Synod in the first place would be a gross understatement. It doesn’t actually raise any questions. It simply shines a light once again on the fact that the Missouri Synod is not united, and that there is no realistic hope of it becoming united once again out of its current fractured state. We are riven and shot through with schism, but time and again, the major fault lines are papered over by theologians of glory— on the synodical right and left— who idolize institutional unity and undermine unity in life-giving doctrine.
Absent a Deus ex machina event at the Synodical convention this July, the least bad option, however fanciful it might be, would be for the convention to authorize the President of Synod to fire the district presidents who not only allow but encourage unionism and dissension viz. our Confessions and the Constitution & Bylaws. Full stop. The second least bad option is for the liberals to, once again, walk out. There is a place for them, if not quite a church in the proper sense of that term: it’s called the ELCA. They should be encouraged to follow in Matthew Becker’s train down the broad path of apostate Lutheranism, and we should let them go, say a prayer for their repentance, yes, and then turn back around and focus on rebuilding our house.