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Here I Stand

by Ryan Turnipseed

For those who do not know recent Christian history, the last sixty years have been a dark, trying time for any true, historical Christianity. The Mainline Protestants, like the Methodists or the ELCA, have become apostates who zealously ordain women and homosexuals, push transgenderism, fund Marxism, and espouse paganism. The Roman Catholics have seen the rise of multiple ever-growing sects of progressives and modernists, especially in Latin America and Germany, that would love nothing more than to take Rome with them. The conservative Protestants have not been untouched either. The Southern Baptist Convention was written off as a fallen, liberal denomination in the 1970s for its lax stance on abortion. The conservative Presbyterian Church in America formed as a breakaway from a predecessor of the increasingly liberal Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) is not a large church by comparison. This only explains why you may not have heard of it or paid any attention to it. What follows is a critical moment in Christianity in the United States, which every American Christian should know to ready themselves and their neighbors for the intensifying persecution and suppression of right Christian doctrine.

The LCMS, at one point in time, prided itself on its ability to resist progressivism and modern reworkings of Christian doctrine, having once lost all but five professors from its main seminary for denying scriptural Truth. Ever since, the LCMS has rested on the laurels of its reputation for being the conservative, confessional, sane Lutheran Church. This reputation no longer exists. Everything listed hereafter applies not just to those in the LCMS but to anyone concerned and interested in American Christianity remaining faithful and steadfast. These battles, whether you are in the LCMS or not, will come to you wherever you are.

Recently, the LCMS released a new edition of Martin Luther’s Large Catechism. It consists of the Large Catechism itself and is accompanied by some eighty essays meant to clarify and explain the Large Catechism in terms of contemporary controversies. The purpose of this new catechism as laid out by the LCMS’s convention was to be a “catechetical compendium for adults… which would be comprehensive and apologetic in scope”, and this was combined with a later resolution from the LCMS’s convention that specified that this was to be done with Luther’s Large Catechism. Here we have already encountered a strange development, as neither instruction from the convention asked for “contemporary applications,” but as will be demonstrated, straight answers and plain reasoning should not be expected. At best, the creators completely lost sight of their goal, and at worst, there was malicious intent from whoever is responsible to subvert the LCMS.

The Large Catechism is a core document in Lutheranism and a primary book used to teach people about what Christianity is and what it means to be Christian. We need to ask one essential question. What got added?

I picked out about twenty paragraphs from a few of the essays in this new edition and went through them already. If you have not yet seen, some of the most egregious statements include, “the recognition of a legitimate place for the use of the sword within God’s plan for His creation… does not provide a scriptural foundation for the right to bear arms. Lethal force… is rightly used only by one placed into the Amt of authority in the state. It is never exercised for the sake of the self…” and “though some of us are burdened with homosexual lust, pornographic addiction, transgenderism, pedophilia, and polyamory, most often they are the speck in our neighbor’s eye rather than the log in our own…” and “A transformative insight of the reformer [Luther] consists in applying God’s Law prohibiting theft to less-than-obvious perpetrators—the virtuous who possess economic and societal privilege” and “the term ‘social justice’ encompasses a variety of ideas about the causes and costs of injustices in society… A Lutheran approach to social justice will benefit from Martin Luther’s distinction between the two kinds of righteousness, reflections on the right attitude toward the poor and needy, exposition on the Ten Commandments, and teaching on vocation”. Once again, there are more issues that have been outlined elsewhere, but these direct quotes should get an idea of the content across.

The contributors selected for this new edition were also questionable at best and disgraceful at worst. This catechism from the LCMS, meant to teach the basics of Christianity, includes essays from various subversive elements. One member of the ELCA had an essay included, and three members of the NALC, an ELCA breakaway that fervently defends the ordination of women, had their essays included. The LCMS would not rightly commune any of these individuals, but its leaders seem ecstatic to have them write doctrine and explanations. Women authors were also included, as the LCMS is now content to ignore its own heritage and teachings and Scripture itself in favor of letting women write doctrine and teach it to the entire Church. The LCMS’s Black Clergy Caucus also appears alongside members of Lutherans for Racial Justice (both are just as subversive as they sound), but this is no surprise, as the LCMS under its president, Matthew Harrison, has been very friendly to these groups before.

All of these features were reviewed and approved, per the new catechism’s defenders, three times, each time going through the LCMS’s Commission on Theology and Church Relations, the president’s office, and the LCMS’s Concordia Publishing House. After a large public backlash from laymen and pastors, the president pulled the catechism for review, stating, “This will allow us time to evaluate the comments and critiques received and revisit our doctrinal review process, which is my responsibility.” Nine days later, President Harrison resumed distribution and reaffirmed everything in the new catechism, stating, “I have had time to re-evaluate the controverted sentences and found that… there is nothing in the content of the volume promoting critical race theory (CRT), confusion of sexuality issues, or any theological position at odds with biblical and confessional Lutheranism… Frankly, I think each reader will be astounded at the content and quality of the volume.” He then targets the new catechism’s opponents, baselessly claiming, “I deplore the unchristian attacks on the servants of the church who edited and contributed to the production of the volume…” The Commission on Theology and Church Relations, itself consisting mainly of contributors to the new catechism, said, “while we acknowledge that certain things could have been worded differently, better or more precisely… we remain firmly supportive of this volume, its contents and its usefulness for our church body”. That is, President Matthew Harrison and the Commission on Theology and Church Relations affirm this book and can write nothing but glowing reviews for it. Remember, both now affirm that self-defense is against Scripture and that pedophilia is merely a speck in your neighbor’s eye.

The editors of the new catechism also released the most contradictory defense of something I have ever seen. John Pless and Larry Vogel write, “this volume is not intended as an official synodical addendum to, or commentary on, the confessional text of Luther’s Large Catechism… By their very nature, essays on contemporary questions touch on sensitive social, cultural, and political issues. As such, they represent individual perspectives and judgments that other faithful Christians may not share”. They later declare “that all material was in accord with Scripture, the Lutheran Confessions, and the… doctrinal statements of Synod”.

This line that the issues are just so complex and controversial that we cannot actually reach a universally true position has been pushed by every defender so far, which is very strange considering that this is a catechism meant to instruct people in what Christianity is and how to be Christian. There should be no room at all for vague or opinionated statements. Everyone involved in the new catechism’s review process also simply asserts that everything is in line with right Christian doctrine and that everyone misunderstood what was being said, which is strange since this was also mere opinion and does not reflect right Christian doctrine. Why include vague, faultily-worded statements in such a vital book? Why include mere opinion instead of plain fact? Why introduce statements and doctrines not found anywhere else in the history of the Church? If they admit imperfections in the book that could be worded better, why let it stand in the same bindings as a catechism? Why not directly answer the criticisms and explain how they are misunderstanding the material or incorrect in their reasoning? None of these questions have been answered at all, and they are questions that many pastors and laymen are asking.

These questions are flawed, however, as they presume that these aforementioned statements are genuine and true, and that they are engaging the critics in good faith. The defamation thrown by the new catechism’s defenders at its detractors demonstrates this. President Matthew Harrison claims that there have been direct attacks on people, but no such thing has been substantiated in the slightest. Robert E. Smith, a librarian at the seminary in Fort Wayne and pastor of Messiah Lutheran Church in Wolcottville, Indiana, opted to simply ignore any criticisms at all in defense of the new catechism, saying, “The cancel culture folks [the critics], playing guilt by association rather than providing a rational critique, of which they are capable, but would not, they resort to labeling and open slander. They really should do what they could do all along – write actual critiques that would be heard…” Jack Kilcrease, a member of the Commission on Theology and Church Relations, lobbed a number of unsubstantiated assertions and vile insults. On one occasion, Mr. Kilcrease, so certain that he understood the situation and the critics, defamed them by saying, “Well, it was a whole lot of anonymous twitter accounts associated with Neo-Nazism and White Nationalism. Technically, they all go back to Nathan [sic] Turnipseed who was not anonymous. And that’s his real name”. Bethany Kilcrease, wife of Jack Kilcrease, baselessly claimed that the new catechism “was now being pulled because of a white nationalist, misogynist, mob of anonymous Twitter trolls who are probably mostly pastors on the DL…” Todd Wilken, host of the LCMS’s most prominent conservative radio program Issues, Etc., defamed the critics by saying they made “hasty and unalterable judgments” based on “blurry screenshots from anonymous [sic] twitter accounts!” David Benke, himself infamous for participating in an interfaith prayer service, said, “The screed leader is someone pseudo-named [sic] Ryan Turnipseed on Twitter. Someone with a lot to get off his chest.” Craig Donofrio, the former assistant director of KFUO Radio, the LCMS’s official radio, was particularly incensed. On one occasion, he said, “A truly Sad Sad day when the LCMS and President Harrison caved to the pressure of some 20-year-old [sic] under-educated child and his Cancel Campaign. Seems he is more trusted than two of our brightest who edited our new Large Catechism.” Later, Donofrio said, “Some 20 year old [sic] kid has Synod tied up in knots because he has a YouTube channel and a Twitter feed. How stupid can Synod be?” That is, Donofrio was so confident of his knowledge of what happened that he could incorrectly label me a twenty-year-old undereducated child, but he could not correctly point out that it was the outcry of a large number of laymen to President Harrison that originally got the new catechism pulled. Perhaps the funniest and most insidious of all the responses, though, comes from one Edward Engelbrecht. Edward Engelbrecht is a pastor in Columbus, Ohio, and after being told that Ryan Turnipseed is actually a real person, he said on an online forum, “We had a new user post here that Mr. Turnipseed is a real person rather than a pseudonym. What evidence is there?” Hans Fiene, a figure usually perceived as conservative, sought a more compromising dialogue. He lamented the zealousness of the youth involved, saying, “Would have been good to have a focused discussion on things like having ELCA theologians write for this project. Alas.” It is worth pointing out that Fiene is gleefully throwing these “zealous young men” under the bus despite the LCMS’s demographic issues. Fiene would later go on to accuse me of dishonestly portraying the new catechism, though any proof at all has yet to be provided.

These pastors seem to be infinitely more concerned with defending other pastors and looking fashionable to the world than with pesky details like keeping the eighth commandment or standing up against the subversion of the Church or clearly outlining the Truth. There has been no recourse for anyone that has been publicly defamed by these ordained ministers, nor should any recourse be expected. In fact, President Harrison only intensified the situation with his latest pronouncement.

To summarize, the LCMS has condemned anyone on the “alt-right,” which includes anyone who advocates “white supremacy, Nazism, pro-slavery, anti-interracial marriage, women as property, fascism, death for homosexuals, even genocide.” Harrison goes on to say that “These ‘alt-right’ individuals were at the genesis of a recent controversy surrounding essays accompanying a new publication of Luther’s Large Catechism. This group used that opportunity to produce not only scandalous attacks and widespread falsehoods, but also to promote their own absolutist ideologies”. Harrison baselessly asserts that “They have made serious online threats to individuals and scandalously attacked several faithful LCMS members.” Just to reiterate, not a scrap of evidence or proof has been shown. He then boasts that the LCMS is “delighted to gather with sinners of every stripe to receive full and free forgiveness…” Later he says, “Our steadfast message of love and biblical fidelity on the cultural issues of marriage, sexuality, race, and life is an assault on the devil and his minions to no end”. He says all of this to seek the excommunication of the “alt-right”, saying, “We are not a top-down institution. That said, I will work together with our pastors and district presidents to address this matter wherever it arises among us and reject it… Where that call to repentance is not heeded, there must be excommunication.”

There are many key issues with this, but first and foremost is that it is all either a direct lie or so dishonest that it may as well be a lie. Both Martin Luther and the first president of the LCMS, C.F.W. Walther, condemned abolitionism and wrote extensive defenses of slavery and, by extension, white supremacy. Both Walther and Luther must now be condemned as “alt-right”, and both would be excommunicated from President Harrison’s new LCMS.

Millions of Lutherans also fought for the National Socialist regime by volunteering or conscription, and many more voted the party into power. All of them are now condemned, according to President Harrison, which is a move so radical that not even the progressive Lutherans of the 1940s claimed such a thing in their letter to the Confessional Church in Germany.

Being against interracial marriage is also now worthy of condemnation, which condemns the vast majority of the LCMS, and Western Civilization, before the Civil Rights Era. This includes the universally beloved Walter A. Maier, who spoke against miscegenation quite forcefully. If President Harrison and the rest of the clergy were being consistent and thorough, they would review previous editions of the LCMS magazine, the Lutheran Witness, and condemn its writers for espousing views against miscegenation. The magazine, published by the Synod, instructed Lutherans to obey laws that prohibited miscegenation, said that “Miscegenation is almost as devastating socially as the nuclear bomb is physically,” and used the philosophy of Robert R. Moton of the Tuskegee Institute, saying that interracial marriage was “active disloyalty to the Negro Race.” All quotes can be found in this book and are directly found here. We all know that we will receive no such confutation for these claims, but let this make a clear point: these quotes and ideas came from the Synod’s moderates, not the conservatives, and not the “far right” if there even was such a thing at the time. A moderate from the Civil Rights Era, then, would be excommunicated today under the supposedly conservative Matthew Harrison’s LCMS.

“Women as property” is also condemned, which I can only suppose is an indictment against serfdom (an institution that made both men and women property of their landowner as if they themselves were land, of which I have never heard an advocate in the modern day). I refuse to believe that President Harrison could be so lazily condemning the entire Common Law tradition from its inception until the modern day, as it once held that women had no legal identity apart from their husband or father. The man is playing with souls here; he would surely be more precise with such a topic, right? That being said, Walther and Luther both argue that the Gospels do not forbid a person from owning another person and even go so far as to admonish anyone who claims otherwise.

The last thing that I will talk about from his letter is his condemnation of people advocating for “death for homosexuals.” This has been condemned as a non-Christian position that could merit an excommunication, which makes me wonder if the LCMS clergy are reading out of the same Bible that I am. In Leviticus 20, God Himself, as recorded in Holy Scripture, commands the Israelites that “If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them”. Was God a scary member of the “alt-right” deserving excommunication here? Did God’s sensibilities radically shift between the Old and New Testament? Did He not actually say this, or was it merely symbolic? Do Truth and morality change over time, meaning that we only condemn the “alt-right” now and now only for criticizing the Synod? Regardless of what punishments a godly government hands down for crimes, it is totally impermissible for any Christian to declare something to be a damnable sin while God Himself says no such thing.

I could go on, but with these objections alone and without a single serious response in its defense, this pronouncement is a clear break from sixty years ago, let alone historic Christianity. Its very methodology is a break from Christianity, as it cites a commentator’s explanation of the Fifth Commandment from the most recent Small Catechism, entirely divorced and uninterested in Scripture. In this letter from President Harrison, the precedent has already been set to use modern commentary attached to a catechism as Church doctrine. Given the contents of the latest catechism, this should rightly horrify any Christian in and outside the LCMS.

But the pronouncement was a harbinger. Its work is ongoing. Already, two laymen, Zak McGaha and Corey J. Mahler, were barred from attending First Lutheran Church in Knoxville altogether. First Lutheran Knoxville’s pastor enlisted the help of the Knoxville Police Department to accomplish this, effectively ambushing the duo on a Sunday morning, and causing Zak to leave the LCMS entirely. Neither Corey nor Zak were excommunicated, which would ultimately require a unanimous vote from First Lutheran’s congregation. Rather, they were barred from being on the property of the church, which completely throws out Lutheran doctrine on the issue as laid out by Scripture, the Lutheran Confessions, Walther, and Luther. Moreover, barring anyone from church property for any reason other than physical safety is itself contrary to the entire point of an excommunication. As First Lutheran’s own bylaws, also entirely disregarded in this operation, say about one who is excommunicated, “such person, however, will at all times be cordially welcomed to attend all divine services in our church.” This is because excommunication is supposed to bring the target to repentance and back into the Church. Corey, who has not been excommunicated and is barred from attending altogether, has been entirely cast out by the LCMS, the synod that now, by action, believes in preaching only to those not tainted by the “alt-right.”

Corey and Zak are not the only ones that have been targeted so far. A now-former elder of an LCMS congregation was forced to resign his position for merely associating with Corey online. This now-former elder was told that his removal was urged from the top of the synod to his district president and then to his pastor. There is no doubt that I will be the next target of this inquisition, but that is not what I care about. The LCMS, the once conservative, confessional Lutheran Church, has entirely shunned its own theology and history, which I do very much care about. As of writing this, the LCMS still proudly produces and distributes a catechism that denies self-defense and bearing arms, claims that pedophilia is a speck in your neighbor’s eye, and calls for Marxism coated in a veneer of social and economic justice. The LCMS still proudly lauds the destruction of its theology and forbearers. The LCMS still proudly throws its laymen to the wolves, demonstrating total contempt for anyone critical of the path pursued by its clergy. This I cannot abide, and I would encourage every other Lutheran to proceed likewise. I would also encourage this of every other Christian. Defend your church. Defend Scripture. Defend the faith of your fathers. Take inspiration from the Reformer, who declared to the most powerful earthly authority he had ever known, “Here I stand, for I can do no other. God help me”.