Our congregation decided on October 17, 2012, to disaffiliate from the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) so that we can continue to believe and teach that sinners are saved and justified in no other way but by faith in Christ. The WELS demanded that we believe and teach that God has already saved and declared all people to be righteous in His sight, whether or not they believe and are baptized. When they condemned our confession of faith as false doctrine, we could no longer remain in fellowship with them. The Gospel is more important than any denominational affiliation, and by God’s grace alone, the Gospel is still being proclaimed in our midst.
Our congregation faced an immediate challenge. Our church’s mortgage was with the WELS Church Extension Fund (CEF), and we still owed $275,000 on the property. Within 48 hours of our decision to disaffiliate, in spite of the fact that we had never missed a monthly payment, the CEF sent us a letter in which they cited a clause in our loan agreement that placed us in default on our loan the moment we disaffiliated from the WELS. In the same letter, they threatened to begin foreclosure proceedings if we did not pay off our balance in full by December 1st.
We were not entirely surprised by this letter from the CEF. On the very evening on which we decided to disaffiliate from the WELS, within two hours of our decision, Pastor Jon Buchholz, president of the Arizona-California District of the WELS, who happened to be at a pastors’ conference at that very moment, began announcing to some of the pastors there that the CEF would call the note on our loan—another warning not to defy the synod.
But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ (2 Corinthians 2:14-17).
The Lord provided willing and generous hearts among our members and among our brothers and sisters in Christ in other parts of the country, and we were immediately able to reduce our debt by over $25,000. At the same time, He provided a local bank that was willing to refinance our mortgage. We closed on the loan November 26th, five days ahead of our December 1st deadline.
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies (Romans 8:31-33).
This is part of a letter I sent to my members yesterday:
I would like to thank all of the families and individuals of our congregation who helped to make all of this possible—those who donated large or small amounts. Your gifts for the work of the Lord in this place are fragrant offerings to the Lord, acceptable and pleasing to Him through faith in the blood of Christ that cleanses and purifies all the works of God’s children. I give thanks to God for all of you.
Most of all, let us give thanks to God together. We took a stand on a very basic but very important doctrinal issue, trusting that the Lord would preserve us in spite of the odds that were against us. It is He who has helped and supported us for the sake of His Gospel. We could never have done it. And so we pray with the Psalmist in Psalm 115:
1 Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness! 2 Why should the nations say, “Where is their God?” 3 Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases. 4 Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands. 5 They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see. 6 They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell. 7 They have hands, but do not feel; feet, but do not walk; and they do not make a sound in their throat. 8 Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them. 9 O Israel, trust in the Lord! He is their help and their shield. 10 O house of Aaron, trust in the Lord! He is their help and their shield. 11 You who fear the Lord, trust in the Lord! He is their help and their shield. 12 The Lord has remembered us; he will bless us; he will bless the house of Israel; he will bless the house of Aaron; 13 he will bless those who fear the Lord, both the small and the great. 14 May the Lord give you increase, you and your children! 15 May you be blessed by the Lord, who made heaven and earth! 16 The heavens are the Lord’s heavens, but the earth he has given to the children of man. 17 The dead do not praise the Lord, nor do any who go down into silence. 18 But we will bless the Lord from this time forth and forevermore. Praise the Lord!
See you Sunday,