The Lord founded the Church upon truth and dedicated it to truth, both of the Law and of the Gospel (Exodus 20:6; John 14:6). It cannot thrive on falsehood. For this reason, practices such as mobbing are particularly damaging to churches and those who serve in them. In the past few days, knowledge of this devastating affliction in churches has grown considerably, which is simply the first step toward addressing the problem. Some of you are clamoring for more information. It’s coming—the persons stepping forward to report the widespread and devastating effects of mobbing are supplementing my over-long 10,000 word essay. I wrote about the Machine (this term was used by proponents in St. Louis). Others are describing similar practices from other parties in the synod. This is helpful for seeing the extent of the issue.
Since publishing “Mobbing: Organized Spiritual Abuse in the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod,” many persons have tried to contact me by phone, email, and social media. Those expressing genuine concern have my thanks. I welcome your prayers on my behalf. At this time, I am not willing to speak with synod representatives, reporters, or others. Instead, I will answer the three most prominent questions below.
Why Write about Mobbing?
I wrote the essay for a few simple reasons: (1) mobbing is a problem bone-deep in the LCMS as publications about our history demonstrate, (2) I have been mobbed repeatedly since 2011 and appeals to due process have been fruitless, and (3) I am deeply concerned for fellow church workers who are or will be targeted or recruited since they will not know how to defend themselves against this threat to their calling and well-being. Those orchestrating such mobbing know personally how devastating it is, yet they persist in using it since it remains their most effective political tool.
Why Aren’t You Naming Names?
Anonymisation is common practice in social research. Please consult the literature. Those clamoring for details apparently wanted the essay to serve as an indictment of particular persons. I do not expect a church trial. Institutions form systems to protect themselves rather than criticize themselves. I wrote the essay especially to teach church workers about the problem of mobbing.
Are You Acting to Influence the Next Synod Election?
No. I started this research in 2015 by surveying earlier literature about infighting in the synod. The article is published now because I completed the research and writing. In late 2018, Lutheran Forum agreed to include it in their publication plans.
I am not a politically interested person. I will illustrate. If you check the synod’s convention workbooks, you will find that I have been nominated for elected offices. In each case, I turned down those nominations. I have instead focused on raising my family and pursuing my calling as a writer, editor, educator, or pastor. Persons who have worked with me will testify that that I am a conservative and traditional Lutheran, a good colleague who has worked comfortably with all members of the synod in good standing. I do not act from political motivations. I am not part of anyone’s political team. Although I heard from other church workers about tactics used against them, I chose the topic of mobbing and published it without consulting anyone except my wife who was a witness to the effects of mobbing in the church and helped me with the research.
Please note that publishing on a controversial topic is not new for me. In 2007 I published One True God: Understanding Large Catechism II.66 due to controversies about a passage in Luther’s writings. In 2011 I published Friends of the Law: Luther’s Use of the Law for the Christian Life, which addressed persistent misunderstandings about the third use of the Law in the Lutheran Church (I published this latest article as a continued effort to address problematic, controversial issues in the Lutheran Church).
I was eventually tagged as “a problem person.” I was told that someone who had published so much and had so many readers must become part of their Machine. (E.g., there are about 300,000 copies of The Lutheran Study Bible in use with my name on the title page.) In their minds I could not simply be a writer, editor, educator, or pastor.
I rejected the Machine’s overtures and continued to focus on my calling. Although I had opportunity to continue serving in St. Louis, I purposely took a call to an independent Lutheran congregation away from the political center of the synod. Nonetheless, the mobbing has continued to the present time, at least weekly. I was told—you had better be on the right side or else. They are apparently afraid that I am joining someone else’s political team. I am not. I have acted independently. If they had left me alone, I may never have finished writing and publishing this essay. They provided constant motivation to complete the work.
Issues of Loyalty
I believe the only test of loyalty for a church worker should be the ordination or consecration vows. Demands beyond that lead to infighting and destruction. They drive us away from our actual commitment to the Holy Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions. The political parties demand that we love the people they love and hate the people they hate. I did not so learn Christ (Ephesians 4:20). The parties in the synod are the problem that perpetuates the false doctrine and false practice of mobbing. Based on my experience and observations, I wrote to demonstrate these errors and to offer a means of defense for my fellow church workers. Now I will focus again on my primary calling as a parish pastor. If the mobbing continues, I will continue to catalogue the tactics and make them public. I do plan to write an essay on how to endure mobbing attacks.