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Mobbing: Organized Spiritual Abuse in the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod

Mobbing: Organized Spiritual Abuse in the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod

by Edward A. Engelbrecht

from LF Spring 2019

In 1987 a group of students sat together at the dining hall in Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, sharing stories about church life. One of the students described events at a congregation near his home. He set the story in the tense times surrounding the Walkout from Concordia Seminary (1974). Members of a congregation suspected their pastor of being a liberal/moderate. Instead of dealing with their concerns in a straightforward way, they began to antagonize their pastor by repeating certain clandestine activities. For example, when the pastor was not present, they would remove a rollaway pulpit and put it in a closet. They would enter his office to remove certain books from his library. When the pastor returned these items to where they should be, again and again members of the congregation would move them in an effort to confuse and discourage the pastor. As the student finished this story, those around the table wondered at the bizarre behavior of those in the congregation.

I did not know it at the time but this was my first exposure to a practice that is still widely used in The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. Known as mobbing, this political activity currently manipulates many church workers into obeying a particular political organization in the synod, known to me as “The Machine.” [1]

Understanding Mobbing

The practice of institutionalized mobbing is not unique to the LCMS. It spread in Europe during the Cold War era and entered into political and business environments as a management technique, often with disastrous results. German psychologist Hans Leymann first identified the phenomenon in the 1980s while studying issues in Swedish workplaces.[2] Mobbing continued to spread into the United States and Canada, which is most likely how it came to the LCMS. Extreme mobbing is now commonly associated with workplace disruption, suicide, and violence as persons who are mobbed respond by withdrawing or with anger or despair.[3]

Researchers on the topic have also used terms such as bullying or adult bullying.[4] Such researchers likely preferred these terms initially since English speakers have used bully for hundreds of years to describe menacing.[5] Leymann proposed the term mobbing to define something more specific. In the research literature, adult bullying now commonly describes menacing behaviors from one individual to one or more people for a duration of less than six months. Bullying is usually more of a spontaneous action rather than a planned and coordinated action. Mobbing describes multiple people menacing one or more people for more than six months. Workers who mob others may plan and coordinate their attacks or create an environment that targets others as “problem persons.” Duffy and Sperry explain,

Mobbing is not bullying. [Mobbing] is often far worse than bullying. Mobbing takes place within organizational or institutional settings and always includes organizational involvement. Key organizational members become involved in mobbing through overt and covert actions against a target or through failure to act to protect organization members from abuse. Bullying is the subjecting of a targeted individual to hostile and abusive acts by one or more individuals without the presence of organizational involvement.[6]

When mobbing or workplace bullying happens repeatedly, it becomes a serial problem for the organization or institution. Pamela Lutgen-Sandvik lists the common stages in serial mobbing or bullying: (1) Initial incident—cycle generation, (2) progressive discipline, (3) turning point, (4) organizational ambivalence, (5) isolation and silencing, and (6) expulsion—cycle regeneration.[7] After the organization expels the target, a period of calm may follow until the leaders of the mobbing identify a new target so that the cycle begins again. Serial mobbing may afflict LCMS congregations and institutions that habitually run off church workers; they are unable or unwilling to address the problem at the organizational level.

According to Duffy and Sperry, mobbers most often target persons who (1) speak out or challenge organizational dynamics or organizational policies or procedures, (2) expose corruption and/or wrongdoing or speak out in the public interest, (3) work for organizational change, and (4) are outsiders or are different from the cultural norm.[8]

According to Davenport, Schwartz, and Elliott, people may engage in mobbing for the following reasons: (1) to force someone to adapt to a group norm, (2) to revel in animosity (e.g., revenge), (3) to gain pleasure, out of boredom, and (4) to reinforce prejudices.[9] I have witnessed each of these motives in the LCMS. I would add a fifth motive to their list. People participate in mobbing to gain favor from superiors, ensuring their place in the church structure.

In my experience, questions of loyalty often provoke the “initial incident” that starts the mobbing cycle in the LCMS. Highly political persons expect and demand loyalty from those who work with them. Anything that raises their suspicion or ire—no matter how small—may lead to mobbing and ultimately to expulsion. For example, when I first became a target, those recruited to mob me would often ask, “Is this something political?” acknowledging that an authority assigned them to do or say certain things to me. My efforts to go to persons involved and discuss their concerns with them were treated as acts of insubordination, making it impossible to follow Jesus’ teachings in Matthew 18 for resolving conflict.

Organizations divided by political loyalties are prone to mobbing. Persons who refuse to take sides are often targeted and may lack the support network that would keep other workers in place. Researchers conclude that 49.1% of adults working in the United States report direct or indirect exposure to mobbing and/or adult bullying.[10] Given these realities, it is little wonder that mobbing also occurs within the politically divided LCMS. Church leaders and managers must understand that when such a problem arises in the church, it is “not simply a personality conflict between two people. It is communal.”[11]

Mobbing and Other Church Bodies

Researchers are only beginning to study the effects of mobbing in the church. For example, the recently published two volume resource Workplace Bullying and Mobbing in the United States includes no entry on mobbing in churches, though earlier publications affirm that such mobbing commonly occurs in religious institutions.[12] One of the earliest studies related to church work is Kenneth Westhues’s The Pope versus the Professor: Benedict XVI and the Legitimation of Mobbing (2005), which describes the problem arising in a Roman Catholic educational institution seeking to grow more conservative.

Pope Benedict XVI was previously known as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. He served as prefect of “The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith,” once known as “The Sacred Congregation of the Universal Inquisition.” Numerous articles have described Ratzinger as an “enforcer.” The rhetoric in these articles illustrates tensions within Catholicism from c. 1986 to c. 2012.[13] 

According to the United Methodists’ 2016 Book of Resolutions, the denomination adopted a “Prohibition of Bullying” in 2004, which they amended and readopted in 2012. They intend the current resolution to “reduce bullying in society” and refer to “mobbing (also known as scapegoating).”[14] The resolution does not make clear whether mobbing of church workers is an issue in their denomination but at least acknowledges the threat of mobbing.

Researcher Steven R. Vensel writes about the problem of mobbing in American Protestant churches (2012). He describes mobbing as follows:

Mobbing has only recently become a focus of attention in the United States. To date there are no known studies investigating mobbing in the workplace setting of the church. . . .

Mobbing is defined as the prolonged malicious harassment of a coworker by a group of other members of an organization to secure the removal from the organization of the person who is targeted. . . . [It] results in the humiliation, devaluation, discrediting, degradation, loss of reputation and removal of the target through termination, extended medical leave, or quitting.[15]

Vensel’s research presents a high number of LCMS workers who have experienced mobbing practices relative to the number of such persons and incidents in other Protestant denominations.[16] To those familiar with the history of the LCMS, this is no surprise. In retrospect, one may conclude that LCMS politics have included mobbing tactics since at least the late 1960s.

The LCMS Machine currently uses mobbing tactics when selecting political candidates, driving out potential rivals, and holding church workers in submission to its program. The remainder of this essay will describe LCMS institutionalized mobbing in four ways: (1) its background, (2) members of the Machine, (3) strategies and tactics of the Machine, and (4) theological and practical dangers posed by Machine mobbing. [17]

Background in the LCMS

After the Walkout, the conservative movement divided into two main camps around the personalities and leadership styles of Ralph Bohlmann and Robert Preus. Bohlmann attained the presidency of the synod in 1981. Documentation shows that Robert Preus publicly supported Bohlmann while simultaneously undermining his leadership.[18] This infighting among conservatives likely embedded mobbing as the preferred strategy for LCMS politics. In other words, the tactics that conservatives propagated for handling the liberals became permanent so that they used them on one another.[19] Insiders learn, practice, and so perpetuate serial mobbing.

The current Machine is an infiltrating and clandestine organization. A person self-styled “The Main Nag” coordinates mobbing attacks. His job in the Machine is to intimidate members of the organization into obedience and to discourage those they fear as rivals.[20] The goal of the organization is to have board majorities and widespread representatives in congregations to ensure full control of the church body and eliminate any safe havens for those considered enemies. This elaborate organization, supported by generous funding, distinguishes the mobbing that occurs in the LCMS. [21]

James C. Burkee describes warnings he received about such an organization as he researched the 1974 Walkout and J. A. O. Preus, the synod president at that time.

I resolved to spend the summer of 2000 in steamy St. Louis, working through the musty Preus files and interviewing those still alive who led the warring parties.

It was then that my journey took a disturbing turn. Several people, many who had lived through the period, cautioned me to back off. These are dangerous people who might make my life miserable, I was warned, particularly if I wanted to teach at one of the synod’s colleges or universities (which I do now). . . . When I began calling on those still alive to request interviews, I often found something completely unexpected: silence. Many were unwilling to talk.[22] The reasons were diverse. For some, the emotional wounds were still fresh. Some were embarrassed by their involvement. Others had professional reasons, wanting to stay “neutral” while serving in official capacities in the church. Some were afraid of reprisals. The most unsettling, however, was the stonewalling from men who did not want the truth exposed; who did not want aired the details of a veiled organization, that, it was implied, still rules the synod.[23]

Burkee describes the Machine and the effects of its mobbing practices upon persons in the synod, especially church workers whose callings place them close to political leaders and activities.

Members of the Machine

The current organization of the Machine took place in response to the forced retirement of President Robert Preus from Concordia Theological Seminary in 1989.[24] The stress of seeing a beloved figure removed from office drove some of Preus’s supporters to reorganize and intensify their political efforts. Many of the seminary students from that era are political activists in the LCMS. Colleague David Scaer described Robert Preus as commanding a “Mafia-like . . . Preus mystique,” which made him both envied and feared.[25] The current LCMS Machine springs from such deep seated loyalty, bitter disappointment, mistrust, and feelings of desperation. These factors are important for understanding the surprising tactics the Machine employs. The following categories provide an overview of the Machine hierarchy and how it operates.

Leaders. An inner circle of elected and appointed members of the LCMS guides the Machine. These leaders present themselves as conservative and traditional while persistently and knowingly acting against their ordination vows. They believe this duplicity is necessary in order to gain and maintain power over the church body and other Lutheran bodies. Members in elected offices of the LCMS count on their operatives to do the dirty work of mobbing so that those elected may appear clean and innocent of Machine operations even though they are directly involved with such operations.

Donors/Withholders. Wealthy contributors pay for Machine operations, supporting election of preferred candidates and attacks on potential rivals. They are networked through the Machine and influence the decisions of the leadership. Donors may also serve as operatives. In my experience, donors are older, white males with conservative political views. They feel disempowered by the changing culture in the United States and believe that secretive operations are the only way to rescue their church body and their nation.[26]

Withholding offerings or donations is a significant way that donors exercise control within the church. Since many congregations and synod entities depend upon the generosity of their members, a person with more money naturally exerts more influence. The Machine may coordinate with such persons to accomplish their goals. For example, if a church worker does not comply with the Machine, funding that supports that church worker may dry up or Machine operatives may ask persons in his organization to participate in mobbing of the church worker if he would like to continue to receive funds.

Operatives. Leaders of the Machine keep lists of trusted persons in synod institutions and districts.[27] They depend on these operatives for mobbing activities. Operatives organize recruits for such efforts without revealing the whole of the activity or the particular motives in attacks. They provide accusations and requests for vetting that motivate people to participate in the mobbing. Every synod institution and even many congregations have these operatives. Operatives also work within other Lutheran denominations such as the ELCA and the NALC.

Recruits. These are people either coaxed or forced into mobbing practices on behalf of the Machine. A typical recruiting tactic is as follows. The operative tells the potential recruit, “This person is getting into some trouble with our leadership. We need to help this person stay out of trouble. I’d talk to this person myself but I don’t like confrontation. Could you possibly say or do the following to help me get to this person without creating a confrontation?”

Another tactic for recruitment is simply to set an example of gossip and encourage others to tease the target about the topic of gossip, make fun of the person’s appearance, or some other feature of the person’s character. For example, if a person dresses casually or wears the same clothing often, they become easy targets for gossip. However, if a person is dapper or trendy, this presents other opportunities for gossip. The operatives will use whatever circumstances are available to accomplish their goal of discouragement. As this practice spreads in an organization, the person is mobbed without the continual urging of the operative, who will feign innocence if challenged about his or her behavior. One can easily see how the mobbing process demoralizes not just the target but also the recruits, spreading damage throughout the organization. In fact, if a recruit fails or refuses to deliver the expected mobbing attacks, the operative may then target the recruit.

The operative will also recruit people who are actually friendly toward and supportive of the target. The operative tells the friends that leadership in the synod would like to vet the target for appointment or election to a leadership position. They ask the friends to participate in the vetting process with the understanding that their friend will advance as a leader. They then tell the recruit what to do or say. The result is that the targeted person feels mobbed by both hostile persons and friends, increasing his confusion and feelings of isolation.

If a target chooses to submit to and cooperate with the Machine, he is then forced to mob other people to demonstrate his compliance. For example, if the Machine blacklists and accuses a target of being a liberal, an operative may require that church worker to attack others for liberalism. This guarantees the person’s dependence upon the Machine by assuring that he is isolated from rival groups.

Mobbing is not politics or business as usual. Because individual recruits do not see the full extent or effect of the mobbing activity, they may regard their involvement as innocent or even as helpful to the target. They do not see the mobbing activity may happen repeatedly and for years, leading to dangerous tensions. 


The Machine’s primary strategy is purging or eliminating independent minded persons and rivals.[28] In the past this strategy worked well for conservative leaders in the synod as there was a large, ever growing supply of church workers. Today, this strategy works against the Machine, especially since the number of seminary students continues to decline. For example, in the past sons would follow their fathers into pastoral ministry. But when fathers have experienced mobbing, they are much less likely to encourage their sons to study for the ministry. In this way, the Machine does substantial damage to the future of the LCMS through mobbing.[29]

Machine leaders organize political efforts to the local level so that persons at the top of the organization can count precisely how many votes they have and how many votes they need to win elections. Local circuit meetings that select voters for conventions are not passive bodies where each member of the circuit gets a turn to represent the local congregations. They are the first level battleground for getting out the vote in synod politics. The Machine sees to it that their recruits line up to vote for them. They may mob anyone or any organization that competes with them.

In order to maintain control of the LCMS, the Machine has counted on the support of conservative and traditional, small town and rural congregations for getting the needed votes to keep them in power.[30] As the population of the synod continues to shift away from these congregations and into the suburbs, this forces the Machine to change strategies. We are likely to see some dramatic and deeply upsetting changes in the next fifteen years as many small congregations close due to the dying off of older, more traditional and conservative persons. The Machine will have to control more suburban congregations and less complicit congregations, guaranteeing more conflict.


The following is a list of tactics I have witnessed or that others have described to me.[31] It illustrates both the pettiness and the extremes to which the Machine will go in order to enforce conformity to its program. The most basic tactic is discouragement.[32] Operatives may use anything that causes discouragement, as the long list below shows.

In support of the entries, the end notes include references to other publications about infighting in the LCMS. [33] I include these references to demonstrate that (A) this is a deep seated, longstanding corruption of LCMS doctrine and practice, and (B) the items in this list are not the result of hearsay or speculation but offenses that are subject to documentation as they are repeated over time. I do not include incident-by-incident documentation or the long list of persons involved. I have omitted such information because I am most concerned to inform church workers about tactics they may experience. Information about tactics may allow church workers to protect themselves if they become targets.

Abuse of Power. Church workers targeted by the Machine may not always count on help or support from persons in the district or synod. Some officials are members of the Machine who will report on a church worker and use their offices in support of Machine politics. Although the synod has in place procedures for reviewing the activities of leaders in the synod, the procedures are designed to keep the synod Machine working, not to protect church worker pawns.[34] Congregations are more important to the Machine because they lead to votes that keep them in power. Church workers only matter if the Machine can recruit them, and even then they consider such church workers replaceable. To put it another way, the Machine views church workers as disposable.[35] See Purging.

Automated Messages. An operative may send repeated messages that purport to be from a law firm that is mailing information to a target about a lawsuit. They accuse the target of failing to sign for documents. The goal is to make the target think that a lawsuit is imminent. Of course, it is not.

Blacklisting. Targets are blocked from promotion, areas of service, and publishing so that they do not have achievements or name recognition that might make them desirable as political candidates to other parties or independents.[36] The Machine may monitor any church worker who operates a popular blog, develops a social media presence, or sends out emails to large groups of people—even a Christmas letter. On the other hand, persons who cooperate with the Machine are continually given opportunities to make them look like competent, viable leaders. 

Blackmailing. Machine operatives keep an extensive database of potential political dirt, statements, gossip, and speculation for use against targets. They probe constantly for potential errors or deviations in theology that would allow for charges of false teaching.[37] Once a Machine operative finds an effective means of intimidation, the operative uses that means to coerce people into serving the Machine. If a church worker does not do what the operative wants, the operative continually reminds the church worker of the dirt or intimidation they have collected and threatens to embarrass the person, defrock, or drive him out of service. Church workers and leaders are constantly fearful that someone is recording their conversations in order to gather dirt.[38]  See Confidentiality Breeches.

Blasphemy and Contempt. By treating Christian doctrine, history, worship practices, and the sacraments in contemptuous ways, operatives hope to provoke outrage in their targets. For example, an operative or recruit will intentionally contradict the teaching of Scripture or mishandle elements of the Lord’s Supper. The goal is to keep the target angry or upset.

Call Process. In so far as possible, the Machine guides how calls take place in order to reward those who are loyal and to punish those who are not loyal to the Machine. For example, operatives prepare mobbing congregations where an operative and recruits are present. The congregation calls the targeted church worker to the congregation, allows the person to settle in, and then mobs the persons repeatedly until the church worker conforms to the Machine or resigns, typically due to health problems. The Machine may slanderously characterize the church worker as having mental health problems. See Psychological Labeling.

Confidentiality Breeches. Machine operatives do not keep private what church workers say behind closed doors, during private confession, or have recorded in documents.[39] In fact, private meetings are prime opportunities for Machine operatives to gather information about their targets, which they can use to control the target. For example, the increased emphasis on private confession in recent years comes with dangers, especially when officials require church workers to go to private confession and even designate to whom one should go. The Machine can use private confession to acquire otherwise unattainable details about a target. Anyone who participates in private confession must be aware of this insidious abuse of the Gospel.  

Corruption. Some members of the synod staff do not do the jobs publicly assigned to them. Their real full-time work is monitoring, targeting, and mobbing for the Machine. Some are paid exorbitant salaries to keep the Machine in power while giving paltry time to the actual calling they are supposed to fulfill. The result is a corrupt bureaucracy that is gobbling up the strength of the church while assuring its power over the church. Destroying work or impeding work builds discouragement and may provoke anger, taking away a person’s sense of control.[40] For example, nitpicking through the doctrinal review process can slow a project down considerably, an example of how the Machine may corrupt a worthwhile synod process. Sending potential new members to a congregation and then withdrawing them builds up a person’s confidence and then deflates them. Any newly elected or appointed leader in the synod runs into this wall. Many find it insurmountable and comply with the Machine.[41] 

Cover Up. Denial is the most basic form of cover up. Persons in official positions may sweep aside incidents of mobbing, deny they take place, or pretend to investigate them while simply letting them go. If the Machine targets a church worker, the target should not count on official support for clearing up matters. Unofficial investigations of the church worker may occur. Members of the Machine count on their organizational control of the synod’s processes to prevent any progress in an official investigation.[42] See Lying and Political Theater. 

Eavesdropping/spying. Operatives recruit near colleagues in a work space to record information about others.[43] For example, if a church worker talks with someone on the phone, recruits may note portions of that conversation and then pass them along to the Machine leaders. They can then use that information to plan mobbing attacks. Colleagues may complain that their phones are tapped. If they are on a landline, more likely, someone they otherwise trust is eavesdropping on them.[44]

Electronics. Setting off alarm systems disrupts a person’s work and raises stress. If the building where a church worker serves has an alarm system, this is a readily installed tool for the Machine. When a target speaks publicly, recruits may turn lights on and off or adjusted them in order to distract the speaker and the hearers. Altering microphone settings while someone speaks is a prime tactic for confusing targets. A recruit may suddenly turn off the microphone or spike the volume in order to frustrate the speaker and undermine effectiveness. Additionally, after such manipulation, recruits may spread the rumor that the speaker is incompetent or unable to properly use sound equipment, further damaging the person’s reputation. 

Flattery. Since a chief strategy of the Machine is to drum people out of service, they also need a steady stream of replacements, people who are unaware of their operations and are malleable to their causes. Flattery is a tool for winning new church workers over to Machine politics. Church workers should beware if someone is telling them that they may get promoted, that they would make a great candidate for a political office, or that they are one of the best theologians in the church today. Operatives may be recruiting the church worker for their organization, which will include some extreme vetting (see below). Machine recruits will also pretend to support and befriend a target with the purpose of gathering further information about that person. This includes leading questions designed to draw information out of the person, urging them to admit personal weaknesses or ideas that operatives can exploit.

Gossip. Having collected potential dirt or irritants on a target, operatives will spread their allegations and speculations through the church in an attempt to generate a cloud of antagonism and discouragement around the target.[45] A common example would be gossiping that the target has “family problems.” Such a vague accusation allows them to rouse suspicions, change tactics, and so manipulate perceptions of the target.[46] The willingness of church workers to participate in gossip and to believe virtually anything spread about a colleague is stunning.[47] These same church workers also seem not to notice how gossip-driven accusations change over time as the Machine uses gossip to probe about more and more areas of a target’s life. For example, one week the gossip may suggest that the target is becoming a Roman Catholic, then Eastern Orthodox, then Reformed, then an atheist. These wild swings in speculation are a sure sign that operatives are groping for any potential option in their mobbing efforts.

Hacking. A target who has a smart phone or computing device should assume that the Machine has hacked the phone or device so the operative can collect information on the target. The Machine has on staff persons trained in computer technology who take hacking assignments. Some of the activity is simply gathering data from web cookies, which is not illegal in the United States. Other activities are more invasive, including violations of privacy, manipulation of property, and sabotage.

Hinting. Demands from the Machine are rarely delivered in a clear or direct way. [48] Instead, leaders hint at what they want and wait for the target to jump at the chance of obeying them. They do this for two reasons: (1) Hinting gives them the ability to deny that they are doing anything to the target; (2) If a person responds to their mere hints, they know they have broken that person’s will and have that person in compliance. I have witnessed doctors of theology reacting to supposed hints, trying to please Machine operatives. I have seen such persons in tears, uncertain of how to please those mobbing them. Communicating through hints has arrested progress in some areas of the synod. Instead of having clear direction for service, people stumble about, guessing at what they should do. This lack of clear, direct communication shows the disaster mobbing brings to an organization.

Hitting/Physical Aggression. Striking someone is a form of intimidation and humiliation. Included here is everything from a quick pat on the back, to forceful slapping, to a closed-fist punch, grabbing, twirling, pulling, and shoving. A recruit may shoulder into a person when passing them from behind, delivering a hard jolt. Operatives or recruits commonly deliver such hits and physical aggression at church gatherings, conferences, and small group gatherings. They portray their aggression as innocent. However, observers may note forms of intimidation and even film them.

Identity Theft/Fake Personas. Since mobbing is abusive, scandalous behavior, operatives prefer to stay anonymous. They will create fake online accounts or pretend to be other persons in order to deliver their mobbing messages.[49]

Infighting. Although the Machine dominates its members, infighting still breaks out. Persons rebel against the Machine and then capitulate to it again. They attempt to win favor, step on others while climbing to the top of the Machine, and stab one another in the back. The Machine portrays a peaceful façade to those outside it although it is a cauldron of infighting.[50]

Intimidation. See Blackmailing, Hitting/Physical Aggression, Lawsuits Threatened, Sabotage, and Vandalism.[51]

Lawsuits Threatened. Speaking up against the Machine or its members may provoke legal threats.[52] For example, one may receive phone calls from law firms warning that legal action is imminent, even though one has done nothing illegal. (See Automated Messages.) Such calls are typically prerecorded messages with the name of the law firm omitted so that one cannot call back with questions about the threatened suit.

Lying. Sins against the Eighth Commandment are perhaps the largest category of offense as a survey of earlier literature demonstrates. Duplicity involves feigning innocence while plotting, speaking positively with a person while planning their destruction and acting against them.[53] In order to stress a target, operatives present fake issues or incidents to provoke anger or concern. For example, recruits may tell the target of a threatening incident that occurred when he was not present. Follow up will demonstrate that the recruits manufactured or highly exaggerated the issue or incident. Additionally, if a target raises an issue that the organization should address, operatives or recruits may derisively dismiss the issue as “fake news.” Such faking disrupts the means for identifying genuine problems and assigning resources to address them effectively. (See also Cover Up, Flattery, and Gossip.) The accusation of lying comes up repeatedly from both sides of the conflict in the Walkout era.[54] 

Misspellings. Operatives will sprinkle insults in correspondence by misspelling someone’s name or misspelling words to imply a person has committed sins, has character flaws, or simply to provoke someone. They may also use word jumbles to announce their presence without stating it explicitly. For example, the “Main Nag” operates under the pseudonym “gan ainm” on the ALPB Forum.

Moles. Members of the Machine worry that individuals and organizations may infiltrate and undermine the Machine. They refer to such persons as “moles,” a term borrowed from espionage. Labeling someone as a mole may also rouse suspicion and make that person a target of a rival group. For example, if a church worker moves to a new congregation, that is an opportune moment to label the church worker as a mole and accuse him of infiltrating the new congregation, generating fear among members who might otherwise support the new person. Members of the Machine especially fear that a person is a mole if the person (A) does not respond as expected to their mobbing attacks (e.g., if one stays calm rather than gets upset), and (B) long resists mobbing attacks with the result that the Machine over exposes its operations to the person. Much of the information in this essay was learned through years of resisting and ignoring mobbing attacks without any effort to infiltrate the Machine.[55] 

Phone Conversations. A member of the Machine may invite someone to an office meeting. When the person arrives, the Machine member is on the phone with an authority in the synod. The operative has the phone volume turned up extremely high so that both sides of the conversation are audible. One member of the Machine offers a complaint about the person arriving for the meeting. The other member of the Machine adds that the target is a “problem person” who may not stay in service.[56] Additionally, various prank calls or information gathering calls occur where the caller pretends to be someone else, asks compromising questions, or makes angry statements to provoke intimidation or anger. Such calls or questions may come repeatedly, making it possible to document them.

Political Theater. Synod-wide efforts such as the Koinonia Program present the Machine with unique opportunities. Members of the Machine may attend Koinonia events pretending to be sincere participants while gathering lots of data about targets who loosen up and share opinions.[57]

Psychological Labeling. Operatives will characterize a target repeatedly with a variety of psychological disorders such as passive-aggressive disorder, paranoia, depression, and delusion.[58] Psychological evaluations of church workers are highly valued forms of information since an evaluation can guide how the Machine organizes its mobbing and applies psychological pressure.[59]

Purging. Operatives remove targets from office to make way for persons loyal to the Machine.[60] They treat the office of the ministry and auxiliary offices of service as prizes. A significant number of LCMS church workers have left the synod to serve in other denominations. The Machine always suspects a “problem person” of leaving the denomination and often pushes such persons to leave. Leaders in the Machine constantly probe targets to see whether they are thinking of switching denominations to escape the mobbing.[61] See Corruption.

Recruitment. A surprising tactic is the special recruitment of women and minorities for mobbing activities. The reason for recruiting them seems to be that retaliation against such persons may violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which gives the operatives of the Machine an obvious reason to dismiss someone from service or to accuse them of having anger issues (e.g., “white male anger syndrome” as one operative described it). They may also use such situations to require a target to go to psychological counseling. See Psychological Labeling.

Repetition. This is one of the most basic forms of mobbing, which involves simply repeating back to a person things that they have said or repeating actions or situations that the target may find irritating. Repetition is a form of mocking. The Machine’s database holds a record of statements and irritants which is distributed to operatives and recruits who are asked to say specific phrases or do specific things repeatedly to annoy the mobbing target. The goal is to bewilder and anger the target, leading to intimidation and withdrawal. As described in the opening story, sneaking into someone’s workspace and repeatedly manipulating objects is a method for antagonizing a target. For example, an operative or recruit may disconnect computer or network wiring just enough to make the equipment not work. When questioned, operatives and recruits may deny the activity or blame maintenance staff for moving things. A disadvantage to the Machine is that repeated attacks become recognizable, recordable, and reportable, which is how I learned so much about the Machine. Recruits also become weary of requests to attack others and realize the fully abusive nature of their activity. Operatives and recruits who mob someone continually become more open over time and share information about operations.

Sexual Allegations. For two reasons, this is a near obsession for those in charge of mobbing: (A) a sexual offense may be grounds to remove a person from office, and (B) changes in American sexual mores have alarmed church workers generally. Operatives assume that targets are sexually deviant and probe them for sexual behaviors. They may manufacture allegations to achieve that goal.[62] For example, they create spurious “evidence” repeatedly probing a person and noting every response. If a person reacts in any manner to such probing (e.g., with frustration at being asked repeatedly about a topic or with flippant or joking replies), operatives regard the response as evidence of an offense, a conclusion they slanderously spread through the mobbing network. On Facebook and other social media, male church workers are often sent friend requests from young women whom they do not know and with whom they share no other friends. This activity appears like “phishing” from internet criminals but is in fact generated by Machine operatives. If the church worker accepts the friend request, that is viewed as evidence of inappropriate sexual interests. This is then used to recruit people for mobbing activities. What usually follows is gossip about adultery. Church workers on Facebook can be seen complaining about this type of attack. 

Terms Redefined. Operatives have developed specialized vocabulary based on redefinition of biblical terms as well as characters from popular films. For example, they will describe a member of the Machine as “an Israelite in whom there is no guile” (John 1:47) [63] whereas they will describe a target as a “Canaanite,” whom Israel should destroy. They refer to themselves as “Jedi,” the heroes from the Star Wars films, and as “the Borg” of Star Trek, against whom “Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.” “Committing suicide” refers to leaving the ministry of the LCMS. They may even refer to leaders in the Machine in Messianic terms, bordering on idolatry. “Forgiveness” means something like submitting to someone’s political leadership and supporting the Machine, ranging into distortions of the doctrine of justification.

Stalking/Trolling. An operative will note the blogs, forums, and other sites where the target participates online. The operative will then follow the target’s activities. Each time the target posts or interacts with someone, the operative or a recruit may post a derisive response to the activity, trying to provoke anger in the target. Such responses may include repeated insults, demands, or questions. (See Repetition.) Often the operative adopts a pseudonym to mask his identity[64] or deletes his posts to remove evidence of the stalking/trolling behaviors.

Threats. Refusing to cooperate with Machine operatives and failing to cower from their intimidation may bring out deeper destructive behaviors[65] such as threatening to destroy a church worker’s career or even to have the person killed.

Tracking of Targets. Leaving an organization does not end mobbing.[66] Operatives prize details about a person’s travel schedule since mobbing attacks delivered while a person is traveling causes the target to feel like he cannot escape the Machine. They may use cell phone location software to gather information about a target, presenting operatives with mobbing opportunities. Upon returning to one’s workplace, a target may expect sharp attacks to reinforce the intimidation.[67]

Vandalism. Destroying property and then replacing it is a way to intimidate a target of mobbing while appearing responsible and even generous. See Sabotage.

Vetting. In political environments, leaders commonly test the opinions and demeanor of persons they consider for advancement. In a mobbing environment, vetting gets turned into an excuse for repeatedly attacking a target, providing cover to the operatives. For example, if a leader in the Machine is angry with a pastor, he may lie to colleagues, saying that they are vetting the pastor for a new position of leadership. Since the colleagues want to support the pastor, they readily agree to test his opinions and responses, and report on him. Added to these tests from otherwise friendly persons, recruited for vetting, are the usual mobbing attacks from persons who are hostile. The result is that the target suddenly feels as though everyone is participating in the mobbing. When the targeted person does not get promoted, the colleagues are simply told or they assume that the target did not pass the vetting test. At the root of this fake vetting is lying, which is additionally an abuse of authority. See Gossip, Lying, and Abuse of Power.

Anatomy of a Mobbing Event

The following illustrates the subtlety with which a mobbing may take place. First, there is a set up. Someone drops by your office. In every way the conversation seems normal and business-like until the operative or recruit mentions something regarded as irritating. The operative may ask something like, “Don’t you hate it when this happens? What would you do about it?” trying to provoke an emotion. They may add other encounters to ensure that the target notices the point of irritation.

Second, operatives stage a mobbing event where the matter earlier discussed happens. In this way, the operatives attempt to draw out the irritation, hatred, or anger that they mentioned in the earlier conversations.

Third, if the target responds with anger, they label the target as having “anger issues” or characterize him as having guilt about something, which invites further scrutiny. They stage such mobbing activities repeatedly, guaranteeing that they will eventually provoke anger.

Fourth, a taunt about the mobbing event relays the operative’s satisfaction with having gotten to the target. He adds the target’s response to the dirt database for future use.

Theological Dangers

Mobbing in business and other institutional settings is highly destructive as studies over the last 30 years have demonstrated. Mobbing pulls everyone down—targets, recruits, operatives, and leaders—creating ever widening discouragement, distrust, and lack of productivity. Although research on churches is just beginning, any student of Luther’s Small Catechism may readily see the dangers mobbing poses among church workers. The strategies and tactics listed above describe repeated violations of all of the Ten Commandments and distortions of the Gospel. Such matters must not “be tolerated in God’s Church, much less be excused or defended” (Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, introduction, para. 9). What follows is a brief assessment of the dangers.

Antinomianism. Mobbing requires its practitioners to abandon God’s commandments (Exodus 20) or to exalt themselves above the Law. In order for operatives to be effective, they must lie and deceive to escape responsibility for their actions, violating the eighth commandment. Gossip and slander are frequent tactics. Mobbing requires those who practice it to abandon the fifth commandment since they must attack the wellbeing of others. This includes putting people at risk by urging subordinates to target others while the administrator of the mobbing keeps a safe distance from the activity, a form of cowardice and abdication of duty. One might describe many other examples of willful, planned, repeated sins resulting from antinomianism.

Outcome Based Ethics. Operatives defend their activities in a variety of ways, illustrating a significant shift in ethics within the LCMS.[68] In view of the Scripture and Confessions, the LCMS has traditionally held to divine command ethics, especially as taught in the catechisms. The propagation of mobbing shows that some leaders within the LCMS have adopted a form of outcome based ethics, a shift in ethics characteristic of neo-orthodoxy. The same theological influences that sparked so much change in more liberal Protestant churches are manifesting themselves in the conservative LCMS through this change in ethics.

Elitism/Theology of Glory. “A theologian of glory calls evil good and good evil,” wrote Martin Luther (Heidelberg Disputations, thesis 21). A root cause of sin within the LCMS Machine is the belief that operatives are privileged by their positions to disobey God’s Law. They regard repeated, willful sin as necessary for controlling the church body and advancing the political agenda. In essence they argue, “If we don’t do this, a different political party will win, therefore, what we are doing is acceptable and even heroic.” Church workers become pawns in this destructive, triumphalist game.

Additionally, the Machine leaders’ theology of glory tries to remove suffering from the Christian life. For example, instead of telling the truth and bearing the consequences, whether justly or unjustly, they urge operatives and recruits to lie in order to escape suffering and promote their own interests. They abandon what Scripture teaches about suffering in 1 Peter 2:19–24. In such an environment, winning becomes more important than truth and righteousness. The glory-driven church becomes a breeding ground for corruption and abuse.

Rejection of Christ’s Teaching. Mobbing is anti-Christian since it specifically rejects the teachings of Jesus in Matthew 18:15–18. Jesus taught His disciples to work out differences and accusations through personal conversation and due process.[69] Mobbing strictly opposes such personal and open practices because it emphasizes holding power over others and denial of responsibility—values consistent with dictatorship and repression (cf. Matthew 20:25–27). Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 18 has been described as “theoretical religion.” Mobbing, in contrast, is described cynically as “practical religion.”


My wife and I took our usual place near the front of the sanctuary where we worshipped. During the service, I noticed that our pastor behaved in uncharacteristic ways. He seemed angry, kept leering at us, and even gestured at us as he preached sharply. The difference in behavior was evident not only to me but also to my wife. She clenched my hand ever tighter as the obvious tension poured toward us.

After the service, I immediately sought out the pastor to learn from him what was going on. I asked him to please tell me what was wrong. He began to weep. “I know what they are doing to you in St. Louis, and I don’t know how you can stand it,” he said. I assured him, “I can stand it because what they say is not true.” I learned that day that the Machine recruited our pastor to antagonize me during a sermon without ever approaching me personally about something in their dirt database. This mobbing event was to be a surprise attack to supplement their other attacks. Such attacks have continued since that time. Others within the synod have told me that the attacks will never stop because I will not comply with Machine tactics, false practices I am duty-bound to reject based on my ordination vows.

In the Confessions, Luther argues that repeated, planned, and willful sin means the Holy Spirit has departed from a person’s life (Smalcald Articles, Part III, Art. III, para. 43–45). Where mobbing persists in the church, the Holy Spirit is sure to depart. Decline is sure to follow. This is precisely the situation faced by the LCMS. Research shows that mobbing tends to arise and increase in declining institutions. The persistence and growth of mobbing in the LCMS will not readily go away. The people affected—both targets and recruits—will leave in search of more peaceful churches.

Mobbing is false doctrine and false practice. It threatens both of the historic strengths of the LCMS: emphasis on pure doctrine and on mission work. As church workers in the LCMS ponder the combativeness that has characterized our walk together for nearly fifty years, many have wondered whether the church body may split. This seems highly unlikely. A more likely outcome is a steady erosion in membership and leadership creating an ever smaller church with fewer and fewer opportunities to share the Gospel. My prayer is that members of the synod would recognize the destructiveness of the mobbing practices now and take sincere steps to remove them from the church. Current efforts have done little to curtail the problems.

Edward A. Engelbrecht is pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran Church, Columbus, OH. He served on the synod executive staff for sixteen years (1999-2015)* and is the author and editor of numerous books and articles.

* This is a specific designation according to The Lutheran Annual.

Editor’s Note

Due to the claims made in this article it was necessary to corroborate the author’s story. In short, we published the article because we were able to corroborate the author’s story. The corroboration was based on several factors:

  • Author’s character. We were able to determine that the author was speaking honestly about his experiences.

  • Author’s lack of anonymity. That the author attached his name to this article was never in question and it’s important when making public claims.

  • Credible detail. The article steers away from ad hominem and focuses on a first person’s experience with mobbing.

  • Verification. Several people directly verified the author’s story, several more verified multiple details, many more said the author’s story is the best explanation for the things they’ve experienced in the LCMS, and some others found the story believable despite not having experienced mobbing themselves.

    The persons spoken to for corroboration came from all parts of synod. A version of this article will appear in print in LF Spring 2019.

    - Matthew O. Staneck
    Interim Editor, Lutheran Forum.


[1]  This refers to “machine politics,” a shadowy, established political hierarchy that rewards and punishes prospective candidates and organizes voting to achieve victories.

[2] E.g., “Mobbing and Psychological Terror at Workplaces,” Violence and Victims 5(2), 1990, 119–126. Important American publications on this topic are N. Davenport, R. D. Schwartz, and G. P. Elliot, Mobbing: Emotional Abuse in the American Workplace (Ames, IA: Civil Society Publishing, 1999); M. Duffy and L. Sperry, Mobbing: Causes, Consequences, and Solutions (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012). The latter is the first book by a major publisher in America.

[3] See Gary Namie, The most carefully researched example is the 1991 case of Thomas McIlvane and the U.S. Postal Service. See Kenneth Westhues, The Pope versus the Professor: Benedict XVI and the Legitimation of Mobbing, The Tribunal for Administrative Justice (Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 2005), side article, “Going Postal,” p. 175. See Maureen Duffy and Len Sperry, Overcoming Mobbing: A Recovery Guide for Workplace Aggression and Bullying (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014), 49.

[4] E.g., see Gary and Ruth Namie’s Workplace Bullying Institute ( and Pamela Lutgen-Sandvik, Adult Bullying—A Nasty Piece of Work (St. Louis: ORCM Academic Press, 2013).

[5] According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, bully came to describe a ruffian in late seventeenth century English.

[6] Duffy and Sperry, Overcoming Mobbing, 8. For those experiencing mobbing or workplace bullying, this book is the best place to begin reading on these topics.

[7] Lutgen-Sandvik, 40.

[8] Overcoming Mobbing, 15.

[9] Mobbing: Emotional Abuse in the American Workplace (Ames, IA: Civil Society Publishing, 1999), 58–59.

[10] These results are from the Workplace Bullying Institute polling contracted with Zogby International. Lutgen-Sandvik, 223. Direct exposure would be reported by persons who participated in mobbing or bullying and those who were targeted. Indirect exposure would be by persons who witnessed the events. According to respondents, in over 70% of the cases, “upper-management took no corrective action or made the situation worse” (212).

[11] Lutgen-Sandvik, 342.

[12] Maureen Duffy and David C. Yamada, eds. (Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger, 2018). Volume one does describe the practice of restorative justice that spread in Mennonite and Seventh-day Adventist churches in North America (p. 271). The practice bears noteworthy comparison to Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 18.

[13] Terms included were:Abuses, anonymity requested, battle lines, betraying, blocking, bruising, censuring, charming, chilling, church’s heavy, climate of fear, crackdown, cryptic communication, curbing dissent, derailing, disciplining, discouraging honesty, dividing, enforcer, excommunicating, God’s Rottweiler, grand inquisitor, gunning, harassing, heeling, heresy-hunters, hobbling, human rights failures, imposing, inquisitors, intimidating, jeopardizing, lightening rod, obedience demanded, Panzerkardinal, personal guardian of the pope, political calculating, politics above truth, polarizing force, policing, power plays, pressuring, punishing, punitive father, reactionary, repressive climate, reproaching, ruling class, ruptures, silencing, squelching, stripping of authority, symbolic violence, targeting, and vetoing.  Such a list does not constitute proof of mobbing but it does illustrate that such an environment could have arisen, as Westhues claims and illustrates with a particular case. The list of terms is drawn from Loren Jenkins, “The Pope’s Enforcer,” The Washington Post (November 14, 1986). John R. Allen. “The Vatican’s Enforcer,” National Catholic Reporter (April 16, 1999). John Nichols, “The Vatican’s Enforcer,” The Nation (April 19, 2005). David Gibson, “Is Benedict Becoming a Papal Enforcer?” Religion News Service (April 20, 2012).

[14] 2016 Book of Resolutions. Entry #3425 (Nashville: The United Methodist Publishing House, 2016).

[15] Mobbing, Burnout, and Religious Coping Styles among Protestant Clergy: A Structural Equation Model and Its Implications for Counselors (Florida Atlantic University PhD Dissertation, 2012), v, 1.

[16] lcms workers made up 14.1% of Vensel’s sample, a disproportionally very high number, even though he did not specially recruit lcms participants. Vensel, 88.

[17] Such leaders are in danger of becoming Cain-like hypocrites. (Cf. Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, VI, 16.) “Cultures with high power distances between those with power and authority and those without it (i.e., high bureaucratized, vertical cultures) were associated with the emergence of dark or destructive leaders. . . . We suggest that this same analysis translates directly to organizations that are mobbing-prone and accurately describes certain types of military, religious, and educational organizations. . . . The gap between espoused and actual values is wide. This gap creates troubling cognitive dissonance for organizational members who hear their leaders saying one thing and see them doing the opposite” (Duffy and Sperry, 87–88). “Scandinavian research tells us that in the nonprofit sector as well as in the education and health care industry, mobbing is more prevalent than in larger companies” (Davenport, Schwartz, and Elliott, 65).

[18] Burkee, 178–79.

[19] See Bohlmann’s comments in Burkee, 212, nt. 157.

[20] The “Main Nag” does not lead the Machine. He reports to the leaders and is subject to their control. (Cf. the enforcer role of Cardinal Ratzinger in Roman Catholicism.) While I served in St. Louis, I often witnessed the activities of the “Main Nag” and heard him brag about his operations.

[21] The practices described in this article did not develop within the lcms but were assimilated from Cold War Era politics. The methods are comparable to Zersetzung, a sophisticated form of psychological manipulation developed especially by the Stasi in East Germany. The legacy of these destructive practices, which the Stasi struggled to keep secret, are now openly studied. Ministry for Security of State, Dictionary of political and operational work, entry Zersetzung. Ministerium für Staatssicherheit (Hrsg.): Wörterbuch zur politisch-operativen Arbeit, 2. Auflage (1985), Stichwort: „Zersetzung“, GVS JHS 001-400/81, p. 464.

[22] “Onlookers often stay silent because they are afraid of being targeted, which is a very valid fear. Meanwhile, other coworkers . . . side with the aggressor most likely out of a desire for safety” (Lugen-Sandik, 343).

[23] Power, Politics, and the Missouri Synod: A Conflict that Changed American Christianity (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2011), 3–4.

[24] David P. Scaer, “In Memorium: Robert David Preus,” Logia: A Journal of Lutheran Theology, Vol. V, No. 3 (1996): 7–8.

[25] “The Theology of Robert David Preus and His Person: Making a Difference,” Concordia Theological Quarterly 74 (2010): 90.

[26] Some members of the synod have questioned whether the Schwan Foundation is supporting Machine politics. To my knowledge, the Schwan Foundation is not directly involved in Machine politics. They are certainly not at the beck and call of Machine leaders. For example, I have witnessed the Schwan foundation representatives turning down proposals from Machine leaders and properly judging projects in view of their mission charter. Donors to the Machine tend to be less prominent figures with greater anonymity, and particularly recruited for those reasons.

[27] Burkee records that such operatives were known as “contact men” in the Walkout era. Burkee, 119, 220, nt. 135. See Baker, 39.

[28] Westhues points out that “In a war, the first and certain losers are the ‘defenders of the bond,’ the people whose identities extend across what have become opposing sides” (p. 93).

[29] “Especially in cases of bullying where targets are singled out, bullied, and then driven from the organization, firing target after target shifts focus from the communal character of the problem. Sadly, organizations are likely to see that bullying is a problem only after recognizing these cyclical communication patterns over time and many good people have fled” (Lutgen-Sandvik, 330).

[30] Before an election, operatives busy themselves in counting how many votes their candidates will receive. The number of voters in the synod is determined by the number of circuits. The number of circuits is determined by the number of congregations and their members. One way the process affects mission is that smaller and failing congregations are not closed or consolidated. Such congregations may be held open to ensure the numbers of congregations needed to maintain a circuit that would guarantee votes for the Machine. In other words, mission may take a back seat to the politics.

[31] Operatives and recruits have described Machine activities to me that corroborate with my own eye witness experience.

[32] Confer what Adams (p. 117) and Burkee (p. 45) call “The Preus Way.” See Danker, 111. It seems likely that many of the tactics existed before Preus gained the presidency of the synod. Westhues lists the following clues that indicate mobbing is taking place: a target is popular and high-achieving, lack of due process, odd timing (surprising the person), resistance to external review from others, secrecy, unanimity caused by fear of reprisal, fuzzy or changing charges, and marginalization of the target before charges are made (pp. 30–31).

[33] Works are listed in alphabetical order and cited by the author’s name and a page number (a limited number of examples are included). The works include James E. Adams, Preus of Missouri and the Great Lutheran Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1977). Tom Baker, Watershed at the Rivergate: 1,400 vs. 250,000 (Sturgis, MI, 1973). Melody Ruth Barnhart, Heresy vs. Orthodoxy: The Preus/Tietjen Controversy (Unpublished Master’s Thesis, University of North Texas, 1991). James C. Burkee, Power, Politics, and the Missouri Synod: A Conflict that Changed American Christianity (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2011). Frederick W. Danker, No Room in the Brotherhood: The Preus-Otten Purge of Missouri (St. Louis: Clayton Publishing House, Inc., 1977). Laurie Ann Schultz Hayes, The Rhetoric of Controversy in the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod with Particular Emphasis on the Years 1969–1976 (University of Wisconsin-Madison, PhD Dissertation, 1980). Kurt E. Marquart, Anatomy of an Explosion: Missouri in Lutheran Perspective, Concordia Seminary Monograph Series: Number 3 (Fort Wayne: Concordia Theological Seminary Press, 1977).

[34] Barnhart, 3. Cf. Burkee, 68. Hayes, 410–11, 413–14.

[35] Davenport, Schwartz, and Elliott, 76.

[36] Baker, 58, 75, 89.

[37] Danker, 48.

[38] Burkee, 35. Danker, 37, 288. Hayes, 363.

[39] Baker, 71. Barnhart, 65. Burkee, 222, nt. 183. Danker, 246, 249, 288. Hayes, 352.

[40] Duffy and Sperry, Mobbing, 54. Adams, 147. Baker, 103, 110. Danker, 255.

[41] Adams, 128, 197–98. Baker, 55, 117. Danker, 246, 285.

[42] Baker, 6, 10, 33, 48. Barnhart, 64. Marquart, 97, 99.

[43] Adams, 116, 160–61. Danker, 37. Hayes, 375.

[44] Burkee, 198, nt. 103.

[45] Adams, 58, 138. Burkee, 93. Danker, 16, 25–26.

[46] Adams, 152, 172.

[47] Please read what Luther writes about the Eighth Commandment in the Large Catechism. Mobbing tactics constantly violate this portion of the Lutheran Confessions.

[48] Westhues writes, “In many of the mobbing cases in my research, the mobbers never actually come right out and say, ‘We want you gone,’ even if that sentiment can be inferred from how they act” (p. 173).

[49] Duffy and Sperry, Mobbing, 66.

[50] Danker, 342 and nt. 72.

[51] Adams, 13, 202, 213–214. Baker, 68, 86. Burkee, pp. 139, 146. Danker, 13, 290, 345. Hayes, 254, 369. See also Duffy and Sperry, Mobbing, 103.

[52] Cf. Burkee, 156.

[53] Adams, 149. Danker, 44, 219. Marquart, 95.

[54] Adams, 99–100, 124, 138–39, 141, 177–78, 233–34. Baker, 14–15, 35, 46–47, 55, 73. Danker, 39, 219, 258, 263.

[55] Marquart, 80.

[56] Duffy and Sperry, Mobbing, 61. Davenport, Schwartz, and Elliott, 68.

[57] Adams, 231. Danker, 301. Hayes, 354, 361.

[58] Numerous examples of this type of slanderous accusation can be found in postings by operatives on forums and in blog comments. Mobbing researchers describe this phenomenon (Davenport, Schwartz, and Elliott, 72). Baker, 65, 97–98. Danker, 8, 39, 40, 141, 143, 153, 367.

[59] Burkee, 32, 103–104. Violations of HIPAA rules may be taking place.

[60] Adams, 166, 213. Barnhart, 61–62. Danker, 187, 210, 322–23. Hayes, 510.

[61] See, for example, Christopher J. Neuendorf’s essay, “The Lure of Eastern Orthodoxy” CTQ 80 (2016), 341–64. He writes, “The narrative has become all too familiar” (p. 341) and goes on to describe the progress of a seminarian from Lutheran faith and practice to Eastern Orthodoxy. Numerous conservative seminarians and pastors have made this trip. What Neuendorf does not describe is the influence of mobbing on those who leave the ministry in the lcms in search of a peaceful fellowship. Later in the essay, he downplays the number of those leaving (p. 343), contradicting his opening statement, which emphasizes how common the problem is. Prominent figures from the Walkout era left the lcms due to hostilities. The exodus continues today as conservatives attack other conservatives.

[62] Adams, 153. According to interviews with Herman Otten, the Walkout era may have involved such tactics. He cites J. A. O. Preus as saying to him, “Get some of these pastors, you know, some of them shack up with their confirmands, or something, you get something on them about sex, and tell them to scram.” Otten rejected this approach, although he did write to Preus in May of 1971 about accusations of adultery against a pastor. Otten was concerned that Preus was not investigating the matter. Burkee, 103, 138–39.

[63] Cf. Adams, 136–137.

[64] In some states these activities are now illegal. Duffy and Sperry, Mobbing, 67.

[65] Adams, 214–15. Burkee, tip-in photo of a letter to J. A. O. Preus, c. 94.

[66] Duffy and Sperry, Mobbing, 60.

[67] Cf. Davenport, Schwartz, and Elliott, 86.

[68] Operatives defend their actions by citing examples from the life of Martin Luther. They argue that Luther counseled Philip of Hesse to lie about his bigamy, thereby leaving Lutheran leaders a reason to lie when acting in the best interest of the church. What they fail to acknowledge is that Luther’s lie about the bigamy controversy nearly tore the Lutheran churches to pieces as Reformation leadership put political interests ahead of biblical teaching. (For an account of the “calamitous bigamy,” see Martin Brecht, Martin Luther: The Preservation of the Church, 1532–1546 (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1999), 205–15. Luther’s bad counsel appears on p. 212.)

They also cite the example of Luther adopting the title “Knight George” in 1521 in order to travel outside his hiding place in the Wartburg castle. This justifies spying activity and adopting fake personas. Yet such an example offers little comparison between Luther hiding under the threat of death and Machine operatives pretending they are young women on Facebook so they can scrape together some basis for accusing church workers! Could the contrast be more ironic? See Danker’s comments on “Radical Integrity vs. Open Integrity,” chapter 5.

[69] Burkee, 180–81.

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A Statement from Edward A. Engelbrecht

When, Why, and How to Baptize Mormons

When, Why, and How to Baptize Mormons