I just finished listening to John Fenton’s radio interview about his decision to leave Lutheranism and join the so-called "Orthodox" Faith. Several important things jumped out at me:
1) He had serious doubts and reservations about Lutheranism before he went to the seminary. He had visited an Orthodox parish and read Ware’s book on Orthodoxy and as he admits in his interview he had "considered dropping out of the seminary" several times, but did not. Here we have to be concerned that there was not a much more careful screening process at the seminary. Men who have these kinds of grave doubts and reservations about Lutheranism simply should not be permitted to continue in their studies. One should never be permittted to attend seminary as a way to work through such grave doubts and reservations.
2) Fenton clearly rejects the Biblical confession of the Gospel in
rejecting the doctrine of vicarious satisfaction and wishes simply to
chalk up the propitiation of God’s wrath as an Anselmic theory. He has
replaced the pure Gospel with adiaphora. In other words, for Fenton the
"law of faith" is trumped by the "law of praying." Pretty liturgy is no
substitute for the beautiful truth of pure doctrine.
3) Clearly this was a calculated and well orchestrated move out of
his parish. A home was purchased, plans were made, and "Bishop Mark" of
the Antiochian Diocese has green lighted the development of a "Western
Rite" Orthodox parish in the Detroit area and Fenton’s eventual
ordination. Pastors who are aware of fellow clergy dabbling with
Orthodoxy would do well to be aware that this is not simply some
innocent "questioning" but often part of a well planned effort to leave
Lutheranism, and there is, as I indicated, a clear program under way to
recruit others. To laity and pastors: if you suspect a person is being
tempted by the siren songs from Istanbul ask the pastor in question to
tell you, in full and thorough detail, why they believe Eastern
Orthodoxy is wrong. If they demur, there’s a problem.
4) Finally, and most tragically, Fenton indicates to the interviewer
that in spite of years of "discerning" and "studying" he said he
realized he simply had to embrace Orthodoxy in spite of things he
"doesn’t understand" about it, simply on the basis of "trust" that it
must be right. Isn’t that both pathetic and sad?
Let us pray that in spite of the error he has embraced by joining
"Orthodoxy," John Fenton will be preserved in the saving faith and pure
Gospel he learned at his father’s knee in the Small Catechism. And let
us all take heed and warning from this episode.