The WELS: Not expedient; just Hoefling

The WELS doctrine of church and ministry tries its best to pull a fast one by stating "It would be wrong to trace the origin of this public ministry to mere expediency (Hoefling)." If you didn't know better, you'd walk away thinking the WELS is repudiating Hoefling's doctrine of church and ministry. But in reality, the WELS doctrine of church and ministry is indeed Hoeflingnite in nature, they only deny that it is derived from 'mere expediency' by sanctifying it with a divine call.

Rev. John Berg, in the final issue of the Motley Magpie, explains:

The not so secret secret is that the Wisconsin Synod’s doctrine is Hoeflingnite. Francis Pieper in his Dogmatics outlines Hoefling’s position,

Hoefling grants that the ministry is divinely ordained but only in the sense as “everything wise, appropriate, morally necessary” can be said to have “divine sanction,” not in the sense that an express divine command for the establishment of the public ministry can be shown (Vol. III. p. 445).
The Wisconsin Synod’s own Q/A dispelled any notions to the contrary when in answer to a question about “the call” the anonymous seminary professor said in regard to the rite vocatus of AC XIV “There’s no Bible passage that says this, but it is common sense.” He then with sleight of hand said that “[AC XIV] is not addressing the human custom of ordination or speaking of a specific position in the church (like parish pastor or elder or deacon)” as if ordination does not involve the church’s call and this were about titles and not AC V duties. Another Q/A fielded a question by a concerned parishioner whose pastor was encouraging new fathers of his parish to baptize their own children. While labeling it unwise, he defended the right of fathers to do this sans call, sans emergency.

So the office to which one must be ritely called is mere common sense. Makes sense! - to Hoefling. Now, whatever we may think is common sense is not a divine mandate or, as a friend says, “if it is common it is not divine.” Yet Wisconsin eristically protests that it is not Hoeflingnite for it maintains a “divine” institution of the public ministry, however, it says there is no divine word of institution, but that the public ministry is “assumed” from the fact that God blesses the efforts of such. Thus Hoefling. So much for the new Wisconsin Synod rule that only “prescriptive passages and not descriptive ones” form doctrine. The Wisconsin scholar John Schaller said this long ago and it is now catching on (See Logia I:1, p. 9ff). Wisconsin scholar August Pieper also said that any arrangement, even one without pastors or whatever you wish to call them is OK. There is no mandate from God, not only for a certain “form,” as Wisconsin likes to say about the office of AC V, but for the public ministry itself, aside from the rubric commending tidiness (1 Cor. 14:40, a law sedes for a Gospel institution!) – Christ’s words to the Eleven (and in John, the Ten) after his resurrection, John 20:21-23, Mark 16:14-16, Matt. 28:16-20 and the Tractatus notwithstanding. Their official statements speak of the church’s authority to call as “implied in the authority to administer the Gospel.” So the Holy Ministry is an implication and not an institution, Hoefling would be proud, yet bewildered by his disciples’ distancing themselves from him.

In the WELS, you see, the office is in the doing of ministerial tasks. This was Hoefling’s false teaching. The what of the Ministry overwhelms the who. However, the who is of the utmost importance. The who is what lies behind and empowers the what, for the empowering who is Christ, and through Christ’s stand-in, the frail minister, this power is administered to God’s people. Again, the WELS position is Hoefling’s teaching, but if you say loud and long enough, “We’re not Hoeflingites!” someone will believe you.