We thought about that word for sometime, and it is a very accurate description of those who infest many of the bureaucratic offices of the church. Pharasite is obviously a combination of pharisee and parasite.
We are convinced that Dr. Walther copied at least some of his church polity from the American system of government. The only problem with the government and with the church is that it depends on an informed and educated electorate. Our national government is functioning way beyond its bounds because the people have been "dumbed down" by inferior education methods.
Our parishioners have been "dumbed down" by our neglecting to teach and preach Luther's Small Catechism. We treat that treasure as a child's book which is okay for beginners but has nothing to say to us adults. The void in our education has been filled by "cotton candy" bible studies (which seem to be pumped at the rate of 10 per week from CPH) and endless programs provided by District and Synod. The programs are sent out because the congregations are too feeble to take care of themselves and so, like Washington, we build a dependance on our "elected servants".
Our Synod was meant to be served by theological statesmen and not pharasites. To be a theological statesman is a difficult assignment because it requires a thorough knowledge of Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions. In the beginning of the Missouri Synod, Dr. Walther had this to say in his First Presidential Address,
"Also our synodical body has the same prospects of salutary influence if it does not attempt to operate through any other means than through the power of the Word of God. Even then we must expect battles, but they will not be the mean, depressing battles for obedience to human laws, but the holy battles for God's Word, for God's honor and kingdom. And the more our congregations will realize that we do not desire to employ any other power over them than the divine power of the Word, the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth, the more will also our counsel find an open door among them. To be sure, those who do not love the Word will separate from us, but for those who love it, our fellowship will be a comforting refuge; and if they adopt our resolutions, they will not consider them a foreign burden imposed upon them from without but as a benefit and a gift of brotherly love, and will champion, defend, and preserve them as their own." (p.204, Concordia Journal/September 1976)
The basis for holding Synod together was to be the Word of God. In other words, the Word limited the authority of Synod. However, just as it is with the civil government, so it is with the church and soon our "servants" began to erode the congregational protections set up in the Constitution of Synod. The pharasites are short on Scripture to support their actions but long on by-laws. Synod and District by-laws are changed to give men who are elected by majority vote the title "ecclesiastical supervisors". The office of District president, as well as many others, is a "human right" office; not a "divine right" office as is that of Pastor.
As Synod was originally set up, the only power a District or Synodical official had was the Word of God. If a congregation had a pastor who was unfit for office (as defined by Scripture) then it was the duty of the District president to advise them how to deal with the miscreant. If the congregation refused, the District president could remove the pastor and the church from the roster of Synod. The District president has no authority to remove a man from his position as pastor; that ability resides in the congregation which called him.
It is also the District presidents responsibility to stand behind a pastor who is defending the faith. But, in this day and age of pharasites, we have "television talk show justice" where the side which can yell the loudest and draw the biggest crowd wins. How would the pharasites have judged the scene on Calvary? Jesus had this to say to their spiritual cousins, (Mat 15:9 NKJV) " And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'"
We are seeing these "doctrines of men" in the promotion of "Fullerism" (Church Growth methods developed at the Reformed Fuller Seminary). Pastors and people want to help Scripture along, as if the Holy Ghost has been totally inept these past millennia and only now is able to do something through the wisdom of man. Pharasites bind pastors and congregations under man-made sociologial, psychological and managerial laws to feed their love of power and to cast their "visions" over the church. (See also Matt. 23:1-7)
Pastors need to teach, catechize, our people constantly. There is no such thing as a "maintenance congregation" all congregations need a solid feeding of Law and Gospel. Pastors must not be afraid to go over the basics again and again. There is a special training program for bank tellers which trains them to be able to spot counterfeit money by touch. The program works by having the tellers touch nothing but the real thing over and over again so that when they touch the home-made money they know somethings not right. We need to expose our people to the "real thing" in doctrine so that they are not led to and fro by every wind of pharisitical opinion.