27 August 2008

What if. . .

The post just below on Liturgical Order gets me thinking. . .

Especially with the great changes being pushed by the Purple Palace for our structure and whatnot, I wonder if the following will ever shake out:

A group of pastors and parishes seek to leave the jurisdiction of the LCMS but not its fellowship. What I mean is, we all feel a great deal of love for the confession, history, and (many) institutions of the LCMS. We don't want to sever fellowship with our brothers and sisters here.

What many of us are actually frustrated with is the bureaucracy, by-laws (the real canon law around here!), and the scandal-causing lack of uniform practice in worship, closed communion, etc.

So what if a group of pastors and congregations that desire such things as compliance with AC XIV and an evangelical but binding canon law on the liturgy were to separate from the LCMS' bureaucracy and form a jurisdiction of its own, but remain in fellowship with MO.

The LCMS is now once again in fellowship with another jurisdiction in the US - the AALC. Perhaps in the decades to come a devolution of the bureaucracy can take place wherein one or several other jurisdictions will spin off of the LCMS leading to a resurrection of something like the Synodical Conference: a group of jurisdictions in fellowship with each other, critiquing each other fraternally, and providing a living and visible picture of what differing visions for the practice of our shared doctrine look like. Perhaps the recent heavy-handed proposals from the current bureaucracy will make something like this more attractive to some of our parishes.

One benefit of this would, I think, be a general calming of the nerves and thus an improvement in our discourse. In other words, I think a separate jurisdiction in fellowship with MO might prove a better leaven for MO than the current disjointed scattering of traditionalist minded pastors and congregations.



Rt. Rev. Jack Bauer said...

Of course this still leaves one in uncomfortable fellowship with errorists using Baptist, Assemblies of God and other Anabaptist practices and eventually theologies.

What if we began to have our fellowship practices function more along the lines of what is, what really exists doctrinally regardless of synodical notation, benefit plans, and what have you? What if we didn't take it for granted that we agree simply on the basis of LCMS being on the building somewhere?

I think we need to start thinking of better ways to do things than the attempts at reform in recent decades. Luther wasn't saying, "Hey, if we just get so and so elected cardinal, then we can really get things done and hang on to the bureaucracy."

reiteration of something I posted in response to a previous blog entry on BJS:

The Three Walls Preventing Reform of the LCMS

“On the Reform of Our Own Christian Estate: A Historical Review of Luther on Dissent and Reform”

A Catechism on the Dissent Process in the LCMS

State of Confession, Trinity Lutheran, Herrin, IL

revalkorn said...

I don't think it's a bad idea, but I find it hard to believe that the LCMS will ever get back to the point that it will accept admonition fraternally from those who used to be in its membership but left precisely because of its bureaucracy. As it is, those with whom we are already in fellowship seem to be disinterested in offering fraternal admonition, so maybe I'm wrong.

Maybe that's cynical of me, but I can only be who I am.

Paul McCain said...

It's an interesting point to ponder, but of course, no matter how "liturgical" or "high church" most of us are, or some of us perceive them to be ala George Orwell, "Some liturgical people are more equal than others" the point is that we are all so thoroughly embued with an American independent spirit that very few of us would be willing to accept what was commonplace throughout Lutheran Germany in the 16th and 17th centuries: church orders that simply did not permit local congregations to do their own thing, either on the high side or low side of the equation. Down the "nth" detail.

I've heard on this list the comment, "But what about those of us who are not satisfied with LSB?"

That question points to the very problem in any of these grand theories and schemes: we all love our liberty! Are we willing to set aside liberty, preference, "what we know is right!" for the greater blessing? Peace, unity and loving uniformity precisely for the sake of clarity and consistency of Gospel proclamation?

That's the real question.

And just because somebody wants to come along and "kick it up a notch or two" when it comes to liturgy is no reason for us simply to say, "Oh, well, sure...if they are going that way, no problem!"

There is something here that I think is well worth pondering, as Luther put it so well, "You are not free to use your liberty" in matters of adiaphora.

Seems that is the real issue we need to come to grips with.

wmc said...

A group of pastors and parishes seek to leave the jurisdiction of the LCMS but not its fellowship.

Institutionally speaking - impossible.
Ecclesiologically speaking - possible, though intrinsically sectarian.

One would have to adjust one's notion of "closed communion" since the current practice is on institutional-juridical grounds. (I know, we say it's on confessional grounds, but guess again.) If one "leaves" the jurisdiction of the LCMS, in all likelihood, the LCMS would immediately sever fellowship ties and close communion to the dissidents.

Like it or not, Institution and Church run together in the Lutheran CHURCH - Missouri Synod.

Rt. Rev. Jack Bauer said...

The original name of the LCMS didn't use the word "Church," interestingly, nor "true, visible" for the LCMS - only for "the Lutheran Church" - that which is faithful to Scripture and the Confessions.

But as to "high church" that's bad (Anglican) terminology. Most of what is called "high church" is simply old Lutheran practice as Bodo Nischan, Frank Senn and others have shown. That's more of a Pietistic reaction to orthodoxy anyway. Lutherans shouldn't even use the terms "high church" or "low church." We should say orthodox or heterodox or Pietistic or Lutheran. We subscribe to AC XXIV and than should mean something in practice. Formula X doesn't gut out AC XXIV.

Reformationalist said...

McCain wrote: Are we willing to set aside liberty, preference, "what we know is right!" for the greater blessing? Peace, unity and loving uniformity precisely for the sake of clarity and consistency of Gospel proclamation?

Does Rev. McCain think that this is what we have? "Peace, unity, and loving uniformity"? We precisely do NOT have peace and unity, nevermind loving uniformity. If I thought that having peace and unity was the measure of my membership in the LCMS, I would have gone long ago (like two conventions ago, and if I happened to be particularly myopic, even then the last convention would have done it).

I am in the LCMS because God put me here. He ordained me here. He called me to my present pastoral responsibilities. And either he or the LCMS itself is going to have to take me out. That doesn't mean that I have to call error "truth," or conflict "peace," or administrative/executive manipulations "the measure of the will of God."

We have pastors and congregations abandoning Lutheranism for Evangelicalism via their choices and patterns of "worship." And what is the concern here, from Synodical circles? Some congregations are still using TLH! Some congregations are "higher" in liturgy than can be found in LSB! Give me a BREAK! Wake up, and smell the REAL coffee burning! And ..., well, you can add your own cliche.

Those who use TLH (and resist familiar ways of turning it pietistic) are Lutheran in practice. Those who use those other "high church" liturgies not currently published by CPH are still Lutheran in practice. Those who follow the rubrice of LSB to the last jot and tittle are still using Lutheran practices. THESE folks(my congregation included, along with its in-process LSB Supplement) are NOT the problem that should bother us and move us to action! Abandoning Lutheranism by virtue of practice is the problem! Let's concentrate on addressing that!

Robert. [Schaibley]

Pr. H. R. said...

Pr Cwirla,

I think it is possible - especially now that we do in fact have fellowship with folks not of our jurisdiction: the AALC. How that relationship develops will be instructive for my thoughts here: but that it does in fact exist now is a good sign.

Bishop Bauer,

I love the LCMS. Here I have been taught the Gospel, the Confessions, and received a rich heritage. So long as she seeks to cling to that Confession, I want to help call her to greater faithfulness. The day, God forbid, that she goes the ELCA route and makes the Confessions non-binding, I'll leave. But as long as she says that she wants to hold to them, I have a firm footing from which to call her to repentance in a brotherly way (for example on this AC XIV nonsense).

So I'm very much not one who wants to break fellowship with Missouri. I know others have different diagnoses: that MO is just too far gone, that we should "cut ties and all the lies that we've been livin' in" - but that's not me, FWIW.

Rev. McCain,

Spot on, friend. What I'm advocating is exactly that giving up of liberty: which I myself love - too much, if I'm honest with myself. But in my old age I'm starting to see the wisdom of our fathers in seeking a little less liberty and a little more peace.

And I'm convinced that this can't be done piecemeal: it would take a functioning jurisdiction to really make it work. Clubs and societies and cliques can't get it done. And this is one of the reasons why I didn't warm to your very well-intentioned suggestion a while back about just doing the LSB rubrics. Without accountability to back it up and a churchly and churchwide administration of it, it just smacks a little too much of the club without a church for me. To paraphrase the 16th president, "A church jurisdiction must be all bound to canon law or all free of it."

But what if a group of parishes just said to MO: We love you and we are not leaving your fellowship or your doctrine, we consider you brothers and offer you the right hand of fellowship and friendship: we just want the chance to follow a different human arrangement in the church.

I actually think folks might be receptive to that. . .

Rev. Alkorn,

Maybe not - but I don't think we have much of a choice but to try. I've got friends who have grown bitter trying - but then I have friends like Fr. Stuckwisch who just keep on keeping on with patience, forthrightness, and personal grace: it is the latter I earnestly try to emulate.


Fr. Timothy D. May, S.S.P. said...

Rev. McCain:

There seems to be a theme that flows in your remarks. Your attention seems to be directed toward what you call "high church" pietists. There is little or no mention of the other side, ie, "low-church" pietists. When speaking to those you call "high-church" you say they need to be more flexible, ie, adiaphora defined in terms of freedom (be more accepting of "low-church") When discussing "low-church" you seem to say that adiaphora must be understood as confession, uniform, enforced, etc. The difficulty lies in an understanding of enforced liturgical uniformity coming from a "low-church" pietistic standpoint.

Unfortunately, this does not help the pastor in the parish. First of all, "high" and "low" are not terms in our tradtion. Secondly, I am hearing every now and then from "enlightenedn" laity that the use of ANY hymnal (including the LSB) is considered "high", "traditional" and/or "liturgical". This understanding promotes the casting aside of all hymnals. Maybe the front office is twenty years behind in this thinking.

Regardless, we use the LSB. Is this a perfect hymnal? Is there one? I am not bothered by those who use the TLH or those who use the LW. Get off the kick of "my hymnal is better than your hymnal" and realize who you are really supporting when you marginalize those you consider "high church." When you marginalize those who are "high church" you may be unwittingly marginalizing those who use your favorite hymnal.

Rt. Rev. Jack Bauer said...

Fr. Cwirla,

You write:
"The day, God forbid, that she goes the ELCA route and makes the Confessions non-binding, I'll leave. But as long as she says that she wants to hold to them, I have a firm footing from which to call her to repentance in a brotherly way (for example on this AC XIV nonsense)."

What about the Augustana and Apology XXIV nonsense (abrogation) in addition to the AC XIV nonsense?

I understand the thought: We use the constitution of synod against the synod for the sake of synod when necessary. Yes, yes. Agreed.

But what we have is not an ELCA tactic in our midst - making them merely historical, non-binding documents, but the layering, reinterpretation, Pharisaical ways of the scribes and teachers of the law (CTCR, CCM). Bury them, "interpret them" under "official positions."

Fr. Cwirla, it is not a matter of WANTING to break fellowship. No one should ever WANT to. It is a quarantine for the sake of the body - both within and without the quarantine, hopefully not permanent.

Rt. Rev. Jack Bauer said...

Sorry thought I was responding to Cwirla but I was responding to HRC.

Mike Keith said...

As I read this post I found myself intrigued by the idea. Then I began thinking: eventually I may end up with a Synod of ME.

I am uncomfortable with the diversity of practice and at times contradictory understandings of the Divine Service. At times I am left speechless at what I have seen done. Yet I wonder - again - perhaps this is the best we can hope for this side of heaven? This is not to say we should not strive for more uniform practice and understanding. But there is no perfect Synod. There never will be. They are all messed up and always will be. So where does one draw the line?

LCMS (LCC) have drawn the lines in certain areas that have distinguished them from others. Yet, at times, we within these church bodies feel uncomfortable. So, where else ought we draw lines and how do we prevent ending up by ourselves?

The Rev. BT Ball said...

you will note that in the recently released BRTFSSG document "Walking Together" it is suggested that perhaps circuits could be arranged according by "affinity group" and that perhaps new districts could be created to "Instill flexibility so that congregations and groups of districts could reorganize as they feel best meets their missional needs."

I wonder if something along the lines of what you are thinking isn't behind this. "Hey you guys with your crazy colored robes, chanting etc. You have affinity for each other and your missional needs are much different then ours. Go for it."


Paul McCain said...

Bob, you rather dramatically missed the point.

We are talking about a set church order in some kind of new district or organization.

Are we willing to give up our "liberty" in matters of adiaphora, which is, properly understood, what all matters of liturgical practices ultimately are?

I suspect that even those who love the liturgy are not willing do what Luther calls for.

Bob, what this would mean is that you would willingly give up you practice of printing your own liturgies, which if I recall at Zion were a mixture of various liturgies, in order to use the same church order.

Are you willing to do that and truly agree to the same liturgy?

My point is that even those of us who claim to love the liturgy and order and unity in it, are not willing to embrace the kind of loving uniformity which the Church Orders provided and the blessings that attend such uniformity.

That little American in us just won't allow us to do that.

Paul McCain said...


I'm disappointed you are unable to see my point, perhaps I'm not being clear enough.

It seems to me, on the other hand, that you simply do not want to consider the points I'm raising. It would appear to me that your position is that anyone doing anything that you, or perhaps others, judge to be "liturgical" should be permitted to do whatever they wish.

I believe there is great value in using the liturgy as uniformly as possible, as Luther indicated in the Wittenberg Church Order.

For example, is it good for the order of the church for one parish to put up a Tabernacle on its altar and reverence and adore the contents outside the instituted use of Christ in the Lord's Supper? and another not to do that?

Is it appropriate in the same fellowship for one parish to embrace a form of the Divine Service that resembles a Tridentine Mass, down to the elaborate finger gesticulations instituted to prop up the silly theory of Transsubstantiation and another parish not to do it?

And a whole host of other elaborate rituals, while the parish down the streen, of in a neighboring community does not?

If we say, "Oh, well, they are all liturgical and so it's ok" then on what ground do we stand to say to a parish that cuts the liturgy to next to nothing, but still has some bare-bone forms, that they are doing something less than Lutheran, or less than what they should be doing?

The point is that there is an incredible amount of subjectivism in all this. Who determines what is truly the best and most appropriate liturgical forms? Tim May, the Liturgy discussion group? Gottesdienst journal? The Society of St. Polycarp?

We say we want an ecclesial process. We say we want ecclesiastical supervision. We claim we are for liturgical uniformity, but it strikes me that there is more than a little inconsistency here in what actually is going on.

I will continue to say that the best service we could render to the sake of uniformity in doctrine and practice is to strive for the greatest degree of liturgical uniformity as possible, for the sake of good order, for the sake of the people, for the sake of the Gospel.

My concern, frankly, is that some of us make the liturgy not a means to an end, but an end in itself, and to itself. Is that opinion unfair? I'm sure it may well be. Is it at all warranted? I believe so.

Lest we forget matters of liturgical practice, form, traditions are adiaphora. They are not divinely commanded and we should not do anything to lead people to think that it is by means of a certain liturgical order, or form, that we are in fact serving the Living Lord of the Church.

Liturgy is a tool, a means to an end, a very beautiful one, a very powerful one, but nonetheless not more than a tool and means to an end.

That end is worth every effort, in my opinion, to strive for the greatest possible uniformity, giving up our personal preferences, our opinions, even our deeply held opnions about what *we* know to be *just the right way* to do the liturgy.

What if...indeed.

What if...we were to embrace anew our fathers deep sense of these things, to the greatest extent possible. But that little libertarian in all of us continues to whisper, "You know what is best. Your way is the best way."

Reformationalist said...

Missed the point -- maybe so, maybe not. For starters, I'm not in favor of conclaves within the Synod, reflective of groups of congregations practice together in one conclave what is not at all practiced in another.

From what I hear by way of St. Louis area friends, the Administration, seemingly unable to shrink the number of districts, now want to expand them by a factor of three or so, each small enough to need papa Synod to manage the funding for them. Whatever! That's not my concern. But using this particular administrative shell game to cover the fact that people in the LCMS are losing their Lutheranism by virtue of "worship" practices and attendant message is not acceptable, or even tolerable, despite the apparent gain of have some sort of liturgical version of Mr. Roger's neighborhood.

Allowing non- and even anti-Lutheran practices in the ares of "worship" is what we ought to be seeing beneath the covers of such reorganizational gambits. That, and not the question of whether there is flexibility in our American blood, is what we ought to be addressing. There may be some good to be had form such a question, but even so, it is a case of the "good" becoming the enemy of the "best," or here, the "right."

Btw, whatI did at Zion - Ft. Wayne, from 1986-95 was to print out a GUIDE to the liturgy, so that people didn't have to flip pages back and forth, which many of our elderly found troublesome. But since we had both LW and TLH in the pew racks, the liturgy either was page 15 of TLH or D.S. 1 of LW (except in the Easter Season, when the LW liturgy was D.S. 2). It was never mix-and-match for the order of the liturgy.

For what that tidbit was worth!


Robert. [Schaibley]

Fr. Timothy D. May, S.S.P. said...


Where does one begin to respond to all of this? Did I miss your point - maybe, or maybe not. Your argument is consistent against those who practice the liturgy in ways that you are not comfortable with. However, we are also suffering from other maladies. I just got off the phone this evening with a pastor who was at a LCMS church service where they used the LSB but they left out the Confession & Absolution, the Gospel reading and the Creed. Nevertheless, they did not omit the women reading the Old Testament and Epistle Readings.

Are you saying that Lutheranism is indebted to adiaphora as the beginning, middle and end of discussing questions of liturgy? The liturgy is the place where God meets people in Christ. The end of the liturgy is Christ and the triune God. The liturgy is related to so much rich theology including the name and identity of God, the nature of man and need of salvation, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Word of God, the Sacraments, salvation, the Church, and so much more (liturgy is worship, prayer, catechesis)

Yu may know more about the liturgy than those on the liturgy discussion group, Gottesdienst, the Society of Saint Polycarp, the Bride of Christ, etc. Then you need not be threatened that there are those who appreciate, support, teach and learn the liturgy. (Your comment regarding political parties is beyond me as I don't associate the liturgy with any political party but rather see it, theologically speaking, as a threat to all political parties.) All of these liturgical groups and venues are opportunities to teach, learn and support the liturgy. (I am not threatened by those who know more about or follow more rubrics than I do.)

You may be a hero for the Gospel and imply that those who discuss and practice the liturgy don't know or don't have the Gospel. I invite you someday to listen to the liturgy. You have to admit that if you listen you will hear the Gospel. The liturgy is more about things like holiness, reverence, faith. Unfortunately, we never seem to get beyond discussing adiaphora. Or maybe discussing adiaphora is simply meant to be a distraction from the fact that the liturgy is not our friend.

While you appear quite supportive of the liturgy why is it offensive to you that others, even pastors, support the liturgy? or even discuss it?

Paul McCain said...


Here is a really outstanding paper on the context and meaning of the Formula's discussion of liturgy and adiaphora.


Pr. H. R. said...

Fr. Ball,

Indeed - I think the bureaucrats would just as soon not have us at their meetings as well. . . and fine with me. Perhaps their plan of having districts and circuits lined up by "affinity" could eventually lead to full-blown jurisdictions not under the bureaucracy of MO at all, yet in communion fellowship with it: just like the AALC.

The point is this: the LCMS is established for the sake of good order, and whatever else the LCMS is good at, establishing good order is not it. So why not devolve the bureaucracy but keep the Dingansich of fellowship?

This is where I differ from the "Synod of ME" and CLR crowd: I don't want to break fellowship with Missouri. I'm not seeking a separation because MO isn't "pure" enough: I'm not seeking a spiritual separation at all, just a separation in ecclesiastical structure.

There is a long history of this in the Church: hence Easter Rite Catholics (which is not only a liturgical rite, but it's own canon law with married priests, different fast laws, geographically overlapping bishoprics etc.).

All I've heard so far in objection to this sort of thing is an incredulity as to it's feasible because of institutional inertia. But what do you fellows actually think of it on the merits: if it could happen would it be a good thing?

Because I definitely think it could happen. . .


Paul McCain said...


Can you help me understand where, or how, you think I have written that "those who discuss and practice the liturgy don't know or don't have the Gospel."


wmc said...

Sorry thought I was responding to Cwirla but I was responding to HRC.

Whew! Didn't recognize my own words there for a second!

Speaking of HRC:

I think it is possible - especially now that we do in fact have fellowship with folks not of our jurisdiction: the AALC.

The AALC is a separate, autonomous church body, not a separate jurisdiction within the LCMS.

What you are proposing is a "shadow synod" within the Synod, which the Synod will not likely tolerate. And if you close communion to some of the LCMS, due to doctrinal differences stemming from worship practices, you will be redefining "closed communion" as the LCMS practices it (at least on the paper of its synodical resolutions).

Pr. H. R. said...


Sorry I haven't been clear: I am indeed advocating a separate church body (what I meant by jurisdiction) in communion fellowship with MO - just like the AALC is today.


Fr. Timothy D. May, S.S.P. said...

Paul's question: "Can you help me understand where, or how, you think I have written that "those who discuss and practice the liturgy don't know or don't have the Gospel[?]"

This quote is taken from your earlier post, "I will continue to say that the best service we could render to the sake of uniformity in doctrine and practice is to strive for the greatest degree of liturgical uniformity as possible, for the sake of good order, for the sake of the people, for the sake of the Gospel."

The context of the above quotation is in regards to the disservice you see that those congregations down the street that use more rituals pay to neighboring congregations that do not have the same rituals or the same number of rituals.

Your overall concern about as much uniformity as possible is appreciated. We all seek overall uniformity in doctrine and practice. However, your approach in discussing this topic seems one-sided speaking in the direction of those with more rituals (ie, that only those with more riuals harm the chance of uniformity). Probably the vast majority of congregations in the LCMS tend in the other direction. That is they move toward an American, German, or German/American minimalism in liturgical practice. This is all good and fine. However, if the concern among us is that now many congregations are "watering down" the liturgy to where it is almost unrecognizable, if they are replacing the sanctuaries with auditoriums, if they are replacing the cross with the video screen, etc., etc. it does not follow that only those congregations who have more rituals are paying the disservice to their neighbors. I would suggest that there is another side to the question and it is also possible that those congregations which are minimalizing the liturgy and enhancing the entertainment value of Sunday mornings might not only be paying a disservice to their neighboring congregations but, more importantly, to their own members.
Is this striving for uniformity in the Gospel?

There are two realities that are understood both within and outside the church: 1) Most people today understand today, whether for good or bad, that if they visit a church there will be differences with their own church (even with churches from within the same church body). 2) Most pastors today recognize that even with agreement in doctrine and practice that there will be a ritual here or there that differs. No two pastors or congregations will ever be totally identical with each other.
Recognizing these realities or "diversity" does not equate with excusing a slide toward minimalistic agreement in doctrine and practice or support a "we're only human" approach toward the liturgy.

The fact of the matter is that those who are abandoning the liturgy are doing so conscious of what they are doing. They are, in effect saying,
"We want to be Baptists, Assemblies of God, Pentecostals to which we seem to respond "OK" and then turn around and speak publicly about the evils of those who may have 1,2,3, 4 or more rituals than we are accustomed to.

So we seek uniformity? How does this approach achieve this? For the sake of the Gospel? How many rituals must be added or subtracted before the Gospel is pure? How would enforcing uniformity be any less "papist" even if done in the name of a pure Reformation? If the Gospel and the liturgy belonged only to Lutheranism we could afford to argue that uniformity in minimalistic liturgy is for the sake of the Gospel and those who believe in the Sacraments are too stuck in the mud. It is not that easy for we hold that the Sacraments are also Gospel.

In short we cannot say that seeking uniformity in the direction of a minimalistic approach to the liturgy is related to an increase of "for the sake of the Gospel" in proportion to the approach in that direction, anymore than we can say that those who have rituals to which we are not accustomed are hindering any uniformity for the sake of the Gospel.

Finally, we may attempt to codify a pure reformation liturgy but whenever that ideal is reached (if ever) we will have fallen into the same error that we accuse Trent of having.

More fundamentally, continous talk of "adiaphora" (when understood as "license") and "diversity" (when understood as "license") gets in the way of teaching and learning the liturgy and hence the faith for it instills in the hearer the mindset that what matters in the liturgy is that we must practice the liturgy in the way that makes us happy (and discard it too, if that makes us happy). Rather, that the liturgy would not encourage the hearer to be drawn to think of oneself and one's desires but rather be drawn by grace through faith to know and seek God's face in Christ.

Imagine teaching the next generation the faith when everyone around you is saying the faith doesn't matter, the liturgy doesn't matter, the Church doesn't matter, the only thing that matters is what you want in your heart.
But isn't this what we expect daily to hear from the world? Now, what do we do when everyone within the church is seeking to out-minimalize the neighbor in matters liturgical? "That's OK, at least he isn't making me do anything more than I have to do!" (ie, minimalistic liturgy makes me feel better about myself)

In short, if we are to say that those who have more rituals are doing a disservice to their neighbor down the street it may also be argued that those who are discarding rituals and/or parts of the liturgy are doing a disservice to their neighbor down the street.

Rev. Robert Franck said...

I must say that I have seen Paul McCain speak very firmly, decisively, and clearly about the lack of liturgy in congregations, and the silliness that goes on in those places as well. He has done this in many and different places, if not on this blog, and I think he would be stymied to think that people view him as giving some kind of pass to people who want to worship in that way.

I think it is true that the vast majority of LCMS congregations that vary from the standard liturgy do so in a way that is anti-liturgical. But if you see Paul McCain as primarily directing his comments towards the more liturgical set in our churches, I think you just haven't been seeing a representative of his writings.

Rev. Thomas C. Messer, Pastor Peace Lutheran Church (LCMS) said...

Dear Paul McCain:

Like Fr. May, I am confused as to why you find it necessary to continually rail against those pastors who employ liturgical customs which you label "high church." This makes absolutely no sense to me.

You often condescendingly begin your responses to others by telling them that they're missing the point. But, it seems to me that there are a whole bunch of us who totally get your point, but just happen to completely and wholeheartedly disagree with it.

How in the world you can compare using ancient customs and rubrics which do nothing but add beauty and reverence to the Divine Service to the casual, entertainment-driven, man-focused non-liturgies of the "Methabapticostals" in our midst is beyond me.

I'm sure you will deny making this comparison, but this is exactly what you're doing by calling into question those faithful pastors who use more/different customs and rubrics in leading the Divine Service than you might prefer in the midst of conversations focusing on the obvious abandonment of our theology of worship on the part of others. Whether you realize it or not, the impression you give is that "high church" Lutherans are no better than "Methabapticostals." This is not only completely without foundation, but it is, to be quite frank, rather silly.

What exactly is wrong with saying, "Oh well, they are all liturgical and so it's ok"? It IS okay, isn't it? It's okay if one pastor genuflects at various points in the liturgy and another doesn't, isn't it? It's okay if one pastor elevates the Host and Chalice and another doesn't, isn't it? It's okay if one pastor practices "finger gesticulations" and another doesn't, isn't it? It's okay if one pastor chants the liturgy and another speaks it, isn't it? Do you really want to argue that we can't live with these kinds of variations without having to necessarily allow for the complete abandonment of the liturgy on the part of others? Do you really not see the enormous difference here?

Come on, Paul. You're comparing apples to oranges here, whether you realize it or not. It really should not matter one iota to us whether our brothers are "high church" or "low church." What should matter is that they adhere to a true theology of worship, which is Christ-centered and focuses upon the Divine Gifts He delivers to us via His Holy Word and Sacraments. We should be united in speaking out against those who abandon our theology of worship and follow the false theology of worship of modern Protestantism. Shouldn't we?

In Christ,

Paul McCain said...

I'd say, based on the previous two responses, that the evidence for the possibility of true uniformity in liturgical practices is pretty much an impossibility, Heath, to come back to the topic of this particular post and thread.

We can't even agree on the use of a single hymnal, let alone any particular set of rubrics. Even a hymnal with four or five options for Divine Service, is deemed "not sufficient."

While we rightly eschew a cutting apart or dismissal of the liturgy, we can't bring ourselves to say, "No, it is not good for the unity of the Church for one parish to have a Tabernacle on the altar, and another not" or, "No, it is not wise for one parish to path together a liturgy, claiming it is the 'best' or 'better' or 'what we do,' even if they patch it from multiple Lutheran, or catholic, sources." We are uncomfortable saying, "We should use the rubrics which we have agreed to use, rather than pulling together a set of rubrics based on what Piepkorn put together."

The little independent spirit is just too deeply rooted among us.

But, what if we all, in love, for the sake of unity, were willing to embrace the vision of our fathers?

Now even though external rites and orders ... add nothing to salvation, it is un-Christian to quarrel over such things and confuse the common people. We should consider the edification of the laity more important than our own ideas and opinions ... Let each one surrender his own opinions and get together in a friendly way and come to a common decision about these external matters, so that there will be one uniform practice throughout your district instead of disorder ... For even though from the viewpoint of faith, the external orders are free and can without scruples be changed by anyone at anytime, yet from the viewpoint of love you are not free to use this liberty...

It is the cause of much incorrectness... when the external church ordinances, divine service and ceremonies are not held with reverence, or in orderly fashion, or in like manner. Also certain pastors purpose to act in these matters without uniformity. They shall carefully see to it that the ceremonies which have to do with hymns, clothing of the priests, administration of the sacrament ... as well as the festivals, be maintained in an orderly and uniform fashion, at one place as at another, uniform and in accord with such as occur at Wittenberg and Torgau, in accord with the Holy Scriptures...*

Ceremonies [should be instituted] which give the external indication that in the congregation great, high, serious dealings are present, so that the ceremonies lead, stimulate, admonish and move the people to join together their thoughts, lift up their hearts in all humility. That there be in the congregation heartfelt devotion to the word, the Sacrament and prayer … Christian freedom has its place in this matter, as the ancients said, “Disagreement in rites does not take away agreement in faith.” It still brings all sorts of benefit that in ceremonies, so much as it is possible, a uniformity be maintained, and that such uniformity serve to maintain unity in doctrine, and that common, simple, weak consciences be all the less troubled, rather strengthened. It is therefore viewed as good that, as much as possible, a uniformity in ceremonies with neighboring reformed churches be affected and maintained. And for this reason, henceforth all pastors in the churches of our realm, shall emphatically follow this written church order, and not depart from the same without specific, grave cause.

Rt. Rev. Jack Bauer said...

I would say that without the Society of St. Polycarp, Gottesdienst, LLPB, and others, the positive influences on the synod, LSB, and so forth would be less.

So if we're going to say "speak the black" and "do the red," lets remember that those nasty liturgical guys are a great deal of the means of holding the ground on liturgy and ceremonies.

Seriously, we say, "stick with LSB" and then forget who, despite some of the last minute JK tinkering, who directly and indirectly helped influence LSB in such a positive direction.

It happened with seminary teaching, journals (Gottesdienst, Bride of Christ, Logia, et al), various conferences, workshops, liturgical parishes remaining steadfast and providing and example, publishers making classic studies available, and such.

Seriously, let's remember that real liturgical scholars are among these guys with some good years of parish experience, shepherding the flock in particular congregations in a fatherly way. Easy to throw potshots sitting above in tower Isengard, or hovering in the corner worrying about our lost precious, "the synod" (isn't that an arrogant term?!).

"very few of us would be willing to accept what was commonplace throughout Lutheran Germany in the 16th and 17th centuries: church orders that simply did not permit local congregations to do their own thing, either on the high side or low side of the equation."

Very few LCMS churches accept historic Lutheran practice, because they do not accept historic Lutheran teaching. Again, high church and low church are Anglican, not Lutheran terms, and reflects a post-Pietism way of thinking.

The fact is that not only did the LCMS adopt LSB we also have adopted resolutions on "diversity" of the heterodox tract and missionary societies. Synod is advisory and there is congregational autonomy - nay, even voter's supremacy, thus saith the Walther authorities. And would we want the powers that be to adopt more stringent liturgical resolutions anyway, given their liturgical ignorance or even hostility.

What ever works? No.

Whatever is "official" -- perhaps, if officialdom has a clue and doesn't contradict itself.

Rev. Thomas C. Messer, Pastor Peace Lutheran Church (LCMS) said...

Dear Paul,

Is it necessary for the kind of unity you're advocating that all pastors practice self-communion? I put this forth as an example since the rubric in our LSB Altar Book calls for this, and yet, the more common practice, at least from what I can gather being in discussions across the blogoshphere, is that pastors receive from other pastors or elders in the congregation. Also, there is diversity as to when the pastor should commune - first or last - even though that same rubric states that he should commune himself first.

I do not desire to start a discussion on this particular issue, but simply bring it up to make the point that I don't see these kinds of differences as destructive to our unity.

Likewise, I do not think that re-visiting and restoring some of the rubrics Piepkorn "put together" leads to disunity among us. And, I fail to see how the quote you provided proves the point you're trying to make, for I think it is perfectly within the advice of our Fathers to have minor variances within our unified rites and orders. What is it exactly that makes our rites and orders unified? Is it not that we conduct the Divine Service with proper reverence (which can be done in a variety of ways) and according to our theology of worship?

Furthermore, I have yet to meet the kind of pastors you seem to describe, the kind of pastors who claim that we *must* do everything liturgically exactly as they do. I'm not saying they're not out there. Maybe they are. And, I would disagree with them if I met them. But, I do know some of the pastors whom I suspect you are alluding to when making these kinds of statements, and I believe your accusations against them (if, indeed, they are the ones to whom you are alluding) are false. I've never heard them tell me, or anyone else, that one *must* hold his fingers a certain way when Distributing the Sacrament, or that one *must* genuflect during the Creed, or that one *must* install a Tabernacle in the Sanctuary, and so on. I've actually corresponded with these pastors on several occasions seeking advice and counsel and they have always treated me with love and respected me as a brother, and never looked down upon me because I don't do everything exactly as they do. It is enough for them that I conduct the Service with reverence and adhere to our theology of worship. Who exactly are these evil men who "path together" their own litugies using a variety of Lutheran and catholic sources and then claim that their liturgies are best and imply that we should all follow them?

I'm not trying to provoke you, Paul. I'm simply trying to understand how you can equate the differences in how the Divine Service is conducted to a disunity in rite and order. I don't see the connection, my friend. And, as I said before, I really do not see the connection between the differences among those who continue to adhere to our theology of worship and those who forsake or greatly minimalize our liturgical customs and abandon our theology of worship altogether.

In Christ,

Paul McCain said...

Rev. Bauer, I'm disinclined to take seriously anything a pastor posts under a fake name, on matter of such consequence. Free men shun the darkness. I suggest you give it a try.

Brother Tom, no provocation taken.

I'm hanging in there though for the greatest degree of liturgical uniformity as possible. I think our fathers were very wise in this matter and recognized just how beneficial and valuable the highest degree of uniformity in church customers, traditions and liturgical practices was, and is.

I'm even flexible enough to say, "Let's just agree to use the same hymnal and the same rubrics in that hymnal!"

Some think that is too flexible. Others think it is not flexible enough.

Hence, proving my point.

I better quit before I get too depressed over all this. I realize why now Cwirla likes to hide under water.

wmc said...

Glub, glub, glub.....

Reformationalist said...

Paul, let's consider the most recent of our fathers and they're degree of unanimity has produced. I speak of how I grew up in the LCMS. Everywhere we went, on visits and vacation, the LCMS congregation had the same practices -- unified! There was communion once a month (which was only two opportunties for the Sacrament than the rest of Protestantism with their "World Communion Sundays," four times a year -- and yes, we were taught in every LCMS congregation that we were Protestants! Page Five was the order of the day for most Sundays. A "high church" was one that used Matins! No chanting by the pastors was found, while the congregation belted out their half of the liturgical dialogue in song. Fifty hymns, max, was the common extent of congregation singing. Yes, those were the days, the days of uniform liturgical practices among us. Oh, yes -- and the "conservative" pastor wore a black "preaching gown," while the "liberal" pastor wore that "white thingy."

You want us to go back to THAT? No thanks! I think our unity in liturgy while diverse in its expression is a GOOD thing! It is a GOOD thing that Zion, Ft. Wayne has liturgical practice that differ from, say, St. Paul, Fort Wayne. If it were not the case, it would be the death of one of them, most likely Zion, as it is smack-dab in the middle of the worst part of the inner-city -- Lutherans go to Zion, in that neighborhood, from all over the town, precisely because of the liturgical life that is found there.

Now, since you reminded me that this discussion was about the possibility of a liturgical "affinity" unit/district around the liturgy, let me remind you that there, even if we met all your ideals, there still is the MAJOR issue that ought to tear at us for lack of our responses -- namely, the others in Synod who have become functionally non-lutheran by their adoption of unlutheran "worship." What are we going to do about that, in your perfectly ordered liturgical life? I eagerly await your insight on this issue.

Fr. Robert W. Schaibly SSP

revalkorn said...

Brother Paul--

You said, "I'm disinclined to take seriously anything a pastor posts under a fake name, on matter of such consequence. Free men shun the darkness."

I can't speak about the motives of our brother, but in the current climate in which we exist, one cannot be too careful. As one who has paid the price for things he has said online, I can speak with a certain authority in the matter. Now, I generally sign my name to what I post, and even "revalkorn" parses easily enough. But I can't fault someone for not "outing" himself when there are those who are more than happy to take to heart the words, "Anything you say can and will be used against you."

I don't say this as criticism, Paul, but not everyone can lose a prestigious position, be immediately picked up by another, and then later be offered a third. As someone who has been waiting three years for a Call to return to parish ministry, I'm usually cautious about what I say and how I say it. As I said, I do almost always sign my name to what I write online, but every time I hit the "post" button, I know I'm putting myself at risk. I may never serve as a parish pastor again, both because of what I said in the past and because of what I say now. It's not boldness on my part, but rather, I say what I say so that hopefully someone else won't have to pay the price I'm paying.

May we all find a greater measure of charitability in these dark days.

Rev. Thomas C. Messer, Pastor Peace Lutheran Church (LCMS) said...

Brother Paul,

You see, this is my point. How can you possibly believe that the highest degree of uniformity in church *customers* is beneficial and valuable? The Church should not be about the business of gaining customers for herself. The Gospel is not a product to be repackaged in a way that is more appealing to unbelieving consumers. What's next, will you advocate that we should follow the Saddleback philosophy and create "churches for people who don't like church"? :) (I hope you're laughing at this - I couldn't resist - Sorry! :)

All kidding aside, I do understand your desire to have the greatest degree of liturgical uniformity as possible. I share that desire. I just don't think that some of the things you've mentioned fracture that desired uniformity, that's all.

I hear people all the time lamenting the supposed fact that the "confessionals" in our synod can't get along. I understand where they're coming from, because it often seems like this is most certainly true.

But, at the end of the day, I just can't bring myself to believe that the faithful men of God I know on the confessional side of the fence, even those who some label "hyper-Euro" (whatever that means!), would break fellowship with one another over minor variances in how they conduct the Divine Service. Beneath all the liturgical variances that exist among us, there is a deep-seated unity which binds us together, namely that we take seriously our doctrine and practice and remain steadfast in our conviction to adhere to the theology of worship taught us in Holy Scripture and our Lutheran Confessions.

And, because that unity does exist, even though it may not shine forth as brightly as it should at times, we can, and should, speak with one voice against those who have forsaken what we believe and have abandoned our customs to follow after those who do not believe and practice as we do.

But, then again, maybe I am just naive. :)

In Christ,

Paul McCain said...

Oh, well, I'll just continue to hope and pray that at some point God would restrain egos, opinions, and a whole host of other personality-driven positions on the liturgy, so that we will rejoice in the blessings that liturgical uniformity can bring and agree to use one hymnal, and enjoy the options provided in it, saying the black and doing the red. I hope some day we can reach a point when the "liturgy as hobby" crowd realizes that the liturgy was made for man, not man for the liturgy and that matters of church ceremonies are human traditions, not divine institutions, nor any guarantor of orthodoxy.

I guy can dream, can't he?

Reformationalist said...

Paul, on what basis do you come to the conclusion that YOUR liturgical preference is a matter of "liturgy made for man," but the other views are a matter of "man made for liturgy." Frankly, it seems to me to be a somewhat arrogant conclusion.

I my last post I used the example of the liturgy at Zion-Ft. Wayne as one that is clearly in the Lutheran tradition, and clearly appreciated by members and many visitors. They also used LSB materials.

Others also have pleaded here for some sense of fraternity within the general understanding of the Lutheran liturgical tradition, which is a tradition that ties the present to the past, and the post-Reformation liturgy to the pre-Reformation liturgy. Why is this so clearly odious to you?

Moreover, I've tried to make a case that there is a connection between this general Lutheran liturgical tradition (which LSB clearly seeks to embrace, as I read it) and basic Lutheran docrine (which while also "made fo man" certainly is not a matter of adiaphora) is inimical to non-liturgical worship of the Evangelical-Protestant sort, with the result of those who indulge in the practice of non-Lutheran worship cease to be Lutheran in doctrine in the process, since thesse non-Lutheran worship practices flow directly and consistently from non-Lutheran docrine. You don't want to bite on that, either, even though it is the original concern of the original post by "r. rev. jack bauer."

And now, I think I hear the sound of rattling marbles being bagged and carried on home. So, I ask -- please, stay and play; only, let's engage in the fuller picture of thes concerns that brought about this discussion in the first place.


Fr. Robert W. Schaibley, SSP

Paul McCain said...

Bob, what I said was that I wish we would come to the point that we realize that the liturgy was made for man, not man for the liturgy, that it is a means to an end, not the end, and so we all be willing to set aside our personal preferences, opinions and the like and agree to use the same hymnal. I think even that would be a contributing factor toward uniformity in ceremonies and traditions and rituals, for the greater good of the Church.

I know that is too inflexible a position to some, and even too flexible a position for others.

Paul McCain said...

Bob, I know you very much want to move this conversation into yet more "preaching to the choir" railing against non-Lutheran worship practices, but the topic "What If," started by Pastor Curtis, puts forward the proposition that there would be great value in:

"evangelical but binding canon law on the liturgy"

And it is point that I'm talking about.

Are we really willing to have such a "binding" canon law? Are we all really willing to set aside our personal likes, opinions, tastes, "convictions" on what, precisely, is the *best* form, in our opinion, and embrace even the same hymnal, let alone the same liturgy?

I do not see even that as possible.

I'm contrasting the attitudes that mitigate against any such binding canon law on liturgy, with what was commonplace amongst our Reformation era fathers, where entire territories did in fact virtually the same thing liturgically, down even to the question of vestments and other details of rights and ceremonies.

Why did they do that?

For the sake of unity, for the sake of the people, for the sake of the Gospel's proclamation.

That's my point.

So, I think Pastor Curtis' proposal is a pipe-dream that is impossible, not only because of the people out there pushing non-Lutheran liturgical worship, but because even among those who support the Lutheran liturgy, we can establish no real and genuine consensus.

When we have one group promoting Piepkornian/Tridentine Mass forms, complete with Tabernacles, and another pushing Jacobean English as the "best language for worship" and others pining after Eucharistic Prayers, or trying to assert that saying, "And also with you" is the sign of the end for matters liturgical, or other congregations using moshed up liturgies devised more from fanciful recreations of perceived "best practices" while still others take the Synod's hymnals and slice and dice them on the low-church side of the equation....I don't see even the liturgical crowd united enough to embrace a "binding canon law" on liturgy.

What if....indeed.

Bryce P Wandrey said...

I have to chime in and say, trying to insist upon "read the black and do the red" sounds like a worse form of authoritarianism than the papacy exerts in matters of liturgy. For then the those who decided upon the "black" and "red" have set themselves up as the final authority, be that a worship commission, a publishing company or a synodical vote.

Hoping for uniformity and not simply commonality is above and beyond appropriateness for those committed to AC's confession on adiaphora.

The call to suspend what you might think is best in regards to ritual and ceremonial is a call to stop thinking about and attempting to give back to the Lord (or express what he is giving) the best possible.

It reminds me once again of Luther's action when Karlstardt attempted to forbid the elevation and make it non-adiaphora. Luther responded by saying he was more than willing to dispense with the elevation until Karlstardt tried to outlaw it but since Karlstadt brought it into the realm of law Luther had to support it as a matter of freedom ("Against Latomus", LW 32).

Bryce P Wandrey said...

Sorry, bad citation on my part. It wasn't "Against Latomus" but "Against the Heavenly Prophets..." (LW 40, 133).

Rev. Rick Stuckwisch said...

Brother Curtis' idea of a separated jurisdiction of pastors and congregations that would retain fellowship with the Missouri Synod is intriguing, but I think it is too optimistic on several counts.

First of all, I'm afraid that I would have to disagree that it is only with the polity and politics of the Missouri Synod that any of us are presently perturbed. Those bureaucratic aspects have become increasingly convoluted and cumbersome, it is true, in a way that more often hinders the free course of the Word than serving and supporting it. In some cases, the by-laws are kicking against the goads and causing more than simply irritation and distraction. Nevertheless, the bigger concerns, I think, are not so much with LCMS polity and politics as with the heterodox practices of many pastors and congregations within this present jurisdiction. Those concerns are matters of conscience, not of freedom or expedience. Remaining in fellowship with the Missouri Synod, even as part of a distinct jurisdiction, would not alleviate the problem.

In fact, I daresay the problems would only increase with the separation of traditionalist minded pastors and congregations. In other words, the Missouri Synod would not remain even as orthodox as it presently is in doctrine and practice, if a significant number of those who care most about the orthodoxy of our confession were to leave her jurisdiction.

For the time being, it is, I think, the faithful confession (in teaching, preaching and practice) of traditionalist minded pastors and congregations that has helped to keep the Missouri Synod tethered to her historic moorings. In my opinion, a number of the stakes have already pulled out of the ground, and there's a whole lot of tent flapping in the breeze (whichever way the current winds are blowing), but the stakes that remain firmly grounded are the only thing keeping the entire enterprise from blowing away.

I don't have any brilliant alternative answers or proposals, but I keep coming back to the same basic rule of thumb: We stand fast where God has placed us, serving as faithfully and evangelically as possible, engaging in the mutural conversation and consolation of the brethren, not only with our already-like-minded cronies, but also with those who don't agree with us and may not even like us, in the confidence that God's Word is the only thing that ever saves anyone, calls us and anyone else to repentance (a daily vocation), and preserves the faith among us.

I'm not suggesting that a new and separate jurisdiction might not be a good idea. Maybe so. I'm only saying that what would push me out of the Missouri Synod are matters of conscience that would also then require a severing of fellowship. And if the day does come when we are in large numbers duty-bound by conscience to make that break, then I shudder to think what would become of the LCMS that remains. It's possible that the bureaucracy as such would improve; I'm not sure how much worse it could get. But the practice undergired and facilitated by the bureaucracy at that point would, I fear, fly even further and faster away from the faith once delivered to the saints.

Todd Wilken said...


Some not particularly profound thoughts:

1. Uniformity in worship is not in itself a good thing. Unity in the Truth (doctrine and practice) is an intrinsic good.

2. There are laissez-faire Lutherans at both ends of the “worship spectrum” (though few on the liturgical side would recognize or admit it). Come to think of it, I don’t think it is a spectrum at all. Pentecostal worship, even if it is done under the LCMS logo, doesn’t inhabit the same doctrinal universe as the historic liturgy.

3. For now, LCMS Inc. doesn’t care how liturgical you are, as long as you keep sending the checks. I suspect that any proposition of a different jurisdiction would be met by the current leadership with a Whatever, dude. Where’s my money? In the future, if Krauth was right (and he always was), LCMS Inc. will only tolerate historic worship practices in designated liturgical ghettos. We need to decide whether we want to live in one of them.

4. That future may come sooner than we think. Consider that the ELCA was formed in 1988. At its founding, few envisioned what it would become in only 20 years. If the proposed LCMS restructuring is the elcafication of the LCMS, the future may be now.


Rev.Fr.Burnell F Eckardt said...

Interesting discussion you fellows have going here and in the previous posts I just got through reading. Guess I've been out of the loop.

I have also noticed a common thread. Could it be, Fr Curtis, that your desire for a separate jurisdiction arises most of all from the desire for liturgical uniformity that all sons of the Lutheran Confessions desire?

Hence, a separate jurisdiction could have its own bishop and canon law.

In fact, I think I have just arrived at a topic for our Tuesday (Oct. 14) liturgical discussion at this year's Oktoberfest at St. Paul's in Kewanee, Illinois. We can perhaps muse on what sort of jurisdiction that might look like.

For details on that event, which begins Sunday evening Oct. 12, click here.

wmc said...

I agree that a separate "jurisdiction" for us "liturgical types" would simply be a liturgical ghetto within the LMCS "community." The institution must might bite at such a plan that would ultimately marginalize confession/liturgical orthodoxy to a niche ghetto.

I also agree with Todd that we are not talking about a "spectrum" of practice when it comes to worship, if we include the praise/revival/contempogelical worship in the mix. This is pure Evangelicalism that has crept (is creep the right word? More like "taken over by storm") the LCMS under the infamous Trojan Horse "Evangelical Style/Lutheran Substance."

Rev. Rick Stuckwisch said...

Pastor Curtis can speak for himself (if he's following the discussion), but it seems to me that his initial point has been missed or misunderstood.

If "we" were to form a separate jurisdiction, whether or not in fellowship with the LCMS, there would be no paying of money to the LCMS, as it would no longer have any jurisdiction over "us." That was the point, as I understood it. "We" would also not become a liturgical ghetto, since "we" would be a separate city (polis) unto ourselves.

The only thing is, I don't think the LCMS would want to be in fellowship with us; and, if we all left, I'm fairly certain that we wouldn't want to be in fellowship with whatever was left of the LCMS after we were gone.

Regarding the "spectrum" of worship practices, I guess I'm not clear on the consternation over that term, but whatever. I think there is a spectrum of practices, even setting aside the metho-baptist-pentecostal rot that goes on in ostensibly "Lutheran" congregations. Previous discussions have demonstrated a desire for a variety of practices even among those commenting on this list. So, I'm not sure of the point. Is the premise really to be that, it's all or nothing? You're either practicing in one sort of way, or else you're altogether not Lutheran? I'm fairly certain that hasn't been the point, but I'm rather uncertain as to what the point is supposed to be.

Pastor Wilken, it's great to hear from you. Glad to have you around to swap comments with the blackbirds. I hope I'm mistaken, though, in detecting an uncharacteristic tone of cynicism in your comments. If Pastor Curtis has seemed overly optimistic to me, your comments strike me as too pessemistic. I trust that the Lord has reserved to Himself however many knees that have not bowed to Baal, and however many lips that have not kissed idols. I also remain confident that the Word of the Lord is able to turn things around, even from death to life.

The Church doesn't stand or fall with the Missouri Synod, far less with "LCMS, Inc." Nevertheless, the pastors and congregations (and other church workers) who actually constitute the Missouri Synod belong to the Body of Christ, and they are precious in His sight. He has a track record of calling prodigal sons back to Himself. He does it all by His Word, the Law and the Gospel, which we are given to confess clearly, confidently and charitably, so long as we have breath to speak.

My own opinion is that we should continue to confess within the Missouri Synod, wherever the Lord has called and stationed us, until conscience would prevent us from remaining in that fellowship, or until we are driven from our post. At which point we should then continue confessing from wherever we find ourselves next. And praying, night and day, that the Lord would call both us and all to repentance.

Todd Wilken said...

Pastor Stuckwisch wrote:

"I hope I'm mistaken, though, in detecting an uncharacteristic tone of cynicism in your comments. If Pastor Curtis has seemed overly optimistic to me, your comments strike me as too pessemistic."

Call it cynicism or pessimism; I would call it a profound skepticism. Or, perhaps it is just the realization that most of the men we have elected to help us conserve and promote the unity of the true faith and provide a united defense against schism, sectarianism and heresy, appear to have very little, if any interest in doing so.

As I have written elsewhere: "I don’t even know what to call what we have today. I do know that this isn’t 'walking together,' and we’re not all on the same road."


RevFisk said...

Many fine comments, and, as is often the case, I find myself in agreement with Todd.

HOWEVER, the term "liturgical ghetto" has over the course of the conversation become a preferred point of reference. I now advocate that instead we embrace Rev. Cwirla's coinage, "SHADOW SYNOD!" (If you've seen the classic Anime 'Ninja Scroll' you may track better with my enthusiastic [broadly defined] jest.)

Dare we then have our own "Bishop of the Dark," etc, etc? Can one both be a ninja AND wear a clerical collar? Would we be allowed to don two-handed swords with our liturgical vestments? I voet, "Yea!"

More seriously...Heith ... I don't think your far off base - except for the fact that I *feel* more often then not that I'm not actually in fellowship with much of the LCMS, according to her doctrine AS practiced. Is the answer to that to remain in fellowship, or to seek fellowship elsewhere. One idea I have heard raised in private circles is the consideration of seeking closer ties with confessional African bodies that already have an (arch)bishop - who are, officially speaking, still in fellowship with us. Would that not achieve similar ends and goals?

Just thoughts there...except that "Shadow Synod!TM" part. That is just plain cool.

Fr. Timothy D. May, S.S.P. said...

Todd writes, "If the proposed LCMS restructuring is the elcafication of the LCMS, the future may be now." I think this is just the formal end to what has been the bureaucratic process for decades now, only temporarily halted or delayed by synodical leaders who were/are opposed to the process. If this is the case an incisive article to read on this is "The Death of Protestant [read "mainline" such as the ELCA] America" by Joseph Bottum. In other words, with re-structuring we are becoming part of a friendly/hostile takeover just as the mother ship is hitting the glacier.

WMC writes: "I agree that a separate "jurisdiction" for us "liturgical types" would simply be a liturgical ghetto within the LMCS "community." The institution must might bite at such a plan that would ultimately marginalize confession/liturgical orthodoxy to a niche ghetto.

"I also agree with Todd that we are not talking about a "spectrum" of practice when it comes to worship, if we include the praise/revival/contempogelical worship in the mix. This is pure Evangelicalism that has crept (is creep the right word? More like "taken over by storm") the LCMS under the infamous Trojan Horse "Evangelical Style/Lutheran Substance."

Unfortunately, this is the truth and we know the reality that "Evangelical Style" is in it for itself. Maybe the "/" between it and "Lutheran Substance" is prophetic. Maybe if the idea was "Evangelical Style & Catholic Substance" things might have found a medium in Lutheranism but Lutheranism has being dropped like a hot potato even as Evangelicals are beginning to question and drop their own beliefs and practices.

Regarding the idea of a "liturgical ghetto" this is the case and has been for some time. As one who has come to learn second-hand, the effects, as it were, of the marginalization that has been going on for some time, I realized that it was under attack not only on one side of Lutheranism but also on the other. I have come to the conclusion that the liturgy is and will always be a threat to those who will seek ecclesiastical peace and order through proper protocol in constitution and by-laws as it will be for those who seek ecclesiastical peace and order through social activism. There are material understandings at work which are uncomfortable with, impatient toward, if not outright antagonistic towards the liturgy. We can no longer take for granted that Lutherans might see a connection between liturgy and Lutheranism, or liturgy and doctrine/theology or liturgy and practice or liturgy and reverence, or liturgy and humility, or liturgy and holiness, or liturgy and sacraments. Or maybe it is that we do see all these connections but they are harder to put into words or not as concrete as by-laws and social activism. So then we are constantly fighting to tread water, if not being able to swim, while neglecting the very means that are given to keep any ecclesiastical community or synod afloat.

Of course, "liturgical ghetto" has negative connotations no matter how one looks at it. If one is to be true to the liturgy within Lutheranism one will be attacked from all sides. Or, if lex orandi and lex credendi don't go together what does "kyrie eleison" mean?
Maybe it is not the liturgy that is being marginalized but the faith.

L Peters said...

If you leave the jurisdiction of the LCMS you leave the fellowship... at least that is what close (d) communion defines when being a card carrying member of the LCMS is what enables you to receive. . .