27 September 2008

Sketching Some Categories and Contours for Consideration and Conversation

First, a clarification: This most recent string of posts dealing with the possibility of an evangelical "rule" is not the underlying point, nor the primary purpose, of the Four-and-Twenty Blackbirds. It is simply a current topic of conversation. Some of the blackbirds are interested; others are not. Some may agree that this is worth pursuing; others may not. Some may think that this or that would be the best way to proceed; whereas others may have entirely different ideas. In the end, we may all walk away from this discussion, and that'll be that. In the meantime, other topics are fair game, and no one is bound one way or the other by these present debates.

Second, along with the reading list I previously shared in my comments under the previous post, a good friend pointed me to the "Rule" of the Society of the Holy Trinity. That may be found at: http://www.societyholytrinity.org/ (link to the Rule of the Society on the lefthand side of their homepage). I am aware of differences of opinion regarding the Society of the Holy Trinity; there are certain aspects of that Society's principles and practices to which I also take exception. However, I think it does provide an instructive example worthy of consideration. I attended one of the Society's general retreats as an observer several years ago, and I was frankly impressed with much of what I saw and heard. In any case, for purposes of this discussion, the "Rule" of the Society is helpful, and so for that reason I call attention to it.

Finally, to the main point of this new post: As I've been perusing various readings, pondering our discussions heretofore, and putting my pen to paper over the past week or so, I've been sketching some categories and contours for consideration and conversation. What I've drafted along those lines so far is what follows. The only "rules" included at this point are some basic Scriptural texts, which help (I hope) to define the scope and determine the structure I envision.

I've formulated three broad categories: Prayer, Pastoral Care, and Public Profession of the Faith. Somewhat coincidentally, these three areas appear to correspond with leitourgia, diakonia, and marturia, such as Dr. Just described and discussed in his plenary presentation at our recent Indiana District Worship and Spiritual Care Workshop. Of course, he didn't invent those categories; he learned them from the discourse of the early church. I was struck with the similarity of these distinctions to the parameters with which I had already been tinkering, and that helped, in turn, to clarify, firm up, and develop my thinking.

For the time being, then, I've attempted to organize the shape that a broad evangelical "rule" of pastoral practice might take. As I've said before, I imagine that such a "rule" would be spelled out in a kind of manual, preferrably one that would be easily updated, edited and expanded, as collective pastoral experience and wisdom were brought to bear upon it. Already, it is for the sake of soliciting the input of such pastoral experience and wisdom that I set this forth, a work in progress, that it might be fodder for fraternal conversation.


"So then, those who received his word were baptized. . . . They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. . . . And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common. . . . Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved" (Acts 2:41a, 42, 44–47).

RULES OF PRAYER (lex orandi / leitourgia)

"Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks."
(1 Thessalonians 5:16–18a)

"First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgiving, be made on behalf of all men. . . . Therefore I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension" (1 Timothy 2:1, 8).

"I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’"
(1 Corinthians 11:23–24)

"Let all things be done for edification. . . . For God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints. . . . But all things must be done properly and in an orderly manner."
(1 Corinthians 14:26c, 33, 40)

1. Service Books and Hymnals

2. The Divine Service

a. orders of service

b. special rites

c. additional rubrics

3. Assisting Ministers

a. the order of the clergy within the parish

b. Communion assistants

c. acolytes and other assistants

4. Daily Prayer

a. of the pastor

b. of the parish

c. resources for homes and families

5. Calendar

a. lectionary

b. seasonal contours

c. festivals and precedence

d. sanctoral cycle

e. additional propers

6. Music

a. cantors and choirs

b. liturgical music

c. hymnody

d. instrumentation

7. Ceremonies

a. the evangelical and catholic understanding of adiaphora

b. the use of ceremonies for the sake of love and good order, without frivolity

c. the avoidance of novelty, innovation, and offense

d. processions

e. genuflecting

f. elevations

g. incense

8. Vestments and Paraments

a. for the Divine Service

b. for the daily offices

c. the color of the day

9. Architecture and Accouterments

a. vessels

b. furnishings

c. candles

RULES OF PASTORAL CARE (inner missions / diakonia)

"Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age’" (St. Matthew 28:28–20).

"The congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them. And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all. For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales and lay them at the apostles’ feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need" (Acts 4:32–35).

"The twelve summoned the congregation of the disciples and said, ‘It is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve tables. Therefore, brethren, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word’" (Acts 6:2–4).

"Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood" (Acts 20:28).

1. Preaching

2. Catechesis

a. resources

b. methodology

c. involvement of parents in the catechesis of children

d. fostering ongoing catechesis within the congregation

3. Holy Baptism

a. scheduling and preparation
i. infants
ii. older children
iii. adults

b. recognition of emergency Baptism

c. uncertainty concerning Baptism

4. Admittance to the Holy Communion

a. criteria

b. preparation

c. examination

d. First Communion

e. the rite of confirmation

5. The Office of the Keys

a. Confession and Holy Absolution
i. the pastor’s father confessor
ii. being a father confessor
iii. scheduling times for confession

b. Church discipline

6. Visitations

a. general

b. homebound members

c. hospital

d. prison

e. delinquents

f. visitors

7. Counsel and Advice

a. vocational questions

b. illnesses of body and mind

c. addictions and besetting sins
i. pornography
ii. alcoholism
iii. drug addiction

d. financial decisions

8. Marriage and Family

a. living together

b. out of wedlock pregnancy

c. preparation for marriage

d. weddings

e. marital counseling

f. procreation questions

e. divorce and remarriage

f. the pastor’s personal vocations as husband and father

9. Serving the Youth

10. Pastoral Oversight of Diakonia

a. almsgiving

b. widows and orphans in distress

c. the care of women

d. the role of lay elders

11. Death and Dying

a. ministry to the dying

b. ministry to the bereaved

c. funerals

d. cremation

e. miscarriage and still-birth

12. Working with Lutheran Schools

a. relations with the principal and teachers

b. the pastor’s role in the life of the school

c. association schools

d. Lutheran high school

13. Communication within the Parish

RULES OF PUBLIC PROFESSION (outer mission / marturia)

"First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:1–4).

"Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king."
(1 Peter 2:17)

"Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. . . . Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake. . . . Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor. Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law" (Romans 13:1–2, 5, 7–8).

"Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame."
(1 Peter 3:15–16)

1. Church Fellowship

a. synodical fellowship
i. participation in synodical polity and politics
~ circuit winkels, forums and convocations
~ district conferences and conventions
ii. respect for synodical structures and protocols
iii. conscientious dissent and means of reconciliation

b. Communion fellowship / closed Communion

c. cooperation in externals (?)

2. The Divine Call

a. consideration

b. announcing acceptance or decline

c. ordination and installation

d. sabbaticals and leaves of absence

3. Missions and Evangelism

a. support of seminaries and colleges

b. encouraging evangelism in the proper vocations of each member

c. evangelism as a corporate enterprise of the congregation

d. supporting and participating in the larger mission of the Church

4. Chaplaincy

a. military

b. institutional

c. government

d. police force

e. firefighters and paramedics

f. crisis situations

5. The Public Square

a. apologetics

b. morality and ethics

c. publicity in the media / public communications

d. political commentary

e. participation in civic events

22 September 2008

A Step Back, a Deep Breath, and a New Prospective Perspective

The recent thread of multiple posts and many comments on the potential possibility of an evangelical rule has been interesting, to say the least; some parts invigorating, some parts frustrating, but instructive in any case. As I've noted in a couple of my notoriously long comments, my perspective and my thinking on this idea have developed in the course of discussion, and I regard that as the mark of a good conversation. I appreciate the give and take, the cut and thrust of debate, the concrete propositions, the pointed criticisms, the cautions and concerns. I'm not as thrilled with some of the specifics that have been bandied about, but I haven't felt threatened by anything. It seems to me that we ought to be able to contemplate ideas without harboring the fear or savoring the fantasy that something, once uttered, is a position irrevocably taken or a project in the process of appearing.

I'm offering some new thoughts to contemplate here, as I continue to formulate some alternative proposals for consideration and discussion. Someone has to join Brother Curtis out on the limb with the bull by the horns and the tiger by the tail, even if only to lead him back to the trunk of the tree in one piece. I'm grateful to him, not only for his daring contributions, which have generated a lively discussion, but also for his graciously patient responses to critics.

The notion of a "rule" of order is certainly not contrary to the Gospel, nor is it divisive to the life of the Church. This isn't the lawyer seeking to justify himself, but the pastor seeking to serve the flock faithfully. To be ordained is to be under orders, for the sake of the people one is called to shepherd with the Word of the Lord. To be put into an office is to be "ruled" and "ordered" by that vocation, so that others may be served by grace. Thus, there are the rules laid out for the leaders of Israel, for priests and prophets and kings. And there are the rules of the Pastoral Epistles, for the pastoral office and for the households of the parish, for husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, children, slaves, workers and such. Hence, the Table of Duties in the Small Catechism. Here is the Law serving as both curb and guide, not for the sake of justification, but for the sake of the neighbor. Those who are perfectly free before God by faith, are entirely bound to the neighbor by love. Call it whatever you like, there are "rules" by which we live to the glory of God and the good of others, and pastors are obliged to strive for the sort of practice that will best serve the Church.

It is true that we are not in a position to establish, adopt or enforce anything like the ancient canons of the great ecumenical councils, nor anything like the sixteenth-century Lutheran church orders. Those historic precedents belong to the polity and jurisdiction of the Church on earth, in a way that we are in no position or authority to emulate. We've not been aiming at the formation of a new communion, nor a new church structure. The benefit of the ancient canons and the church orders is their example of the Church's confession in response to the particular circumstances and challenges of the day and age in which they were formulated. We have our own circumstances and challenges to deal with. So how shall we best respond with a clear and consistent confession of Christ? Apart from the political structures within which the canons and church orders found their place, the way in which those canons and orders addressed specifics then can be instructive to us now. Analogous counsel, guidance and advice can be rendered in any number of ways, many of which would have nothing like the ecclesial jurisdiction or political authority of those historic examples.

Despite the reactions that some readers have had, and perhaps in spite of presuppositions that some of "us" have had to begin with, an evangelical "rule" of order would not likely deal with a lot of ceremonial details. There is guidance to be given in the realm of ceremonies, to be sure, but evangelical guidance will respect the broad catholicity of the Church as well as the freedom of the Gospel and the necessity of pastoral judgment, discretion and care. In any case, the sort of "rule" that I have more and more come to envision would be far more comprehensive, broader and more general than the fine points of liturgical practice. "Rules" pertaining to the liturgy, rites and ceremonies, would find their place alongside "rules" pertaining to pastoral care, catechesis, almsgiving, church fellowship, public witness, missions, etc. Such "rules," as I have already suggested in several comments, would not point us away from our synodical fellowship, but would encourage a conscientious respect for that fellowship and support an active participation in its polity and protocols.

What we really need, it seems to me, are not so much "rules" that describe what we're already doing well, but "rules" that call us to daily repentance and admonish us to do better in those areas where we are at our weakest, whether out of ignorance, laziness, reluctance or cynicism. We should not come up with "rules" for ourselves that are mainly aimed at correcting others; though I do not deny that we are called to correct, reprove and exhort our erring brethren. But we ought to "rule" and discipline ourselves to strive for greater and more consistent faithfulness in our own practices, especially with respect to the duties of office that are most difficult for us and the least enjoyable. That's one of the tremendous benefits of doing something together with brothers in office, so that we do not individually become caricatures of our respective strengths and negligent in areas of personal weakness.

An evangelical "rule" would simply be a way of organizing and putting into writing what ought to be happening all the time anyway: the mutual conversation and consolation of the brethren, the spiritual counsel of fathers in Christ for their sons in the faith, and the spiritual care of fellow pastors for one another, out of love for the office, for each other and the Church. It's a way of pooling our knowledge and experience for the benefit of one and all.

I've offered some examples of the sort of thing I have in mind, in my response to Brother Peperkorn, and I'll mention two of those again: The Concordia Catechetial Academy and Higher Things. These efforts are narrower than an evangelical "rule" would be, but in their own respective bailiwicks they give us a good picture of how to serve the Church by confessing the faith in very practical ways and with very tangible means. I've also mentioned the extraordinary example of Wilhelm Löhe, who, from his Neuendettelsau parish, served the Church far and wide in a number of significant areas: Liturgy. Missions. Pastoral Care. Diakonia. He taught by his own beautiful example, but he also worked hard to facilitate positive efforts on the part of the Church at large. He organized, catechized, recruited and inspired, exhorted and encouraged, and contributed to great lengths. Not only his example, but the fruits of his labors continue to serve the Church in our own day.

Along with these examples, my attention has been turning to other sorts of models to consider. The ancient canons and Lutheran church orders are interesting and instructive, but there are also more pertinent things to read and contemplate. Manuals of pastoral care, for example, spanning church history from St. Gregory the Great to our own C.F.W. Walther. Any number of Luther's writings, which deal with the life of the Church in the world. The Saxon Visitation Articles, which Brother Curtis also mentioned at one point, but which we haven't discussed. Similarly, the Enchiridion of Martin Chemnitz on Ministry, Word and Sacraments, which served as a measure of a man's readiness for the pastoral office. I've got a dozen or more books that I want to begin perusing and reading, as my time permits, for the sake of learning from others who have carefully considered the work of pastors in caring for the Church on earth.

My thinking, at this point, is that the sort of "rule" that might emerge from our discussions and fraternal debate would function more like a manual of pastoral care than a new "society" within our current synodical fellowship(s). It would ideally be the sort of "living document" that the Apostolic Constitutions of the early church appear to have been; that is to say, developing over time through the input of pastoral experience, and addressing ever new challenges facing the Church in her confession of the Gospel. It would be entirely free, take it or leave it. Yet, by mutual agreement and voluntary submission on the part of pastors who recognize its wisdom and benefits, an evangelical "rule" of this sort would serve and support the catechesis of the Word of God, the preaching of the Gospel, the profession of the faith, the prayer of the Church, the pastoral care of souls, and the compassionate care of orphans and widows in their distress.

16 September 2008

Canons of Nicea I

Thank goodness they didn't write one each!

In our last episode I tossed out some canons and we had some good discussion on various aspects thereof (which is still going on and can be read below). The Administrator of the Blog dropped hints, twice or thrice, that it would also be good to back up and specifically talk about the history of Church Orders, canons, and whatnot.

We could of course start with Jerusalem, A+D 49. That's where Luther starts his discussion, if memory serves, in On the Councils and the Church. His point was that "canons" were made by the Council for good order and were not binding for all time or in all places: indeed, the Apostolic Council itself could not force a situation in Corinth for example - where it seemed to the Reformer that Paul took a different tack that Jerusalem. . .

From there there we could look at any of the regional councils that are extant - and there are quite a few. I'll try to dig one up later. But easy to hand all Englished up are the canons of Nicea I.

Perhaps after discussing what we see here and in a regional council of the early period, someone who knows more about medieval and Reformation history could take up both pre-Reformation medieval canons and post-Reformation Lutheran Church Orders. I looked briefly at one of the 17th century Lutheran orders and was surprised that it had little to do with what I thought of as "Church Order" and was instead a doctrine quiz to smoke out crypto-Calvinists. . .

At any rate, someone else will have to dig into that period for which my background is pretty light.

But here's Nicea 1. What a wide range of topics! Doctrine, practice, ethics, penal law...certainly beyond the scope of what I had below. And, I think, beyond the scope of what anyone who's commented so far wants. What else do you see here? What's good, bad, and ugly? What's helpful for us here and what's not? And please, no cracks about bureaucrats and Canon 1.


The Canons

Canon 1

If any one in sickness has been subjected by physicians to a surgical operation, or if he has been castrated by barbarians, let him remain among the clergy; but, if any one in sound health has castrated himself, it behoves that such an one, if [already] enrolled among the clergy, should cease [from his ministry], and that from henceforth no such person should be promoted. But, as it is evident that this is said of those who wilfully do the thing and presume to castrate themselves, so if any have been made eunuchs by barbarians, or by their masters, and should otherwise be found worthy, such men the Canon admits to the clergy.

Canon 2

Forasmuch as, either from necessity, or through the urgency of individuals, many things have been done contrary to the Ecclesiastical canon, so that men just converted from heathenism to the faith, and who have been instructed but a little while, are straightway brought to the spiritual laver, and as soon as they have been baptized, are advanced to the episcopate or the presbyterate, it has seemed right to us that for the time to come no such thing shall be done. For to the catechumen himself there is need of time and of a longer trial after baptism. For the apostolical saying is clear, Not a novice; lest, being lifted up with pride, he fall into condemnation and the snare of the devil. But if, as time goes on, any sensual sin should be found out about the person, and he should be convicted by two or three witnesses, let him cease from the clerical office. And whoso shall transgress these [enactments] will imperil his own clerical position, as a person who presumes to disobey the great Synod.

Canon 3

The great Synod has stringently forbidden any bishop, presbyter, deacon, or any one of the clergy whatever, to have a subintroducta dwelling with him, except only a mother, or sister, or aunt, or such persons only as are beyond all suspicion.

Canon 4

It is by all means proper that a bishop should be appointed by all the bishops in the province; but should this be difficult, either on account of urgent necessity or because of distance, three at least should meet together, and the suffrages of the absent [bishops] also being given and communicated in writing, then the ordination should take place. But in every province the ratification of what is done should be left to the Metropolitan.

Canon 5

Concerning those, whether of the clergy or of the laity, who have been excommunicated in the several provinces, let the provision of the canon be observed by the bishops which provides that persons cast out by some be not readmitted by others. Nevertheless, inquiry should be made whether they have been excommunicated through captiousness, or contentiousness, or any such like ungracious disposition in the bishop. And, that this matter may have due investigation, it is decreed that in every province synods shall be held twice a year, in order that when all the bishops of the province are assembled together, such questions may by them be thoroughly examined, that so those who have confessedly offended against their bishop, may be seen by all to be for just cause excommunicated, until it shall seem fit to a general meeting of the bishops to pronounce a milder sentence upon them. And let these synods be held, the one before Lent, (that the pure Gift may be offered to God after all bitterness has been put away), and let the second be held about autumn.

Canon 6

Let the ancient customs in Egypt, Libya and Pentapolis prevail, that the Bishop of Alexandria have jurisdiction in all these, since the like is customary for the Bishop of Rome also. Likewise in Antioch and the other provinces, let the Churches retain their privileges. And this is to be universally understood, that if any one be made bishop without the consent of the Metropolitan, the great Synod has declared that such a man ought not to be a bishop. If, however, two or three bishops shall from natural love of contradiction, oppose the common suffrage of the rest, it being reasonable and in accordance with the ecclesiastical law, then let the choice of the majority prevail.

Canon 7

Since custom and ancient tradition have prevailed that the Bishop of Ælia [i.e., Jerusalem] should be honoured, let him, saving its due dignity to the Metropolis, have the next place of honour.

Canon 8

Concerning those who call themselves Cathari, if they come over to the Catholic and Apostolic Church, the great and holy Synod decrees that they who are ordained shall continue as they are in the clergy. But it is before all things necessary that they should profess in writing that they will observe and follow the dogmas of the Catholic and Apostolic Church; in particular that they will communicate with persons who have been twice married, and with those who having lapsed in persecution have had a period [of penance] laid upon them, and a time [of restoration] fixed so that in all things they will follow the dogmas of the Catholic Church. Wheresoever, then, whether in villages or in cities, all of the ordained are found to be of these only, let them remain in the clergy, and in the same rank in which they are found. But if they come over where there is a bishop or presbyter of the Catholic Church, it is manifest that the Bishop of the Church must have the bishop's dignity; and he who was named bishop by those who are called Cathari shall have the rank of presbyter, unless it shall seem fit to the Bishop to admit him to partake in the honour of the title. Or, if this should not be satisfactory, then shall the bishop provide for him a place as Chorepiscopus, or presbyter, in order that he may be evidently seen to be of the clergy, and that there may not be two bishops in the city.

Canon 9

If any presbyters have been advanced without examination, or if upon examination they have made confession of crime, and men acting in violation of the canon have laid hands upon them, notwithstanding their confession, such the canon does not admit; for the Catholic Church requires that [only] which is blameless.

Canon 10

If any who have lapsed have been ordained through the ignorance, or even with the previous knowledge of the ordainers, this shall not prejudice the canon of the Church; for when they are discovered they shall be deposed.

Canon 11

Concerning those who have fallen without compulsion, without the spoiling of their property, without danger or the like, as happened during the tyranny of Licinius, the Synod declares that, though they have deserved no clemency, they shall be dealt with mercifully. As many as were communicants, if theyheartily repent, shall pass three years among the hearers; for seven years they shall be prostrators; and for two years they shall communicate with the people in prayers, but without oblation.

Canon 12

As many as were called by grace, and displayed the first zeal, having cast aside their military girdles, but afterwards returned, like dogs, to their own vomit, (so that some spent money and by means ofgifts regained their military stations); let these, after they have passed the space of three years as hearers, be for ten years prostrators. But in all these cases it is necessary to examine well into their purpose and what their repentance appears to be like. For as many as give evidence of their conversions by deeds, and not pretence, with fear, and tears, and perseverance, and good works, when they have fulfilled their appointed time as hearers, may properly communicate in prayers; and after that the bishop may determine yet more favourably concerning them. But those who take [the matter] with indifference, and who think the form of [not] entering the Church is sufficient for their conversion, must fulfil the whole time.

Canon 13

Concerning the departing, the ancient canonical law is still to be maintained, to wit, that, if any man be at the point of death, he must not be deprived of the last and most indispensableViaticum. But, if any one should be restored to health again who has received the communion when his life was despaired of, let him remain among those who communicate in prayers only. But in general, and in the case of any dying person whatsoever asking to receive the Eucharist, let the Bishop, after examination made, give it him.

Canon 14

Concerning catechumens who have lapsed, the holy and great Synod has decreed that, after they have passed three years only as hearers, they shall pray with the catechumens.

Canon 15

On account of the great disturbance and discords that occur, it is decreed that the custom prevailing in certain places contrary to the Canon, must wholly be done away; so that neither bishop, presbyter, nor deacon shall pass from city to city. And if any one, after this decree of the holy and great Synod, shall attempt any such thing, or continue in any such course, his proceedings shall be utterly void, and he shall be restored to theChurch for which he was ordained bishop or presbyter.

Canon 16

Neither presbyters, nor deacons, nor any others enrolled among the clergy, who, not having the fear of God before their eyes, nor regarding the ecclesiastical Canon, shall recklessly remove from their own church, ought by any means to be received by another church; but every constraint should be applied to restore them to their own parishes; and, if they will not go, they must be excommunicated. And if anyone shall dare surreptitiously to carry off and in his own Church ordain a man belonging to another, without the consent of his own proper bishop, from whom although he was enrolled in the clergy list he has seceded, let the ordination be void.

Canon 17

Forasmuch as many enrolled among the Clergy, following covetousness and lust of gain, have forgotten the divine Scripture, which says, He has not given his money upon usury, and in lending money ask the hundredth of the sum [as monthly interest], the holy and great Synod thinks it just that if after this decree any one be found to receive usury, whether he accomplish it by secret transaction or otherwise, as by demanding the whole and one half, or by using any other contrivance whatever for filthy lucre's sake, he shall be deposed from the clergy and his name stricken from the list.

Canon 18

It has come to the knowledge of the holy and great Synod that, in some districts and cities, the deacons administer the Eucharist to the presbyters, whereas neither canon nor custom permits that they who have no right to offer should give the Body of Christ to them that do offer. And this also has been made known, that certain deacons now touch the Eucharist even before the bishops. Let all such practices be utterly done away, and let the deacons remain within their own bounds, knowing that they are the ministers of the bishop and the inferiors of the presbyters. Let them receive the Eucharist according to their order, after the presbyters, and let either the bishop or the presbyter administer to them. Furthermore, let not the deacons sit among the presbyters, for that is contrary to canon and order. And if, after this decree, any one shall refuse to obey, let him be deposed from the diaconate.

Canon 19

Concerning the Paulianists who have flown for refuge to the Catholic Church, it has been decreed that they must by all means be rebaptized; and if any of them who in past time have been numbered among their clergy should be found blameless and without reproach, let them be rebaptized and ordained by the Bishop of the Catholic Church; but if the examination should discover them to be unfit, they ought to be deposed. Likewise in the case of their deaconesses, and generally in the case of those who have been enrolled among their clergy, let the same form be observed. And we mean by deaconesses such as have assumed the habit, but who, since they have no imposition of hands, are to be numbered only among the laity.

Canon 20

Forasmuch as there are certain persons who kneel on the Lord's Day and in the days of Pentecost, therefore, to the intent that all things may be uniformly observed everywhere (in every parish), it seems good to the holy Synod that prayer be made to God standing.

15 September 2008

Order, Order, in the Basilica!

The crossed gavels upon which St. Missouriensis was martyred for his adiaphoraism, upside down.

Here's a first stab at some canons for a society of church order in our midst. Where I thought it would be helpful, I've put notes to elucidate my thinking in square brackets. I've sought to keep it short and to just the points we listed in previous discussions. I sort of kept it organized. . .

I hope it proves fruitful for discussion here and maybe at Kewanee as well - but that's up to the Editor - no not him, the other Editor, the hyper-Euro Editor.


Evangelical Rule and Church Order


[Name, Nature, Purpose]

We, the undersigned member congregations and pastors of the Missouri Synod, distressed at the confusing state of churchly life among us, hereby pledge to conduct our ministries within the Missouri Synod under the following Evangelical Rule and Church Order. We do not pine for Rome, Constantinople, or the America of neo-Evangelicalism. We seek to be authentically Lutheran and show as much to the world through a unified practice of our common doctrine.

In previous centuries, Lutheran Church Orders regulated the life of the church in a given territory and carried names commensurate with that purpose, e.g., The Wittenberg Church Order. This order, however, is set down not for a territorial church but to be of assistance within the fellowship of the Missouri Synod. Therefore, this order shall simply be called the Evangelical Rule and Church Order [of such-and-such? Still looking for a better name...]

The ERCO is not a communion fellowship – rather it is created to be of assistance to members within the communion fellowship of the Missouri Synod. Member congregations and pastors of the LCMS may freely join the society of this Rule and Order and just as freely leave without any repercussions for fellowship whatsoever. Members of this Rule and Order first and foremost pledge to abide by a faithful, evangelical, and fraternal life within the Missouri Synod – and are therefore by definition in full altar and pulpit fellowship with all members of the Missouri Synod whether they be members of this society or not.

The purpose of this Evangelical Rule and Church Order is twofold. Toward members of the same, the ERCO exists to provide an evangelical and fraternal framework for regulating churchly life and ministry toward greater unity and harmony. For members of our communion fellowship who are not members of this order, the ERCO exists to show an example of what a peaceful, ordered, and unified practice can mean for churchly life in our midst.

The Canons of the Evangelical Rule and Church Order

[Section 1: Authority and Membership]

[The Dean]

[Notes: Authority in the church must be as a-political as possible without being strictly elite and “above the law.” Hence, I propose an authority of lifelong tenure but with clear procedures for impeachment. A lifelong tenure removes the Dean from the necessity to “campaign” for his office every few years – the possibility of impeachment holds him accountable. I also thought about simply having the question come before the assembly ever 5 years: Shall the Dean be retained in office? But the procedure below seems more in keeping with Christian custom for authority in the church.]

Canon 1

The Dean and head of this order shall be an ordained minister of the LCMS, either retired or serving a congregation, and member of this order. He shall exemplify the qualifications for the Ministry laid down in Scripture and be known for wisdom and humility. It is the Dean's duty to enforce these Canons in the ministry and churchly life of the members of the society. His decisions in all such questions are final and binding on members of the ERCO. If members refuse to abide by his decisions, it is the Dean's duty to remove them from membership and notify the other members of his decision and the reason(s) therefor.

Canon 2

Members of the ERCO shall assemble annually on ___________ at _____________ for the purposes of mutual encouragement, study, prayer, elections, the setting of the year's Calendar, and amending canons.

Canon 3

The Dean shall be elected at the next annual assembly after a vacancy in the office has occurred. The Dean must be elected by a two-thirds majority of the assembly. The Dean's tenure lasts until A) he becomes unwilling to serve, B) he is impeached, or C) his disability or death.

Canon 4

A simple majority of the annual assembly may agree to hear charges against the Dean upon the request of two or three witnesses. After hearing the evidence against the Dean and hearing his response, a two-thirds majority of the annual assembly may convict and remove the Dean. The assembly will then open the floor for nominations and elect a new dean by a two-thirds majority.

Canon 5

If the Deanship is vacated by resignation, disability, or death, the oldest member of the ERCO shall be offered the Interim Deanship, and if he refuses, the next oldest and so on until it is accepted. The Interim Dean fulfills the duties of the Dean until a Dean is elected.

[Members and the Annual Assembly]

Canon 6

Pastors and congregations may become members of the ERCO by informing the Dean of their desire to conform their ministry to these canons. All such applications are provisionally accepted. In a timely manner, if at all possible before the next annual assembly, the Dean shall arrange a time to meet with the applicant before finally accepting them as members. Such meetings, especially with pastors, are preferably made face to face. These meetings may, especially with representatives of congregations, take place over the phone.

Canon 7

The annual assembly consists of all pastoral members of the ERCO and a representative of the congregational members, who shall preferably be the president of the member congregation. Members seeking an exemption from the annual meeting (Canon 2) should present it in writing to the Dean not less than one week before (or one week after in the event of an unforeseen absence) the annual assembly. The annual assembly may amend these canons by a three-fourths vote.

Canon 8

Members agree to conduct their ministry and churchly life in accord with these canons. If questions arise concerning how the canons are to be applied in a certain situation, the member is to contact the Dean for his judgment in the matter. Likewise, if a member questions the practice of another member regarding the canons, the former shall inform the Dean of his concern and the Dean shall investigate the matter in good time and report his decision to both parties. All members are required to cooperate with the Dean in such inquiries.

Canon 9

Laity sympathetic to ERCO who belong to LCMS congregations that are not members of this society are hereby encouraged to pray for their congregation, the LCMS, and the members of ERCO – as well as work peaceably and humbly within their congregations to encourage membership in ERCO.

Canon 10

Members may petition the Dean for local exceptions from Canons 11-XX. The Dean shall evaluate these requests in good time and notify the petitioner of his judgment on the matter in writing.

[Section II: The Divine Service]

Canon 11

The Divine Service of the Sacrament of the Altar shall be celebrated at each member congregation every Lord's Day and on other feast days according to the calendar of the order. On Sundays, no office or service besides the Divine Service shall be celebrated between 7:30 and 11:30 am.

Canon 12

For the sake of a united confession before the world, each parish and pastor shall utilize the Common Service (as contained in either TLH p. 15, LW p. 136, or LSB p. 184) as the setting of the Divine Service. In accord with Canon 10, the Dean may grant that other settings of the Divine Service from those hymnals be used alongside of a Common Service setting so long as the Common Service is used with at least equal frequency.

Canon 13

Pastors shall vest for the Divine Service in at least clerical collar (or cassock), alb, cincture, and stole. The use of the full Eucharistic vestments (in addition to those listed: chasuble and maniple) is encouraged.

Canon 14

The propers for the day shall be those of the ERCO calendar, set at each annual assembly.

Canon 15

The manner of celebration (ceremony) shall be in accord with reverence and traditional Lutheran custom.

[Note: only a few specific ceremonies/rubrics on a few controversial topics need to be addressed here. For most, Canon 15 will do.]

Canon 16

At the conclusion of each Consecration (“...in remembrance of Me.”) the pastor shall make some sign of reverence that confesses the Real and Substantial Presence of the Body and Blood of Christ and accords with local custom: a deep bow or genuflection.

Canon 17

Only ordained ministers shall assist in the distribution of Christ's Body and Blood and read during the Divine Service.

Canon 18

In accord with the Lord's Command to “take and eat. . . take and drink” and Bl. Martin Luther's counsel, all that is consecrated at each celebration is consumed at that celebration.

Canon 19

Congregational hymnody shall be taken from the hymnals listed in Canon 12 alone.

Canon 20

The musical accompaniment of the liturgy, choir selections, etc. shall be in keeping with Lutheranism's rich musical heritage and shall avoid all frivolity.

[Section III: Closed Communion]

Canon 21

As members of the LCMS, members of the ERCO shall faithfully practice closed communion: namely, except in the rarest and most exigent of circumstances, pastors will only commune those of our communion fellowship.

Canon 22

If a pastor encounters one of these rare and exigent circumstances and communes a person not of our fellowship, he shall immediately report such occurrence to the Dean for his counsel, and if necessary, admonition.

09 September 2008

Forgiveness: Attitude and Acquittal

In the Holy Gospel Christ commands Christians to forgive from their hearts those who sin against them. Christians are to have the same forgiving attitude as God, whose forgiveness knows no limit (Matthew 18). Stern warnings are spoken by Jesus against the unforgiving heart, both in the commentary on the Fifth Petition of the Lord's Prayer in the Sermon on the Mount, and in the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant. This forgiveness, like God's forgiving attitude toward the world in Christ, is to exist regardless of any change or recognition of wrong doing on the part of the offender. It is in this sense, objective and unconditional. Individual Christians are commanded to have a forgiving attitude towards all, and are not commanded to retain sins.

The Church's forgiveness, that which is announced and declared chiefly through the Office of the Holy Ministry, is in some sense conditional. Christ does not command the disciples in John 20 to forgive the sins of the penitent and impenitent alike, according to the Small Catechism. A pastor could not in good conscience absolve someone who lacked a "broken and contrite heart." Not that a pastor can look into the heart, but if someone says he or she is "proud" of something they did and is not really confessing it as a sin, it would seem to suggest that there was no contrition. Another difference between the Church's forgiveness and that of the Christian heart is that the Christian does not wait for someone to ask for forgiveness before forgiving him from the heart. Typically, the Church forgives someone who asks for it. "Pastor, please hear my confession and forgive all my sins according to God's will."

This, it seems, reflects that theological principle that God both has forgiven the world from His heart on the basis of the atonement (objective justification), and yet, offers this forgiveness or divine acquittal to those who ask for it (subjective justification). In both cases, the foundation for the forgiveness is the same: the atoning death of Christ Jesus. Objective Justification has to do with God's total contentment with the world as it is in Christ, his forgiving attitude towards all regardless of whether or not they repent. Subjective Justification then has to do with the forgiveness that is pronounced and apprehended by faith.

Just some thoughts as the day begins.

08 September 2008

Take 3 or I Repent (sort of)

Just go to Confession!

Well, you turn away for a couple days to go to work and look what happens to your blog post. . . There's some unfinished business under Take 2's comments - and interested parties can continue that there.

But here, I'd like to pick up a few points from those comments, repent of some of my notions, and pursue another path of discussion.

1. To Rick: Yes, I am making a distinction between the doctrine we state and the lives we live, precisely because that distinction must be made so that we can correct the lives we live by the doctrine we confess: one can't help making that distinction, it is a real one. When this observation is applied to the folks we see around us in the Synod, it raises some interesting questions as you note. For example, in my misspent youth in college debate we'd ask for a “bright line” at this point in the discussion. What is the clear threshold for when you excommunicate (for that is what breaking fellowship is) someone for not living out their confession? Should a congregation and pastor who say they subscribe unconditionally to the BOC be moved out of our fellowship if they exclusively use neo-evangelical praise and worship formats or allow women to help distribute the sacrament?

What practices are we really upset about in the LCMS today? Pastors and congregations who do not utilize the traditional forms of the Lutheran liturgy...women acting in pastoral roles (distributing the sacrament, etc.)...men who have not been called to and placed in the Office of the Ministry preaching and administering the sacraments...Arminian manners of speech in the Ablaze business...open communion...what are the others? That's really the list that comes to my mind.

If we both agree that those are incorrect, and we both agree that still now is not the time to break fellowship over them: then what's the next step? You have advocated what I think all of the blackbirds and many of our readers are currently doing: stay, confess, discuss, persuade.

What I'm asking is: how's that been working out? We both agree that the Word must change hearts and minds. But I'm asking: Are we a bit like a pastor who laments that his congregation isn't growing in the faith even though he preaches the Word week in and week out at the normal Divine Service time of 4:00am. Yes, only the Word can do what he wants done – but moving the service to say, 9:00am, might let folks hear the Word more efficiently. Likewise, are we best situated to persuade our brothers with the Word in the current arrangement of our churchly life, or could there be another way?

2. Which brings us to Pr. Cwirla. I have often benefited from your summaries of situations (I still use the “would Moses force passover lamb down an infant's throat” line when talking about the age of first communion) and your note on the organic division of the LCMS is, I fear, spot on. Disparate portions of the synod have been drifting apart for years – and perhaps it cannot be stopped. So what is our next move? Wait and go with the flow that develops? Or try to develop the flow in one way or another? As the flow is going now, I think we might eventually end up with what I started talking about: multiple synods with diverse practices, but all claiming the same confession. . .

3. But in any case, yes, Virginia, the problem really is with the “canon law.” I know this makes me a heretic of sorts – or at least very impious. I'm supposed to think that the problem really is one of doctrine and sin in our hearts that only the Word can solve – and in one sense, I do think that's right: those are the real problems that only the Word can solve.

But the undergirding problem that has allowed these to take root is, I'm convinced, one of ecclesiastical discipline. It is this laxity that has let minor differences in outlook grow into nearly church-divisive sores. Just as a man who lacks discipline will soon find himself in deeper sins, so a church body that lacks discipline will see all its minor flaws blossom. By saying we just need to stay, confess, and preach the Word and things will get better, is, I think, a little bit like telling a porn addict he should just go to Confession and hear the Word of Absolution. He needs that, yes, but he also needs some discipline. He needs somebody to make sure he keeps the computer turned off – that discipline will allow the space, the peace, for the Word to grow and change his heart.

So also, I think we would benefit greatly from some ecclesiastical peace and discipline to allow the Word to work on us and others. What if instead of getting all excited about fighting our battles in districts and conventions and so forth, we just lived by a discipline that would be a living demonstration to others of what churchly peace, characterized by humility, can look like?

So I ask: how many of our problems really would be solved – or at least tensions alleviated – if we had a real evangelical canon law for our mutual disciple that had stipulations for

    A) public liturgical life (what setting(s) of the Divine Service were to be used, what about lay readers, distribution assistants, etc.)

    B) a detailed discussion of what closed communion means

    C) stipulations for what is “fit to be sung in church” and most of all

    D) a system of oversight with efficient means of enforcement (and yes, my Nagelite brethren, “enforcement” is of the Law. Discipline is of the Law and we need it – it being good and wise and all that).

What this would require, more than anything, is humility on all our parts for the sake of unity. Perhaps I'd have to give up using the Confiteor for the public confession at Divine Service, and Fr. Eckardt would have to give up his sub-deacon distributing the Cup, and Fr. Stuckwisch would have to give up lopping off the Preparation on High Feast Days, and Fr. McCain would have to accept TLH and LW in the pews in churches across the country.

So I'll change tacks just a bit: forget the new-synod-in-fellowship with Missouri idea. I repent. You're all right: a pipedream wrapped in a daydream curled up inside a logistical nightmare.

So what about writing a Rule, a canon law, whatever you want to call it, for a society of congregations and pastors within the LCMS? Such a society would, by definition, not excommunicate any other LCMS folks, they'd continue to live their lives as faithful members of the LCMS fulfilling all obligations thereto – but they would also live by a Rule that could demonstrate to their brethren in the LCMS that a traditional, evangelical churchly life can exist and bring many blessings.

Such a canon law will be the topic at Kewanee next month on the Tuesday discussion. So what say, Rick, see you there? I know Cwirla won't leave the left coast in October, might be too cold out here :). Paul's got a day job in St. Louis – but maybe he could come up ostensibly to get some TDP pre-orders (and learn the distinction between genuflecting on the right and left knees ;) . . .)

I'll even give you a preamble: We, the undersigned member congregations and pastors of the Missouri Synod, distressed at the confusing state of churchly life among us, hereby pledge to conduct our ministries within the Missouri Synod under the following Evangelical Rule. . .

Needs a name. . . let's see Benedict, Augustine, and Polycarp are taken. . .


06 September 2008

Take 2

Thank you, brothers, for the excellent back and forth in the previous post about my day-dreaming of a church body in fellowship with, but outside of the bureaucratic jurisdiction of the LCMS. I thought I'd pull together a few thoughts in a new post, especially since Fr. Eckardt sounds interested in taking up the canon law topic in Kewanee in about a month.

First, I'll pull out a couple of points from Fr. Stuckwisch and respond to them, and then note a few points for the potential discussion at Gottesdientst Oktoberfest: Day 2.

Rick wrote:
"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."

I profoundly disagree. And here again perhaps my optimism is to blame. But I take seriously the stated confession of the faith made by even the goofiest of parishes/pastors among us. Do you really think that if "we" left the bureaucracy of MO that the rest of them would repeal a quia subscription to the Confessions at the next convention? I don't. And I think we owe fellowship to them so long as they make that confession. So long as they make that confession we have something to call them to repentance on.

Part of my optimism here probably comes from my experience as a graduate of the St. Louis seminary. While Fort Wayne can claim its share of neo-evangelicals, the majority are surely from St. Louis. And yet, at St. Louis I've never known a professor - even the most neo-evangelical of them - to advocate for dumping the confessions: they honest-to-goodness see their running after evangelical fads as ways to promote Lutheranism. And the guys I knew who went the neo-evangelical route would consider themselves as confessional Lutherans.

Now, I firmly believe that they have made serious errors in putting that faith into practice. But they desire to be in fellowship with others who confession the Book of Concord: they would not break fellowship with us. And why should we break fellowship with them if they still confess the same doctrine, though live it poorly? Do we not rather owe them fraternal care, support, and calls to better practice? And isn't the best call to better practice living a better practice and showing its benefits in living color?

Which brings me back to my main point. Fr. Rick wrote,
"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."

My question is: how can we best continue to confess, influence, and call to a better practice our brothers in the Missouri Synod who both confess the Concordia with their mouth but live a neo-evangelical parish life? Is that best done within the Missouri Synod, as part of the same bureaucratic network? Or could it perhaps be better done under the model of the old Synodical Conference: a separate body in fellowship with Missouri?

Let me mention one other benefit of the latter arrangement: our sister churches around the world look to the LCMS for guidance. Would they not benefit from a strong Lutheran voice in the United States still in fellowship with them and MO, but giving a clear call and showing a clear example of living out Lutheran doctrine in traditional ways?

Now, what might this new bureaucracy look like? Especially in matters of worship practice? How can a church body have more of the unity we crave without becoming leagalistic? Is that possible?

I think so. And I'd throw this out as a place for Fritz to start the canon law discussion at Oktoberfest. Why couldn't the constitution of such a synod say something like this: "The Hypothetical Lutheran Synod values the traditional forms of the Lutheran Divine Service. For the sake of a united confession before the world, each parish of the HLS shall utilize the Common Service (as contained in either TLH p. 15, LW p. 136, or LSB p. 184) as its chief Sunday service. Permission from the president/bishop/overseer (pick your favorite term!) may be sought for utilizing other settings of the Divine Service from these hymnals alongside the Common Service settings for good reason."

So there's a place to start: we don't all have to have the same rubrics, we don't even have to have the exact same setting of the Common Service, or even the Common Service all the time: but wouldn't it be nice to once again see the letters of your synod on the sign outside the door while you're on vacation and know pretty much what you're going to get inside? Wouldn't that, perhaps, be a strong confession to our other brothers in MO about what a benefit unity in practice is?

Critique and nit-pick that all you like: but isn't that basically what we are really yearning for in our worship practice? And why not have it? Why not give it a try, at least? And since it is self-evident that such a unity simply cannot exist in the bureaucracy of the LCMS, why not at least think seriously and constructively about making it a possibility within the fellowship of Missouri if not her bureaucratic structure?

So come on down to Kewanee for a serious discussion of what such a canon law for Lutherans might look like. It might come to nothing - probably will - but won't it be refreshing to set aside the nay-saying we've become so accustomed to for a morning and just talk constructively about how maybe we could make it happen?

Still asking "what if. . . "