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.


William Weedon said...

Canon 11 would seem to preclude those who practice the ancient and salutary singing of Matins or Lauds prior to the Divine Service???

William Weedon said...

Also, the restriction of readers to the ordained means that no vicars or fieldworkers from seminary would be enabled to read the Scripture lessons???

Pr. H. R. said...

On Canon 11: that's why it says 7:30-11:30 there has to be Divine Service. If you're going to have Matins - make sure it's so early that it won't be likely to become a replacement for Mass for most folks. Hold it before 7:30 and only the Super Christians who will stay for Mass anyway will come :)

Or at least that's the goal. . .

I think fieldworkers and seminarians reading the lessons would be a great basis on which to petition the Dean for an exception to that canon: see how nicely that works?


Paul McCain said...

I'm having a hard time understanding how this is not an example of a "church within the church" and would not lead to selective fellowship.

William Weedon said...

Huh? Reread the opening paragraphs! :)

Pr. H. R. said...

Rev. McCain,

The point is well taken. My only responses are:

1) The preamble specifically guards against the church within a church charge.

2) Any group based on a common outlook of controverted topics - the subscription lists of Gottesdienst or JesusFirst or Consensus or you name it - is open to the charge of "leading to" selective fellowship. Thus, I think that charge isn't very weighty. For all of the criticism heaped on Consensus and JesusFirst, I don't know of anyone who bases fellowship on membership in those groups. So let's not make the possibility of "leading to" a crime unless it actually happens.

3) Finally, I see no reason why such a group wouldn't apply for RSO status - PLI did and now, even though it was denied such status, no one is allowed to say it is divisive.

4) Well, #3 is 40% facetious, but as we've discussed below: what else ya gonna do? Below I explored what I see as the weaknesses of the "just confess and teach where you are" response. Something more is required. So if not this, what else are you going to do to try to foster better, more unified practice in the Missouri Synod?

"Our side" has raised picking holes in an idea to a fine art: what we have not excelled at is positive, constructive ideas to move things forward - we can do better.


wmc said...

Canon 1 - The Dean sure sounds like a Bishop to me.
Canon 2 - Oh no, another meeting.
Canon 3 - Still sounds like a Bishop to me.
Canon 4 - What if 2/3 are wrong?
Canon 5 - The older I get, the more I like it.
Canon 6 - Sounds like a Bishop to me.
Canon 8 - Sounds like a Synod to me.
Canon 9 - Sounds like pastoral subversion to me.
Canon 10 - Sounds like a Bishop to me.
Canon 11 - Is that Central or Pacific time?
Canon 12 - Surprise! Surprise!
Canon 13 - What? No mitre?
Canon 14 - Now which “historic” one-year lectionary system do you think that will be?
Canon 15 - Until we come up with something better.
Canon 16 - Full prostration?
Canon 17 - What do we have elders for?
Canon 18 - There go the tabernacles.
Canon 19 - Except “Earth and All Stars,” “Thine the Amen” and anything by Twila Paris.
Canon 20 - There goes “All You Works of the Lord” with bongos and wood blocks.
Canon 21 - Would that also include those who practice open communion?
Canon 22 - Sounds like a Bishop to me.

Todd Wilken said...

I share Cwirla's concern about canons 1, 3, 6-10 & 22.

The dean stuff just takes up a lot of space and sounds like a full time job.

If these canons are voluntary, I can't imagine why a pastor or congregation would join, only to require supervision in keeping the canons.

Besides, I can't think of anyone I'd trust in the position, except myself, and therein is the problem.


Dan @ Necessary Roughness said...

As a layman who travels frequently to other areas and their churches, I appreciate this desire for consistency.

It would help me as a traveler if somehow a group of churches voluntarily said "this is what we teach, this is how we worship." Where this gets screwed up is that people claim to share a common confession in order to draw resources from those churches who actually confess. I imagine this is what the "dean" or the "bishop" is really for, correct me if I'm wrong.

Could we somehow form a list of canons, etc., that churches could voluntarily subscribe to, that Jefferson Hills, etc., would run clear away from, that did not spend money in the ERCO/whatever's name? This would almost be like what lutheranliturgy.org did but for doctrine as well as practice.

God bless you in working this stuff out.

Rev.Fr.Burnell F Eckardt said...

Yes, "sounds like a bishop to me" too, but so what? Can someone tell me what's wrong with a bishop? Do you guys know that our LCMS district presidents now actually have more power than ecclesiastical bishops do?

Anyhow, I gather that the discussion is merely starting here, not ending here. I think that would be a helpful thing to remember.

On details, of course I would have to insist that the exclusion of tabernacles be disallowed, but it would be under the discussion of that particular canon that the matter would be properly discussed.

Secondly, I am intrigued by the use of the term "dean" for the bishop of this society. It might serve eventually to correspond to the terminology in the Augustana Ministerium, which already exists, though for a different purpose. Perhaps someday there will be several societies, each for its own purpose, but set in order on separate terms, and which might conceivably have liasons, etc.

The ultimate goal of these little societies would be simply to begin doing anew what the Synod has been failing to do of late; that is a good thing, not a divisive thing. The matter of altar and pulpit fellowship is manifestly not on the table here; therefore it cannot rightly be criticized as divisive.

Third, I fully concur with the notion of not making "leading to" a crime, not only in the sense of "leading to selective fellowship," but in the sense of, well, tabernacles leading to abuses of the sacrament.

Fourth, I would have to insist also that trained and properly designated laymen should be permitted to read the OT and Epistle during mass; at Kewanee we have a subdeacon who routinely does this, in accord with laudable churchly custom.

Fifth, I also agree that matins or lauds should be permitted prior to Sunday mass, with the proviso that it not be offered as a substitute; I would think the matter of time of day would depend partly on when mass is offered.

Sixth, to the question why someone would want to submit to such a group and authority, I would say that the Sunday's Epistle answers that, from Ephesians 4: "Endeavoring to keep the unity of spirit in the bond of peace."

The new man freely wills to submit himself to evangelical authority. This is a laudable trait.

Nice start, I'd say.

William Weedon said...

I think our beloved Luther said it: "Something must be ventured for Christ."

Let's venture!!!

Todd Wilken said...


But then aren't we really talking about a different synod, bishopric or jurisdiction --whatever you want to call it.

And then, if this is the case, why are we talking about this NOT being a church within a church?


Todd Wilken said...

Also, Burnell writes:

"Can someone tell me what's wrong with a bishop?"

Nothing, except that every one of them is a sinner.

So, who would you seriously suggest for the position?

And, what relationship would said bishop have to the local DP?

Wil, I'm all for venturing something, but not anything.


Mike Keith said...

I liked much of what I read. I am not entirely comfortabel with everything but I need ot think more about it. As an outsider looking in from Lutheran Church-Canada I can see this as potentially being of value in LCC.

However - what about pastors and congregations that are in transition? What about a pastor who fully supports the practices that are listed but is in the process of catechizing and leading the parish he serves to those points? Is it to be assumed that every member is serving a parish where all those practices are already in place? Or is there room for the pastor who is working at it?

Rev. George Borghardt said...

HA! I have a bishop. I serve under someone. Try submission for a bit before you wish for one.

And if you have a bishop and the guy dares to act like one, you can complain that he's overbearing!

It's WIN-WIN! (smile) You get all the joy of feeling high-churchy and get to complain about the burden, the cross, of doing it!

Everyone wants a bishop, but those who actually have them.

What astounds me is that we have to find our answer in the Law. We can't get the order that we feel like we need, so we need to burden people with more Law.

I left the canons when I left Rome. Did you guys forget the wonderful freedom of the Gospel? It's messy and sometimes ... even.. (shudder the thought)... diverse!

That freedom...scary scary!

Pr. H. R. said...

Here's the thing with bishops: the Confessions say that all in the Office of the Ministry are bishops, because there is only one Office.

So the question is really not: shall we have bishops? but rather: how big shall their sees be and how shall they relate to one another?

The answer of German-descended Lutheranism in America has generally been: the see shall only be the parish and bishops shall relate to one another as strict equals in all matters, with none agreeing to submit his own judgment to that of another.

The Confessions, of course, allow for this. And they allow for other arrangements.

In the canons listed here, the Dean would in many ways be acting as a bishop with a larger see, exercising AC XXVIII powers (which he and all presbyter/bishops have by virtue of their being in the Office) in regulating the service of the Sacrament over several parishes and pastors.

If that not someone's cup of tea: no big deal. Like I said, the Confessions allow for all sorts of arrangements in the life of the church and no one is saying that anyone has to adopt this or any other arrangement.

So, my Nagelite brethren, you are free in the Gospel. And so am I. I'm even free to bind myself to canons and the judgment of another for the purpose of love, peace, harmony, and training myself in humility. And you are free to say, "No thanks." And neither one of us is more holy or pious for doing one thing or the other.Recognizing that fact is a prerequisite for Lutheran ecclesiology.

One more thing, Pr. Wilken wrote: "Besides, I can't think of anyone I'd trust in the position, except myself, and therein is the problem." Indeed: that is the problem. Our current arrangement of churchly life has encouraged us all to think of ourselves as petty kings and we have grown used to it and like it. We are prideful - and I am chief of sinners in this regard. Well, maybe it's time to bite the bullet and try on humility and "submitting to one another for the sake of Christ". . .

And that's why this voluntary organization would, in fact, need a Dean (or whatever you want to call him). More than anything else, I see such a society being about humility and mutual submission for the sake of peace and unity. And for that, you need a place where the buck stops.

And it must be truly evangelical, and that's why you need the Exceptions Canon.

And so, yes, whom you would choose for Dean would be important. But more important still is choosing someone at all - submitting to someone, anyone, for the sake of love, is in and of itself a better training in humility than any of us currently get.

And, Fr. Borghart, this is coming from someone who spent his first call as a very assistant pastor. . . And for all the frustration of that experience - what was mostly frustrated was my pride. I still count the man a friend and we have no theological disputes: it was just my pride that got in the way about the way I wanted to do things. . .

Freedom is scary, yes. But I find setting aside my prideful confidence in my own judgment scarier still. And maybe that's how one should decide whether this is his cup of tea or not: do what seems most frightening to you!


Rev. Eric J Brown said...

First - as always, political posturing meant to be aside - Don't Panic! Cwirla for Dean! >=o)

I think the problem I have with this is that it sets the standard so high that exceptions are expected. . . that makes things really difficult on whoever will be the dean (let's just call him. . . Bill). If it is understood that field workers and Seminarians can, under supervision, assist in the service, why make it an exception? Add in a clause right away. That frees up a lot of time for
Dean Bill, the unshakable pillar of the order.

As to the "sounds like a bishop" - well. . . the only authority has it is say, "No, you aren't in our club anymore." - so it's not quite a bishop. . . it's a district manager who can pull the franchise tag on local franchises.

Well, at the moment - I wouldn't be able to be in without exceptions (I work my Seminarian, haven't gotten the congregation to every Sunday Communion, use Elders for communion -- and if I can't find a pastor for when I am gone, they read my sermon in a non-communion service) - but I think it's a good starting point for further clarification and discussion.

Todd Wilken said...


Please don't call me a Nagelite. There is only one NN; everyone else is just breathing heavy and faking an accent.

My concern isn't with "bishops." My concern is with yet another bishop in our present arrangement.

Again, are we really talking about a non-geographical district of sorts? With another DP?

Any inter se arrangement has to be understood in the context our present arrangement.

That is what I am unclear about.

And, as I said before, the Dean looks like a full time job.


Rev. Rick Stuckwisch said...

It must be evangelical, indeed, and that means living within and from the freedom of the Gospel. It also means loving the brethren for Christ's sake. Doing this well is as challenging as properly dividing the Law and the Gospel always is. Doing so in exegesis and preaching is a weekly challenge. Doing so in practice is, I dare say, even more dificult.

The thing about our freedom in the Gospel is that we are entirely free before God, because we are righteous and holy by His grace through faith in Christ Jesus, and there is no condemnation there. In faith, we are free, the slaves of no man. Yet, to speak in human terms, we are set free from the curse of sin and death, set free to live as "slaves" of righteousness in Christ. That is what frames our love for the neighbor. In faith, before God, we are entirely free. In love we are bound, the slaves of all men.

Love lives by faith in Christ, but it lives according to the Law. This goes back to earlier conversations, some of which were never completed or resolved. They are always ongoing. The Law always accuses, but the problem is not to be found in the Law, but in our sinfulness. The same Law that accuses us -- because it commands us to do what we do not do, and it forbids us to do what we are doing -- that same Law reveals what is the good and acceptable will of God; that same Law pictures for us the faith and love of Christ, who has not abolished but fulfilled the Law.

It is not properly dividing the Law and the Gospel to declare that we are now going to live apart from the Law and according to the Gospel. That is simply to turn the Gospel itself into a new Law. Rather, by faith in the Gospel we are free to love our neighbor; and such love is guided by the Law of God, which is good and right.

What we are discussing here is not the Law of God, to be sure. We are working in areas of freedom. But we are striving to regulate our freedom, in faith and love, for the sake of serving one another, glorifying God, and assisting our neighbor by a good example. Each man doing whatever seems right in his own eyes is not the glorious freedom of the sons of God; that is the anarchy that reigns in the fallen city of man. Instead, because we are safely hidden with Christ in God, and there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, we are free to submit to one another in love. We can be burdened by the needs of our neighbor, and we may even be wronged for doing so, without injury to our life in Christ. Then, indeed, His holy Cross and sacred Passion are manifested in our flesh and life.

I'm appreciative that Brother Curtis has taken the bull by the horns and gone out on the limb. He's given us a starting point, something to work with. Frankly, it needs some work, but, as Brother Eckardt has noted, this is a starting point, not a finish line. So far as I know, we still have to do our homework: What do the ancient canons address, and how? What do the Lutheran church orders do, and how do they go about doing it? We can and should study such things, not because we are bound in our conscience to abide by them or follow them, but because love delights in learning from our fathers in the faith, and because love may be served in our own day by their good example.

The questions, comments and critiques that have here been offered in response to the proposed canons are extraordinarily helpful. This is how we move forward in faith and love. We are free to discuss and debate, to question and challenge, to learn from each other, to be corrected by one another, to arrive at greater clarity. Even our blessed Lord, Jesus Christ, grew in wisdom and stature, in favor with God and man, as He submitted Himself to His earthly parents. As our freedom is in Him, so is our love for one another after His example.

For the time being, the canons are a bit lopsided, in my opinion; because Brother Curtis has so far only touched upon a few specific points. He was working from our limited discussions heretofore. In other respects, I think there is presently too much precision in some cases, too much open-ended flexibility in other cases. Those concerns will be resolved, I expect, in the course of discussion and in doing our homework.

Areas that need special attention, it seems to me, are: The relation of this rule of order to our synodical fellowship(s). The ordering of the one Office of the Holy Ministry, and the way that Office may be assisted from within and without. The use of ceremony and music in service and support of our common rites and orders.

When Brother McCain asked why anything more than "doing it by the book" would be necessary or beneficial, Brother Curtis offered some very helpful explanations. That was under a previous post. In particular, he pointed out that the rubrics in LSB are open-ended and incomplete; they don't answer all the pertinent questions. That very area has yet to be addressed. It's hardly more helpful to offer vague references to historic Lutheran practices, than it is to say nothing at all.

At that very point, however, we do buck up against the same challenge that the hymnal project faced: How do you respect, not only freedom in adiaphora, but also local custom and pastoral discretion, while attempting to serve a fellowship spanning an entire country the size of the United States? Working out additional "rubrics" through the mutual conversation of the brethren may, in addition to providing helpful guidance, also give us greater sympathy for those who worked out the rubrics in LSB.

wmc said...

Believe me, I have nothing against bishops. I think the episcopal polity, which our Confessions also affirm, is vastly superior to any other vehicle on the road. "Dean" just doesn't do it for me. Sounds too prissy Anglican.

Here's the problem gentlemen:

1. Wilken nails it - This is a church body within a church body. You are accountable to the Dean as your overseer. It looks like a duck and it quacks like a duck.

2. It's not that the standards of these canons are "too high." They are too narrow.. They're not the Lutheran road, they're the stripe in the middle of the Lutheran road. There isn't even a passing lane much less a carpool lane.

Honestly, even the Orthodox have room for musical variety with their two divine liturgies. Why can't we just say "the western catholic Mass as we have received it through the Reformation" and be done with it. By these liturgical standards, our German forefathers would have been excluded.

And what's with this German control-freaky thing about 7:30 AM to 11:30 AM? Is that start time or end time? May I start Matins at 7:29 AM?

And guys, honest to goodness, we know you love bowing and genuflecting and prostrating yourselves. Great. Let's just remember that we honor the Body and Blood of Christ the way He wishes for these to be honored when we eat and drink them!

Perhaps this is some sort of exercise in "Priestmanship" where we lay out a ridiculously narrow way so we can get what we want at the end and look magnanimous in the process.

wmc said...

So, my Nagelite brethren,

This has nothing to do with Dr. Nagel. I wouldn't even drag his name into the discussion.

wmc said...

I'm appreciative that Brother Curtis has taken the bull by the horns and gone out on the limb.

I wouldn't want to be caught on the end of a limb with a bull by the horns!

Winner of the Mixed Metaphor of the Week Award.

Rev. Rick Stuckwisch said...

Thanks, Pastor Cwirla. I've never won anything before ;-)

But you don't know the half of it, yet. Going out on a limb with a bull by the horns is daring enough. But Pastor Curtis has also got a tiger by the tail!

So, a deep bow, if you please, for the brother in the tree with an animal, or two, or three.

I sure am thankful that this group has a sense of humor.

wmc said...

So, a deep bow, if you please, for the brother in the tree with an animal, or two, or three.

Until the thin limb snaps, the bull gores him, and the tiger eats him.

Pr. H. R. said...

Prs. Wilken and Cwirla,

Don't take Nagelite as a swipe - it's not. I love the good Doctor, and count my next-door-neighbor and partner in school ministry Fr. Weedon to be the chief Nagelite: it's a term of endearment I give to him. So pardon the inside baseball there; no offense meant, and my humblest apologies for causing some.

The point I so poorly tried to get across was made much more eloquently (as always) by Fr. Stuckwisch in re: Law and Gospel.

Specific criticisms of this first draft of the predraft of the template of the sketch of what might someday be a final draft are all well-made - except it's not German precision in the 7:30-11:30 thing - note the name: Curtis. It's that same Philius Foggian penchant that leads to prissy Anglican terms like Dean. . .

So hold it at arms length and look at the big picture for me: What think ye of the basic form? Namely: pretty general structures for most stuff, more specific canons that express an ideal on issues that have been problematic to unity in our midst, with the decision for exceptions to be made not willy-nilly by the pastor on the spot, but under the evangelical guidance and (yes) judgment of an overseer?

That impacts the questions raised on how such a society would function within the Synod - but again, I find myself strangely unconcerned on the matter. Am I not free now to submit my judgment in such matters to say, Pr. Schickelgrueber, if I want to? So what if 10 pastors agree to do the same? How does this conflict with any of my obligations in the Synod? The DP can still evangelically advise me - I'd welcome it. But since DP's don't claim for themselves the right to tell me what to do about when to genuflect, I see no conflict in freely assigning that right to someone else freely and of my own accord.

If one is worried about appearances - how would this any more "look like" a church within a church than the Augustana Ministerium, or PLI, or Gottesdienst Oktoberfest, or Summit Leadership Conference, etc.? It's clearly stated that this is a society for LCMS members that all can freely join and leave as they wish with no implications whatsoever for fellowship. No harm, no foul; n'est-ce pas?


Rev. George Borghardt said...

You are free to dismiss my concerns and label me whatever you want but I only breath heavy when I run or am having happy-time with my beloved and my accent couldn't get more Southern. You are not free to burden my conscience with your "little" laws.

I don't care whether you are "for" a bishop or not. Knock yourself out. Until one has one, I'm just not impressed with longing for one.

And... if we are honest with ourselves, if we had bishops, real bishops, who moved us around like chess pieces and told us to actually repent of our sins and false doctrines, we'd post on our blogs longing for the time we had our clueless DP's back!

Besides, none of our people know what bishops are, so imposing one called a "dean" on each other, won't help or save them from hell. It'll just burden their consciences some more.

Maybe it's the heat and hurricane that has me a bit more sharp in my response. I don't know. What I do know is this sort of thing isn't the answer.

Our rites and what is done does not have to be uniform everywhere. Yes, it looks so messy and jacked up right now. Yes, we have abused our freedom in service of our own personal idolatries. But, the Confessors found that freedom was better than the slavery to "it-has-to-be-this-way."

My suggestion is you set aside your cute little laws, and think of what you really want to have done throughout the church. What will confess Christ most clearly to those you are given to feed? Is it the Mass every Sunday? Is it genuflecting?

Then, teach the why. Weedon does this well. Maybe you can listen to him. Or Cwirla with that cool beard!

But, don't burden with a Law. Teach the why we all should bend our knees at the homo factus est.

Then, when the old people reject you as the Romanist-wanna-be you probably are, maybe you'll have a teenager or two who actually listens. And slowly, but surely, through hard work, sweat, rejection, and tears, the next generation might actually believe the Gospel and understand why pastor absolutely must bow and kiss the ground when he hears that Christ "became man." And why, the Lord isn't going to get him, because of Jesus, if he doesn't and that makes the whole thing all the more beautiful!

'Cause canons are just gonna make anyone who loves the Liturgy and who even sleeps or hunts in his clerical (and I have, have you?), look like papist-freaks. That doesn't save anyone from hell or lift up those who are literally scared of the horrible crud that they have done in their life. It only makes us clergy feel good about ourselves as people look at us as a few-fries-short-of-a-happy meal.

But..I guess we can comfort ourselves the way most of our "faithful" pastors do and say, "They rejected Jesus and so they rejected me." When, in truth, it wasn't Jesus they rejected, but our legalisms and the fact that we didn't visit our shutins and widows.

Let me reread your canons again and see if there is something about the poor there. There really should be something about the widows, poor, and the shutins there. I mean.. that's what the Eleven told St.Paul they were concerned about.... (smile).

Rev.Fr.Burnell F Eckardt said...

Here's the gem in this whole discussion:

the decision for exceptions to be made not willy-nilly by the pastor on the spot, but under the evangelical guidance and (yes) judgment of an overseer

What I long for--well, long for is really putting this entire matter too heavily--what I would like, is to have someone to give me permission on occasion to do what I think of doing, but don't know if it's the right thing. I know that I have the Gospel freedom, say, to move a saint's day to the following Wednesday when more people come, but I'd feel less sectarian about it if it were permitted.

Rev. Paul Beisel said...

Fr. Eckardt, you can call me any time for permission to do things like that. :)

Rev. Paul Beisel said...

As I understand it, this rule and Church Order would not be so much for the lay folk as for the clergy. No one is binding anyone's conscience. The Church Order of Wittenberg did not bind anyone's conscience, or else Luther wouldn't have taken part. What we are simply talking about here is how we who are free with respect to God may for the sake of love and uniformity best order ourselves and our conduct "aright," as St. Paul says. I believe that is the purpose the old church orders served--not to bind consciences to man made laws, but to order things in such a way so as to bring about the greatest possible uniformity among the churches of a certain region, and so pastors could have something other than themselves to be answerable to (sorry about ending with a preposition).

Rev. Paul Beisel said...

Perhaps we could just call it the "Evangelical Lutheran Church Order of Missouri, Ohio, and other states." Oh, wait, part of that has already been used somewhere before.

Pr. H. R. said...

Pr. Borghardt,

I certainly did not mean to dismiss your concerns - and please see above for my apology on my poorly chosen terminology. Let me again apologize and ask your forgiveness.

And let me try one more whack at what I'm getting at.

I'm not trying to burden anyone's conscience. I'm not saying that anyone should, or must, or ought to sign on to such a procedure or anything like it. I have no desire to do so and know that, furthermore, it would be useless.

But look at Fr. Eckardt's post just below yours. That brother does want something like this. He wants to talk about it, throw ideas around, and maybe someday if it coalesces into something more than an idea, he would freely join it. And freely leave it if he wanted to.

And, I'll again repeat what I've said before: if it's not something that a given person wants to go for, he's under no obligation and I certainly wouldn't look down on him for not wanting it.

But should Fr. Eckardt or I be looked down on because we would like to try something like this out? Is there something we're doing wrong here? Is our faith too weak? Or can we also be free in the Gospel to discuss such a thing, maybe someday do such a thing, and still be considered brothers?


PS: You are your neighbors are in our prayers. I can't imagine what the storm must have been like down there when it dumped 5 inches of rain on us up here on Sunday in 2 hours. Praise God that we have the ability to forecast these things today and that your city, gravely damaged that it is, was spared the catastrophic loss of life from the 1900 storm. Lord have mercy!

Rev. George Borghardt said...

No one is binding anyone's conscience.

Until I have to ask the Dean the answer to the question, "to tuck or not tuck."

I mean... Oh dearest Dean, what Law hast I broken, if I tuck my stole into my cincture... what if I don't.

Oh wait... do we have that covered? Cinctures are out right? I mean, they are only just glorified ropes... (smile)

William Weedon said...

Canon law in its early church form and in its form through the Lutheran Reformation was not about justification and didn't impinge in that area. It was about order. About the shape of the Church's life in Christ. For a Lutheran, that is a shape congruent with the saving Gospel. I'd also suggest that for a Lutheran the place to go to begin is a study of what the Symbols SAY about canon law and how it is properly and improperly used in the Church. Have we pondered the weight yet of AC XXVIII:68 "In order to treat the conscience properly, we must realize that canon laws ARE TO BE KEPT *WITHOUT* REGARDING THEM AS NECESSARY."

Running through our Church's experience under canon law is the "aha" that "The Fathers did not intend that we follow the ordinances in order to seek after righteousness, but they were intended for the sake of mutual peace among people, so that there might be a certain order in the Church." Ap V:167 Thus, the confessors were not ashamed to boast: "These things are done according to the Gospel *AND ACCORDING TO THE OLD CANONS*" Ap XI:61

Once the canons were set free by a strict disconnect from justification, they could be received for what they were intended to be. The idea that Christian freedom stands in opposition to order is a diabolical one! Christian discipline (see Ap XII:24) is not opposed to Christian freedom, but is the shape of Christian love at work in mutual submission in the body of Christ.

Not that canon law cannot get out of hand and become a barrier to the Gospel! Of course it could; but it only does this when it moves from its regularity and discipline realm and into faith where it has no business. There it should be whacked on the nose and sent away. But where it is in its place, then: "We cheerfully hold the old traditions made in the Church for the sake of usefulness and peace. We interpret them in a more moderate way and reject the opinion that holds they justify." (Ap XV:38)

Shoot, they could even BOAST: "If anyone will consider this in the right way, we conform to the canons more closely than the adversaries." (Ap XV:39)

Much, much more work needs to be done in understanding the approach our Symbols provide for us in this whole area. It's not like we're the first to have to wrestle through it! FWIW.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Again - how broad is this order intended to be. . . it is to include those who would be faithful Lutherans. . . or who desire a more ornate liturgical expression. . . or a to establish a baseline of expected uniformity?

The higher the standard, the less people can be involved, and the less would even want to be.

Also. . . just as a thought -- if part of the problem deals with rubrical answers that aren't given satisfactorily in the LSB -- couldn't that just be done with a supplementary rubric-book that is written by a group of folks. . . and people can use that whether they will or not?

Rev. Rick Stuckwisch said...

Brother Beisel, I had a very similar thought regarding the name: the something-or-other of "Missouri, Indiana, Ohio and other states." Evidently, it's not only great minds that think alike.

Ironically enough, given the differences of opinion thus far expressed, Brother Borghardt and Brother Eckardt have each stated in his own eloquent fashion what I would regard as a most important starting point: How shall we most clearly and helpfully confess the Christian faith, the Gospel of Christ? Brother Ekardt offered a nice example, I thought, with his comments on the use of a tabernacle. Even though I don't entirely agree with his conclusion, I appreciate the way he framed the question and offered an answer. That kind of approach would help to guide our discussions (and by "our," I don't mean the Four-and-Twenty Blackbirds per se, but any and all of "us" who might contemplate the benefits of adopting a Gospel-centered rule of prayer and love for the brethren). That kind of approach would also, I think, help to keep our focus foxed on the matter of chief importance: that Christ Jesus is the Savior of sinners, including even us with all our sinful weaknesses and prideful idiosyncracies.

Brother Borghardt, I was not aiming to dismiss your concerns. I was aiming to respond to your concerns, precisely because I share them. Your emphasis on the Gospel, and the way you advocate catechesis as the way to bring people along in faith and love, these are beautiful and salutary admonitions. At least in the way that I understand Brother Curtis' idea and suggestions, he and "we" are exploring possibilities for catechesis by example (by which "we" would also examine and discipline "ourselves," something that St. Paul was in favor of; and Dr. Luther, too).

By the way, you make a very good point that something should be included concerning works of mercy for the orphans and widows in their distress. All the more so because that is an area in which I, to speak for myself, have not been as attentive and active as I should be. Christ be praised for His great work of mercy toward me, in which I may yet do better in confessing His love toward others.

It seems to me that there is a lack of understanding as to the function of the "dean." He would not, under Brother Curtis' proposal, have any power or authority to bind consciences. I'm not convinced that he'd be any kind of real "bishop," either (not that I'm opposed to bishops, but we're not discussing a new jurisdiction of the church here; that was a previous post, for which Brother Curtis sort of repented). The dean has no power or authority to excommunicate. He has only as much authority over anyone as that person voluntarily gives. Submitting our wills to someone else, with whom we do not always agree, not because we "have to," but because in love we seek to serve something other than our own whims, would be a good example. It is, I think, similar to the way in which we find a brother in Christ and in office to serve as our father confessor, and submit ourselves to his authority, not under any compulsion or threat, but for the strengthening of our Christian faith and life. The "dean," as presently proposed, would not be exercising the office of the keys, but would be offering the counsel and advice of a father in Christ concerning matters of pastoral care and confession of the faith within the congregation. Do we run the risk of starting a new jurisdiction of the church every time we seek out such counsel from a brother or father in Christ? I don't think so. The advantage to designating someone to whom we go for this kind of counsel, in advance of any particular questions, is that we are less tempted to seek out the counsel and advice of those we fully expect to agree with us.

Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, however, we really do need to do our homework in the precedents of our fathers in the faith. What do the ancient canons actually do, and how do they do it? What do the Saxon visitation articles and the various and sundry Lutheran church orders do, and how do they do it? Alas, I do not have the proficiency to study such things in the way that I would love to; so in this, also, I am dependent upon my brothers to help me. Who can lend a hand?

wmc said...

ebpThe Church Order of Wittenberg did not bind anyone's conscience, or else Luther wouldn't have taken part.

A more analogous approximation of the Kirchenordnungen today would be if instead of "Dean" we had "Circuit Visitor" or "District President" and instead of "Society" we had "Circuit" or "District."

These societies bear a faint resemblance to the circles that gathered around Stephan in Dresden. While that certainly led to the formation of the LCMS, it also raised the ire of the established institution.

Our circuit has talked about such things - adopting a common discipline of liturgy, lectionary, etc for the sake of unity and to cut down on church shopping by our parishioners. It has never really gone anywhere productive, however, since half our congregations would have to give up their contemporary revival services. Sadly, all we were asking was to use the service orders in one of our hymnals, whether TLH, LW, or LSB.

I would love to see almost everything (short of the Common Service only bit) be the rule and norm for our circuits and even a district. What a unified witness that will be.

As it is, the formation of yet another group within the Synod is part of the cellular "mitosis" prior to its division, which I believe, is quite inevitable.

William Weedon said...

I would encourage some thought about Chemnitz' words from the Braunschweig-Wölfenbüttel KO:

And although Christians are not everywhere bound to one certain type of ceremony, rather Christian freedom has its place in this area, as the ancients say: "Disagreement in rites does not take away agreement in faith," [Dissonantia rituum non tollit consonantiam fidei] . However, because there is yet all sorts of benefits when ceremonies, as much as is possible, are maintained uniformly and this also serves to maintain the unity in doctrine, also common, simply weak consciences are all the less troubled, rather the more improved, it is thus viewed as good that as much as is possible a similarity in ceremonies with the neighboring reformed church be affected and maintained. And for this reason henceforth all pastors in the churches of our principality shall in ceremonies strictly abide, and orient themselves, by the order described below, and not depart from it without special, grave cause.

Pr. H. R. said...

Fr. Weedon,

So who KO'd whom in that Braunschweig-Wölfenbüttel bout?

Fr. Cwirla,

If the mitosis is inevitable. . . what do you recommend we do in the meantime?


wmc said...

all pastors in the churches of our principality

Therein lies the key. These are regional arrangements for the sake of harmony and unity. As I said, I'd love to see circuits or regions adopt something like the Kirchenordnungen, but I'm not going to hold my breath.

William Weedon said...

You are diver, aren't you? I thought you KNEW how to hold your breath! ;)

William Weedon said...

I'm more interested in the fact that these church orders were, well, ENFORCED and that this was in no way seen as contradictory to the freedom of the Gospel than the particular mechanism by which they chose to enforce them. You know, the Papa in Rome got this one right:

"The freedom with which we are concerned in the Christian feast - the feast of the Eucharist - is not the freedom to devise new texts [or ceremonies! WCW] but the liberation of the world and ourselves from death. Only this can make us free, enabling us to accept truth and to love one another in truth." Benedict XVI (Feast of Faith, p. 65)

Rev. Paul Beisel said...

Bill Weedon's comment regarding the fact that this is about ordering our life as Christians, not about justification is so spot on it made me want to shout out: "Truth!!" You couldn't have put it any better.

There is nothing contrary to the Gospel in formulating some sort of Kirchenordnung for the sake of love, harmony, and good order among us.

William Weedon said...

Another clarifying thought (I hope): what Heath is proposing is more akin to the monastic orders than to a separate ecclesiastical structure; and largely arises from the same sort of concerns that prompted most of them. A concern to set an example and to live responsibly in the freedom of the Gospel. Thus, Dean (Abbot might be a bit much?) is a far more accurate description. A self-governing society within the communion fellowship of the Missouri Synod. If it's headed elsewhere, well, that's beyond our bounds of expertise at the moment. I'm not a prophet like Cwirla with the nifty prophetic beard. ;) But it DOES seem a way to bring a tad of order out of our chaos. And as for who could be trusted to be such a Dean, why on earth not our beloved host: Dr. Stuckwisch. You can't get mad at him if you try. Not that I'm nominating him - calm down, Rick! - just that should something like this come to fruition, HE'S the exact sort of person we'd look for to provide sound evangelical guidance and yet help us to "toe the line" wherever we can.

William Weedon said...

P.S. Paul, thanks for the kind comments!

Rev. George Borghardt said...

There is a difference between establishing some form of rule of things going on at the already in a region and what is currently going on now among us in the LC-MS. I don't think my circuit could ever agree even to use the hymnal! I wonder what would happen if I proposed this rule at my circus meeting!

I was concerned 'cause every month on a list somewhere there is a brother who carted out his chausable or coped up without instructing his people and got himself into a hornet nest. Why? Because his people were ignorant sheep? Because he was standing up for Jesus?

No, because having never seen the ceremony or rite, the sheeps' consciences were burdened by the their "faithful" clergy.

But, if you guys wanna create yet another group with more rules, knock yourself out. I'm not sure we need another group, we've got SSP and BJs. But, hey, we can be that free!

I suggest the Confessional Lutheran Association of Pastors (a.k.a. "The Clap") or Brethern In This Confessional Hell (BTCH... woops! Might wanna work on that!). We Lutherans are good with our alphabet soup!

But with the Dean serving as basically a bishop, we should probably be honest, as Todd and some others have observed, and call this what it is: a ministerium. There are already a few of those with just one or two congregations, what's one more?

I can't join. You probably wouldn't want me anyway. I am trying to teach them here to love and desire the Sacrament regularly in a predominantly protestant area. It would be a distraction at this point to have to stop and teach them why Pastor Borghardt changes his hand positions seven times during the Lord's Prayer or genuflects.

And if I can't teach them that without burdening their consciences, I'm not gonna do it. I'd be on the phone with the Dean all the time getting permission to skirt on some canons!

But, slowly but surely, we'll get it down. We've even started crossing ourselves after eight years and are almost celebrating the Mass every Sunday! The younglings have started bowing during certain parts of the Liturgy.

I'd probably better check on it and make sure they know what they are doing. For the right rite done rightly while not teaching or understanding isn't right at all. (smile).

In Christ,


P.S. Please continue to keep us in TX in your prayers...

William Weedon said...

Dear George,

Prayers ascend. Can't imagine it, but we had a foretaste of one week and I just about went insane. Doesn't take much.

About pastors doing silly things - yes, I hear you. Silly is as silly does and the result is usually not pretty. Remember our Dr. Nagel's words: "Preach some Jesus into them first. And when they ask for more..."

But when you've preached some years of Jesus into them and they want to say: "This is how it should always be. More Jesus. More gifts. Life abounding." Then they might be ready to say: Let's do what we can to safe-guard that way. So that no one is ever allowed to give us less than Jesus again. Then the society might come into play.

Not as legalism, but as order. A way of shaping our life in Christ that FITS the gospel. By the bye, with the canons as proposed now, I couldn't join either. I agree with Cwirla that Common Service is too narrow and we have elders distribute our Lord's blood.

wmc said...

You are diver, aren't you? I thought you KNEW how to hold your breath! ;)

Cardinal rule in scuba: Never hold your breath!

If the mitosis is inevitable. . . what do you recommend we do in the meantime?

1. Work within circuits/districts for a reasonable measure of regional uniformity in the way of the Kirchenordnungen.

2. Practice faithfulness.

3. Pray without ceasing.

Rev. Rick Stuckwisch said...

From Pastor Ceirla:

1. Work within circuits/districts for a reasonable measure of regional uniformity in the way of the Kirchenordnungen.

2. Practice faithfulness.

3. Pray without ceasing.

Here one finds a very basic "rule," which guides us very simply, but in the sort of way we have been discussing.

"Work." "Practice." "Pray." These are all things we are given to do; not for the sake of gaining a righteousness of our own, but as a way of living by faith in the righteousness of Christ.

The questions we may then ask, collectively, in order to help and support and encourage one another, are like these:

"What shall we do to work for unity within our circuits?" "What sort of things have worked for others?" "How might one circuit be similar to another, and how is it different?" "Where and how can we learn from one another?"

"What does 'faithfulness' look like in practice?" "Where have we been myopic or idiosyncratic in our pastoral practice?" "What is it that we should chiefly and finally be about, specifically?" There are many such things that I have learned by trial and error, and/or from my colleagues in the Ministry, which I didn't know to begin with. Putting such things into writing for the benefit of all would be helpful.

"What does it mean to pray without ceasing?" "How do we learn to pray as a way of life?" "How do we learn to live as a way of praying?" "How do we grow in such wisdom?" The Church has wrestled with these questions for centuries. We do not know how to pray as we ought, but we must be taught by the Lord through His Word and Spirit. We are helped by the orders and forms, the rites and ceremonies of the Church; but those in themselves are not the entire answer. We are also helped by the fraternal call to repentance and the paternal care of fathers in Christ.

"How do we establish a pattern of prayer in our own lives?" "How do we instill a practice of prayer in our homes and families?" "How can we encourage a life of prayer in our congregations, and in the homes and families of our members?"

Being specific, providing guidance, comparing notes and sharing experiences and suggestions, these things are not antithetical to the Gospel, but are ways of serving and supporting our faith in the Gospel, and so also the fruits of faith in the Gospel.

I'll reiterate what I affirmed from both Brother Borghardt and Brother Eckardt: How do we best confess the Gospel and the faith? It doesn't just happen automatically. We aren't enthusiasts. Answering the question is another kind of catechesis, which we pastors also need our whole lives long. What are the challenges facing the Church? Where is the Gospel under attack? How shall we respond? How, specifically, shall we confess Christ as the answer? What is that going to look like and sound like? How is that going to differ in one part of the country, or in one sort of context, as compared to others?

I believe that we can and should help one another to "work within our circuits," to "practice faithfulness," and to "pray without ceasing." That's a pretty great list of basic things to do. Maybe a "rule of order" or a "canon of concord" isn't the way to facilitate these fruits of faith. But maybe discussing the possibilities, and debating with each other about ways and means of fostering harmony, will provide us with greater clarity in our common confession of the Gospel of Christ.

Paul McCain said...

I'm becoming increasingly concerned as I read these conversations. Now I read that what is being developed is closer to a monastic order's rule, and then in another post, we have the Canons of Nicea talking about castration.

I'm getting nervous that the rules for this thing are going to be very, very severe indeed.

wmc said...

But maybe discussing the possibilities, and debating with each other about ways and means of fostering harmony, will provide us with greater clarity in our common confession of the Gospel of Christ.

This is most certainly true.

Rev.Fr.Burnell F Eckardt said...

I tend to agree with Fr Cwirla that mitosis is (probably) inevitable.

For this reason, I rather like the notion of forming a new little club here.

Perhaps it's the inclination of our faith to bond to one another in charity, when the old bonds are disingegrating (Synod, walking together, blah blah blah).

One item I meant to add to the discussion earlier but forgot:

Although cyber communications can be treacherous, I think we ought to think seriously about whether we can make any sort of annual meeting a virtual meeting, and take full advantage of Al Gore's invention.

Rev.Fr.Burnell F Eckardt said...

er, that's "disintegrating"

Pr. H. R. said...

Rev. McCain,

So wait - a canon forbidding castration is too stringent? Wow, you really are for freedom in the Gospel :)


wmc said...

For this reason, I rather like the notion of forming a new little club here.

For all my criticisms, I think this discussion is valuable, especially as synodical entropy increases (I switch from biology to thermodynamics, a more familiar metaphorical stomping ground for me).

Amidst synodical tohu we bohu, it is important to have some sort of working basis for a practicable unity. I would simply urge a few simple thoughts:

1. Be open to the "nay-sayers" who are not part of the little liturgical and dogmatic cliques. They may not always be right, and sometimes they disagree only for the sake of disagreement (I speak from personal experience here), however, preaching to the choir only confirms us in our own ideas, be they right or wrong.

2. Try to keep the Lutheran road as broad as possible (an evangelical maximum). The drive toward a single service order is not necessary. A little breadth in the road is a good exercise of Christian liberty and invites more folks to join in.

3. The same is true of what we call "doctrine" - let's not slice and dice the baloney so thinly you can read through it. A simple adherence to Nicene orthodoxy and the basic articles of doctrine of the Lutheran Confessions ought to be a sufficient basis for unity. It's the piling on and over-defining and straining at dogmatic gnats that gets us in trouble.

Bryce P Wandrey said...

William Cwirla wrote: "The same is true of what we call "doctrine" - let's not slice and dice the baloney so thinly you can read through it. A simple adherence to Nicene orthodoxy and the basic articles of doctrine of the Lutheran Confessions ought to be a sufficient basis for unity. It's the piling on and over-defining and straining at dogmatic gnats that gets us in trouble."

Dr Jonathan Trigg has some of the same concerns about modern day Lutheran ecclesiology. He writes: "In the Lutheran tradition there have been a variety of stances on the satis est of the Confession. Luther’s express requirement for “pure doctrine”, when set against the background of the Lutheran divisions which followed hard upon his death, was almost inevitably the springboard for a continuing quest to establish and categorise the articles of that pure doctrine. Some confessional Lutherans continue to require full assent to the formularies as a condition of communion, on the basis of their unique, definitive and enduring status as an expression of scriptural Christian truth."

His full Ecclesiological Inquiry can be read here: http://lutherantheology.wordpress.com/2008/09/17/an-ecclesiologial-inquiry/

Anonymous said...

You may read my response here:


Rev. Rick Stuckwisch said...

Please do check out Pastor Peperkorn's comments on his blog, which he references above. I've replied to him there, but here's a portion of my response (since I'm too tired tonight to type anymore):

I’m still gathering my own thoughts on the prospect of a “rule” of some sort or another. I’m pleased to say that my thinking has progressed in the course of conversation, which is a mark of good discussion and debate. It is a process, in my opinion, and I have no idea, yet, where it may end up. If nothing is accomplished beyond greater clarity and renewed commitment to our confession of the faith, that will have been worthwhile.

Regarding the specific point and purposes of an evangelical rule and order, I think we’re still searching for what it would look like and what it would do. In my opinion, we haven’t found that, yet, although I think that Brother Cwirla’s three points are a key: (1.) Work within our circuits (and districts), (2.) practice faithfully what we are given to do, and (3.) pray without ceasing. As I suggested in my response, I envision the main function of a “rule” to be guidance, support, assistance and encouragement in those very areas. We sometimes take things for granted, which aren’t all that obvious or simple when it comes to doing the daily grunt work of the pastoral ministry. We can help each other to do better.

I still think it’s beneficial for us to look at the ancient canons and the Lutheran church orders. That sort of study is instructive in so many ways, and, speaking for myself, I don’t know those historic precedents and patterns nearly as well as I should. But the main thing I would like to learn from those canons and church orders is a way of thinking about the life of the Church in the world. Their example is one that we would need to “translate” into our own context, in response to our own challenges and concerns, for the sake of the Gospel.

Much of what we have discussed so far really pertains to the jurisdiction and governance of the Church on earth, which belongs not to a voluntary organization within a synodical fellowship, but to the polity and structures of the synod itself. I think that Brother Eckardt is correct in saying that we’ve been contemplating things that the Missouri Synod should be doing, but isn’t. My opinion, for now, is that we should not attempt to undertake those “episcopal” tasks on our own, but we should rather be working within the structures of our synodical fellowship to encourage greater faithfulness in practice.

In fact, one of the things an evangelical rule and order could do, I think, is to assist us in working within the extant polity of the Missouri Synod. Some guys are in decent circuits and/or districts, where taking part is comparatively feasible, but lots of other guys aren’t so fortunate. It’s easy for new guys and old guys to get discouraged, burned out, disgusted, cynical, or whatever you want to call it. They get nothing from their circuit, and they have nothing left to give. An evangelical rule and order might become a “non-geographical” circuit, of sorts, not for the sake of replacing one’s proper circuit, but for the support and assistance of a brother within his circuit. Encouragement, clarity of confession, and the sort of confidence that comes from knowing you’re not really the only one left.

Similarly, things like pastoral care, and even knowing where to find and how to follow the rubrics we do have (and what to do where there aren’t any rubrics!), and how to approach catechesis, and fostering a pattern of daily prayer within a congregation — most of these things I’ve learned from brothers and fathers in Christ, or else by my own trial and error (and I’m still learning). An evangelical rule and order could be a means of continuing education, pastoral catechesis, and the mutual conversation and consolation of the brethren. A think tank. A resource center. Not everyone is blessed with the circle of colleagues that some of us have had, nor do any one of us know it all. Aside from “know-how,” we also have the ongoing need to be called to daily repentance; and then there’s nothing like good friends and brothers to offer counsel and correction.

The last thing I want is another political action group. No thanks. Nor am I mainly interested in another choir singing to itself. We’re not lobbyists, and there’s no need to formulate “rules” in our own image, in order to justify what we’re already doing. I don’t think that’s anyone’s intention, but there’s always that danger (and here I am confessing my own sins).

There are a few things out there that look a bit like what I’m envisioning: The Concordia Catechetical Academy, Higher Things, the St. Michael’s Liturgical Conference, and even my own district’s Worship and Spiritual Care Workshop (which we’re hosting again this Saturday). The CCA and Higher Things, in particular, are simply aimed at helping pastors and congregations to do those things, faithfully and well, which they are given to do. They teach by example, by instruction, by publications, and by the support and encouragement they provide just by existing and doing it. It’s easy to suppose that nothing ever works, that nothing ever changes, that nothing ever gets any better. And, to be sure, sometimes the cross just gets heavier until it kills you altogether; though even then, Christ is risen! But the fact is that good things do happen; they matter, and they make a difference. I cannot even begin to quantify or express what I’ve gained from Brother Bender and the CCA. So, too, my congregation would be fundamentally different, and greatly improverished, if not for the blessings and benefits of Higher Things.

What the CCA has done for catechesis, and what Higher Things has done for “youth work” (and far more beyond that), an evangelical rule and order could do more comprehensively. What John Fenton and Dave Petersen and Gifford Grobien have taught me about using the rubrics to serve and support the Gospel. What Father Korby did for more guys than I could shake a stick at. What Dr. Scaer teaches “between the lines” in all his classes. What Dr. Nagel and Dr. Feuerhahn have given to their students, not only in the classrooms but by their examples. What Dr. Weinrich and the sainted Dr. Preus gave us around the lunchroom tables. The accumulated wisdom of faithful fathers, which we in turn are given to hand over to those who come after us, and to each other in the meantime.

Look at what Wilhelm Loehe accomplished from Neuendettelsau: in the United States, in Australia, and in Brazil. Liturgy. Missions. Human Care. Pastoral Practice. He influenced churches, pastors and people, all over the world, near and far, primarily by his good example, but also by organizing himself and others to do things: to serve the very point and purposes of the Church and Ministry. It made a difference then. It’s still making a difference now.

Discussions of an evangelical rule and order aren’t aiming at or leading to the sorts of things we might think or suppose. I don’t think they’re leading us away from our place and participation in the Missouri Synod (for those of us who belong to that synodical fellowship; not all the blackbirds do); they ought to point us to faithful service in doing whatever we’re given to do, wherever we’re given to do it. If no one else pays any attention, what does that hurt? If we are helped to be the pastors that we are called and ordained to be, that is a good thing.

wmc said...

Is Rick able to write short comments?

Rev. Rick Stuckwisch said...


Paul McCain said...

Upon reflection, I can find no defensible reason for any attempt by a self-appointed group within The LCMS to create a "rule/canon law/church order." No matter what the intention of such activities are, it is creating a church within the church and has a high probability of leading toward selective fellowship.

Rev. Rick Stuckwisch said...

Well, Brother McCain, you're entitled to your opinion, but I personally believe that you're being premature in passing such judgments. I don't think we're ready for conclusions, much less sweeping evaluations. So far as I can tell, while some of the discussion has been quite helpful in providing a constructive critique, much of it has been levelled against presumptions, or it has reacted against ideas offered for consideration, rather than thinking about ways of concretely confessing the faith in our day.

You have frequently offered your own "rule" or "canon," albeit a simple one, but nevertheless: "do the red, speak the black." Has that resulted in "selective fellowship," or created a "church within a church"?

In the meantime, your language of a "self-appointed group" is unfair and unhelpful. No one has discussed such a thing, as has been clear from the begining of this thread. We've been contemplating a way of voluntarily submitting ourselves to a mutually agreed upon rule of prayer and practice. No one has "appointed" himself anything. Exhorting one another to do the very things that we are given to do as pastors is nothing more than the mutual conversation and consolation of the brethren. Debating what those things are, and what they ought to look like under certain conditions, is not divisive but salutary to the life of the Church.

Frankly, I'm not comfortable with the approach that's been set forth for consideration, nor do I agree with a number of its specifics. But I am appreciative, as I have said, that Brother Curtis was bold enough to make suggestions for the rest of us to discuss and criticize. He's also been more courteous and charitable in responding to criticisms than many of his critics have been. Thanks to his initiative and subsequent patience, this conversation has in fact been beneficial and productive. Not because we've arrived at answers and solutions, but because we've been able to identify red flags and problems and very legitimate concerns.

Speaking for myself, I've been formulating a different way of thinking about the prospect of a "rule" than I started with. It seems to me that we are tempted to aim at ideals, which not only wouldn't be feasible, but which would also not serve the faith and life of the Church (as intended). There's also the temptation to make "rules" that end up sounding a lot like where "we" already are; which may or may not be where we ought to be. Making up "rules" for ourselves that are aimed at correcting "others" does not seem the best way to proceed; though I grant that there are times when such correction must be given. In the main, however, "we" also need to be disciplined, corrected, and called to repentance. We are none of us as faithful as we ought to be. The "rules" to which we might mutually agree and then voluntarily bind ourselves, in love for the neighbor, ought to be for the strengthening of our practice, not so much where it is already strongest, but especially where it is weakest.

From where I sit, a number of such "rules," far from pulling "us" away from our synodical fellowship, would actually be aimed at pushing us into a fuller participation in that fellowship. Instead of creating a "selective fellowship," I envision a "rule" that would bind us to maintain with integrity the fellowship to which we already belong; or, if we encounter false teaching or practice in a brother, that we would follow due process in calling him to repentance and, if necessary, seeking appropriate discipline within our synodical fellowship. I have pondered a "rule" that would bind us to attend our circuit winkels, forums and convocations faithfully; one that would bind us to respond to the CTCR when input is requested; one that would bind us to honor and use the structures of our synodical fellowship, barring any contradiction of the Word of God (which would, then, require of us that we seek to correct the error).

That's not all, but Brother Cwirla already thinks that my comments are too long (and I'm not sure if anyone is reading anymore, anyway). I need to find time for a new post, which may, I hope, point us in a slightly different direction of discussion. Briefly, though, I am thinking of "rules" that would bind us to seek out a father confessor for ourselves, and to encourage the practice of confession among our people; that would bind us to use the Small Catechism in the instruction of young and old; that would bind us to use ceremonies with discretion, for the sake of love and good order and a clear confession of the Gospel; that would bind us to use the agreed-upon orders of service of our synodical fellowship, and primarily the hymns already established among us (allowing for the fact that God continues to give His good gifts of music and hymnody, and that our hymnals aren't large enough to contain everything worth singing); that would bind us to use one of the official lectionaries of our synodical fellowship, and not only to read it, but to preach on one of the appointed readings, usually the Holy Gospel of the Day; that would bind us to visit our shut-ins with faithful regularity, and to make calls on other members and prospective members, and to give real attention to the needs of the orphans and widows; that would bind us to pray daily for the people of God entrusted to our care, and to facilitate their own practice of daily prayer in the home and family. And so on.

These are examples, and I hope to spell such things out more clearly and coherently in a new post. But for now I am (still) trying to suggest that we have hardly begun to explore the possiblity of what a "rule" or "canon" of prayer and practice might look like; far less have we exhausted the possibilities. Declaring that nothing will work is premature, in my opinion. I believe it ignores the way that both Scripture and the Catechism spell out the duties of Christians within the home and within the life of the Church and Ministry. Such rules are not ungodly, divisive, or legalistic, but can be godly, constructive and evangelical.

Rev. Paul Beisel said...

I have two observations: (1) I think that we are biting off more than we can chew at one time. I think that if we want to progress in this discussion, we should take one issue at a time, and attempt to arrive at the greatest possible unity concerning that issue. Then, once we have done this with a lot of different issues, then we would be prepared to put something down in canonical form. (2) Let's not confuse church orders in Germany with what we are attempting (a voluntary rule of church order). Church Orders in 16th century Germany were not voluntary. They were prescriptive. They were not mere "suggestions." They prescribed certain practices for a certain region. They were written by theologians, approved by town councils, and observed by clery and congregations.

solarblogger said...

The New Testament does not offer us a new Book of Leviticus. A discussion of the significance of that fact might be helpful here. Was this because the original Book of Leviticus was still in effect to some degree? Or were God's people wise enough to write their own in light of Christ? Or was the whole genre somehow out of place given the nature of the New Covenant?

If this genre has become foreign to our faith, then are there other things to keep in mind in proposing orders? The Evangelical Rule and Church Order, though much of its content strikes me as being sound, seems to be such that its reading would require lawyers or those who read like them. Is there a way to express similar content without going in that direction? Was Luther right when he said the ear and not the eye was the organ of the Christian? I wonder if aphorisms might not be a better genre than canons. Aphorisms are more easily memorized and applied. Good ones might even be adopted piecemeal by outsiders in a way that a canon would not be adopted.

Those who value liturgy are generally the first to note that form and content should match. This should not be true merely of the service itself, but also of the means used to achieve purer worship.