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. . .



Paul McCain said...

I do believe Pr. Curtis is on to something here. It strikes me as very little far removed from what our Lutheran fathers, Luther et al. were talking about when they wrote:

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


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

William Weedon said...

Good thoughts. What we're after is "order." And order is the conforming power of the Law in the service of the saving Gospel shaping the external life of the community of God by eliminating the confusion and destruction wrought by an unbridled individualism.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

If you wish to name if after someone, I'd suggest Ignatius of Antioch.

But you probably already knew that I like Ignatius of Antioch >=o)

Rev. Rick Stuckwisch said...

I like this new idea, not only much better than its predecessor, but honestly very much. A self-imposed discipline, for the sake of love and as a positive example, seems appropriate, evangelical and catholic, meet, right and salutary.

I also applaud the suggestion of Ignatius of Antioch. My second son is named in part for him, one of my all-time favorite fathers.

Irenaeus of Lyons or Cyril of Alexandria would both be high on my list of possibilities, too, especially since I probably won't ever get to use either of those names (sadly).

Justinian would be apropos, given his codification of Roman Law and his efforts to unite the Empire in orthodoxy. My fourth son is named after him ;-) But he may not be as popular with some of the brethren, so I suppose it's not as good a choice.

Anyway, thanks for your further thoughts and comments, Brother Curtis. I don't even mind the fact that you keep disagreeing with me.

Now, not to mess up the nice rhythm we have going with that, let me say that I agree with you that one can and should make a distinction between one's formal doctrinal statements or symbols and one's lived practice. If I said or implied that one shouldn't or couldn't distinguish between these things, than I misspoke. Your point is well-taken.

However, what I meant to convey is that one should not suppose that doctrine and practice can be separated. In fact, in order for doctrine to correct practice, there needs to be an understanding that these things are related to begin with, and that they should be in sync and harmony with each other. I'm really tired of hearing (not from you, Heath, but far too often) "doctrine" or even "confession" described as though these were static categories that could be shut up in a box or safely shelved away. Poor practice matters because it is a poor confession of doctrine; and when poor practice is left unchecked by doctrine, not only does it get worse instead of better, but over time it reshapes the doctrine. That is, I think, already happening, and has been for quite some time now.

I agree with you that we should call our brethren to repentance on the basis of the formal confessions to which they publicly subscribe. But one of the problems presently, as I believe that you imply, is a lack of discipline making that call to repentance. Instead, as I previously stated, there seems to be support and encouragement, or at least friendly tolerance of heterodox practices. And again, when folks who would formally affirm the confessional standards without flinching are actually pressed on particulars by those confessional standards, I've encountered more than one circumstance in which the confessional standards are dismissed as non-binding or irrelevant. It is at such points that, in my opinion, the distinction between "doctrine" and "practice" has ceased to be proper and become perverse.

As for those heterodox practices that, if not curbed and corrected, call for "excommunication" or breaking of church fellowship, I would certainly regard open communion and the numerous ways in which the office of the holy ministry is disregarded (whether by women or laymen) as among the top offenders. The question of "worship" practice is more volatile, but trickier to address, in my opinion. The use of terminology is too imprecise, fluid and inconsistent, even among "us" and our birds of a feather. Others would be able to describe this more cogently than me, but we do have a doctrine of adiaphora for good reason. It is for the sake of love that we discipline ourselves to embrace and follow a common practice; though, even in doing so, we allow for differences in ceremony and in musical accompaniment and adornment (as previous discussions here have helpfully suggested). Of course, "worship practice" can be done in a way that violates the faith itself, and I am of the opinion that such abuses do happen. Yet, there are other practices, which, while violating love (and/or good taste), remain within the freedom of the Gospel. Such things, it seems to me, would need to be addressed differently. But my thinking may be muddled here, and I'll count on you, Heath, or others to correct me.

Anyway, as to your proposal of a rule, a self-imposed discipline, a "canon law" to which "we" would voluntarily submit ourselves: for the sake of love, for the sake of good practice, for the sake of a consistent confession of the faith, as an evangelical example . . . I think it's a splendid idea. Let's do it.

I'll see you in Kewanee if I am able to be there. But perhaps we can also begin wrestling with some parameters and considerations in advance.

Rev. Rick Stuckwisch said...

Okay, it's probably too late and I'm probably too tired to be making any worthwhile suggestions, but what about "Lex Orandi"?

I suppose it's already been used, maybe.

wmc said...

I've already put my pitch in for St. Simeon Stylites.


Rev. Rick Stuckwisch said...

Okay, you've got me started now ;-)

If y'all would want to name the rule after a father, St. Clement of Rome would be ideal. His epistle to the Corinthians is an extended argument for and admonition to good order for the sake of unity and godly harmony.

He's a first-century "Apstolic Father," so his credentials are pretty good, too.

(And, yes, one of my sons is named in part for St. Clement. We've covered a lot of bases.)

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

I don't like the idea of St. Simeon - might give people the idea of trying to impale guys. . . we come from barbarians, so that's what most people think of when they hear, "guy on a pole". Or at least what the bloodsuckers might think.

Another question though - would this be an organization of pastors, congregations, or pastors and congregations together? And would its rule be descriptive of what is done, or what is being moved towards?

Reformationalist said...

And brother Richard leaves off yet another rationalization for choosing Clement for a rule on liturgy: Walther also borrowed a tune bearing his name, of sorts, for his schmaltzy Easter hymn: O my darling, Clementine! :)


Rev. Rick Stuckwisch said...

Dear Robert, you have almost put me off the idea of Clement ;-) I shall have to work at getting that tune out of my head now.

Eric raises some great questions regarding the relationship of pastors and congregations to the rule of "whomever/whatever" it might be called. That is an important something to consider and contemplate.

Todd Wilken said...

I don't think a church father's name is a good idea.

It requires too much explanation and qualification, and it scares the crypto-evangelicals.

If the goal is a simple, commonly held, voluntary discipline regarding worship that doesn't open itself to undeserved criticism and speculation from its detractors (of which there will be many), then the name of the church father is not the way to go.

How about "The Canon of Concord"?


Rev. Rick Stuckwisch said...

Pastor Wilken's point is well taken. I'll save the church fathers for the naming of my sons, as I'm given the opportunity.

I like "Canon of Concord." Will it be Drummer Hoff to fire it off, then? (Let the readers of stories to small children understand.)

Again, I'm thinking that we also need to contemplate Pastor Brown's question concerning the way in which pastors and/or congregations will "subscribe" to the rule (whatever it may be called).

In the meantime, too, it seems to me that we should wrestle with our terms and categories and distinctions. Part of the frustration in our conversations related to this thread (over the last several posts) has stemmed from a rather broad and fluid use of terminology. Not all "liturgical practices" belong to the same field of consideration, in my opinion. There are rites, rubrics, ceremonies, musical settings, orders and forms of service, hymnody, vestments and paraments, the participation of assisting ministers, observances of the church year (and lectionary), etc. Differences in ceremony are something else than a rearranging of the basic ordo of the mass. Using Divine Service 1 or 2 instead of Divine Service 3 is a different sort of variation than using the book vs. a novelty invented the week before. Speaking the service instead of chanting is not the same sort of decision as putting a rock band in the chancel. Abbreviating the Service is different than cutting and pasting from hither and yon. Diversity in musical settings is unlike a diversity in the actual rites that are set to music. Allowing for the options included within the rubrics is a different use of freedom than ignoring or contradicting the rubrics; so also, exercising freedom where the rubrics are silent is different than ignoring or contradicting the rubrics.

Identifying categories of consideration and the criteria by which they would be defined and measured seems an important first step to me.

Those who are especially well-versed in the sixteenth century church orders could help us quite a lot, I should think. I'm aware of them, but not as conversant with them as I would like to be. Perhaps Pastor Weedon could help us out in this regard, and others.

The descriptive vs. prescriptive question is a crucial one, which ought to be dealt with carefully. There needs to be a measure of flexibility, allowing the freedom necessary to pastoral care; yet, also, a sufficient measure of specificity to provide guidance and to assist the sort of discipline necessary to good order.

Pastor Schaibley, you mentioned in a previous comment (somewhere) the liturgical paramters identified in Augustana XIV and XXIV (I think). I would find it helpful, and perhaps other would, too, if you could summarize those parameters with your usual clarity and precision. That seems like as good a place as any to start thinking through things together.

RevFisk said...

I like "lex orandi." It proves the point with a classic teaching.

I also would like to know the hows. I'm more comfortable with "working towards" than "already there."

Herr B. said...

Just to offer an opinion as a layman, i think that a plain-sounding descriptive name would be good. I like the word "rite", though i don't have a full understanding of all the nuances that the word might have. My mind has gone along the lines of "The Lutheran Rite", then "The Lutheran Rite -- Missouri Synod", then "The Lutheran Rite -- LSB". If i commented on my own ideas, i would say the first option is inaccurate as there are many Lutheran "rites". The second is better, though it's asserting that there's a "rite" for the Missouri Synod. This discussion wouldn't exist if there were only one rite. My third option overlooks some of what you're suggesting -- congregations that use TLH or LW. Maybe i need a fourth choice, "The Liturgical Rite -- Missouri Synod"? This would accept the idea that, generally, there are two rites in Missouri: a contemporary and a traditional. Thoughts? (You could just call it "The Right Liturgy"? ;-)

David Bentlage

Pr. H. R. said...

Canon of Concord...Evangelical Church Order..yes, I think something descriptive like that might be nice.

Good points all, Fr. Rick, on what needs to be in a canon/church order.

As time permits, I want to start looking at the Visitation Articles and the Roman canon and then getting some ideas down on paper.

I do indeed envision three levels of "membership" in this order/society: clergy, congregational, and lay. Clergy and congregations who would sign on to the order (and who may leave it just as freely and voluntarily without any malice) would be pledging to conduct their ministries under the order/canon/rule and subject themselves to the judgment of the overseer/abbot/bishop/dean/whateveryouwanttocallhim in matters of

I'm envisioning an evangelical order - as I wrote in the previous post, for example, concerning which setting of the Lutheran Divine Service would be utilized. The goal of such an enterprise is to foster unity - but we have to start where we are. So, much like the modern Roman Church, I would think there would be a preferred setting that every parish is expected to use - but that permission for celebrations according to additional settings would be liberally and evangelically granted by the abbot/dean/etc.

I'm thinking there would be four or so overarching chapters in such a church Order (in no particular order):

* Liturgical Celebration (What happens on Sunday morning: Divine Service settings, Daily Office settings, hymnody, basic rubrics, lectionary, etc.)

* Closed communion (since it's such a big and divisive topic in our midst, I think it will need its own "chapter").

* Life together (the order of the Order, meetings, authority, procedures for submitting disagreements to judgment, etc.)

What else?

So like I said, I want to start researching other orders and thinking about what we need in our place and time and begin jotting down fuller notes. I'll post them here as I do to keep the conversation going, and then maybe after hashing them out some more here, the face to face meeting in Kewanee can be very productive.


wmc said...

* Closed communion (since it's such a big and divisive topic in our midst, I think it will need its own "chapter").

By definition, that would be a closed chapter.

Paul McCain said...

Probably best to examine Lutheran Church Orders, rather than Roman Canons.

Pr. H. R. said...

Don't our confessions brag that we "keep the canons" more faithfully than our Roman opponents? So those ancient canons are certainly part of heritage as per the confessions. . .

But the point is well taken that post-Reformation orders will have a significant role to play.


Paul McCain said...

The Church Orders were precisely how our confessional fathers ordered Evangelical Lutheranism and rejected Roman Canons that conflicted with the Gospel.

They are a far superior source of information than Roman canon laws governing the Roman mass.

We do not need to go rummaging around Roman Canon laws to recover a unique and distinct Lutheran liturgical church order.

Todd Wilken said...

McCain wrote:

"We do not need to go rummaging around Roman Canon laws to recover a unique and distinct Lutheran liturgical church order."

Agreed. The confessors were actually claiming that their practice of the Mass was more legitimate than Rome's.


Reformationalist said...

I believe that Todd is correct. In fact, the Confessions claim this legitimacy on two counts. First, that the Lutheran use of historic liturgy, cleaned up from false doctrine (which means cleaned up from the practices to which connect with false doctrine), proclaim and enact the ultimacy of the Gospel; and second, that the FORM of the liturgy is more catholic that the Roman innovations. This, it seems to me, justifies our looking not only back to Post-Reformation Lutheran orders, but also to Pre-Reformation, Pre-distorted Western orders.

Rev. Fr. Robert W. Schaibley

Paul McCain said...

Pre-Reformation, Pre-distorted Western orders

And where and when, precisely, do we find such "pre-reformation/pre-distorted" orders in the Western Church?

Reformationalist said...

My friend,

1. Do you really want to know? Or, are you, in your familiar, inimical style, making an assertion with a question, suggesting without risk that someone (I, in this case) doesn't know about what he is talking?

2. If you're serious, and not just linguistically fooling around, how much time to you have? You can start with the Didache, and then move forward through Alexandria, Constantinople, and Rome, and follow the threads you find there. Or, if you're pressed for time and/or genuine interest, you can take a look at the FIRST generation Lutheran Orders for a hint as to what the other side of the distortions looked like. I say, FIRST generation, because those were simply excising the bad from the current Roman order with which they were familiar. Subsequent efforts at Lutheran Orders are of varied quality, depending on the degree of liturgical interest (as distinct from interests of control) and the influence of the manner in which doctrine was being done (where, often, regional threats or Siren theological sounds from Calvinist, Arminian, Anabaptist, and soon Rationalist, Pietist, and Unionist influenced the Lutheran Orders being produced and used).


Rev. Rick Stuckwisch said...

Without jumping entirely into the fray, I'm wondering if you are all talking about the same things here. Perhaps I am misreading the comments, but it appears as though some of you are focusing on the Roman Canon (of the Mass), whereas others are discussing the Romans Canons, which pertain to the ordering of the Church's life and ministry in the world. This is not my area of expertise, so bear with me (and instruct me) if I am getting it all wrong, but, so far as I know, the Roman Canons derive in large part from the ancient ecumenical councils. I've never understood the Lutheran confession as disavowing or rejecting those; though I've also not understood that we viewed them as binding upon our consciences or practices.

It's been too long since I've done any reading in these areas, but as I recall (again), there were differences of opinion regarding many of the ancient canons by the time of the Fifth, Fifth-Sixth, and Sixth ecumenical councils (around the time of Justinian II). At that point, there were allowances for socio-politico-cultural differences between the East and the West (which obviously widened in subsequent centuries). Someone who knows more about these things should help me get my facts straight.

Anyway, it seems to me that both the ancient canons and the sixteenth century Lutheran church orders were conditioned, to varying degrees, by their particular contexts. We could not simply adopt whole cloth any of these historic canons or orders. Comparing and contrasting the way in which they respectively dealt with the life of the Church in their own day and setting seems a helpful and productive course to follow, in my opinion. And then considering how we may be similarly faithful, in both faith and love, within our own day and socio-politico-cultural context, strikes me as our unique challenge.

Certainly, some things transcend all time and culture, and many of those things, I believe, are under attack in our day (even within the LCMS). In other aspects of our faith and life in the world, there is a need for accommodation, not in the way of compromise, but in the way of love. That may be exemplfied by one of those historic differences between the East and West: namely, the question of whether to retain Latin as the language of Scripture and the Liturgy, or to translate the Holy Scriptures and the Divine Liturgy into the vernacular.

In any event, I don't think we can properly understand and evaluate the sixteenth century Lutheran church orders without considering where they came from, comparing and contrasting them with what came before. In many respects, I would guess, they took certain things for granted simply because they were part of the commonly accepted heritage of the Church. Besides, as Pastor Schaibley has already intimated, the Lutheran church orders varied considerably in their scope and in their details.

Paul McCain said...

What is there in the "pre-reformation/pre-distortion times" that should be the practice of Lutheran liturgy today, that was not used at the time of the Reformation and in the 16th century Church Orders?

I'll venture to guess what some might point to:

Eucharistic prayers

Anything else?

Is the use of a Tabernacle a "pre-distortion" practice, or not?

Paul McCain said...

Bob, you ask if I really want to know? Answer: Yes.

You ask if I'm saying you do not know what you are talking about? Answer: No, I'm not saying that.

I'm asking for some specific details in light of some rather sweeping claims being made. You still don't seem to be offering too many specifics, other than, "Read the Didache and move forward."

However you do mention the Church Orders and ironically make my point. They were the way our Lutheran fathers cleansed and purged the Roman Canons concerning worship and liturgy, so I'm still wondering why we would not use that material as primary resource, rather than setting off on a sort of snipe hunt in the murky Roman Canons.

Wilken said it correctly, the reference to the Canons in the Confessions is not by way of: "For more of what we want to do, refer to them" but ... "We know them well and we can assure you that what we do in our worship/liturgy is much better than that."

So, I'm still looking for a good reason why we would want to go mucking about in the Roman Canons for our Evangelical Lutheran church order.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

The liturgical history of the Middle Ages goes beyond the scope of my knowledge, but I would imagine that there probably would be some excellent stuff prior to 1215 and the 4th Lateran Council - be it either definition of the Cannons.

I also think various regulations involving the secular clergy up until the mid 11th century (when marriage was forbidden) might also have some interesting information.

Whatever is good, right, and salutary, be it from the 6th, 11th, or 16th Century is part of our heritage, and we are right to draw from it.

Rev. Rick Stuckwisch said...

Brother McCain, I appreciate your concerns, and I think I understand where you are coming from. However, it seems somewhat unfair to interpret Brother Curtis' remark as a desire or intention to go on a "snipe hunt," as though he were looking for something to put upon the Church. Knowing Heath fairly well, I'm confident that he simply wants to be well-informed and well-grounded in a knowledge of the Church's history and heritage. As Lutherans, I don't think we are, nor should we be, afraid to study the past, examine it, and evaluate it in light of the Word of God and the rule of faith. Surely our forefathers did so, but that does not alleviate us of the responsibility to do the same.

Anyway, your questions suggest that you may not be all that well-versed in or familiar with the Roman Canons. I'm not, either. So how should we conclude that there is nothing there to be learned? I'm not to what extent the Roman Canons are parallel or analagous to the Lutheran church orders, though I assume there are some real similarities involved. That invites comparison and contrast.

I don't think the Roman Canons are primarily about such things as eucharistic prayers, but rather about the ordering of the Church's larger life and ministry in the world; relations beteween bishops and their bishoprics; etc. How would it hurt or threaten any of us to examine and consider such things? Perhaps the fourth and fifth and sixth and seventh centuries, when the canons were being formulated, have greater similarity to our twenty-first century American context than the sixteenth century German territories do. From what I gather, the Lutheran church orders differ rather widely in their scope and their details (as I said earlier). Some are very detailed; others rather general. Some deal at length with liturgical matters; others do so very little. They address themselves to particular concerns that raised themselves at the time, some of which may be of different or no interest to us now.

My inclination is to study things carefully. To examine and challenge everything rigorously, and to allow such matters to be an opportunity for correction and/or growth in my own presuppositions and thinking. That seems like a good and healthy thing to me, not something to be feared or rejected.

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

Over the years I have wondered why it was that Luther and the Lutheran church fathers were familiar with the fathers and their theology, often quoting those who preceded them with approval, while we are discouraged from looking at anything beyond the 3 Rs (the Scripture, the Reformation, today).

These last two comments are encouraging in that they support and allow faith to look at and examine the wealth of that which has been handed down through the centuries. Such study can be beneficial in providing something as simple as extra fodder for the homily or adult study or in coming to understand why we hold to a certain doctrine or liturgical practice.

At the least we can be protected from seeking pride in any one period in church history, including today.

Rev.Fr.Burnell F Eckardt said...

Time to enter the fray, I guess.

Rev. McCain, you seem to be intent on smoking out and at least ostracizing folks like me who have tabernacles.

Actually, a tabernacle has a lot to do with what a 21st century canon law might promote, but not, I surmise, in the way you might guess.

For I believe that one of the the greatest heresies afflicting the church today is the one for which many of us are struggling to find a name. It used to be called "Receptionism," but now many are coming to an agreement that the name isn't quite correct.

It is, at the root, the error which holds that it is something other than the word and command of Christ that makes the elements into His body and blood; the idea that since He said "take eat," somehow the consecration is not in effect until the elements are eaten, and not at all for those elements left over, etc.

Against this we must confess the truth, and if we can be bound to do so by some agreed canon law, so much the better.

For the record, I would not insist that everyone build a tabernacle, but you must not insist that no one build one.

I would, however, argue that we must all find a liturgical way to confess our faith, in this matter; and I am not at all decided on just what that would be.

One idea which springs to mind, just as an example, is a rubric which instructs the communicant to affirm "amen" at the altar after the celebrant holds the host and says "the Body of Christ" and before the communicant receives.

These matters need to be discussed at some length before an agreement be arrived at.

In short, a 21st century canon ought to address and respond to 21st century confessional matters.

Paul McCain said...

Fritz, you always come late to these parties, I wonder why? Odd that.

I am curious why it is so difficult in a congregation that has 72 people attending worship, on average, to make sure you do not consecrate so much of the elements that you are tempted to put into place a very bad practice of claiming to be shutting Jesus away in a box after the service.

Why are you not more concerned to be faithful to His command: which is to "take and eat...and drink" not...take this all of you and eat of it, and then what remains gather and store Me away for next time.

Seems we need more than some romanticizing and pining around after "canon laws" rummaging around in the Roman Medieval basement for such things.

I know it is tempting to try to be more Lutheran than Lutheranism as the old game of "my liturgy is bigger than your liturgy" gambit is played out, but I can find no justification, nor sanctification for such things.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

There are lots of "bigger" thans.

There's "my liturgy's bigger than yours." There's "my blog is bigger than yours." There's "my empty pews are bigger than yours." There's "my history is bigger than yours." There's "my canon is bigger than yours" and the oft related "my cannon is bigger than yours." There's "my library of Baier is bigger than yours." I suppose we even have, "my celebration of the Sacrament is bigger than yours" as well. And there is, of course, the ever popular but never openly stated, "my straw man is bigger than yours." And of course, "my memory is bigger than yours."

Speaking of memory, if memory serves me right, didn't this whole "reservation vs. non-reserve" go across the blogging world weeks ago? Did it need to come up here again? And didn't it come down that what Eckhardt does isn't idolatrous and what McCain states doesn't deny the power of Christ's Words - and beyond that there is disagreement as to ideal practice?

Gentlemen - will anything constructive go on, or do we have to wait for the LCMS to start appointing female bishops to make us play nicely?

Personally, I'm fine with both of you - I just wish you'd be fine with each other.

(P.S. I almost feel like Melanchthon - if I start trying to make nice with the Swiss, somebody shoot me)

Rev. Rick Stuckwisch said...

If you start to make nice with the Swiss, Brother Brown, we'll fill you full of holes.

Brother Eckardt, I agree with you that our practice ought to confess what is true concerning the body and blood of Christ. May I suggest that eating and drinking whatever has been consecrated with His Word is the best way to do so? For the same Lord Jesus Christ who says, "This is My Body," and "This is My Blood," also says: "Eat," and "Drink." I don't have the same concerns about a tabernacle that Brother McCain does, but I do believe that consuming all of the elements is a better way of confessing what is so: They are what Jesus says they are, and we therefore do with them what Jesus says to do.

Storing the consecrated elements against the next distribution, whether in a tabernacle or elswhere, does not, in itself, confess that they are the very Body and Blood of Christ; but only that what has been consecrated is treated differently than what has not been conscrectated. Eating and drinking all that remains is intimately connected to the Word of Christ by which the elements are what they are; and as such, in my opinion, it more clearly confesses the very point you have raised and rightly insist upon.

wmc said...

Eating and drinking all that remains is intimately connected to the Word of Christ by which the elements are what they are; and as such, in my opinion, it more clearly confesses the very point you have raised and rightly insist upon.

I agree with that.

Paul McCain said...


Reformationalist said...

While I, too, agree with the positive side of this assertion about confessing the true presence of Christ in His body and blood by complete consumption, I do not believe that the presumed negative side is true, namely, reserving the unconsumed elements is not a confession of the real presence. It most certainly does confess that by the nature of the care given to how the consecrated host and cup are treated -- just like many a sad, misled LCMS pastor confesses the "real departure" by taking the consecrated wine home to be guzzled down at dinner (which one of my childhood pastors gloated in so doing).

The fact is that reservation has a long history in the Western and Lutheran churches, both Pre- and Post-Reformation eras. It exists precisely as a refutation of the heresy of receptionism, which I, with Friz, suspect is behind some of this grave concern over how some brothers and their congregations handle the reliquae.

And frankly, brothers, the direction of this present line of discussion is becoming ever more disgusting to me. It is allowed, by some, that such things as tabernacles and eucharistic prayers (as brought up by some), are adiaphora, yet the argument seems to say that they aren't! No guts, no glory, guys! Be clear -- what is it?

I hear the whispers of sainted Pr. Flacius! It's nearly time to adopt what hasn't been adopted in order to confess the reality of adiaphora. Falcius' and his fellow Magdaburgians were (for lack of a better word) "high church" Lutherans, right up to the promulgation of the Interim(s), with its demand that Roman vestments be adopted. This, since it is an adiaphora, compelled Flacius to take them off!

And so, I'm fearful that this discussion may force me to go looking for a tabernacle and even using eucharistic prayers, though I now neither have nor desire either. Help me -- let's not go there!

Lastly, I plead with my brothers and other participants, please stop the personal attacks, subtle though they may be! I speak of "average of 72 communicants." Stop picking on Fritz! Pick on Hein and me, instead -- we only have an average of 42 communicants! 'Course, maybe a tabernacle would add another thirty, eh?

Fr. Robert W. Schaibley

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

So to sum.

We agree that the Supper is defined and made what it is by the Words of our Lord.

We agree that the Supper is only rightly practiced when it is done according to our Lord's Command (that there is no consecration apart from a distribution - i.e. no consecrating simply to reserve or adore).

We agree that our actions as regards the Supper ought demonstrate the primacy and focus on Christ's Words which proclaim the Real, Bodily presence, given for us.

Therefore - let whatever practice you use be focused on eliminating the doubts of the people whom you serve. If you can defend your practice - and it does not cause consternation in your congregation - do so - only do not try to assert the dominance of your practice in all times and in all places.

Reformationalist said...

To brother Eric's summation I gladly say, "Amen!"

Paul McCain said...

Therefore - let whatever practice you use be focused on eliminating the doubts of the people whom you serve. If you can defend your practice - and it does not cause consternation in your congregation - do so - only do not try to assert the dominance of your practice in all times and in all places.

Oh, well then, with this wonderfully typical example of American individualism thinking in place, there is no way we should demur when we run across the following either. The following meets the "litmus" text outlined in the italicized quote:


Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Actually, Paul, I'd imagine that would be under other aspects of a proposed order (specifically AC VII and XIV sections). . . not the specific question of Tabernacles/Consumption/Recycling.

But you are right, I'm sure any order that comes out would be quite clear on AC XIV and that it would hold those who join to a nice high and clear standard - one that would probably be violated there.

Rev. Rick Stuckwisch said...

I agree that the use of a tabernacle, accompanied by catechesis (as I am sure that Brother Eckardt provides), may also be a way of confessing that the reliquae are the Body and Blood of Christ, according to His own Word. In my opinion, it is not as clear a confession as eating and drinking, but I've offered that as fraternal counsel and nothing more.

I also agree, rather stongly, that genuine evangelical freedom in matters neither commanded nor forbidden by God must be respected. That certainly doesn't mean "anything goes," but I'm not too worried that anyone participating in this discussion would fall into that ditch. All of us are seriously intent upon faithfully serving and confessing the Gospel. That faithfulness includes both discipline and love; and it also necessarily includes a respect for freedom in adiaphora.

I don't wish to belabor either of those points, but I trust that they are clear and forthright enough.

Having said that, then, I'd like to return to Brother Curtis' suggestion and intention. It seems to me that the use or non-use of a tabernacle would properly belong to this conversation, as a matter of freedom that we would voluntarily agree to regulate according to a common rule. Or, maybe it is the sort of practice that we would contemplate, and then opt not to address one way or the other. I don't know. And while I do have strong feelings that eating and drinking the reliquae is the best practice, I don't have strong feelings against the use of tabernacles. Certainly, much worse is done with the Body and Blood of Christ on a weekly basis in many congregations. But my point is that the purpose of this thread is the consideration of a mutual rule for the way in which adipahora are used among us, for the sake of our common confession, and for the sake of all the meet, right and salutary benefits that derive from a clear, consistent and harmonious practice.

If we are going to contemplate such a rule of prayer, a canon of concord, or whatever we may call it, then do we not have to engage in conversations in which we do in fact express our opinions and preferences concerning practices that are, in themselves, neither commanded nor forbidden by God? If we cannot fraternally discuss and debate such matters, then we are not likely to arrive at any mutually agreeable "canon law."

Rigorous and real arguments, when pursued with humility and respect, can be one of the most helpful ways of clarifying our confession and improving our practice. Iron sharpens steel. I do hope, though, that we don't get bogged down in debating the details of any one point to such an extent that we lose sight of the larger context.

It seems to me that Brother Brown's summary of the tabernacle debate offers an example of a helpful, evangelical approach to such topics; even though it may be a little too open-ended, if it were taken outside of this context in which it was made.

But perhaps the more compelling questions should be: "Would such a practice as this be addressed in the sort of rule or canon law that has been proposed?" "If so, how might that be handled?" "What would the specific rule be?" And if we should arrive at such-n-such a rule, would we be able to agree upon it, and voluntarily submit to it, without relinquishing the doctrine of genuine adiaphora? That was the pressing question and concern at the time of the interims, and I suspect that we are (or will be) faced with similar questions and concerns in our own day, as well.

Paul McCain said...

I'm still trying to understand how, or why, there would be anything necessary beyond agreeing to use the same hymnal and the rubrics contained therein.

Why isn't that good enough?

Pr. H. R. said...

Rev. McCain,

A) Because the church's life is more than just Sunday morning. The "canons" and "church orders" deal with matters that go beyond worship.

B) Because some parishes that have TLH and LW really can't justify the cost of a new hymnal. LSB DS 1 and 3 are already in LW and TLH - so we don't really all need the same book to be on the same page (and recall that I'm a big LSB fan and was quick to push the two parishes I serve to embrace it).

C)And most importantly: Because the rubrics in LSB, while very good, are oftentimes simply incomplete - and that is not a matter of opinion, but is objectively true. For example, just look at the rubric for the reliquae: "At the conclusion of the Distribution or during the Post-Communion Canticle, the remaining consecrated elements are set in order on the altar and covered with a veil." (LSB Altar Book p. 168, and repeated at the end of each setting of the Divine Service)

That's it. That's the LSB rubric for the reliquae: set them in order and veil them on the altar. What to do with them after that is simply not discussed and not even alluded to. (At least I haven't found that any of the LSB volumes go beyond this. . . )

So that's why I think we need something more: this Evangelical Order, or Canon of Concord, or Society of Let's-try-to-actually-live-in-harmony.

And here's what I might propose as a canon for this contentious point: "In accord with the Lord's own Word and Bl. Martin's advice, all the consecrated elements are consumed at the altar at each celebration. Parishes and pastors seeking an exception to this canon shall present their reasons and procedures to the dean/bishop/abbot for his approval."

That's how I see this Canon of Concord working: laying out the best practice, but then allowing for evangelically granted exceptions to bring the most people along in the best time and way possible: and entrusting the granting of those exceptions to the judgment of a wise, godly, and experienced man (who must also be held accountable to God's Word by canons dealing with his removal from his post, etc.).

Again, there is a lesson to be learned here from the modern day papists. There is One Mass for the papists - but a priest can get an exception to celebrate the old Latin Mass. This allows for both harmony and unity, while also allowing (evangelically, as it were) for local custom. That's the sort of thing we can learn from papists.

That and raffles. Why can't we have raffles? Isn't railing against raffles the biggest much of pietistic bu. . . . but I digress.


Rev. Eric J Brown said...

We have Bingo at ours. . . and if I were to be in, I'd need an exception. My Elder's eyes bulged out when I mentioned Consuming the elements -- I'm in Oklahoma and consuming more than a sip of wine would be. . . scandalous? Shocking?

I think (in my opinion) that if we wanted to nail something like this we could present a preferred practice and perhaps standard variations - that way the dean/bishop/abbot/costello wouldn't be over burdened with exceptions - simply inform which one you use.

It's the balance of detail driven uniformity verses flexibility of use. Orders were rather regional, if I recall. Besides, there were plethora of bishops - for this to be a national order, a certain amount of flexibility would have to be built in - simply because we all live in so many different regions of the country.

Rev.Fr.Burnell F Eckardt said...

Well, as usual, Rev. Stuckwisch has his finger on a problem we are going to have to dispatch before getting into the meat of this conversation, viz.,

If we cannot fraternally discuss and debate such matters [of adiaphora], then we are not likely to arrive at any mutually agreeable "canon law."

Yes, I believe "fraternally" is necessary, and that if we are going to have such discussions, they ought to be free of childish ad hominem insults like subtly implying that there's something mischievous about contributing only occasionally to a conversation, or worse, that the size of a contributor's congregation has anything remotely to do with the subject at hand, or even worse, like descending to the equivalent of gutter language on the matter ("Jesus in a box," etc., which everyone here ought to find an entirely offensive and unbecoming manner of speaking).

The subject at hand is, as I understand it, the question of canon law. I am addressing the matter of what it is for, which is why I refer to the matter of the tabernacle.

Simply put, canon law ought to be put primarily into the service of confessing the faith, particularly against error.

The discussion on the tabernacle which followed my first comment on this thread is one which needs to be seen within this context.

What I mean is that while my immediate reason for having a tabernacle is to keep the elements consecrated at the altar which I will carry to the sick, that is not the only reason.

What the tabernacle does is provides a silent confession that those who discard the reliquae, or who otherwise treat them as common, are committing sacrilege.

We must confess the body of Christ when the body of Christ is present.

This is a confession we must find a way universally to make, and this is where canon law can be most helpful.

One who consumes all the elements may be doing so to make this confession, though I would say not necessarily, for there are receptionists who do the same thing, for reasons simply of good order. There is no way a person with a tabernacle can be confused with a receptionist. But I digress.

And lest we get sidetracked into another discussion on the sheer merits of tabernacles, I'd like to repeat what I believe is germane to this thread:

The matter of canon law should be addressed primarily from the standpoint of confessing the faith.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Pastor Eckhardt,

As pertains to the discussion of canon law and confessing the faith - do you think that this set up should simply determine what is allowable practice, or rank in order of preference what is allowable, or establish just a single "This is how we will do it." Also, would you envision the order containing reasons within it (basically "whereas" clauses)?

I ask this because the intent of what one confesses through a practice is not always obvious and apparent, and it can often be misinterpreted. The simple fact is that most people, even (sadly enough) among the clergy don't think about the theological implications of what occurs in the Church as simple, common practice.

Granted - any time we confess, we teach - but would this order be mainly a tool of setting a standard for we ourselves to follow voluntarily, or would it be primarily a teaching tool/ apology for use by those who already have these practices?

Or I guess, would the order be directed inwardly and outwardly -- and I know it is both at the same time, but there would be a primary focus on one of the two. Which do you (or anyone else - Pastor Curtis?) envision?

Todd Wilken said...

Someone (I've lost track) wrote:

"Speaking of memory, if memory serves me right, didn't this whole "reservation vs. non-reserve" go across the blogging world weeks ago? Did it need to come up here again?"

No, it didn't.

And, if it did, then Heath's noble suggestion is going to die right here.

Maybe the first line of the "canon of concord" should read:

"WE the undersigned do not pine for Rome or Constantinople. We wish to be and remain Lutheran, nothing more, nothing less. We wish to conduct our teaching and practice in accord with the Scripture and Lutheran Confessions (as we all vowed to do at our ordinations) --period."

If you can't sign that, you have bigger things to worry about than a rubrics and canons.

Please, someone, start a blog dedicated to tabernacles, reliquiae, reservation or non-reservation, etc. So that the subject doesn't highjack another innocent thread.

This isn't Lutherquest after all.


Pr. H. R. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Todd Wilken said...

By the way, having a tabernacle does not mean that you pine for Rome or Constantinople.

Have two or three if you want.

Just so I'm not misunderstood.


Rev.Fr.Burnell F Eckardt said...

Rev Brown

I'm not really settled yet in my own mind on just what a new canon law coming out of a new 'jurisdiction' among us would be, or how used.

That said, I can envision some kind of a meeting of the pastors who voluntarily subscribe to the canons on which we agree.

For instance, let's say we all frame an agreement (in writing) that we must confess against receptionism; so we come up with a canon among ourselves, a rubric something like this:

after the verba are said over each kind, the celebrant shall elevate it.

Such a rubric would not condemn people outside our association who do not elevate, but by it we who are in our 'jurisdiction' of sorts would all voluntarily agree to do so.

If you look at the proceedings of the ecumenical councils, I believe the assembled bishops did something like this. They discussed, debated, and worked together until they came up with their canons.