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. . .