23 February 2009

Proposed Pastoral Practice regarding Confirmation and First Communion

[The following is a proposal that I have been making to our board of elders regarding the practice of confirmation and first communion here at Messiah. I would welcome your comments and suggestions. -Peperkorn]

A Proposed Practice Regarding First Communion and Confirmation of children at Messiah Lutheran Church

By Pastor Todd A. Peperkorn

December 18, 2008

Proposed pastoral practice regarding First Communion:

That Messiah Lutheran Church admit children to Holy Communion when the pastor, the child, the parents and at least one elder all concur that the child is prepared to receive Christ’s Body and Blood in Holy Communion. “Preparation” shall include but not be limited to a clear confession of faith in the Gospel by means of reciting by heart the Ten Commandments, the Apostles’ Creed, and the Lord’s Prayer, by being examined and absolved by the pastor (Individual Confession and Absolution), and by verbally expressing their desire to receive Christ’s Body and Blood for the forgiveness of sins.

Proposed pastoral practice regarding Confirmation:

That Messiah Lutheran Church confirm those children in the Christian Faith who can recite by heart the Small Catechism of Dr. Martin Luther with Explanation, who have been examined and absolved, and who are able to confess the faith and answer the questions placed upon confirmands in the Rite of Confirmation found in the Lutheran Service Book.


The reason for this proposed practice is simple: It is of great benefit for all Christians to receive Christ’s Body and Blood, and that we should be about giving our children Jesus as much as possible, and as soon as possible.

The challenges for this proposed policy are several:

1) By separating confirmation and first communion, we run the risk of denigrating the importance of the rite of confirmation.

2) This practice, while gaining acceptance in the LCMS as a whole, is not universally accepted, and does require explanation.

3) Because this is based on the confession of faith of the individual and not an arbitrary age, it makes the practice appear random, when in fact this is more consistent with our understanding of worthiness of receiving the Sacrament.

Quotations From the Book of Concord

6 Confirmation and extreme unction are rites received from the Fathers that not even the Church requires as necessary to salvation, because they do not have God’s command. Therefore, it is useful to distinguish these rites from the former, which have God’s direct command and a clear promise of grace.

Concordia : The Lutheran Confessions, Edited by Paul Timothy McCain (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2005), 185.

38 We cheerfully maintain 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. 39 Our enemies falsely accuse us of setting aside good ordinances and Church discipline. We can truly declare that the public form of the churches is more fitting with us than with the adversaries. 40 If anyone will consider it in the right way, we conform to the canons more closely than the adversaries. Among the adversaries, unwilling celebrants, and those hired for pay, and very frequently only for pay, celebrate the Masses. They sing psalms, not that they may learn or pray, but for the sake of the service (as though this work were a service) or, at least, for the sake of reward. Among us many use the Lord’s Supper every Lord’s Day. They do so after they have been first instructed, examined, and absolved. The children sing psalms in order that they may learn. The people also sing so that they may either learn or pray. 41 Among the adversaries there is no catechizing of the children whatever, about which even the canons give commands. Among us the pastors and ministers of the churches are encouraged publicly to instruct and hear the youth. This ceremony produces the best fruit. 42 Among the adversaries, in many regions, no sermons are delivered during the entire year, except during Lent. Yet the chief service of God is to preach the Gospel. When the adversaries do preach, they speak of human traditions, of the worship of saints and similar trifles, which the people justly hate. Therefore, they are immediately deserted in the beginning, after the reading of the Gospel text. A few better ones begin now to speak of good works; but about the righteousness of faith, faith in Christ, and the comfort of consciences, they say nothing. Indeed, this most wholesome part of the Gospel they rail at with their reproaches. 43 On the contrary, in our churches all the sermons are filled with such topics as these: repentance; the fear of God; faith in Christ, the righteousness of faith, the comfort of consciences by faith; the exercises of faith; prayer, what its nature should be, and that we should be fully confident that it is powerful, that it is heard; the cross; the authority of officials and all civil ordinances; the distinction between the kingdom of Christ, or the spiritual kingdom, and political affairs; marriage; the education and instruction of children; chastity; all the offices of love. 44 From this condition of the churches it may be determined that we earnestly keep Church discipline, godly ceremonies, and good Church customs.

Concordia : The Lutheran Confessions, Edited by Paul Timothy McCain (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2005), 193.

20 February 2009

SID Goes on Record against Synod and for AC XIV

Today the Southern Illinois District in convention approved the following resolution by a vote of 118-19. I want to publicly thank Pres. Herbert Mueller for his support in this effort. Also worthy of mention and thanks are my circuit brethren, especially Pr. William Weedon, as well as the circuit counselors of the SID and the SID general pastors' conference all of whom contributed to producing this resolution. And it would be remiss not to mention with thanksgiving the work of Prof. Joel Okamoto of CSL who wrote the article rejecting "lay ministry" which was subsequently published as the joint decision of both systematics faculties.

It's certainly not a perfect resolution - for example, the language could certainly be stronger: "the SID expresses its regret" about the breaking of the AC's 14th article in the Synod at large rather than "calling the Synod to repentance" or something like that. In addition, the "plan" that is recommended here is slow going and open to much finagling.

But those shortcomings aside, I'm very glad that a whole district, by a wide margin, is on record against "lay ministry" and taking a stand with the systematics faculties in supporting our historic confession in contradiction to the Synod's current practice.

I would encourage pastors in other districts to use the SID's example to your benefit and bring similar resolutions to your district conventions. For most, the time for handing in resolutions to committees is past. But maybe, depending on the district, this could come from the floor.

At any rate. . . here's the resolution as adopted:

SID 2009 Convention

Resolution: 2-02

Subject: Specific Ministry Pastors

Action: Adopted, 20 February 2009, 118-19

Whereas, in certain situations today, the Synod approves of preaching and administration of the sacraments by men who have not been publicly called to and placed in the office of the ministry (this position is expressed, e.g., in 1989 Resolution 3-05B, “. . . when no pastor is available, and in the absence of any specific Scriptural directives to the contrary, congregations may arrange for the performance of these distinctive functions [preaching and administering the sacraments] by qualified individuals”); and

Whereas, the Augsburg Confession's fourteenth article reads, “Concerning church government it is taught that no one should publicly teach, preach, or administer the sacraments without a proper [public] call” (KW p. 46); and

Whereas, the systematic theology faculties of both seminaries, acting jointly, have published a detailed statement on “The Office of the Holy Ministry” (Concordia Journal 33.3[July 2007]: 242-255) which states in part,

“The Confessions never use the truth that the whole church possesses the power of the keys to make the office of the holy ministry unnecessary or merely useful. On the contrary, this truth serves as the basis for the church's right to call, choose, and ordain ministers. . . . [T]he Treatise [on the Power and Primacy of the Pope] does not imagine churches without ordained ministers of some kind, even in emergency situations or when no one else will call and ordain men for the office. As confessors of the same doctrine, neither should we. . .

“'[C]all and ordination' are essential for conduct of the ministry. . . .What is the sign of authority for ministers today? It is their call and ordination, which assure that they act by divine right and on the authority of Christ. This truth makes such ideas as “lay ministers” invitations for difficulties and troubles to ministers whose authority is doubtful and to laypersons whose assurance of God's grace may be questioned.” (pp. 253-254, 255);


Whereas, the Board for Pastoral Education and the two seminaries are now implementing the Specific Ministry Pastor Program mandated by the 2007 Synodical Convention; and

Whereas, the Board for Pastoral Education and the Council of Presidents are due to report to the 2010 Synodical Convention concerning “situations currently served by licensed lay deacons” (2007 Res. 5-02); THEREFORE BE IT

Resolved, that the Southern Illinois District in convention express its regret at the current situation in the Synod at large concerning men who are conducting Word and Sacrament ministry without being publicly called to and placed in the office of the ministry; and be it finally

Resolved, that the Southern Illinois District in convention memorialize the Synod in convention to direct the Board for Pastoral Education and the Council of Presidents to develop a plan and lay out procedures:

A) So that all men who are currently engaged in Word and Sacrament ministry without being publicly called to and placed in the office of the ministry may either be enrolled in the SMP program or cease from all forms of Word and Sacrament ministry by the end of 2016, and
B) So that all current Synod and District tracks, programs, licensing procedures etc. which train men for Word and Sacrament ministry without benefit of being publicly called to and placed in the office of the ministry can be phased out in favor of SMP by the end of 2016; and

C) So that the Board for Pastoral Education report on this plan to the 2013 Synod in Convention for approval, emendation, and adoption.

16 February 2009

The Prayer of the Church

For some time I've often used an adaptation of the Roman Canon for the Prayer of the Church. I've always thought it makes a worthy intercession; just a terrible Eucharistia! LSB permits the pastor to frame the Prayer of the Church, and having just reworked this adaptation, I offer this redaction for those who might care to use it. Two points at which it would likely make our laity uncomfortable are the intercessions for the departed and the reference to the saints in heaven praying for us.  Yet both of these are actually in accord with the Lutheran lex credendi, our Book of Concord. The form of intercession for the departed is adapted from Starck's Prayer Book.


We come to You, Holy Father, with praise and thanksgiving, through Jesus Christ, Your Son. Through Him we ask You to accept and bless the prayers and gifts we offer - for we bring You in thanksgiving only what You have first given to us in love. Lord, in Your mercy, R.

Remember, Lord, Your holy church. Watch over her and guide her. Grant her peace and unity throughout the world. Lord, in Your mercy, R.

Remember, Lord, Gerald, our Synodical President, Herbert, our District President, and all pastors and servants of the Church. Grant them to hold and teach the faith that comes to us from the apostles. Lord, in Your mercy, R.

Remember, Lord, our President, our public servants, and all in our armed forces. Guide, bless, protect and uphold them in honor. Bring all nations into the ways of peace and justice. In Your kindness and love, grant us seasonable weather and an abundance of the fruits of the earth. Lord, in your mercy, R.

Remember, Lord, all who suffer for Your name, all who are in prison, the hungry and ill-clad, the poor and the lonely, those who travel, and all who cry out to You in their time of need (especially…). Take them under Your tender care and grant them a happy issue out of their afflictions. Lord, in your mercy, R.

Remember, Lord, all who are gathered here before You, our living and true God. We pray for our well-being and redemption. Order our days in Your peace, deliver us from the danger of eternal death, and number us among Your chosen flock. Though we are sinners, we trust in Your mercy and love. Do not consider what we truly deserve, but grant us Your forgiveness. Lord, in Your mercy, R.

Remember, Lord, (N. and N. and) all our brothers and sisters who have fallen asleep in Christ our Savior. Refresh their souls with heavenly consolation and joy and fulfill for them all the gracious promises which in Your Word You have given to those who believe in You. Lord, in Your mercy, R.

Holy Father, in communion with the whole Church we honor Your saints, in whom You have given us a mirror of Your mercy and grace. We praise You especially for the Blessed Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph her husband, St. John the Baptist, Saints Peter and Paul, and all Your martyrs. Give us grace to walk before you with faith like theirs and, in accordance with their prayers, grant us a share in their heavenly fellowship. Lord, in Your mercy, R.

Lord God, as we prepare to receive the holy Sacrament, we pray You, bless and sanctify, with the power of Your Holy Spirit, this bread and wine, which You have given us, that through our Lord’s Words they may be unto us His body and blood, the food and drink of eternal life.

Grant that we may receive worthily this sacramental mystery, the New Testament of our Divine Redeemer, for He is the Lamb of God, who gave Himself once and for all, as a holy, immaculate and perfect sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sin and for the life and salvation of the whole world.

Through Him, we beseech You, Father,  to look with favor upon us and receive our thanksgiving for so great a Gift, as You once accepted the offerings of Your servants Abel and Noah, the sacrifice of Abraham, and the bread and wine offered by Your priest Melchizedek. In union with them, we pray that Your holy angel would carry our prayer to Your altar in heaven and unite us in the unending liturgy of Your servants of every time and place; through Christ, our Lord, from whom all good things come.

Through Him, with Him and in Him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is Yours, Almighty Father, forever and ever.

01 February 2009

Contemplating a Change...

For last year and this, come Sunday afternoons from September until Judica, I have offered the Service of Prayer and Preaching on Sundays at 5 p.m., and used it as my primary vehicle for Catechism instruction for both the children in the public school and any adults who are inquiring into the Lutheran confession of the Christian faith. But next year I am contemplating a change from Prayer and Preaching to Vespers.

Vespers is obviously the more historic service and was used for Catechism instruction also in Lutheran lands on Sunday afternoons or evenings. Prayer and Preaching is somewhat modeled on the old Catechism Service of Missouri, but it has additions too - additions that in the long run I am not certain are worth the effort. I speak especially of the Canticles. All the effort we have put into learning them! And still we are rather weak at singing them. How much better to have learned the Magnificat! I am a firm believer that anyone who learns Vespers will simply fall in love with that liturgy; I must confess that I've not fallen in love with Service of Prayer and Preaching - not after all these times using it.

I know I will never go back to putting catechetical instruction in a classroom again - the church IS the natural and right place for it. But I think a change to Vespers would be in every way "meet, right, and salutary." I wonder if the brothers and sisters have any further thoughts?

Wichita +20

Could you repeat that fourteenth part again?

This summer will mark 20 years since the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod in convention quoted AC XIV and then added a dreadful "however. . . " Of all the scandals among us - purposely irreverent worship, lack of uniformity in fellowship, etc. etc. - this is the worst. That the LCMS purposely tells men who are not in the Office of the Ministry to go out and act like they are - that is, to teach, preach, and administer the sacraments week in and week out without a Divine, regular, public call to the Ministry - is nothing short of.....well, words fail me. Let's put it this way: it makes the 2001 convention's decretum that the ELCA is not an "orthodox Lutheran body" ring a tad hollow.

Most all of us have preached against this and taught our people the correct teaching. Some have sent in resolutions and worked to call our Synod to repentance in countless ways.

But maybe it's time for something more - something more organized and widespread.

While most of us have preached and taught our people the right doctrine, and many of us have sent in resolutions and worked in other ways - most of us have also been reluctant to actually take the avenue of public confession laid down in our Synod. That is, most of us have not filed a formal dissent against the Wichita "lay minister/deacon" system.

What do the brethren think of the following? What if we put together a website with information and a signature page (a là Issues Etc.) for LCMS folk (clergy, non-ordained 'members of Synod,' and laity) to sign which would broadcast the intent of the undersigned clergy, members of Synod, and congregations to flood the Synod with dissents on the 20th anniversary of the close of the 1989 Convention on July 14?

I know some pastors have been reluctant to take this step because it does come with risks - especially depending on the District in which one resides. I know others have stayed away from the official dissent because they view it as pointless. But maybe a massive effort from across the Synod would help solve both of those problems.

Well, what do you think?