01 February 2009

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?

+HRC

23 comments:

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

I have two comments.

1 - I don't think it would do any good.

2 - I'm not sure the so-called Lay Ministry violates XIV in practical terms. Lay ___________ are called according to a rite. . . it (as far as I know) is not a matter of the Anabaptist style "I must now preach because the Holy Spirit told me to" but rather a mediate call.

Now, this second idea probably isn't overly popular - but these programs may fall into that permissible but not (as we have seen these past 20 years) profitable.

William Weedon said...

Eric,

I disagree on both points. First, if the protest were LOUD and sustained and across the board, it would get heard. Our District has from our pastoral conference Heath's resolution regarding this matter, and I suspect will adopt it, but our District has been steadily ignored in the last two conventions (after all, we're not even "Ablaze"), but if other Districts put this forth and pushed it, it would be harder to ignore.

On number two these "lay ministers" are by very definition NOT put into the office of the holy ministry and in that are thus in clear violation of AC XIV. The solution is to ordain them, thus publicly putting them into that office which is responsible for the preaching of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments. See Piepkorn's work on what "rite vocatus" meant at the time (and which, therefore, it must continue to mean today) in *The Church*.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

As regards point 1, I don't doubt that it would be heard. . . I just don't think the Synod would act upon what has been heard. Who would we swing/teach with our protest? The very nature of an on-line protest would be all but ignored/unnoticed by those who are indifferent/ignorant and would need to be taught. That being said, it might be a very honorable and proper thing to do - I just don't think it would effect change.

As regards point 2 - yes, we should ordain these people. . . instead of just calling them, "consecrating" (or whatever term is used in the district of your choice) them, and then installing them. Or maybe that's just a distinction I see with how LM stuff is done out in Oklahoma.

That's why I added in the word "practical" - because in terms of how things. If you set someone aside to do something they are no longer lay. The main problem (other than the simple practical mess of having poorly trained people preaching) is that the terminology is self-contradictory.

We as Lutherans want to jump to think of most theological writings simply in relation to Roman Catholicism. I think too often we forget that the first 21 Articles are used to strongly distinguish Lutheranism from the Enthusiasts (note how many of the condemnations are against the Anabaptists) - and they were the ones who were completely eliminating any outward call. The polemical function of the Augsburg Confession was to demonstrate that the Lutherans were not radicals but within the Church Catholic. The issue of the time was the the mediate nature of the call.

Now, this isn't saying Wichita is a good idea or should remain - but if we are deputizing people and having them do Word and Sacrament, they are in the Ministry, whether we like it or not or whether they would think it themselves.

revalkorn said...

I don't know if you're just addressing the four and twenty, but I hope you don't me adding a penny or two.

I signed "That They May Be One", and it's one of the reasons my DP was so quick to put me on restricted status. He saw me as a malcontent because I had signed, and President Kieschnick had just sent out his famous memo to the DPs which urged them to take action against those who had signed it not long before. Though I had no problem signing the petition to bring back Issues Etc., I would not sign one on Wichita. I have some hope of being a parish pastor again. Then again, considering what Wichita does to the Office of the Ministry, maybe I'm out either way.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Just thinking about this more - the Roman way of referring to those who were ordained by folks in the Society of St. Pius X was that the ordinations were "valid" but "illicit".

Does that describe perhaps (although it is a foreign terminology) what goes on with Lay __________. There is an established validity to it - but it is done wrongly and should be fixed?

Pr. David Gallas said...

In Lutheran Church-Canada, we face similar issues.

Rev. Eric Brown makes an interesting point: "Now, this isn't saying Wichita is a good idea or should remain - but if we are deputizing people and having them do Word and Sacrament, they are in the Ministry, whether we like it or not or whether they would think it themselves."

This is really the question. Are they in the pastoral ministry or are they not? If one believes as I do, that the unordained are not placed into the Office of the Ministry, but are lay people doing the functions of a pastor, then Wichita is a serious scandal. Perhaps Pr. Curtis has an idea worth considering. It is always worth the effort to correct a scandal. The Old Adam (whom I have listened to far too often in this regard) would rather not do anything and argue, "what is the point? It's not going to make much of a difference." Perhaps, we need to just scatter the seed recklessly, and let the Lord worry about the results.

William Weedon said...

Pr. Gallas hits the point exactly, though Lutherans are of two minds on the question. Marquart heads one way in his fine book on The Church; others disagree. I confess myself completely torn and unable to answer the question with anything other than "I don't know" what it is that a layperson administers in the Eucharist; but that's enough for me to be deadset against allowing such uncertainty. The Lord never intended for us to be in any doubt and what brings doubt is surely planted by the devil. If we had never introduced this novum, we'd be in zero doubt - for we know that the Lord is present and works through the ministry, even when the ministers are asses. So I am 100% behind Heath's call for us to confront this monster of uncertainty that has been unleashed among us.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

I would agree that things need to be changed (precisely to remove any uncertainty or lack of clarity) - and there are different ways of fixing this. I also think that it would be a great idea to publicly call for a change, although I would rather that call be on the basis of eliminating uncertainty and confusion (which is evident to anyone who looks at the various practices after Wichita) rather than on the basis of violating the confessions, especially in light of the Brief Statement of 1932, which treats Ordination as merely a churchly act and not something absolutely vital to the Public Ministry.

However, when it comes to making a call for change, I don't think we should expect change to happen. Never expect the glorious revolution -- even as we look back to the wonderful flowerings of orthodoxy in the past, it never was the glorious revolution. In Luther's day Rome, the Radicals, and the Jews all said no thanks. Orthodoxy is rejected for Pietism and decried as dead. The flowering of American Confessional theology breaks apart, and the majority of Lutherans are liberal today. The glorious revolution never happens. (Gads, and I'm only 31, what am I going to be like when I'm 62!?)

If we do this, let us do it because our conscience compels us to speak clearly and precisely on this area that has become muddled - but not worry about what changes might be brought about. We cannot control (or anticipate) how folks will react - rather, we should just follow the Lord and let the chips fall where they may.

And there probably should be some good tact in the wording, lest the chips fall too hard upon too many folks.

+++++++++++

Politically, the solution would be, I think, to call for the end of all district organized Lay programs - getting everything under SMPP - which at least uses involves "pastor" and "ordination". Politically, we aren't going to overturn what happened in the past - that's not "nice" - but maybe we can move on to something a bit more concrete.

Pr. H. R. said...

Rev. Brown,

I couldn't disagree with your reasoning more. Simply read the 1989 resolution: it specifically says that it is setting up a program for NON-PASTORS to do this stuff. That's how it is designed and that what it is.

If you set out to specifically NOT make someone a pastor, I don't see how you do end up making them a pastor.

Your argument reminds me of couples who say that while they are living together they are "married in God's eyes." Um...where is that written?

Just go read the actual Wichita resolution: it specifically quotes AC XIV and then says: nevermind, we can make exceptions to that when we want to.

That is a scandal. That is an explicit repudiation of our confession. That is wrong - and no amount of after the fact sophistry can change it.

+HRC

wmc said...

(Gads, and I'm only 31, what am I going to be like when I'm 62!?)

Don't worry. You'll be on so many drugs by then, you won't care.

wmc said...

Simply read the 1989 resolution: it specifically says that it is setting up a program for NON-PASTORS to do this stuff. That's how it is designed and that what it is.

Wichita was bad nomenclature from the get-go. If we appoint someone to do pastoral things, we have made him a de facto pastor. Even in the worst case scenario, we do not have everyone being a minister of the Word and Sacrament. The term "lay ministry" is a classic oxymoron.

If we appoint someone to do Word and Sacrament ministry apart from an ordered call (which includes ordination), we have violated our Confession's understanding of the pastoral office and our defense against Eck's slander that we are the same as the radical reformation.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Rev. Curtis,

First, can you find a link to the actual text of the resolution - I'm having a hard time finding it.

Secondly, there is a distinction that needs to be made in the fact that, for good or ill, people are engaging in these acts not simply of their own desire, but they are being instructed to by officials in the Church. Now - this flies in the face of what the LCMS had treated (or understood) a call to be - but there is the exercise or extension of authority. These guys are placed into their position by another. Whether it intended to (or should have done so), establishing and legitimatizing lay ministry programs effectively added a new category by which one might claim to be called according to the rites and customs of the Church to preach and administer the sacrament.

Whether Wichita was intended to be an end-around AC XIV or just a matter of ignoring it, it established standards for the Church to do this - and on an external basis. It flies in the face of our tradition and our understanding of how calls, ordination, and the like, are supposed to work - but I don't think we can just say it violates the confessions - especially given that the understanding of rite vocatus at the time of Augsburg commonly implied Ordination by bishop, something which the Lutherans of the generations immediately following were willing to abandon without thinking that they were in violation of AC XIV.

I think a more apt analogy to couples living together would be the couple who has been living together so long that they are "common law" spouses - and then say that they have no need of the typical and traditional way in which the Church blesses marriages.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
wmc said...

"...especially given that the understanding of rite vocatus at the time of Augsburg commonly implied Ordination by bishop, something which the Lutherans of the generations immediately following were willing to abandon without thinking that they were in violation of AC XIV."

Let's not forget the Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope. Melanchthon is also the author. In the Treatise, the authority of ordination is given to every pastor de jure divino; it is entrusted to bishops only de jure humano. Ordination was not an option, even when episcopal ordination was not possible (Treatise 64-66). To exercise the authority of the Office without ordination would not be "rite vocatus" according to the Confessions, ordination being the comprobation of the call (Treatise 71).

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

(Now in full devil's advocate role)

Esteemed Cwirla,

You mention paragraph 71 of the TPPP, what of paragraph 70 where ordination is described as being simply a ratification of the neighboring churches of what one particular one did. If you establish a program to have people do Word and Ministry, and they are officially ratified/certified to do it, you have the ratification of the calling of the individual by the church at large. How in practical terms does that differ from ordination - other than the daft terminology that says, "Um, but no, they aren't ordained like normal pastors."

There is a reason I am pushing this point hard. Now, I will admit that that "other than" at the end is a big, huge issue - but simply saying, "This violates AC XIV and Church Custom" isn't going to make people stop or overturn it. This is especially true when you have a long practice of treating Ordination as simply an ecclesiastical ordinance (and hence one that the Church could rightly adapt) and not divine ordinance. That's Missouri's official position - and if that is the case, it's gonna be really hard to say that Lay Ministry violates AC XIV.

Petersen said...

Yes. Do it. Put up the website. Not everyone can sign it. Fine. Let us cast no judgment on those who can't sign. They have other battles to fight. Failure to sign will not be an endorsement of Witchita. Just do it already. We need to do something.

Will it work? Probably not. But we should still do it.

- Petersen

wmc said...

"You mention paragraph 71 of the TPPP, what of paragraph 70 where ordination is described as being simply a ratification of the neighboring churches of what one particular one did."

I was quoting from 70. The term comprobatio is in 71. Ordination is comprobation of the election of the ordinand. The point of the Treatise is not that ordination is optional, but that ordination, which was reserved as a prerogative for the bishops, was an authority inherent in the pastoral office so that "it is manifest that ordination administered by a pastor in his own church is valid by divine right (de jure divino)" (Treatise 65-66). This is also why ordination has sacramental status in a derivative way in Ap XIII. It is not an option, nor is it merely an "apostolic custom" as some of our LCMS fathers have said.

The whole point of the second part of the Treatise, which is the dogmatic basis for the continuation of the church apart from the apostolic succession of bishops, is that the church always retains the authority of "calling, electing, and ordaining ministers" (Treatise 67). Calling, electing, ordaining is what rite vocatus entails. If ordination is simply a man-made add-on to the call, then the entire argument of Treatise 60ff is meaningless.

The error occurred long before Wichita when we bought into the notion that ordination was not part and parcel of rite vocatus and we made the congregation's call the whole instead of the part.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

"The error occurred long before Wichita when we bought into the notion that ordination was not part and parcel of rite vocatus and we made the congregation's call the whole instead of the part."

I think this hits the nail on the head - we have for a long time (at least since the brief statement of 1932) placed everything on the call, with ordination just being the approval of the Church at large. If ordination is merely the approval of the Church at large, why (one might ask) wouldn't the Church just be able to approve in a way in which it sees fit whom it sees fit?

Wichita is a symptom of a larger, more systemic problem.

But I will also concur with Pastor Petersen - Put one up. I don't mean to discourage Pastor Curtis from doing so. However, I think it should be considered whether the problem is Wichita or rather the whole approach to the office. If we pulled all the lay ministers out and ordained them this Sunday, would that actually fix things? Simply saying, "they ought to be ordained because of AC XIV" won't hit the heart of the problem.

wmc said...

"If we pulled all the lay ministers out and ordained them this Sunday, would that actually fix things? Simply saying, "they ought to be ordained because of AC XIV" won't hit the heart of the problem."

It would solve the letter of the problem but not the spirit. We would have then to deal with the consequences of a potentially less than adequately trained ministerium, though at least we wouldn't call them laymen any longer. I would view this as a step in the right direction and a necessary corrective to an abuse.

Scott Diekmann said...

I say start the website.

"I know some pastors have been reluctant to take this step because it does come with risks...." Aren't we called to "take risks?" Be faithful unto death. Easier said than done, but isn't that, in part, what it is to be a Christian, especially if you are a pastor?

Perhaps the conundrum we're now in in our Synod is because not enough people are willing to take risks.

Rev. Thomas C. Messer said...

I'm with Fr. Petersen and Brother Diekmann - start the site. Hurry up, so I can sign! :)

Grabauski said...

Such a website may be a prelude to actual dissent, but it is not dissent itself. The better use of a website would be registering those members of synod who actually file formal dissent (and those laymen who will support them).

Now is the very best time you will ever have...every passing minute simply makes the dissent later and the false teaching more entrenched. Better (way, way, way) late than never, but better still less late than more.

EJG

Cecil The Sea Sick Sea Serpent said...

In addition to official dissent, how about circuit and district resolutions?

BTW I, a layman, would sign, but I have nothing to lose.