16 January 2010

More Meditation on Worship Conference

Before the conference was ever held, Pr. Asburry noted that the question that is ultimately behind all the discussions will likely not be addressed: the question of authority. He was prescient. It is the "white elephant" in the room of American Lutheranism. Granted that many of the questions before us do indeed fall into the category of adiaphora (neither commanded nor forbidden); granted that not all adiaphora are created equal (Arand); WHO regulates adiaphora or church ceremony?

Our Symbols are not silent on this, but neither are they entirely helpful, for they propose a solution within a framework that is no longer in existence for us. The AC says this is the task of pastors and bishops and that within certain carefully defined parameters, the congregations owe them obedience in such matters, even though these are not matters of salvation or anything close. The FC says that the Church in every "land" (the territorial church) has the authority to increase or decrease such ceremonies. Notice that in both references to the Symbols, we have a transparochial recognition: bishop and the territorial church.

How that worked out you can see from studying the Church Orders. Take the order promulgated under Duke Julius for Braunschweig-Wölfenbüttel and authored by the two principal writers of the Formula: Chemnitz and Andreaea. Its corpus doctrinae makes it utterly clear that uniformity in ceremonies is not necessary to true churchly unity and that in no way should humanly instituted ceremonies be thought of as salvific. And yet, the order extols the benefits of uniformity for the sake of a united confession of the truth and to avoid needless controversy. It mandates by force of law the use of the ceremonies as prescribed within the territory. Nor do they look only to themselves; but they weigh the practice of neighboring territories as they formulate church ceremony. The end result is a legally binding standard by which Superintendents could hold pastors and parishes accountable, yet equally clear was that this standard did not descend on gold plates from heaven. It was not intended to be irreformable, but it was intended to be used and any deviation from it was to be remedied. Uniformity was not extolled as constituting the Church's unity, but as being of service to that unity.

Fast forward several hundred years and across the ocean. We have now lived as Lutherans in America for a long time. Here there is neither bishop nor territorial church. What has happened? We have an atomization of the Church whereby each parish and each pastor become the equivalent of the bishop and the territorial church - and each fiercely guards his respective turf no matter which side of the question of worship one comes down on.

It there a way out of the impasse without addressing head on the question of authority in an honest and open way? The Synod repeatedly frames her convention resolutions as "encourage the congregations of Synod to..." Is it even possible for there be a true transparochial solution to the disarray in worship practices? I fear the answer is no, unless we are able to address the matter of authority and to learn again the virtue of humble submission to one another in the joy of the Gospel.


Sean said...

humble submission still seems like legalism. Church orders prescribed hymns of the day. In our day, the new authority would need to prescribe every hymn, choir piece, etc. The office/job/duty of Kantor would be taken away from the town level (or the congregation level as it exists today) and brought up to the synodical level. We should humbly submit to the LSB Hymn Selection Guide or some new incarnation of Proclaim? It's hard for an authority to produce that kind of humility in their subjects.

William Weedon said...


Why do you think it would need to do so? Historically the Synod DID prescribe the exclusive use of doctrinally pure Agenda and Hymnal. Would just that much be possible today???

William Weedon said...

Should also note that the Gospel is what should produce humility; not some external authority. But if there is no authority, how is humble submission even a possibility?

Sean said...

"Doctrinally pure" is different than "Synodically approved." Those don't need to be in opposition to each other... but they could be. At the very least, it is likely that many good and historic things would be forbidden along with the bad and transient things.

Submission always leaves the opportunity to be abused... maybe that's fine. The Gospel is not afraid to be abused. Most of us are.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear William:

This is a thought-provoking piece.

Lacking bishops and superintendents with legal authority, we are going to have to rely on what the IRS (in their case erroneously calls) "voluntary compliance."

Of course, we now have churches that have entirely ditched the liturgy for rock concerts and dancing girls. They cannot with a good conscience confess Article XXIV (of which one pastor told me is "descriptive" rather than "proscriptive" - to which I say, if it's descriptive than it should describe what goes on in all of our churches, otherwise it isn't "descriptive" at all but sheer falsehood.

I did have a disagreement with you on an earlier post on this topic, and I wanted to run it by you. You had said that your practice, when using DS1, is to speak the verba, and when using DS3 to chant them.

I chant them all the time. I don't think this violates any church order or creates any division, as I believe it would not be inappropriate, say, to have an entirely spoken Mass (as some churches do especially during the week). I don't think the music is necessarily binding. In fact, some of our most beautiful Lutheran music came from alternative music for Masses (such as Bach).

I think it is within reasonable freedom within our structure to either sing or speak the verba (or any of the service) in any setting - such as when we chanted the Lord's Prayer during Matins at the seminary, or when pastors would chant their parts out of TLH even lacking the musical notation in the hymnal (they were obviously in the pastor's chant manual).

I think these issues needed to be tackled long ago, since the rock and roll and dancing girls are not going to go away. Maybe we need (in the words of the sainted Kurt Marquart) an amicable divorce - given how destructive our lack of unity in this area is, the amount of time and resources it consumes, and the confusion it causes people in our church.

Just a few thoughts!

William Weedon said...

Reverend Dean, I do not believe that chanting the verba all the time in any way vitiates against our received orders. I'm sorry if I gave that impression. I simply noted what our practice was here in that regard.

And difficult as this is to say in this climate, we need to say it: responsible use of freedom is itself a catholic principle (Piepkorn). Nothing I wrote in the above should be construed as in any way denying that.

Pastor Peters said...

Authority was one word not spoken at the pow wow. We all agree diversity is good but which diversity and how much diversity and who gets to say where the boundary limits go...

I, for one, would distinguish those who add to the Divine Service from those who take away. This proceeds from different understandings, different purposes, and toward different ends.

Sadly, those who would be Bishops in our polity are often those who understand least and feel least comfortable at the altar or discussing things liturgical. Perhaps this says something about the men we elect and why we elect them. I must confess that I would prefer one who had few opinions than one whose opinions conflicted with my own...

William Weedon said...

Amen, Fr. Peters.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

I think the problem is that sometimes we confuse the ideal with the acceptable. We long for the ideal form of worship, and forget that for the sake of unity, all one needs is that which is acceptable. Use the LSB, and speak or chant. Sing what hymns from that book you will. Ideal? No. But most acceptable -- and it would be much finer if that were the case.

William Weedon said...

At least half the participants at the conference, though, Pr. Brown, would find such a suggestion repressive and unacceptable.

Past Elder said...

This is what leads people to Rome.

There, authority is clear. It may not be followed, it may be disregarded, it may be challenged, it may be attacked as invalid and replaced with another model in places, all sorts of things happen other than a harmonious unity, but, who has the authority is clear.

The lesson for us is the other side of the coin -- a clear source of authority does not produce the results desired.

William Weedon said...


Agreed except with this amendment: "a clear source of authority does not necessarily produce the desired results."

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Pr. Weedon,

Which then begs the traditional question - What does THIS mean? If I wish not to speak the language, do I really desire to be part of the people to which I claim to belong?

Although I would make a distinction between those who merely think that a way of that which is loose and wild to be *an* effective method, and those who would spurn the traditional as completely outmoded. Those in the middle are what holds things together.

William Weedon said...

Well, I'd agree. But the huge question is what to do when many would say:

We ARE part of the family, but have no need to be restricted to the liturgy or hymns of that particular book. We're free in Christ to use other liturgical forms and entirely different songs. But we're still part of the same family.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the concern you have stated in this post. And I note that order/authority/submission is precisely for the sake of the giving and receiving of Divine Gifts. That's what it's all about---both the created order and the re-created order that is Church. So this is no small question.

However, frightened as I am to say it, I think this question is a secondary question and is impossible to address before we resolve the deeper theological questions. Questions such as: Why do Lutheran Churches purposely omit the Creeds, Canticles, Prayers, Hymns, and furniture such as fonts, altars, crucifixes, pulpits, and virtually anything which proclaims the presence and work of the Holy Trinity in the past, present, and future, in favor of stages, screens, couches and coffee machines? Not only is such a thing tolerated as an aberration, but it is celebrated and promoted as a new paradigm. Why make such changes? And what theology underlies these things?

Someone needs to address the question "why?" before getting to the questions of "who?" and "how?"

From the peanut gallery,

Tom Fast

Past Elder said...

"Furthermore Synod deems it necessary for the purification of the Lutheran Church in America, that the emptiness and the poverty in the externals of the service be opposed, which, having been introduced here by the false spirit of the Reformed, is now rampant.

All pastors and congregations that wish to be recognized as orthodox by Synod are prohibited from adopting or retaining any ceremony which might weaken the confession of the truth or condone or strengthen a heresy, especially if heretics insist upon the continuation or the abolishing of such ceremonies.

The desired uniformity in the ceremonies is to be brought about especially by the adoption of sound Lutheran agendas (church books).

Synod as a whole is to supervise how each individual pastor cares for the souls in his charge. Synod, therefore, has the right of inquiry and judgment. Especially is Synod to investigate whether its pastors have permitted themselves to be misled into applying the so-called "New Measures" which have become prevalent here, or whether they care for their souls according to the sound Scriptural manner of the orthodox Church."

From the founding of the Synod.


Rev. Eric J Brown said...

I am sure I have relatives in Sweeden and Germany - but we are generations removed. They are part of my family, but I never see them, and they use a different language than I do. That's simply where we are headed, if folks continue to use their freedom in a way that isolates them from the rest of their family.

Thus, I might say, "You *can* do as you please. . . but your actions have consequences, and your actions with regard to the liturgy have the consequence of separating yourself and distancing yourself from me."

christl242 said...

Why do Lutheran Churches purposely omit the Creeds, Canticles, Prayers, Hymns, and furniture such as fonts, altars, crucifixes, pulpits, and virtually anything which proclaims the presence and work of the Holy Trinity in the past, present, and future, in favor of stages, screens, couches and coffee machines?

Good question. My parish has a processional crucifix, a crucifix on the altar and all the symbols of catholic worship. We sang the entire order of Matins this morning, it was wonderful. I have to drive several miles out of my neighborhood to experience this but it's worth it.

But . . . if an inquirer or even another Lutheran were to stop first at the LCMS mission congregation not ten minutes from my house, that person would encounter screens, "modern" worship (in their own words)and all that goes with it.

Why are we set to competing with each other? If we're going to be Lutheran, as a Synod, let's be the real thing across the board. Or are we going to end up with a Synod within a Synod? What would Walther and Loehe do about the state of the LCMS today?


Anonymous said...


I'm not as worried about a synod within a synod as I am about the theology which is behind the changes I listed.

I am sincerely afraid that there are serious theological problems which undergird these things.

As a friend of mine says, we are not only adopting (uncritically) worship practices from American Evangelicalism. We are also adopting their tendency to avoid serious theological reflection before making such changes.

I certainly could be way off base. But it is a fear of mine. And I hate to even think about it, much less articuate it. But there you have it.

Tom Fast

Anonymous said...

What about people who grew up after all uniformity of worship and worship theology within the LCMS had dissolved? I'm sorry, but I simply do not recognize those LCMS Christians who practice Americanized Evangelical worship and hold similar theologies of worship as being part of the same "family" at all. I regard them no differently than I do other Evangelical Protestant Christians - as fellow Nicene Christian believers, but not as those with whom I share full doctrinal fellowship due to their errant theology and deficient praxis. Simply having "LCMS" on a sign doesn't change that reality. Calling an orange an apple doesn't make it so. Frankly, I can't even see how the LCMS makes sense anymore when there are congregations I can clearly recognize as Lutheran by their doctrine and practice and yet we are not in fellowship with them. How does it make sense for me as a confessional Lutheran to not be able to take communion at an Eldona congregation, but to be in communion fellowship with a congregation of the LCMS with worship no different (only more poorly done) than the local Baptist or non-denominational (read - Baptist) congregation, with open communion, female elders and communion assistants, and flyers promoting the ministry of Joyce Meyers (yes, I've seen this)? I'm sorry, people can say we're in the same family until they're blue in the face, but I just don't either see it or feel it.
[think I'll withhold the name on this one - but I'm a layperson]

C. Brian Bucklew said...

The excuse for all this that I hear continually is that,

"We need to do what ever it takes to be mission minded and to reach the lost, many of whom won't even step foot into a church if it looks and feels like a church (i.e. liturgical)".

Just read the latest Lutheran Witness, and you will see the way much of our Synod is thinking. The historic liturgy is viewed simply as an unnecessary 'boundary' between us and reaching the lost, because they cannot understand it and it is to 'church era' like, and we are living in a 'post church' era.

It is all very troubling to say the least, especially when all this talk of better evangelism by getting rid of the historic liturgy really is not even statistically and pragmatically true. But why even count baptisms anymore, when we instead count 'critical moments / events'?

christl242 said...

Well, I can sympathize with Anonymous. The last I knew of the LCMS was under President Barry.

I, too, am bewildered by the current culture of the LMCS. When I left the ELCA one of the reasons I didn't look for an LCMS congregation was because I had been told that the evangelical wing had taken control and confessionals were in the minority. So I headed to Rome and made an even bigger mistake.

I feel fortunate to have found an LCMS parish that for the most part still worships liturgically, but if something should happen where I find myself in a place where there are no similiar parishes, then what? Where do I find a new LCMS home? There is no way I could ever be comfortable in a congregation that has abandoned historic Lutheran worship and teaching.

I wonder if the upcoming convention is going to to be the make or break one.


Anonymous said...

In the midst of all of this, we must remember that we are not each other's enemies. If we consider those with whom we disagree our enemies, then we have simply been outflanked by our real enemy and will find ourselves fighting on the wrong front. "Our struggle is not with flesh and blood." (I'm chief of sinners in this regard so I have to keep repeating this to myself!)

This is precisely whey we need to approach the "worship wars" by engaging the theological argument which undergirds what is being done. Because we know the real enemy is one who fights his battles with untruth. This untruth must be discovered and corrected. I dont' know if it can be tolerated, reformed, or merely controlled by means of synodical bylaws.

Let's all take a deep breath, and try to find a way to engage the leaders of the CoWO movement...being quick to listen and ask clarifying questions....so that we understand exactly why it is they feel compelled to set aside what it is they set aside. There's really nothing to fear in doing so.

How this can be done? I don't know. But it needs to be done. I don't know if conferences like the recent one in St. Louis will do the trick or not. At least it's a start.

The Church has always simultaneously reached out and worked hard to keep her identity intact. It can be done. There's 2,000 years of history which proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that it can be done. But you have to be willing to work at it.

Ne desperamus

Tom Fast
PS--I take back my statement about Pr. Weedon's post, where I said his question is secondary. That was an overstatement on my part. I was simply trying to make a point of our need to determine what is running the CoWo movement.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Christine:

My last stint as a layman before going to seminary was a struggle. I was living in the vicinity of one of the largest cities in the U.S., surrounded by LCMS churches, but had to drive an hour to find a parish that even paid lip service to the liturgy - and even then, we had a huge goofy-factor.

Unfortunately, I don't think any convention or any election will help at all. Our loose congregational structure assures that pastors and congregations will not submit to any synodical authority. If the SP or the convention commanded my congregation to implement a "praise band" or rock and roll service, we would refuse. If the same authority were to mandate liturgy, the "usual suspects" would refuse.

And everyone would resist a structure that would centralize power int he hands of an SP or a central committee.

Apart from a miracle, I think we're simply going to get even more diverse - with traditional liturgy becoming diluted as not just one of two options, but one of ten options. And I don't think there is anything any candidate or committee can do about it.

People like what they like. It is a consumer mentality. Unless and until people adopt an attitude of submission instead of a pro-choice attitude, the fads and fashions will continue to gnaw at the legs of the liturgy.

Trent said...

In my opinion, LCMS church polity is probably the issue all of the men of “Patristic Quote of the Day" would find most foreign and disturbing.

William Weedon said...

This has been a most interesting discussion - I hardly know where to begin to chime in. Just a few brief thoughts, and more later.

Trent, triple amen.

Fr. Hollywood, the multiplicity of the "other" side surely was an aha to me at the worship conference.

Pr. Fast, I don't think it was an overstatement. I think it is vital also. It is just that we come down to brass tacks on the question of authority in a way that we do not on the other vital questions. And getting at a theology that underlies a moving target like this thing has become is very difficult. I wonder if we should not be expending the entirety of our effort at the moment on defending the thesis instead of delineating the antitheses? I know the Church calls for us to do both; but sure the thesis is the main part and we've not sufficiently shown that, I don't think, when it comes to these worship wars. Once that is clearly laid out, then the rejections can be stated more helpfully?

Christine, Brian, and Anon it is a shame indeed. There simply IS no barrier in the liturgy to the Word of God doing its faith-gifting task; and it is an alien theology that insists that the Word + is what does the job. That's finally a confession of the + and not the Word!

Well, enough from me for the moment. Thanks for the conversations.

Anonymous said...

Pr. Weedon,
Describe the "multiplicity of the other side", please. (I suspect the gathering was at least 2/3 "contempo", maybe more.)

Confessional Pastors I know have described being outnumbered and treated with condescension or contempt at district events. Some simply won't attend.

"Authority" is actively working against historical liturgical Lutheran practice. The missions they plant are no more "my" church than the Baptist, the Pentecostal... or the elca.

We laity are being robbed of our faith by being robbed of our faithful Pastors.

The framework for consistency was there. Someone quoted it above. Once, the Lutheran bodies in America used the "common service". Now you can't find two lcms churches in a large city liturgically Lutheran.

Why? What does "diversity" do for us?

William Weedon said...

Actually, the goal was to provide a contemporary worship pastor and a traditional pastor (and similar for musicians) from each district. I didn't have any sense that it was "unbalanced" as such.

The diversity struck me in that many times we're arguing against the substitution of Pentecostal Worship for that of the historic liturgy. But clearly there were things happening that have no place in either alternative. When a plate of warm, freshly baked cookies is used to scent the room so that it smells like home - that's NOT Pentecostal worship. I don't know what it is. That's what I meant. We've got a broader diversity going on than merely the praise band leading the choruses vs. singing the historic ordo of the Mass. Said another way: it's worse than I thought.

Anonymous said...

Warmly baked cookies? You're not serious, are you?

This puts a whole new spin on the old Jack Chic tract "Death Cookie." hahaha

Well, at least they know that in some way eating has to do with life in the family of God. We can grant them that much, I suppose.

Tom Fast

christl242 said...

Father Hollywood,

Thanks for your insights. Your points are well taken.

Pastor Weedon,

Said another way: it's worse than I thought.


Which is why I am wondering if Confessional Lutherans will increasingly become an island in a synodical sea that is willing to wait us out.

The pastor my parish says if the LCMS ever strays from the Word of God he will encourage the congregation to leave. I understand his point but being Lutheran is more than properly reading the Bible. I would find that a terrible alternative, I still happen to think that the Lutheran Church has an important role to play -- when she is true to herself.


Past Elder said...

Guys (generic) the situation is serious to the point of grave indeed, but, our church polity -- read, no bishops and congregational -- has nothing to do whatever with why that it or how it will be changed.

The established Lutheran churches of Europe have guys in funny hats called bishops in places where there have been guys in funny hats called bishops, and by and large that has not kept them from being liberal as all hell and some of the guys in funny hats being female.

The story here with the ELCA is too familiar to need comment. Likewise the ECUSA. And the anarchy rife in the RCC likewise too, for those who think "re-union" with Rome will solve a damn thing.

A church with mitres and crosiers and bishops up the wazoo can be as seriously derailed as those without. To the extent we engage in mitre-envy we waste the energy we need elsewhere.

What total lunatic thought we could borrow from something that is as it is because it isn't what we are, and supply the Lutheran content!

Great Judas at yeshiva, do I come to a Lutheran church so I can BRING the Lutheran content? Gott hilf mir seitlich!

Father Hollywood said...

Dear PE:

Having an outlet in the wall is no guarantee that you will be able to run your electric drill (we can all point to numerous power failures). But *not* having the plug will most certainly guarantee that you will *not* be able to run it.

Having hierarchical authority will not guarantee unity and orthodoxy. But having no authority whatsoever (read: LCMS polity) does guarantee that we will have chaos. And that is what we have - especially in matters of worship.

The LCMS's experimental polity fell apart in a little over a century, some 5% of the time the Church has been around since the days of the apostles. Talk about a blip on the radar screen!

By contrast, the best examples of churches that have preserved both unity and orthodoxy are those churches that both: 1) Recognize Scripture as infallible, and 2) Have bishops.

This juxtaposition (a both/and not an either/or) is displayed in places like Kenya, the Missionary Province of Sweden and Finland, Russia, Latvia, and Lithuania.

Democracy is as incompatible with the Church as it is to the good of the lone sheep in a community with two wolves voting for what to eat for dinner.

And I know you're just having some fun, but I don't really see why you're mocking these churchmen who are suffering a "gray martyrdom" (in the words of the Swedish churchman Fredrik Sidenvall) - some of the most courageous Lutherans on the planet - by mocking the ancient symbols and vestments of their church. Continuity is important to these pastors and laypeople - much more so than it is to us. I wish we had such attachment to our fathers in the faith.

I can't imagine there would be too many LCMS Lutherans who would refuse to have a churchman of the caliber of Bo Giertz as a District President because he carried a crosier (which the English District President in the LCMS does, btw) and wore a miter.

Past Elder said...

Well, the thing is, you can't just up and have bishops. Bishops that bishops from all the other churches that have bishops recognise as bishops, that is. Hell, those churches can't even agree on what constitutes validity and who has it themselves! And a bunch of guys titled bishop who don't agree on what bishop is and who is bishop do not constitute church or leadership therein. Judas Priest on a cathedra, we got three "bishops" right here in Omaha (Catholic, Episcopal, Lutheran) that I know of, and probably a few more in storefronts!

Geez, the Lutheran one even has "We Do Mission" as a motto on his website!

Walther was dead on, there is no reason for us here to ape the structures of the old country, from whose failures we came here to escape!

Worthless, whether in period costume or not.

I admire the men you mention, which has nothing to do with their titles or official garb, which, having come from across the Tiber where there's enough of that to fill churches and any number of outlet stores and garage sales, impress me not in the least.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear PE:

Christians don't agree with each other about what the Eucharist is - but I'm not going to mock the Eucharist and and say it doesn't matter.

The Lutheran bishops all get it and confess the same understanding of their ministry and the value in having continuity.

christl242 said...

The Lutheran bishops all get it and confess the same understanding of their ministry and the value in having continuity.

Well that, of course, is the problem in a nutshell.

ELCA, Episcopal and yes, even Roman Catholic bishops have the form of the office but because they have not remained faithful to Scripture have corrupted what it was originally intended to do.

It is equally obvious that our looser Synodical structure is not serving as a vehicle of unity at this particular time in our history when cultural influences are again heavily pressing in on us to abandon our historic confessions.

I don't have a problem with an episcopal structure that bows to the authority of Scripture.


christl242 said...

On the other hand, I have to also agree with Past Elder -- one of the finest presidents and teachers the LCMS has ever had is C.F.W. Walther -- his writings still speak clearly and efficaciously -- and he was no bishop!


Past Elder said...

"I don't have a problem with an episcopal structure that bows to the authority of Scripture."

Neither do I. What I have a problem with, is the notion that an episcopal structure produces and maintains submission to the authority of Scripture, and that a lack of episcopal structure is the cause of not submitting to the authority of Scripture.

I could not care less whether they are called bishops, overseers, superintendents, district presidents, pastors, or whatever.

I could not care less whether they appear in hats derived from Roman Imperial authority figures or business suits or whatever.

I think particularly we in America do not understand that the Reformation happened in a society quite unlike ours, and that the structural and authoritarian unity, in which we hoped those who occupy the office of bishop would heed the reform, reflects not a unity of belief or practice but simply a unity of entity, so to speak deriving from the society of the day.

Which this being neither that day nor that society, even in the old country, we do not need to recreate its structures here.

Nor do we see, in those who have either attempted to do so or imported them from the old countries, anything a submission to the authority of Scripture or an agreement on what that even means.

So it matters not whether there is one, for example, bishop of Omaha (it's an archbishop actually) whom we hope confesses the Christian faith accurately stated in the Book of Concord as would have been the original hope, or whether there is a Catholic bishop of the diocese (the word is an Imperial administrative unit, named after the Emperor Diocletian who set them up) of Omaha, an Episcopal bishop of the Diocese of Nebraska who lives in Omaha, a Lutheran bishop of the Nebraska Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America who lives in Omaha, and however many other guys want to run around with titles and garb of one sort or another.

It matters not, one, many, or none at all, it matters not! And it would be a complete, total, utter and entire waste of time to think that adding one more clown to the circus of reproducing a structure from a society that doesn't exist even where it used to will change anything for anyone.

christl242 said...

I think particularly we in America do not understand that the Reformation happened in a society quite unlike ours, and that the structural and authoritarian unity, in which we hoped those who occupy the office of bishop would heed the reform, reflects not a unity of belief or practice but simply a unity of entity, so to speak deriving from the society of the day.

Can't argue with that splendid observation. The Roman tent has become very, very roomy but as long as one offers submission to the Chair of Peter all is well.

Yes, it is easy to "read back" into history what we want to see. Been there, done that. Not the kind of episcopacy I would wish for Confessional Lutherans.


Boaz said...

This is the danger of over-emphasis on uniformity in adiaphora: unsatisfaction with our authority.

Lutherans are bound by clear authority: the teachings of Christ and the Apostles. That's it. Those teachings do not how one church should corporately relate to another, except in love.

Those teachings say we preach Christ crucified, eat and drink his body and blood as he instructed, but it doesn't say, we must use all of the ordinaries as are developed in church tradition or use certain forms of music.

So, encouraging and praising better uses of freedom in matters of freedom, like the format of worship, is exactly the right language to use.

But what I'm hearing now is an encouragent of them to subject themselves to an authority on matters of liturgical freedom, when previously, no such authority has been recognized.

There is no scriptural mandate for how congregations should corporately interact, except in love.That can mean consenting to authority of a bishop, but notjing binds our conscinces to do so.

In our time, part of that love I think means letting those who prefer lesser forms to use their freedom, but encouraging them to use better forms and working toward uniformity where it can be had.

You know, that smell of cookies doesn't nullify the Word or the Sacraments, and I'd prefer to take comfort in their presence than build up more outrage at a poor use of freedom.

William Weedon said...


Do you REALLY think that there is a danger on overemphasis on the values of uniformity at work among us today? The whole area of uniformity which our spiritual forebears valued enormously is rather striking by its absence in discussions today in the Synod, no? "Exclusive use of doctrinally pure Agenda and Hymnbooks" is the language of Synod's constitution, though.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear PE:

You write:

"I think particularly we in America do not understand that the Reformation happened in a society quite unlike ours, and that the structural and authoritarian unity, in which we hoped those who occupy the office of bishop would heed the reform, reflects not a unity of belief or practice but simply a unity of entity, so to speak deriving from the society of the day."

Yes, you've summed up the problem nicely.

Unlike 16th century Germany, we live in an egalitarian society, not one used to hierarchy - which is why we have a violent rebellious "youth culture," women wearing the pants in the family, and milquetoast fathers. The solution is not capitulation, but rather reestablishing authority as the Lord created society (and church) to work.

The word "pastor" has lost its meaning. To "pastor" (according to Hebrew) is to rule over. The word is laden with authority. Psalm 23's opening in Latin reflects this: "Dominus regit me" ("The Lord rules me").

We are not to "lord over" in the way of the Gentiles, but by the same token, lay people are to "submit" to the authorities - a passage of Scripture (Heb 13:17) that is incompatible with contemporary American (and LCMS) life.

Another name of the pastor in Scripture is the "episkopos" (translated as "bishop" in older translations). Modern translations render it "overseer." But in the LCMS, the "overseers" are the voters. The pastors are themselves overseen, not overseeing.

And the idea that there should be any kind of transparochial rule or flow of pastoral authority beyond the parish level (like in Acts 15, for example) is anathema to democratic Americans.

We have a huge problem with authority, you are absolutely right that this is why American churches - including the LCMS - have shunned the traditional and confessional preference for episcopal polity. It is a hard sell in a culture of extreme individualism.

If there is one item that could stand in as the symbol of American Christianity, it would be the individual communion cup. That is the American Church in a nutshell. This is completely at odds with the notion of pastoral overseers and authority.

Even the ancient symbols of that authority - the crosier, hearkening back to the word "pastor" itself" - is proudly mocked by Americans. I think deep down maybe we prefer the symbolism of the guillotine than the crown, of the baseball cap than the miter.

Of course, even given the reality of our culture, I don't think it means that we should just tear out Hebrews 13 out of the Bible and let 12-year old Johnny stay out all night and drop out of school.

We can see the chaos our egalitarianism has wrought upon church and society.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Boaz:

You write:

"But what I'm hearing now is an encouragent of them to subject themselves to an authority on matters of liturgical freedom, when previously, no such authority has been recognized."

There has never been a time when Lutheran hymnals did not have both "may" and "shall" rubrics.

Following the "shall" rubrics are not necessary to be a Christian, but to be part of a community we do need to submit to some authority for the sake of love.

I don't think anyone is suggesting we jail anyone who does not follow the liturgy, but I certainly will not encourage my parishioners to visit non-liturgical congregations when they go out of town.

Maybe we should recognize what we already have: a broken fellowship. We're a dysfunctional family, and we can't fix the problem by ignoring the elephant in the parlor and just encouraging everyone to do whatever they want.

Just my two cents!

christl242 said...

Well, Alan Jones, the former rector of Grace Episcopal Cathedral once wrote that Americans don't make very good Catholics because of our extreme individualism.

I suppose that's true in some ways. But there is a difference between Catholic and catholic.

But the model of 16th century Germany was followed throughout the Roman Catholic empire. The paradigm of not lording it over the flock was badly disfigured at the time of the Reformation. If the Catholic hierarchy had "gotten it" at that time even the Catholic church would be very different today, more aligned with the spirit of the Gospel and today's evangelicals would also understand that they threw the baby out with the bath water, all the culturally-driven worship in the world won't fix that.

I don't think anyone is suggesting we jail anyone who does not follow the liturgy, but I certainly will not encourage my parishioners to visit non-liturgical congregations when they go out of town.

. . .

Maybe we should recognize what we already have: a broken fellowship. We're a dysfunctional family, and we can't fix the problem by ignoring the elephant in the parlor and just encouraging everyone to do whatever they want.

Can't argue with that either, Father Hollywood.


Past Elder said...

Problem with authority?

The authority with which we have a problem is that of Scripture, not bleeding bishops.

And speaking of Scripture, who does it say chooses overseers and by what criteria? Peter and his "successors"? Make sure there's a continuity with the guy before?

No matter what kind of bullroar comes out of Houston, for example, it won't come along with the Houston City Council signing off on the documents and making sure that's what happens in the Houston churches that are part of the city government and the only churches there are going to be in town.

As to adiaphora, that is not even a Christian concept. It's Stoic, and was borrowed to help explain some things. It doesn't mean everything's OK that's adiaphora, you can do whatever you want. It does not mean what is divinely commanded are the only good ideas, it means that such good ideas are the only ones with a divine command, but as the Confessions take some pains to point out, divine command is neither the only sign of a good idea nor the only reason for following one.

christl242 said...

And speaking of Scripture, who does it say chooses overseers and by what criteria? Peter and his "successors"? Make sure there's a continuity with the guy before?

Hmmm. Brings up an interesting question. When Matthias was chosen as an apostle, wasn't it on the grounds that he had been an eyewitness of the life of the Lord?

I thought I read somewhere that there can't be any "actual" successors to the original apostles on that basis?


Father Hollywood said...

Dear Christine:

I think the term "successor" gets people a little cross-eyed sometimes - but it shouldn't.

The authority Jesus gave the apostles involved forgiving sins by virtue of having the charism of the Holy Spirit to do so (John 20). Obviously, that gift did not die when St. John died as the last apostle around 100 AD.

St. Paul demonstrates in his pastoral epistles how the Holy Spirit is conveyed from the apostles to the men who succeed them (successors) in the office of preaching and absolving (e.g. 2 Tim 1:6). This is why we Lutherans retained ordination (AC and Ap 14), and are even willing to call it a sacrament (Ap 13) as it carries a promise.

We do not allow men to ordain themselves. Authority is given in an orderly way as established by our Lord and the apostles.

When we confess the church to be "apostolic" we are all claiming successorship to the apostles as members of the church. Pastors are likewise successors of the apostles by virtue of their divine call into the preaching office.

Anonymous said...

Along the line of drawing people in by using the scent of freshly baked cookies (and let me tell you, I'd kill for some chocolate chip cookies right now), I'm thinking of putting a drop of pheromones on the host, in hopes it will actually draw folks to the Holy Supper or our Lord's Body and Blood. Sometimes a Promise just isn't enough.

Sorry to interrupt an interesting conversation, but I thought we could use some comic relief.

Tom Fast

Father Hollywood said...

Dear PE:

You write:

"The authority with which we have a problem is that of Scripture, not bleeding bishops."

I don't think it is an either/or.

When bishops submit to Scripture, the people ought to submit to their bishops. Heb 13:17 implores Christians to obey their spiritual "leaders". In both Matt 28 and John 20, our Lord gives authority to the disciples. Unless authority is being abused or usurped, we're supposed to submit to authority, aren't we?

In Acts 15, we see the local bishop exercising authority that he did not get from a Bible, but rather by virtue of his office. Nobody challenged James based on sola scriptura, adiaphora, or the lack of a voter's assembly. He exercised godly authority and it does not seem that his decision was "only advisory."

When bishops reject the Bible, the people (lay and clergy) need to treat them as wolves in the sheepfold. But when the shepherds are faithful to Scripture, they ought to be obeyed even as we are called to obey our earthly fathers.

The term "bleeding bishop" makes me think of dear St. Thomas of Canturbury, hacked to death at his own altar for not being politically correct, and for not obeying the wicked king who used his office to subvert the Church.

Past Elder said...

Hey that's it! I go to a meeting of a non-religious group that meets in the parish hall of an Episcopal church, and pass by the sanctuary door every week, outside of which is a Eucharistic banner with a chalice and what I suppose is supposed to be a tray of hosts but to me looks just like a pepperoni pizza!

Speaking of hosts, can't have that, Jesus didn't use no individual hosts and the whole thing flies in the face of his institution of breaking and distributing the one loaf!

Father Hollywood said...

Dear PE:

You write:

"Speaking of hosts, can't have that, Jesus didn't use no individual hosts and the whole thing flies in the face of his institution of breaking and distributing the one loaf!"

That's why I'm getting rid of electric lights during Wednesday night Mass and reinstituting oil lamps. And wait until they get a load of the remodeled bathrooms... ;-)

christl242 said...

I do understand how the Office of the Holy Ministry is structured in the LCMS, I must have been thinking of this:

Call of St. Matthias

St. John Chrysostom

Because he was a witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ, Saint Matthias was chosen by the other apostles to take the place of Judas (Acts 1;15-26). This commentary on the call of St. Matthias comes from a homily on the Acts of the Apostles by Satnt John Chrysostom (Hom 3, 1.2.3: PG 60, 33-36, 38). It is used in the Roman office of readings for the Feast of Saint Matthias on May 14.

In those days, Peter, stood up in the midst of the disciples and said... As the fiery spirit to whom the flock was entrusted by Christ and as the leader in the band of the apostles, Peter always took the initiative in speaking: My brothers, we must choose from among our number. He left the decision to the whole body, at once augmenting the honour of those elected and avoiding any suspicion of partiality. For such great occasions can easily lead to trouble.

Did not Peter then have the right to make the choice himself? Certainly he had the right, but he did not want to give the appearance of showing special favour to anyone. Besides he was not yet endowed with the Spirit. And they nominated two, we read, Joseph, who was called Barsabbas and surnamed Justus, and Matthias. He himself did not nominate them; all present did. But it was he who brought the issue forward, pointing out that it was not his own idea but had been suggested to him by a scriptural prophecy. So he was speaking not as a teacher but as an interpreter.

So, he goes on, we must choose from those men who lived in our company. Notice how insistent he is that they should be eyewitnesses. Even though the Spirit would come to ratify the choice, Peter regards this prior qualification as most important.

Those who lived in our company, he continued, all through the time when the Lord Jesus came and went among us. He refers to those who had dwelt with Jesus, not just those who had been his disciples. For of course from the very beginning many had followed him. Notice how it is written that Peter himself was one of the two who had listened to John, and followed Jesus.

All through the time when the Lord Jesus came and went among us, beginning with the baptism of John – rightly so, because no one knew what had happened before that time, although they were to know of it later through the Spirit.

Up to the day, Peter added, on which he was taken up from us – one of these must be made a witness along with us of his resurrection. He did not say “a witness of the rest of his actions” but only a witness of the resurrection. That witness would be more believable who could declare that he who ate and drank and was crucified also rose from the dead. He needed to be a witness not of the times before or after that event, and not of the signs and wonders, but only of the resurrection itself. For the rest happened by general admission, openly; but the resurrection took place secretly, and was known to these men only.

And they all prayed together, saying: You, Lord, know the hearts of men; make your choice known to us. “You”, not “we”. Appropriately they said that he knew the hearts of men, because the choice was to be made by him, not by others.

They spoke with such confidence, because someone had to be appointed. They did not say “choose” but make known to us the chosen one; the one you choose, they said, fully aware that everything was pre-ordained by God. They then drew lots. For they did not think themselves worthy to make the choice of their own accord, and therefore they wanted some sign for their instruction.


Past Elder said...

Re Becket, been to his place of martyrdom and no disrespect of him or that.

Archbishop of Canterbury. Which solved nothing and solves nothing. The last one of those, according to the church to which Becket belonged, was Reginald Pole, and from the next one (Matthew Parker) to the current one none of them are actually archbishops neither of Canterbury nor anything else, yet the church which now controls the archbishopric regards Becket as a saint and martyr right along with the "other" church which regards, having only been allowed back since 1850, the archbishop of Westminster as the spiritual heir to Canterbuty.

What a total joke. (The bishop thing, not the man.)

Archbishop of Westminster Basil Cardinal Hume was a Benedictine though, and a huge football (soccer) fan.

Past Elder said...

I'm glad to hear of the changes. So maybe the trip to Gretna isn't off! BTW, I still remember how to hold the priest's chasuble while he genuflects, among other altar boy skills. I'm probably too big for any of their cassocks though.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear PE:

You are welcome in Gretna any time, Brother! It would be a real hoot.

Past Elder said...

Any chance of stopping off in Baton Rouge? There's this piano playing preacher there.

Bryce P Wandrey said...

I have skimmed through most of the comments, joining a bit late.

What I find interesting is that, as far as I have understood it, LCMS pastors already consider themselves bishops. If I had to do the research I could find numerous blog posts where LCMS pastors call themselves in essence and function, bishops. (You can see this witnessed in the ordination rite of the LCMS as well; if I am not mistaken).

LCMS pastors confirm (traditionally reserved for bishops only) and they ordain other pastors (traditionally a bishop must be present in order to place his clergy in his diocese). The LCMS is not an episcopal system, most everything (if not everything) that goes through Synodical convention (at least when it comes to worship and practice) is advisory and in no way law. This lends itself to someone needing to fill the breach of authority. Why not the bishop, ie. the LCMS pastor of a congregation?