29 August 2011

A Cross-Posting

from ALPB.  This seemed to have generated some response and a number of folks said it was helpful.  Figured I'd post it here as well:

I'm not sure it will clarify or not, but for what it's worth.  We in the LCMS do not accept denominationalism.  We do not believe in the branch theory of the Church.  We recognize that our practice of closed communion is exactly what would be appropriate for the entire visible Church on earth.  We believe that what we believe is precisely what every jurisdiction/communion SHOULD believe, because it is - we hold - nothing other than what the Scriptures teach.

In other words, we don't regard those who hold to a different Confession as just "another denomination."  We regard the other confessions to the extent they differ from ours to be falsifications of the truth.  As offensive and prideful as they may sound, it's not intended to be anything less than what (until very recent times) EVERYONE believed about their own confession.

So we act in our communion discipline *as if* we were the legitimate heir and successor to the Catholic Church of the West.  That's a self-understanding derived from our Lutheran Symbols.  We do not claim to be the only jurisdiction in this Catholic Church of the West, purified by the Gospel.  We recognize other particular churches around the globe in whom the same faith resides - from the churches of the Archbishop of Latvia, to the churches of the Archbishop of Kenya and the Bishop of Southern Africa and the President of the LCC, and a bunch of others.  Consequently the notion that our altars are closed to non Missourians is actually not at all accurate.  

In the corrupted state of the Church in which doctrine that we cannot but regard as false and dangerous is enshrined in the confessions of other jurisdictions, this leads invariably to acknowledging in them that while members of the Church Catholic may well reside in their midst (in fact, most certainly DO), nonetheless those Churches by the acceptance of various falsehoods alongside the truth of God, cannot be acknowledged as true sister churches on a par with our Synod.  Again, I know it sounds horrific to the ears of those who think denominationally, but if you think confessionally it makes perfect sense:  confessions can be entirely pure, somewhat corrupted, or totally destructive of the Christian faith.  We tend to put almost all the other confessions (Anglican, Reformed, Roman, Orthodox) as "somewhat corrupted."  Totally destructive would be something like a Mormon or JW confession.

So back to the assumption that an LCMS person holds the pure confession - that IS the assumption we would make, unless the person in question gives evidence that his participation at our altars is in fact a lie - that he disagrees with our Lutheran confession of the Christian faith as expressed in our Lutheran Symbols.

I've probably offended all my ELCA friends and many of my Missouri ones by the above, but I think it's clear that until we can get the differing ecclesiologies understood, there's no hope of anyone understanding our practice of responsible communion (my preferred term), which takes seriously into account the nature of one's public profession at a given altar (where, as Pr. Speckhard says, he or she is willing to accept correction).


Anonymous said...

This kinda slides right by folks. When my wife had us sit in a class at our local LCMS church they explained church was anywhere the word of god was rightly preached and the sacraments rightly celebrated.

Took me a while to figure out that the implication then is whomever they do not commune with are essentially "not the church" or to state it otherwise the LCMS is the "one true church"

This turns out to be essentially the view of the founders in the 1800's in Missouri and itself inherits from Luther -vs- Calvinists, Anabaptists, Catholics, etc.

I am pretty sure though that this is not the view held by the majority of LCMS members today.

How far off am I in my understanding ?

Jeremy Loesch said...

Will, I thought your words were an excellent explanation of things. And how we aren't quite where we ought to be. Thinking confessionally vs denominationally is a huge challenge when so much of the Christian world is stuck in a denominational mindset. It's a unity of lowest common denominator. This kind of ecumenism doesn't lead to unity; it leads to a solidifying of denominational boundaries.

This may be why I was so pleased to hear of Pres. Harrison's lunch with the Roman Catholic archbishop. Our confessions are very close together. And our confessions with our Lutheran bodies is not at all close. Happiness and sadness all at the same time.

Have you read VP Mueller's reaction of the recent ELCA convention? It's on the wmlt blog.

Nicely done Will.


Pr. H. R. said...

Very good. A simple way to put it to those who ask questions in Bible Class or on Sunday morning before the service: When I commune you, I am saying Amen to your spiritual life. I am saying that your spiritual life is where it should be. How can a Lutheran pastor say that to a Baptist who won't have his kids baptized? Or to a Roman Catholic who prays to saints?

And indeed, I expect the same from a Baptist preacher or a Roman priest. How could I ask them to bless my spiritual life in toto?


Sage said...

Thank you for the wonderful explanation. Also, I'm amazed at how tactfully you handle yourself under fire over there. Bright spot in the mess.

I guess when people don't take the time to read the confessions or remember them, they get all kinds of doctrine-meld going on. Something to avoid at all costs. I'm learning a great deal from lurking over there.

Pastor Harvey S. Mozolak said...

I don't understand tho... Pr H R when he says, "When I commune you... I am saying....etc." Christ is the one who gives you of his body and blood, forgiveness, life and salvation...." While I have a high view of the office of the pastor, I am in the last analysis merely a vessel not the grace and the less I say sometimes the more God can say. Harvey Mozolak

Pr. H. R. said...

Fr. Mozolak,

I understand the sentiment you are trying to get across and agree with it - as Dr. Nagel is found of saying it is the LORD'S Supper. Nevertheless, we are the "stewards of the mysteries," which was the point I was seeking to get across. A faithful steward does not give out the Sacrament willy-nilly. If we agree that far, then all that remains is: how is he to decide to whom to give it? You have Fr. Weedon's take, with which I agree, and my own words above are meant to be a summary of that advice. If the steward doesn't decide on this basis, then on what other basis?


Mark said...

Rather than being offended, I find this bracing and clarifying. Many thanks.

Unknown said...

The posting reads, “We believe that what we believe is precisely what every jurisdiction/communion SHOULD believe, because it is - we hold - nothing other than what the Scriptures teach.”

I will be grateful to anyone for giving me the reference to Scripture where this is taught. Obviously I am aware of 1 Cor. 11:29, but there are two problems with it:
1. The interpretation of “the Body” being the sacramental Body as opposed to the mystical Body (the Church) is highly suspect. I think I have read all of the articles in favor of the sacramental argument, and I find them less than convincing. Our Confessions do not use it as a proof-text. Only Gerhard, among the Reformers does.
2. But even if you accept the “sacramental” interpretation, neither this text, nor any others, place the responsibility for proper reception of the Lord’s Supper on anyone but the recipient, even as Judas participated in the first Communion distributed by our Lord Himself. Where is it written that Pastors should withhold communion from anyone who comes to the altar whom they do not know?

Please do not write about any of the dire consequences that abandoning “close(d)” (see, I know) Communion will bring. Sola Scriptura please.

Peace and Joy!
George A. Marquart

joel in ga said...

To George's point about Judas can be added the fact that the other disciples at that first Lord's Supper were pretty clueless themselves. Who can be sure that they, prior to the Resurrection, understood what was going on when the elements were distributed?

Seems to me churches--especially fallible churches whose particular understanding of the Real Presence I have never found in the writings of the Church Fathers--should trust the Lord and commune the clueless too.

The principle would be the same as that found in 2 Corinthians 8:12, where the baptized believer was accepted according to what faith and understanding he had rather than rejected because of what he lacked.