09 November 2011

Thoughts on "Exclusive Use"

Yes, it's rather a hot-bottom issue.  The Synod's constitution requires now and has always required "exclusive use of doctrinally pure Agenda and Hymnbooks" in the congregations of the Synod.  Nothing much has changed on the constitutional front.  In the earlier iterations of my own congregation's constitution, we may read:  "In all public services of this congregation, only genuine Lutheran Hymns and in all ministerial acts only genuine Lutheran forms shall be used."  They are of a piece, but not quite the same.  The Synod's Constitution explicitly says that NO worship material may be used save what comes from "doctrinally pure" Agenda and Hymnbooks.  Hence, if you find a nifty hymn in the Methodist hymnal and it's 100% orthodox, you really may not use it if or until it is included in a Lutheran hymnbook where there are not other heterodox hymns.

Today we have Lutherans (even officials in high places) who believe that this is just WAY too restrictive.  It may well be!  I'm open to debate it.  What I'm not open to is continuing to SAY one thing and then go right on doing something far, far different.

This is a matter of simple integrity.  Either we ought to change the constitution to reflect the current reality; or we ought to change the current reality to reflect the constitution.  This is a conversation we OUGHT be having; not saying "yes" and "no" at the same time and pretending that no one notices.  EVERYONE NOTICES!!!! 

Where to start?  I'd start with a study of "why" the "exclusive use," and what it meant in the days it was originally penned.  I'd certainly weigh the changes that have occurred between those days and these, but then we need to openly, honestly and fully debate among ourselves whether this was a wise and good rule that applies to all times; or whether its usefulness has come to an end; or whether it simply needs some tweaking.  Whatever we do, continuing to say one thing and then do whatever the devil we want from parish to parish is NOT an option.

Recently on another forum Dr. Benke noted the great strength we have in LSB.  He's right.  It's been an utterly remarkable success.  Can we live in it?  Is it possible?  Would it be desirable?  How would it strengthen or weaken our Synodical fellowship?  Does it open a path for the LCMS to find common ground in worship once again after all these years? 

Lots of questions.  The answers still are in the future - and so in the Lord's hands.  May it be, dear Lord, may it be!


Boaz said...

You seem to be reading requirements into the clause that aren't there. The constitution requires

"exclusive use of doctrinally pure Agenda, hymnbooks, and catechisms" as a condition of membership.
That means that all agendas, hymnbooks, and catechisms used must be doctrinally pure. Impure agendas, hymnbooks, and catechisms cannot be used at all.

But why can't I make my own doctrinally pure hymnbook by piecing together good songs that aren't in the LSB? LCMS churches do that all the time. They commission hymns, write songs for sunday school or christmas programs, write descants or other works for choirs. etc. Is there something else in the by-laws or constitution that defines "doctrinally pure" as "synod approved"?

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

The other side of this issue would end up being this -- at what point was Luther's baptismal rite part of our agendas? Would it be wrong to use it without it there? Or importing an older collect from the old Lutheran orders?

Frankly, I'd live with being limited to simply what is in the books, but there is a move beyond just what the Synod has produced on the more, conservative side, shall we say....

Christopher D. Hall said...

Boaz, you ask "why can't I make my own doctrinally pure hymnbook by piecing together good songs that aren't in the LSB?" And the answer to this one is rather easy: because you are not the arbiter of doctrinal purity. We have the doctrinal review process of the Synod that establishes this.

I'm not trying to insult you. You are no doubt a great theologian. I don't know you, but it wouldn't surprise me if you were a better theologian than I am. You may very well understand our Lutheran Confessions better than I do. But you nor I are the Synod. You nor I are given the vocation of deciding doctrinal purity as the Synod defines it in her constitution.

We can certainly apply our discernment to the issues in our parish. We can, and should apply all our theological understanding and insight to what we meet in our called places. But our called place has put herself under the doctrinal authority of the BOC and agreed to use the "stuff" from the Synod.

Perhaps I am taking this too far as well. But we must be cautious to remember that pastors, commissioned ministers, laymen and all are not lone rangers. We are a Body.

Christopher D. Hall said...

Oh, and I agree with you, Fr. Weedon. Integrity and honesty demand we shan't ignore this.

Rev. Luke T. Zimmerman said...


Actually, I believe that Pr. Weedon is right about what he reads of the constitutional requirement. And I concur with his "integrity/honesty" take.

However, your question about making your own doctrinally pure hymnbook is something that needs to be considered. That is, the current ability of congregations and individuals to be their own "publishing house" by having a minimum of a computer and printer is something that the authors of the Constitution could not have fathomed.

While on a different topic, questions have been raised about notifications of Synod matters and sending of Convention workbooks, whether it had to be hard copy by post or would sending CDs/DVDs sufficed. Again, the changes in time and technology may make some of the Constitution & Bylaw requirements archaic.

I would support revisiting the Constitution's requirement and adjusting the language to better fit the situation on the ground, as well as give better delineation of what can/cannot be used in our worship. Having a skeleton of what is required, then having a plethora of materials that can be used to augment the requisite ordos would be beneficial. Having someone besides an individual parish pastor/worship committee/minister of music be the "permission granting authority" should allow for a better, churchly way of doing things.

William Weedon said...

Good comments - thanks!

Boaz, I think Pr. Hall's point is very important to consider. There's something to be said for a doctrinal review process - it doesn't leave the final decision in the hands of any one person, but a group works through this and that gives some better hope of error not slipping through.

Pr. Brown, I suppose I'm odd in this, but I tend to operate with an open backward policy: something from the vast treasure trove of our liturgical heritage remains usable. For example, I would never criticize Pr. Peters for using the Eucharistic Prayers from Worship Supplement - they remain part of our own heritage.

Pr. Zimmerman, amen also to your comments.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Fr. Weedon - I myself tend to favor a backwards compatibility... and even the ability to alter things. I modified the "Farewell and Godspeed to a candidate for Ordination" into a Farewell and Godspeed to a man headed to Seminary".

However, I'm thinking like a rule-tyrant here - and if we allow for a backwards compatibility... does that leave room for that 2007 Creative Worship service to be fair game as it was produced by the Synod? If the goal is straight forward unity, letting there be backwards compatibility might open too many other doors that would de facto scuttle that similarity in practice.

Of course, if I were actually going to advise or shape a new policy, I'd probably suggest just use LSB, LW, or TLH materials -- with translations of the old and new creations (hymn or other things) if met with unanimous approval at the preceding Winkel. Have the Circuit be a little clearing house (not just the Circuit Counsellor - but check with the neighbors -- is this something that might disturb their congregations). It would be a pain - well, no, we can e-mail things to each other.

But I'd veto anything Hall did, just on general principal, that is, unless he agreed to grow out his awesome beard again =o)

David Garner said...

Something I have never understood and likely never will -- why is it not enough, given the diversity of resources in Lutheran hymnals, to simply use the hymnal as printed? What is the advantage to the parish to cobble together novelty?

MAYBE with TLH and LW one could argue "well, there isn't enough diversity," "it's boring," whatever. But with LSB, is that really a valid basis for going one's own way anymore?

Catholicity, I think, demands that people act as if there were something bigger than their little plot of land and their little building and their little parish. Acting as if one is on an island is not Christian. Certainly, there is freedom, but I don't really see freedom anymore. I see license. If nothing else, Pastor Weedon, your proposed solution to either conform practice to the constitution or conform the constitution to practice will require a coming together and discussion, which is how the Church behaves.

Daniel said...

"What I'm not open to is continuing to SAY one thing and then go right on doing something far, far different."

The glue that holds the LCMS together is the salary, health and retirement packages. Remember, young, impressionistic pastors and laymen read this blog. Do not inspire them to fight a battle you yourself are not willing to die for. This potpourri of worship has been going on for the duration of your pastorate; "there you go again".

William Weedon said...


The diversity has GROWN during the entire time of my pastorate and it has become legitimized to some extent by the Synod's resolution on affirming "appropriate diversity." That is still totally capable of being understood in a Lutheran fashion, naturally, but it is also the camel's nose in the tent door. What holds the LCMS together is not a pension plan or health plan; what holds the LCMS together is a lex credendi struggling to exist apart from its native and natural lex orandi (yes, I know I'm misusing the terms, but hear them in the popular sense, not in the sense Propser used them!). If we take the wildest church growth church out there, if it is still Lutheran, it will not teach other than I teach here on justification, on the means of grace, and so on. The problem is the extent to which that common confession is being undermined by a diverse practice that in actual use subverts what one is teaching or preaching. I *think* the Synod is slowly waking up to the fact that while we do not acknowledge a divinely established lex orandi, it is absolutely the case that our lex orandi MUST be congruent with, in fact a prayed version of, our lex credendi. President Harrison's recent words on that were quite helpful - spoken at Concordia, Bronxville.

So, to any lurking young seminarians (if you're out there), I certainly dispute Fr. Daniel's take, and would urge caution when listening to those who left the LCMS for other confessions - especially when they persist in slandering those who remain Lutheran. There is someone known as "the Accuser of the Brethren" and we ought not be helping him along.

Daniel said...

One thing I respect about you Pastor Weedon is that you allow such posts, and respond to them. I'll let you have the last word on this one.

Pastor Sharp said...

Pr.Hall, who doctrinal-reviews your sermons? Surely if we trust men to create doctrinal pure sermons, we can trust them to create a doctrinal pure agenda.