10 September 2017

Kudos to our Brothers and Sisters in WELS

For their proposed revision of the Common Service. Quite nicely done. I especially appreciated their Prayer of Thanksgiving (post-Sanctus, pre-Our Father). But before we get to that, some notes in general. The Introit has gone AWOL, or rather has been replaced by the Hymn which begins the liturgy and by the fuller responsorial Psalm between first and second readings. Then Invocation, Confession of Sins, Absolution. Kyrie (the longer form we have in DS 1, 2) and Gloria in Excelsis. Then Salutation (not titled) and Prayer of the Day, First Reading, Psalm of the Day, Second Reading, Verse of the Day, Gospel, Hymn of the Day, Sermon, Nicene Creed (alas, still fully human), Prayer of the Church (SEATED???), Offering, Preface, Sanctus, Prayer of Thanksgiving (on which anon), Lord’s Prayer, Words of Institution and Peace (not titled), Lamb of God, Distribution with hymns, versicles (BOTH from the old Common Service), Post-Communion Collect and Benediction (called Blessing), and a final Hymn. I suspect it will be imminently accessible and the new music is pretty good. Here’s the text of that Prayer of Thanksgiving:

M: Blessed are you, Lord God, eternal King and gracious Father. In love you made us the crown of your creation. In mercy you planned our salvation. In grace you sent your Son to redeem us from sin.

We remember and give you thanks 
that your eternal Son, Jesus Christ, became flesh and made his dwelling among us, 
that he willingly placed himself under law to redeem those under law, 
that he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death on a cross, 
that he has destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. 

Bless us as we receive your Son's body and blood in this Sacrament. Forgive our sins, increase our faith, strengthen our fellowship, and deepen our longing for the day when Christ will welcome us to his eternal feast. Praise and thanks to you, O God our Father, and to your Son, and to the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

C: Amen.

So there is recognition of creation, of salvation history culminating in the sending of the Son. An anamnesis composed of Scripture’s own words and a prayer for worthy reception and that the Sacrament may have its fruit in our lives AND a reference to the parousia. And all that in a shocking economy of words! I think this is quite well done.


Mark said...

Economy of words, indeed! Very nice. I also like the structure of the sentences in the opening paragraph: "In love...In mercy...In grace..."

This is available online? Time to go searching.

William Weedon said...

I’m not sure if it’s online. I have a hard copy.

Bryan Gerlach said...

The prayer is © 2017 WELS Hymnal Project. Permission is granted for use in parish worship folders, with acknowledgment, but not for publication in other resources.

While the text is above, the full worship folder is the Reformation service from the WELS worship conference last June. All worship folders are available at the link below.

Rev. Bryan Gerlach
Director, Commission on Worship


ph: 414-256-3265 • fax: 262-522-2800
Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod • www.wels.net
N16W23377 Stone Ridge Drive • Waukesha, WI 53188

Anonymous said...

Here is a link to an online PDF of the service:


-Johnold Strey

Dr. Joseph Jewell said...

I'm glad you mentioned the "fullyhumans"--the more eye-catching of the two idiosyncrasies in the Christian Worship: A Lutheran Hymnal creed (which appears to have been reproduced exactly in this new order of service), but perhaps not even the most vexing.

The original versions of the Nicene Creed are well-known and, of course, widely available in two ancient forms (the Greek, and the Latin). I'll cite here the relevant excerpts for the two spots where the CW creed falls well short:

"τὸν δι' ἡμᾶς τοὺς ἀνθρώπους ... καὶ ἐνανθρωπήσαντα." (Greek)

"Qui propter nos homines ... et homo factus est." (Latin, as in the Book of Concord, 1580)

"welcher um uns Menschen ... und Mensch geworden." (German; not one of the ancient versions, of course, but the German from the Book of Concord, 1580, for good measure)

We see two forms of the same word, traditionally translated "men/man" (which is preferable) but perhaps acceptably also translated "person(s)/human(s)" appear in each of these versions (ἀνθρώπους/ἐνανθρωπήσαντα [n.b. this is one word conveying the verb/noun together], homines/homo, Menschen/Mensch). But the key point here is that they exist and they are all pretty straightforward. It does not take any special expertise to read them, as befits of course a Creed which simply and universally states the truths of the Christian faith.

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Dr. Joseph Jewell said...

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In each case, these lines are properly something like "who for us men/humans ... and was made man/human" or if you prefer "who for us men/humans ... and became man/human". And indeed, this is what virtually every other church body in the world today does (in fact, most use nearly identical wording). We may take the ELS and LCMS as a good example: "who for us men ... and was made man". This is of course exactly what the WELS said until 1992, as well (and which some of us still do say, from the pew).

What changes did Christian Worship make to the Nicene Creed in formulating its own creed? Well, in the name of gender-neutralizing, we now have "who for us [nothing] ... and became fully human". This both subtracts (completely deleting the first ἀνθρώπους/homines/Menschen) and adds (inserting "fully" when there is no such adverb or adjective in any of the originals) to the substance of one of the Ecumenical Creeds. This is a Very Big Deal Indeed. Wars have been fought over the Creeds and their precise meaning, and the WELS (or really, CW and the 1992 committee: this is not a change that the synod was asking for at all, so it's not quite fair to assign blame to everyone) is absolutely alone out on a limb here, with no textual justification whatsoever. The current committee should correct the misjudgment, fix the translation, and rejoin with orthodox Christian church bodies, not least our Confessional Lutheran brethren and cousins in the ELS and LCMS.

Pastor David Jay Webber of the ELS, a fine church historian with a keen perspective on not just the theological and linguistic importance of rendering the Nicene Creed precisely, but also its historical significance, has crystallized some keen insights here on exactly how not-trivial all of this is. He points out that the first change (saying simply "us" instead of "us men"), while the less obvious, is probably even more dangerous than the pointless and unecumenical addition of "fully" (although more have commented on the obnoxiously clunky nature of the fullyhumans): By omitting the word "men", the Creed's testimony against Calvinism and a host of other historical errors is weakened, because the question becomes, "who is us?" Us Christians? Us in WELS congregations? Us the Elect? Us, perhaps, only in this room? This omission may seem trivial, but as many have noted, it actually weakens the Creed substantially as a confession against not only Calvinism's Limited Atonement, but also many of the historical errors it was originally formulated to combat (e.g. Gnosticism and Origenism), to say merely "for us [] and for our salvation".