Sunday, August 21, 2011

Why would a Lutheran want to leave Lutheranism?

This is a comment on a thread about Pastors leaving Lutheranism.  It was posted by Brother Boris, former Lutheran now Orthodox, who has made a comment worth our consideration.

Imagine a newly ordained pastor leaving the seminary only to be assigned to some podunk parish in say, the Florida-Georgia District, for example. Here they find they are the suddenly a pastor of a parish that only begrudgingly tolerates the most minimalistic interpretation of Lutheranism in liturgy and ceremony. 
  • The newly ordained pastor, so excited at his first call, discovered his parish celebrates the Eucharist only once a month. In fact, they really don't like it when he calls it the Eucharist, or even the Sacrament of the Altar like the Catechism says. They refer to it exclusively as "the Lord's Supper", just like the Baptists. 
  • Also like the local Baptist church down the street, this Lutheran church is predominately a bare lecture hall. Little color, white walls, no stained glass, certainly no crucifix and no statuary and no kneelers. Probably just a bland freestanding altar (built to look more like a Zwinglian table than a proper Lutheran altar), some type of modernist bare cross on the wall behind it, several ugly potted plants, lots of wall-to-wall carpeting to make the room as dead acoustically as possible, and an old Baldwin electronic organ (more of an appliance than a real musical instrument) that the church bought used from somewhere else to provide the music for the "traditional" service. 
  • There are hymnals in the pews, but they are never used anymore. Several overhead screens have been added so that people can sing along to the texts projected thereon. 
  • People in this parish are more committed to following the Hallmark calendar than the Liturgical Calendar. (In fact, if the truth be known, it would actually surprise many of them to know that the Church HAS an official calendar). 
  • The High Holy Days of this parish (and they really prefer the term "congregation" as "parish" sounds way too "catholic" to their ears) are: Mother's Day, Father's Day, the Fourth of July, Memorial Day. Veterans Day, the so-called "National Day of Prayer" etc. This parish insists that Advent is four-weeks-of-Christmas-before-Christmas and insists that the Sanctuary be decked out in full Christmas splendor on the First Sunday After Thanksgiving. "O Come All Ye Faithful" and "O Little Town of Bethlehem" are traditional favorites for the First Sunday in Advent. Of course, this parish does not have a Christmas Day service and doesn't understand why anyone would want such a thing. As the President of the Congregation here says, "Christmas Day is all about being with family. Why would you want to be in Church, of all places, on Christmas Day?"
 And my comment:

Brother Boris is not far off from the situation I found in my first parish.  I am shocked at the accuracy of his tongue-in-cheek attempt to describe what might be found in a typical Lutheran parish.  Let me make a couple of corrections.  There was a crucifix on the back wall of the nave and not behind the altar.  The organ was not a Baldwin but a Wurlitzer (complete with a percussion section).  The hymnals in the pews were a generic American hymnbook primarily made up of old time Gospel hymns.  There was no Christmas Day service or any Advent or Lenten services and Holy Week was limited to Good Friday.  No overhead screens but plenty of blank white walls on either side of the altar provided projection space for overhead or slide projector (the current technology in 32 years ago).

As far off as we might hope Brother Boris extreme situation might be, it probably can be found in a real place with an address and, at some time, a struggling young Pastor trying to make it there.  And he may be facing depression and disappointment in the face of the daunting effort to remake the parish into a Lutheran congregation.  That is what I faced.  I was lonely and disillusioned.  The congregation was not what I had expected nor what folks had told me to expect.  The parish was miles from the closest Lutheran congregation and Pastor (ELCA) and much further to anything that might remotely have resembled the congregation of the Augsburg Confession.  But I had some debt, I was without the prospect of other employment, I was without children, my wife had a skill, and I was just stubborn enough to decide to make it work.  Yet, I prayed for a call to establish a mission on the outskirts of hell instead of where I was at.  But the Lord's answer was no call.  I was there nearly 13 years and poured my soul into that parish.  I loved them into following me and, when they were stable and solid and it appeared that the Lord was calling me elsewhere, I found that their call list was riddled with people who ridiculed the weekly Eucharist I had worked so hard to establish and who worked against the rich program of church music I worked in partnership with a very fine organist (St. Olaf grad) to develop.  Sometimes a parish often must work against their own Pastor in order to keep Lutheranism alive.

Brother Boris is not far off and I know personally of that which I speak.  The readers of this blog need to be aware of the reality.  Sometimes the best that can be hoped for is a Lutheranism that looks like a mediocre and moderate mainline Protestant congregation.  And of course, there are those who will inside that you are making your complaints all about chanting or vestments or incense and not about the "real" important stuff.  But smells or bells or dressing up was never mentioned by Brother Boris nor by me.  What we ought to be preparing our Pastors for is how to lead a parish through a sea change of identity and back into the confession and confessional practice that we claim defines us.  That requires a stubborn nature, a patient heart, lots of love, and a long pastorate.  Not all of those heading out the Seminary door to their first call are up to it.  But the point is, they should not have to be up to it!

If you faced something similar, I would appreciate hearing about it and about your response and where things stand today...

47 comments:

mlorfeld said...

To top it off, often their ecclesiastical supervisor will work against them, and when the pastor tries teaching and the congregation resists and complains to the District, they will be advised to force him to resign over "conflicts of personality." Then other congregations in the circuit will bring up said congregation in a time of conflict and will say "We'll do you like they did Pastor _____." I wish I would be exaggerating, but I put a hefty blame on the COP.

BrotherBoris said...

Pastor Peters: I feel so honored to have a whole article devoted to my comments! I did not expect that.

I do want to make a couple things clear to your readers.

First of all, I am NOT encouraging Lutheran pastors to leave Lutheranism. In fact, I think that Lutheran clergy who have that "evangelical catholic" vision should remain within Lutheranism. Lutheranism needs their presence and their witness.

Secondly, I need to address the gap between LCMS seminaries and the parishes. I think that greatly contributes to why many LCMS clergy leave Lutheranism. What I am about to say may surprise some people.

I think the LCMS seminaries are excellent institutions with few equals. High academic standards, excellent libraries, beautiful chapels, fine pipe organs, dedicated professors, splendid liturgical worship of the highest order, and a vision of what Lutheranism could be are all present there. I think many LCMS men catch the evangelical catholic vision at the seminary. For many of them, it is where they are first exposed to it. They see it historically as they study the Lutheran Confessions. They hear it taught in class by their professors. And they see it come to life in the seminary chapel. And they realize, perhaps for the first time in their lives, that the Lutheran Church is not your garden variety Protestant Church. In fact, the more they study Lutheranism, the more they become convinced that the Lutheran Church is not a Protestant Church at all (at least not Protestant in the sense that most people think). I daresay they start to believe (as did the confessors of the Augustana) that the Lutheran Church departs in no doctrine of faith from the Church catholic or even the Church of Rome, insofar as the latter is known to us from its writers. In short, they come to believe the Lutheran Church is not some mere Protestant denomination interchangeable with Baptists, Methodists and Presbyterians, but the Latin Church itself, reformed and purged of its Roman errors. When they come to believe that, they cannot but help to have a high view of the Church and its worship, because its worship confesses what it believes.

Unfortunately, when they graduate from seminary and get their first parish, they discover Lutheran laity in their fullness. And there is a segment of Lutheran laity (thankfully, not all of them) who have defined themselves forever as "we-are-the-people-who-are-not-Roman-Catholic." Such people combine their anti-Catholic prejudice with that article in them Smalcald Articles that identifies the Pope as the "Antichrist". Then, even though the Lutheran Confessions do NOT teach this, a kind of folk Lutheranism is invented by the Lutheran laity that views all ceremonies and rituals that come from the historic church catholic as coming from the Antichrist himself. This is a kind of Lutheran version of Puritanism, and just as the Puritans sought to purge the Church of England from the "rags of popery", these Puritanized Lutherans desire to scrap every element in Lutheran Church life that came from the "Popish dunghill" as the Calvinist John Knox called it.

This divide in Lutheranism, between the evangelical catholic Lutherans and the Puritan Lutherans is being played out today in the LCMS.

I hope the evangelical catholic side prevails.

I could say more, but let these words suffice for now.

BrotherBoris said...

Oops! Change "them Smalcald Articles" to "the Smalcald Articles". My grammar really isn't that bad. LOL

Anonymous said...

Brother Boris has made a keen
observation concerning the LCMS
seminaries and the parish. In the
1960's the professors at St. Louis
saw themselves as preparing first
rate theologians rather than parish
pastors.

Fred Danker, Robert Bertram, Edgar
Krentz, Alfred von Rohr Sauer,
Norman Habel, Martin Scharlemann
had Ph.D's and they wanted the same
for their students and taught their
courses that way.

Anonymous said...

I think the LCMS seminaries are excellent institutions with few equals. High academic standards, excellent libraries, beautiful chapels, fine pipe organs, dedicated professors, splendid liturgical worship of the highest order, and a vision of what Lutheranism could be are all present there. I think many LCMS men catch the evangelical catholic vision at the seminary. For many of them, it is where they are first exposed to it. They see it historically as they study the Lutheran Confessions. They hear it taught in class by their professors. And they see it come to life in the seminary chapel. And they realize, perhaps for the first time in their lives, that the Lutheran Church is not your garden variety Protestant Church. In fact, the more they study Lutheranism, the more they become convinced that the Lutheran Church is not a Protestant Church at all


Sounds great. I wonder if and/or wish that the same could be said of the DCE's. These may be the weakest link in the church. A youngster goes from confirmation to youth group and there he learns, what? To appreciate splendid liturgical worship of the highest order, and a vision of what Lutheranism could be or pop Christianity? Bible studies based on the Book of Concord that teach repentance or Rob Bell videos that teach works righteousness? Do DCE's also believe and communicate to youngsters that the Lutheran Church is not your garden variety Protestant Church? Are DCE programs also convincing young DCE's that the Lutheran Church is not a Protestant Church at all? Do DCE's then transmit the vision to the youth?


This morning my son told me in his Sunday school the DCE was asking youth how the youth the worship service could be better. My son (who watches too much Rev. Fisk) said, "more hymns." However, I thought to myself, what an inappropriate question number one to ask of the youth and number two to ask without framing as to the general understanding of what good worship practice is anyway. Such a question is disrespectful to the youth because they are not charged with making such judgement calls. They are too ignorant and inexperienced. It is not their place and asking them such things places an unfair burden on their consciences. I feel very uneasy giving these DCE's the future of the church starting with young teens and continuing through college age. I wonder how many folks who barely tolerate the most minimal good teaching and practice were influenced by DCE's as youth.

Pastor Peters said...

BTW I gave the article its title and did not for a minute think that Brother Boris was encouraging a clergy flight from Lutheranism. In fact, just the opposite. He has pointed us to a continuing problem that creates a circumstance in which a new Pastor something looks for something else because of the great gulf between the Church whose confession and practice he learned in Seminary and the real Church found on the local level.

Nor would I suggest that this is entirely a Lutheran phenomenon. Certainly Roman and Orthodox Priests have lamented to me in similar terms that the actual practice of the Church does not live up to her theology. But since I am unabashedly Lutheran and this is an issue near and dear to my heart, I pass on this concern for Lutheran clergy in their first call...

Thank you, Brother Boris!

David Garner said...

Pastor Peters, we're having quite the little thread on Facebook about this post!

As a 10 year Lutheran layman turned Orthodox, I can only tell you that Brother Boris echoes some of our experience as well, though unlike him, I see it as more of a top-down problem in two senses. First, the one solid Lutheran Church we saw go downhill (and fast) was led in that direction by her Pastor, a Fort Wayne grad at that. That Church is defunct now. They ran off most of the Lutherans and no one else was much interested (Baptists do that style of worship better anyway). Second, there is no discipline from the Synod for Pastors who divert from the historic time-tested worship forms, and in fact there is none for those who abandon them entirely for Prot-style pop evangelical worship forms. This quickly devolves into false doctrine, as you know. In fact, as mlorfeld said, the District will in too many cases actively work against a Pastor trying to correct error and support a Pastor trying to introduce it.

For us, it wasn't even all that bad. The problem was we started in a parish that was rich with liturgy, catechesis, history and tradition, and left to join first the solid parish that was dragged into the sewer by her pastor, and then later a WELS parish that was conservative, but very very Protestant. Low church, pietist, etc. Not a bad parish at all, just not the fullness of what we had come to love. And even there, with only mild omissions, it reflected in the parish's doctrine.

I would agree with Brother Boris on this too -- far from encouraging others to leave Lutheranism, I would love nothing more than to see a renaissance of Lutheran catholicism (in the proper understanding). I would love to see the WELS, ELS and LCMS united under a confessional banner with more uniform liturgical practice and encouragement of the rich piety and traditions of the Church of the Augsburg Confession. I still have much love for that Confession and those who confess it. I am Orthodox now, and I have to say I am quite happy and would not leave it even if my prior parish with all its richness were brought to my doorstep. But Lutherans need good men like you and Pastors like you to make this come about. You have my prayers and my support as you fight that fight.

Anonymous said...

Pastor Peters:

Every so often I pull up your blog page and see what bits of wisdom you have to offer. Your article here struck me especially this Sunday. I am on the clergy roster of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS) serving a small congregation in St. Helens, Oregon. We purchased an old Methodist Church in 2004 that had most recently been used by a Church of Christ congregation. The building was very Methodist, all the way from the exterior which was almost square and flat roofed to the interior with low ceilings and no altar. I have jokingly said to the congregation I serve that we are still in the process of “Lutheranizing” the building. We removed the huge “baptistery.” We took down the screen in the Nave and put a crucifix in its place behind an altar borrowed from a sister congregation in Port Orchard, Washington. Our next challenge is to put in a communion rail but with the design of the interior, it will be difficult to get around the mechanical and heating ductwork which runs just below the Nave. We almost have to pull out the ductwork and redesign the interior. The walls were stark and bare. One of our members, a former Catholic, painted a number of the Stations of the Cross which now hang on each side of the sanctuary. On each side of the Crucifix is a painting done by the same individual. One is the picture of the Ascension of our Lord, the other a picture of the Resurrection. The baptismal font, a simple bowl on a stand, stands prominently next to the altar. Slowly, we are making progress, but as you say, as pastors we must be patient and teach and teach and teach.

However, I thought that I had done enough teaching on the Sacrament, that the people would be ready to go to a weekly Word and Sacrament service. I made this suggestion just this last Sunday to several at coffee hour. One of my organists, the daughter of a Missouri Synod pastor, lamented that by doing so, we would “turn off” the visitor. So I still have much patient teaching to do. My conscience was stirred recently when I read an older article by Dr. David Scaer in the 1997 Reformation issue of Logia. In the context of Article X of the Formula, Dr. Scaer make this comment, “Article X was not a response to a specific doctrinal aberration, as were the Formula’s other articles, but a confession that what the church does as church---how she conducts herself on Sunday---is as important as any formal confession she adopts.” At the conclusion of the following paragraph Dr. Scaer adds, “So today a Sunday liturgy without communion speaks volumes.”

After my organist lamented that weekly communion would be a “turn off” to visitors, I realized how deeply embedded old habits had established themselves. I also have decided to back off and continue to teach and encourage. Perhaps the next pastor will be able to lead the congregation to accept being a Lutheran Congregation unafraid to state its confession through the liturgy. This is not a slight against my beloved organist, but a realization that it takes time to undo the damage done already by the Prussian Union in the 1800’s and the early years of Lutheranism in this Country. I console myself with the fact that we went from once a month communion to twice a month communion.

Now, my daughter lives in Whitehouse, Tennessee and we plan to visit her this coming week. I am going to try to talk her in to making the hour long drive to Clarksville to visit the congregation under your care.

Pastor Joseph Burkhardt

Anonymous said...

I'm a son of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod who was raised in the 1950's and 60's on the 1941 Lutheran Hymnal, one-year lectionary, Wednesday chapel, and religion class first thing in the morning during grade school. I was confirmed in 1968 and by 1971 I was a Jesus Freak.

I eventually became the pastor of a charismatic church and worked in jail and prison ministry. With one child starting college, and another beginning high school, I accepted a position as the chaplain at a state prison for men and became the pastor of a congregational church that baptized infants and used the liturgy.

Quite a jump I know, but that's a story for another time. Well, I fell in love with the liturgy and the Lutheranism of my youth and eventually went running back to Missouri like a prodigal son.
I returned to the church I was raised in, with it's beautiful pipe organ and carved ivory altar from the 18th century, only to find an organ in disrepair because there was a praise band with guitars and drums up front; and an altar that was dwarfed by the big screen displaying the words of the current praise song.

I was shocked and maybe a little naive, expecting to again find the church I remembered as a youth. But, eventually I did find the historic, sacramental, confessing Lutheran Church I knew existed.
That was probably too many words to get to this point: pastors, don't be discouraged! There are laity who are waiting for someone just like you to show up. Someone who will teach them the Lutheran Confessions and how to faithfully live out their God given vocations, who will preach to them Law and Gospel and absolve them of their sins, who will baptize their infants, catechize their sons and daughters, feed them the life giving Body and Blood of their Savior, and, at the last, usher their dying and their dead from this world to the next. (and so much more I haven't yet mentioned)

Surely, I am not the only one.

Mark Reed
Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod layman and elder

Carl Vehse said...

"Imagine a newly ordained pastor leaving the seminary only to be assigned to some podunk parish"

First, since we seem to be talking about a LCMS pastor, he becomes a pastor when he accepts the call to that "podunk parish" and then, in his subsequent ordination, his call to that congregation is confirmed (of course, this may not be in line with Loeheist views).

Secondly, that pastor was given a divine call from God to that congregation, and the congregation should not be viewed as "some podunk parish" unless one is presuming to tell God how to run His divine business.

Thirdly, unless the young pastor was told as a seminarian he would only be called by God to perfect congregations, with laity educated in Lutheran doctrine and practice at the graduate seminary and high church level, and who have also provided worship facilities equivalent to or better than those at the Vatican, the pastor should be looking on anything less than a perfect congregation as an opportunity to demonstrate his leadership capabilities in rapidly whipping the people into orthodox Lutherans, and subsequently deserving of a prompt call to a more elegant church in a less podunk part of the Missouri Synod. Or perhaps he might fall on his knees in thanking God for giving him this congregation to whom he is to be their servant of the Word and their spiritual shepherd to the best of the ability God provides him.

Timothy C. Schenks said...

I would assume most seminarians came from parishes that support the Office of Holy Ministry and recieve quite a shock when they find out that most congregations don't. I've heard from pastors with 15+ years of experience say "if I had known it was going to be like this I wouldn't have become a pastor."

Benjamin Harju said...

After seeing this come across my Facebook feed so much I thought I'd give it a read. I think Pr. Peters and the thoughtful commentators here have described the situation quite well.

I have been in the Orthodox Church for a couple years now, but before that I was an LCMS pastor of a dual-parish for over four years. It was rural. They were not the picture of Lutheran idealism, but they received me and what I taught them from the Scriptures and Book of Concord as much as can be expected, and in some cases more so. I am proud of them.

What was most difficult was actually the other LCMS parishes in the district and across the country that we were by default in fellowship with. I could hardly find a parish to recommend to families that moved away, because the vast, vast majority of them had CW, open communion, weird quasi-pentacostal activities, and nothing that resembled the way of life I had learned at seminary and had emptied myself to pass on to Christ's flock. The majority of the pastors I met promoted these aberrations in one way or another (or all ways), and the minority banded together on the Internet and in local groups to work together to make a difference. It was especially bad at district gatherings. The 2007 Syndocial Convention was the horrific culmination of it all. I saw with my own eyes what I was in fellowship with, and what I had to promote to my people. It wasn't good.

I came to a conclusion, one that seems clearer to me now that I am out of the LCMS and am looking in on your comments from the outside: the LCMS holds together two different faiths. The seminaries have been amassing men with that evangelical-catholic mindset and sending them out to "catechize." But it's more than catechization. It's outright conversion from methabapticostalism (or worse) to reformed Catholicism (or Confessional Lutheranism or Evangelical Catholicism, whatever you like).

If I had not come to believe in what the Orthodox Church teaches and is, then in good conscience the only thing I could have done in the LCMS would have been to actively promote an organized departure from the LCMS of as many "Confessional Lutheran" parishes as possible. Form another church body, and have it maintain fellowship with the LCMS if you like, but stop trying to force the LCMS to be what it doesn't want to be. Demonstrate what Lutheranism is supposed to be by living it in peace, and let the "other side" do what it likes. Preach from unity of faith and life, instead of trying to convince methabapticostals that they don't want to be methabapticostals, or that they aren't such when everyone knows they are - especially them.

This isn't giving up. It's realizing the split is along that fundamental line of what the practice of the faith looks like parochially (liturgical or CW, pastoral or corporate, etc., etc.), and from there taking action to establish formally what you're trying to teach into existence across the LCMS. You should pursue peace and unity. (For a long time it's been distrust and disunity in this war in the LCMS.) Unity arises from this move, and this unity is a great witness. A measure of evangelism might be necessary toward the Lutherans left behind in the LCMS, but aren't you doing that already? Once you get your congregation on a good path, don't you try to find ways to expose other LCMS congregations to that goodness, hoping to make a difference?

As usual, I'm long-winded. I simply see in what you describe (now as an outsider) one set of beliefs trying to make inroads into a different belief-system's home turf. It's beyond what the LCMS used to believe or should believe, but now about what most parishes in the LCMS do not believe, that is, what they are unwilling to practice. (Isn't that the difference? One side "believes" the doctrine intellectually, but otherwise does whatever they want, but you guys want to live the faith and life that goes with the doctrine?)

John said...

Maybe, just maybe Brother Boris and others are called to a flock in order to do nothing more than to plant seeds.

Janis Williams said...

As a lay-woman, former Baptist, and very much a Confessional Lutheran now, this is exactly what I/we (former Baptists who realized they were Lutheran) don't want. We left "methabapticostalism" because we realized Confessions and Creeds are right and good. Not Holy Scripture, but an accurate representation of It.
(This in addition to a LOT of other 'stuff.')

What don't we want?
1. To lose good LCMS pastors (fresh from sem. or seasoned) so totally disgusted/depressed with pietist/charismatic/CW "Lutherans."
2. To find that we (who likely have been through h... to get to the Truth) must keep moving, because the LCMS is no different than from whence we came.
3. To be forced to give up what we have come to understand as Biblical Worship - where God serves us, rather than thinking we can do anything to serve Him.

Is there an 'exchange' going on? Are the fundagelicals realizing the emptiness and failure of abandoning the Gospel? Are the Lutherans jumping ship only to find the ship being refilled with former protestants?

Good thing this isn't Twitter; I'd never make it!

Terry Maher said...

Maybe it's the converts who will save things. Those from an "evangelical" background are well suited to reprove those pastors who go running after that sort of thing. Those like myself, from both pre and post Vatican II RC, also have a note of caution when all one finds as "traditional" is a Lutheran version of the same reworked 1960s worship of which other liturgical denominations have their versions too having dumped their traditional ones.

Either way -- either way -- one is trying to fit a Lutheran content into something that is not Lutheran, and that the one does so while retaining smells, bells, vestments, orders of service, etc makes it all the more insidious because it looks traditional while it is not. It is an imposter.

Anonymous said...

I am an LCMS pastor at my third parish. I was nearly asked to leave my first, but not finding enough votes, they could only reduce my salary (starve the man out). I was asked to leave my second parish.

I'm at a place now, though, that many fresh out of the seminary might classify as a perfect parish except in the area of compensation. However, I am gladly a worker-priest.

To comment on some things said here, I did get my first taste of Lutheranism at the seminary, but not in a surprising way. I knew it was out there; I had a rudimentary knowledge of what Lutheranism was supposed to be, but didn't get to taste it until at the seminary. That said, there was an obvious two-sidedness to what was being taught and practiced at the seminary. For students on "either side," we knew which professors to take and which to avoid, and, sadly, when to go to chapel and when not to.

As for the difficulties I faced in my first two parishes, I would say the root of it is the misunderstanding and misappropriation of the priesthood of all believers and how that finds its way into every doctrine and practice at any particular parish/congregation (for those two- or three-point parishes). As Carl Vehse points out, no seminarian is called to a parish with laity educated in (the finer points) of Lutheran doctrine and practice (for that matter, no seasoned pastor is, either). That doesn't stop them from crossing the line into the Office of the Holy Ministry and start making demands of the pastor, contrary to Lutheran doctrine and practice. In both of my previous parishes, I received demands and threats over who should be admitted to the altar for communion, and while the people making these demands and threats did not come right out and say it, every time their reasoning pointed to a belief that they personally garnered from their reading of Scripture and that since they were a part of the priesthood of all believers (and "everyone's a minister") they were right, and I was wrong (and, in fact, the historical practice of the LCMS was wrong). I could teach them from the Scriptures and Confessions until I was blue in the face, and it wouldn't have made a difference.

Perhaps, as Benjamin Harju said, it's time to leave the LCMS and be something different, even if it is independent Lutheran; I strongly considered as much after my second call blew up.

I stayed (and still remain) because I hope and pray that there will be some top-down reformation that Lutheran pastors (and I use the term here in opposition to those who only pretend to be) can rally behind and stand upon. We need more than just doctrinal statements, but practical statements which echo the doctrine; "we believe X, and we do Y because of it." Do I believe the current POS can effect such reformation? Perhaps; he is certainly a step in the right direction. Me? Give me a few more years to get my legs back under me; I'm learning again what it means to be a parish pastor and do that work (and I thank God that I am now at a place that is gracious to me in my mistakes and encouraging to me in my learning--it's refreshing to hear, "Pastor, you have been trained for this...").

Anonymous said...

"... They refer to it exclusively as "the Lord's Supper", just like the Baptists."
So, what? It's the term used in the Bible (not to mention that the term, Sacrament of the ALTAR is theologically incorrect since that table upfront is not an altar, nothing is being sacrificed there, unless you are a Roman Catholic and believe that Jesus is being sacrificed there again and again...)
"Also like the local Baptist church down the street, this Lutheran church is predominately a bare lecture hall. Little color, white walls, no stained glass, certainly no crucifix and no statuary and no kneelers."
Sounds pretty much like the early Christian worship service too me; the first church building was erected in 4th century if I am not mistaken, right? Art is beautiful but not necessary...

"There are hymnals in the pews, but they are never used anymore. Several overhead screens have been added so that people can sing along to the texts projected thereon."
Uhh, terrible!!! Actually, so what?! What happened to the Lutheran doctrine of the Christian freedom? What about adiafora?

"The High Holy Days of this parish (and they really prefer the term "congregation" as "parish" sounds way too "catholic" to their ears) are: Mother's Day, Father's Day, the Fourth of July, Memorial Day. Veterans Day, the so-called "National Day of Prayer" etc."

There are, actually, no holy days in the New Testament. Read apostle Paul, read the Augsburg Confession. You may want to remeber some Biblical events and persons on some designated days, but then you may choose not to. Period.
I am an Evangelical who has become a Lutheran, but I think that people like these totally miss the essence of Lutheranism; they want to get as far as they can from Evangelicalism in outward forms, not realizing that they are just falling into the opposite "slavery to forms"...

christl242 said...

unless you are a Roman Catholic and believe that Jesus is being sacrificed there again and again...)

Gott hilf mir. When Rome is genuinely in error, let's call her on it. But this is one canard we just have to let go.

I am continually shocked at how even Lutheran pastors repeat this misunderstanding. My pastor argued with me up and down during one Bible class that Christ is re-sacrificed at every mass and that when Lutheran/Anglican clergy become Catholic priests if they are married they must remain celibate. He became quite agitated when I flatly told him he was wrong on both counts.

The Sacrifice of Calvary made present at every mass is the one, singular, unrepeatable Sacrifice re-presented sacramentally at the mass. Christ does not die over and over.

Christine

Anonymous said...

"The Sacrifice of Calvary made present at every mass is the one, singular, unrepeatable Sacrifice re-presented sacramentally at the mass. Christ does not die over and over."

And you really think that Luther would agree with you? And you really think that Luther too "may have been wrong on this" because he was uninformed of the Roman Catholic teaching? Every R.C. priest takes bread and wine and sacrifices them to God in the Mass, day by day; of course, Roman Catholic theologians would not say that Christ is being re-sacrificed daily, because that would go flatly against the Bible, yet, that is exactly what they are doing - the one and only sacrifice of Christ is not merely made present in the Mass, rather Christ is, according to their actions, being sacrificed again and again. You have to understand that one should not believe everything the Roman Catholic church says, because they say many contradictory things. Take for example, their beliefs and practices concerning Mary, it's a sheer idolatry, she's a Co-Redemptrix, Co-Mediator, etc.; yet, their apologists would flatly deny all that or would give it such a spin that it would seem that their beliefs about Mary are completely biblical and evangelical... So, don't believe everything you've been told by the Roman Catholics...

christl242 said...

Luther also said he would rather drink the Blood of Christ with the pope than wine with Zwingli. That is one thing we do have in common with Rome as against those Christians who only consider the elements as symbols.

The fact that the Catholic church offers mass daily does not "multiply" the sacrifice that is made present and offered, it is still the one, same, singular sacrifice made present in time and space. What Luther objected was that the mass was being offered as a propitiary sacrifice on behalf of the living and the dead.

As far as Mary is concerned, popular piety and official Catholic teachings are sometime in opposition to one another. No private opinion of any lay Catholic takes precedent over the teaching magisterium of the Catholic church.

Yes, Mary is called an "intercessor" and some would like to have Rome declare her "co-mediatrix" but Rome has refused to do so, clearly stating that Christ alone is the mediator between humanity and God but that Mary and the Saints are intercessors who pray for us (which Lutherans do not teach).

Not to worry, I don't believe everything that Rome says -- I kind of found out for myself what Rome believes while I was Catholic :)

christl242 said...

but that Mary and the Saints are intercessors who pray for us (which Lutherans do not teach)

Ooops, that would more accurately be that Christians should INVOKE Mary and the Saints. That they do pray for the Church I have no doubt.

Anonymous said...

"The fact that the Catholic church offers mass daily does not "multiply" the sacrifice that is made present and offered, it is still the one, same, singular sacrifice made present in time and space. What Luther objected was that the mass was being offered as a propitiary sacrifice on behalf of the living and the dead."

This is exactly a type of thing I'm talking about when I criticize the Roman Catholic theology. They, RC theologians speak with both sides of their mouth: yes, it's one and the same sacrifice, no, Christ is not being re-sacrificed, yes, Christ un-bloody sacrifice is being offered daily on the RC altars, yes, no, no, yes... You say it well, "the sacrifice that is made present and OFFERED, it is still the one", and, "What Luther objected was that the mass was being offered as a propitiary sacrifice"... Well, if it is being offered, and it's Christ's one and only sacrifice, then how can it be not be propitiatory? Enough said. Let's move to something else, there's no point in defending RCism if you are not even a RC.

And when I mentioned Mary I wasn't talking about the contradiction between the POPULAR MARIAN PIETY and the official RC dogma, rather the contradiction in their own doctrinal statements.

BrotherBoris said...

Anonymous: Get a grip! The Lutherans also believe that Christ's sacrifice on Calvary is made present again in the Eucharist and offered to the faithful to partake. As one of my Lutheran professors at Bethany Lutheran College used to say, "On the cross salvation was accomplished. In the Sacrament of the Altar, salvation is distributed."

Anonymous said...

"The Lutherans also believe that Christ's sacrifice on Calvary is made present again in the Eucharist and offered to the faithful to partake." Exactly. Being present. But there is no priest to turn bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ and then sacrifice that body and blood to God the Father.

Anonymous said...

THE LORD’S SUPPER
THE FEAST OF SALVATION
by Gaylin R. Schmeling

....

E. The Supper and Sacrifice

The atonement sacrifice for all sin was finished and completed at the cross when the Savior cried out, “It is finished” (John 19:30; see also 1 Peter 3:18, Hebrews 7:26-27, 9:12). Since the sacrifice of Christ is complete, the Roman Catholic Church perverts the priestly office of Christ when it speaks of each repetition of the Lord’s Supper as an unbloody sacrifice—the same sacrifice as the sacrifice of the cross, only in an unbloody manner: “The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice… ‘In this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the Mass, the same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained and is offered in an unbloody manner’” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, para. 1367).
To say that the Supper is the same sacrifice as the sacrifice of the cross, namely, that in the sacrament Christ’s body and blood are again offered up to appease God’s just anger over sin, impairs the oneness of the once and for all sacrifice on the cross (Hebrews 7:26- 27, 9:12). The sacrifice of the cross cannot be all-sufficient, offered once, and still need to be continually offered in the Mass. The only way that the sacrament may be spoken of as a sacrifice is that the very body and blood which were once offered for the redemption of all, are now present in the Supper conveying the blessings of that redemption to the individual. Chemnitz writes in his Examen:
The fathers call the body and blood of the Lord which are present in the Supper a saving sacrifice, a pure host, our ransom, the purchase price of our redemption, the ransom for the sins of the world, a propitiatory sacrifice and a propitiation, not because the body and blood of Christ are offered in the Mass by the action of the priest in order that they may become the ransom and propitiation for the sins of the whole world, but because that sacrifice which was once offered on the cross for our redemption and for the sins of the whole world—the body and blood of the Lord—is present, is dispensed, offered, and taken in the Lord’s Supper, so that the power and efficacy of this offering, once made on the cross, is applied and sealed individually to all who receive it in faith. Thus Cyprian says of the Lord’s Supper: “This life-giving bread and the cup of blessing, hallowed by the solemn benediction, benefits the life of the total man, being at the same time a medicine and an offering, to heal our infirmities and to purge our iniquities.” (Chemnitz, Ex. 2, 491)
The Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions are extremely emphatic in their rejection of any form of propitiatory sacrifice in the Supper which militates against the once and for all sacrifice of the cross or makes the sacrament a human work or sacrifice.

...

(an essay found on the Internet)

So, there is a great difference between Christ's sacrifice being present in the Lord's Supper and offered TO US to participate and Christ's sacrifice being present in the Lord's Supper and offered TO GOD to atone for our sins.

christl242 said...

Anonymous, take a deep breath. Here's how the Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it:

1323 "At the Last Supper, on the night he was betrayed, our Savior instituted the Eucharistic sacrifice of his Body and Blood. This he did in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the cross throughout the ages until he should come again, and so to entrust to his beloved Spouse, the Church, a memorial of his death and resurrection: a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a Paschal banquet 'in which Christ is consumed, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us.'"

and

1545 The redemptive sacrifice of Christ is unique, accomplished once for all; yet it is made present in the Eucharistic sacrifice of the Church. The same is true of the one priesthood of Christ; it is made present through the ministerial priesthood without diminishing the uniqueness of Christ's priesthood: "Only Christ is the true priest, the others being only his ministers."

I am merely presenting the Eucharist according to how the Church of Rome understands it. Whether you agree with it or not is irrelevant, this IS the Roman position and it is just plain wrong for non-Catholics to claim that in the Roman mass Christ is continually re-sacrificed when he is not.


Christine

christl242 said...

There is also a further dimension in that at the offertory, the Christian is to offer himself/herself to be transformed along with the bread and wine, i.e., to become what he/she has received, the Body of Christ in the world, a living sacrifice to the glory of God.

Christine

Anonymous said...

Well, nothing new, that's exactly what I was talking about. It's like, I take an elephant but call it a rabbit, and if you say, But wait a minute, that's an elephant, guess what, I reply, No, it's an elephant, at least that's how I see it and understand it, and whether you agree or disagree with it is totally irrelevant, MY TEACHING IS, IT'S A RABBIT, NOT AN ELEPHANT! That's the essence of the issue. Many cults do the same. For example, SDAs say, We believe in Sola Scriptura, we do not add Ellen G. White's writings to the Bible. And they do not - physically, but for all other purposeses, EGW's writings are inspired by the Holy Spirit, the same way the Biblical writings are, trustworthy, authoritative, etc. That's why you can hear any SDA preacher saying during the sermon, The Bible says so and so, and, The Spirit of Prophecy says so and so... (the Spirit of Prophecy is the Holy Spirit speaking through EGW). So, in the end, what's the difference, do they believe in Sola Scriptura? They think they do, they say they do - but actually they don't. Just an example.

mlorfeld said...

Christine,
Though current Catholic Apologists distance themselves from or even reject the term "re-sacrifice", according to the CCC and Baltimore Catechism, the Eucharist is Christ offering Himself to the Father through the priest in an unbloody manner. In this regard it is nothing other than a re-sacrifice, however, as Roman dogmatitions are abundantly aware of Hebrews 10:10-14, and thus conclude that this sacrifice is the re-presentation of Christ's one Sacrifice on the Cross. It still remains, however, that the locus of action is that of the Priest (and since Vatican II, the people). So whether it is a "re-sacrifice" or "re-presentation" of Christ's sacrifice... it's still wrong.

To this Lutherans in the confessions reject outright the notion of the Lord's Supper as Sacrifice as the focus is placed on the Lord giving His Body and Blood (The Apology of the Augsburg Confession discusses this matter at length: http://bookofconcord.org/defense_23_mass.php#para14). In the Lord's Supper we receive Christ as He is now: crucified AND risen. Thus what we receive is precisely what He gives: His Holiness (the forgiveness of sins) and His Resurrection.

christl242 said...

Once again, I am presenting the position of the Church of Rome as she understands it. Catholic teaching is clear that it is not a "new" or "repeated" sacrifice but the one, same sacrifice through which every generation is present at Calvary. I have never, ever heard the mass referred to as a "re-sacrificing" of Christ in the liturgy.

Catholic theology also teaches that Holy Communion imparts the forgiveness of sins and that the Eucharist is holy food that prepares the Christian for the fullness of life in the Kingdom of God. Nor do Catholics receive a "dead" Christ in the Eucharist, but the glorious, risen Christ.

Hey, I didn't write the Catechism of the Catholic Church, but that's what it says. Would Lutherans like it if their teaching were misrepresented? I believe I have also made clear in prior comments that this is one area in which Rome and Wittenberg are probably never going to agree.

Christine

Anonymous said...

"I reply, No, it's an ELEPHANT, at least that's how I see it and understand it, and whether you agree or disagree with it is totally irrelevant, MY TEACHING IS, IT'S A RABBIT, NOT AN ELEPHANT!"

I think I got confused a bit here. Oh, the intricacies of the Roman Catholic theology!

(But let me tell you, BTW, what I do like about the RCism - theire contemplative tradition!)

christl242 said...

Well, Anonymous, if the veil between heaven and earth can be set aside during the mass/Divine Service -- why would it be so hard for God to literally reach back in time and make present what "was" in the "here and now" -- God lives outside of time.

Yes, Roman Catholic theology can be very confusing for non-Catholics.

Dixie said...

Once again, I am presenting the position of the Church of Rome as she understands it.

It is very important when discussing with someone of another faith that one doesn't misrepresent that faith. I, for one, appreciate Christine's insistence here. If Lutherans don't present the Catholic's position honestly then what Catholic is going to seriously be interested in listening or reading any points be made. It comes down to credibility. It is difficult to get others to listen (or read) one's point of view if in the presentation there is hyperbole or misrepresentation or out and out falsehoods.

On this point of there being no "re-sacrifice" Christine is correct. (Ya...I was one of those well catechized pre-VII, Catholic grade school taught by nuns, welts-on-the-hands-to-prove-it kids.) And her point about time is also imperative to understand the Catholic position. We Orthodox sing every Sunday "Today has salvation come into the world..." because the Divine Liturgy is outside of time. I think the Lutherans believe the same thing, right?

christl242 said...

(Ya...I was one of those well catechized pre-VII, Catholic grade school taught by nuns, welts-on-the-hands-to-prove-it kids.)

Dixie, ouch!! :)

My husband used to get continual "time-outs" from the Sisters who taught him because he used to sneak up behind them and pat their habits with the chalk eraser.

Christine

Terry Maher said...

For God's sake, Rome teaches enough error without ascribing to them error they do not teach.

And the result is, when trying to present the faith of Christ, revealed in Scripture and accurately stated in the Book of Concord, one will be immediately dismissed from consideration since one clearly misunderstands what one is countering.

In this case, countering the Roman idea of the mass as a sacrifice will get nowhere if presented in the context of a thorough misunderstanding of how Rome teaches it is a sacrifice.

With a double irony. The progression, You say A, which is actually saying B, and B is wrong, therefore so is A, is a favourite controversial device of Roman apologists.

Rome has never, ever taught a re-sacrifice of Christ on the altar (B above), any more than it teaches its priests are another Christ with the term alter Christus.

And the second irony is, the error Rome does teach is actually wronger, so to speak, than the misunderstandings often heard here.

Anonymous said...

"Yes, Roman Catholic theology can be very confusing for non-Catholics."

Well, that was a joke on my part. Actually, I think that RC theology is more confusing for the Catholics then for non-Catholics; we see that its wrong and dismiss it; you, on the other hand, have to struggle with it all your life.

"Well, Anonymous, if the veil between heaven and earth can be set aside during the mass/Divine Service -- why would it be so hard for God to literally reach back in time and make present what "was" in the "here and now" -- God lives outside of time."

"What if" and "Why not" are bad ways to approach dealing with doctrine - we have to go the Bible. God can do many things, but in the Bible we find what He has and is doing, as opposed to wishful thinking. Maybe I sound a bit harsh, but blame it on the Internet and English being my second language. Or maybe just blame it on me, it's half past midnight here... Good night.

I stand with what I have previously said, In Roman Mass Christ is being sacrificed every day all around the world again and again and again, "yes, it's the same sacrifice!" but it's offered again and again and again... Call it anyway you like it, put it any terms you manage to find or to coin, it boils to the same... As one Croatian folk Christmas song says, We are praising Jesus... for the Sacrifice He has started for us... Yea, yea, I know, we must make distinction between the official statements and the folk expressions of a faith, but still, the letter sometime are closer to the truth of the matter.

Roger and over.

David Garner said...

Dixie wrote:

It is very important when discussing with someone of another faith that one doesn't misrepresent that faith. I, for one, appreciate Christine's insistence here. If Lutherans don't present the Catholic's position honestly then what Catholic is going to seriously be interested in listening or reading any points be made. It comes down to credibility. It is difficult to get others to listen (or read) one's point of view if in the presentation there is hyperbole or misrepresentation or out and out falsehoods.

Amen and amen. When I was struggling -- and I mean really struggling -- with becoming Orthodox, one thing nudged me toward the Orthodox Church and it kept coming up over and over and over.

When Lutherans criticized her, more often than not, they got her completely wrong.

A couple of very good Pastors were exceptions to that rule, lest either of them be reading this. But over and over, I would read or hear an objection to Orthodoxy that was just four square against what the Orthodox actually believe.

If you can't honestly critique a Church's beliefs without making them a caricature in the process, it's probably best to not speak at all. It's also, IMHO, almost always best to define what you believe and let actual believers in other traditions define what they believe. FWIW.

Anonymous said...

Pastor Peters, you asked in your post whether any other pastors could identify with the "parish" described by BrotherBoris. He could have been describing my first parish except that we weren't that well equipped technologically.

I was unprepared to find apple juice being distributed at the Lord's Supper to those who didn't want wine. Apple juice. I'm not kidding.

I appreciate all the fine doctrinal comparison between Rome and Wittenberg. I do. But seriously, there was apple juice in the inner ring of individual cups on the tray. We have far more serious problems in the LCMS than we even choose to talk about.

So yes, in general, I agree with the sentiment that the seminaries do a fine job at educating men to be Lutheran pastors. It took me a long time to realize that there just weren't that many Lutheran parishes out there.

Carl Vehse's comments, which I have found helpful on other topics and on this one can be fairly portrayed as "So what? Suck it up!" are simply not helpful. I don't think I'm just an overly sensitive soul. I was just beginning to cut my teeth on what it meant to be a Lutheran pastor. Trying to create all of that out of whole cloth in midst of opposition from God's people is superhuman. Doing it to the tune of, "Suck it up." Is impossible.

There are a fair number of lay folks and pastors who are now safely ensconced in their parishes. Good for them. I would offer a challenge. Just go to the LCMS website and do a geographical search for your area and start visiting congregation's websites even in the heartland (Neb, Wi, In, Mo, etc,). Just note what you find. The stereotypical parish of BrotherBoris' description is more often the case than not. Remember, the difference between a prejudice and a stereotype is that there is some basis in fact for a stereotype.

I will go on to say something that has not been said in the comments here or about the previous post. I guess what it boiled down to for me was that the professors didn't level with me. I don't know, maybe they did and I just didn't remember it. Nobody said, as Pastor Harrison did at St. Louis' call day service this year, "You're going out into the midst to suffer, ...sometimes at the hands of your own people." All I was told was, "If you teach enough, patiently enough and love them enough, of course they'll want to be Lutheran." That's simply not true. If it were, an entire generation of Israel would not have had to die in the wilderness.

My only advice to a man considering seminary now is, first make sure you have another way to feed yourself and and your family. Sure, God promises daily bread but it might come as a worker-pastor. Second, just be prepared to be faithful with what you have for a long time. Thousands are not flocking to hear the Gospel today. Thirdly, make sure you stay sane by being around others who will be encouraging.

Pastoring a church today is a lonely way.

I do post occasionally here and there and always use my name, however for this post I have chosen to remain anonymous for what I am about to say: if I had known then, what I know now I would not have rushed so blindly into this. I have thought of doing something else several times in 14 years of ministry. Some would say, "Well, go one then you whiner, we're better off without you." (Vehse, that's how you come across to me.) But here's the thing. The Lord of the Church still uses me in pretty amazing ways. That is encouraging.

It's just that my expectations were nowhere reality. That reality adjustment takes time and care.

And Mr. Vehse, I don't really know you, but there should be room to be a little gentler toward a new fellow who's trying to make it work even if he's a little whiny.

It's not as easy as it looks.

Terry Maher said...

You know what David, it is true that when Lutherans criticise Orthodoxy, or Catholicism, they often get it completely wrong. What is more amazing is, when Lutherans applaud Orthodoxy or Catholicism, they often get it completely wrong too!

There is no point in arguing over whether the Roman Church teaches that Christ is sacrificed again in what it calls the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. It does not so teach, end of story. And if one insists "Oh yes it does", one is guaranteed to not make a dent addressing Catholicism, especially re the error it does teach about the Mass or the true mass set out in the BOC, as any even halfassed taught Catholic will recognise one has no idea what one is talking about.

And last Anonymous, take heart, some of us are with you. Sometimes I think being a pastor is like being a soldier -- even with the best training there is, it's a little different when you actually get downrange and things and people start blowing up and dying.

Pastor Peters said...

I have it in my memory somewhere that youth at the confirmation were once slapped across the face as a reminder of the rejection of Christ in the world and their rough road as people of God swimming upstream in the world set against Him. I do not know if this is true or mythology, but I often have thought it might be an appropriate gesture to use after the laying on of hands in the ordination rite.

I would encourage you, dear wounded brother, as one who has been there (and often still is) that what we do in faithfulness to the Lord is not forgotten, nor is it in vain, but are not given to see the fruits of our labors (at least not as often as I would like).

Bless you and bless your labor for the Lord and you are in my prayers...

Terry Maher said...

It's not mythology, but it was not a real slap across the face either. The old rubric reads: Deinde leviter eum in maxilla caedit, dicens: Pax tecum.

This is a sign of peace. The "slap" is more like a tap, and meant to be a reminder to face the struggle of faith bravely.

I say old rite because all mention of it disappeared in the novus ordo. Like so much else. National bishops' conferences may establish such customs as they deem appropriate to a sign of peace, or none at all.

Pax tecum, Peace be with thee, that's the message, in both word and gesture. It's in the familiar person in Latin, which is why I used the familiar person in English though it has dropped from general usage -- it's among family.

Carl Vehse said...

"Carl Vehse's comments, which I have found helpful on other topics and on this one can be fairly portrayed as "So what? Suck it up!" are simply not helpful."

Well, that is your interpretation of what I said; it is not what I said.

But now that you mention it, we are told to "imagine" a new pastor who accepts a call to some "podunk" church and then whines about the congregation because:

1. They refer to "the Lord's Supper" rather than the "Eucharist."
2. They only have the Lord's Supper once a month.
3. They consider themselves a "congregation" rather than a "parish."
4. The church interior is plain with white walls and no stained glass windows.
5. They have no crucifix.
6. They have hymnals in the pews, but the people use overhead screens to view the hymns.
7. The congregation would be surprised to know there is a Liturgical Calendar.
8. The congregation has not had a Christmas Day service.

I hope the new pastor would have an older mentor-pastor, in the circuit if possible, with whom he can communicate these whinings. Another job of this mentor-pastor would be to apply several sharp kicks to the young pastor's keister for being such a spoiled liturgical brat, who instead should be grateful to God that the sheep He gave him to care for cause him only these trivial, Wurlitzer-rather-than-a-Baldwin annoyances.

David Garner said...

You know what David, it is true that when Lutherans criticise Orthodoxy, or Catholicism, they often get it completely wrong. What is more amazing is, when Lutherans applaud Orthodoxy or Catholicism, they often get it completely wrong too!

Very true, and Orthodox are all too happy to return the favor in both directions.

I went 'round the bend with a guy on an Orthodox message board because he said the Lutheran view of sola scriptura could be fairly summarized as "the Bible according to what Martin Luther thinks." The amazing thing was that he had no background in Lutheranism, but still dug his heels in and insisted this view was true even where I quoted from the Confessions to prove him wrong.

That's why I said before and I'll say again -- it is almost always best to define what you believe and let actual believers in other traditions define what they believe.

BishopBob said...

"What we ought to be preparing our Pastors for is how to lead a parish through a sea change of identity and back into the confession and confessional practice that we claim defines us."
Although not yet over an LCMS congregation I place the burden of change on the pastor, he is the LEADER, so he must lead. Hold Lenten services if no one attends but his own family & the organist. Vest as appropriate to the season, which the bulletin should begin to reflect. Preach Law & Gospel. Close the altar (too many of them are "open"). Sing the hymns, if not in the pew books, then print them in the weekly bulletin & remove the non LCMS hymnals from the pulpits :-)

Brenda Aguado said...

To Pastor Peters,

My husband and I have wrestled with the question you have headed this blog entry with since October 2011, whether or not to leave the LCMS.We are both Christian since our childhoods and have been on long journeys through different denominations (and non-denominations) including several years on the house church circuit. We consider ourselves "Christian". We became members of our local LCMS in '07, our youngest daughter was baptized and catechized by a pastor who has since retired...and there began the problems. We are painfully aware that the pastor had been holding the church 'together' our local church is suffering from those who want to join mainstream protestantism (what we fled from, the so-called methabapticostalism term)and those that hold dear the Lutheran traditions and those are dying off. We came to feel safe with the Confession, having both the newly published Concordia and the 1959 Book of Concord. We had hopes the the newly installed pastor would get us back on the right track but he holds a liberal view. What happened in October was the 'Halloween party' that the pastor and his wife organized with the help of the methabapticostalism folks and we have been grieving ever since. To the point of leaving the LCMS because it is becoming apostate like all the other protestant churches. Yes, we have visited the area LCMS congregations and yes they are CW, etc. There is one, that still uses the Red Hymnal. It is where we attended Advent, Christmas and Lent. But we fear it will soon go the way of the rest. We are currently enrolled in Orthdox catechism and have friends already there...Grieving the passing of the conservative LCMS
Brenda Aguado

Anonymous said...

I agree with Brenda. The LCMS leadership fails to acknowledge that as soon as LCMS congregations imitate the non-denominational churches, the laymen will get the message that denominational differences don't matter. The decision to leave the LCMS for a non-denominational church therefore becomes a lot easier. After all, the praise band and the coffee are far superior at the other church down the street.

It does not matter how many changes are made by Matt Harrison at the Synod level. The districts are working hard to do the very opposite with their "Church Growth" and SMP programs. The LCMS can be considered dysfunctional at best. I have considered leaving the LCMS for the Orthodox, but certain Orthodox doctrines such as Theosis are just too creepy to me.

Benjamin Harju said...

Anon,

That's the first time I've ever heard the word "creepy" applied to Theosis. I'd be willing to listen to more about that off-blog if you wanted to share more about that.

I agree with your assessment of LCMS districts. The issue is the basic Christianity that the people in the pew have accepted. Asking the people to accept a Lutheranism that isn't supported institutionally across the board makes no sense to the average pew sitter. If I had not left for Orthodoxy, I would have advocated an institutional move on the part of Confessional Lutherans.