Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Worship – Public or Private?

Many years ago I was part of a working group addressing the question “Who is worship for – the churched or the unchurched?”  I well remember Norman Nagel suggesting that the question was made more difficult because neither answer offered to us was correct.  Worship is for the Lord to do His Divine Service for His people and to enable them to respond to His gifts of grace.

It is very interesting to me how worship has transitioned from a private activity of the baptized to the very public activity and even the ordinary face of the Church in the world.  Dom Gregory Dix, among others, pointed out the tension between nearly all Christian thinking today on the public nature of worship and the practice of the early church.  Nearly everyone today (on all sides of the church growth debate) sees worship as the public face of Christianity.  Though there is great disagreement about what this public face ought to look like, we have come to instinctively think of worship as a public activity and to expect that people not yet of the faith will be present for the Divine Service.  We have deep and vehement disagreements over who should commune (open or close[d]), over what music should be used (traditional hymnody or contemporary Christian music), and over what liturgy (or not) to follow – but we all assume, expect, and even hope that unbelievers will and should be in the congregation on Sunday morning.

This is in stark contrast to the early church.  Prior to 313, Christian worship was almost uniformly closed to those not yet baptized, chrismated, and catechized.  Christian worship was corporate and communal but it was deliberately private.  Today we are more apt to describe worship as personal and individual but uniformly public.  Whether we follow a traditional liturgy and have all the smells and bells or the most generic and non-denominational Christian seeker service with only contemporary music, we all advertise the times of worship to those outside the Church – hoping and expecting that they will come and become a part of the congregation.

It seems to me that maybe we need to rethink the idea that worship is the primary public face of Christianity.  It is certainly true that the change in legal status of Christianity had something to do with this but I am not at all sure this is the only or real reason why worship was private prior to this time.  Nor am I convinced that the legalization of Christianity resulted in open doors and the prototype of “y’all come” greeting we give to the world today.

Part of the reason surely had to do with the understanding that worship was the privileged activity of the baptized wherein God delivered to the people of His promise the gifts of His promise.  In fact, the heritage of the temple and the synagogue setting surely influenced the early church but again this was not the only or the primary justification for the private nature of early Christian worship.  Rather the weight of it all rests upon the inevitable conclusion of the New Testament that only the baptized believers can worship God in Spirit and truth (an early term for what we Lutherans call the means of grace).

So if worship was not the face of early Christianity, what was?  Scripture gives us a clue.  What was it that drew those outside the Church to the faith?  “See how they love...” The public face of early Christianity was not worship but mercy and compassion accompanied by a bold willingness to give account of the hope within them and the source and cause for their love.  It was the work of mercy (both inside and outside the Church) that became the defining mark of Christianity.  Read of St. Lawrence or the real St. Nicholas and you read the story of this mercy and compassion.  Read of the work of those who carried the faith to Gaul, Germany, Britain, etc. and you read of words which took the shape of works of mercy and service.

We don’t think that way today.  The work of mercy is done by the government – not the Church.  The compassionate service to the world is provided by for profit businesses, quasi governmental agencies, and civil servants.  The great tradition of mercy has slowly been sold or ceded to others supported either by tax dollars or insurance reimbursement.  Our own great Lutheran heritage of mercy and service has largely been lost to us or handed over to hospital chains or government grant.  Look at the number of once great “Lutheran” hospitals, orphanages, nursing homes, etc, who are now Lutheran in name only.  Lutheran Hospital where my wife was born, was trained as a nurse and in which her mother died is still called Lutheran but it is owned by the same mega corporation that operates a hundred similar hospitals.  What is true in Ft. Wayne is true of nearly every Lutheran hospital across America.  Look at the budgets for many of those “Lutheran” Social Service agencies and you will find the major source of funds for their work is government money which comes with strings attached.  Lutheran parish schools have become the private schools for children of means whose parents can afford the tuition.

Lacking these ministries of mercy and compassion, we have nothing left to offer the world but worship (still the domain of the baptized).  The public face of Christianity has shifted from mercy and service to worship and worship has shifted from the place where the baptized believers receive the gifts of His promised to the primary way we witness and reach out to the world.  This is why we are consumed with questions of who should (or should not) commune and whether or not what we do on Sunday morning should appeal to or be shaped primarily toward those not yet of the family of God.

The Gospel competes with motivational speakers and messages, the hymns compete with the sound of the radio or Ipod, the Pastor competes with Mcs and entertainers on the stage, and the Church competes with the mall and the food court.  Any congregation which resists such radical transformation is seen as ineffective and eventually irrelevant to modern people and modern life.  In order to be essential to the world we give people what they think they want or need and we end up becoming extraneous to the God who established His Church by His blood.

I wonder if maybe we should not learn something from the early church.  I am NOT suggesting that we should close worship to those not yet of the household of God through baptism and catechesis, but instead of offering worship as the face of the Church in the world we might think of the first four centuries and give mercy its place in the witness of the Church.  Worship is the largely private domain of the baptized people of God and mercy is the public face of Christianity... of course this would require a radical transformation in our thinking and in the work that we believe God has called us to do.... starting with me and my congregation... but I wonder if it would not clarify a great deal....  Just a thought...

26 comments:

christl242 said...

It is also true that Christian worship was not highly advertised in the early centuries because of persecution by the Roman state.

I agree with the practice of the early church where the catechumens were dismissed after the liturgy of the Word, as they had not yet been fully catechized and baptized so could not received the Sacrament of the Altar.

The open communion practiced by bodies such as the ELCA and Episcopal church has led to disastrous results. There are parishes in both bodies that don't require a person to be baptized before receiving Holy Communion, which to me is a travesty.

As for mercy being the public face of the church it certainly has its place but must be properly understood. The Roman Catholic church probably has the largest denominational social service agencies in the world and many Catholics are of the opinion that what one does is far more important than what one believes, which is why the liberal wing of the RC sees no reason to prohibit the ordination of women or bless gay marriage.

Good old pelagianism.

Christine

Pastor Peters said...

There are many more instances in which the recipients of Jesus' mercy were unbelievers than believers yet Jesus has compassion on them. The fear of pelagianism surely cannot prevent us from doing the same merciful works that Jesus did, can it? What was the thing that drew the unchurched in Acts - see how they love one another. All I am saying is that more often than not the only thing the Church offers to the world today is worship which is misunderstood to those outside the faith or turning into anything but worship in order that those outside may understand it. In Scripture mercy was not a choice but essential to the Church's life and work. What about today?

Matt said...

One of the trends in the "emerging" movement is a deliberate return to house churches and a privatization of worship, even to the extreme of do-it-yourself worship at home or over the internet. I know this is not what you are advocating.

I think our worship should remain public in the sense that it is visible and accessible to the public. Our grandfathers understood this; our church building stands high on a hill with the cross of Christ visible for miles.

Fr. Curtis speaks of "the liturgy as beacon for the elect." I think the phrase is beautiful and true. I notice that the occasional curious visitor to our congregation often cannot explain the impulse that brought him to our door. And then they hear something that resonates in the Divine Service and they want to know more. We gently decline to invite them to communion and urge them to begin a thorough catechesis before baptism or membership.

My point is that if we get too private, the elect may not easily be able to find us; perhaps it does not matter. But I think our buildings, in particular, are an important proclamation of the faith despite the fact that heresy is preached in far too many traditional church buildings.

So the Elect of God, called out of the world, publicly and boldly gather around the word and sacrament in open view of the public, and thank God that we are still able to do so in the United States. When the day comes that that is no longer true, I pray that my congregation and I will gladly endure whatever happens on account of membership in the Body of Christ.

Anonymous said...

The early Christian church of the
New Testament met in private homes
for worship. This limited attendance
to 45-50 people. When Christianity
was legalized and church buildings
were erected this changed the dynamic
of worship. By the Middle Ages we
had cathedrals with seating capacity
for hundreds of people with chancels
altars, and pulpits the focal point.

In the 21st century the church has
become a business with budgets
that can annually reach $500,000
to $1,000,000. For better or worse
our worship is a public activity
and that will not change. The LCMS
can offer to the Lord meaningful
worship since He is an audience of
one and invite others to witness
our praise of the Triune God.

christl242 said...

There are many more instances in which the recipients of Jesus' mercy were unbelievers than believers yet Jesus has compassion on them.

I don't believe I was even addressing that. I was simply pointing out that the early church had to be careful about her public face because the Roman authorities were watching.

Again, I am speaking from experience, not observation from the outside in. The "social gospel" has had a detrimental effect on the faith of Catholics over the past few decades as catechetical instruction fell by the wayside. If you don't want to believe me, then perhaps the lament of John Paul II that so many Catholics are still unevangalized might do it and I don't fault the Catholic in the pew -- the leadership is to blame.

No one who reads the New Testament would ever deny that Christians are to reflect the compassion and mercy of Jesus in the world. But that is not necessarily the mark of a Christian. Hindus, Buddhists and aetheists can also be compassionate.

Did not the Lord tell pharoah in Egypt to let His people go so that they could go and worship him? That is the first duty of the church, to glorify the Name of the Holy Trinity in the world, from that all the rest should flow as we obey Jesus' admonition to be merciful as our Father is merciful.

Christine

christl242 said...

Oh, and incidentally, on the "eastern front" of the early church, deacons in the Orthodox liturgy still call out "the doors, the doors" going back to the time when the faith was still illegal and Christians had to be on guard during their worship as to who was among them.

Christine

Matt said...

Christine,

Non-Christians certainly do things to serve their neighbor, and should be praised when they do. But these external good works are emphatically not what we are talking about when we talk about Christian compassion. Faith alone makes us right before God, and our works that serve our neighbor supply proof that faith is living. The good work that others do earns them nothing in the face of God; only those works motivated by faith that is an undeserved gift can really be called good works.

As for the Israelites, I think it is more accurate to say that God lead them out of Egypt in order to deliver them from all their enemies and to be their Savior. The incarnation of Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment of all the promises God made to Israel, and it doesn't require the church (the true Israel) or its individual members to do anything.

So I think the first duty of the Church is to simply be the Church. As Christ commands us to be merciful, He is simply describing His own true nature which is now ours as adopted sons and daughters.

And don't get me wrong: to simply be the Church requires a lot of work, messy details, money and board meetings. Mercy also requires much of our time and resources which will not be repaid in any tangible way. No rational person would serve his neighbor with this kind of mercy unless he were convinced that his reward is in heaven and he loves his neighbor in the same way that Jesus loves His neighbors.

Anyway, that's my take on what I've read on scripture, please correct me if I've said anything off-base! I'm really a very amateur theologian.

I enjoy the conversation and I really agree with your points Christine. I hope I'm not coming across as argumentative. This stuff is important.

Pastor Peters said...

Unless I am mistaken, I was not advocating shutting the doors and keeping people but asking about the primary face of the Church in the world. For Acts and the first three hundred years mercy was the more public face of Christianity. All I am saying is that worship has replaced mercy as the public face of Christianity and mercy has gone private.

Of course the liturgy is a beacon. There is no denying this. Of course the Word works in any and every setting. Again, my point is that when people think of Christianity they think of a worship place and time and "style." In early Christianity, they thought of mercy and service. I am not sure that this part of what I am saying has much to disagree with but I am usually wrong.

christl242 said...

I enjoy the conversation and I really agree with your points Christine. I hope I'm not coming across as argumentative. This stuff is important.

Matt, not argumentative at all, I do understand what you are saying and appreciate your thoughtful feedback.

Yes, we certainly are not saved by good works -- in fact, there is nothing we can really "do" for God who is all-sufficient in and of Himself in His own essence and nature. He has need neither of our good works nor our praise. And yet, paradoxically, we love God precisely by loving our neighbor, who is also precious in His eyes.

But, I think a careful reading of the Gospels will show that the good works and miracles that Jesus performed were to draw people to Jesus Himself and reveal Him as the Messiah. Jesus said that the "work" the Christian is called to do is to believe in Him and the One who sent Him, because Jesus is the True Vine and apart from Him we can do nothing. So good works in and of themselves are not the mark of the Christian.

Yes indeed Israel was called to bring forth the Messiah but her worship also set her apart from her pagan neighbors and was a strong witness that the God of Israel was different from the baals of the ancient Near East. In fact, all those provisions in the law addressed that. Unlike the Canaanites the Israelites were not permitted to practice child sacrifice in their worship or engage in other pagan practices and it all "set them apart", the root meaning of what it is to be "holy" from those pagan neighbors.

Today, we as the church, are stilled called to do the same, to be in the world but not of it and our worship is a witness to that as well.

It all boils down to the simple Lutheran difference that we do good works because Christ has saved us purely through his merits, not in order to BE saved.

A healthy church will maintain the proper balance of works/worship. That was my point about one of the chief problems in the Catholic church today and I spent over ten years as a Catholic.

Christine

Matt said...

No disagreement! Just a few digressions. . .

So what do you suggest? What practically are we talking about here? What can the Church at large and my own congregation do to restore the Church's reputation as a font of mercy even for those outside of it?

I think our public reputation as Christians is that we are persistently recruiting people to our club by whatever means necessary, whereafter we'll ask for their money. Our neighbors are irritated by us, not blessed by us.

Your thesis is spot on, now what should we do about it?

christl242 said...

Pastor Peters, I don't disagree at all with the need for the church to engage in works of mercy and service. What I object to is what I see in some circles where what we do is more important than what we believe.

Orthodoxy and orthopraxy should be sides of the same coin.

Christine

Matt said...

Christine,

Amen to all that! And to Pr. Peters too. I think we are having what you would call a "raging agreement." Its enjoyable to have it with people who write as well as you two do.

Certainly God called His people out of Egypt for a number of reasons, and Jesus performed His miracles for a number of reasons. I just read Pr. Peters' wonderful sermon about the Pearl of Great Price and I think one reason that Jesus spoke in parables is because the concept of the "Kingdom of God" is not easy to describe in straightforward terms to fallen Man. I think He is calling us to ponder these things, not overanalyze them, which I confess I tend to do.

As believers in Christ, we all have the God-given impulse to be merciful to our neighbor as well as to worship and to proclaim the gospel to our neighbors.

The mercy part frustrates me, frankly. I don't have the time or the money or the energy to roll up my sleeves and do what needs to be done. Actually I do, but I've sinfully chosen to put my own desires and creature comforts ahead of Christ's command in this area. I want to do better! Also, I've not been very sensitive to my neighbors' needs and have no idea where to start.

christl242 said...

I think our public reputation as Christians is that we are persistently recruiting people to our club by whatever means necessary, whereafter we'll ask for their money. Our neighbors are irritated by us, not blessed by us.

I think you have a good point. In fact, a coworker of mine who was raised Eastern Orthodox became a Roman Catholic after she got married to a Catholic guy and her first complaint was that "the Catholic church is always asking for money", a bit of an exaggeration perhaps but it is no accident that many Catholics since Vatican II call the USCCB, the Catholic bishops' conference, "the Democratic Party at Prayer."

Anyway, two thoughts. We have to get over the idea that we are only the "church" on Sundays. We are individually and collectively "the Church" whether gathered on the Lord's day or during the week, serving in whatever vocation God has called us to. That was the genius of Martin Luther who recaptured the idea that "vocation" was not limited to the mediaeval idea of a "bishop, priest or consecrated religious" but that of wife, mother, tailor, farmer, all the occupations that society supports.

In that vein, the Christian woman staying at home to raise her children is just as "called" as the corporate executive in discharging his duties and all those vocations present opportunities to render Christian service to our neighbor, beginning first within our own families.

We are not all called to the same forms of service and need to discern through Scripture and prayer where we might best serve the Lord.

Corporately, we can support the mission and relief work done by our Synod either financially and/or through our prayers. We can continue to offer Christian witness and nuture through our parish Vacation Bible Schools, especially in a culture where many children are not being raised in Christian homes.

We can continue to serve local or parish hunger centers, help those who are unemployed and looking for work, the ways are countless. And we can lovingly, not in a pushy or triumphalist way, speak the name of Jesus the Christ whose love for all leads us to do these things in his Name.


Christine

Anonymous said...

The purpose of the church is 5-fold:
To Worship, To Witness, To Teach,
To Serve, To Fellowship.

Now the LCMS has got it down to 3:
Witness, Mercy, Life Together

Mercy is the same as serve and
Life Together includes Worship,
Fellowship and Teaching.

My point is this: Teaching tends to
get lost in the shuffle. We need
a strong and dynamic teaching
emphasis in LCMS parishes.
Since the pastor is the theologian
in residence he needs to take the
leadership role in offering Bible
classes during the week. Our laity
need to be fed by the Word of God.

Matt said...

When did "fellowship" become a verb? And what does it mean? If by it you mean coming together around Word and Sacrament, absolutely. If by it you mean "socialize," I don't think that is included in the scriptural term koinonia.

But other than that nit, I completely agree. There is a poverty of knowledge among us (I speak for myself) that the church can do a much better job addressing, right alongside our poverty of mercy and poverty of evangelism and poverty of worship and nasty store-bought potato salad. Thanks be to our God who can use such broken vessels for His good ends.

Unknown said...

In the late eighties of the last century, the Moscow Protestant Chaplaincy left the protection of the U.S. Embassy and struck out on its own. Worship services, Sunday School, and Bible Classes were held at an auditorium, which was rented for Sunday only. From time to time, for a variety of reasons, we had to change auditoriums; I can recall 4 different ones between 1989 and 1997. When the Soviet Union collapsed, many people, particularly old people, faced real hunger as a result of the changes in the economy. Pastor John Melline (ELCA) began a program of feeding those old folks, so that in a very short time we were feeding about 1,000 people per day.

When changes in the country’s law made it possible for us to purchase our own place of worship, I suggested to Pastor Melline that we look into it. His response was, “God forbid, George. It would become a millstone around our necks. How will we feed those people when we spend all of our funds on a building?”

Selling our church buildings in order to do works of mercy does not seem like a reasonable suggestion. But there is something not quite right when we sit in our air-conditioned churches, with pillowed kneelers, while every minute of the day about 10 children die of starvation somewhere in the world. After all, when our Lord will separate the sheep from the goats, He will not say anything about whether we had close(d) communion, or which liturgy we used, but something abut giving drink to, feeding, clothing, and visiting the least of His bretheren.

So start gathering rocks and reductiae ad absurdum to toss my way. But at least we should give the matter some thought. And by the way it is not exactly true that, ”Prior to 313, Christian worship was almost uniformly closed to those not yet baptized, chrismated, and catechized.” During the days after Pentecost baptism was offered rather liberally, and there is no mention of close(d) communion. We shouldn’t make the same mistake Elert made in his famous book that we assume everything the early Church did after that was correct.

Peace and Joy!
George A. Marquart

Pastor Peters said...

It was not simply because of persecution that the worship service was closed but also very much due to a theology of worship in which the things of God were for the people of God, that only those of the household of faith could either comprehend in faith or receive benefit from the gifts of God. This was not a deterrent from evangelism for the church grew like hotcakes during this period.

christl242 said...

I would submit that when Christianity became legal in the Empire all sorts of hangers-on entered the church for political or social gain. It became necessary to make sure that prospective converts understood what it was they were embracing (that would not apply to infants of course, who were baptized in the belief that the Holy Spirit also granted them saving faith and their catechesis would come later).

Those present at Pentecost were privileged to hear Peter's magnificent catechetical sermon but even the Ethiopian eunuch had to receive instruction from Scripture before he was baptized.

I would further submit that Western Christians shouldn't feel all that guilty about having air-conditioned churches while our society doesn't mind spend millions and millions upon sports arenas and shopping malls.

Christine

Unknown said...

Christine: Strictly speaking, the instruction the Ethiopian Eunuch received was an explanation of Scripture through words that were not yet Scripture. But his term as a catechumen did not last all that long. On the other hand, the whole point of this wonderful story lies in the question, “What is to prevent me from being baptized?” Neither he nor Phillip thought that the course of instruction was not long or deep enough. This poor man had probably been a follower of the God of Jacob for many years, and probably wanted very much to convert to Judaism. But he had been told that anyone could become a Jew, with one exception: anyone with damaged genitals. So when he asked the question, his heart was full of trepidation – will I be denied once again? His rejoicing was that of no other, as he went on his way, and it is in Scripture so that we would know that there is now no exception to those who can enter the Kingdom of God.

As to what Christians should or should not feel guilty about, may I suggest that our society is “the world”, about which our Lord said (John 17:16), “They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world.” So we cannot expect them to care about the poor. But we are “the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand,” to whom our Lord will say, “just as you did it to one of the least of these … you did it to me.”

Peace and Joy!
George A. Marquart

christl242 said...

Christine: Strictly speaking, the instruction the Ethiopian Eunuch received was an explanation of Scripture through words that were not yet Scripture.

Not a problem as he was at least most likely familiar with some of the OT promises of the One to come and all of the NT began as an oral tradition before it was committed to writing, and he embraced Baptism as the beginning of his journey in Christ.

To take your other comment to a logical conclusion we probably shouldn't drive cars, have TVs in our houses and all the other trappings of Western civilization. And for the elderly who come to church and are uncomfortable when it is extremely warm and humid in some parts of the country, we can just tell them to deal with it.

Yes, I take Matthew 25 seriously and the Lord will call us both collectively and individually to respond to that. But I don't think he calls us all to live a monastic lifestyle in order to do so and my point stands. When I see Christians protesting the millions spent on entertainment, sports and shopping then I will worry about something as insignificant, to me, as air conditioning (yes, my parish has it).

It's an unfortunate fact that much of the hunger in the third world is due to the corruption of the governments that reside there. It seems every time there is a famine in Haiti, Africa, etc. the relief sent by Americans and Europeans is prevented from getting through. That same situation exists in Sudan and now Somalia. So let's get busy urging out government to put on some heavy pressure to address that.

Christine

christl242 said...

One more question George, if you don't mind and of course you are not obligated to answer.

Are you a member of the ELCA? I only ask because at one time I was, and your comments seem to me more compatible with what I knew in the ELCA than in the LCMS.

Feel free to tell me to mind my own business :)

Christine

Unknown said...

Dear Christine: I guess if our faith is just our own private business, then it isn’t worth much. The answer to your question is: I am now a member in good standing of a Mo Synod parish. Upon coming to the United States in 1949, I was confirmed in a Mo Synod congregation, was a member of three Mo Synod congregations (no, not because I either disliked the congregations or was kicked out – it was mostly job related and getting a new home); then I spent over 10 years as a member of the Moscow Protestant Chaplaincy, which had pastors for about 3 year terms from 5 mainline Protestant denominations, including the ELCA; then I was a member of two ELCA congregations until returning to Missouri. When choosing a congregation, one of my criteria was that it be in my community, and there were not always Mo Synod churches nearby. I also spent 4 years in the synodical system of higher education.

My experience in the ELCA taught me that they hardly differ from those belonging to Missouri. Most members had no clue about what the official statements meant, nor did they care. None of the ELCA congregations to which I belonged had pastors who advocated abortion, or considered it acceptable except for some very narrow criteria, nor did they approve of homosexuality as an acceptable practice. But they were a little more ready to forgive those that had committed these things than their Mo counterparts.

I also want to respond to your earlier posting, but will do that separately.

Peace and Joy!
George A. Marquart

Unknown said...

Christine: You write, “To take your other comment to a logical conclusion.” What follows is not a logical conclusion, but what is known in logic as a reductio ad absurdum – the name of one of a number of classic logical fallacies. The “logical conclusion” is, in fact, drawing the argument to an extreme position. I suspect that if we took the suffering of others more seriously, we could find ways to be more helpful than we are today, without giving up cars, TV, or houses, although giving up TV would benefit us immeasurably. I am struck by the fact that our Lord voluntarily gave up all of His glory to become a servant. I am not saying that we can all do the same, but if we think about it, we may be able to find a few things we can give up and contribute the savings to the poor.

Your are obviously right about all those governments that cause such immense human suffering. I don’t know how we can change them, but meanwhile our concern should remain with those who are suffering, and we must find ways to help them in spite of their governments. There are, in fact, thousands of people around the world doing just that. But we Mo Synod Lutherans have this thing about the Social Gospel that makes it possible for us to do nothing, because the “theology” of helping is not right (having written that, I fully acknowledge the many wonderful charitable works done by Synod, but our fear of being accused of believing a Social Gospel does restrain us). Therefore, I suggest we try to help people without being concerned how it looks.

As Rev. Curtis pointed out in a recent paper, nothing you or I do or do not do will add or subtract one person from God’s Elect which will be saved. But what we do or do not do will affect the suffering on this earth, both of the Elect and of those who are not. But why should we begrudge the latter that little bit of relief, when their ultimate fate will be so grim?

Peace and Joy!
George A. Marquart

christl242 said...

Hi George,

Thanks for your candid responses. 1949 must have been a good year, you came to the U.S. and that's the year of my birth in beautiful Bavarian village to a Lutheran mother and Catholic father.

As for the ELCA, I guess maybe the timeframes were different for us as to what you and I experienced.

There are two ELCA congregations 10minutes from my house, but I drive out of the neighborhood to attend an LCMS parish.

When I was a member of the ECLA church down the street, in the mid-90s it was still authentically Lutheran as far as I experienced it. Now, as part of the NE Ohio Synod of the ELCA, the parish has a female assistant pastor and a female "bishop" of the Synod. I don't know about the other ELCA Synods but the NE Ohio Synod has done a turnabout as regards it stance towards gay marriage, etc.

The thing is, whether or not individual ELCA churches are still orthodox in their faith and practce, the entire body is in full communion with other denominations that are not. If it is true that when we commune we are all communing in Christ, then I am receiving with those who approve of abortion and gay marriage, particularly the Episcopal church.

After examining the ELCA's new hymnal, Evangelical Lutheran Worship it seems to me the powers that be in Chicago are far more interested in being politically correct than faithful to the Gospel.

I am by no means trying to judge individuals, which only God can do. But any particular denomination has a public face that it presents to the world, and the one presented by the ELCA differs markedly from that of the LCMS.

I also think that the LCMS is right to be cautious as to how it sees the social gospel. I have hands-on experience from my years of membership in the Catholic church as to how divisive that became as some Catholics began to believe that what we do is far more important than what we believe, which I don't think can be backed up by all the warnings in the NT to "keep the faith."

Christine

Unknown said...

Christine: you were born in one of the most beautiful parts of God’s earth – I am sure you know that. After we left Estonia in 1941, we lived in a “transit camp” (good camp) in the monastery in Neresheim. Diagonally across, in the south-eastern corner of Bavaria is the town of Marquartstein, which I laughingly refer to as the ancestral home. In between is indescribable beauty.

Tschüss, George

christl242 said...

Well I'm picking myself up from the floor! Small world!

I haven't heard that winsome greeting in a long time, except of course from my mother.

Yes, Bayern is very beautiful although my East Prussian mother never stopped longing for her homeland after being driven out in the Eastern Vertreibung.

It was kind of you to share your family history! Danke!

Christine