Tuesday, November 22, 2011

What is the business of the Church?

Every now and then when I am bored (which, if you are under 30, appears to be most of the time), I take a blog expedition and follow link after link.  There are a ton or Roman Catholic oriented blogs out there and most dioceses and most bishops have a blog.  It has become apparent to me that bishops in the Roman Catholic Church spend a goodly amount of their time saying Mass.  It may not be a surprise to you Roman brothers who venture over to my Lutheran meanderings but it continues to strike me at all the pictures and commentary devoted to saying Mass by those episcopal and diocesan blogs.

Funny.  You could spend your whole life traversing the landscape of Lutheran blogs (official or not) and you would find few visual images of the Mass (okay, Divine Service).  Hardly any of them show the bishops (okay District Presidents) saying Mass (something that is slightly changed by our Synod President and Bishop (he is a practicing parish pastor) Matt Harrison.  Even so, Harrison has barely dented the pervasive image of national clergy in business suits or polo/khaki Friday casuals.

It seems that in Rome the Mass IS the business of the Church -- at least that from which all the other business flows.  Not so for us Lutherans.  We tend to see devotions as perfunctory things that we need to get out of the way as quickly as possible so that we can talk finances or declining numbers or prospective programs to revitalize the church body or how to deal with this issue or that problem.  The average Pastors meeting or District confab or Synod convention or church council or voters meeting offers a perfunctory prayer and a few spontaneous words with perhaps a verse or two from the Bible before we get on to the BIG agenda.  Even when Pastors or the Districts or Synod gathers in larger groups, worship is one small part of what we do (one Eucharist out of a three day or week long gathering).  I wonder if we have it wrong.

Perhaps one of the reasons why worship in our church body is so contentious and the situation in such disarray is that we have come to believe that the business of the Church is something other than worship.  At least that is what our practice says.  We worship because we are supposed to but our hearts are in such things as convention resolutions or PowerPoint presentations or Q & A sessions, etc.  We see the business of the Church as business and worship as, well, the prelude to the real business.

So our DPs tend to be even more uncomfortable at the altar as they are in the pulpit.  Our agendas are filled with the busy-ness of business stuff.  Our hearts are just not in it -- worship, that is.  God forbid that when we gather as Synod in convention each day might begin with Matins and lead into the Divine Service just before lunch and end in Evening Prayer (full liturgies with the full resources of the book, choir, and good pastoral leadership).  Lord help us for the sorry soul who suggests to the District that each day of the confab have time for Word AND Sacrament that the assembly may not merely give lip service to the praise of God which is primarily focused in the faithful reception of His gifts.  Keep the stares from those who might suggest that at least 20 minutes of the parish meetings (council, voters, committee, board, etc.) be given to one of the Daily Offices.

No, you would not get it from the pictures or commentary of our official blogs that the primary business of the Church is worship (the Mass).... because, in spite of what the Confessions say and early Lutheran practice reveals, we just don't believe it....

My recommendation for a Synod in trouble, a District seeking unity of parish and Pastors, a congregation expressing in local site the evangelical catholicity of the Church -- the Mass, the daily offices, and sacramental and Biblical preaching!  Think how much money we might save on all those parachurch groups peddling the latest and greatest revitalization programs... and how trivial so much of the crap we do as a church and church body might seem in comparison to the Lord who comes to us through the means of grace....

48 comments:

Anonymous said...

Nice post, Pr. Peters.

Perhaps if Pr. Beecroft had taken this line of argumentation when he said that the Mass was the way to revitalize the church, his detractors wouldn't be fooled into thinking he was merely arguing against contemporary worship.

The business of the church is the forgiveness of sins, clothing people in Christ's righteousness.

Anonymous said...

Great post, Pastor.
I think it is no surprise that the church I attend (St. John's in Wheaton) offers daily Mass on weekdays, as well as the Weekend Masses!) has such a vibrant and generous congregation because we simply take Christ at His words and gladly receive from Him His gifts as often as possible! It is the sick who need a doctor after all, right?
If only the men on top would take heed of this post!
-Peter Sovitzky

Anonymous said...

I think you are on to something, Pastor. Just recently a member of my family swam the Tiber for these reasons.

Under this pope worship seems to be getting a new emphasis. Just read today about a new commission that is being set up to address music and architecture in the Catholic church:

"A team has been set up, to put a stop to garage style churches, boldly shaped structures that risk denaturing modern places for Catholic worship. Its task is also to promote singing that really helps the celebration of mass. The “Liturgical art and sacred music commission” will be established by the Congregation for Divine Worship over the coming weeks. This will not be just any office, but a true and proper team, whose task will be to collaborate with the commissions in charge of evaluating construction projects for churches of various dioceses. The team will also be responsible for the further study of music and singing that accompany the celebration of Mass."

Lutherans need to recover the importance of worship.

Terry Maher said...

Maybe that's the cure for this constant Rome envy that seems to consume some of us. Just swim the Tiber and get it over with. Apparently only then, seeing the inside from the inside rather than from the outside looking in, will the inside be seen for what it is.

Or not. You might be happier than hell. The Reformation is over, Rome finally got it, Vatican II was the hoped-for council at long last, now you can be the Lutheran you want to be in the RCC.

Then we can quit remaking everything we do after postconciliar Rome and calling it tradition, of which the picture is an example -- Communion in a manner unknown in the church, Lutheran or Catholic, for centuries until resurrected by 1960s Rome. Home to Rome, the Reformation is over!

I'll see the rest of you at the next Voters Meeting. I came from Rome.

Anonymous said...

Amen, Pastor Peters. Great post. The Mass is a blessing for the church and the Augsburg Confession, 24, is a great teaching tool for this appreciation of holy Mass. Lutheran churches that offer Mass each Sunday are truly blessed.

Anonymous said...

Your absolutist positions sound like those of someone who still has an ax to grind.

It is more than obvious that there are those converts to Rome who are indeed very happy to be there. By the same token there are those who have come to the LCMS who feel the same.

A little perspective, please.

Carl Vehse said...

"Hardly any of them [Lutheran blogs] show the bishops (okay District Presidents) saying Mass (something that is slightly changed by our Synod President and Bishop (he is a practicing parish pastor) Matt Harrison."

For confessional Missouri Synod Lutheran blogs, this is most likely because of AC.XIV. Almost all LCMS district presidents are full-time corporate administrators, do not have a regular call as a pastor of a church, and have no authority within their corporate district office to administer the Sacraments.

As for the synodical president, the Synod resolved in 1881, during the presidency of H.C. Schwan that the SP could no longer have a call as a full-time pastor of a church. Schwan did have a call as an assistant pastor from 1881 until the end of his presidency in 1899. The Christian Cyclopedia does not mention Franz August Otto Pieper, Johann Friedrich Pfotenhauer, John William Behnken, or other presidents prior to 2010 holding any kind of regular call as pastor of a church during their synodical presidencies.

In 2010 Synodical President Matthew Harrison accepted a call as a noncompensated assistant pastor having occasional preaching, limited visitation, and no administrative responsibilities of the 212-member Village Lutheran Church in upscale Ladue, MO. Thus any picture of Rev. Harrison administering the Sacraments is of him carrying out his responsibilities as a regularly called pastor of his church. Rev. Harrison has no authority within his office of synodical president to officiate at any communion service.

Anonymous said...

So we have pastors supervised by "full-time corporate administrators" ??

Uggh.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like Pastor Peters wants to
stay on the Mount of Transfiguration
and build some tents with the
Apostle Peter. It is not possible
to live with mountain top worship
experiences as the basis for our
existence on earth. Christ would
have us come down from the mountain
and live a lifestyle of servanthood
as we take up our cross and follow
him. As Christians we are called
to do acts of love and mercy.

boaz said...

Perhaps if Mr beecroft had made Lutheran arguments instead of Roman ones, it would have been better received. Tradition is not a norm for Lutherans. Love and unity in the gospel are norms, which often means honoring respected traditions, but does not require it in in all circumstances.

Also, there is no reason to use Roman blogs to criticize Lutheran practice. Scriptures and the confessions say quite a bit about worship. But maybe they don't support your arguments as well as Roman bishops do. I'm starting to detect an agenda underlying the commentary here.

Another Lutheran Pastor said...

I swear that some of you people cannot read except through the lens of your fears of Rome.

Pr Peters stated perfectly clearly the point of this meandering thought (to use his words):

"...we have come to believe that the business of the Church is something other than worship..."

If this is not painfully obvious from what you read in nearly all Synodical and District news and newsletters (or those of most congregations of the LC-MS) you are not getting it.

It may have taken a survey or Roman blogs to drive the point home but the good Pastor is not pining away for Rome by acknowledging the short comings of his own church body.

Puleeze. Read first and maybe a second time and then make your comments...

Carl Vehse said...

To "Anonymous," who asked a rhetorical question followed by a responsive "Uggh":

The synodical and district supervision is limited to administering synodical objectives and conditions of synodical membership. The SP and DP cannot depose a regularly called pastor or excommunicate any congregational member of a Missouri Synod church, even if they are employees at a district or synodical office. For more information read the LCMS Constitution and Bylaws. Pay particular attention to Article VII.1: "In its relation to its [individual and congregational] members the Synod is not an ecclesiastical government exercising legislative or coercive powers, and with respect to the individual congregation’s right of self-government it is but an advisory body."

This supervision is in line with the official position of the Synod, under the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions, as explained in C.F.W. Walther's Kirche und Amt, and particularly the Synod's understanding of ├ťbertragungslehre.

Paul said...

It is possible to elect Pastors who think like you, my friend:)

Lutheran Pastor said...

But not advisory when it comes to matters of doctrine and faithful practice...

There pure agendas, hymnals, etc. are required and the SP, DP, and Circuit Counselor supervise doctrine and practice (on their various levels)...

Or is doctrine and practice anarchy in Missouri????

Anonymous said...

It is not possible
to live with mountain top worship
experiences as the basis for our
existence on earth. Christ would
have us come down from the mountain
and live a lifestyle of servanthood
as we take up our cross and follow
him. As Christians we are called
to do acts of love and mercy.


Really??? A church can't have a full liturgical life AND do acts of love and mercy?

I'm sorry, but when I look at the LCMS website the first thing I see is a lot of emphasis on programs. At least every Roman bishop offers Mass in his cathedral church.

Terry Maher said...

Great stuff, "Carl". If our District Presidents don't act like Roman bishops -- GOOD! The church of Christ knows no such office as Rome and the East have made of "bishop", even as there is no such thing as "priest" into which they have made pastors. District President is NOT bishop. Nor is our Synod itself the church of Christ, or that in which its fulness subsists. It is a human administrative help. It is not the church, and should not behave like those other humanly instituted bodies that think they are "the church" or the fulness thereof.

Janis Williams said...

For the "mountaintop" anonymous: If the LCMS is doing the Divine Service as it should, my understanding is that we are not on the 'mountaintop,' but in Heaven itself, as God comes to His people with His Gifts.

Love and Mercy flow out of us because we have been in the Presence of True Love and Mercy.

But then, what do I know? I'm only an adult convert...

Carl Vehse said...

"But not advisory when it comes to matters of doctrine and faithful practice..."

In such a case where advice on matters of doctrine or faithful practice is ignored or refused, the DP is limited to publicly removing the person or congregation from synodical membership.

"Or is doctrine and practice anarchy in Missouri????"

If this is a serious question, then the answer would be that any synodical member with evidence of existing doctrine or practice anarchy has the responsibility to deal with that in the manner prescribed by the LCMS Bylaws, which may include reporting it to an ecclesiastical supervisor.

Lutheran Pastor said...

"reporting it to an ecclesiastical supervisor" so there is somebody who supervises doctrine and practice

"publicly removing the person or congregation from synodical membership" so there are teeth since this amounts to excommunication

"an advisory body" that can do this is not merely advisory -- you confuse advisory meaning cannot interfere with the congregation's right of self-government with the exception where the congregation has relinquished that right of independence (doctrine and practice) and agreed to walk together according to Synodical constitution and bylaw

Anonymous said...

So we have "ecclesiastical advisors" AND "full-time corporate administrators" ??

Would Luther even recognize this setup?

Terry Maher said...

If by recognise you mean see what he knew, no. For that you'd have to have the RCC become the state church, with property and personnel under state authority, and hope to hell a city council or nearby prince or something will allow "Lutheranism" in the controlled church. Wanna go back to that?

He's be happier than hell that we no longer have to content with what he did in that regard and that the church is no longer under the Babylonian Captivity at least everywhere, though some still fall for the "kinder, gentler" Rome of late.

Anonymous said...

If by recognise you mean see what he knew, no.

You got that right.

Anonymous said...

Seems to me that the term "mass" cannot be uniformly applied to much of what passes for Lutheran worship today.

Early Christian worship always included the Sacrament until the Reformation, especially in its radical anabaptist forms which led to lengthy sermons becoming a staple of worship.

Which is, of course, why Luther could not deny the validity of the Roman mass and said he would rather drink the blood of Christ with the pope than wine with Zwingli.

Carl Vehse said...

The self-called "Lutheran pastor": "so there is somebody who supervises doctrine and practice"

As I explained in my 10:56 AM post above,"The synodical and district supervision is limited to administering synodical objectives and conditions of synodical membership." The phrase, "ecclesiastical supervisor," is a term associated with the Dispute Resolution process (for deciding on membership). Prior to 1992, the Synod had an adjudication system with adjudicators. The SP and DP also had the title, "Visitor," associated with visiting the member congregations to observe the pastor and congregation.

The self-called "Lutheran pastor": "so there are teeth since this amounts to excommunication"

As I explained in my 10:56 AM Post above, "The SP and DP cannot depose a regularly called pastor or excommunicate any congregational member of a Missouri Synod church". Removal from synodical membership does NOT amount to excommunication.

The self-called "Lutheran pastor": "you confuse advisory meaning cannot interfere with the congregation's right of self-government with the exception where the congregation has relinquished that right of independence (doctrine and practice) and agreed to walk together according to Synodical constitution and bylaw"

I have not confused "advisory", but you are playing sophistic wordgames. When a pastor or church joins the Missouri Synod they voluntarily agree to abide by the conditions of membership in Article VI, which includes accepting without reservation the confessions in Article II. The pastor or congregation do not relinquish the right of independence, or their property, since they are free to leave the Missouri Synod with their property if they wish no longer to walk together according to Synodical constitution and bylaws.

Carl Vehse said...

Using an imaginative pseudonym, Anonymous asked: "Would Luther even recognize this setup?"

The polity of the Missouri Synod is not the combined church/state polity Luther had in his day. The congregational polity of the Missouri Synod is based on the writings of Scripture, the Confessions, and the writings of Martin Luther and other Lutheran theologians that were used to support the theses in C.F.W. Walther's Kirche und Amt. Thus with his treatise, "Von der Freiheit eines Christenmenschen," (On the Freedom of a Christian), Martin Luther would probably recognize and approve of much in the Missouri Synod, although like in his day, some synodical stable-cleaning would be in order.

BrotherBoris said...

Fantastic post, Pastor Peters! I wish you were teaching in a Lutheran Seminary where you would be able to influence a new generation of Lutheran pastors. You have some great insights.

Carl Vehse said...

Mr. Anonymous pontificates with the generalization: Seems to me that the term "mass" cannot be uniformly applied to much of what passes for Lutheran worship today.

Although it was noted earlier that some synodical stablecleaning was in order, it doesn't appear that much Lutheran worship today in Missouri Synod churches is at the level of Martin Luther's description in the Smalcald Articles (Part II, Art. II): "In addition to all this, this dragon's tail, the Mass, has begotten a numerous vermin-brood of manifold idolatries."

Any specific examples to the contrary (with substantiation) would be appreciated, since such evidence will be passed on to the appropriate DP... and the ACELC.

Anonymous said...

So do you think Luther would have like the praise culture of Willow Creek?

No Communion, no mass. Period. There was no such thing in the early centuries.

Carl Vehse said...

Mr. Anonymous: "So do you think Luther would have like the praise culture of Willow Creek?"

First, may I recommend the following article, "So do you want to know what George Gopen, prof of English and legal writing, thinks about the word "so"?"

Second, as for the Willow Creek droppings in the Missouri Synod, see my earlier comment about stablecleaning.

Anonymous said...

Communion in a manner unknown in the church, Lutheran or Catholic, for centuries until resurrected by 1960s Rome.

Oh, I see, it is unacceptable to offer Communion in the hand because it wasn't "done" in the early centuries (even though it was -- Communion on the tongue came much later) but not having weekly Communion is fine even though THAT wasn't the practice of the early church.

Anonymous said...

Second, as for the Willow Creek droppings in the Missouri Synod, see my earlier comment about stablecleaning.

In which year hundred may I expect it to begin?

Pastor Peters said...

My, my, quite the hullabaloo... I leave to care for the flock and what a number of comments!

Dr. Strickert says Removal from synodical membership does NOT amount to excommunication. If it were to happen on the parish level, would that not be what we call excommunication? So what does it mean when the Synod says to a Pastor or parish you must leave?

Independence surrendered to abide by the rules of the Synod means that you are no longer independent in the same way. Should you choose to take up your independence again and violate the rules of our "walking together" you would also receive your walking papers, no?

Anyway, all this because we are more defined by programs of man made design than by the Divine Service of Christ and His gifts -- well, I am happy for the discussion!

Carl Vehse said...

Mr. Anonymous pleads: "In which year hundred may I expect it [stablecleaning] to begin?"

Check with the head stablecleaner. Contact info is at the bottom of the webpage. He will appreciate your support.

Anonymous said...

"Anyway, all this because we are more defined by programs of man made design than by the Divine Service of Christ and His gifts -- well, I am happy for the discussion!"

To which I add a hearty Amen!

Anonymous said...

Dr. Strickert? Carl Vehse is a PSEUDONYM??

I'm shocked :)

Carl Vehse said...

Rev. Peters asked: "If it [removal from synodical membership] were to happen on the parish level, would that not be what we call excommunication?

Are you talking about a church removing the synodical membership of its pastor, or a pastor removing the synodical membership of his church? I don't think that either can do that unless it is specified in the church constitution.

So what does it mean when the Synod says to a Pastor or parish you must leave?"

Are you referring to a DRP decision on a pastor or church, or are you referring to someone in the Synod saying off-the-record "you must leave"?

Carl Vehse said...

Anonymous writes: "Carl Vehse is a PSEUDONYM??
I'm shocked


Perhaps Rev. Peters will refer by name to other (anonymous or "Lutheran pastor") posters. That might really be shocking!

Terry Maher said...

Judas H. "Unknown for centuries" is not "never known". Didn't say that. It was among early practice, was abandoned for what was used for centuries, until the bowel, er, liturgical movement decided to resurrect it in the last century since we're all jumping past the Reformation and Trent to one big happy church.

It's adopting the revived use by the RCC I meant. Vatican II For Lutherans.

Terry Maher said...

Let us be shocked then, Carl! What's good for the goose is good for the gander!

Pastor Peters said...

"Carl" - the only reason I know who you are is from your posts and the responsive comments from other posters on OTHER blogs and forums... Apart from this I have no knowledge of who any of the anonymii are -- here or elsewhere. I do not find the anonymous commenting a problem unless or until it becomes one. So far, I have had to remove only a dozen or so comments in the time I have had this blog.

Pastor Peters said...

Forgot the rest of my comment...

Removal from membership is excommunication -- removal from membership in the congregation and removal from membership in Synod. Whatever the cause, removal from membership constitutes excommunication on either level. I am clueless to know what else removal from membership would be called?

Anonymous said...

Bowel movements?

We may have our theological differences with Catholics but there are still Christians among them and to use this kind of gutter language hardly glorifies Christ.

Terry Maher said...

Whoever You Are, the reference was to the "liturgical movement". That is not the RCC, nor is a reference to the RCC a reference to any particular member or members. Oy. Go read some Table Talk.

Carl Vehse said...

"Removal from membership is excommunication -- removal from membership in the congregation and removal from membership in Synod. Whatever the cause, removal from membership constitutes excommunication on either level. I am clueless to know what else removal from membership would be called?"

If it's through synodical bylaws, it's called "removal from synodical membership"; if it's through the Office of the Keys, it's called "excommunication."

Church discipline, which includes excommunication, is part of the Office of the Keys. The LCMS Short Explanation to Luther's Small Catechism states: "What is the Office of the Keys? It is the peculiar church power which Christ has given to His Church on earth to forgive the sins of penitent sinners, but to retain the sins of the impenitent as long as they do not repent."

Who has the Office of the Keys? In his Thesis VI.A on the Ministry, which is the official position of the Missouri Synod, C.F.W. Walther states: "The ministry of the Word [Predigtamt] is conferred [├╝bertragen] by God through the congregations as the possessor of all ecclesiastical power, or the power of the keys, by means of its call, which God Himself has prescribed."

Removal of a member from synodical membership and excommunication by the church, which is a member of the synod, may be for the same unrepentant offense by that member, and the former may precede the latter or vice versa. But they are distinct actions by separate organizations exercising their separate authorities, the former being human authority, the latter authority given by God.

The distinction is that the removal from synodical membership, in itself, does not entail the retention of sins; excommunication does.

Sometimes disregard for the Missouri Synod's understanding of church and ministry and the Synod's polity contributes to confusion about the distinction between "Church" and "Synod."

Finally, regarding excommunication and removal from synod or church membership, in its November,1985, Report, "Church Discipline in the Christian Congregation," the CTCR notes (pp. 21-22):

Depending on the circumstances, one may forfeit professional status and even membership in the congregation and church body without being subject to the congregational verdict of "heathen man and a publican" (Matt. 18:17 KJV).

Anonymous said...

Thought the good pastor was talking about people removed for cause, namely for not being Lutheran in doctrine and practice. This is not about a gentlemanly disagreement or they would be able to stay in the LC-MS without a hitch.

Carl Vehse said...

On November 25, 2011 at 8:15 AM, Mr. Anonymous thought "the good pastor was talking about people removed for cause, namely for not being Lutheran in doctrine and practice."

Actually, on November 23, at 8:14 AM Pastor Peters stated that removal from membership constituted excommunication "[w]hatever the cause."

As I explained on November 24, 2011, at 10:39 AM, removal from membership at the synodical level does not constitute excommunication. And in its 1985 report, "Church Discipline in the Christian Congregation," the CTCR pointed out that removal from membership at the congregational level does not necessarily (i.e., whatever the cause) involve excommunication, which would include the retention of sins.

Pastor Peters said...

Actually, I am not sure that removal of a congregation or Pastor from Synod would be called excommunication but my concern was not vocabulary. I am not sure what it would be called to remove a congregation or Pastor from the Synod (morals clause excluded) but if it were for cause of doctrine or practice, I would think that would be as close to excommunication as you could come. Exaggeration? Maybe. But for a point.

Carl Vehse said...

"I am not sure what it would be called to remove a congregation or Pastor from the Synod (morals clause excluded)"

Again, it simply would be called "removal from membership." Examples might include a pastor who accepted a call to a non-LCMS church, or resigned from his call to go into a secular occupation; a synodical congregation could be removed from membership for calling a non-LCMS pastor, or for not removing a pastor who was not a synodical member or just because they requested removal from membership without stating a reason at all. In none of these cases does removal from synodical membership include excommunication (with its Mt. 18:17 retention of sin) from the Church. In itself to leave the Missouri Synod is not a sin.

"... but if it were for cause of doctrine or practice, I would think that would be as close to excommunication as you could come."

The Synod is not a church, nor is the SP or DP, by his elected office, a called pastor of the Synod or of other pastors. Therefore the office of SP or DP does not have the authority to impose excommunication. Removal of a person from synodical membership would be "close" if the unrepentant person were also excommunicated by his church around the same time.

Despite some Loehist agitation within the Missouri Synod, the official understanding of excommunication within Missouri Synod churches includes Walther's Thesis IX on the Ministry: "... but the preacher has no dominion in the church; he has not, therefore, the right of... imposing and executing excommunication alone, without the previous judgment of the entire congregation [Gemeinde]."