Saturday, January 28, 2012
Libertarians. . . and the Liturgy
Although you would hardly know it from their European roots, some, perhaps many, Lutherans are drawn to libertarianism. They believe that any "church" beyond the congregation should be as small, as weak, and as powerless as possible. They want a Synodical structure which advises but only with the consent and approval of the advised. They abhor rules (except the ones that might enshrine their own cause). They instinctively resist the idea that St. Louis might have anything worthwhile to offer and they resent the money that goes there, sure that most of it must be wasted or squandered in some way. As Garrison Keillor says, "downsizing" is the best option for church in general and structures above the congregation in particular.
They are especially libertarian about liturgical matters. They would like it if we would all agree on our own to worship with just enough liturgy and ceremony to satisfy Lutheran identity but resist instinctively the idea that any Pastor or any congregation might be asked or told to do something this way or that. So even when they agree in principle with rubrics, they disagree with the general idea of a rule that must or should always be followed.
It is my opinion that this libertarianism is about as strong as confessionalism -- and may exists side by side in the same individuals. For this reason, it is doubtful that Missouri will ever resolve her liturgical diversity with rules or rubrics. Because of this, it is doubtful that Missouri will ever find any hint of liturgical uniformity or unity -- given that all the arguments for such are and have been fairly consistently made over the last half century for sure, perhaps since the Great Reformation itself.
First of all I am NOT saying that a boat trip to Rome or Constantinople is the logical resolution of this dilemma. I have nothing of the sort in mind and would discourage those who might see a ferry ride as a panacea to solve the problems they have found in Lutheranism. But I am saying that the battle will rage without relenting for as long as Lutherans exists, for as long as Lutherans are inflicted with self-doubt about who they are or what the liturgical form of our confessional identity is or should be, and for as long as Synodical structures like Missouri's remain the norm (rules without teeth and teeth without rules or legitimacy to bite).
So, we have and we will make progress but only through catechesis and training. Any incremental change will come generationally and not by act of convention or red letter in the hymnal. The pace of real change will be slow and the temptations and technology is face paced. I will not see much positive change in Lutheran liturgical identity and practice in my lifetime. Maybe you will. If you accept this, then it takes some of the great frustration about the pace and progress of liturgical renewal among Lutherans (that is, renewal in the sense of recovery and not evolutionary change). If you think I am wrong, I would love to know (it has never stopped you before) and if you think I am right, are you prepared to hang in there for the long haul?