Friday, March 1, 2013

Strange but true. . .

Okay, it is strange and true and the response is even more strange but true.

We have a situation in the LCMS in which a retired LCMS Pastor married an ELCA woman (maybe even a Pastoress but I am not sure here).  He worships regularly, at least part of the time, with her at an ELCA parish and receives Holy Communion there.  Now the LCMS declared in Convention that the ELCA no longer deserves to be called Lutheran.  Everyone on all sides acknowledges that the LCMS and ELCA are not in fellowship (though that statement is largely meaningless for communion reception at an ELCA congregation).  So, when the LCMS District President suspends the retired (emeritus) Pastor for communing regularly at an ELCA congregation, he uses the rule that forbids rostered LCMS clergy from "a. Serving congregations of mixed confession, as such, by ministers of the church; b. Taking part in the services and sacramental rites of heterodox congregations or of congregations of mixed confession;" and that was that, right?

Well, not so fast.  The CCM (Commission on Constitutional Matters) has determined that this is not what the Synod's constitution means.  It means, according to them, official taking part (vested, for example, taking part in a leadership role) and not sitting in the pew, praying, singing, or even communing.  So the suspension is undone.

Is this not the problem in addressing doctrinal issues with by-laws and constitutional articles?  What we end up with is NOT a discussion of what is right or wrong but what the words in the constitution and by-laws really mean and how they may or may not be interpreted.  Not exactly bad information but hardly the issue.

Now, I do not know the guy and expect that he is a decent and likable fellow with years of credible service to the Synod.  I do not mean to play out the case in public or to demean his reputation (I have not named him).  My point is this.  How do those given responsibility for oversight of doctrine and practice do their episcope if the constitution and by-laws are vague enough to preclude this very oversight?   So we all agree that this is not inappropriate but that is not the same as saying it is wrong.  The legalese of constitution and by-law discussions make it hard to know simply and plainly whether something is right or wrong.  (Recall when an LCMS Pastor put his voice on CD or DVD and sent it home so that people could consecrate the Eucharist in their homes to the sound of his voice.  There again we found it hard to say something was wrong but we all agree it was inappropriate.  Although, this time, the offender was the CTCR or Commission on Theology and Church Relations.)

I have some mixed feelings about this case and do not know enough about the details of the retired Pastor's regular communing at an ELCA parish to render judgment (which is not my place, anyhow).  However, I do have something to say when the best we can muster in such things is the dense debate of constitution and by-law instead of the very theology of the issue at hand.  This use of Lutheran canon law precludes the open debate over whether such things are right or wrong (which is where the discussion should have been).  The whole discussion is murkier than a long passage from Aquinas or Calvin and, for that matter, much less satisfying.  Surely we can do better.  Both this man and our church body deserve more than a tedious exercise of constitutional obscurity and by-law interpretation.


15 comments:

Paul McCain said...

That ruling was perhaps one of the more spectacular errors in judgment made by the Commission on Constitutional Matters in recent years. It simply boggles the imagination to think that the plain, clear sense of the English language elluded the CCM. We will pray for greater clarity in the future.

Janis Williams said...

Of course, we don't have full information on the couple. Was she a pastrix, or just a member? Is this one of the ELCA churches that is still closer to Lutheran than others? What does the pastor/congregation believe (concerning the Confessions) in that ELCA church where this pastor communes?

All of these might seem to be mitigating circumstances. However, when doctrine is involved, should we have wiggle room?

Sad to see that post-modern chicanery with words has come to the LCMS. When we have to decide what words really mean, we can eventually throw out phrases like "this is My Body...."

I know that seems harsh, and I am not making a slippery slope argument, but 'definition creep' has ruined many a theologian, modern or post-modern.

Paul McCain said...

Larry, it will further warm your heart to know that the pastor's suspension was not upheld by the last and final review panel, because...wait for it...proper procedure was not followed in the whole situation.

There was no grand "blessing" of his activity, as the LCMS liberals would so love to claim, no, nothing quite so noble in actually taking a stand for/against truth.

No, simply a matter of "improper procedure."

Sigh.

Anonymous said...

"Is this not the problem in addressing doctrinal issues with by-laws and constitutional articles? What we end up with is NOT a discussion of what is right or wrong but what the words in the constitution and by-laws really mean and how they may or may not be interpreted. Not exactly bad information but hardly the issue."

quia? quatenus? subscription to the confessions? constitution?

Which is the authority and what kind of subscription does CCM have?

Anonymous said...

No, simply a matter of "improper procedure."


Really, that is even worse. Procedure now trumps both the constitution and the confessions.

What is the word I am looking for?

Oh yeah, incompetence.

Carl Vehse said...

More details, quotes, and links about the hot potato juggling with the CTCR and the CCM opining (equal to their January 1992 FUBAR) the distinction between partaking and taking part are in this Pastoral Meandering post as well as in the series of Luther Quest posts from June, 2012.

Unknown said...

Tu es sacerdos in aeternum secundum ordinem Melchizedek.

You don't cease being a priest when you're away from the altar. A Lutheran pastor who did this should be reprimanded.

Pastor Harvey S. Mozolak said...

please pastoress, pastix...

maybe this woman pastor is apostate or doctrinally in error... I do not know the situation... I know a fair number of Lutheran women pastors who are as Orthodox as any LCMS Lutheran pastor with the single difference their stance on WO... so these should not be ridiculed by titles they would not use...

and if these were not meant as put downs or put aways... they can be heard as such

you wouldn't, I assume call our Roman brothers, brothers or fathers of the antichrist...
respectfully,
Harvey Mozolak

Carl Vehse said...

"I know a fair number of Lutheran women pastors who are as Orthodox as any LCMS Lutheran pastor with the single difference their stance on WO"

Of course, different church bodies will differ on what doctrines one must hold to be considered "orthodox." And while you may know a fair number of pastrixes, the claim that they, compared to anyone else, "are as orthodox... with the single difference their stance on WO," is oxymoronic.

One cannot be "partially orthodox" or "almost orthodox" or "orthodox with a single difference." It's like being partially pregnant or "almost a virgin"... or like Schrodinger's (partially-alive/partially-dead) cat in the box.

Anonymous said...

Even the thoroughly orthodox sin, do they not?
Is a woman who is a Christian and ordained a pastor not to be admitted to heaven on the basis of her ordination?
Is kindness not a gift of the Spirit?
To rub another Christian’s nose in a word made up to deprecate a woman who is a pastor, maybe even sinning in your view by being a pastor, is that sharing either Law or Gospel or the truth of any doctrine?
Harvey Mozolak

David Gray said...

>>To rub another Christian’s nose in a word made up to deprecate a woman who is a pastor

No woman is every a pastor. God says only men may be pastors, hence the closest you come is a woman who pretends to be a pastor.

David Gray said...

That should read "no woman is ever a pastor", apologies.

Carl Vehse said...

Is a woman who is a Christian and ordained a pastor not to be admitted to heaven on the basis of her ordination?

The issue of whether a person is saved or not is not the issue here.

The issue is whether a Lufauxran heterodox opinion about who can be a pastor can be used to dictate and force (orthodox) Lutherans to apply the term to those who, according to Lutheran orthodoxy, are not.

The Lufauxran demand shows itself for what it is - the Liberal Lie: "All beliefs are to be tolerated (except those that are not tolerant)."

The terms-pastrix, pastorette, pastoress, etc.-are suitable and appropriate for Lutherans to use to distinguish a heterodox practice from an orthodox one.

Anonymous said...

And I assume since titles are suitable and appropriate for Lutherans to use to distinguish orthodox practice from heterodox practice you refer to male Presbyterian pastors as Pastor-lite, RC priests as Anti-priests, Methodists as misery-ministers and Baptists as Reverendless or some such silly messing with titles. Come on, I asked you whether such silly appellations advance either the Law or the Gospel? Answer that. I really do respect and enjoy your blogs insights and writings, sorry for my going on and on, Pastor Peters. This will be my final post so others can have a last word to correct me, if they wish. Harvey Mozolak

Gary said...

Sorry, to interrupt the current topic, LCMS pastors, but I need your help: Should we Christians impose our morals on secular society, and if so, where do we draw the line? I and my readers could use some pastoral instruction on this issue. This is not a liberal ploy. I am LCMS and fully support my Church's position on sexuality, abortion, and gender issues. I am having a hard time finding an LCMS pastor willing to leave a comment on this tough issue.

I and my readers would be very grateful for your input! Here is the post:

http://www.lutherwasnotbornagain.com/2013/02/just-how-far-should-christians-go-to.html


God bless!

Gary Matson, Jr.
Luther, Baptists, and Evangelicals