Monday, September 16, 2013

Those who have left. . .

Not a few Pastors have left Lutheranism for Rome or Constantinople.  Most of them were good and faithful men and they left less because of Lutheranism than because Lutherans were not being Lutheran.  A few of them were women who were ordained but who felt the nagging fear that this novel practice was not in keeping with either classical Lutheranism or the catholic tradition.  Many of them left because they grew weary of a Lutheran expression that bore only passing resemblance to the Lutheranism of our confession, early history, hymnody, and early practice.  Some of them left bitter and angry.  More of them left with great sorrow and regret over the Lutheranism that won them and the unLutheran practices that drove them away.  Many of them have left Lutheranism but remain shaped by their Lutheran faith long after they found another home.  Jaroslav Pelikan (Obedient Rebels) went to the Orthodox Church but died listening to Bach.  Richard John Neuhaus (Freedom for Ministry) went to Rome but died without repudiating his Lutheran identity -- which he believed found fuller expression in Rome than it could in the ELCA).  Many others who have left seem unable to keep from commenting on what happens in their former Lutheran home as if somehow unable to fully shake off that old Lutheran identity.  Some remain bitter enough that they feel compelled to write expose' pieces to justify leaving and prove they acted faithfully.

The truth is I know no one who has left because they did not care.  The people who left cared deeply about the faith Lutherans have and do confess and the liturgical shape of that faith.  That said, they are gone.  We cannot and should not be preoccupied by their decisions to leave and neither should we ignore that causes that left them to make this choice.  If we listen to them, we will find from them still an encouragement for us to be real Lutherans and not the generic kind of Protestants (or evangelicals) we are sorely tempted to be.  If there is a bland and tasteless Lutheranism, it will appeal to no one and will certainly die.  The better Lutheranism is that which is full bodied and faithful.  Where we find this, you will almost always find a vigorous community of people gathered around the Word and Table of the Lord.  If we learn anything from those who have left it should be that a Lutheran lite version is the last thing the world needs.  Both in terms of congregational identity and practice and the ecumenical endeavor, we need real Lutherans.  Not those who are embarrassed or ashamed of what it means to be Lutheran but those who are convinced despite the current shape they see in practice that Lutheranism is catholic, apostolic, and thoroughly evangelical.  No, if their leaving matters to us at all, we will not spend our time proving they were wrong but proving that we are truly Lutheran in confession and in practice.  What a breath of fresh air that might be for all Lutheran jurisdictions!!

28 comments:

Unknown said...

Fr. Peters,

You wrote: "We cannot and should not be preoccupied by their decisions to leave and neither should we ignore that causes that left them to make this choice."

You may want to give that same sage advice to people like McCain who seems to relish in attacking and condemning in very unChristian language who have done as you described.--Chris

Anonymous said...

I might make one other suggestion why many have left - in the Lutheran Church the structure is such that the pastor receives little of no spiritual nourishment while attempting to spiritually feed a congregation.

The LCMS structure is such that DPs are primarily administrators rather than pastors. (I am not criticizing the DPs themselves, many are indeed caring men, but the structure). Pastors conferences and conventions tend to dwell on professional development rather than Bible study. A pastor is fortunate indeed if he winds up in a circuit where the monthly meetings center on Bible study or worship rather than circuit business.

In the end, pastors must often forage for themselves to apply Law and Gospel to their own lives and souls. Their own faith becomes very dry even while they do their best to apply the means of grace to their sheep.

In such a situation, Rome, with it bishops, who seem to function first as pastors and secondly as administrators, looks inviting. "Here" the pastor believes, "I can finally have someone who will be a pastor to me as I try to do my best to pastor to my people."

we really need to look at our Synodical structure and return it to an ecclesiastical foundation rather than a bureaucratic one.

Anonymous said...

The "missional" LCMS pastors will not rest until all of the "confessional" LCMS pastors (and those laymen who remember the 1941 hymnal) have been driven out. Read the letter below and weep:

From: Minister to Minister online in HTML format
To: m-m-online-html@lists.txdistlcms.org
Sent: 2013-09-06 3:08 PM
Subject: [m-m-online-html] Minister to Minister

Friday, September 6, 2013

——————————————————————————–

How can your congregation THRIVE in a 21st century pluralistic culture?

Join Dr. Leonard Sweet and Pastor Steve Wagner at the fall Pastors’ Conference
as they take an insightful look at our complicated world and talk about how we can share Jesus,
His message, and His hope in order to bring clarity to a confused culture.
The conference will be October 28-13, 2013 at Concordia Lutheran Church in San Antonio.
Join the fellowship as we grow in connecting people in need to our congregations
so they can not just survive, but THRIVE!
Registration and information can be found at: http://www.m2ctexas.org/2013fpc/index

Apparently Texas pastors need a Methodist, (teamed with the head of PLI) to learn how to be better LCMS pastors. (!?)

Deja vu all over again! :(

Anonymous said...

When is the ACELC going to leave the LCMS?

Rev. Weinkauf said...

Anonymous 940AM,
The ACELC (I am not a member) does not desire division. Are there any doctrine and practice boundaries in the LCMS? What are they? What do you do when boundaries established by the Synod and our Confessions are ignored over and over again?

Carl Vehse said...

"Not a few Pastors have left Lutheranism for Rome or Constantinople. Most of them were good and faithful men and they left less because of Lutheranism than because Lutherans were not being Lutheran."

BE Alert!! Ordained Lutheran pastors who left "Lutheranism" (aka the Lutheran Church) for Romanism (aka the Roman Church) or Easternism (aka the Eastern Church) left, by definition, because they were NOT FAITHFUL.

If such deserters claim it was because Lutherans (other than themselves) were not being Lutheran, such excuses of unfaithful pastors are worthless.

Carl Vehse said...

Anonymous said... "When is the ACELC going to leave the LCMS?"

A better question is when are liberal whiners about the ACELC (or feckless ecclesiastical supervisors) going to leave the LCMS?

Anonymous said...

The ACELC would not leave the LCMS. It does not want to share the fate of the NALC, which is a splinter denomination without a credible seminary or publishing house.......

Anonymous said...

LCMS pastors and laymen have one of two choices:

1.) Remain in a dysfunctional church denomination that is slowly morphing into an emergent, non-denominational mega-church.

2.) Abandon the evangelical and mega-church theology of the LCMS by leaving it for Roman Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy.

Which would you choose?

Either way, we LCMSers are forced to adopt a theology that is hostile to the Lutheran confessions.

Unknown said...

Carl,

They were faithful men to the Gospel, just not faithful to your institution.

Big difference.

William Tighe said...

"LCMS pastors and laymen have one of two choices:

1.) Remain in a dysfunctional church denomination that is slowly morphing into an emergent, non-denominational mega-church.

2.) Abandon the evangelical and mega-church theology of the LCMS by leaving it for Roman Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy.

Which would you choose?"

Somehow you forgot this:

3.)

http://www.eldona.org/ELDoNA/Welcome.html

Carl Vehse said...

Unknown whined: They were faithful men to the Gospel, just not faithful to your institution.

Big difference.


The issue was those pastors leaving the Lutheran Church and the Lutheran doctrine, which is the pure Gospel and going to Roman or Eastern churches which are heretical churches.

It was not about a specific religious organization institution.

Unknown said...

Right, the eastern churches are heretical. Keep drinking the kool-aid.

Anonymous said...

ELDoNA? Yet another stagnant Lutheran microsynod...*yawn.* Where are the young people? The ELDoNA website appears not to have been updated since early 2012, with many pages from 2009 or 2010. What is the incentive and where is the motivation to join ELDoNA? Horrible.

Why couldn't this denomination be content with Old Missouri (late 1800s LCMS church)? The 14 former LCMS congregations are Old Missouri, yet they seem to add a few Roman Catholic things that never existed in the entire history of the LCMS.

What I would do if I were ELDoNA: Seek to be absorbed by a confessional African Lutheran Synod.

Unknown said...

Paging Carl and McCain, you have another defector. You can find the information here http://www.masslive.com/living/index.ssf/2013/09/new_pastor_at_st_stephen_orthodox_church_in_springfield_brings_care_compassion_to_ministry.html

I'm sure both of you will be calling him a traitor and other immature names. McCain will probably go so far as to demand any faithful Lutherans heed his call for his house to be burned down.

ginnie said...

As a layman, I find this blog and comments so helpful. We seldom see this side of church issues. Thanks to everyone for his input.

Carl Vehse said...

Paging the Unknown (and obviously an "Unknowing") nonLutheran.

The defector Benjamin Kjendal admitted his Eastern longings publicly back in 2008 (if not two or more years earlier to his CTS professors and fellow seminarians or at his Lutheran ordination), as noted in a May 22, 2008,Luther Quest thread (and elsewhere).

Also, being ignorant of such facts is no excuse for your sad ad hominem rants.

Anonymous said...

ginnie: Such articles and comments are what the LCMS needs to motivate a "Wiedergeburt" of the LCMS.

The LCMS is swirling around the punch bowl. The leadership is entrenched and apathetic, and no no one wants to resolve longstanding issues with the church such as:

1. Aging/shrinking membership;
2. The unwillingness to admit the utter failure of Emergent/Evangelical "Church Growth" programs to stem membership losses;
3. Renegade pastors that promote all kinds of questionable Evangelical worship and study materials;
4. Institutional structures that worked well in Walther's time, but are ineffective in the 21st century;
5. Crippling seminary student loan debt of younger LCMS pastors;
6. The high cost of the LCMS health plan;
7. The failure to recognize and address points #5 and #6 as the main causes for almost all LCMS church plants to fail;
8. District presidents that promote CRM, SMP, and PLI;
9. District presidents that advocate the dumping of the hymnal and all Lutheran worship and study materials;
10. District presidents that harass liturgical pastors for not promoting contemporary worship and study materials in their congregations; and
11. Lack of any kind of doctrinal consistency among congregations.

Unknown: Thanks for the link about the former Lutheran pastor who joined the EO. I wonder if he left for the EO because of doctrine, or because he hated trying to function within the chaotic LCMS administrative structures. Did the district push him into CRM status?

The article suggests that the pressure Evangelicalism creeping into the LCMS did not motivate the LCMS pastor to leave. Is that true? I wish he could write a blog article detailing why he left the LCMS. It would be helpful for the LCMS leadership - Provided that they even care that the pastor left.

Do you have links to web pages that compare the EO to the LCMS? Now that the former LCMS pastor is in the EO, did he find "the grass really greener" over there? Thanks.

Anonymous said...

What is the Eastern Orthodox fascination with messy beards? Sorry, but hobo beards look creepy on most men. Yes, this is Rasputin, but he could easily pass for an EO priest:

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d7/Rasputin-Big-photos-2-crop.jpg

A young Charles Manson could have passed for an EO priest as well:

http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/manson/manson1.jpg

Anonymous said...

Carl,

It does not matter whether or not a current or former LCMS pastor admits his Eastern longings. How many more LCMS pastors are like Benjamin Kjenda, but they choose to keep their thoughts private?

Carl Vehse said...

"How many more LCMS pastors are like Benjamin Kjenda, but they choose to keep their thoughts private?"

These is a concern, along with how many LCMS pastors want to be another Billy Graham or Joel Osteen?

Lutheran Lurker said...

Thank God we have people like Carl Vehse Stickert to keep us on the straight and narrow -- that was not intended in the kindest way. It seems that those who have second thoughts are often pushed away as impure or unclean. The truth is every Lutheran worth his salt should think every day if there is a better choice and where it might be. Such thinking keeps you Lutheran in the best sense of that term. The folks who look around at what Lutherans have become in comparison to their confessions are not the ones I worry about. I worry about the ones who don't know their confessions and think Lutherans are Methodists or evangelicals or fundies who like a little frills to their worship. They will lead far more astray than the ones who actually swim the proverbial rivers to Rome or Constantinople.

David Gray said...

That makes sense if justification is window dressing.

Carl Vehse said...

"It seems that those who have second thoughts are often pushed away as impure or unclean."

Huh?!? No one pushed Kjendal away. He turned his back on his confirmation and ordination vows to God on his own, and took his family down with him.

"The truth is every Lutheran worth his salt should think every day if there is a better choice and where it might be."

Of course. And, like C.F.W. Walther, Lutherans should come to the same conclusion that the Evangelical Lutheran Church has all the essential marks of the true visible Church of God on earth as they are found in no other known communion, and therefore it needs no reformation in doctrine.

Padre Dave Poedel, STS said...

My dear brother in the Holy Ministry:

Larry, I really appreciate your comments in this blog. As one who finds it necessary to display my own Lutheran identity in my parish. I am in a District, like you, where the preferred model for parish ministry is to do everything possible to emulate all of the "nondenominational" Community Churches in our area. The problem is, I CAN'T.

From a strictly secular point, I do not have the resources to outdo the 9 nondenominational churches within a 2 mile area around our church.

Secondly, I CAN'T! It would be so contrary to every fiber of my being to conduct worship in a non catholic manner.

However, that being said, things like congregational members determination how often the Eucharist is offered to the congregation, members asserting their "rights" as voters to determine how the worship of the congregation is conducted, the lack of Pastoral accountability as a ministereum, and the list can go on.

I "stay" because, paradoxically, it is the very freedom to do my own thing that I abhor is the only way I can stay, with integrity. In our Waltherian polity, I CAN conduct the conduct of our congregation in an evangelical and catholic manner, even though I am the only one in my area that does so. That keeps me "here".

Anonymous said...

There are many who must use our congregational polity in order to be Lutheran in a district unfriendly to Lutheran confession and its confessional counterpart in Catholic worship. You are not alone, Padre, but we must maintain the effort always against its enemies within the parish and in the synod around us.

Paul McCain said...

When you lose your first love, the Gospel of grace alone, through faith alone, on account of Christ alone, you will be persuaded by the supposed "history" and alleged "orthodoxy" and the finery and pageantry of liturgical custom that both Rome and Eastern Orthodoxy assert are the "true" Church, etc. They each have a dazzling variety of rites and ceremonies that give an impression of holiness, but do not offer what they so desperately try to convey.

I'm glad that those who leave, do, in fact leave, and I can at least thank them for that honesty and integrity, but there is nothing to be admired in their leaving for it represents nothing less than a betrayal of the Gospel.

We should not be so quick to seek to blame anything but this abandonment of the Gospel.

Pastor Peters said...

Everyone who leaves bears the full responsibility for the choice to go and where they go. I never intended to say anything less. What I was writing about were the things that cause doubt about the authenticity and genuineness of the Lutheran position. I continue to believe that we Lutherans are our own worst enemies when we fail to read, know, and practice in accord with our Confessions. What this does is give rise to the idea that there is no such identity or practice that is "Lutheran" and encourages some to long for and look for a home where such identity is not challenged from within as it is clearly done among us and other Lutheran denominations. It is, in fact, a refusal to see the Gospel in the concrete terms of the Word and Sacraments that is one of the triggers that causes some to fear for the future, doubt the viability, and despair of future of Lutheranism.