Friday, November 11, 2011

Doctrinally pure agendas and hymnals....

As every member congregation of the LCMS should know, the constitution of our church body requires that, as condition of membership, only doctrinally pure agendas and hymnals be used.  It is not a by-law or convention resolution but right there in the core of the constitution that identifies who we are as a Synod and what is required of those who "walk together" with us.

Article VI.4 of the Constitution states, “Exclusive use of doctrinally pure agenda, hymnbooks, and catechisms in church and school.”

First to unpack these words.  This does not mean only those published by the Synod (or CPH).  Although these would fall within the pale, they do not exhaust the meaning of the words.  Second, this does NOT mean that each parish and Pastor get to decide what is doctrinally pure or not.  This is an impossible situation if everyone is allowed to do decide what is right in their own eyes (Biblical definition of sin???).  There must be a standard.  Third, this is not about taste or quality.  There are things that are fully orthodox but shallow and trite -- even banal.  This is not a culture war.  This is about what these things say -- doctrinal content.  Finally, this is not required of those who agree or share the same taste.  This is love's requirement of those who walk together, as in marriage when the whole becomes greater than the individual.  This is a willingness to reign in one's freedom for the sake of the brotherhood and larger church community.  It is also for the sake of our witness to the world around us and our common identity as the Pastors and parishes of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

Article III.7 of the Constitution states, “Encourage congregations to strive for uniformity in church practice, but also to develop an appreciation of a variety of responsible practices and customs which are in harmony with our common profession of faith...”

This recognizes that uniformity of ceremonies, church usages, and rites, while good, is not essential to our unity of faith and that where there is freedom, there must also be responsible usage.  This is rooted in the idea of adiaphora -- which does NOT mean indifferent things but things about which there may be diversity of practice without this compromising the confession or the fellowship.  So, for example, chanting is adiaphora.  Whether one Pastor chants or another does not will not break the boundaries of unity nor will it compromise or make heterodox the confession.  We do not all use the exact same hymns on every Sunday of the Church Year.  We do not preach on the same texts of the lectionary.  We do not all use the same page numbers in the hymnal.  You can expand this healthy diversity without harming the essential unity and you also harm this unity by insisting upon uniformity where such freedom is both healthy and necessary.  Consider the difference between Deutsche Messe or Formula Missae.

Some would try to point to the many convention resolutions that our church body has passed asking for charity in judgement, responsible diversity, etc. 

To Encourage Responsible Worship
Whereas, The Lord has commanded His people to worship Him in spirit and in truth; and
Whereas, There is diversity in expression of that same spirit as the one Lord of the Church comes to His people in the Means of Grace; and
Whereas, The Church has been engaged in worship since her inception (Acts 2); and
Whereas, The Lutheran confessors did not seek to violate this “Great Tradition” but instead desired to affirm their catholicity in the proclamation of Christ crucified, risen, ascended, and returning; and
Whereas, The Council of Presidents has produced the Theses on Worship for guidance for congregations of the Synod; and
Whereas, The CTCR and the Commission on Worship have conducted a Model Theological Conference on theology and worship that has generated dialogue and conversation about worship in the Synod; therefore be it
Resolved, That the Synod affirm the Great Tradition and the ongoing development of resources for worship within the Great Tradition; and be it further
Resolved, That the Synod recognize responsible diversity in worship; and be it further
Resolved, That the Synod encourage congregations to follow the historic practices of the ancient and Reformation churches in celebrating the Lord’s Supper at each Divine Service (1995 Res. 2-08A, “To Encourage Every Sunday Communion”); and be it further
Resolved, That the Synod affirm Eucharistic centrality in the Divine Service (see Acts 2:42; 20:7; 1 Cor. 11:20, 33; the CTCR’s Theology and Practice of the Lord’s Supper, p. 28; and the 1986 translation of Luther’s Small Catechism) within appropriate and responsible cultural contextualization; and be it further
Resolved, That the Synod encourage “responsible use of freedom in worship” (2004 Res. 2-04) so that the Great Tradition is not lost nor are people restricted from employing diverse resources that are doctrinally sound; and be it finally
Resolved, That the Synod foster a confessional unity and unified confession in the unity and diversity of worship that respects the Great Tradition as it is expressed in contemporary and contextual ways throughout the Synod.


WHEREAS, God is extravagantly rich in His grace (SA III, 4) and through His means of grace grants His gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation; and
WHEREAS, God has granted us freedom in the Gospel; and
WHEREAS, Our Lutheran Confessions recognize that human rites and ceremonies are not necessary for salvation and yet at the same time acknowledge the usefulness of these rites, especially insofar as they promote good order and tranquility in the church (AC VII, 2-3; XXVIII, 55-56; AP VIT/VIlI, 33; XV, 51; FC SD X 5-9); and
WHEREAS, Our Synod’s Constitution recognizes these twin poles of freedom and responsibility and encourages “congregations to strive for uniformity in church practice, but also to develop an appreciation of a variety of responsible practices and customs which are in harmony without (sic) common profession of faith” (Art. III, 7); and
WHEREAS, There are diverse viewpoints in our Synod concerning what is appropriate and salutary in corporate worship; therefore be it
Resolved, That the Synod, in convention, affirm respect for diversity in worship practices as we build greater understanding of our theology of worship and foster further discussion of worship practices that are consistent with that theology; and be it further
Resolved, That we encourage pastors, musicians, and worship leaders to exercise this freedom responsibly, using resources such as Text, Music, Context: A Resource for Reviewing Worship Materials to assess worship materials; and be it finally
Resolved, That the Commission on Worship initiate a process leading toward the development of diverse worship resources for use in The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.

But.... convention resolution cannot trump constitutional provision and both resolutions recognize the need for the diversity of practice to be held to the highest standards of doctrinal integrity and faithfulness.  Diversity does not allow nor does it justify ignoring the need for the the materials used in worship to be fully consistent with our confession and pure and free of doctrinal error or compromise.  Again, the judgement is not the individuals but it belongs to an objective standard and watchman.  In the case of the second resolution this was deemed to be the Commission on Worship as the arbiter of doctrinal faithfulness.

So what is the point of all of this.... we already have the situation in which Pastors and parishes of the Synod are using whatever they choose or desire, without regard for the doctrinal content or the implications for the sometimes fragile state of our unity as we walk together.  Now, the time has come for either the removal of this constitutional provision and the recognition that current practice cannot be reigned in OR for the the liberty to be conditioned in love so that freedom is restrained for the sake of our life together and our witness together before the world. 

This does not happen by presidential edict or by convention resolution but by the people involved walking together in love and acting themselves to restrain their desire for individual freedom without supervision or judgement of others.  It happens by dialogue and conversation in which the elephant in the room is not ignored but addressed.  It happens when we realize that the purpose of this is not to prevent appropriate diversity but to facilitate our common witness and to define our common identity within the franchise of each individual congregation. 

For more see Brother Weedon's fine comments on this subject also...


Anonymous said...

The LCMS pastor needs to be trusted
by his brethren in the ministry.
All of the doctrinally pure hymns
will never fit into one hymnal.
We do not need hymn-policemen to tell
us what hymns to use each week.
The Missouri Synod is advisory and
that seems to get lost in discussion.
For example one of my favorite hymns
is "To God Be The Glory" and it is
not found in LCMS hymnals. We sing
it in our parish without remorse.

Terry Maher said...

"Congregations are urged to let the basic structure of the service remain intact. The wide choice permitted in the Rubrics makes it possible to have the Service as simple or elaborate as the circumstances of each congregation may indicate."

From the General Rubrics of THE Lutheran Hymnal. Which speaks an entirely different mindset than the churchy versions of secular diversity policy statement of late.

Note the singular -- the Service. Sunday service with or without Communion, Matins, Vespers/Compline. Within which such singular service "diversity" may happen in elaborateness.

An entirely different scenario from five different services, Matins or a Morning Prayer (though I suppose that since Vatican II Matins is now abolished for an Office of Readings which may be said any time and since we must always follow Rome saying "me too") etc.

Once you abandon the singular, the lid will never be put on what can or cannot be included in the plural, and someone will always insist If not that then why not this too, Judas H it's unity not uniformity and this is within the unity too.

One of the insanities of the age is that adjectives and adjectival nouns have a meaning separate from the nouns they modify. As long as we act like Vatican II was the hoped-for council to resolve everything and follow Rome's novus ordo pattern of this or that, Option A, B, or C, etc, our service books will only contribute to the very situation they seek to resolve.

Chris said...

Adiaphora is nothing more than code for "do whatever you want."

Anonymous said...

What worries me in all this is not the diversity amongst LCMS's individual parishes, or amongst it's clergy. That is a big enough 'problem' in itself.

What worries me is the individual members. They may or may not have been properly catechized. I encounter members who have that very attitude of, "Well, that's just one opinion..." I fear there is a tide of 'diversity' amongst members that will be equivalent to the deadly red tide now affecting the Texas coast.

Red tides kill fish.

Anonymous said...

Our congregation sang "Great is Thy
Faithfulness" in our Worship Service
from 1990 forward. It was officially
in our LCMS hymnal in 2006.

Phillip said...

So, Anonymous, What is your point? Are you saying that because you sang a doctrinally sound hymn from outside the hymnal that therefore all congregations all congregations should do whatever the pastor wants, because we can trust all LCMS pastors?

Anonymous said...

If "Great Is Thy Faithfulness" were the big issue here, we would be rejoicing all the way to heaven. It is not and so our rejoicing over the kingdom is tempered by those who detract from Christ and His gift with fuzzy stuff that mixes theologies and outright false teaching that sounds good and makes the tears run.

Marinus Veenman said...

I'm not sure that chanting is, in fact, an adiaphoron. St. Paul instructs us to "...SING Psalms....". How do we imagine we will sing the Psalms if we don't chant them?