Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Who abandoned whom?

On Monday, October 15, 2012, Bishop Mark J. Lawrence, the 14th Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina, was notified by the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, Katharine Jefferts Schori, that on September 18, 2012 the Disciplinary Board for Bishops had certified his abandonment of The Episcopal Church.  Read more here....

Imagine that.  Someone in the Episcopal Church actually is paying attention.  They have not only noticed but are doing something about it.  Sadly, having gutted the Episcopal Church of its doctrinal authority, having relegated its confessions, creeds, and liturgy to the status of mere historical documents, and having embraced immorality at the highest level of the church's hierarchy, now they decide enough is enough.  Perhaps in order to be Episcopalian anymore you must abandon the church that wears that name.  It is the sad betrayal of a nobler past and the promise of an empty future.

Lest we sit smugly on the sidelines sniffing at the stink that comes from the decay of a church with a much prouder past than its present allows, we Lutherans run the same risk.  The ELCA is poised to finish swallowing the poison pill it received from the Episcopal Church through its reciprocal fellowship agreements and its oneness of faith with liberal mainline Protestants.  Missouri flirts with evangelicalism as some replace the liturgy with happy time with Jesus and others find solace in the theological works of fundamentalism and others embrace the church growth strategies of business and industry.  We all have our weakness.  That said, perhaps Missouri is better poised to stem the tide of liberalism and those who would replace confession with feelings.  If she is better situated to turn back the tide, it will require something more than simply condemnation of the practices so easy to despise and the rediscovery of our theological soul so well practiced in the evangelical mass.

Ours is a positive confession.  True enough, we condemn error and errorists but the force of our Lutheran confessional identity is positive.  This we believe... this we teach... this we confess.  When the Pastors in the pulpits begin to preach and teach without apology or embarrassment the Scripture truth embodied in our Lutheran Confessions and embrace with full enthusiasm the liturgical identity that flows from those confessions, we will have something to crow about.  When the folks in our pews begin to exert their voices in expectation and insistence that our Confession be more than name only and our practice give more than lip service to its liturgical expression, then we may cast stones.  For now we can only shed tears for those who have lost their way while we tread carefully the path of orthodoxy and struggle to keep from the sin of pride that will be our fall.

We are only and ever one generation from apostasy.  We trust the Spirit but we know that the Spirit expects and compels us to faithful catechesis and faithful Divine Service.  He has given us the means, let us use them as He intends, and we will have nothing to fear.   Sing with me the good words of blessed Martin Franzmann:

Weary of all trumpeting,
Weary of all killing,
Weary of the songs that sing
Promise, nonfulfilling,
We would raise, O Christ, one song;
We would join in singing
That great music pure and strong,
Where-with heav'n is ringing.

Captain Christ, O lowly Lord,
Servant King, Your dying
Bade us sheathe the foolish sword,
Bade us cease denying.
Trumpet with Your Spirit's breath
Through each height and hollow;
Into Your self-giving death,
Call us all to follow.

To the triumph of Your cross
Summon all the living;
Summon us to live by loss,
Gaining all by giving,
Suff'ring all, that we may see
Triumph in surrender;
Leaving all, that we may be
Partners in Your splendor.


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