Another Lutheran has swum the Bosporus and, like most, he is a good guy, serious minded, frustrated by the great divide between theory and practice among Lutherans, and scandalized by what passes as Lutheran on Sunday morning. Though some are quick to condemn those who leave, I am more circumspect. They will be accountable for their own choices and that is enough for me. That said, however, I find myself greatly sympathetic with many of their complaints while remaining unconvinced by some of justification for their decision to leave us.
It is a scandal of epidemic proportions that Lutherans, especially Confessional Lutherans, have no consistent face to their faith on Sunday morning. The fact that in the LCMS we run the gamut from low church Protestantism to high church charistmatic to generic evangelicalism to broad church formalism to catholic liturgy on Sunday morning is nothing less than sinful. Quite apart from the theology of it all (which I have reiterated over and over again on this blog), how can a "brand" have an inconsistent and contradictory identity -- even within the same community! This is a dastardly diversity in which some of us are not man enough to admit we do not walk together and it is not the kind of diversity envisioned by our confessions and expected by our covenant of life together as parishes and pastors of the LCMS. Think what it could do to McDonalds if they were like a Long John Silvers on one block, a Taco Bell on another, and a Hong Kong Wok on another? It is ridiculous to assume that the vast spectrum of Sunday morning faces given to Lutheran doctrine is healthy for any of us (much less for a congregation which institutionalizes these preferences with an ordinary scheduled diversity for Sunday morning!).
I refuse to defend or tolerate such schizophrenia of Lutheran worship. If it does not have the Ordo (the liturgical pattern inherent to and expected by our Confessions), it is not Lutheran. I am not, like some, insisting upon a page number but, like pornography, you know it when you see it. Saddleback style or Willow Creek wannabes or Joel Osteen lookalikes are not the same as any version of the Divine Service. We all know that. Hardly any of those using contemporary worship forms and music even pretend to have much in common with the liturgical Lutherans. They know it. We know it. He is not one of us and I am not one of them. Credible liturgical diversity of ceremony is acceptable without dividing the confession but a weekly Eucharist, the pattern of the historic mass, and music that confesses are all givens for Lutherans.
Liturgy may compensate for poor preaching and teaching but it should never be allowed to hold up the household of God without faithful confession. In other words, the Divine Service is expected of ALL Lutherans who use the name, get money from jurisdictions, or come out of our seminaries... BUT the doctrine needs to match the practice and it is not a godly position to choose liturgy over doctrine or doctrine over liturgy. Either they go together or the church is wounded, disabled, and hobbling along where she should be walking and running.
I love the ambiance of Orthodoxy (real smells and bells) and I love the authoritative structure of Rome (especially when faced with Lutheran supervisors who chose to hide, ignore, or condone liturgical and theological abuses). But the liturgy (what some call the choice of a way of life over a doctrinal certainty) should not have to carry all the weight; doctrine and confession are also required. In the same way, it is not fair to have to choose between doctrine and bishops -- the early church expected that both went together and would be shocked by those churches that today boast episcopal orders but cannot confess the creed without crossing their fingers.
Am I a dreamer? I guess I am. I dream of Lutherans who mean what they confess, who practice what they confess, and who refuse to allow the compromises of the past substitute for the pursuit of the fullness of all that can be. I dream of Lutherans who walk into a Lutheran Church on Sunday morning and recognize the form, most of the words, and sing their faith in the solid text of music that confesses. I dream of Lutheran Pastors who look like clergy all the time. I dream of catechesis which is lifelong and flows from and back to our Confessions. I dream of the best and brightest being moved toward church work vocations. I dream of people who refuse to settle for what is cheap and easy (from architecture to organs to ministry to missions) and who are relentless in their pursuit of excellence AND faithfulness. I dream of a day when other Christian are envious of the doctrinal consistency and vibrant apologetic of Lutheran parishes, pastors, and people. I dream of sermons that engage as well as faithfully speak Law and Gospel, rightly distinguishing them, of course. I dream of Pastors who work so hard no one jokes about working only on Sundays and congregations who make it possible for their Pastors not to worry about having enough money to pay the bills. I dream of a day when Lutherans tempted to leave are drawn back by the vigorous confession, the faithful doctrine, and the rich liturgical piety of parish and people. Yeah, I am a dreamer and sometimes I live too much in my dreams but... wouldn't it be grand if that were the way all Lutherans dreamed????
You are not alone in your dreams. This pew sitter is brought to tears each week, but I have nowhere else to go.
Well stated, Fr. Peters.
I first came to the LCMS in 1964, to St. Paul's Church, Austin, TX. Pastor Albert Jesse (RIP) was very much like yourself, Pr. Peters, and I was fully taken in. A few years later, I moved to Raleigh, NC, where I joined another LCMS parish, but it was different but still beautiful. Some 7 or 8 years later, I was again living in Austin and I went back to St. Paul's, but it was different. This was the era of Siminex, and everything seemed to have changed. Since then, I have been part of many different LCMS parishes, everyone almost unrecognizable from the one before, until I left Lutheranism altogether for Continuing Anglicanism. I can at least say that we all use the BCP 1928 or the Missal (which is an extension of the BCP 1928), so that I am at home now wherever I go.
It is easier to say "we all use" something when there are very few of you. As confessional denominations go the LCMS is relatively large which is one source of difficulty.
Maybe we LCMS should do this:
Those who talk and act like evangelicals can leave and become non-denominational evangelicals and those of us who are liturgical could join a newly created Lutheran Ordinariate in the Catholic Church. We keep our distinctive Lutheran teachings and our own head bishop, but with much stronger powers, and the mass, with its liturgy, must be uniform in all our churches.
I keep my eyes looking up to the feet nailed to the cross, knowing the church will not fail......
>>those of us who are liturgical could join a newly created Lutheran Ordinariate in the Catholic Church
Hard to see how you do that and keep the Book of Concord.
So what can we do, Pastor? Surely there is a way out of this problem. My husband is Roman Catholic, so my movement would be in that direction, and I've seriously considered it. (See Rob Koons' paper A Lutheran's Case for Roman Catholicism, which I wrestled for several months.) I've pretty well decided that I can't leave the truth of Lutheranism, but it is ridiculous that we can't at least require the three major items you mentioned (proper liturgy, weekly Communion, and faithful music) in every LCMS church. Every time we've moved, I've had to "church shop" within my own denomination to find one that has all three within an hour's drive (we have a young family and I can't put my kids through multiple hours in the car every Sunday), and I usually have had to settle for liturgy and music, but biweekly Communion. How is this not required for membership in the LCMS?! (I have researched the history and understand the origins of less-frequent Communion, but there is no excuse now. The most common reason seems to be to keep the service at only an hour, but we should be ashamed of that thinking.) I think my husband might be inclined to join the LCMS if we could work that out, but as it is he just can't take our teaching on Communion seriously, since our practice does not bear it out. I, like Genig, worry for my children's faith, being raised in such an environment, especially with the external challenges we now face.
(P.S.: As long as we're wishing, why can't we stop identifying ourselves by a man's name (and, really, a US state, of all things!)? I understand the history and that we didn't originally choose the name, but it is frankly embarrassing to be the only major Christian group to be named after a person. I think the person of Luther prevents a lot of people from taking us seriously, and obviously leads to the erroneous but common idea that we slavishly follow everything Luther ever said, placing him above God.)
Joshua Genig gives two excuses as to why he betrayed his confirmation and ordination vows to God to remain steadfast in the faithful and true exposition of Holy Scriptures in the Lutheran Confessions and to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it.
1. Others failed to practice correct Lutheran liturgy.
2. I wanted to conduct paedocommunion.
Neither reason justifies Genig's betrayal. The question that needs to be answered is where, apparently sometime prior to a few weeks after his ordination, were these excuses implanted so as to blossom into obsessions that trampled Genig's vows before God and witnesses.
It is an important question since such obsessions, which some Lutheran pastors have eventually recanted and now strongly oppose, have shown up in various Lutheran blogs and articles.
On 30 October 2012, Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, said in an interview that if Lutherans express a wish for an arrangement similar to the personal ordinariates for former Anglicans, the Catholic Church will have to reflect on it, but that the initiative must come from Lutherans.
Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, commented on 11 January 2013 that, while the situation of Lutherans is different from that of Anglicans, the Holy See might consider an ordinariate for those among them who might wish to become members of the Catholic Church while retaining "the legitimate traditions they have developed".
The Lutheran World Federation General Secretary, Martin Junge, expressed concern at the idea, saying that it would create further difficulties in ecumenical dialogue and discourage the commitment of Lutherans to celebrate in 2017 the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation "in a spirit of ecumenical understanding and cooperation".
Ordinariates have also been suggested for other groups coming into the Catholic Church, such as Hebrew Catholics.
"the Holy See might consider an ordinariate for those among them who might wish to become members of the Catholic Church while retaining "the legitimate traditions they have developed".
That phrase is key. I for one would insist that we be allowed to keep the Book of Concord in its entirety except for one article: that the office of the papacy is the Anti-Christ. At one time it was. I don't think it is any longer.
Liz (April 22, 2014 at 10:32 AM): "P.S.: As long as we're wishing, why can't we stop identifying ourselves by a man's name (and, really, a US state, of all things!)?"
The question concerning the name "Lutheran" has been answered in an article coincidentally entitled, "Concerning the Name "Lutheran". The article is a translation of a multi-part article, written by C.F.W. Walther and published in the September-October, 1844, issues of Der Lutheraner. In his article Walther also has something to say about replacing "Lutheran" with "Catholic," "Reformed," "Evangelical," or "Protestant."
As for the reference to a state, that is in the name of a Synod, not a church (there is a difference!), originally called Die Deutsche Evangelisch-Lutherische Synode von Missouri, Ohio und andern Staaten, because the Evangelical Lutheran Synod was founded in 1847 by German Lutheran pastors and congregations from Missouri, Ohio, and other states. In 1917, because of anti-German sentiment during WWI, the name was changed to Die Evangelisch-Lutherische Synode von Missouri, Ohio und andern Staaten, commonly known as the "Missouri Synod." In 1947, the name was changed to "The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod."
Personally, I would like to have the name changed again to Die Evangelische-Lutherische Synode von Missouri, Texas, und anderen Amerikanische Staaten. ;-)
Gary (April 22, 2014 at 11:17 AM): "I for one would insist that we be allowed to keep the Book of Concord in its entirety except for one article: that the office of the papacy is the Anti-Christ. At one time it was. I don't think it is any longer."
The Evangelical Lutheran Church, its pastors and congregations accept without reservation that the Lutheran Symbols, which state that the pope is the very Antichrist, are a true and faithful statement and exposition of the Word of God.
LMMV (Lufauxran mileage may vary)
I think something must be done to stem the tide of evangelical worship-style in our churches. However, what can be done when 75% of LCMS parishes use evangelical-style contemporary worship?
The majority of LCMS churches in my area are more evangelical than Lutheran. When these Lutherans come to my church they audibly gasp at our "catholicity".
I predict within a generation this 75% of the LCMS will drop the name Lutheran above their church door, and become, "The Rock Church" or something hip like that.
It is we liturgical, now the minority in the Synod, that are going to have to make the tough choice to leave.
I say an ordinariate in the Catholic Church with our Book of Concord, is our best option.
Those pastors and congregations that conduct methobapticostal services need to be told by their district presidents to conduct Lutheran worship services or, per Art. XIII, they will be suspended and removed from synod membership. District president, and their replacements, who fail to do this need to be suspended and eventually removed from synod membership.
Oh wait, I forgot... the Missouri Synod gave up ecclesiastical supervision for the Koinonia Project.
>>I say an ordinariate in the Catholic Church with our Book of Concord, is our best option.
It is hard to see how they would permit that without recanting the anathemas of the Council of Trent. Which they cannot do.
For once, Richard (Carl), I agree with you, but the problem is, the majority of the LCMS is now pseudo-evangelical. So the pseudo-evangelical majority in the LCMS is not going to discipline district presidents who practice "methobapticostal" evangelical worship, just as they do.
Again, we the minority, the liturgical, will have to leave the LCMS.
But where do we go? Do we form ANOTHER Lutheran body or do we join the largest orthodox, liturgical Christian Church in the world but with the following conditions: insistence that we have a separate Ordinariate with our own head bishop, elected by us and not Rome, that our doctrine is not to be tampered with, the Book of Concord will be our Statement of Faith, not the Council of Trent, and that we can leave the Catholic Church anytime we feel our autonomy is threatened.
Why would Rome agree to that?
So the pseudo-evangelical majority in the LCMS is not going to discipline district presidents who practice "methobapticostal" evangelical worship, just as they do.
It's the synodical president who has the authority and responsibility to suspend DPs.
As for Lutheran pastors and congregations leaving the Missouri Synod to the Lufauxran methobapticostals, it would be only after the Lufauxrans are left with nothing but smoldering ashes and cinders.
We won't know until we express in writing our position to the Vatican. As stated above by the Vatican, Lutherans would have to initiate this idea before the Vatican would act on it.
I say, "throw it out there and see what they do with it."
If they want to force us to accept the Council of Trent, we say, "absolutely not", and walk away.
Does the Eastern Orthodox Church have ordinariates?
Unless something dramatic happens in the LCMS we soon will be just another flavor of evangelicalism with praise bands, back up singers, light and sound effects with smoke machines, and pastors in blue jeans sitting on a bar stool preaching a generic gospel, on a stage void of an altar and crucifix.
It fascinates me that one can betray vows to two things that no Lutheran considers to be sacraments.
"As for Lutheran pastors and congregations leaving the Missouri Synod to the Lufauxran methobapticostals, it would be only after the Lufauxrans are left with nothing but smoldering ashes and cinders."
Would you explain that statement, Richard. I'm not following.
The largest LCMS church in my area has two worship services. I have attended both. The "traditional" service uses an organ, sings hymns, and the pastor wears a plain white vestment. They say the Apostles Creed but other than that they do not follow the liturgy. No Confession and Absolution, etc.. They only offer the Sacrament a couple times a month. It feels like an evangelical service for the elderly.
The other service is held in the gymnasium, with a praise band with guitars, drums and backup singers, a large projection screen, and the same pastor in street clothes. There is nothing distinctively Lutheran in this service whatsoever.
From what I hear, this is what the majority of the LCMS churches in my metropolitan city area do. I am pretty sure that my LCMS church is the only "high Lutheran" church in the entire county.
If my church joins the evangelical band wagon, I will be headed out the door to the local Anglo-Catholic church.
Gary: "If my church joins the evangelical band wagon, I will be headed out the door to the local Anglo-Catholic church."
One should certainly leave a church that has become Lufauxran. But to what? The ACNA? They have pastrixes. That's no more a real Lutheran answer than the one Joshua Genig gave.
If there are no other real Lutheran churches around, one Lutheran answer is in the book, How To Start Or Keep Your Own Missouri Synod Lutheran Church by Rev. Jack Cascione.
No, I'm not interested in starting my own church. Call me lazy, but too much work.
If my LCMS parish joins the evangelical bandwagon I will go to the Anglo-Catholic parish down the street. I would consider the Orthodox Church, but since I'm not Russian, Greek, or Serbian, I'm not sure I would feel "home" there. I've heard the "non-ethnics" get treated as outsiders in the Orthodox Churches.
No church is perfect, but I grew up evangelical and I burned out on the emotion-based spirituality. I have no intention of ever getting back on that roller-coaster, even if it has the word "Lutheran" on it.
"Do you hold all the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures to be the inspired Word of God and confess the doctrine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, drawn from them, as you have learned to know it from the Small Catechism, to be faithful and true?"
"Do you intend to continue steadfast in this confession and Church and to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it?"
"Call me lazy, but too much work."
I hear you, Richard.
But if you feel that way, why do you belong to a Lutheran Synod where 70% of the parishes worship no differently than the evangelicals? Are you saying that liturgy is not part of our Confessions? That liturgy is adiaphora?
Why haven't you started your own Synod, Richard? The current Synod of which you are a member is heterodox...FauxLutheran, as you like to say, at least as practiced by the majority within the Synod.
By your own standards, are you sinning by participating in a heterodox Church?
I attend St. Paul Lutheran Church-Austin (mentioned earlier), which has been a confessional Lutheran church with a Lutheran liturgy and Lutheran music as long as I've been there. If it was a Seminex-style church in the late 70s, it hasn't been one for a long, long time. Churches can change, for better or worse, and so can a Synod. Changing them for the better means lots of work.
True, very true.
But you do admit that you belong to a heterodox Church, right? So my "sin" of not believing that the current pope is the Anti-Christ and your sin of belonging to a heterodox Church, negates us both being able to claim we are faithful, confessional Lutherans.
I consider liturgy to be just as important to my choice of church/Church as doctrine. I would pick an orthodox Anglo-Catholic church over a pseudo-evangelical, Lutheran-in-doctrine-only church, any day of the week.
But you do admit that you belong to a heterodox Church, right?
No, I didn't said that. You said that, even though it isn't true.
So my "sin" of not believing that the current pope is the Anti-Christ and your sin of belonging to a heterodox Church, negates us both being able to claim we are faithful, confessional Lutherans.
That's just malarky. Your sin of disavowing your subscription to the Lutheran Confessions stands by itself. It is not negated by anything else.
I consider liturgy to be just as important to my choice of church/Church as doctrine
This is where your confusion exist about liturgy. In his article, "Grabau and the Saxon Pastors: The Doctrine of the Holy Ministry, 1840-1845" (Concordia Historical Institute Quarterly, 62, 1995, p. 93), Rev. William Cwirla stated the distinction:
"We might summarize the liturgical distinction between the parties in this way: Grabau worked in the direction lex orandi lex credendi (what is prayed is confessed); the Saxons worked it the other way, lex credendi lex orandi (what is confessed is prayed)."
I remember talking to my priest about Luther. I explained he was once a monk but then he married. My priest's first comment was, "You mean he broke his vows?" And he seemed quite saddened by that. I would think breaking one's vows for the sake of conscience would be something a Lutheran could support? (Even if one doesn't agree with the ultimate decison.)
I was LCMS but now attend a Continuing Anglican parish (Anglican Province of America). I get a consistent, reverent liturgy; weekly communion; vestments; creed and benediction; recognition of the church calendar, etc. Why drive an hour to the nearest LCMS parish that practices anything close to the historic Lutheran liturgy when I can drive 4 miles to attend a Continuing Anglican church. The Continuing Anglican churches have problems as well, but for me they are not as deep as the divide within the LCMS. I've made my decision.
Unlike the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA), the Anglican Catholic church, Anglican Province of America and several other Continuing Anglican churches DO NOT accept woman clergy and are not part of the ACNA.
It's sad that you are even considering leaving the LCMS. But it's a reality for many faithful, traditional Lutherans. I wish you well.
Thank you for your comments, James.
In brief, here is my story: I grew up fundamentalist Baptist. In my twenties I attended a (Baptistic) non-denom. evangelical church. In my late twenties I became a liberal and joined the ELCA. I attended church maybe two or three times a year for the next 10-15 years.
I then married a Roman Catholic. Neither of us were big church goers at that time, but we chose to attend the local Episcopal church as a compromise where we both could take communion.
Then I became a father...and everything changed. I was no longer just responsible for my eternal destination, I was responsible for two beautiful little children. One Sunday in the Episcopal church, one of the gay associate pastors talked about God using the pronoun "she". That was the last straw for me. I did not want to bring my children up in that environment. I realized I could not bring them up in liberal Christianity where anything goes, and the Church believes nothing in particular, other than the Golden Rule.
I attended the local LCMS church. The preaching was great, but no communion that Sunday as they only had communion every other Sunday. There was some liturgy, but not a lot. No crucifix, no kneeling, and again, no Sacrament for the nourishment of my soul and the forgiveness of my sins, which I want and need EVERY week!
I was accustomed to receiving the Sacrament every Sunday, so we passed on the LCMS church and attended the local conservative Anglo-Catholic church. Great liturgy, conservative on social issues, good preaching, nice people...but MAJOR emphasis on the Virgin Mary, much more so than the typical American Roman Catholic Church. The Hail Mary is said during every mass.
So as long as I held my nose while they said the Hail Mary, I was happy.
The wonderful priest left so I decided to check out the LCMS Lutheran church again as I missed (high church) Lutheranism and the doctrine of justification by grace alone through faith alone.
We visited the same church we had several years prior, and they had a new pastor! They had Holy Communion every service, and they used the liturgy, the beautiful old hymns, and were very high church (even incense!!). I love it and feel right at home.
However, my LCMS church is the black sheep of the local LCMS parishes. We are the "Catholics". If my pastor were to leave, we would probably revert to a pseudo-evangelical church like all the other LCMS churches in the area...and I would leave to return to the Anglo-Catholic church...holding my nose during the Hail Mary.
I, as a layman, am not a member of a synod. The congregation to which I belong, and its pastor are members of the LCMS. I am a member of the congregation because it and its pastor ARE confessional/liturgical. Further, I am fortunate to live in the Twin Cities metropolitan area, where I have the choice of many confessional/liturgical congregations over multiple circuits. I can only imagine what it must be like to live in an area where a circuit is spread over many counties, and a confessional/liturgical congregation is too far away to even consider attending.
When shepherds and/or flocks choose to ignore/reject their vows and commitments, that is their choice. I'm able to just walk away and find another confessional/liturgical LCMS congregation in my area. I don't know what I'd do if Imwere in an area where I'd have no such choice.
Again, when there are only Lufauxran, but no real Lutheran, churches around, one Lutheran answer is in the book, How To Start Or Keep Your Own Missouri Synod Lutheran Church by Rev. Jack Cascione.
Exceptions might be if you are living in a city called Sodom or Gomorrah.
The Vatican is clearly willing to consider the establishment of ordinariates for groups who come to the Catholic Church from various Protestant denominations that have their own distinct customs of liturgical worship. The Lutheran tradition clearly is a likely candidate.
That said, the Vatican is very strict about doctrinal orthodoxy. One cannot come into the Catholic Church without accepting the whole of Catholic doctrine, the best compendium of which is the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The apostolic constitution Anglicanorum coetibus stipulates explicitly that ALL ordinariates established thereunder must adhere to the Catechism of the Catholic Church as a doctrinal reference point. And in 2009, Pope Benedict XVI promulgated the motu proprio Ecclesiae unitatem in which he said explicitly that the reconciliation of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) requires resolution of the doctrinal issues that now stand in the way. The author of the OP is quite right: the Catholic Church does NOT compromise doctrine!
As a Catholic Christian, I have no familiarity whatsoever with the Book of Concord so I cannot say how much of it is compatible with Catholic doctrine and how much is not. But in any case, you can be certain that any ordinariate for those who come to the Catholic Church from Lutheran bodies will not ascribe to whatever in the Book of Concord is not compatible with Catholic doctrine.
Pope Benedict, then Cardinal Ratzinger, stated that the Augsburg Confession is an essentially catholic confession. Unfortunately, for all his quite exceptional qualities, Benedict's theology and ecumenical inclinations (here most importantly his sympathy for confessional Lutherans) shifted markedly when he assumed the office of the anti-Christ. Go figure.
Benedict also has been very forthright about the papacy as the main obstacle to ecumenical work with all communions.
In all honesty, I think the chances of orthodox Evangelical Catholics (Lutherans) and Roman Catholics reuniting are slim to none...unless the orthodox Churches come under intense persecution. At that point, we may decide that we are better off together, even with our differences.
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