Sunday, May 17, 2015

Missouri Myth and Legend

Talk to many Missouri Lutherans today and you would think that the LCMS has an instinctive bias against things catholilc -- especially ceremonies, usages, rituals, smells and bells.  Funny, however, because in the Propositions for an Evangelical Lutheran Synodical Constitution  from which the eventual first constitution and its successors originated, the founders of the LCMS show bias not against the catholic ceremonies to which so many turn up their noses today but against the poverty and emptiness in the externals of the service found around them in the vast wasteland of Lutheranism in American in the early 1800s.

Furthermore Synod deems it necessary for the purification of the Lutheran Church in America, that the emptiness and the poverty in the externals of the service be opposed, which, having been introduced here by the false spirit of the Reformed, is now rampant.

In addition, explicit reference (also included in the first constitution) not only asks that private confession be continued where it exists but that pastors are to strive through teaching and instruction to introduce it.  Private Confession, it seems, has a shall rubric while general confession has a may rubric.  Just the opposite of things today.

Where private confession is in use, it is to be kept according to Article 11 of the Augsburg Confession. Where it is not in use, the pastor is to strive through teaching and instruction to introduce it. Yet in congregations where the total abolishing of general confession and absolution is hindered by unsurmountable obstacles, general confession may be kept along with private confession. 

Finally, in an age of celebrated diversity, Synod strove for the just the opposite -- uniformity in the ceremonies!  This was not a minimalism but, due to the use of sound (pure) agendas (books proscribing the form and practice of the Divine Service and occasional services), this meant the use of a fuller, not minimal, ceremonial.

The desired uniformity in the ceremonies is to be brought about especially by the adoption of sound Lutheran agendas (church books).

Ah, the myth and legend of Missouri!  How soon we forget that our forefathers were, with regard to liturgy, ceremony, and confession, much more overtly catholic than many of their heirs today.  Far from being a liturgical wing of the Methodist Church, the Missourians saw themselves explicitly as the evangelical wing of the catholic church.


John Joseph Flanagan said...

I do not know if we can deduce that Lutherans saw themselves as an evangelical arm of the Catholic Church. It is difficult to prove this, even when some writers alleged it to be true across the board. I often have trouble with generalizations about most everything, because of the exceptions and because assumptions lead to erroneous conclusions. I also do not feel we Lutherans are prejudiced too overtly about all things in ritualistic Catholic practices, however, our Bibles tell us that the root of our faith is CHRIST alone, and although many rituals are not is not where Jesus said we should focus. The major differences with the Lutheran and Catholic divide, in my view, should be in doctrine. The manner in which we are saved, the Grace of God, the means of grace in the Sacraments, the authority of scripture over Papal edict.....and so forth.

Lutheran Lurker said...

Why is it always assumed that ritual almost implies a focus away from Christ alone or faith? Why do not view those who insist upon faith alone (without the church, worship, ceremonies, etc.) are not missing something? Christ alone does not me me and Jesus against the world and I don't need worship, the Sacraments, etc... Everyone is always cautioning the ceremonial side by saying "but it is not where Jesus said we should focus" while the radical individualistic Protestants among us who feed on Christ in their heart without benefit of the means of grace are left alone?

Carl Vehse said...

Perhaps it's more like the Table Talk quote attributed to Martin Luther:

"The world is like a drunken peasant. If you lift him into the saddle on one side, he will fall off again on the other side. One can't help him, no matter how one tries. He wants to be the devil's." (TT 630, 1533. LW 54:111)

Thus in reference to those in the Missouri Synod, there's the ditch of hyper-ritualism on one side, and the ditch of contemporary music/CGM/"everyone's a minister" on the other.