Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A race to the bottom. . .

I must admit some glaring ignorance about the ordinary liturgical practices of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod.  Since they used the same hymnal as the LCMS for many years, I had assumed that the liturgical practices were fairly consistent between the LCMS and WELS.  When their Christian Worship: A  Lutheran Hymnal came out in 1993, I found it odd and curious in different ways but not entirely unrecognizable within the TLH tradition.  That all changed when current and former WELS members began talking to me about the inherent bias in the WELS against liturgical things (everything from making the sign of the cross to chanting to more frequent celebrations of the Eucharist).  It prompted me to take a second look at that hymnal.

The Common Service claims to be a version of the history liturgy of the Christian church and a revision of The Order of the Holy Communion from TLH.  I began to notice the absence of rubrics (directions) and realized that in the Invocation there is no symbol of the cross to indicate that the sign of the cross may be made.  It turned out that this was a sign of things to come.  Though the cross symbol appears in the absolution, there is no direction to indicate what it means.    As expected the word "catholic" was not present in either the Nicene Creed or the Apostles' Creed but it turns out it was omitted from the Athanasian Creed as well (where it was retained in TLH).

Unlike LSB which presumes that the full Eucharist is the norm (If there is no communion), CW presumes that this is ordinary (when there is no communion).  Even more odd is the absence of the Our Father from the canon and its placement at the prayers.  While I have always resisted the Lutheran innovation of the Our Father prior to the Verba, the connection between the Verba and the Our Father is most ancient and it represents a clear departure from catholic practice to omit the Our Father here.

It is not at all obvious that the pastor's portion of the liturgy could or should be chanted.  In fact, it is pretty clear from the pew book that the expectation is that the pastor will NOT chant, that chanting is an exception and, perhaps, an unwelcome one.  Even if the notes are in the pastor's book (or altar book), it certainly makes it appear that neither the publishers nor the folks in the pew expect the pastor to chant.

The sign of the cross is also conspicuously absent with respect to the morning and evening prayers of Luther and his bidding to make the sign of the cross at the invocation and how to pray.

One subtle hint lies in the fact that the clerical collar is a rarity among Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod clergy.  What you wear is not the primary thing but what you refuse to wear just may hint at your bias. All of this combined with the legendary affection WELS has with the Geneva Gown instead of the historic vesture of the pastor, leaves me with but one conclusion.  Perhaps those former and current WELS complainers are absolutely correct.  WELS does have a liturgical style and it is decidedly low church, a race to the bottom of the liturgical ladder, if you will, in which ceremony, vestments, and catholic tradition are suspect and unwelcome in the parishes of this church body.

How sad it is that a Lutheran body once captive to the liberal view could recapture its more orthodox theological underpinnings and then eschew the liturgical shape of that orthodox doctrine on Sunday morning.  It remains a problem for more the WELS.  Even in Missouri we have many who would find Luther's liturgical practice too shockingly katholisch to be tolerated in a Lutheran parish today.  How strange it is that some Lutherans today would be uncomfortable with the Lutheran praxis of Martin Luther, the second Martin (Chemnitz), the orthodox Lutheran fathers, or our most famous church musician, J. S. Bach!!

Addendum from Fr. Hollywood in 2009 RE Wisconsin Synod practice:

According to this Q&A from the WELS's own website, there have been at least two instances where laywomen in the WELS have said the Lord' Words of Institution over bread and wine and served it, claiming that it was the body and blood of the Lord. The practice was in no way condemned by the WELS hierarchy, but rather, the practice is current under a "moratorium" in order to "keep from offending our brothers."

This error has come about by the intersection of an error on the doctrine of the ministry combined with a legalistic view of the role of women.

First, WELS does not believe the pastoral office has been divinely established, and further teaches that "The Bible establishes all of public gospel ministry but does not establish a pastoral office as such or vest certain duties exclusive to that office" (Emphasis added).

From this starting point, WELS adds the next premise that the differences between male and female are limited to a legalistic "thou shalt not," as the article puts it:
"Since the Bible does not assign specific duties to the pastor, WELS approaches the matter of women communing women from Scripture's man and women role relationship principle. WELS doctrinal statements on the role of man and woman say that a woman may have any part in public ministry that does not assume teaching authority over a man. That, of course, would include women communing women" (emphasis added).
And this has moved beyond the theoretical into the practical: "WELS has had only two instances of women communing women, and our Conference of Presidents has since issued an indefinite moratorium on such practice to keep from offending our brothers until the matter is mutually resolved" (emphasis added).

My Comments:

As you can tell from the Q & A quoted from the WELS website, our Lutheran kin are in a race to the bottom in other ways as well -- functional understanding of the office of pastor and the distinction of that office and its functions to prevent women from serving ONLY when it places them in authority over men.  Odd, yes!  Lutheran, no!


jonathanpaulmayer said...

Pastor Peters,

I have been attending a WELS church since I was young enough to remember. In general, I think your assessment of WELS worship practice corresponds to my own anecdotal experience. I rarely, if ever, saw anything but the geneva gown in my youth. I never heard a pastor chant until Bethany Lutheran College (ELS), and I was never once in my life encouraged to make the sign of the cross.

But I wouldn't exactly call it a "race to the bottom" just yet. There are many in the WELS, that, while far from "high church", would like to see reverence brought back to the service. You're beginning to see the alb and stole much more commonly, including in my own (dual) parishes. There are also serious and official efforts (via the School of Worship Enrichment) to have the Lord's Supper celebrated more frequently. When I brought up this issue at my congregation, we decided to have Communion twice a month (instead of once!). I'm hoping we can move to weekly before much longer.

There are also many, including myself, who would like to see the new WELS hymnal (under construction) take many cues from LSB and ELH. I would love to see chant encouraged more. I've taught my own children to make the sign of the cross, and we hope that other families in our church may follow suit some day.

The WELS also does worship conferences every 3 years at which it hosts more than 1,000 clergy, teachers, and laymen. For the most part, they are quite good. Some of the services are quite "high church." In fact, it may be the only time I've heard chanting in a WELS service, or the use of processional crosses, incense, etc. Unfortunately, the "high church" is usually presented along side a "low church" service, which might feature a rock band and a gospel choir. There are too many "free thinkers" who believe that we can't sanction one "style" of worship over another, so they are presented side-by-side as some of the many options. Believe me, many people leave the "low church" services offended, if they can even stomach the whole hour.

The only major point of disagreement I have with this post is the warning about the role of women. While the things you've pointed out from the WELS website and other materials do concern me, I've never heard it taught that there's no biblical establishment of the pastoral office (in fact, the way our synod behaves, you would think that the pastoral ministry is the ONLY office established by God, and that all other vocations are inferior). Nor have I seen women encroaching on the pastoral office in the WELS. I have, however, seen it frequently in the LCMS. At both St. John's and Concordia here in Seward, women are frequently allowed to read scripture from the lectern during the divine service. Although this may be a problem in urban WELS congregations, my experience here has been that the women are very, very cautious about doing anything that might exercise authority. They have trouble even planning a picnic without the men's approval! Maybe that's just the way "country" folks are.

In the end, the WELS, like the LCMS, is far from homogenous, and you may not be getting both sides of the story.

Unknown said...

I do not well know or pretend to understand politics in the WELS or LCMS. I only know what we observed in our journey from Baptist to Lutheran. We did visit a WELS congregation (I realize it is just one of many, as our home LCMS congregation is) a few times, and this was before we were ready to leap from Reformed Baptist to Lutheran. The minister is a fine man and Bible scholar, whom we love and respect. He was from the first very approachable. He believed and taught, and still does, that of which I was already more than halfway convinced: the Real Presence. I had read of the nuances in belief about things such as receptionism and the proper disposal of the Elements. For myself, and later my husband, the practice in the Eucharist of dropping used individual cups into napkin lined baskets was disturbing. The lack, for me of a chalice/common cup (I understand there may be WELS congregations who do use it) was also a concern. Many may consider this splitting hairs, but it was a deciding factor. We are convinced the practice we follow in our congregation are correct. I would rather err on the side of "too religious" or "too sacramental" than the other way.

Unknown said...

Some hefty accusations! I noticed a glaring deficiency, if I might point it out. Where is your Scriptural basis? You referenced hymnals, traditions, and what I would assume you would call "common sense." However, I didn't see a Bible passage in the whole post. Can you point me to a place where it says "Albs are more worshipful than Genevas and way better in every way than a suit and tie?" Let's begin with principles, drawn from the words of Scripture and then apply those to practice. It doesn't generally work out for anyone draw principles from practice. Going that direction has lead to more than one Pharisaical argument. I'll curiously wait for your Scriptural principles.

jonathanpaulmayer said...

Hi, Ben. If I may, Pastor Peters is probably assuming that the WELS and LCMS share the same scriptural principles about worship, so there is no need to start from Square 1. But there are also the Lutheran Confessions, which weigh heavily in this argument, and which the WELS often seems to treat as having little consequence. For instance, in the Apology to the Augsburg Confession, article XXIV.1:

"We do not abolish the Mass but religiously retain and defend it. Among us the Mass is celebrated every Lord's Day and on other festivals, when the Sacrament is made available to those who wish to partake of it, after they have been examined and absolved. We also keep traditional liturgical forms, such as the order of readings, prayers, vestments, and other similar things."

Elsewhere it explains that it is good to keep these traditions, because they are useful for teaching the faith, and in maintaining good order (1 Cor 14:40). Luther himself said that unless there is a scriptural reason for getting rid of a particular custom, it should be kept; God works through the traditions of the church as well as through Word and Sacrament. Removing them without reason (other than in the name of "Christian freedom") does more harm than good. For myself, I wish we would keep the liturgical traditions for greater unity—not just among the WELS, but among other confessional Lutherans as well.

Unknown said...
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Anonymous said...

Pastor Peters, I think you are being a bit too harsh on the WELS, as well as on the Christian Worship hymnal, and some of your criticisms seemed really unfair. A few things I noticed:

1.) You bemoan the fact that CW doesn't contain a symbol of the cross at the Invocation. I'm not sure when you last picked up a TLH, but you may have forgotten that it doesn't contain any symbols of the cross in any location.

2.) You note that "though the cross symbol appears in the absolution, there is no direction to indicate what it means." The cross is included in LW, but it is never explained, at least not in the pew edition.

3.) The omission of the word "catholic" in the Athanasian Creed is really not a big deal. The change merely brings greater consistency between the three creeds. In addition, that particular creed is only read once a year at most (some churches never read it), so the impact there would be minimal.

4.) If you don't include the rubrics, it is not at all clear in TLH that the pastor's portion of the liturgy could or should be chanted, as music is only included for the congregational portions. In addition, I can think of nothing in CW which would indicate that chanting is "perhaps, an unwelcome" exception. It seems to me that you may be forcing an unwarranted interpretation here, most likely based on the preconceived notions you gained from the WELS members who complained to you. "Even if the notes are in the pastor's book (or altar book), it certainly makes it appear that neither the publishers nor the folks in the pew expect the pastor to chant." Again, see TLH. The creators of CW simply maintained the same format as TLH in this respect.

Anonymous said...

5.) LW also reads "When there is no Communion, the service continues on page..." At this point, I'll just note that it is unfair to judge CW in light of a hymnal which was published 13 years later. It is much more fair to judge it in light of what came before—in this case, TLH, and to a lesser extent, LW.

6.)One subtle hint lies in the fact that the clerical collar is a rarity among Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod clergy. What you wear is not the primary thing but what you refuse to wear just may hint at your bias. All of this combined with the legendary affection WELS has with the Geneva Gown instead of the historic vesture of the pastor, leaves me with but one conclusion.
The Geneva gown was universally used within confessional American Lutheran church bodies until the rise of the Liturgical Movement in the early twentieth century. Walther, Wyneken, Sihler, Pieper, and most, if not all, of the nineteenth century Missouri Synod Lutherans probably never wore an alb, or even a surplice, in their lives. That didn't make them low church. It certainly didn't indicate that "ceremony, vestments, and catholic tradition [were] suspect and unwelcome in the parishes of [their] church body." Simply because some WELS pastors continue to use the same black gown which their fathers, grandfathers, and great-grandfathers used, does not mean that they are "racing to the bottom of the liturgical ladder." To claim otherwise seems to indicate a lack of charity.

All in all, I found this whole post lacking in charity and goodwill. (I realize my response may be read as somewhat lacking in charity as well. If this ends up being the case, I apologize.) I gained the impression as I read it that you set out with a preconceived notion that the WELS was anti-liturgical, and then you cherry-picked certain items to prove your point. It seemed particularly disingenuous to me to compare CW to LSB, and then to castigate CW for not being as good a hymnal. No hymnal is perfect, and every hymnal is a product of its age and of the hymnals which preceded it. Every hymnal must therefore be judged in light of those factors.

I have a great deal of respect for you, Pr. Peters, and I usually greatly enjoy your writings, but this post simply jumped the rails, at least in my mind.

—An LCMS layman

Anonymous said...

As a WELS lay member, I can vouch for much of what Pastor Peter's said. I am more than 70 years old and have been members of 5 WELS congregations and Holy Communion has always been treated like an add on, never heard chanting or knew it was Lutheran, never told about the sign of the cross, and was warned against those Lutherans who wore fancey robes and did all these things. Only when I began to read on my own did I find out that the wWELS was hiding from these things as Lutheran. Yes, I did use the Lutheran Hymnal but even as a young adult the LCMs users of that book had far more rituals than my own WELS church did. I would say that our new WLS hymnal passed on our prejudice against this stuff instead of educating us like Missouri's books did. I will always be WELS but I know now that not everything I was taught as a child and told as an adult was exactly right. I went to a WELS thing at Gustafas Adlophus and was shocked to see things there that never made it to any congregqation I knew.

Pastor Peters said...

While I certainly did not mean to suggest that WELS does not have bright and shining lights unashamed of Lutheran practice from our earliest of Lutheran roots, what I said was based upon reports to me from several WELS clergy, some former WELS folk who have since left Lutheranism, and my own limited experience (a few parishes). I will say that while it is anecdotal, the WELS clergy did say some of the things I reported to LCMS families who were church shopping and who eventually ended up in an LCMS parish. They were verbally warned about the ritualism of many in Missouri and suggested that WELS deliberately chose a "low" church model.

Yes, I will admit that TLH did not have some of the things that CW also left out but my very point here was that 52 years of progress in restoring Lutheran ceremonial was not reflected at all in CW. LW was born in a conflicted time in Missouri and yet it was effective in restoring traditional Lutheran ceremonial. LSB built upon this and expanded that. CW did little or nothing to expand what had been present in TLH. So I do not think it is an answer to point to the things missing in a book published 52 years before CW.

I have lauded the splendid chapel at Martin Luther College and posted some of the videos of the singing there. It is not that I believe WELS cannot do this -- it is that on the parish level the WELS has largely chosen to ignore this side of the coin. Again, anecdotally, I know WELS lay people who believe that this choice is itself an attack upon those who do practice the fuller ceremonial known from early Lutheranism and well into the 18th century.

The use of the Geneva gown has continued in WELS practice even when the alb has become nearly universal everywhere else. Why has this Reformed vesture which has been replaced nearly everywhere else in Lutheranism be the standard of orthodox appearance still among the WELS?

I was not attempting to compare WELS and LCMS as if it were a competition but to suggest that while many in WELS have charged some in Missouri with a race to the top, the reverse is also true. Missouri has, to a great degree, acknowledged that confessional orthodoxy in doctrine does have a consistent practice which is more liturgical than our past 100-150 years of practice has demonstrated while the WELS seems intent upon holding on to the less liturgical rubrics and practice of its own history instead of looking to the practices of Lutheranism following the Reformation and through the period nearly up to the late 18th century.

If CW was intent upon only replicating TLH, why did the Kyrie get moved? There was a clear opportunity to make changes (the movement of the Kyrie is actually more radical than the reintroduction of chanting or eucharistic vestments) so why did CW and its prepares choose to continue to minimize the catholic elements of Lutheran liturgical worship?

Changing the Athanasian Creed to "Christian" from "catholic" is certainly understandable in the narrowest of contexts but it is not comprehensible in the larger context unless there was a desire to skirt the word itself.

None said...

I really want to like this post. I grew up in the WELS (and am still in her dead bosom), so I know that her orthopraxy is next to nill and many of her doctrines are outside the scope of traditional Lutheran orthodoxy. Nevertheless, the things chastised in this post are not glaring faults. I think you are missing the forest through the trees (and some of the trees aren't even part of the forest).

For example, the WELS' unCommon Service, as I like to call it, is certainly an unfortunate blemish in the history of the Lutheran Liturgy. But absence of rubric and symbol isn't the root of the problem. A much bigger issue than the absence of a "+" sign at the start of its rite is the undoing of the Entrance flow of Introit-Kyrie-Gloria. The Kyrie has garnered a new meaning as a plea of penitence in WELS' confiteor rather than the prayer for grace that it was originally intended to be. So, too, the Gloria has become a "Thanks God!" in response to Absolution rather than God's very answer to our prayer for grace in the Kyrie: "Peace, goodwill toward men" through the "Lamb of God...Who takes away the sin of the world." Of course, all of this was precipitated by the fact that WELS abolished the Proper of the Mass entirely. Introit and Gradual are no more (to say nothing of Offertory or Communio), replaced by responsorial Psalms, which are truncated at that.

And, yes, the WELS' translation of the Nicene Creed Is abhorrent, but not because it fails to use "Catholic" (as does LSB). In point of fact, failing to use "Catholic" in the Creeds (including the Athanasian) is something owed to the Book of Concord, not to WELS liturgical ignorance. The BoC's use of "Christian," in turn, is the result of the (ironically!) Catholic (read:papist) translation of the Creed into German that existed at the time of the Reformation. If anything, using "Christian" in the Creed is a mark of traditional Confessionalism, not a lack of such sensibilities. The real failure of WELS' Creed is its poor attempt to gender neutralize the Creed, resulting in completely novel translations, such as Christ becoming "fully human" instead of made Man, which occurred only "for us" rather than the traditional "for us men" (Jesus died for who? Just us?).

And while I love that you point out what I consider to be the worst change to the traditional Lutheran Liturgy that the unCommon Service makes - the removal of the Pater Noster as a consecratory prayer - you negate your own point by stating your dislike for traditional Lutheran orthopraxy in this regard! Lutherans from the beginning prided themselves in the fact that they used the Lord's own Prayer, and the Lord's Prayer alone, to consecrate the elements for the Holy Supper, in keeping with Saint Gregory's note in one of his Epistles stating that such was the very practice of the Holy Apostles themselves. They did this contra the Papist practice of Eucharistic prayer, which is anything but Lutheran, but abound in contemporary "Lutheran" liturgical books. CW should be lauded for bucking up against this practice (something which, unfortunately, its Supplement failed to do). In any event, Lutherans have ALWAYS put the Pater Noster before the Verba. Why is the WELS' innovation (from a Lutheran perspective) any more palatable than putting it after the Consecration (any misguided sense of ecumenicalism or repristination not withstanding)?

[continued in next comment]

None said...

[continued from previous comment]

And then you take a stab at my beloved "Geneva Gowns." While the unfortunate use of the term "Geneva Gown" is, well, unfortunate, Lutherans have consistently worn what is more properly called a *Talar* dating all the way back to the preaching gown of Martin Luther himself, and yes, up to the height of Lutheran Orthodoxy in the days of blessed J. S. Bach. The reality is that this is what you'd have seen the average parish pastor wearing. While the chasuble was always in vogue, you never would have caught a one of these individuals DEAD in the aesthetically AWFUL cassock-albs that 99% of WELS pastors (and many of their LCMS counterparts) seem to wear today. You also wouldn't have caught them wearing a regular alb without a chasuble either. You would, however, have often seen them in the Talar, which looks a heck of a lot like a Geneva. Make of that what you will.

I totally agree that we should bring back chanting and the sign of the Cross and all that jazz, but the fact of the matter is that I'd rather see an honest Lutheran Liturgy led by a called and ordained Minister of Christ (...not a student or a layman), spoken or otherwise, than some high-church Vatican-II-wannabee "liturgy" rife with its unLutheran 3-year-lectionary and all the other goodies the See of Antichrist dreamed up. Even the lauded Common Service itself does not live up to the liturgical standard and heritage set by Luther and Bach. The Deutsche Messe, the true Lutheran Liturgy, that which Luther and Bach utilized, created, and would recognize, is nearly non-existent today, and the manifestations that do exist are loathed by the supposedly "liturgical" crowds of today's "Lutheran" circles. And that's not because the WELS failed to put "Catholic" or a "+" sign in their new hymnal. In reality, it's the very Papist wannabes, those who would reject the true Evangelical Mass of the 17th and 18th centuries, that are just as much to blame as the bottom feeders of liturgical orthropraxy I find myself among in the WELS.

Pastor Peters said...

Dear Dan, you have said somethings better than I could but perhaps it would be helpful if I addressed my ultimate concern. While it is certainly true that WELS and LCMS have some theological differences, some of nuance and some more profound, I lament that for many folks in the pew it is the orthopraxy, the practice of Sunday morning, that both distinguishes and differentiates the two. Sadly, the more marked distinctions come from the WELS side casting suspicion and holding theologically suspect the liturgical practice of Missouri much more than Missouri does of Wisconsin. In fact, on more than one occasion I have had folks who visited the WELS in town told that their chief mark of difference was their plainer service, lacking the ceremonial and rubrical catholicity of LSB used to its fullest. This is the troublesome point. When the distinctions between us are defined by Sunday morning, it is even more difficult to find the kind of common ground that might one day mark a reunion of sorts between us. I believe that Wisconsin needs Missouri and Missouri would be helped by Wisconsin. Theological differences might be worked out at the table but on the way home I fear WELS folk would insist that the Sunday morning difference is too much to be bridged.

I am actually quite surprised that you feel the Deutsche Messe is the authenticly Lutheran liturgy. Clearly Luther felt the Formula Missae would be the universal form of the Divine Service moreso than the chorale setting. I have mixed feelings about the 3 year lectionary but would never characterize it as unLutheran.

I know well the historical model of the Talar though it is hardly universal in application. From Scandinavia to Germany until later in the 18th century, the alb and chasuble survived for the Divine Service. BTW I use cassock and surplice for all non-Eucharistic services.

It is not true that the Our Father was before the Verba Christi in all Lutheran orders of the day. It is also true that this represents an anamoly since dating back the time of St. Gregory the Canon has been immediately been followed by the Lord’s Prayer. St. Gregory says that we say the Lord’s Prayer immediately after the Canon, because it was the practice of the Apostles. I do not find the Lutheran switcheroo to be justified or salutary since every liturgical evidence we know challenges this. The Formula of Concord seems to clearly challenge your assertion that the Lutherans consecrate with the Our Father alone.

I admire your thorough review of the WELS liturgical changes. I admit that I know little of the supplement and am very interested in what is currently unfolding. In the end, I would agree that Lutherans were unduly influenced by Rome and Vatican II but at the same time it became an occasion nearly everywhere except the Wisconsin Synod to rediscover and renew the Lutheran theology and practice of the Divine Service. That, I am sad to say, is the most lamentable result of CW and its legacy.

Joseph Bragg said...

Our perspectives are most interesting on such matters. Everything said in this article about the loss of historic and proper forms and worship in the WELS could be accurately said by the Orthodox Church regarding the LCMS.

Anonymous said...

Except that the Orthodox have an Eastern rite that was never really practiced in the West. . .

Chris Jones said...

Mr Workentine,

Where is your Scriptural basis?

2 Th. 2:15

This may seem a thin reed to those whose notion of Sola Scriptura excludes any role for historical or ecclesial context. But St Basil the Great (among many others) teaches us that Apostolic tradition is authoritative in matters of praxis, and that such things are "of the vitals of the Gospel." Given the high regard for the traditional liturgical ceremonies shown in the Lutheran Confessions, it would seem that our Lutheran fathers understood 2 Th. 2:15 the way St Basil did.

Chris Jones said...

Anonymous @ 10:39 AM:

It is true that the Eastern Rite has rarely or never been used in the West. But the traditional Roman Rite, of which all of our Lutheran liturgies are descended, was and is a fully Orthodox liturgy.

I'm not sure what your point is. Mr Bragg is right that the Orthodox would find fault with us liturgically in very similar terms to those used by Pr Peters. But their criticism would not be that our liturgy isn't Eastern enough; it would be that our liturgy is not (in their view) sufficiently faithful to our own, Western, liturgical tradition. That is a criticism that their own Western Rite faithful (many of whom use the traditional Roman Rite) would share.

If we modern Lutherans (whether LCMS or WELS) would take Pr Peters's criticism to heart, we would be much less open to any criticism from the Orthodox.

Joseph Bragg said...

Pastor Peters is doing what I attempted to do for many years until I discovered it was impossible - to defend historic Lutheranism on the basis of Sola Scriptura without the authority of Holy Tradition. To be true to Sola Scriptura I had to concede that the form of the liturgy, vestments, etc are neither forbidden nor commanded in Scripture and are therefore adiophora. Trying to hold to historic Lutheranism while holding to Sola Scriptura and rejecting the Orthodox authority of Holy Tradition is a loosing battle. To Anonymous: The early Western liturgy was Orthodox as was the Roman or Western Church.

Chris Jones said...

Mr Bragg,

Defending historic Lutheranism on the basis of Sola Scriptura may well be impossible, but it is not necessary. Sola Scriptura is not a phrase which occurs in the Lutheran Confessions, and the usual Protestant understanding of that slogan is more Reformed than Lutheran. If Sola Scriptura means "throw everything out and start over" using nothing but Scripture, then you would not necessarily come up with "historical Lutheranism" at the end of that process. But the Lutheran Confessions explicitly disclaim any intent to depart from the Catholic faith, but only to "omit some abuses which are new." That, it seems to me, excludes any notion of Sola Scriptura which is entirely apart from Tradition.

In my view, the Lutheran Confessions are to be understood within the context of the Tradition, not as a denial of it.

Anonymous said...

When I was a kid, I remember that the WELS kids were not allowed to be Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts as they must guard against thinking that doing good deeds was a nice idea. I think they had problems with the oaths for these organizations too. They also did not like the Pledge of Allegiance as saying "under God" meant that you were praying with heathens if spoken in a public school classroom or other public gathering.
We LCMS kids were allowed to be Scouts and the Pledge was no big deal. Since then, I have begun attending an Episcopal church and found that I *love* high church. When I visit my parents and go along to their LCMS services, they seem so dull and drab. I do like to do intinction during the Eucharist as it makes the pastor's eyebrows go up.

Timothy Buelow said...

I prefer this FIRSTHAND review of WELS worship, which is more charitable:

"Decided to be ecumenical this a.m. Went to church at Grace WELS where we heard a very fine sermon by WELS first veep and good friend James Huebner. Textual. Well-crafted and delivered. Clear law and gospel. Exellent worship. Nice contemprary settings. Ordo. Great music. Full house. Lots of young folk. We were welcomed warmly." - Matt Harrison


BrotherBoris said...

I spent over 15 years in the WELS. Pastor Peters arcticle is 100% accurate and spot on. WELS view of liturgy is that is is simply the BAG that the sermon comes in. That's it. Ditto for the Sacrament of the Altar too. I remember one Easter in WELS where we didn't have Holy Communion because Easter fell on the "wrong" Sunday. I never returned to the WELS after that. They may preach some Lutheran doctrine, but their attitudes toward worship would be more at home in a Presbyterian church than a real Lutheran one.