Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Progressive damage. . .

This from a Canadian author who claims the trifecta of defects, white, male, and Catholic:
Two things I miss from my Anglican days: the King James Version, and the Book of Common Prayer. My friends who remained Anglican also miss them, for both have been removed from church services by the Anglican bureaucracy. As the priest who received me into the Roman Church said, Anglicans make ideal converts. We already know at first hand what happens when liturgical, scriptural, and other received norms are “progressively” abandoned: the church itself disintegrates.
The sad truth is that he is correct.  Those who head to other churches swimming one river or another are often those who have watched as their own churches abandoned their liturgical identity, treated the creeds and confessions as descriptive and not prescriptive, and were embarrassed by the Word of God, or at least those who take it seriously.

The liturgical changes that have touched all liturgical churches have left us detached from our own history.  Indeed, the Lutheran Service Book is distinctive for retaining nearly everything of the chief service of its most popular predecessor hymnal, The Lutheran Hymnal, after the intermediate book had almost rendered that service unrecognizable.  In that same vein, the LSB also retained the one year historic lectionary.

This was not the case for the ELCA, whose predecessor bodies had a worthy hymnal in the Service Book and Hymnal whose liturgical legacy was forgotten when Lutheran Book of Worship was published in 1978.  The Anglicans also did their worst to the 1928 Prayer Book and others have also followed. It took Benedict XVI to intervene and restore the Latin Mass to more universal accessibility -- though this is not without its powerful detractors.

My point in all of this is simply to say that we too easily forget that when we abandon our liturgical history and form on Sunday morning, it has profound consequences for the faith itself.  When we stop worshiping like Lutherans, it is a short jaunt to believing like those whose worship identity we have borrowed.  None of the progressive attempts to remake our liturgical identity have helped stem the tide of membership losses.  I am not sure if they are causal or coincidental but the wholesale transformation of many liturgical churches on Sunday morning has left us with more empty pews than ever.  Name me one church in which the abandonment of historic liturgical forms and texts has helped that church grow?

There are many things for which we ought to be grateful as we survey the liturgical movement.  For Lutherans, this means the restoration to a more frequent Communion, even weekly (as our Confessions presume).   I am more than happy about this.  Yet at the same time, the numbers of folks gathered in the pews for those more frequent celebrations of the Lord's Supper is undeniably less than it was before the liturgical movement.  Surely some of this is due to flawed and failed catechesis, pressures and influences from society at large, and a host of other changes in the fabric of our everyday lives but it is foolish not to admit that ditching our history and identity on Sunday morning has not also contributed to our decline.


Carl Vehse said...

Rev. Peters:"This from a Canadian author who claims the trifecta of defects, white, male, and Catholic"

Well, the author is one-out-of-three right for being a Romanist. But then, being a former Anglican, he's sort of a frying-pan-into-the-fire kind of being right.

Cliff said...

Carl, what are going to do when you get to heaven and meet more Romanists and Anglicans? Or do you have another destination in mind?

Carl Vehse said...

Cliff: "Carl, what are going to do when you get to heaven and meet more Romanists and Anglicans?"

I'll recognize it for what Lutherans call a "fortuitous inconsistency" of Christians being in churches that preach heterodox or heretical doctrine. See Thesis VIII on the Church, in C.F.W. Walther's Church and Ministry.

Anonymous said...

There's an ironic recent Q&A on WELS.net where a Lutheran laments the loss of the KJV, the use of "thees" and "thous," the changed wording of the benediction, the creed and the Lord's Prayer, to which the anonymous response is: "it's adiaphora, move on." Those things for the questioner "are" Lutheran tradition, which are being cast aside one by one by the Synodical Worship Directors of the world. What makes the question ironic is that those on the other side view that Lutheran tradition as mainstream American Protestantism. Or Pietism. Or Rationalism. Or whatever Orwellian pejorative you wish to throw at what is in fact LCMS tradition. No, we are told, real Lutheran tradition is something none of us recognize as a tradition. Visit an LCMS church. The loudest congregational singing is to the liturgical melodies from The Lutheran Hymnal and "Methodist" hymns like "The Church's One Foundation" and "I Know That My Redeemer Lives." If the teenagers want a contemporary service, go for it. What's tiresome is an elite chattering class constantly telling LCMS congregations that their tradition is not the "correct" tradition.

Cliff said...

So Carl, the short answer is you're not going to the same place? You are going to be one lonely person wherever you going. Oh, sorry, the Pharisees and l├ęgalistes will keep you company.

Anonymous said...

Pastor Peters,

You state "Name me one church in which the abandonment of historic liturgical forms and texts has helped that church grow?" I know of one in your mid-south district. It in fact grew after adding a contemporary and blended service - with the traditional LCMS service relegated to 8:00 am. I attended this church. And I dragged my young family to the 8:00 am traditional service. But I agree with the basic premise of your post. Perhaps this church was an exception.

It would be interesting to test your theory with the Orthodox churches in North America. One thing I admire about Orthodoxy is their unchanging liturgy. If you're correct, they shouldn't be losing members. Although Orthodoxy is small in North America, my hunch is they are growing. Who knows?


Carl Vehse said...

Cliff, besides starting your response with a word that in 2016 was included on the Lake Superior State University Banished Word List, your comment makes absolutely no sense. Did you not read what I stated? Did you not check out Thesis VIII on the Church in the link I provided, Cliff?

Thesis VIII: Although God gathers for Himself a holy church of elect also where His Word is not taught in its perfect purity and the sacraments are not administered altogether according to the institution of Jesus Christ, if only God’s Word and the sacraments are not denied entirely but both remain in their essential parts, nevertheless, every believer must, at the peril of losing his salvation, flee all false teachers, avoid all heterodox congregations or sects, and acknowledge and adhere to orthodox congregations and their orthodox pastors wherever such may be found. A. Also in heterodox and heretical churches there are children of God, and also there the true church is made manifest by the pure Word and the sacraments that still remain.

Anonymous said...

Pastor Peters asks, “Name me one church in which the abandonment of historic liturgical forms and texts has helped that church grow?”
Someone said that the Gamaliel principle (Acts 5:38-39) doesn’t always work because people are naturally attracted to things new and different. Much idolatry begins with the surrounding culture and that which is popular exerting peer pressure on even the elect, if that were possible. Beyond our natural tendency to experiment and try new things, time has not rendered a verdict and maybe, just maybe the orthodox, liturgical Divine Service isn’t the problem with shrinking membership and attendance. How much of this problem can be explained by idolatry, the love of self, and the prevalence of hatred and intolerance for the God of the Bible?

Anonymous said...

I recall something asserted by C.P. Krauth, 19th Century Lutheran pastor, theologian and educator, who wrote so eloquently:

"We must begin by knowing ourselves, and being true to that knowledge. Let us not, with our rich coffers, play the part of beggars, and ask favors where we have every ability to impart them. No Church can maintain her self-respect or inspire respect in others, which is afraid or ashamed of her own history, and which rears a dubious fabric on the ignorance of her ministry and of her members."

This quote is worth memorizing.