Sunday, April 22, 2018

The Shape of Progress? this is the shape of progress?  Before any Protestants gloat over this, take stock of the state of their own churches in the same areas.  The call has been made by some Roman Catholics to reclassify Europe as a missionary field, much the same way the US was until early in the 20th century, in which decisions are not simply left to those who have overseen the mass exodus of people from parishes and, it would seem, from the faith itself.  Whether that would be the salvation of European Christianity remains to be seen.  But some more effective strategy must be invented better than simply closing down church buildings and reducing staff.  As Garrison Keillor joked, Lutherans are all for downsizing but downsizing yourself out of existence is hardly progress.

According to an announcement by its bishop, the Diocese of Trier in Germany will reduce its number of parishes from 172 to 35 by the year 2020.  Add to this other announcements of parish closings or reorganizations.
  • Berlin: 105 parishes to be reduced to 35 “pastoral spaces”, with unused churches to be sold off and 40% of clergy and lay staffers reassigned, thereby alleviating some of the Diocese’s $140 million debt
  • Vienna: 660 parishes to be merged into 150 hubs served by a handful of priests
  • Luxembourg: 274 parishes reduced to 33
  • Clogher, Ireland: 37 parishes cut to 14 “pastoral areas” coordinated by teams of just two priests and six laypeople
  • Utrecht: 326 parishes to just 48 hubs in which only one church will serve as a “eucharistic center”

This is a radical wake up call for the shape of the Christian witness in the heart of the Western world.  It is a prospect of our own future in the US and in Canada (perhaps already headed there).  The future of Christianity may not be in doubt (that is, after all, God's business) but the shape of the churches who bear His Word and offer His sacraments is looking extremely bleak.  And it has come not because we have tried to be faithful and failed.  Rather, it has come because we have abandoned faithfulness for the sake of relevance and for the sake of being consistent with the path and direction of the culture around us.

If there is a statistic that compels us to consider the Benedict Option again, this one ought to hit home.  In the places where the Church has tried being non-threatening and tolerant, the result has not been a vibrant faith but a hollow and empty one, just like the hollow sound of the once grand edifices where people used to gather in mass at the beckoning of the Word of the Lord to receive His Body and Blood.

We may be tempted to find a way to extend a warm handshake to the world but without Christ the handshake is empty and it offers nothing of value to those who sit in darkness.  Light always hurts and burns when someone has sat in darkness for a long time.  But in the end, where the Light of Christ burns brightly, the darkness will be banished.  That is not hope or optimism.  It is the promise of the God who sent His Son into the world to bring the Light of life to those living in the darkness of death.


Carl Vehse said...

A Benedict Option was tried by a group of Saxon Lutherans before. It was called the Gesellschaft and led by Martin Stephan who had himself named bishop by his underlings. In less than six months that "Benedict Option" collapsed into chaos and hunger and death for many within that group.

Anonymous said...

I love the indecisiveness of this blog.

Monday we get "Where Benedict Option Issues Hit the Road."

Thursday we get:

"A very hopeful sign that we are not burying our heads in the sand but taking stock of the work ahead for the sake of our heritage as a mission church and, much more importantly, for the sake of the Gospel and those who do not yet believe in Jesus Christ. Look it over!!"

Sunday we get:

"If there is a statistic that compels us to consider the Benedict Option again, this one ought to hit home."

I guess this is what you get when you post 6 articles about Rome vs. one solid article on Lutheranism per week.

Anonymous said...

Either the writer of this blog is a closet Roman Catholic or frustrated guy who wants to swim the Tiber. It is comical to see the intensity of
his affection for the Roman Catholic Church as a Lutheran in heat.

John Joseph Flanagan said...

The point is we are in the middle of a post Christian Era, but though the numbers of believers are declining in the West, they are increasing in communist and Islamic countries. The church grows in persecuted areas, and declines in prosperous nations. This is not new. The church in our country will soon begin to grow again. Why? Simply because the political left, no friend of Christianity, is on the move and will not cease until they can legally suppress religious people in America. Through political re-education, political correctness, university propaganda, control of the schools, courts, and can see ample evidence of their success in changing the culture. Once American Christians realize their religion and world view is no longer tolerated, they will see revival and resistance. The church will grow only during persecution.

Former Lutheran said...

Anonymous #1
Unless you think the Benedict Option is burying your head in the sand, there is little contradiction here. The BenOp is not about hiding or avoiding but about doubling down on what the Church is and not taking for granted either the neutrality or friendliness of the world. It means radical faithfulness in which playing the Church won't cut it anymore. It makes me wonder if you have even a clue as to what the BenOp really is.

Anonymous #1 & 2
I have yet to fine one thing on this blog that even remotely suggests that its author is heading to Rome. I did give up on Lutheranism and did swim the Tiber and think that eventually that is what any serious minded Lutheran will have to do. Confessional Lutherans are a shrinking population. I doubt if Pastor Peters will ever give it up. For one thing he is too old. For another, he is a true blue believer in Lutheranism even if he complains about the Lutheran churches for not being true to it.

FWIW things have been happening in Rome right now due to Pope Francis who is stirring the pot. That may be the reason he is watching Rome.

Cliff said...

Those who sign their name anonymously are hiding behind some fear that intellectually they are inferior and can take drive by shots without being discovered.

The Benedict option is a radical call to faithfulness to your Christian convictions, which many Lutherans know little about. The pew sitters need to be the salt of the earth on Monday to Saturday. I have recently come to the conclusion that our liturgy is wasted on Lutherans as it seems to have little effect on their daily lives. We long ago lost Luther's view of "the priesthood of all believers" and cannot effectively witness to our faith.

But one option mentioned by another poster is to swim the Tiber as if the cause is lost for Lutherans. Let me assure him/her that will never happen as Luther's works and ideas will remain for all eternity. He may be declared a Father/saint in the RC church, but his theology will be forever. If I have to the last Lutheran standing I will continue to wave our flag.

This loose canon of a pope has assured the survival of Roman detractors.

Anonymous said...

Former Lutheran wrote:

"I did give up on Lutheranism and did swim the Tiber and think that eventually that is what any serious minded Lutheran will have to do. Confessional Lutherans are a shrinking population."

Fascinating. Pastor Peters just wrote that Roman Catholics are a shrinking population. Why move from one church body because it is shrinking to yet another shrinking church body. Confessional Lutheran churches are not shrinking because Lutheran laymen have concluded that the doctrine is wrong. I agree with Cliff upstream when he wrote: "Luther's works and ideas will remain for all eternity."

Perhaps your part of the country is dominated by ELCA congregations which have given up on Lutheranism and, some might argue, on the basic tenets of Christianity. Perhaps the LCMS congregations within driving distance of your residence are still hopelessly enamored of the terrible Evangelical theology of Willow Creek and Saddleback.

The only options are to relocate, "make do" with what is readily available, or...join Rome or the EO. Given the technology readily available, we can easily supplement our Sunday morning confessional Lutheran worship services with good Lutheran books and with podcasts hosted by Fisk, Wilken, Rosebrough, Wolfmueller, et al. Confessional Lutheran podcasts provide a wonderful alternative to listening to the radio during the long work commute.

The current pope has been incredibly supportive of liberal theology. Many lifelong Roman Catholics are not happy with Francis. Have you not noticed the divisions within Rome?

Anonymous wrote:

"Either the writer of this blog is a closet Roman Catholic or frustrated guy who wants to swim the Tiber. It is comical to see the intensity of his affection for the Roman Catholic Church as a Lutheran in heat."

Writing about another church body somehow makes someone a secret admirer of said body? Rome is too big of an institution to be ignored. Would focusing on Evangelical church bodies make Pastor Peters a secret admirer of frauds such as Osteen, Warren, and Hybels? The "That's too Catholic" argument is not helpful.

James said...

Pastor Peters, I think you could have written this article:

Government is Replacing Religion, According to Researchers

Cliff said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, Joel Osteen has the largest congregation in America
and the biggest TV audience. His "Health and Wealth" gospel is nor
what people need to hear. We could use more articles which expose
this guy as a fraud.