Thursday, January 24, 2019

Are they really bishops?

Some accuse those of us who want real bishops of being enamored of purple clerics, pectoral crosses, miters, croziers, and a pallium thrown in for good measure!  But even those who have all of these and the hands of three other bishops laid on them may not be real bishops.  Being a bishop is not about what you wear, it is about what you do.  The heart of the episcopal ministry is oversight of doctrine and practice and the ecclesiastical discipline that gives order and integrity to the unity of the church.  It is surely a nice thing to have bishops come to recognize and proclaim the consecration of a brother in this ministry and succession has a nice and romantic appeal to it but if a bishop refuses to do what he is set apart to do, no vestments, apparel, or appointments can cover this lack.

There are those in the Missouri Synod who insist we do not have bishops.  I pray that they are wrong.  I do not care if they wear cope and miter or carry a staff or have a ring to kiss but I do care that they take most seriously the role that they play in the unity of the church, the integrity of our doctrine and practice, and the good reputation of our church and her clergy before the world as much as within her people.  I hope and pray that all those with loud protest against bishops are wrong.  It is my daily duty and at every Divine Service to pray for Roger, my District President and bishop, who exercises this particular ministry of oversight and ecclesiastical discipline within the confines of my district.  His job is difficult -- made even more difficult by our congregational structure as well as the independence and isolation of many within the district.  I am sure that his plate is fuller than I even care to know but I daily rejoice that faithful men carry out this special duty among us and I am happy to call him my bishop -- no matter what the nomenclature of his official office.

We have all seen the breakdown of the episcopal office in Rome.  Bishops in so many churches have become jokes -- from the infamous (James Pike and John Shelby Spong) to the embarrassing (Gene Robinson) to the scandalous (Theodore McCarrick).  But the Episcopal Church and Rome are not alone in there need for real bishops.  They have all the outward vesture and appointments of the office but they fail when they must stand for truth, for the integrity of what is believed and confessed, as teachers and preachers of the Word that endures forever, and as guardians of the sacred duty of maintaining this discipline among an increasingly undisciplined lot.

Rome is greatly concerned about form -- specifically the form of the consecration.  Rome is all about proper order -- and that is important -- but what good is the form all nice and neat and wrapped up with a ribbon but without the ministry itself?  Minus the ecclesiastical supervision, a Roman bishop is like a kid dressing up but not really a cowboy or firefighter or Jedi or whatever.  Lutherans, in particular my own jurisdiction of the Missouri Synod, has always been suspicious of the accoutrements and title.  Whatever.  But without the ecclesiastical supervision, a Lutheran District President is but an elected paper pusher and business administrator, like a boss who imagines himself a captain of industry.  The problem is that the Church is not a business and should not behave like one (though even in business there appears to be more accountability than you too often find in the Church).

We have got to stop squabbling about the word and the appointments of the office and realize and reclaim the essential and profound episcopal role.  Call him what you will, he is key to the health of the faith inside the church and its good reputation before the world -- every bit as much as is every individual priest and pastor and perhaps even more so.  So as we make our way through this new year, pray for the man who exercises this responsibility on your behalf for the sake of the church.  Even better, let him know of your prayerful support.  And do not shy from his ministry when it is directed your way.  If we are being faithful, we have nothing to fear and everything to gain from him who tells those in our care and those in the community around us that we have done well as good and faithful servants of the Word, called and ordained, set apart and installed for the particular ministry of the Word and Sacraments of the Lord in this particular place.


Anonymous said...

Richard Strickert is triggered!

Anonymous said...

Bishops are divinely established for our Lord's Church. Desperately needed in the LCMS.

Padre Dave Poedel said...

Excellent piece! Indeed, in the English District, my District of origin has in her Constitition/bylaws that the title of the DP is President and Bishop. Bishop Roger Pittelko presided at my Ordination, and I consider my Ordination as Apostolicly valid and licit. Just because Bishop Stephan had moral failures is no reason to be forever without episcopal oversight. I, too, wish we would get over ourselves and join with the Evangelical Catholicism that our partner Churches in Europe and Africa enjoy. I was privileged to fill in at the English speaking Lutheran congregation located at the Cathedral Church of the Lutheran Church of Lithuania for a few weeks a couple of years back. I met the Bishop of that Church, who had just returned from the National Youth Gathering of the LCMS in the USA. What a joy to meet an actual Lutheran Bishop, in fellowship with the LCMS! Maybe 3 of them could be present at our District Conventions and consecrate our elected Bishops into the Tradition of our Lutheran Churches. What a joy that would be for me! But, truth be told, I don’t matter in this regard because I am just an Emeritus Pastor in a saltwater District!

Anonymous said...

The District President in the LCMS is a political office.
Behind the scenes there is usually an attempt to elect a
certain pastor to that office. Once elected to a first
term, the DP must spend some time and energy to get elected

If the LCMS ever decides to replace DP's with Bishops, then
there should be an elimination of the system known as elections.
We must find a better way to simply call pastors to the office
of Bishop which need not have term limits.

Anonymous said...

You won't see a 'Bishop' in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. Why is this ? Here's the answer in two words: Martin Stephan.

Carl Vehse said...

But as we have seen, within the Missouri Synod there is a "fantasy world" where members get a thrill running up their legs dreaming about bishops, archbishops, prelates, mitres and croziers, and the synod officials have had to slap down nearly a half-dozen times one errant District when they think their episcopal hallucinations are reality.

Mark said...

Anonymous said...

Ok Carl, you have to admit, croziers are really awesome.

The Church of Holy Scripture speaks of having bishops, how is this wrong?

Anonymous said...

Ok Carl, I just found/read your references. This CCM group trumps St. Paul and Scripture. Got it. And then I see your Book of Concord, should be edited, to reflect this CCM ruling. And you Lutherans get mad at others for ignoring Scripture and your confessional documents to follow rules of man.

Joseph Bragg said...

The constant effort by Protestants to recreate the Church would be amusing if it wasn't so sad. The Church and the office of Bishop as some Protestants want to create it has been in the Orthodox Church from the beginning as shown in the writings of the apostolic fathers.

Lutheran Lurker said...

Once again Mr Vehse has missed the whole darn point of the post in order to fixate on his knee jerk reactive to the name and appointment of bishops which, as the article says, is nothing compared to the clear and faithful exercise of ecclesiastical discipline. So Mr. Vehse, get off your high horse and actually react to the article instead of your predictable rants about the title.

Anonymous said...

Thar' she blows! Strickert, obstinately and irretrievably ignorant on the subject, but like clockwork, he can't help but offer another vapid comment, grinding the axe of one of his pet obsessions. Cheap entertainment at its finest.

Anonymous said...

Hey all, just remember that Vehse/Strickert views everything through the lens of what he perceives to be the high point in Lutheran history: 1920/1930 era LCMS theology and practice. Plus he is obsessed over his fanciful mythology about the Saxon immigrant who ran back to Germany when things got rough here, Vehse, the fake name he uses.


Carl Vehse said...

Anon on January 25, 2019 at 7:48 AM, it's the wrong question. The right question is, "Where does Scripture proscribe not having episcopate bishops?"

Anon on January 25, 2019 at 8:02 AM, see the previous reply to you.

Joseph Bragg, episcopate bishops are not required nor is their absence in the polity of a church body proscribed by Holy Scripture.

Lufauxran Lurker, my earlier response linked to how the Missouri Synod has dealt with past attempts to establish episcopate bishops within a district and is pertinent to the PM article.

"Robert" you've been swallowing old PTM malarkey from blogs he's long been kicked off. And the fanciful mythology about the Missouri Saxon immigrants, including Dr. Vehse, is pretty much what has been spouted in Synod publications over the last forty years.

Carl Vehse said...

In his August 16, 2015 at 6:10 pm BJS comment, Rev. Martin Noland wrote:

"It is important to see how our district presidents are different from traditional bishops in the Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and Anglican communions. I’ll call these the CATHOLIC [a better term would be Episcopate] churches

"CATHOLIC: Bishops hold and control parish property. LCMS: Congregations hold and control parish property.

"CATHOLIC: Bishops select and call priests to parishes. LCMS: Congregations select and call pastors to parishes.

"CATHOLIC: Bishops remove priests from parishes, for any reasons, no reason given or needed, unless the priest is discalded. LCMS: Congregations remove pastors from parishes, due process should be followed, reasons must be given; district presidents may also remove pastors from parishes, due process should be followed, reasons must be given.

"CATHOLIC: Bishops appointed by ecclesiastical supervisors for life, unless removed due to cause. LCMS: District presidents elected for three year terms by congregational delegates, renewable without limit in some districts, renewable for set number of terms in others.

"CATHOLIC: Priests are accountable and report to bishops. LCMS: Pastors are accountable and report to congregation in its voters meeting.

"I have lived with and worked with this polity for over 31 years as a pastor. I think it is biblical, practical, and ultimately benefits both pastors and laymen. It is one of the great blessings we enjoy in the LCMS, though not many realize it."

The "not many realize it" obviously includes a number of "fantasy world" dreamers on the PM blog.

James Kellerman said...

On another thread I commented that we do not have the extreme congregational polity of the Congregationalists, which would permit everyone to do what is right in their own eyes. Vehse/Strickert then responded that no one from his side was arguing for such a thing. Fair enough. I take him at his word. But I wish that he would take Pr Peters and me at our word that we do not have shivers running up our legs over miters, palliums, and the rest of the claptrap. We simply want Augustana 28 practiced by whatever we call them--bishops, superintendents, district presidents, etc.

And I agree wholeheartedly with my friend Martin Noland: evangelical oversight is qualitatively different from papal tyranny. But every time Pr Peters or his friends call for evangelical oversight we are accused of longing to import the papal office and the entire Spanish Inquisition into the Synod.

James Kellerman said...

Robert, while I fault Carl for sometimes riding his anti-episcopal hobby horse without listening to the actual points being made by others, I will give him credit for knowing "Zion on the Mississippi." Over the years I've heard a lot of people take potshots at that book, saying either that Stephan was falsely accused in a power grab by Walther & co. or that Walther was the single-handed savior of the Saxon emigrants. But despite all the sniping, I don't see any serious historical research being done that would fundamentally overthrow Forster's thesis. His work looks at some of the ugly aspects of the Saxon emigration: the naivete of the young, inexperienced clergy who were putty in Stephan's hands; the often neglected socio-economic factors behind the emigration; the complete fiscal irresponsibility of those managing the common chest; the skirting of the law in taking some of the passengers on the boat, etc.

Actually, I find that Forster's thesis leads us to a spell-binding story of some bumbling pastors and misguided lay people who actually ended up doing something great for God's kingdom in spite of themselves. Toward the end of the book, he quotes Maurer who argues that the Missouri Synod came out of its initial turmoil and eventually shaped the character of the Midwest--and the Midwest that of the nation (pp 533-354). That's a much better story than the usual saccharine Walther hagiography or the customary sour grapes of Stephan worshippers.

Anonymous said...

Kellerman, all well and good on "Zion on the Mississippi" but this has nothing to do with Richard Strickert's perversion of all things Missouri Synod, his pathetic lack of understanding of Lutheran theology, nor his obsession with Carl Vehse. He is a layman who has done nothing for his church body other than troll Lutheran internet sites for years. His father would be ashamed of him. He has chosen now to devote his retirement years to repeating himself. He is a laughing stock among all who know anything about LCMS history and theology.

Carl Vehse said...

In his January 25, 2019 at 10:49 PM rant, Anonymous repats five old PTM lies and make "Anonymous" synonymous with "liar" or a "PTM sock puppet."

Anonymous said...

If the districts are "not so bad", then why is the LCMS so dysfunctional? Why do "Congregations Matter?"