Monday, January 21, 2019
No more envy. . .
But no more. . . I am not envious of Rome much and in fact have grown to profoundly dislike many of the things that once seemed to attract me. It seems to have little order at all, little discipline and even less doctrinal and liturgical supervision. Episcopal conferences and individual bishops act independently and disagree with the teachings of Rome without fear -- as if it were an association of independent dioceses or nationalities instead of one communion. Its reverence for a present Christ within the mass seems to have faded away and their liturgical practices shock us with their casual attitude toward rite, history, and confessional integrity. Rome is in complete disarray with regard to the mass. It has surrendered its moral and theological integrity until Roman Catholic institutions seem indistinguishable from their secular private and public counterparts. While some may complain that JPII and BXVI talked the talk, it is clear that neither seemed able to rein in the homosexual subculture that produced leaders such as Theodore non-cardinal McCarrick. The seamless garment has developed many tears and it has become a cafeteria of issues in which both teachers and the faithful seem to pick and choose what they like and do not like. In short, Rome no longer sparkles.
My complaints with Lutheranism have less to do with the theory than the practice. Lutheranism has always been more catholic than its people have felt comfortable with -- at least in the last 300 years or so. Even though it was not the catholic Lutheranism of its symbols, the Lutheranism I grew up with did offer a deeper unity of doctrine and practice than we see today. In fact, there was much to commend the faith in looking at its success in numbers, schools, universities, and catechesis. If it was Protestant, it was a churchly protestantism that no longer exists. I wanted Lutheranism to recover its catholic identity and churchly order -- the thing I coveted in Rome. I wanted Lutheranism to be the church it claimed to be instead settling for the church it was. I wanted to see a Lutheranism with leaders of stature and wisdom -- all a time when Missouri was crumbling under the split and the ALC/LCA had decided to move to the left (ordaining women in 1970 and already in pursuit of a skeptical and higher critical view of the Scriptures), I had hoped there would be those whose stature and authority might call back the forces of radical change (at least the way JPII seemed to do). Now I must admit that Rome no longer holds much magic -- and this is not simply a statement about the more recent sexual abuse charges. Rome has feet of clay just like Lutheranism.
It was not a theological attraction which Rome offered me but an order, a liturgical identity, and a cohesiveness that I wanted from Lutheranism (and still do). Some of my college friends swam the Tiber but I have no such intentions. I want the best of Rome to resurface but not as an insider who wants the best for his church. I want Lutheranism to be all that it claims to be and this I do as one who believes the claim of catholicity of this church's symbols. It is my fear that Christians can no longer depend upon its institutional identities to find the reform their jurisdictions so deeply need. In the end, I hope and pray that it will be lay people who will insist that if this is what we believe, confess, and teach, then, for God's sake, this is what we ought to believe, confess, and teach. I am encouraged by the younger pastors, especially those from my own alma mater (Ft. Wayne). I am thankful for the many resources available to us (books, journals, blogs, and hymnal). In the end, I am no longer sad to admit that my envy of some things Roman has long ago ended.