Thursday, June 13, 2019
What we cannot do. . .
We have the Word and Sacraments and the Pastoral Office because God ordained us to have them and so they are not optional. These do not belong the bene esse of the Church but of its esse. We cannot eliminate them because they are not ours. They belong to the Lord. Because they are His, we cannot tinker with them either. They belong to the Lord. He gives them to us not as possessions to do with as we please but as the means of grace through which He does what He has promised to do.
A former priest and liberal Roman Catholic is absurd to suggest this as a fix for Rome's problems and Lutherans who feel sympathy are just as absurd in their pursuit of a church in which the means of grace play a peripheral role instead of the central role within the life of the church and God's people. Yet that is exactly what is happening in some Lutheran congregations. Holy Communion is moved from its central place to a non-Sunday spot which says to everyone this is not important. In place of the Lord's Supper, entertainment and extended so-called sermons or teaching is made the center of everything. I say so-called because these sermons focus not on sin and forgiveness or Christ's death and resurrection, but on tips for daily living, for achieving your goals, for finding happiness, and for improving your lot in life.
Baptism must compete with decisions for Jesus as the place where Christian life begins. Instead of God acting to connect the sinner to the death and resurrection of Jesus, the focus is on an emotional commitment or decision to be God's and to live as His child. Confession and absolution are nowhere to be found or are transformed from the concrete words of sin and thought, word, and deed, to failing to be true to self or living an authentic life. The minister becomes equipper of those who actually do the ministry. You must have seen those church bulletins in which the members are listed ministers of the congregation.
The liturgy is nowhere to be found and the appeal to adiaphora justifies ignoring all that we have been bequeathed by those who went before us. Even hymns are replaced with songs with a short shelf life and designed less for people to sing than for a few singers to serenade the audience. In all of these instances the means God appointed have been cast aside for the inventions of man. In the end, what is really surrendered is the church. We forget that the Church has absolutely no authority to depart from the Word or Sacraments or abandon the pastoral office for apart from these there is no Church. The Church does not make the means of grace but the means of grace bring the Church into being
I obviously have an opinion about requiring celibacy but I cannot imagine how you abolish the priesthood in Roman Catholicism. I do think it is convenient and easy to forget that the sex abuse scandal was primarily not about men who preyed on women or girls but men who preyed on boys and young men. In any other world except the one in which we live today the suggestion might be made that homosexuality in the priesthood is part of the problem.. Even then, it must be said that there are priests who are gay but celibate, single, and chaste. It is a dead end hunt to blame clericalism or the inability to marry as the reason for the scandal. That does not mean that clericalism is not bad or that obligatory celibacy for the priesthood is as to be as it is; it only means that neither of these are primary, secondary, or even tertiary contributors to the scandal of abuse. We need to stop blaming the things we don't like for the things that go wrong and begin looking honestly both for causes and solutions. Clericalism and celibacy did not cause the sex abuse scandal. The liturgy is not the reason people are not flocking to the church. The church is not free to move the means of grace to the sideline in favor of something they think more relevant or effective. Let us begin the discussion by at least admitting these truths.