Friday, April 16, 2021

What we once fought for and now fight against. . .

According to Joseph Herl's Worship Wars in Early Lutheranism: Choir, Congregation and Three Centuries of Conflict, the narrative often accepted today is not the record of history. Whether you are talking about some miraculous movement from being silent in the Mass to singing like Baptists or about the ceremonies of worship cast off with glee as yesterdays shackles, the story I thought I knew is not the story that accords with reality. Herl is one voice but not the only one. Bodo Nischan's record of Brandenburg is another (Prince, People, and Confession: The Second Reformation in Brandenburg). A Roman Catholic voice is another, Ernst Zeedon, Faith and Act -- The Survival of Medieval Ceremonies in the Lutheran Reformation. Though some would insist that the retention of a fuller liturgical life was the exception rather than the rule, the record seems to indicate other wise. An example of the resistance on the part of the lay people to the removal of images, the elimination of the ancient ceremonies, is in the way Johann Georg, Margrave of the the Silesian duchy of Jågerndorf had attempted in 1616 to reform Lutheranism. He insisted upon the removal of such things as:

All images are to be removed from the church and sent to the court.
The stone altar is to be ripped from the ground and replaced with a wood table covered with a black cloth.
When the Lord’s Supper is held, a white cloth covers the table.
All altars, panels, crucifixes and paintings are to be completely abolished, as they are idolatrous and stem from the papacy.
Instead of the host, bread is to be used and baked into broad loaves, cut into strips and placed in a dish, from which people receive it in their hands; likewise the chalice [in their hands].
The words of the supper are no longer to be sung, but rather spoken.
The golden globlets are to be replaced with wooden ones.
The prayer in place of the collect is to be spoken, not sung.
Mass vestments and other finery are no longer to be used.
No lamps or candles are to be placed on the altar.
The houseling cloth is not to be held in front of the communicants.
The people are not to bow as if Christ were present.
The communicants shall no longer kneel.
The sign of the cross after the benediction is to be discontinued.
The priest is no longer to stand with his back to the people.
The collect and Epistle are no longer to be sung, but rather spoken.
Individuals are no longer to go to confession before communing, but rather register with the priest in writing.
The people are no longer to bow when the name of Jesus is mentioned, nor are they to remove their hats.
The Our Father is no longer to be prayed aloud before the sermon.
Communion is not to be taken to the sick, as it is dangerous, especially in times of pestilence.
The stone baptismal font is to be removed and a basin substituted.
Epitaphs and crucifixes are no longer to be tolerated in the church.
The Holy Trinity is not to be depicted in any visual form.
The words of the sacrament are to be altered and considered symbolic.
The historic Epistles and Gospels are no longer to be used, but rather a section of the Bible [selected by the minister] read without commentary. (Herl, Worship Wars, p. 111)

Read through the list. Lutherans once fought to retain such things and to resist the move to cleanse the Divine Service and finish the job in some Reformed manner. Yet today, even though much progress has been made to recover such things, there are Lutherans who gladly give up such things and who insist that those who would retain them are not real Lutherans. Both pastors in the chancel and people in the pews are deeply suspicious of what we once fought to retain. If a liturgical legacy can be so quickly and easily dismissed, it stands to reason that the doctrinal heritage behind it can also be surrendered in the face of changing tastes and values.

I maintain that you cannot separate the liturgical legacy from the doctrinal heritage -- that both go together and neither survives apart from the other. Together they form a strong bond and support each other but on their own both are more vulnerable. The Anglican history has shown us that the form without the content is no guarantee of anything more than a stylish heresy. The Reformed have shown us that without the structure of the liturgy and sacramental vitality, doctrine easily gives way to an evangelical entertainment hour.


Janis Williams said...

Interesting that crucifixes are twice mentioned to be removed/absent. So, we can be iconic or ironic...

Steve said...

Context is key here. The Margrave’s dictates are predicated upon the Regulative Principle of Worship of the Reformed churches. In contrast, there is no regulative principle of Lutheran worship in the confessions. Rather, the true church is found where the gospel is purely preached and the sacraments rightly administered. To identify real worship as tied up with man made ceremonies is anti-confessional and un-Lutheran.

Herl is a medievalist with a special interest in the survival of Gregorian chant in the early Lutheran churches. Fine and good. His book, however, which posits that Lutherans sang loud congregational hymns only from the 18th century onwards, has been widely discredited. True, Luther supported slow liturgical changes that wouldn’t create disorder and endanger the average person’s faith. Most changes took place due to the desires of the evangelical territorial rulers, though the practical changes always took place at the local level. If a congregation chose to retain an elaborate medieval altarpiece that perhaps had questionable doctrinal content, that decision was largely made on the basis of the aesthetic and sentimental value moreso than a supposed Lutheran affinity for medievalism. Gnesio-Lutherans seem to have had a penchant for freestanding altars and an aversion to retables. Mass vestments were disallowed at times under the Confutation in Gnesio-Lutheran Thuringia in opposition to Melanchthon, while Lutherans in Sweden self-consciously retained the surplice in opposition to the Reformed. Dutch Lutherans vested in black, Wittenbergers (according to W. Musculus’s report from 1536) vested in both black (preacher) and alb with chasuble (deacon), while the Berliners vested in a manner indistinguishable from the Roman Catholics. As Bridget Heal notes, the most extensive and well-preserved collections of medieval chasubles and ecclesial wares are to be found in Lutheran, not Catholic, churches precisely because they were slowly moved into storage over time.

So, the impression of an elaborate ceremonial as part and parcel of early Lutheran self-identity is true for those evangelical territories that had modified little in ceremonies insofar as where those Lutherans found themselves in opposition to Reformed political pressures. This took place principally in Prussia after the government became Calvinist in 1611. The opposite is also equally true when Lutherans found themselves in conflict with Roman Catholic political pressure, most notably during the short-lived Interim. The much maligned principle of adiaphora necessitated for Lutherans opposition in both cases.

The challenge for high church Lutherans today is making the case why exactly a revival of long discarded ceremonies in the Lutheran Church is desirable. The original reason in the nascent evangelical churches was adiaphora and protecting the weak in faith. This blog article seems to suggest that correct faith and a certain form of ceremonies go hand in hand. This is not an argument that our confessions support.

Pastor Peters said...

Yes context is important. And the context shows that as the liturgical legacy was lost, Lutheranism also lost its doctrinal integrity. No one is making the claim that ceremonies cause or preserve doctrinal integrity, but it is clear that attention to what is done in worship and how it is done goes hand-in-hand with the faith believed confessed and taught. It seems to me that it would be foolish to presume that there is no correlation between the integrity of the faith confessed in the integrity of the worship lived out in the life for the parish

As far as your reference to Herl, I know of no one who has discredited him. I would be interested in journal articles or theological works or historical works the challenge the basic thrust of Dr. Herl’s thesis.

Quite frankly I am tired of the old appeal to Adiaphora. It’s presumption that you can separate style and substance is precisely what I argue against. This is surely what gives legitimacy to those who say Lutheran worship has no form whatsoever as long as the content of the faith is maintained.

Far from being an academic concern or a curious note of history, this is indeed a relevant discussion for the present day.

Steve said...

Here’s the counter argument to Herl:

Robin Leaver, “ The Whole Church Sings: Congregational Singing in Luther's Wittenberg,” 2017

“Many scholars think that congregational singing was not established in Lutheran worship until well after the start of the Reformation. In this book Robin A. Leaver calls that view into question, presenting new research to confirm the earlier view that congregational singing was both the intention and the practice right from the beginning of the Wittenberg reforms in worship.

“Leaver's study focuses on the Wittenberg hymnal of 1526, which until now has received little scholarly attention. This hymnal, Leaver argues, shows how the Lutheran Reformation was to a large degree defined, expressed, promoted, and taken to heart through early Lutheran hymns. Examining what has been forgotten or neglected about the origins of congregational hymnody under Martin Luther's leadership, this study of worship, music, and liturgy is a significant contribution to Reformation scholarship.”

“William Weedon — LCMS Director of Worship
"A masterful refutation of the relatively recent notion that congregational singing was not integral to Luther's program for the renewal of the liturgy. . . . A must-read!"

Pastor Peters said...

Dr Leaver was focused on Wittenberg. It dies not counter Herl’s thesis to find areas in which congregational song was vibrant. The point is that people did not suddenly go from silence to robust singing and the choirs continued to be important voices for in the service. Herl and most others agree hymns were vital to the success of the Reformation.

Steve said...

From “The Strict Lutherans,” by WJ Mann:

“As regards the forms employed in the Divine worship of strict Lutherans, we have but little to say. They, of course, maintain with the Symbolical Books, the principle to which repeated reference has already been made, namely, that in regard to this subject liberty is to be granted, and nothing is to be rejected, except what is contrary to the Word of God, and does not tend to the edification of evangelical Christians. But that uniformity in these things, though not absolutely necessary, is nevertheless desirable throughout the Church in general is a point concerning which they are also agreed. They have, however, hitherto been unsuccessful in their endeavors to bring about such a uniformity and are far from making any law in reference thereto, lest what would be acceptable to some might prove obnoxious to others.
In the meantime, however, they are endeavoring to preserve in the main the regulations as they obtained in the Lutheran Church during the sixteenth century. They consequently observe in their public worship the same order which we introduced above, as that followed by Luther himself. They read every Sunday the Old Epistles and Gospels, sing antiphonies and chorals, and celebrate the Lord’s Supper, if not every week, yet much more frequently than other Lutheran Churches in this country are accustomed to celebrate it.

“They published, about fifteen years ago, a Hymn-book for the use of their congregations. In this are contained the old church hymns; we say the old, because what the German Lutheran Church has since the middle of the last century added to her hymnological treasury is of no account, not even the productions of such men as Hiller, Bengel, Spitta, Knapp, etc. In an appendix to the Hymn book are found prayers for private use, formulas for private baptisms (Nothtaufen), a collection of Antiphonies (Intonations and Responses), the prefations on Sundays and festivals, Luther’s Smaller Catechism, the Ecumenical Symbols, the Augsburg Confession, the Epistles and Gospels of the ecclesiastical year, and the history of Christ’s sufferings, according to the four evangelists. This Hymn book has accordingly been prepared with a view to liturgical worship and may in many respects be regarded similar to the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.

“Preaching is always joined with extemporaneous prayer. Their choral singing is quicker and livelier than in most places in Germany and this country. A common Church prayer book has not yet been published by these brethren. We have, however, been informed that they are about having reprinted for their use, with probably a few unavoidable alterations, the order of services formerly in use in Wittenberg, Saxony.
The liturgy, published about two years since by the Synod of Pennsylvania and adjacent States, they do not deem satisfactory. They also adhere very strictly to the Old Lutheran custom of catechizing the children on every Sunday. As regards external forms of worship, no fixed rules have been established. The sign of the Cross as far as we know by many a general custom whether the minister makes it with his hand or whether a crucifix stands on the altar, in commemoration of the sacrifice rendered by Christ on Golgotha. Of any superstitions being connected therewith, there are no traces whatsoever. In some congregations, lights are also on special occasions kept burning upon the altar. Of the existence of any other strange or unusual customs among them we have no knowledge. Moreover, neither of these things is looked upon as being essential. They are merely regarded as ancient customs, retained out of consideration for many of their members who have emigrated from the northern part of Germany where they are in use throughout the entire Lutheran Church.”

Carl Vehse said...

The excerpts from William Julius Mann can be seen in the article, "The Strict Lutherans" (Logia, Eastertide 1996, Vol. V, No. 2, pp. 54-58), taken from Mann’s “Lutheranism in America,” an 1857 essay on the condition of Lutheranism in America.

Steve said...

There are, in sum, three “camps” in this discussion: 1. a maximalist group intent on recovering the fullest ceremony of the 16th century Lutheran Church, 2. a “via media” camp that locates uniformity in the traditions of the LCMS as distilled in TLH and LSB, and 3. a contemporary camp that exercises a full degree of evangelical liberty in worship.

In support of the via media we offer these thoughts from Michael Henrich’s “Liturgical Uniformity in Missouri,” quoting Dau, Graebner, Buchheimer, and Fritz:

“Evangelical freedom from the old ceremonialism does not mean license and extreme individualism. There may be, espe- cially in the joint public worship of Christians, things that are unbecoming.”

“The public worship of a number of Christians, by its very nature as a joint operation, requires ordering, to prevent confusion and collision. Moreover, whatever forms are adopted to express the homage of a company of believers, they must center around the communal interests of Christians. In the worship of the congregation the vox ecclesiae is to be heard, responding to, and re-echoing, the vox Dei in the Scriptures. Accordingly, the grand central truths of the Christian faith must find sole recognition and expression in a Christian formulary of worship.

“The liturgy of the Church and the official sacred acts of her ministers must be characterized by objectiveness. The entire liturgy is really a confession on the part of the whole Church, and its forms must be in harmony with the common faith of all its members, so that any Christian who chances to come into an assembly of worshipers can at once intelligently and sympathetically enter into the religious exercise, and any non-Christian who witnesses an act of Christian worship is at once informed regarding the essential, basic, central facts of the religion of Christ.

“By her liturgies and agendas the Lutheran Church had offered to the world the evidence of her apostolic and ecumenical character.”

In contrast, Missouri churches fell into what we would call “contemporary worship” today, as noted in the pages of the periodical American Lutheran:

“It is beyond gainsaying that especially our English-speaking Lutheran Church has permitted much of Lutheranism’s liturgical heritage to fall into disuse and to be replaced by ecclesiastical crudities and vulgarities and by insipid sentimentalities borrowed from the hip, hip, hurrah meeting house “services” of the American sects. The hours of worship in many Lutheran churches are characterized either by a crude barrenness or by silly theatricalities. . . . In most cases even the incomplete and rather mixed-up liturgical offerings of our own hymn-books are practically unknown. The beautiful musical possibilities of the versicles, introits, graduals and psalm-tunes have not even begun to come into their own. The communion service is often rendered with strange interpolations that are offensive even to the unliturgical mind. Confusion unbounded reigns upon the liturgical field.”

The contemporary gave rise to the opposite maximalist extreme:
“It is a reaction, in some respects extreme (we once counted thirty candles, all lighted, and the vestments are many and colorful), to the bare and mutilated service which has become the rule in our English gatherings for worship.” (Graebner)
“Unfortunately the zeal of some of our proponents of the liturgical movement has led them to extravagances of such startling character that they brought about in clergy and laity a reaction of resentment and animosity and precipitated a discussion which has tended definitely to retard the beneficial influences which the liturgical movement promised to have.”

Carl Vehse said...

The excerpts from Michael Henrichs comes from his paper, "Liturgical Uniformity in Missouri" (Logia, Eastertide 1996, Vol. V, No. 2, pp. 15-24). At the time, Michael Henrichs was an S.T.M. student at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri. Now Rev. Henrichs is senior pastor at Our Savior Lutheran Church, Whitefish Bay, WI.

Pastor Peters said...

Quote: "They are merely regarded as ancient customs, retained out of consideration for many of their members who have emigrated from the northern part of Germany where they are in use throughout the entire Lutheran Church.”

That is a judgment by the author and not a fact. Rules and laws, no; but the ceremonies and rituals that do not conflict with the Gospel are not neutral things which may or may not be used but commended to us as good, salutary, and befitting our confessions. Contrast the state of affairs in Missouri today with the statement of the old Lutheran CFW Walther:

“We know and firmly hold that the character, the soul of Lutheranism, is not found in outward observances but in the pure doctrine. If a congregation had the most beautiful ceremonies in the very best order, but did not have the pure doctrine, it would be anything but Lutheran. We have from the beginning spoken earnestly of good ceremonies, not as though the important thing were outward forms, but rather to make use of our liberty in these things. For true Lutherans know that although one does not have to have these things (because there is no divine command to have them), one may nevertheless have them because good ceremonies are lovely and beautiful and are not forbidden in the Word of God. Therefore the Lutheran church has not abolished “outward ornaments, candles, altar cloths, statues and similar ornaments,” [AP XXIV] but has left them free. The sects proceeded differently because they did not know how to distinguish between what is commanded, forbidden, and left free in the Word of God. We remind only of the mad actions of Carlstadt and of his adherents and followers in Germany and in Switzerland. We on our part have retained the ceremonies and church ornaments in order to prove by our actions that we have a correct understanding of Christian liberty, and know how to conduct ourselves in things which are neither commanded nor forbidden by God.

We refuse to be guided by those who are offended by our church customs. We adhere to them all the more firmly when someone wants to cause us to have a guilty conscience on account of them. The Roman antichristendom enslaves poor consciences by imposing human ordinances on them with the command: “You must keep such and such a thing!”; the sects enslave consciences by forbidding and branding as sin what God has left free. Unfortunately, also many of our Lutheran Christians are still without a true understanding of their liberty. This is demonstrated by their aversion to ceremonies.

Pastor Peters said...

And more:

It is truly distressing that many of our fellow Christians find the difference between Lutheranism and Roman Catholicism in outward things. It is a pity and dreadful cowardice when a person sacrifices the good ancient church customs to please the deluded American denominations just so they won’t accuse us of being Roman Catholic! Indeed! Am I to be afraid of a Methodist, who perverts the saving Word, or be ashamed in the matter of my good cause, and not rather rejoice that they can tell by our ceremonies that I do not belong to them?

It is too bad that such entirely different ceremonies prevail in our Synod, and that no liturgy at all has yet been introduced in many congregations. The prejudice especially against the responsive chanting of pastor and congregations is of course still very great with many people — this does not, however, alter the fact that it is very foolish. The pious church father Augustine said, “Qui cantat, bis orat–he who sings prays twice.”

This finds its application also in the matter of the liturgy. Why should congregations or individuals in the congregation want to retain their prejudices? How foolish that would be! For first of all it is clear from the words of St. Paul (1 Cor. 14:16) that the congregations of his time had a similar custom. It has been the custom in the Lutheran Church for 250 years. It creates a solemn impression on the Christian mind when one is reminded by the solemnity of the divine service that one is in the house of God, in childlike love to their heavenly Father, also give expression to their joy in such a lovely manner.

We are not insisting that there be uniformity in perception or feeling or taste among all believing Christians-neither dare anyone demand that all be minded as he. Nevertheless, it remains true that the Lutheran liturgy distinguishes Lutheran worship from the worship of other churches to such an extent that the houses of worship of the latter look like lecture halls in which the hearers are merely addressed or instructed, while our churches are in truth houses of prayer in which Christians serve the great God publicly before the world.

Uniformity of ceremonies (perhaps according to the Saxon Church order published by the Synod, which is the simplest among the many Lutheran church orders) would be highly desirable because of its usefulness. A poor slave of the pope finds one and same form of service, no matter where he goes, by which he at once recognizes his church.

With us it is different. Whoever comes from Germany without a true understanding of the doctrine often has to look for his church for a long time, and many have already been lost to our church because of this search. How different it would be if the entire Lutheran church had a uniform form of worship! This would, of course, first of all yield only an external advantage, however, one which is by no means unimportant. Has not many a Lutheran already kept his distance from the sects because he saw at the Lord’s Supper they broke the bread instead of distributing wafters?

The objection: “What would be the use of uniformity of ceremonies?” was answered with the counter question, “What is the use of a flag on the battlefield? Even though a soldier cannot defeat the enemy with it, he nevertheless sees by the flag where he belongs. We ought not to refuse to walk in the footsteps of our fathers. They were so far removed from being ashamed of the good ceremonies that they publicly confess in the passage quoted: “It is not true that we do away with all such external ornaments”

Steve said...

Thanks for the conversation and Walther quotes! It seems that the first declares that purity of doctrine, not ceremonies, defines the character of the Lutheran Church. At the same time, we are not pressured to conform to the abandonment of liturgy or ceremonies, whether due to the scruples of other Protestants or the claim that liturgy and ceremonies are too Catholic. At the same time, there were ceremonies that historically were not deemed to be adiaphora by the Lutheran Church, i.e. breaking bread at communion rather than using wafers, sacrificial interpolations around the rite of the Sacrament, ceremonies around the elements outside their use, etc.

Listen to the second quote. “Uniformity of ceremonies (perhaps according to the Saxon Church order published by the Synod, which is the simplest among the many Lutheran church orders) would be highly desirable.”

Two things are significant: the simplicity of the Saxon order is lauded by Walther as characteristic of the simple purity (note that this does not mean a liturgical barrenness) that characterized the doctrine and ceremonial liberty of the evangelical Reformation.

The second point Walther is making is that liturgical uniformity is useful and desirable, to avoid confusion in the worship service. In other words, German immigrants should be able to recognize a similarity in Missouri Synod churches to the Lutheran churches they left behind. And Walther’s wish for uniformity was fulfilled when they adopted the Saxon order, and later in 1940 when the now mainly English speaking LCMS produced TLH.

My concern is that the maximalist approach inadvertently overthrows the uniformity of TLH and LSB just as much as CoWo did beginning in the 1980s. A pastor in cassock, alb, stole, and chasuble in the pulpit is really no more uniform in the LCMS than a pastor in no vestments. Both provoke bewilderment in the American LCMS parishioner not due to a misunderstanding of liturgical freedom, but due to their aberration from traditional liturgical order. As the editors of TLH noted, worship is a joint, objective confession expressing the communal interests of a congregation, where the voice of the church is heard in homage and response to the proclaimed word of God. This is our fundamental character.

Pastor Peters said...

You wrote: A pastor in cassock, alb, stole, and chasuble in the pulpit is really no more uniform in the LCMS than a pastor in no vestments.

I do not believe that this is true. Pastors in eucharistic vestments have been published now for many years in The Lutheran Witness, in Seminary publications, in video, at Synod and District Conventions, to the point where this is not at all a novelty. The Pastor in no vestments is a novelty -- without historical norm and very modern. The problem I have is the equation of one with the other as if there were no difference. One may add but the other subtracts from our tradition -- the two are not equivalent. In fact, subtraction IS the problem.

Steve said...

My point is not really about chasubles. We had a pastor in the 1980s who was a big fan of chanting and chasubles. No one batted an eye. But we also didn’t think that we were somehow more Lutheran now than five years earlier with a pastor in black robe and surplice on communion Sundays. As much as we may like to think that we are recovering authentic Lutheran practices by reviving such things, our old derided LCMS traditions were more reflective (and why wouldn’t they have been, for we were never Pietists, Rationalists, or Unionists) of evangelical Reformation practice. Preachers wore black robes or even black fur lined coats (it got cold in those Lutheran churches!). The Latin word superpellicium for the German term Chorhemd or “choir robe” which was a surplice worn when in the choir or chancel (during the communion rite) literally means “over the fur.” Lutherans during the Interim such as Zwilling and Schultz of Torgau literally lost their jobs and went into exile rather than readopt wearing the surplice.

Now, I am not suggesting that the next phase of the liturgical movement in Lutheranism is to push for chanting pastors in coats, surplices, and chasubles with chalices in hand. What I am suggesting is that there is a great deal of nuance in Lutheran liturgical history and practice that we like to glide over today. We’ve settled on the alb and stole. Fine. It’s generic, recognizable, and promotes the Lutheran goal of uniformity. Why push now for even greater elaboration? If anything, the Lutheran tendency during the Reformation was towards simplification. Just look at the polemical art of the time, with all of the woodcuts contrasting purified Lutheran worship with the excessive, accoutrement laden worship of their opponents.