Monday, December 4, 2023

There you have it. . .

Apparently in June, long before the Synod on Talking Together about Walking Together, the Pope was asked some questions about the ordination of women, deaconesses, and priestly celibacy.  Curiously, though, the Synod was given the opportunity to talk about things which the Pope had already decided were not going to happen (like it should have been a surprise to anyone).  Even more curiously, the Pope referenced Lutherans -- at least when it comes to raising priestly vocations and celibacy.

Lutherans ordain women, but still few people go to church,” he said. “Their priests can marry, but despite that they can’t grow the number of ministers. The problem is cultural. We should not be naive and think that programmatic changes will bring us the solution.”

And I did not think he either noticed or cared!  What do I know.  But there is one more thing that is even more curious than the reference to Lutherans and that is his admission that you will not fill the pews because of what you do for the priesthood (or to it) nor will you fill the pews with programs or a softer doctrinal stance.  The problem is cultural.  Well, yes, it is that.  It is even more, though.  It is that the culture has become a major influence in what the Church confesses, how the Church confesses it, and how the Church lives out this confession.  It is not simply an unfriendly culture in the world around us but a culture in the Church that has been corrupted by the culture outside and which has given to the culture outside a seemingly equal voice with Scripture and the apostolic tradition.  And this is a problem you can also lay at the door of Pope Francis.  He has muddied the waters enough to the point that no one really knows what he thinks or what he is going to do.  He has made so many appointments of people who live either on the fringes of the Roman Catholic Church or who from the inside insist that things have to change.  He fosters the illusion of a more democratic and egalitarian community while acting pretty much like a dictator from the papal office.

We Lutherans have our problems.  Lord knows, our house is a mess.  We have Lutherans who cannot agree on what sin is, if it is important, and if it requires a Savior and we also have Lutherans who keep the forms without the confession and those who keep the confession but are leery of the forms (shape of the ministerial offices, the liturgy, ceremony, etc.).  Most of the world would be hard pressed to tell you what a Lutheran believed even if they did have all the pronouncements made by Lutheran jurisdictions!  We have married clergy but some Lutherans also have gay, lesbian, queer, trans, etc. clergy.  Infant baptism is probably the norm among us but some Lutherans cannot bring themselves to say that killing the child in the womb is wrong or that sex is for something other than pleasure.  We say Scripture is infallible but some say only in matters of salvation and some say every word and others cannot even agree on what is Scripture and what is not.  The pope will not find the answer in being like the Lutherans although he would do well to read, mark, and inwardly digest what we have confessed.  

The documents of Lutheranism embody the best hope for a reformed catholicity which has been needed since long before Luther.  But instead we get Lutherans who don't look or act or sound like their confessions and Roman Catholics who are equally all over the page.  In the place where we need to be clear and specific, Christendom has presented the world with confusion.  Quite frankly, our jurisdictions and leaders are not doing what they might to bring clarity and unity to what is pretty foggy right now.  Until our leaders can be clear, until we can all be held accountable, and until we displace the god of preference and like, things will not improve.  Added to that is how we talk until we a blue in the face to explain things that should be answered with a simple "no, its wrong; don't do it."  Yes, culture is bad and working against the faith and the Church but the biggest problems we have are internal.

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