Sunday, February 4, 2024

We are not Rome. . .

I got a lengthy email from a reader who insisted that I paid far too much attention to Rome and the Pope and that if I was really a Lutheran the stuff happening or not happening there should be of little consequence to me.  I have also had some folks say the same thing about the ELCA and suggested to me that none of that matters to the LCMS.  If you agree with my critics, you may not wish to read further.

Unless you live on an island or in some community in which everyone is churched -- neither of which is true of you -- it does matter what the Pope says or the ELCA says.  The careful nuances of those who make much of such things is lost to nearly everyone outside your very small circle.  People judge Christianity on the basis of what the Pope says and does and that includes Missouri and those with whom she is in fellowship.  People judge Lutheranism on the basis of what the ELCA says and does that includes Missouri and those with whom she is in fellowship.  You do not live in some sane world in which people listen to you to decide who you are.  People are want to make snap judgments and those in the news are the ones who feed such snap judgments.  Unless you do not care about those outside the faith or the faithful with whom you gather, you are a fool to ignore what Rome or the ELCA or evangelicals or Protestantism in general says and does on the world stage.  

I do not care because I want to be Roman Catholic or ELCA or anything else for that matter.  I care because I know that those who come from no or nominal Christian background and walk into my parish have a pre-existing idea of who we Lutherans here are.  Christianity is not some new faith that they have never heard about.  They are predisposed to the (false) belief that they already know what a Christian is and believes and how that Christian lives.  It might be easier for me to start with a clean slate introducing the faith to those outside of it but I cannot afford that luxury and neither can you.  We live in a world in which those who are our harshest critics and our biggest skeptics think they know what we believe and teach simply because they pay attention to the news (itself largely unreliable) and because those on the edges always claim the biggest slice of the news pie.  Part of what we must do is to disavow people of the false perceptions, images, and understandings of Christianity (and Lutheranism) that they have gleaned from those who claim the headlines.

In the past I have had folks from the ELCA who fearfully walked across our door because they were warned about what Missouri was like and had to discredit the rumor with the facts.  I have also had Roman Catholics walk through the door thinking they were entering a Protestant world only to find that the LCMS is not quite Protestant -- some were shocked that the Mass was held with more reverence and devotion among us than the church from whence they had come!  Every honest Lutheran pastor who desires to be faithful to the Lutheran confessional identity and serve as an instrument of the Word in the Lord growing His Church has to know what is going on in other communions.  We have to be ready to respond to the false ideas and ideals paraded as Christianity by those who are barely Christian, if that.  We also need to be ready to teach our own people what other churches believe, teach, and confess (and practice).  Unless you live in a hole in the ground or your people do, you owe it to them to know what is going on around you.  But throwing mud back is not the way of the faithful.  Our calling is to put the best construction on everything (with Luther) but to speak the truth in love.  Sadly, some of us seem to delight more in the screw ups of other churches than we do anything else.  I take no delight in the damage done by the current Pope or the direction of the ELCA or anything in between.  We ought all to be saddened and chastened by the quickness of a church to lose its way.  We ought all to be sorrowful for the blurring of the Christian witness with the decisions of an erring Pope and Lutheran leadership.  We are painted by their broad brush by those outside the faith and we are left with the job of repairing the damage they have done to all of us who strive to be catholic and orthodox.

1 comment:

Wurmbrand said...

Yes, I think the informing of oneself that you describe is a pastoral responsibility (not perhaps for all pastors) -- but guiding Lutherans to be Lutheran comes ahead of it. I know you'd agree.