Monday, September 24, 2007

An Epidemic of Liturgical Posts

First was Weedon's list (see below).

Next comes one by McCain: Lutheran Worship: Old School ... Too Roman Catholic? Thoughts on Lutheranism and Liturgy.

Finally, Fr. Hollywood has one: Confession on the Comeback Trail. The article Fr. Hollywood references is excellent as well. A noteworthy quote:

Today, we're seeing an interesting phenomenon. One part of the synod is moving further toward Protestantism, with radical and non-liturgical neo-Evangelical worship styles and emphasis on the very-Protestant Ablaze!(tm) program - as evidenced by the recent "official" LCMS youth gathering that featured dancing girls at the contemporary worship service. At the same time, another part of our synod is recovering the reverent and historic Lutheran "Evangelical Catholicism" that emphasizes the Gospel through the liturgy and the sacraments of the Church - typified by the recent Higher Things youth conference that featured a solemn Mass with incense. A tale of two synods!


  1. Dixie said...

    Pastor Hall, how large do you think the Evangelical Catholic movement is in the LCMS? Do you think there is a weighty presence? I mean...I look at things like SSP membership and I don't see a large participation so it makes me wonder how real this shift is in the rest of the synod or if it is an internet mirage. I have learned that what seems popular on the internet isn't always similarly represented in real life. Then again it may be even more so. Hard to gauge just by my little bit of reading.

    I was with some Lutheran friends this weekend and my Lutheran husband...I asked them about private confession and if they were notified of the vote this past summer to encourage it's use. None of them had heard anything about it. I think I know what part of the synod their congregation is in! :(

  2. Christopher D. Hall said...

    That is a good question, Dixie.

    When I was at the Seminary, I believed that this "movement" (if you want to call it that) was pretty big and growing. Not only were their decent amounts of students who could have been classed this way, but the culture seemed to be moving this way (a la The New Faithful by Colleen Carrol.

    I now believe this movement is in the extreme minority in the synod and is shrinking, at least in terms of proportion. I admit that my evidence of this is just as anecdotal. What I've experienced I've seen with other graduates: pastors who seek to restore and inaugurate such practices within their parish find incredible resistance and little to no support from the District Presidents. Add to this phenomena the growing Evangelical influence on the synod as a whole. Case in point: when I first attended the seminary, contemporary worship was by and large an abberation in the LCMS. Saying this today (12 years later) would be foolish.

    There's plenty of other factors too. Perhaps I'll save it for another post...but don't let this stop the discussion here!

  3. Randy Asburry said...


    I think you are right: the so-called Evangelical-Catholic movement in the LCMS IS a very small minority. You are also quite correct that labeling "contemporary (contemptible!) worship" an aberration would be quite mistaken. Just look at two things: 1) the convention's resolution to promote "alternative worship forms" and 2) the folks who are newly appointed to the Synod's Commission on worship. The first clearly ensconces "contemptible worship" as the Synod's position (though, de facto, it has been for some time, I'm convinced), and the second simply gives the foot soldiers to ensure the ongoing promotion of Pentecostal worship in the LCMS. So, look for the non-support of synodical officialdom to continue and grow!

  4. Randy Asburry said...


    I think you are right: the so-called Evangelical-Catholic movement in the LCMS IS a very small minority. You are also quite correct that labeling "contemporary (contemptible!) worship" an aberration would be quite mistaken. Just look at two things: 1) the convention's resolution to promote "alternative worship forms" and 2) the folks who are newly appointed to the Synod's Commission on worship. The first clearly ensconces "contemptible worship" as the Synod's position (though, de facto, it has been for some time, I'm convinced), and the second simply gives the foot soldiers to ensure the ongoing promotion of Pentecostal worship in the LCMS. So, look for the non-support of synodical officialdom to continue and grow!

  5. Christopher D. Hall said...

    Randy, the resolution to provide "alternate worship forms" is really the icing on the cake. As good (or bad) as LSB is, it's now moot: we have officially sanctioned free-for-all. I'm not aware of the bios of the recent appointments to the CoW. Who are they?

  6. Rev. Eric J Brown said...

    I was a few years behind the good Rev. Hall and at the other Seminary - and we had a different approach to Contemporary Worship. It was always described as a clear and present danger - something that most likely your congregation that you ended up at would be using or would be hounding you to use. 7 years ago when helping out in the chapel one of the older seminarians would take you behind the altar and show you the jacks that the post Preus admin had installed so that eventually contemporary worship could be done even here (is this truly what they were - I don't know - but the fact that this is the story is illustrative).

    Also, as regards "EC" or what have you - it was never described to me as a movement that was popular - rather - as Pastors we will have to teach. Now, young folks might be more receptive (as opposed to Baby Boomers, who demand personal satisfaction in everything) - but still, teach, teach, teach was the cry. So it was more an understanding that this is a way we should be trying to move - not that we are moving in and of ourself right now.

  7. Mike Baker said...

    I think that it is also important to note that contemporary music is largely a "baby boomer" driven initiative. The further that you get from the 1960s the less of an important issue it is.

    There have been studies that show that my generation (26 and under) is not wild about the music that our parents introduced into the church. As a general rule, we tend to be more in line with our grandparent's generation in terms of worship practice. When you narrow those studies to the more conservative church bodies, the percentage of pro-contemporary youth gets even smaller.

    Young people today seem to draw a distinction between what they like to listen to personally and what they expect in church. While many youth may enjoy various styles of music on the radio, studies are finding that a significant majority (it is almost 70% in some cases) feel that such music (rock, country, jazz, etc) is inappropriate in a church service.

    If this is accurate, a key LCMS target audience is just not into it and our membership numbers for those generations tend to reflect this oversight. Additionally, the decades of transition to new worship forms have not seen the expected increase in practicing Christians in the United States. These are interesting trends that those who see church growth as an important issue have no choice but to examine and address.

    Ultimately, I doubt that the LCMS will hold on to contemporary music if it continues to hasten the population decline among younger members. The Synod already suffers from an alarming generation gap. This is not to say that I would expect an ultra-liturgical revival on the horizon, but there is a growing block of credible evidence out there that suggests that traditional worship is becoming the new expectation in church.

    I now quote from the 1995 Dr. Barbara Resch study:

    "Interestingly, the unchurched students gave their lowest ranking of appropriateness to contemporary Christian music. Several wrote on their survey forms: "This sounds like my parents' music!"

  8. Randy Asburry said...

    I'm not aware of the bios of the recent appointments to the CoW. Who are they?


    Check out this website:

  9. Past Elder said...

    Can anyone explain to me what possible sense there is in spending years producing a new service book, bringing it to print, having workshops all over to facilitate its use and adoption, and then immediately commission the search for alternatives?

  10. Dan @ Necessary Roughness said...

    Past Elder:

    The possible sense lies within the group that lobbies, lobbies, and lobbies until other people break down because the latter assume struggle is bad. :)

  11. Past Elder said...

    Well I think we ought to make Mike Baker head of the Commission on Worship RIGHT NOW!

    I'm 57. I'm sick as hell of watching Boomers, that generation that made adolescence an adult life style, think either than young people to-day are just as they were in the 60s or that if they're not there's something wrong with them.

    Guess what, grey hairs. It's not 1968 and young people to-day aren't particularly interested in acting as if it were or as if they were you.

    My own parish recently revised its worship to make the 1030 service its "contemporary" service, which here means liturgical but with "praise band" music instead of organ and hymns. My kids don't respond at all.

    The only thing I regret about growing older is that I will probably die off with the perpetual teen-agers now taking up space on committees and commissions and church offices and won't be around to see the church pass into the hands of Mike's generation. I guess I'll wish myself ad multos annos.

  12. Mike Baker said...

    If you’re looking for a liturgical crusader to march to the next convention and lay down the law, I'm probably not your guy. =P

    While it is true that my personal preference is so high church that it shocks most people, I am not zealous about pushing my personal take on this adiaphora.

    In 1759, Benjamin Franklin said: “Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote.”

    When we talk about Christian Liberty, what are we really saying? Is it the ability to realize your human ideas for everyone or is it the ability to live without having other people's human ideas forced on you? We have not fought for reform within the church these past 500 years just so we can hand the freedom of the gospel back over to human initiatives, expectations, and requirements. If we go in and Rick Warren all of these churches into following what we say, as if our personal truth is the end of all truth, what have we sacrificed for the sake of liturgical uniformity? What are we willing to stomp on just so we can force churches--that we have no intention of ever visiting--to be exactly like us?

    In this age, it seems that the people who persecute Christians the most are other Christians. What kind of witness is that to our weaker brothers and sisters? What kind of witness is that to the unbelievers?

    I am on the side of anyone who is striving to live a Christo-centric life that is rooted in truth, love, patience, and humility. I think Christians on both sides of the worship issue could work harder on that when they address each other. There is deadly legalism in both factions that must be addressed. We should return to the historic goal of protecting the mother church against the Scylla and Charybdis of heresy and schism. The concept that our brothers and sisters in Christ are not our enemies is even older than our liturgical forms and it is at the heart of a true traditionalist. The epistles have much more to say on these topics than on how a particular service is to be structured. We are all washed with one Baptism. We are united in Christ by the Sacrament of the Alter. Is the attitude of “my way or the highway” really the Christian model?

    The key in all of this conflict is to understand that God is still on the throne and He will preserve the church until He unites us in perfect truth on the Last Day. The way that we attempt to settle our temporal differences obscures that fact far too often. We should be extending our hand in fellowship with a spirit of patience and love. We are all called to bear one another’s burdens. We’re supposed to be a peaceful people full of mercy and forgiveness. We are called to be humble, long-suffering servants who strive to be the least… not the greatest; the last… not the first. We are not kings over are neighbors, but rather slaves to Christ.

    If the Gospel is purely preached and the Sacraments are properly administered, we can rest easy each night knowing that the marks of the church live on. Ultimately, you could take all of the music out of the church provided that faith, hope, and love remain. The inverse is not true. If we achieve uniform church practice either way throughout the synod, but we crush our family members to get it, what victory have we really accomplished?

    My time as an arch-liturgical Lutheran combined with the decade that I spent playing in a charismatic praise band has taught me alot about the nature of this debate. There is no shortage of anti-Christian behavior and speech from the hard-line zealots on both sides. We all know that there is a right way to resolve differences in practice, but who wants to try that? Sinful pride and contempt is what is fueling this division. As we squabble over the petty stuff, as we force ourselves on others, the faith of weaker Christians is being damaged by our bad example. To be sure, Satan is laughing all the way to the bank as our numbers shrink and our faithful lose most of their dedication.

    Blessed are the peacemakers. Healing divisions through patient education is what I advocate. All of that starts at the parish level under the care of the wonderful men who have been placed over us by virtue of their proper call. That can’t happen if the laity rebels and chafes against those whom God has placed in authority over them. That can’t happen if we are the most important thing in the room every time we walk into a church. If the synod is to peacefully return to unity under a common form of worship, it will not happen by political mandate. It certainly will not happen by nosy Christians who walk past all of the serious issues in their own congregations so that they can stick their pharisaical noses into other congregations to evaluate the efficacy of their worship.

    I think this is one of our favorite debates because it is easy to get passionate about what we really care about. The fact that so few of us are really passionate about unity in the Body of Christ speaks volumes. Since ubiquitous temporal victory is what we obviously value, defending our form of worship gives us justification for our actions and purpose. Because it is a leadership role that affects a large group of people, there is great power and glory in defending, planning, and executing the forms of public worship.

    Conversely, there is no earthly glory or power in doing the dirty vocational stuff that each congregation needs to sustain itself and grow. There is no glory in putting the needs of others first and looking at things from their perspective in an attempt to understand them better. There is no glory in doing the hard work to slowly change hearts and minds through service, patience, and self-restraint. Foot washing just is not fun. Thankfully, ours is not a theology of glory. We do not strive for what the sinful world views as important.

    The LCMS has fought long and hard for doctrinal purity. I think she has earned a break from all of the other bickering. Living faith gives us the ability to see beyond the temporal imperfections around us and focus on the eternal goal. With our eyes fixed on the cross and our hearts focused on the needs of others, we are properly equipped to do God’s will.

  13. Christine said...

    Having grown up back in the day when the evangelical catholic presence was still strong in the LCMS and other Lutheran bodies I would submit that it is not merely a matter of aesthetics when it comes to liturgy.

    The LCMS mission congregations I have seen in the area where I live have a decidedly evangelical approach to worship and pratice.

    I got curious about one of them and called to inquire as to why they so purposefully hid their LCMS identity and was told by the young woman who answered the phone that "at some point in the new member classes we get to the Lutheran stuff" and the young associate "pastor" (who has not yet been ordained) made it very clear that they were not interested in reaching Lutherans, they were interested in preaching the Gospel to the "unsaved".

    The LCMS seems to have taken a marked shift after the Presidency of the faithful Dr. Alvin Barry.

    It's a tough battle in the current culture.