Monday, March 16, 2009

Evangelicalism Will Die: Others Receive Inheritance

As referenced last week, a certain essay has hit a nerve among our Evangelical friends.

What is Evangelicalism, you ask? You ask because it's a good question. It's like obscenity: I know it when I see it. Seriously, it is hard to define, but the easiest way to recognize it is by going in your nearest "Christian Bookstore." Make sure it's not Catholic or Orthodox, and take a look around. Browse the gizmos and framed prints, t-shirts and music. Look at the titles of books. Find the most prominently displayed books and read their back covers. Look at the people who are shopping there. Eavesdrop on their conversations.

That is Evangelicalism.

And a lot of different people with different prejudices and backgrounds are worried that it is going away.

Where are the people who used to be Evangelical going to go? The author of that most-talked-about essay, Michael Spencer, writes, "Two of the beneficiaries will be the Roman Catholic and Orthodox communions. Evangelicals have been entering these churches in recent decades and that trend will continue, with more efforts aimed at the "conversion" of Evangelicals to the Catholic and Orthodox traditions."

Why not Lutherans? We've been whining this for years. Why not the Lutherans?

I'll be blunt. It's because the LCMS has been trying for a decade or three to become just like our shallow evangelical friends. The Evangelicals have vast amounts of people and influence and the LCMS is missing it. We've sold our birthright for a pot of porridge and now that's grown cold and solidified. Goldilocks is off to something else.

To keep things simple, what your mother told you is true. "Be yourself. Don't give into what other people want you to be. Don't change who you are to be accepted. Do what is right and don't apologize for it." Our mothers were always right.

Can it be fixed? I'm not so sure. There are plenty of brave souls that are trying. The problem we have now is different parties trying to remake our denomination into their vision, each attempting to convince the people that theirs is the true Lutheranism, or at least the true way to be faithful to God and survive.

When you have competing claims of legitimacy, one will be silenced eventually.

Have mercy on us, dearest Jesus.

24 comments :

  1. William Weedon said...

    Have mercy, indeed!

    The question you ask here at the end is vital: will the true Lutherans please stand up?

    What I believe with all my heart is that if our Church is not to simply become an historical footnote, her children have to be restored to the heritage of their fathers in the faith. "A Lutheran is a Christian whose Rule of Faith is the Bible and whose Confession of that Rule is the Augsburg Confession." That's how simply Krauth stated it long ago. But this heritage is then exceedingly rich - he surveys the influences that shaped it. *Sacred Meditations*, *Starck's Prayer Book*, the hymns of our Church, the Luther Bible, the Postils of Luther, Chemnitz, Gerhard, and so on. So many, many ways in which our ancestors in the faith lived as Lutheran Christians - no need for further moniker. No division between this or that type of Lutheran. Simply Lutheran. Lutheran without adjective. God grant us to find the path back to it!

  2. Benjamin Harju said...

    Pastor Weedon,

    No offense, my friend, but I think you missed what Pastor Hall was saying.

    He did not ask "Will the true Lutherans please stand up?" He pointed out that there are competing claims to the title True Lutheran, and in the end of the struggle (if there is to be one) some people will simply lose. That doesn't mean that the ones who win are any more true-er Lutherans than those who lost. It is very possible that the title "Lutheran" will be held by those holding to Women's Ordination and Evangelical-Pop-Praise Worship with kitschy community church signs out on the front lawn. That doesn't mean there won't be some left who believe what Krauth advocates, but it will be as if they are some marginalized sect compared to those who "won the battle" (for lack of a better way to put it).

    I find it interesting the way you have chosen to define Lutheranism. I can think of a handful of different definitions of Lutheranism that still claim the Bible and the Book of Concord the same way you do, but who come out with a completely different Lutheranism in the end. Some are very conservative, some are liberal (more or less). The difficulty in the task at hand is that in order to match up to Krauth's words you have to constantly build a church which is Lutheran or catholic or orthodox (or any combination therein). You have to build it (with Christ's help, or according to the Scriptures, or by the guidance of the Spirit, etc.). What Pastor Hall is describing is the result of a Christianity that is built by men according to certain rules and formulas. In the end you get a grand competition between architects, all vying to win the bid. But from whom do they hope to win the bid? From God who alone gives the victory? From the people who are in need of believing the Gospel?

    On the other hand, Krauth's words feel very comfortable and soothing to the individual, because they point the individual to the faith that he must believe for himself, so that he himself may have Christ, that he himself may be saved, so that he himself may simply be a Christian in the best and fullest sense of the word. At best Krauth's words will pass to the limits of the congregation, or perhaps a handful of them. But the vision and experience of Christianity that the individual or the congregation enjoys transforms into a competition of architects beyond those limits.

    So the question is, what architect will win in the LCMS? And then what will the losers do? Will they take their design elsewhere and hope it is purchased in another body? Or will they decide to self-fund their designs and build it by themselves?

    As for Goldilocks, the girl may very well be dissatisfied with her cold, lumpy, snake-handling, bible-thumping, rip-roaring, hip-hopping, neo-mystery-cult-like porridge. As in the story, she will either move on to take a chair for herself (cathedra) - which always breaks apart - or crawl into one of the choice beds nearby (play the harlot). It's a shame that most Lutherans are still creeping around trying to figure out how to make porridge. The rest are trying to section-off a room in the house that they can renovate into something appropriate for Goldilocks to live in. But remember, this is not a home for Goldilocks, but for dangerous bears that rip and tear little girls. What Goldilocks really needs is to come to her senses, turn around, and go home. It's quite horrific to wait until the bears come to their home first.

  3. William Weedon said...

    Dear Ben,

    No, I don't have to build it; I live in it. A real Lutheran Church in a real world. A Lutheran Church beset by the difficulties that attend being part and parcel of Christ's Church militant (and which are afflicting every jurisdiction thereof), a Church where the struggle for the faith never ends. Such is the condition of our pilgrimage.

    Do you really believe that the Lutheran Church is a place of spiritual destruction? That I am guilty of dressing up a corner of it to suit my own taste to the damage and destruction of those of whom I am pastor?

  4. Benjamin Harju said...

    Pastor Weedon,

    You said,
    No, I don't have to build it; I live in it. A real Lutheran Church in a real world.

    Response:
    Really? So if the LCMS is a real Lutheran Church in a real world (because we're talking about the LCMS), then why does the LCMS claim it is no church? Or is there some real Lutheran Church in a real world that transcends the LCMS? How do you live in a real Lutheran Church in a real world?

    You said,
    A Lutheran Church beset by the difficulties that attend being part and parcel of Christ's Church militant (and which are afflicting every jurisdiction thereof),...

    Response:
    The idea that the Lutheran Church is a jurisdiction of the Church militant equates the Church with a platonic reality. I say this, because to be a jurisdiction of the Church requires communion with the other jurisdictions at the altar. Since this is lacking - due either to a lack of a Eucharist among Protestant confessions or to closed communion - jurisdictional talk is inappropriate. Ecclesial communion and Eucharistic communion should not be two different things. How can the Lutheran Church be a jurisdiction with other denominations if there is no communion between them? This idea goes well beyond the notion of felicitous inconsistency.

    [The implication behind the term "jurisdiction" is usually that the Lutheran Church is a jurisdiction just as the Methodist Church is or the Roman Catholic Church is. If you are using the term other than this, than please correct my ignorance.]

    You said,
    a Church where the struggle for the faith never ends. Such is the condition of our pilgrimage.

    Response:
    I agree the struggle for the faith never ends. However, there is a difference between struggling over competing architectural designs in the LCMS and struggling within for your own reformation after the image and likeness of Christ. One is a problem leading to spiritual anarchy, dissolution, and death; the other is the state of being Christian.

    You said,
    Do you really believe that the Lutheran Church is a place of spiritual destruction?

    Response:
    In the LCMS, yes. Beyond that I would invite you to point me to this "place" you call the Lutheran Church.

    You said,
    That I am guilty of dressing up a corner of it to suit my own taste to the damage and destruction of those of whom I am pastor?

    Response:
    Maybe. Maybe not. God alone will judge each individual ministry. I don't know how to answer that question right now. Perhaps that's a question you should ask yourself. However I would only use the word "guilty" if one knew how to get out of the bear's house but didn't (to return to the analogy). Only God knows if there is guilt versus good intentions misapplied in such situations. So I guess I wouldn't use the word guilt at all, except with myself in all things, even though I have had good intentions all the way through. May God have mercy on me for my failures and mistakes.

    I really think that the effect of one's ministry depends in part on the situation of the hearer. Even among the hooping and hollering Evangelicals there is room for some good. Sometimes people can only handle so much at a time. Only God can judge that sort of thing, though. Your question regarding your individual ministry as dressing up a corner of the Lutheran Church and/or the LCMS is too complicated for me to answer. I think it belongs to God.

  5. William Weedon said...

    Ben,

    The LCMS is a real Lutheran Church - it does not claim to be the totality of the Church Universal, nor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. But she is a real communion fellowship. I am joined to the best and the worst that happens in and at Lutheran pulpits and altars around the world. She works toward recognizing and expanding that communion wherever the unity of the faith is found - but just as ROCOR and OCA were two separate jurisdictions of Orthodoxy and not in fellowship for some time, so it may be also in Lutheran jurisdictions.

    The Lutheran Church as a jurisdiction within the Church militant is no platonic reality - the struggles within our jurisdiction are the same all Christians experience: the struggles against the devil, the world, and our own rotten flesh. The weapons for the warfare are the same: Baptism, prayer, Sacred Scripture, Absolution, and the Blessed Sacrament. The difficulties we face as a jurisdiction are sadly common: corruption in the institution itself. One thinks of the late troubles in the OCA for example - which, may God grant, have been somewhat overcome. Yet while the Church continues on pilgrimage there will be corruption and sin ever seeking to undo the work of her Savior through His body.

    I'm not sure I follow about "architectural designs" - you mean the proposals for restructuring? The Church has some freedom in such areas. For example, when the Patriarch of Antioch recently demoted all the bishops of the Archdiocese to Auxilliaries under the Metropolitan so he could move folks around. Such moves might be helpful, might be hindrance to the life of God within the Church, but they are - once again - common to the institutional struggle in the Church militant. Or one might recall when the Russian Tsar replaced the Patriarch with what amounts to a government bureau! Definitely a bad move, eh? But such moments fill the history of the whole Church.

    As for judging, I might suggest that God will not only judge each individual ministry, but He will also judge each of those jurisdictions that claim the name: "Church" and the only way any single one of them will stand is if He causes them to stand by His mercy and grace.

    I will be sorry to lose you a brother in the Augsburg Confession, but I do wish you and your family God's richest blessings and may you be preserved from the convertitis that infects with pride and disdain for those with whom one once bowed the knee at the altar as fellow sinners, living together under the forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ.

  6. Christopher D. Hall said...

    Thank you both for the conversation here. A few points and questions:

    Ben, you took my Goldilocks image and ran with it in a way I didn't anticipate. Bravo for creative thinking!

    And at the risk of sounding like infamous people, let us admit that the LCMS is not the Church. Please. Even if we didn't know that a year ago, we certainly were reminded in the whole Issues debacle. The only Church we have is my congregation and your congregation. In theory it is our confession that holds us together, but looking around America, it often is only our brand name.

    And like Ben, I don't think you can use jurisdiction to speak of the LCMS or Protestant denominations. We are not a jurisdiction of some greater unit, unless you have in mind the Church Universal. But I do not believe that is how the confessions would have it, nor Walther. We are either the True Church on Earth who teaches the pure Gospel (hard, because we are not a Church), or a Denomination. If you were speaking about Lutherans in general, we are not in fellowship with the majority, so we are not in separate jurisdictions but in schism. And you can't talk about Lutheranism in general, because there is no Lutheran Church in general. See? Goodness, I do sound like someone infamous now.

    One final word Bill: unless you are privy to information not public, I am uncomfortable with your dismissal of Ben from the LCMS. I don't think he wrote anything that by definition would exclude him from the LCMS. OK, he did say the LCMS was a spiritually destructive place...but when you look at LCMS, Inc., and that is the ONLY LCMS there is, is he wrong? For that matter, my congregation *can be* a spiritually destructive place. Any place and every place is a crucible in which we are being tested.

    Thanks for reading and commenting, both of you!

  7. Benjamin Harju said...

    We should be careful to differentiate between _a_ Lutheran Church and _the_ Lutheran Church, or the Evangelical Lutheran Church.

    Pastor Weedon, you have claimed that you live in a real Lutheran Church in a real world, calling the LCMS that real Lutheran Church. Thank you for clarifying that, because I wasn't sure you meant the LCMS or more than that. For the very reason you cite I will agree that the LCMS is a real church, even though such is specificly denied by its district presidents and synod president.

    In this LCMS they do more than battle for some sort of institutional restructuring. There is an inherent link between an individual's belief about Christ and being a Christian and the way that makes an appearance in behavior, attitude, comittment, prayer, etc. Usually the link between inner belief and outward expression can find like-mindedness to the limits of a congregation or even a few congregations. However, as time progresses and congregations live autonomously, a variety of beliefs arise concering what it means to be a Christian and what that looks like in the world. Since unity in the LCMS is assembled literally from the ground up - from the congregational level upward - the result is that all the different beliefs about what the Scriptures say, what the Confessions are about, what Christianity looks like and how it behaves in the world turns into a competition, with the major divisions vying to win. This is comparable to architects, each coming up with his own design, trying to get it picked up by the buyer.

    You said:
    The Lutheran Church as a jurisdiction within the Church militant is no platonic reality - the struggles within our jurisdiction are the same all Christians experience: ...

    Response:
    Now you seem to be talking about more than the LCMS. What is this The Lutheran Church that you speak of? I don't want to assume I know what you mean here.

    Pastor Weedon, I'm asking these questions not to be mean spirited, but because I truly am unsure about what you are talking about. I'm detecting a three-fold sphere in your language: A Lutheran Church, The Lutheran Church, and The Church Militant. I would like to suggest there is no such thing as The Lutheran Church, and that it only creates confusion to suggest otherwise. Sure, I know what the agendas say; I've used them and said to new members, 'Do you desire to become a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church and of this congregation.' But it's a fiction, an ideological construct rather than a church.

    As for the LCMS, it's not Lutheran. My time in the parish has taught me that much.

  8. William Weedon said...

    Ben,

    When you used the order of confirmation in the Lutheran Service Book, did you ever refer to the Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod or did you refer to an entity known as "The Evangelical Lutheran Church"? Missouri is *A* Lutheran Church, but so is the Evangelical Lutheran Archdiocese of North America and so is the Lutheran Church-Canada and so is the Lutheran Church in Southern Africa etc. With some of these, Missouri as a particular Lutheran Church has established communion fellowship; not with others, but she may still recognize them as Lutheran. Missouri is not in any established communion fellowship with the Australian Lutheran Church, but we do recognize them as part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church - the Church that confesses the Augsburg Confession. The Evangelical Lutheran Church is simply the sum total of those pastors and congregations whose Rule of faith is the Sacred Scriptures and whose confession of that Rule is the Augsburg Confession. It is no more of a platonic notion than the Christian Church herself, for it consists of very real people gathered around altars and pulpits, feeding on Christ's body and blood and united together in their hearing and proclamation of the saving Gospel.

    The notion that Missouri is not Lutheran is something you say you came to in your parish. Could you elaborate a bit more on that?

    Christopher,

    I didn't know how else to take Ben's words about the Goldilocks analogy than that he was "headed home". If that was presumptuous on my part, I do ask Ben's forgiveness.

  9. Paul McCain said...

    When I read comments like Ben's I really am left wondering just how it is that the seminary allows men to graduate who obviously harbor such doubts, confusions and reservations over against our Lutheran Confession, on the one hand, or, on the other, are such romantic idealists that they are extremely poor equipped for the rigors of parish ministry.

    It's a shame that such time and money is wasted on training men who after such a short time pull the rip chord and run off after other ecclesiastical fantasies, such as the so-called "Antiochian Orthodox" church, etc.

    Very sad to see, indeed.

    I don't blame Ben, so much. I think he was done a disservice by a seminary system that does not do enough careful questioning and screening to make sure men like him are not allowed to serve congregations.

  10. Benjamin Harju said...

    Pastor Weedon,

    Thank you for elaborating upon what you meant by "The Lutheran Church." I was taught that the Lutheran Church has nothing to do with the fact that there are many different Lutheran church bodies out there. I was taught that such a term referred to the confession of faith made in the Book of Concord. It is only recently, most specifically from yourself, that I have heard this new definition. So, according to what you are saying, church - as it is applied to The Lutheran Church - is more or less just a brand name, or category under which similar confessions are lumped.

    This is why I'm asking these weird questions: What you have been saying as of late sounds less and less like what I was taught from the Concordia system and more and more like an attempt to make Lutheranism into something legitimate-sounding when compared to the complaints voiced by those traveling to Rome or to the East. I think you are stretching matters. And I think you are trying too hard to prove that you believe Lutheranism is the way to go, versus Orthodoxy or anything else.

    My friend, there is no Lutheran Church, but only Lutheran (or quasi-Lutheran) Churches. There is the Lutheran Book of Concord, and the varying degrees of its interpretation and practical implication among different fellowships. If you continue to insist that all of this is a single Lutheran Church, then you are insisting that disunity, confusion, and lack of communion are as much marks of Christianity as are preaching and the Sacraments - since Lutheranism is supposed to be the most faithful confession of the Truth. Lutheranism will stand or fall based on its confession of Christ. I think you are doing more harm than good here.

    As for what convinces me that the LCMS is not Lutheran: it's like Pastor Hall says you should do to determine what Evangelicalism is. It's hard to describe, but if you spend time in its district gatherings or at convention, if you read its literature or browse the CPH catalog - if you just soak in it a bit - you figure it out. That doesn't mean there isn't good Lutheran elements, but these good elements are only contained within the LCMS. They do not define it or determine its nature anymore, if they ever truly did.


    Pastor McCain,

    St. Matthew 7:1-2.

  11. William Weedon said...

    Dear Ben,

    The language of "jurisdiction" I believe I picked up at seminary from reading Piepkorn - at least I think so. He was required reading in several courses.

    For you to say "there is no Lutheran Church, but only Lutheran Churches" is, if you will pardon me saying so, nonsensical. WHAT is this Evangelical Lutheran Church, then, to which our liturgy refers? You spoke of it to children you confirmed. You spoke of it officers you installed. What did you think you were referring to?

    Our unity is founded in our common confession; that is true. It is not founded in a particular polity. But that does not mean that the Lutheran Church is not a reality in this world. We are. We're here. And God willing will be here until our Blessed Lord's return.

    The Orthodox similarly are a series of jurisdictions - organically united through their confession of the faith, no? Nor are they always all in communion fellowship, though they strive to find each other that way. Well, so do we.

    "Disunity, confusion, and lack of communion" are not marks of the Church; but they often do attend her pilgrim's way through this world. You will find it so everywhere. I have always appreciated the good words from *The Living God: A Catechism* about the Church:

    It is the same with the Church: its true nature is defined by what
    God calls it to be. The pettiness and sins of the Christian people
    pass away in the course of history, but the Word of God remains and
    never ceases to be heard in the sermons and the church services. The
    Word of God is the permanent element in the life of the Church,
    defining its form and directing its development, despite the
    mediocrity of its members. God Himself expresses this idea through
    the mouth of the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 55:10-11 is cited). To know
    what the Church really is, we should not describe the way it appears
    in some particular parish, diocese, or country, or at some particular
    time in history; rather, we must study the way in which its Creator
    describes it. Through the constant action of the Holy Spirit, the
    Word of God continues to be creative in spite of the obstacles raised
    by man's sinfulness which delay the realization of God's plan.
    (The Living God: A Catechism: vol. 2, pp. 265, 266)

    I must confess that your answer about what convinces you that the LCMS is not Lutheran was not an answer at all. Are you painting the entirety of the Synod by your experience in Iowa? I suppose you could ask if I do the same from my experience in Southern Illinois, but I don't think I am.

  12. Christopher D. Hall said...

    I appreciate the on-going discussion! At this point, I'm letting you address each other.

    As a reminder to all, please make sure your comments are charitable and try to put the best construction on others' arguments and characters.

    Also a factual correction: many of us educated at Concordia Seminary paid the majority of our bills via sweat and loans. Some of us received grants from churches. Most of us left with 10's of thousands in student loans. Free tuition has not always been provided.

  13. Paul McCain said...

    Chris, I did not understand your remark about tuition. Can you explain what the point is you were trying to make?

  14. Benjamin Harju said...

    Pastor Weedon,

    You wrote:
    I have always appreciated the good words from *The Living God: A Catechism* about the Church: It is the same with the Church: its true nature is defined ...

    I am not discussing with you the Lutheran belief about the Church Militant or the Church Universal, but only the nature of Lutheranism itself and your claims about The Lutheran Church in conjunction with the LCMS.

    You have made it clear that you believe the LCMS is still a Lutheran Church body. Certainly you can believe that if you wish. I do not believe it actually holds to the Augustana and the rest of the Book of Concord. I say that because I find its official, repeated, ingrained practice to constantly ignore and reject the Lutheran Confessions. And, unlike Christendom before the days of Lutheranism, being Lutheran depends on adhering to the Lutheran confession.

    You have made it clear that you believe there is something called The Evangelical Lutheran Church. You have defined this Evangelical Lutheran Church as "simply the sum total of those pastors and congregations whose Rule of faith is the Sacred Scriptures and whose confession of that Rule is the Augsburg Confession." In the same paragraph, comment #8, you have tied the nature of The Evangelical Lutheran Church to fixed church bodies - Missouri, Australia, etc. If you had only said the first and not the second, I might have found it easier to match what you are saying with what I have been taught by the Concordia system, because the Concordia system consistently has taught that the term The Evangelical Lutheran Church means those who believe, teach, and confess the Scriptures through the Book of Concord. However, you have added those Church bodies who claim this confession on paper. The class I took with Dr. Marquart on Ecumenism alone is a sure example on how we do not accept merely what is confessed on paper, but also we must take stock of that confession as it lives and breathes and characterises the church body. For example, the ELCA confesses the Augustana, but (in the class I had) Dr. Marquart found it to not be Lutheran, and perhaps not to be Church.

    So, Pastor Weedon - without any animosity or mean spiritedness - I find no reason to accept your definition of The Evangelical Lutheran Church. The church orders in the LCMS refer to the confession of faith, not to some kind of worldwide conglomerate of church bodies claiming a confession on paper, but not necessarily sharing unity around the Lord's Supper.

    And my suggestion that there is no The Lutheran Church is a critique of the lack of a unified confession among Lutherans, despite claims to sola scriptura and the Book of Concord.

    The LCMS is not Lutheran because the church body does not maintain the confession beyond words on a page and a vague marginalization of Lutheran ideas. You yourself said that the LCMS needs to find the path back to its Lutheran heritage, which you listed as the Bible, the Confessions, and the influences that shaped it (presumably through its history). That implies something very necessary has been lost. At the same time you have asserted that this is truly a Lutheran Church. That's kind of confusing to me.

    There is no The Lutheran Church, either, because there is no single unified confession - i.e. all the different groups claiming the Augustana or Book of Concord produce such a variety of different theologies in practice that the lack of confessional unity is glaring.

    All of this could be overlooked, all of this could be written off under the notion that in the one holy, catholic, and apostolic Church this is how things are, if you can answer one question for me: does the Lord's Supper constitute the essence of unity in The Lutheran Church, or is unity around the Lord's Supper merely a result of something else.

  15. Christopher D. Hall said...

    I kept it vague out of charity. You wrote, "It's a shame that such time and money is wasted on training men...." The use of the passive here gives the implication that the LCMS or offerings of the people were wasted educating Ben, which in my opinion is an uncharitable thing to write, and possibly untrue. My point is that the "money wasted" for some of us came from our own pockets.

  16. William Weedon said...

    Ben,

    The Synod may well be on the way towards ceasing to be a Lutheran Church, but she's got a lot of things going for her as well as agin her right at the moment that might indeed help her to regain her truer self.

    I think that the General Council approach (which Missouri rejected) was in fact the way Lutherans need to approach these matters. Missouri insisted upon a purity of confession and practice which was probably hypocritical even then. Krauth and the GC folk insisted that we be more charitable and recognize as genuinely Lutheran any Synod or Council that was willing to be reformed and corrected by the Lutheran Symbols. Either Krauth or Loehe said something along the lines that the doctrine is complete, divine through and through, but the living out of the doctrine continues to challenge us, allowing it to shape our ecclesial life remains a Reformation to be completed.

    My experience of Missouri suggests exactly what Petersen wrote a couple years ago: The best of times; the worst of times. On the positive side, suggesting things may improve, the reception given to LSB, the reception given to Treasury of Daily Prayer, the Higher Things movement, the larger than ever number of parishes that offer the weekly Eucharist, the increased use among us of private confession. On the negative side, I don't guess you need me to give you a list! It's awful. Thus, the Missouri Synod has DEFAULTED to the General Council position. I think Rast even said it: "We ARE the General Council."

    My Synod does things I am ashamed of; my Synod does things I am proud of. I wonder if it really has ever been different?

  17. Benjamin Harju said...

    Pastor Weedon,

    I see why we have different definitions of The Lutheran Church. Thank you for sharing this.

  18. William Weedon said...

    You're welcome, Ben. Might I also suggest as thought provoking Pr. Cwirla's words that appear here on Scott's blog?

    http://stand-firm.blogspot.com/2009/03/guest-blogger-pastor-bill-cwirla.html

  19. Mason said...

    I'll try again. A rant and a vague apology have not made it through.

    Pr. McCain's comments reflect a naivete that betray little time in the parish. I don't say this to compare mine with his, but I do know that confessional voices are truly rare in my neck of the woods. And I know St. Louis isn't exactly flush with true Lutheranism. I appreciate Pr. McCain's work at CPH, supposing I should give him credit for the publishing of so many confessional texts such as TDP, of course.

    The reality of the LCMS, however, is that it is a loose conglomeration of diverse congregations, most of which neither know nor confess the Lutheran Confessions. Pr. Harju and those like him are not the problem. They are the ones who are best equipped for the rigors of parish ministry. The unfortunate situation is that most parishes do not confess a sacramental, liturgical, incarnational, etc. Lutheran confession. This is just the fact of the matter. Faithful pastors either bow up and take their lonely beating or look for a confession where Christ is consistently present in Word and Sacrament.

    Again, the problem is not Pr. Harju, Orthodoxy, or confessionals. The problem is the LCMS, its members, whoever they are, and those who worship in its parishes. They are generally ignorant of their confession. They are reluctant to repent. I am weary of the insecure rants against the Orthodox. If we spent more time studying Finney, Warren, Hybels, and our own theological confessions, then perhaps we would right the good ship. Perhaps.

    Now I love my paycheck, scotch bar in the office, and benefits too much to consider a move, but I am not wed to Missouri by ordination. After all, it is not a sacrament.
    +Mason

  20. William Weedon said...

    Mason's and Ben's comments have me reflecting on how much of our view of the situation of Synod is shaped by our experiences in our own parishes and with brothers around us.

    St. Paul's has ever and only wanted to be a Lutheran parish. They take the Confessions seriously and I can't even tell you how many boxes of the new Concordia we sold when it came out. Our people gobbled them up!

    I go to pastoral conference and we worship straight out of the Lutheran Service Book. The Eucharist is offered. Matins and Vespers prayed (together with Responsive Prayer for noonday and for itinerarium). Private absolution is offered at repeated times throughout the gathering. Last conference we devoted ourselves to the topic of preaching and we heard two very good presentations - one from a prof from either sem with appointed reactors from our own pastors and then with open discussion. We had great fun and rip roaring discussion with some beer at the end of the day. This is my experience of my pastoral conference. I look forward to them. Now granted, they weren't always so. But that is how they've been for the past several years. Great stuff! Does it affect my outlook on Synod? I think doubtlessly it does.

  21. William Weedon said...

    P.S. I should add that our District is painfully aware that we are not quite in step with many in Synod. At our last convention we again declined to be part of Fan into Flame - much to the disappointment of the Synodical President (we're the only District, I believe, that is no). Our District has repeatedly sent into Synod's convention overtures that are buried in floor committees and never allowed to see the light of day and our pastors weary of it and ask our District President if he understands how we weary of being ignored. Dr. Kieschnick reminded us that the district is SYNOD in this place; we reminded him that WE are Synod in this place.

    Before our Convention, the District President, acknowledging that what afflicted us was not so much political as spiritual and that the remedy was repentance, invited all pastors and laity to a day of repentance and prayer held at one of our Churches. It began with praying the Treasury; it moved to discussion of the task of outreach in a Lutheran fashion; it included extended time for prayer, for private confession, and for fellowship. In short, it was a genuinely churchly response.

  22. Anastasia Theodoridis said...
    This comment has been removed by the author.
  23. William Weedon said...

    Huh? Anastasia, did you post this in the wrong conversation???

  24. Anastasia Theodoridis said...

    Hi, William. Yes, I did post it in the wrong conversation. It belongs over in your blog, where I shall put it in a few moments.

    Thanks for pointing out my error.