Worship and Pastoral Care In the Theology of Pr. Wilhelm Loehe

images (2)The object of pastoral care is the creation of new creatures in Christ. This happens ordinarily, and most effectively, through sermon, liturgy, and catechesis. Pastoral care flows into and out of, not the lives of individuals in individual crises, but into and out of the life of the whole congregation as it gathers in worship.

First, the care of souls properly belongs to the church. Pastoral theology can be designated as a tri-polar field, as Ken Korby referred to it. The basic pole is the Word of God; the other two poles are the congregation and the pastor.

The second aspect, that a distinction must be made between the “ordinary” and “extraordinary” forms of pastoral care. The ordinary means for the care of souls are sermon, liturgy, and catechesis. The extraordinary means would be those pastoral activities that attend to specific needs and crises in the life of believers.

The third aspect of pastoral care is the outflow from the chief service of the congregation into family, school, and catechesis. The sacramental fellowship and rebirth of Holy Baptism is to permeate all three of these areas.

A fourth aspect of pastoral care, flowing from the worship life of the congregation, is primacy of private confession and absolution in pastoral care. All other ways of private pastoral care prove themselves to be unsatisfactory and often impracticable surrogates of personal confession. House visits and citations, etc., all alike lack the advantages of personal confession.

The fifth aspect of pastoral care, tied to the restoration of confession and absolution in the church, is the necessity of churchly discipline. A godly pastor knows how to unite rigor and kindness in this case, and a godless one will be unmasked. The absolution will be precious if there is an excommunication also; comfort will be prized if it is not given in all cases. On the other hand, the whole institution of confession will deserve to be laughed to scorn if it is known beforehand that everyone will be comforted, everyone will be absolved.

The sixth aspect of pastoral care is that the truly liturgical congregation is a praying congregation. It is not the form of the liturgy that defines the liturgical congregation. The liturgical congregation is the church with the desire to offer petition, to give praise and thanksgiving on behalf of all humanity. That, not the majesty, simplicity, antiquity, or contemporaneity of its forms make it a liturgical congregation.

Loehe’s view of pastoral care leads to a certain sophisticated simplicity. That is, as [Ken] Korby writes, “It is no insult to the pastor if he is not the master of every new method proposed for pastoral care… Loehe set himself against the frantic search for new means, new mechanisms for pastoral care. The methodistic devices of Philip Jacob Spener, the great furor of the camp meeting, and the construction of the mourner’s bench were such devices that Loehe noted…To care for people is to want them to hear the Word of God salvifically. Loehe’s definition of pastoral care laid out particularly the activity of learning to know the hindrances to that Word in the heart of man and to overcome them in leading men on the way of the divine call.”

This post offers an outline in brief of Pastor Clarence Harms’, “Worship and Pastoral Care In the Theology of Pr. Wilhelm Loehe.”

To read Pastor Harms full paper: http://www.ecsw.org/education/Worship%20and%20Pastoral%20Care%20harms.pdf


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