Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi — The Data Speaks For & To the LCMS

The phrase lex orandi, lex credendi is a compact way of saying that what you practice becomes what you teach. “Orthodoxy is… the right doctrine and the right praise of God (1)”. Or, in the words of the sainted Klemet Preus, “Our practice teaches theology (2)”.

Pr. Larry Beane was presenting on this topic at the recently concluded Brothers of John the Steadfast Conference held at Zion Lutheran Church in Tomball, TX. His excellent talk sparked an idea to attempt to ‘empiricize’ lex orandi, lex credendi using the LCMS as a case study.

There’s no claim to scientific infallibility with these findings, but they are, sadly, indicative. Here’s how we built the study:

  • 60 pastors were selected and equally divided into two sets – ‘Liberal’ and ‘Confessional’:
    • Liberal — 30 pastors associated with the FiveTwo network.
    • Confessional — 30 pastors associated with Brothers of John the Steadfast, the Association of Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Churches (ACELC) and Lutheran Concerns Association (LCA).
  • Each pastor had to be rostered with the LCMS and fulfilling a pastoral call to one of the Synod’s member churches.
  • Each pastor had to have received an M.Div (SMP in one instance) from a recognized Lutheran seminary.
  • Cherry picking was avoided by taking names in alphabetical order from available listings until 30 were found in each set that met the above criteria.
  • Data for each pastor and his congregation was harvested from the LCMS worker and church database. Numerical data for the churches was current for year-end 2014.

 

RESULTS AND OBSERVATIONS

For the first observation, I examined the association of each pastoral set with the seminary that issued their M.Divs. Whilst the Confessional set exhibits more diversity in seminary training and age, it is evident that there is increasing polarization between the two main seminaries. St. Louis has, especially over the last 13 years, become a generator of Liberal pastors, whist Fort Wayne is the Confessional redoubt.

Seminary Association

 

For the second observation, I tested the association of each pastoral set with liturgical and contemporary worship (CoWo) services:

CoWo

 

For the third observation, I sought to test whether doctrine was affected by practice. The supposition was that we should find evidence of heterodox doctrine as the natural companion to CoWo. Yes, that is a somewhat redundant since the adoption of CoWo is by nature heterodox, and so is affiliation or collaboration with the FiveTwo shadow synod. However, we set those two issues aside and created a more explicit test based on the content of each church’s Web site and sermons. Items that triggered a heterodox rating included any of the following:

  • Explicit false teaching.
  • Open communion and / or infant communion.
  • Lay preaching.
  • Bible studies using heterodox and / or heretical sources such as Rick Warren, Beth Moore, Francis Chan, Hugh Halter et al. (Those specific authors are actual examples from the research).
  • Small groups or “life groups” with lay led Bible studies.
  • Purpose driven  ideology / strong works righteousness flavor with an emphasis on life application and exhortational preaching.
  • Rebaptism.
  • Children excluded from “adult” services.

heterdox

 

We can, therefore, conclude that there is a strong correlation between CoWo and heterodoxy. Practice has, indeed, informed doctrine.

IRRECONCILABLE DIFFERENCES

Given the wide gulf between the two sets, we sought to better define the character of each by examining congregational data reported to the Synod.

The results are disturbing, suggesting that the Synod now exists largely as a historical legacy rather than a church body united in doctrine, practice, and mission. The LCMS has devolved into a confederation of shared assets with some common interests.

The demographic and resource differences are fertile ground for increasing politicization of Synod affairs, and provide the contours of many conflicts and disputes within the LCMS.

Don’t get too knotted up by what this data portends. “A critical look at our ecclesial environment must not lead us into despair or into self-righteousness, if we remember the words spoken to Peter after his confession: The gates of Hell shall not prevail”(3).

BubbleChart

LexOrendiLexCredendiDataSpeaks

LastTable

Note to penultimate table: there is a large difference between Liberal and Confessional congregations when measuring the ratio of average weekly worshippers to baptized members. This is mostly a function of the location and legacy of the Confessional congregations, most of which are in very small towns with older members. Rural congregations are also prone to losing their young members to city life, but those members often remain on the rolls rather than transfer their membership. Overall, the difference is mostly eliminated when it is compared location-to-location.

Klemet Preus provides a fitting conclusion:

When the service is viewed primarily as our praise and adoration of God, then the purpose of the sermon is to move the hearers to praise God. That means that the preacher must be persuasive and inspirational. He knows he has preached well if the singing is robust, the praying fervent, the praise boisterous, and the mood happy. Have you ever gone to church and gotten excited about something but weren’t exactly certain what you had learned about Jesus? That preacher may have a wrong idea of the direction of the communication in the Divine Service.

If the service is primarily God speaking to us, then the purpose of the sermon is to teach the doctrine of salvation. That means that the preacher must be a student of the Bible himself and communicate the truths of God faithfully and clearly. He knows he has preached well if the people learn about Jesus. Have you ever gone to church and left without feeling particularly excited, but later you realized you learned something? That preacher may have the right idea of the direction of the communication in the Divine Service (4).

(1) Ziegler, Roland F. (April 2002), Concordia Theological Quarterly, “The New English Translation of The Book of Concord (Augsburg/Fortress2000):Locking the Barn Door After. …” page 164-165.
(2) Preus, Klemet I. (2005-01-01). The Fire and the Staff (Kindle Locations 2259). Concordia Publishing House. Kindle Edition.
(3) Ziegler, op. cit page 165.
(4) Preus, op. cit. Kindle Locations 2753-2760


Comments

Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi — The Data Speaks For & To the LCMS — 126 Comments

  1. @helen #61

    I’ve never been at convention to observe. How do you know that [some (many?] “confessional” men participate in communion [“with false teachers”]?

    The first thing that come to mind is: Has President Harrison ever communed with David Benke?

  2. @helen #61

    I’ve never been at convention to observe. How do you know that [some (many?] “confessional” men participate in communion [“with false teachers”]?

    It appears Pastor Prentice has. (#65)

  3. @T-rav #92

    I’m not talking about non-denom worship at all. I’m referring to the different settings available in LSB.

    Yes, well, I think we let some of the “creative” types serve on hymnal committees, starting with LBW and then there was too much of a rush to get LW out before our congregations bought LBW (some of them did, in the East) and the damage wasn’t cleaned up.

    And that’s how the “centimeter” wrenches got into the “inch” toolbox.

  4. @Glenda Jones #101

    The first thing that come to mind is: Has President Harrison ever communed with David Benke?

    The obvious answer is, “I don’t know (but it’s likely).”

    [My second thought is another question that I won’t ask.]

  5. @helen #99

    @Matt Mills #83

    Thus my questions as per @Rev. Kurt Hering #81.

    What kind of comfort, what kind of incarnational fellowship is conveyed by video screens and other so-called adiaphora that supposedly make the worship service more meaningful, special, user friendly, or accessible?

    I guess some of us are blessed to have good congregations that appreciate the different settings, and some of us are blessed to have congregations who are satisfied with the same setting of the Divine Service as that of our fathers and their fathers and appreciate that they can connect their children and their children’s children by passing it along to them along with the comfort that familiarity breeds and imprints upon us.

    As Luther said of catechesis, “choose whatever form you please, and adhere to it forever.”

    Let us not forget, as per AC XXIV.3 Of the Mass, “ceremonies are needed to this end alone that the unlearned be taught [what they need to know of Christ].” In other words, the Divine Service is our primary source for the ongoing catechesis of the entire congregation inclusive of all ages throughout the ages, even more, of delivering the faith once delivered to us. Therefore, what is true of catechesis is also true for the public worship of the congregation.

    “our blessed fathers understood this well; for they all used the same form of the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed, and the Ten Commandments. Therefore we, too, should [imitate their diligence and be at pains to] teach the young and simple people these parts in such a way as not to change a syllable, or set them forth and repeat them one year differently than in another [no matter how often we teach the Catechism].” [Luther’s Preface to the Small Catechism]

    So much for more options being better or even advisable.

    That said, do as you will. We make no law about it. But we do thereby teach our people differently, don’t we?

  6. @Glenda Jones #102
    Dear Glenda,
    Yes, I have been to conventions, and in other places that are outside the Altar of Faith, and the congregation I serve…and I have communed next to fellow brothers, some are just as sinful and bull-headed as I, yet we are all in need of His Body and Blood. We have confessed and been absolved in Corporate COnfession, and have examined ourselves….we then go.

    I do not think the Altar Rail is the place to make a public display, period. I myself will call out any pastor that does this, and I have…I think it wrong.

    At that moment, I bowed my head and went to accept Christ’s Gift of Himself.

    In the end though, perhaps conventions, places outside the Church, where a called pastor presides, should not have a Communion Service.

    Yet, we pastors do want to receive it from the hands of a fellow brother, as opposed to giving it to ourselves every Sunday.

    My thoughts.

  7. @Pastor Prentice #106
    I do not think the Altar Rail is the place to make a public display, period. I myself will call out any pastor that does this, and I have…I think it wrong.

    I haven’t seen mention of a “public display”.
    Men who have said they did not commune at conventions sat quietly in the back or were absent. It is nobody’s business to police the event and see who goes forward…or comment on whether an individual does/does not! Communion cannot be made a requirement.

  8. @Rev. Kurt Hering #105

    As Luther said of catechesis, “choose whatever form you please, and adhere to it forever.”

    Preceded by, however:
    And let those of you who cannot do better [If any of you are so unskilled that you have absolutely no knowledge of these matters, let them not be ashamed to]

  9. @Gregjgrose #109

    [If any of you are so unskilled that you have absolutely no knowledge of these matters, let them not be ashamed to]

    The ironic thing is that the skilled are not the ones who feel compelled to “improve” on the texts!

  10. @Gregjgrose #109

    Luther does not set this against the latter, for he says, “In the first place let the preacher above all be careful to avoid many versions. . .” He does not say, “. . . let the unskilled preacher . . .” This so as not to confuse the students or lay unnecessary stumbling blocks before them, not because it would be sinful or any such thing.

    Furthermore, he references those who once passed down the faith to us, saying: “. . . our blessed fathers understood this well; for they all used the same form of the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed, and the Ten Commandments. Therefore we, too, should [imitate their diligence and be at pains to] teach the young and simple people these parts in such a way as not to change a syllable, or set them forth and repeat them one year differently than in another [no matter how often we teach the Catechism].”

    Finally, for here and now anyway, in his Large Catechism Introduction, Luther writes:
    “But for myself I say this: I am also a doctor and preacher, yea, as learned and experienced as all those may be who have such presumption and security; yet I do as a child who is being taught the Catechism, and ever morning, and whenever I have time, I read and say, word for word, the Ten Commandments, the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, the Psalms, etc. And I must still read and study daily, and yet I cannot master it as I wish, 8] but must remain a child and pupil of the Catechism, and am glad so to remain. And yet these delicate, fastidious fellows would with one reading promptly be doctors above all doctors, know everything and be in need of nothing. Well, this, too, is indeed a sure sign that they despise both their office and the souls of the people, yea, even God and His Word. They do not have to fall, they are already fallen all too horribly; they would need to become children, and begin to learn their alphabet, which they imagine that they have long since outgrown.”

    So you imagine you can do better–“caveat emptor.”

  11. @Gregjgrose #109

    If by “preceded” you mean “in the middle of an entirely different paragraph, three before the one that begins ‘Hence, choose whatever form you please, and adhere to it forever.'” then you’re right, but that’s not generally what honest people mean when they use the word “preceded.”

    I’m embarrassed for you,
    -Matt Mills

    Here’s the link: http://www.bookofconcord.org/smallcatechism.php

  12. Dear Glenda,
    Complicated perhaps…but here goes.
    01) I am Pastor at Faith, ordained and called by Faith congregation.
    02) I preside as pastor over the Holy Meal, and those that come to the Altar Rail (or when I visit). I can let them come, I can deny them…my right as pastor.
    03) At the same time, with “closed communion”, we celebrate as a Church around the Holy Meal, my people at Faith. Yes, I can let some in as I am pastor, I do have that pastoral discretion to communion others, like fellow LCMS from other Churches, etc. But I must be careful.

    That said, perhaps conventions and other non Church Service events where the parish pastor does not provide should stick to everything else, but refrain from Holy Communion. Mainly because there is truly no pastor to “be in charge”.

  13. @Pastor Prentice #114

    > 02) I preside as pastor over the Holy Meal, and those that come to the Altar Rail (or when I visit). I can let them come, I can deny them…my right as pastor. <

    Dear Brother, former classmate and roommate,

    The exercise of your office is not *your* right. It is the solemn obligation to which you have been called and to which you have pledged your faithfulness.

    You can let them come and deny them only as per the teaching and command of Christ to forgive and retain. It saddens me to "hear" you speak as if you have been given some special dispensation to render your own judgment.

    I hope that is not what you meant. But it certainly is what your words imply. Stewards (of the mysteries) have no rights as to the exercise of their duties. They work under orders–which is why we call it the *office* of the holy ministry, not the status of the holy minister.

    We are not little, local popes.

  14. @Pastor Prentice #114

    I am Pastor at Faith, ordained and called by Faith congregation.

    Now that wasn’t complicated at all.
    And if you had said earlier, “outside the altar of the congregation which I serve”, nobody would have been confused.

  15. @Rev. Kurt Hering #115
    Dear Brother,
    I disagree, I am the ordained and called pastor and my God given duty is to tend the sheep under my care, sad you do not see that in my words. I think you should lean on the “I read it over, and I understand”. Yes, I only do what I do because God has let me, through His Church. yet, as I do my duty, we ARE called to a higher expectation of being a pastor, we must speak with the Lord when we error…especially if we error in administering the Lord’s Supper.

    And, as pastor, I can retain sins, forgive, etc. So, rethink what you say brother, I think we do agree.

  16. @Pastor Prentice #117

    The words, “I can let them come, I can deny them…my right as pastor.” are loaded words that can and will be interpreted in different ways. And no, you can’t simply let them come or deny them based upon you being the pastor.

    As we learned together and spent many an evening discussing over Lutheran beverage, the Reformation was all about fighting the papistic “rights” of the bishops and priests over against the “priesthood of all believers.” It is the “rite vocatus” by which men are called into the office of the public ministry and given the authority of Christ according to His express Word, not the “right vocatus” by which men have some inalienable right to absolve and commune according to their good pleasure and discretion.

    As I said, “I hope that is not what you meant”–hope being based upon facts known rather than some mere wish for the best. And I rejoice that it wasn’t.

    The problem is, it *is* what you said and we, as servants of the Word and stewards of the mysteries have the “duty” as you say of the office, not the right, and that duty includes, indeed is all about right speaking. That is why we so rigorously studied and trained and argued things out with each other all those years and continue doing so to this day.

    So please, dear Brother, be more careful in your choice of words as that is what people read. They do not know you as well as I. In our day and age, and especially in our politically charged atmosphere wherein so many are militantly insisting on exercising their rights, we must speak of God’s commands and blessings, not our rights.

    You retain and forgive sins not by your “right,” but by the command and authority of your Lord. You absolve those who come to you in repentance, and you give the body and blood of our Lord only to those you know have been examined and absolved–not by right according to your personal judgment but according to the commands of our Lord as we have learned them in preparation for the office.

    We are brothers called to correct each other in love. That is the means by which our Lord speaks with us when we are in error–whether intentionally or not. In response to what I wrote, you have explained yourself and what you do to people who are not blessed and privileged to know you as I do.

    I am glad that now the readers here–among whom there are many, many laymen both learning from and judging the shepherds who post–now know what I know about you.

    The Lord be with your spirit.

  17. Dear Brother,
    And see, I get it, understood. And shudder the thought my comments verged on the Romanist or the Papist, must be careful. “And also with you.”

  18. Psalm 133
    1 Behold, how good and pleasant it is
    when brothers dwell in unity!
    2 It is like the precious oil on the head,
    running down on the beard,
    on the beard of Aaron,
    running down on the collar of his robes!
    3 It is like the dew of Hermon,
    which falls on the mountains of Zion!
    For there the Lord has commanded the blessing,
    life forevermore.

    God that it might be so across and throughout our Synod.

  19. @Rev. Kurt Hering #119
    Dear Pastor,
    “rite vocatus” is a Latin term literally meaning: “called with, or by means of, the correct religious ceremony.” The adverb “rite” always takes the literal meaning when used in a religious context (Oxford Latin Dictionary), so none of the figurative meanings can be used in an honest translation, so that’s all (and precisely) what “rite vocatus” means: basically “ordained.” That’s how the Confutation interpreted it, and the Apology confirmed that interpretation.
    Lenten Blessings+,
    -Matt Mills

  20. * Explicit false teaching.
    * Open communion and / or infant communion.
    * Lay preaching.
    * Bible studies using heterodox and / or heretical sources such as Rick Warren, Beth Moore, Francis Chan, Hugh Halter et al. (Those specific authors are actual examples from the research).
    * Small groups or “life groups” with lay led Bible studies.
    * Purpose driven ideology / strong works righteousness flavor with an emphasis on life application and exhortational preaching.
    * Rebaptism.
    * Children excluded from “adult” services.

    triggered a heterodox rating

    Would like to see a map of Orthodox / Confessional Lutheran churches that don’t practice any of these triggers.

  21. @Mac McCabe #123

    http://lutheranliturgy.org/

    This website was developed to assist Evangelical-Lutherans in locating congregations which use the historic liturgy of the Church in all of their services and practice Closed Communion. Whether traveling on vacation or business or moving to a new home, this directory will help them find Evangelical-Lutheran congregations which have not adopted worship customs from the surrounding culture, such as “contemporary worship,” “praise bands,” or “entertainment worship.”
    •Visit the Criteria for Listing page for more information.
    •Click here to Add your Church to our listing.

  22. @Rev. Kurt Hering #124

    Thank you. I am familiar with the site — and know that Norm et al., serve well in their vocations to deliver this and other valuable resources.

    However, I have visited a dozen or so churches listed there that would ‘fail’ the Orthodoxy litmus test noted above.

    In my best Yoda voice, “Better, it would be, if walking together the church was.”

  23. @Mac McCabe #125

    Sorry to hear that, Mr. McCabe. I suggest you drop Norm a line as to the specific failures. You can contact him from the web page.

    I do know these things are fluid as time moves on, particularly in light of your statement which certainly true it is. However, then we would be a synod.

    Oh, wait.

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