A few months ago THE HOUSTON CHRONICLE featured an article about the Greek Orthodox Church. Metropolitan Isaiah, the spiritual head of the 14-state Metropolis of Denver, which includes Texas, boldly stated, “One feature of Orthodox Christianity that newcomers find attractive is its emphasis on unchanging truth and doctrine.” The headline of the article proclaims, “Church Offers Doctrinal Stability.”
While the LCMS does not agree with the Greek Orthodox Church in all doctrines and practices, the Orthodox Church must be commended because for the most part it is a church of doctrinal stability. Can the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod claim that it offers doctrinal stability?
When you are present at a Roman Catholic Holy Communion (Mass) service, you will notice a liturgy or order of service that is followed the same way in the greatest majority of Roman Catholic congregations. Can we say that of our synod?
In the days of our grandfathers one could worship at any Missouri Synod Lutheran church and easily participate in an order of service that was followed throughout the synod. This is no longer true since the escalating use of contemporary worship services as well as different hymnals and songbooks that are not doctrinally pure. One of the conditions for acquiring and holding membership in the Synod is “Exclusive use of doctrinally pure agenda, hymnbooks, and catechisms in church and school” (Article VI 4 Constitution of the LCMS).
Does our church body offer doctrinal stability? Is our church body stable in her doctrine? My dictionary defines “stable” as “fixed, steadfast, not changing or fluctuating.” Not steadfastly adhering to the full truth of God’s inerrant Word has also led to an ever increasing number of practices which are not in accord with the Holy Scriptures.
Luther’s Small Catechism affirms that “God’s name is hallowed when the Word of God is taught in its truth and purity and is profaned when anyone teaches otherwise than God’s Word teaches” (Questions 219 & 220, 1943 edition). Are we being true to God’s Word in all its truth and purity when the following are being preached, taught, sanctioned, or defended in our synod? Allow me to mention four of the problems we confront. There are many more problems.
- participating in syncretism at the Yankee Stadium Prayer Service on September 23, 2001. This is not only contrary to the 2nd Condition of Membership in Synod, “Renunciation of unionism and syncretism of every description” (2007 Handbook, Article VI 2), but it is not pleasing in God’s eyes! Dr. Wallace Schulz gets to the crux of the matter when he asks, “exactly what part of the First Commandment is it that you don’t understand?” (Pacific Southwest District Theological Conference, Las Vegas, Nevada, February 16-19, 2004).
- permitting “open” Communion. It is no secret that an ever increasing number of our congregations practice “open” Communion” (“y’all” come!). Is there stability in our practice of Holy Communion? Luther’s Small Catechism states that the Lord’s Supper must be denied “to those of a different faith, since the Lord’s Supper is a testimony of the unity of faith” (Question 326, 1943 edition). See Romans 16, 17.
- the teaching of evolution is permitted in our Concordia University system.
- God’s order of creation is not being followed in regard to the service of men and women in the congregation (women elders and presidents).
What does this mean? Our church clearly does not offer doctrinal stability. It has dramatically changed in its doctrine and practices to such a degree that many of us do not recognize our present church as our grandfather’s church.
Our prayer is to plead with the Lord of the Church to steer the ship, Missouri,” back to her original theological moorings. May that same Lord use us, both pastors and laity, to continually “contend for the faith once delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). For all doctrine and practice God’s Word and God’s Word alone is the absolute truth, all of it, for all times and seasons.
God’s Word is our great heritage
And shall be ours forever;
To spread its light from age to age
Shall be our chief endeavor.
Through life it guides our way,
In death it is our stay.
Lord, grant, while worlds endure,
We keep its teachings pure
Throughout all generations. (LSB 582)
Rev. Andrew Simcak, Jr.
President, Texas Confessional Lutherans