It’s About A Lot More Than Hymnals ““ Comparing The Alley’s Manifesto with Walther’s Six Duties of the Church, by Pr. Rossow

In posts earlier this week Klemet Preus detailed how the confessionals got their lunch handed to them in defeat at the Minnesota South district convention. One of the key issues was a resolution calling for the district to not fund the mission start known as The Alley. One of the significant issues is the fact that The Alley has refused to use the LCMS hymnal. The issue goes far beyond that. We found on-line Pastor Ben Griffin’s manifesto for the congregation and thought it would be revealing to compare it to Walther’s six duties of the church. The differences are striking.

THE ALLEY’S MANIFESTO (for the full text click here)

  1. We are a people, a church, committed to living missional lives that give glory to God.
  2. We will be a church of “people”, not a “place.”
  3. We will disciple in smaller groups
  4. We will live and lead ministry as a team.
  5. We will be an active and contributing member of our community.
  6. Our Primary witness will not be our Worship Service, but the Worship of our Lives
  7. We will define success in terms of the effectiveness of the mission
  8. We will release, equip and encourage people to be missionaries in every area of life

WALTHER’S SIX DUTIES OF THE LOCAL CONGREGATION (for the full text click here)

  1. It is the duty of the congregation carefully to see to it that the Word of God may richly dwell and have full and free scope in its midst. Col. 3:16:
  2. It is the duty of the congregation to care for the purity of doctrine and life in its midst and to exercise church discipline in these matters. Matt. 18:15-18: Rom. 16:17: 1 Cor. 5:1-13: 1 Cor.6:1-8; 2 Cor.2:6-11. Gal. 6:1: 1 Thess. 5:14; 2 Thess. 3:6,14,15. 2 John 10,11:
  3. It is the duty of the congregation to concern itself also with the temporal welfare of all its members that they may not suffer want of the necessaries of life nor be forsaken in any need. Gal.6:10: Deut. 15:4. Rom. 12:13; Gal. 2:9,10; Jas. 1 :27; 1 Thess. 4:11,12.
  4. It is the duty of the congregation to see that in its midst “all things be done decently and in order,” 1 Cor. 14:33, 40, and to “provide for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord but also in the sight of men,” 2 Cor. 8:21. Col. 2:5.
  5. It is the duty of the congregation to be diligent “to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” also with all parts of the orthodox Church, Eph. 4:3; 1 Thess. 4:9,10; Rom. 15:26, 27; 2 Cor. 8:19.
  6. It is also incumbent upon the congregation to do its part in building up and promoting the welfare of the Church at large. Amos 6:6; Acts 11:21-23; 15:18.

This topic is going to need several posts to flesh it out so we will limit ourselves to some general comparisons and then explore some of them in more detail in future posts. Here are some key differences in the two approaches to doing church.

  • Scriptural List of Objective Principles vs. A Postmodern Missional Manifesto – Walther’s six duties are characterized by a simple, objective reading of Scripture that looks for Biblical principles upon which to base the local congregation. The Alley’s Manifesto is characterized by the latest emergent church principles of missional living (not a Biblical term) with an anti-institutional bent (“people not a place”).
  • Doctrine and Practice vs. Practice Alone – Walther’s scriptural duties are based on sound doctrine that leads to good practice. He rightly places dwelling in the word and purity of doctrine at the head of the list. The Alley’s Manifesto does not even mention Scripture or sound doctrine but in typical post-modern, emergent fashion makes man’s action the key
  • Success is Based on Faithfulness to God’s Word vs. Success Gauged by how Closely the Mission is Followed.
  • Comprehensively Biblical vs. Narrowly Focused on a Recent Cultural Move Toward Praxis – Walther touches on many major aspects of the church including scripture, doctrinal purity, care for members, good order, the church at large and expanding the kingdom. The Alley has a less comprehensive focus which is dominated by the missional work of the people.
  • Focus on Temporal Care for Church Members vs. Focus on Temporal Care for the World – In the explanation of Duty 3 Walther follows Scripture by rightly focusing the temporal concern of the church on taking care of church workers and the widows and orphans in the congregation. The Scriptures include care for the world but it is a much less prominent theme there than what we find in the emergent church and the Alley Manifesto.
  • Rejection of Small Groups vs. Congregation Based on Small Groups – When you dig deeper into Walther’s booklet you see that he forbids small groups in the church. The Alley to the contrary, places small groups at the heart and soul of its congregation. (This is recent resurgent phenomenon in the church after it died out in the age of pietism.)

We will unpack these differences in future posts. For now let me say this. In the commentary string on Klemet’s first post this week we are setting new records each hour for the number of comments. It really touched a chord. There have been a few folks defending The Alley against the concern we have raised that it has numerous emergent church traits. This Manifesto is clearly an expression of most of the emergent church themes (missional, practice instead of doctrine, emphasis on community projects, etc.). Once again we find that the LCMS is moving away from our grandfather’s simple, Biblical approach to the church and is embracing unhealthy, trendy and dangerous new foundations for the church. We hold the synodical supervisors of doctrine accountable for rebuking this dangerous new approach to doing church. It’s time for leadership in our circuits, districts and synod that will address these harmful trends.

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