Outgoing Minnesota South Board of Directors Helps the Brothers of John the Steadfast Accomplish their Goal of Supporting the Historic Liturgy, by Pr. Rossow

The outgoing board of directors of the Minnesota South District (many of them have been unseated) did BJS the favor of helping us accomplish one of our goals. Included in the  goals of the Brothers of John the Steadfast is to help our members better understand and appreciate the historic liturgy. Klemet Preus wrote yesterday on the site that even though he regrets that the Minnesota South Board of Director’s motion at their recent district convention to require that mission starts use the Lutheran Service Book polarized the middle, he was pleased that the resolution catechized the district on the appropriateness of Lutherans worshipping like Lutherans.

Rev. Eckert then suggested on the comment string on that post that this motion might be good for all of us to see and Klemet obliged by posting the motion in the comment section on yesterday’s post. The motion is a wonderful apology (i. e. “defense,” to use the word in its classic sense as suggested by  Rev. Brondos also from the same comment string) for the Brothers of John the Steadfast  and for all of our readers to review in order to increase our understanding of the importance of using the historic liturgy. Here is the entire motion as posted by Klemet on that same comment string.

To Fund Congregations which Use the LSB

Whereas the confessions of the church identify the Lutheran practice as retaining and defending the liturgical customs of the church, “At the outset it is again necessary by way of preface to point out that we do not abolish the Mass but religiously retain and defend it….We also keep traditional liturgical forms, such as the order of readings, prayers, vestments, and other similar things.”

And whereas the confessions of the church recognize the teaching value of liturgical customs, “People are drawn to Communion and to the Mass. At the same time they are also instructed about other false teaching concerning the sacrament. Moreover, no noticeable changes have been made in the public celebration of the Mass…For, after all, all ceremonies should serve the purpose of teaching the people what they need to know about Christ.”

And whereas Martin Luther favored a uniform liturgy as a reflection of the one gospel we have received, “As far as possible we should observe the same rites and ceremonies, just as all Christians have the same baptism and the same Sacrament and no one has received a special one of his own from God.”

And whereas Luther tempered the liberty of the congregation with the insistence that it be sacrificed for the sake of uniformity, “Each one surrender his own opinions and get together in a friendly way and come to a common decision about these external matters, so that there will be one uniform practice throughout your district instead of disorder – one thing being done here and another there.”

And whereas the founders of the LCMS did the same, “While the framers of the [first LCMS] constitution remained faithful to Article VII of the Unaltered Augsburg Confession in that their demand for uniformity was not absolute, they did insist rather vigorously that the member congregations leave no stone unturned in their efforts to introduce uniform ceremonies. The constitution even goes so far as to claim that uniformity in liturgy, especially if this liturgy is increased and developed according to Lutheran standards, will be helpful in purifying the American Lutheran Church of its Reformed excrescences.”

And whereas C.F.W. Walther also recognized that Christian Liberty is misunderstood when it is invoked as aversion to traditional liturgical ceremonies or when it is invoked to promote anything less than uniformity in liturgical practices, “Unfortunately also many of our Lutheran Christians are still without a true understanding of their liberty. This is demonstrated by their aversion to ceremonies. It is truly distressing that many of our fellow Christians find the differences between Lutheranism and papism in outward things. It is a pity and dreadful cowardice when one sacrifices the good ancient church customs to please the deluded American sects, lest they accuse one of being papistic! Indeed! Am I to be afraid of a Methodist, who perverts the word, or be ashamed in the matter of my good cause, and not rather rejoice that the sects can tell by our ceremonies that I do not belong to them?

“It is too bad also that such entirely different ceremonies prevail in our Synod, and that no liturgy at all has yet been introduced in many congregations….

“With this we are not insisting that there be uniformity of perception or feeling or of taste among all believing Christians – neither dare anyone demand that all should be minded in this as he is. Nevertheless it remains true that the Lutheran liturgy distinguishes Lutheran Worship from the worship of other churches to such an extent that the houses of worship of the latter look like mere lecture halls in which the hearers are only addressed and instructed, while our churches are in truth houses of prayer in which the Christians serve the great God publicly before the world.

“Uniformity in ceremonies (perhaps according to the Saxon church order published by the Synod, which is the simplest among the many Lutheran church orders) would be highly desirable because of its usefulness. A poor slave of the pope finds one and the same form of service, no matter where he goes, by which he at once recognizes his church. With us it is different!….How different it would be if the entire Lutheran church had a uniform form of worship! This would, of course, first of all yield only an external advantage, however, one which is by no means unimportant. Has not many a Lutheran already kept his distance from the sects because he saw that at the Lord’s Supper they broke the bread instead of distributing wafers?

“The objection: What would be the use of uniformity of ceremonies? – was answered with the counter question: What is the use of a flag on the battlefield? Even though a soldier cannot defeat the enemy with it, he nevertheless sees by the flag where he belongs. We ought not to refuse to walk in the footsteps of our fathers. They were so far removed from being ashamed of the good ceremonies that they publicly confess in the passage quoted: ‘It is not true that we do away with all such external ornaments.'”

And whereas Walther recognized that the forces behind the criticism of certain customs in America or the encouragement of their disuse are precisely those who want the Lutheran Church to lose its identify and freedom and become part of the Reformed Evangelical community. “These so-called Protestant churches assert that of all Protestant churches the Lutheran has really been reformed the least; for, they say, it still retains much of the leaven of the Romish Church. For proof they cite the gown worn by our ministers when officiating, the wafers used by us instead of ordinary bread at Communion, the crucifix and the candles on our altars, the liturgical chanting of our ministers at the altar, signing persons with the holy cross, and bowing the head at the mention of the name Jesus. All these matters are innocent ceremonies, on which our church does not condition man’s salvation here or hereafter, but which it will not permit to be pronounced sin. For no creature has the right to declare something a sin which God has not declared such. Anything that God has neither commanded nor forbidden is a matter of liberty.”

And whereas the early Missourians, lead by C. F. W. Walther encouraged in the strongest possible terms the uniformity of worship. “The usages in the divine services are of the greatest influence on the outward and inward growth of congregations, and the greatest possible uniformity in them is especially desirable because the Lutheran Church is first recognizable from its public worship by unlearned people who have recently come to a place. Now it was especially stressed how desirable such uniformity would be already from the different kinds of singing. . . . All the pastors of our Synod in whose congregations rhythmical singing has not yet been introduced, were admonished to work for its introduction.”

And, whereas the leading theologians of the LCMS during the transition from German to English (second quarter of the twentieth century) articulated the same position on the desirability of the uniformity in worship. Upon the publication in 1935 of a common liturgy and agenda in English our leaders were ecstatic. Theodore Graebner claimed: “In causing this new liturgy to be printed our synod unquestionably intended to make possible a liturgical uniformity in our congregations in order that this element might be conserved during the transition from German to English.”

And W. G. Pollack declared, “The fond hope of having one hymnal for the churches of this body has been realized, giving us another outward manifestation of the unity of faith.” This corrected a situation in which “Every church seems to have its own private service, different in whole or in part from any others. A visitor, if he can take part in the liturgy at all, is at a great disadvantage.”

And whereas, in the production of the LSB, it was the clear intent of the LCMS in Convention that this hymnal reflect the historic position of the Lutheran church that we use this book in our attempt to strive for the greatest degree of uniformity of worship. “Resolved that the Commission on Worship bring together a forum representing the diversity of practices within the Synod (on worship)…for the purpose of increasing understanding building consensus in our doctrine and practice of worship,…And be it finally resolved that everyone heed the advice of Dr. Martin Luther who penned words that speak directly to our time and place: ‘I pray all of you my dear sirs let each one surrender his own opinions and get together in a friendly way and come to a common decision about these external matters so that there will be one uniform practice throughout your district instead of disorder.'”

And whereas it is true that uniformity of practice is neither a condition for salvation nor a condition for fellowship, it is also true that uniformity of worship is so important to the unity of the church that there is no apparent reason to deviate from the historic uniform liturgy of the church.

And whereas it is true that uniformity in worship is not something which should be enforced, it is also true that all pastors and congregations should not need to be forced but should willingly sacrifice their liberty in order to have a uniform liturgy as both the LCMS and Dr. Luther have averred.

And whereas two thirds of the congregations in the LCMS are currently using the LSB.

And whereas 90% of the congregations of the synod currently use a Lutheran hymnal.

And whereas the BoD of the MNS district has the responsibility to use the resources of the district in a manner which reflects both the will of the congregations of the synod in this place and the historic practice of the Lutheran church.

And whereas the decision of the BoD to grant subsidy to this church rather than that church has never been and should not now be construed as denying or restricting the freedom of any given congregation, therefore be it

Resolved that the MNS district give English speaking subsidized congregations of the Minnesota South District sufficient numbers of the LSB for use in their congregational services, and be it further

Resolved that the funding for this gift be reflected in the mission budget of the district, and be it further

Resolved that all new congregations be asked to assure the district that the LSB is being used consistently in the services of the congregation, and be it finally

Resolved that all district BoD members thank God for His work among us through the Divine Service of Word and Sacrament.

Comment by Klemet Preus — July 1, 2009

About Pastor Tim Rossow

Rev. Dr. Timothy Rossow is the Director of Development for Lutherans in Africa. He served Bethany Lutheran Church in Naperville, IL as the Sr. Pastor for 22 years (1994-2016) and was Sr. Pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran in Dearborn, MI prior to that. He is the founder of Brothers of John the Steadfast but handed off the Sr. Editor position to Rev. Joshua Scheer in 2015. He currently resides in Ocean Shores WA with his wife Phyllis. He regularly teaches in Africa. He also paints watercolors, reads philosophy and golfs. He is currently represented in two art galleries in the Pacific Northwest. His M Div is from Concordia, St. Louis and he has an MA in philosophy from St. Louis University and a D Min from Concordia, Fort Wayne.


Outgoing Minnesota South Board of Directors Helps the Brothers of John the Steadfast Accomplish their Goal of Supporting the Historic Liturgy, by Pr. Rossow — 1 Comment

  1. Is there anyway that the motion above, particularly the parts that reference the Confessions, Luther, Walther, etc. be furnished with footnotes, or some indication where the quotes were taken from? [e.g. AAC XXIV, par.1] Thanks for posting this, it is good stuff.

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