The Council of Presidents has just published a series of theses on worship under the signature of President Kieschnick. The optimist in me says this is progress toward the goal of bringing our synod together on this trying subject. The skeptic in me says this is an attempt by President Kieschnick to have much sound and fury about this topic so that he can stand before the 2010 delegates and point to his efforts toward unity. Will this sound and fury amount to much? One of our readers pointed me to a good way to find out.
It depends neither on the optimist nor the skeptic within but on the thinker who takes one cool hour of reason to compare the presidents’ theses to the theses recently presented by Rev. Dr. Richard Stuckwisch on the Four and Twenty Balckbird’s blog. I do not mean to drag Stuckwisch and the presidents into a fight they did not pick. There are things to be learned from both lists. But there are significant differences. My initial reaction is that the president’s theses are too abstract and generic to help us make much progress in the worship wars. Based on them it appears to me that pretty much every type of contemporary worship that we see in the LCMS today would be allowable. Stuckwisch’s theses on the other hand are quite specific. I do beleive the Devil is definetely in the details when it comes to this discussion. Let me put the comparison another way. I am not convinced that one would be able to write and publish a hymnal like the LSB based on and growing out of the presidents’ theses. They are not in conflict with the LSB but I do not believe that applying them would lead one to develop a hymnal like the LSB. Stuckwisch’s theses on the other hand appear to support and give rise to a worship manual like the LSB. I could see the LSB spontaneously combusting out of Stuckwisch’s theses but have a hard time imaging that with the presidents’ theses. Are the presidents committed to a basic set liturgy as we find in the LSB, the basic liturgy of the mass, with a few variances from region to region as is described in the Book of Concord? I do not see that happening based on thier theses but I could be wrong.
I do not believe I have ever met the Rev. Dr. Stuckwisch. I may have been introduced to him or heard him at a conference but he is by no means a friend or associate. Concerning the presidents’ theses, I just heard Bishop Gilbert speak glowingly about thier drafting. He said the basic draft was written by Bishop Forke of Montana (a good conservative district president) and that there was much editing by the whole group of DP’s and that in the end the document was endorsed unanimously. President Gilbert was very struck by the unity displayed by the council of presidents on this matter. I am glad to hear that but as I said above, they may be too generic to bring about much rapprochement in the worship wars.
Before offering a comparison of the two sets of theses here are a few general preliminary comments. I look forward to your insights recorded below in the comments section. The presidents’ theses do not mention reverence, adornment or beauty whereas Stuckwisch’s do. Stuckwisch addresses the need for love when speaking of adiaphora but the presidents do not. Stuckwisch mentions the need for rubrics whereas the presidents do not. Most importantly, President Kieschnick’s cover letter for the presidents’ theses suggests that worship differences are merely a matter of differences in musical taste. Stuckwisch on the other hand seeks to build a case for the need for particular kinds of music and forms, i.e. ones that are reverent and beautiful.
Here is how I see the two sets of theses in comparison. The presidents’ theses are given in the order they are presented and are in black and bold/black font. Stuckwisch’s theses are in red and are inserted where I thought they matched up best with the presidents’ theses. The textual support from the presidents’ list is omitted for clarity of comparison. I encourage you to read the textual support and to read Stuckwisch’s theses in the order he presented them. You can do so by clicking here for the full text of the president’s theses and here for the Stuckwisch theses.
I. Worship is not an adiaphoron.
A. Worship is commanded by God.
B. The highest form of worship is faith.
C. Worship is Trinitarian, and centered on Jesus Christ.
4. To hear and receive the Divine Liturgy in faith and with thanksgiving is the worship of the Holy Triune God in Spirit and in Truth.
D. The means by which faith is created and nurtured are essential to worship.
1. The Divine Liturgy, properly speaking (Apology XXIV.79–83), comprises the Ministry of the Gospel, which is the preaching and Baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, the confession of Christ Jesus, the ongoing catechesis of His Word, and the faithful administration of His Body and His Blood to His disciples. This Divine Liturgy is not adiaphora, but is the Holy Gospel, the Word and work of the Holy Triune God, which is fundamental and necessary to faith and life in Christ.
II. The Scriptures and Confessions give the people of God considerable freedom in choosing those forms, rites, and ceremonies that aid the worship of God.
5. The freedom of faith in worship, as in all of Christian life, is the freedom of the Gospel.
A. Neither the Scriptures nor the Confessions prescribe forms, rites or ceremonies for worship.
6. Adiaphora simply are what they are: rites and ceremonies and other practices which are neither commanded nor forbidden by God. The teaching and confession of adiaphora goes hand-in-hand with the Gospel; that we are justified by grace through faith in Christ, apart from works of the Law.
7. The teaching and confession of adiaphora should not be abused (in the service of self-interest); instead, true Christian freedom is rightly used in love (in the self-sacrificing service of others).
8. Adiaphora are rightly used with pastoral care, and as a means of pastoral care. Pastors should exercise discretion and discernment in the use of adiaphora, but pastors should also discipline themselves in doing so, for the sake of faith and love.
13. The boundaries and parameters of freedom in worship are established and contoured, not only by explicit commands and prohibitions, but also implicitly by the constitutive rites and ceremonies of Holy Baptism, preaching and the Holy Communion.
31. The broad latitude of hymnody is necessarily constrained because of its affective power, and because of its vast importance and significance for the catechesis and confession of the Word. Hymns properly serve the freedom of faith in the Gospel when they are selected and used liturgically.
32. It is not an appropriate use of freedom when hymns, or any other practices, are used simply to fill up space and pass the time, or when they are used to entertain emotions instead of edifying the people and glorifying God by the confession of His Word (Formula SD X.1, 7, 9).
25. Tradition is generally more conducive to the Gospel than novelty (1 Corinthians 11:1–2, 16–26); because it is received as a gift from the past, rather than fabricated in the present.
26. There is almost always a good reason for the traditional practices of the Church, even where the purpose behind a given practice may no longer be readily apparent.
27. Catholicity is generally more conducive to love than personal innovation; because it belongs to the entire body of the Church, the household and family of God, rather than an isolated individual.
28. The collective wisdom of the Church is usually wiser than the personal insights of an individual. Nevertheless, the nature and needs of pastoral care require the free exercise of pastoral discernment and discretion, just as the Church in each time and place is free with respect to human customs.
B. The liturgy, a true service, is that which aids both the proclamation and the hearing of the Gospel for the sake of faith, that is, true worship.
2. To be liturgical is not simply to “have” or “do” the Word and Sacrament; but to be liturgicalã€€is to be defined by these things of the Gospel, to be governed and guided by them, entirely under their sway. To be liturgical, therefore, is to be evangelical; and to be truly evangelical is to be liturgical.
III. The liturgy of the Church builds a framework for the worshiper to live the life of faith.
A. Liturgy of the Church teaches the full counsel of God.
B. The elements of liturgy, (ordo), tell the full story of salvation.
C. The liturgy of the Church moves worshipers into the world to live for and to proclaim the Good News to others.
3. The Divine Liturgy is where and how the Church lives with God in Christ, by grace through faith in the Gospel. The evangelical mission of the Church flows out of that liturgical life in Christ, with the purpose of bringing others into the Liturgy of the Gospel.
IV. Imposing a certain form, rite or ceremony on the Church burdens men’s consciences, thereby militating against the Gospel.
9. In faith toward God we are free, but in love we are bound to serve our neighbor.
10. All things are lawful, but not all things are meet, right and salutary (1 Corinthians 10:23). Even that which is free and clear can be measured and evaluated according to its service and support of the Word of God, and thus determined to be more or less helpful to faith and love.
11. Love will be ready and willing to sacrifice anything and everything that is truly free, but love will never sacrifice anything of the Gospel. That is to say, love will readily give up whatever may be given up, but love will tenaciously insist upon that which is necessary.
12. Freedom is used rightly, in faith toward God and in love toward the neighbor, when it is used to serve the catechesis and confession of the Word of God.
19. Reverence toward God and courtesy toward the neighbor summarize the criteria of faith and love and thus provide a foundational response to all questions pertaining to the proper use of adiaphora.
20. That which is harmful to faith and love is not free but forbidden. That which is irreverent or rude is likewise not free but forbidden. (Formula SD X.1, 7, 9)
33. The unity of a common confession of the faith is both embodied and substantiated by a unity of practice. Church fellowship does not depend upon a uniformity in adiaphora, but the fellowship of the Church gravitates toward a common and consistent usage of adiaphora wherever it is possible. And the beauty of it is, the Church is free to do so.
34. It is not a violation of faith or freedom when the fellowship of the Church mutually agrees, in love, to order and conduct its liturgical life according to common rubrics, rites and ceremonies.
35. Especially in gatherings of the Church’s fellowship beyond that of a local congregation, the use of commonly agreed-upon rites and ceremonies is most appropriate and beneficial. In general, the same principle pertains to the practices of each congregation as a fellowship of the one Church.
V. Great care is necessary in choosing forms, rites and ceremonies because they either support or hinder true worship. There are no “neutral” forms.
14. The use of liturgical rubrics, rites and ceremonies is fundamental to the pastoral ministry. Rubrics are instructions for the conduct of the Liturgy, mutually agreed upon within the fellowship of the Church. Rites are the words that are spoken in the administration of the Liturgy. Ceremonies are the bodily actions, movements and adornments of the Liturgy. Rubrics are needed for an orderly conduct of corporate communal life. Rites belong to the fact that God does everything by His Word. Ceremonies belong to the fact that human life is lived in the body, occupying space and time.
15. It is not possible to administer and receive the means of grace without ceremonies. However, not all ceremonies are created equal. Some ceremonies are better, and some are worse than others; and some ceremonies have no place in the Church, even if they would otherwise be “free.”
16. Ceremonies powerfully support (or contradict) the confession and catechesis of the Word.
A. Forms of true worship are in accord with the Word of God.
B. Forms of true worship help to preserve order.
C. Forms of true worship do not burden the consciences of the people of God.
D. Forms of true worship are edifying to the local congregation and therefore also to the surrounding community.
E. Forms of true worship teach the faith.
17. The measure of a ceremony’s worth and benefit requires more than the avoidance of overtly false doctrine. The best ceremonies are not only true (as opposed to false) but are positively helpful in confessing the Word of God, and they are beautiful in adorning His Liturgy. Whatever is true, lovely and of good repute, excellent and worthy of praise, dwell on those things (Philippians 4:8).
18. It is appropriate and salutary to adorn the Ministry of the Gospel with beauty, as a confession of faith in the Word and work of Christ, and as a way of catechesis in the hidden truth of the Gospel.
VI. Uniformity in forms, rites and ceremonies while desirable, is not essential to the unity of the Church.
29. Frequent fluctuations and diversity in practice are unsettling to the people and easily distract from the Liturgy of Christ; they require a level of literacy, attention, energy and effort that tends to frustrate or make impossible the participation of many members in the Church’s worship of Christ.
30. Consistency and continuity of practice are beneficial to peace and rest in the Liturgy of Christ; they allow for the ready participation of the entire congregation in the Church’s worship of Christ.
VII. The polarization that is affecting the Church concerning the issue of forms, rites and ceremonies is sinful and hinders the proclamation of the Gospel.
21. Pastors and congregations, and individual members of a congregation, should set aside their personal proclivities and preferences for the sake of faith and love (1 Corinthians 10:23–33; Romans 14).
22. Making changes in ceremony, including the introduction of new ceremonies, requires a special measure of pastoral care. It also requires the patience of pastors and parishioners for one another.
23. Love will care for the entire body of Christ, for the minority as much or more than the majority, not allowing either the few or the many to lord it over the Holy Communion of the whole Church.
24. Love for the body of Christ â€” for the Church in all times and places, past, present and future â€” calls for circumspection and great caution when it comes to the introduction of new practices.
VIII. The people of God are commanded by God to keep talking with each other, under His Word, so that divisions are healed and the Church is united in doctrine and practice.