Check out this interesting picture of the Council of LCMS Presidents (the District Presidents and the Synod President and Vice Presidents usually referred to as the COP). At least they are not waving to Jesus, which is how I describe the Pentecostal practice of raising hands for prayer that I witnessed in a previous lifetime at various non-denonominational Bible studies and “Christian” concerts.
I do not mean to poke fun at the picture but I must admit it does make me chuckle. I know that is not the intended result. It is a serious picture of LCMS leaders at prayer. It is just that I am not used to seeing so much touching in the LCMS, at least with this many clergy out of their garb. What touching I am used to is the laying on of hands at an ordination and it is done by clergy dressed for the Divine Service and is done one at a time.
I highlight this story and picture from the Reporter Online in order to draw attention to the changes in worship in the LCMS and the irony that this unusual appearance of the COP group hug shows up in a story about their newly adopted worship theses. The worship theses demonstrate a new found desire to resolve LCMS differences with theology. That is good. But as we argued last week, the new worship theses do not promote and defend the worship of the historic mass that is promoted and defended in the Book of Concord. There is nothing inherently wrong with the group-hug, COP prayer but it is novel. In fifty years as a Lutheran I have never seen anything like it except for maybe the novelty I experienced at my first Northern Illinois District convention about fifteen years ago when the entire assembly was asked to lay hands on the newly installed district missionary at large. Because there was over 500 of us in the hall (laymen and clergymen), instead of gathering around him we were all asked to stand and hold out our right arm and hand. Even though there was no actual touching involved, I resisted the call to novelty, not sure of what was going on and sitting in my seat I was shocked and amused by the picture of 500 German Lutherans standing and holding their right arms up in a picture that looked like… well, I will let you use your imagination. Novelty is often problematic.
So here is the point. The COP is pictured in an unusual prayer posture that I am sure has been experienced in Methabapticostal settings far more than in Lutheran settings over the centuries and likewise the COP’s theses on worship, even though they are a surprisingly refreshing attempt at being theological, really are not that helpful for keeping Methabapticostal practices out of the historic Lutheran mass. They contain Lutheran principles of worship but are not so Lutheran that they would necessarily and sufficiently exclude non-Lutheran and non-liturgical traditional worship as described in our Confessions.
There are numerous other interesting matters discussed in the Reporter article. Maybe there will be time later this week for some more comment, or maybe you could fill that bill in the box below…