At Least They are not Waving to Jesus – Interesting Group Hug by the COP, by Pr. Rossow

Council of PresidentsCheck 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…

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.


At Least They are not Waving to Jesus – Interesting Group Hug by the COP, by Pr. Rossow — 39 Comments

  1. That photo “op” is simply a haught display of prayer, which, I thought we were warned against doing, BY CHRIST IN HIS WORD, remember the Publican Parable? The most telling part of that article link was the quote:
    “eccleiastical leadership in a POST CHURCH culture” HELLO, EMEREGENT CHRISTIANITY WARNING LIGHT. Christ Himself said the “gates of hell could not prevail against It, so why would a GOVERNING BODY OF A DENOMINATION use a phrase that negates Christ’s OWN Words? That term, w/LCMS tweaking, is “post denominational culture”, in EC speak.That whole article, sounds familiar, it sounds like the forward by Leonard Sweet in the book, “A IS FOR ABDUCTION, The Language of the Emerging Church”. Oh, that would be the “Sweet” that spoke at one of LCMS’s universities. “Sweets” are bad for you, if you remember what your Mummy taught you (tongue in cheek). The “term” may be different, but the definition is exactly the same. I wonder, does this, & what articles are in the Reporter, the selling of KFUO to CCM, point to anything? Ah, yes, it kind of does, it is now called, Emergent Christianity. Which, is not “Christianity” they offer another Christ, which I do not know nor want any part of, as it has no part or foundation in Scripture. It is a mix of eastern religions, myths, falsehoods, & out of context Scripture, & twisting theological norms. The more I find out, the more content I become that I have departed the LCMS.

  2. Present in the statement are all the buzz words of the CGM, Sola Cultura:

    “…..conversation with one another,mission in the current post-church era and culture, cultural insiders, Unchurched, embrace the position of cultural outsidership,embrace cultural outsidership and recover the mission heart, retool to be faithful witnesses in a post-church world, focusing on the unchurched,implementing changes in structure and governance, and church relations…..”

    Absent is the prime directive to the leaders: “Feed MY sheep”
    The Faithful do not need to be “retooled”, they need edification.

  3. Now, now “Rogue Lutheran,” you’re missing the whole point. It’s all about bringing NEW sheep into the fold, or as a good friend refers to them as “Replacement Sheep”. That’s because so many are leaving. Feeding the sheep is the job of the (are you ready?) STAFF, and (are you ready?) the MEMBERS. The sheep feed themselves–it’s up to them to find the quiet waters and green pastures (green goes with anything, you know)! The Pastor (translation: Head Sheep Dog) leads the sheep. Or barks them into line. Or organizes them into ministry brigades. This is the 21st century. Get with the program.

    Somehow the Lord’s prohibition against graven images seems particularly appropriate here.


  4. I like the title of the article in the Reporter: ‘Fervent prayer’ is focus of PRAY 2009

    Perhaps it should read: ‘Fervent prayer’ is focus of LCMS 2009.

    I pray that in 2010 we can get back to:

    JESUS is focus of LCMS

    By the way this photo op reminds me of the one taken at the White House with all the doctors dressed in their white coats supporting the president’s medical reforms. The only difference is our presidents forgot to dress up like pastors.

  5. Whatever floats their boats, I suppose. But personally, I find such displays creepy. Like the custom some people have of holding hands in a circle to pray, and then doing the double hand-pump at the Amen. Ugh! There are few modern Protestant practices our leaders won’t embrace.

    Maybe there is a subconscious desire to look, talk, and act just like the other guys as some kind of statement of unity – which the “group hug” also seeks to convey. Their unanimity (e.g. the Issues, Etc. vote) is troubling to me. It suggests that there is no real discussion going on, only a desire to look unified. To me, that pressure to conform only sweeps the problem under the rug.

    They also try very hard not to look like ordained pastors. I have never understood that.

  6. I think Pr. Beane hit on an increasingly worrisome issue in the Synod, the need to be accepted and be part of the “Christian community” at-large. I think that’s the rationale behind the move of many “missional-minded” Lutherans towards the generic evangelicalism and self-help style pervading much of American Christianity today. I think this is true at both the district and congregation level–churches want to be seen as “part of the community”. I see this more and more in different congregations’ mission statement. More and more being community and cooperation-minded with other congregations and even denominations has come to overtake doctrine and a right teaching of the Word as priority. To many congregations, sacrificing Lutheran identity for going along to get along with other non-Lutheran congregations is a small price.

  7. Not for a minute is this nonsense going on only at LCMS parishes. Catholic parishes have their share of “charismatics” who love hand-holding and arm waving as much as the next Pentecostal.

    At one Mass parishioners were asked to extend their arms and hands in blessing to send off Sister so and so, who was leaving her position as “Pastoral Associate” for a new “ministry.”

    Our Lutheran people badly need to be recatechized.


  8. Dutch: I often love what you have to say, but WHY do you NEED to CAPITALISE so many things in order to add EMPHASIS? I have started to see this more and more on this site, and it kind of bothers me, awakening in me a very troublesome pietism about the written word. Hmmm. Or maybe I should just lighten up.

  9. Fr. Beane-
    I got caught with my parents on one occasion in a circle prayer, along with a very famous synodical person. We were encouraged to hold hands in a circle to pray and at the time it would have seemed very rude not to do this – there was no place to walk away to or excuse one’s self to the restroom or whatever. So here I am holding my dad’s hand on the one side and a synodical person on the other with someone else leading us in a “just” prayer. I don’t think I had held my dad’s hand since I was a little child and neither one of us was excited about doing it at the moment, as we were grown men. And I certainly had no desire to hold the synodical official’s hand. I was angling to get my mom in between us. but my dad had made sure that he was holding her hand on one side and mine on the other as to only be touching relatives. As soon as the prayer was done, the synodical official looked at my dad and me and said, “What the hell was that?” I have had a bit of respect for this man ever since.

  10. Quinn,
    I am sorry about the caps, but I write as I would if I were speaking, & well, that is where you would hear a big emphasis! LOL. I didn’t mean to annoy ya, it’s just a “me” thing. I’ll keep an eye on it from now on, just a bit of a habit, nothing more. You didn’t write your thoughts on this article, what are they, minus caps, lol.

  11. I think it’s interesting how the body language of the “circle prayer” spells out the implicit body language so well: “You’re either in the circle with us, or you’re outside the circle, and not one of us, which means you must have a problem with us.”

    I think the circle prayer probably does more for awkward moments than fellowship, honestly.

  12. Mr Diekmann,
    Bingo, you hit the nail on the head. I have no clue how to work this computer to bold or italic for posting!!! I’m self taught, ie, technically challenged. I would probably still cap though, just a “me” thing, will try to keep it at bay.

  13. I find the holding hands in prayer as awarkward as the passing of peace ritual we have seen so much of. Nothing worse than being a guest in a church and having to Pass the peace. Makes me crazy. As if the Pastors benediction was not good enough.

    B T Ball
    As far as holding my dads hand, Yeah that’s weird. Also, I hadn’t hugged my dad for 25 + years. But when I had my son and he started to hug me often, I thought to myself how could I go through life without that. So at the age of 39-40 I started to hug my 79 year old dad. He’s 87 now and I’m 49 and I don’t plan to stop. Just don’t ask me pass the peace.


  14. John-
    my dad is in glory now and his body is at rest. If he were living, body and soul together, I would have no problem hugging him. I wish I could now. Holding hands with him in a circle with a bunch of people – no.

  15. And just what would their job description be, Pastor Wilken? I bet your description would be more than a bit different than say President K’s would be. I bet yours would have something to do with oversight, making sure all the congregations in your district where not having a weekly concert in place of a worship service – sorry I know that is adiaphora… It might also have something to do with practice aligning with the Lutheran Confessions. My district president sent our congregation a letter telling us that we should be practicing closed communion, which our board of elders promptly dismissed. What does this example mean? Isn’t the job of the president of the synod and all districts to provide oversight? Wouldn’t that oversight extend to visiting each congregation and not just sending a letter? Him or one of his representatives at least. Wouldn’t that mean following up with a congregation that had a communion statement in their bulletin and called it closed communion?

  16. John Hooss–
    Are you sure your objection is not just a western culture male aversion to affection?
    I fully understand that the passing of the peace is not and should not be a requirement. Neither should anyone feel forced to shake hands if they are not comfortable.

    However, I do not think shaking of hands should be offensive, as it holds none of the exclusionary body language that Ariel mentioned.

    It was St. Paul himself, I believe, that encouraged the brethren to “greet each other with a holy kiss” in the New Testament era. Those Brothers must have been in touch with their feminine sides! 🙂

    When you put things in that perspective, a handshake would seem less offensive than a holy kiss. You know, I’ve always wanted to kiss a Lutheran donkey……….. 😀

  17. Dutch:

    If you will use a <b> at the beginning of the part you wish to bold and a </b> at the end of it, you should achieve emphasis without the on line version of SHOUTING!

    I will be interested to see if this experiment works.
    I’m still waiting for a ‘preview and edit’ function (which may be here and I don’t know it).

  18. Ah Heartbroken,

    Alas, I come from a long line of krauts that don’t show public affection. I will however give a hearty hug to those I know well. (even in public how shocking!)
    The passing of peace always seems forced to me. My opinion.
    Anyway I hate sweaty palms. ;^)

    As far as kisssing a lutheran donkey, please note he has graduated. So he is an “intelligent
    donkey” otherwise known as a Smart ………..donkey. Of which I am one.



  19. Is there like an ettiquette book of online posting? Caps is shouting? How do you all learn this stuff?

  20. Scott, (#27)
    The first Lutheran list I was on, when I was an internet newbie about 15 years ago, had a couple of kind people who would try to keep me out of trouble. (There were some others along the way who were rather rude if you didn’t already know something they thought you should.)

    I was very grateful to those helpers, one of whom still ‘lends a note’ now and then to set me on the right track. So I hope nobody thinks I am being officious if I pass the favors on.

    [BTW: There is an edit function here. It’s called, “Norm, would you please…”]

    But you are probably right about spending too much time on line! 🙂

  21. Yes, just make sure you open and close each bold or italics as appropriate ..

    <b>Bold</b> and <i>italics</i> each need to be closed.

    The closure is the same character with a slash (/) in front of it.

  22. Thanks everyone. Better half/ more technical half will be giving tutorial lesson this weekend. Helen, Scott, & Norm, thanks bunches! I had no clue, & I don’t raise my voice unless it’s an emergency test of the “Momcast” system. See what happens to “hand talkers” on the net? lol. Ya learn something new every day. Thanks again.

  23. REgarding the Diekelman tan:

    He has always had a tan. He may have been born with it. He is the George Hammilton of the Missouri Synod.

    Not that there’s necessarily anything wrong with that.

  24. From Luther’s Small Catechism

    “…but defend him, speak well of him, and put the best construction on everything.”

    I can’t believe the way you speak publicly about your brothers in Christ. You make me ashamed.

  25. Rich,

    I am not trying to shame you. I am trying to shame the COP into reconsidering their worship theses which are, putting the best construction on it, incomplete at best.

    Also, instead of being ashamed lighten up a little and enjoy a chuckle based on what is admittedly an unusual pose by Lutheran leaders.

    You need more smiley faces in your life. 🙂


  26. People who learn the Small Catechism but, having not learned the Large, attack those who know both shame us all.

    The corporate sin of the COP, which has sold out the LCMS and used its profits to buy into a variety of false theologies, is manifest and to be warned against, as Luther makes clear in the Large Catechism. If they are not properly condemned, they will have the authority to lead others away from Christ; those who decry those doing this become guilty of the same sins.


  27. BTW: It’s interesting that they didn’t approve this document until the new DPs were seated, so that by their unanimous vote the new ones could be tarred together with the old. Of course, it is to be expected that every single DP will participate in the abuse of the Lord’s Supper at the Houston convention next year. I am praying that new DP Saunders, at least, with have it within him to refuse to participate, and I call upon the pastors of his district to ask him to do so far in advance of the event.


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