Inasmuch as others have seen fit to comment on the Theses on Worship issued last month by the Council of Presidents, it occurred to me that I should as well.
I am very pleased to see these Theses on Worship. Why?
First, their issuance indicates a recognition on the part of the district presidents that we have a problem in the synod. The unprecedented nature of the document (how often have the council of presidents seen fit to issue such theological statements to the church?) shows that the DPS believe that our worship problems are pervasive, long-lasting and continue to worsen. Parts VII and VIII show an awareness that our church is divided and that we need to continue discussions. The district presidents clearly see the polarized condition of the church and want to address it. And they see that the “worship wars” need special attention. Thank you to the district presidents.
Second, the Theses on Worship, according to President Kieschnick’s cover letter, are part of a process of continuing conversation that needs to take place within the church. Such discussions need to take place not only among the council of president but within the congregations, circuits and districts of our church. The admonition to continue talking is well said and should be heeded. Too often new worship forms have been introduced or cherished forms discarded with little or no conversations between the pastors and congregation of the synod. So the plea to talk about these matters is welcome.
Third, implicit in the discussion is the clear notion that worship must have some standards. A basic principle of discussion is that when something doesn’t matter you don’t talk about it. It doesn’t matter if a man preaches with a Minnesota accent or a Tennessee accent so there is really no discussion. It doesn’t matter if the choir wears blue robes, white robes or no robes so we don’t discuss it much. It doesn’t matter if pastors wear beards so we don’t need papers from the COP on pastoral facial hair (although the capacity to grow facial hair might be a helpful criterion in considering one for the office). But some things actually matter. They matter because there actually standards which we need to discuss and upon which we need to agree. The District Presidents should be commended for spending considerable time and effort on an issue where standards clearly need to be reasserted and reestablished.
Fourth, there are sections of the document which are, frankly, very helpful to our ongoing discussions. Section V particularly paragraphs D and E are a helpful and necessary reminder that the purpose of ceremonies is to teach the faith. How often do we ask what this or that hymn or propers are actually teaching the people of our churches? This section is, in my opinion, particularly strong.
Are there facets of our discussion that are not addressed by the Theses on Worship? Of course. Are there statements in the Theses which could be stated more clearly or completely? Yes. Are the Theses the last word on the subject? Obviously not or I would not be writing. Will more be said? I kind of think so. In fact I intend a follow up blog or two which will offer some food for thought to those who want the discussion to go on.
The Council of Presidents should be commended for what they have done. The church needs to hear from all quarters and those who lead our districts are especially worthy of our attention and our considered responses. Thank you to the District Presidents.