Montana District President Terry Forke Replies to Pastor Preus BJS Article on Worship Theses

Editor’s Note: Pastor Klemet Preus posted “A Modest Suggestion to the DPs regarding their Theses on Worship” last month, and the author of the Theses, DP Terry Forke, has replied in the comments section. That reply is posted below. We thank President Forke for gracing our blog with his comments. This is a rare act of courage by a synodical official that we hope will become more common. President Forke’s thoughtful response is an excellent opportunity for more discussion on this important matter.  The Theses on Worship are available here (PDF).

Pastor Preus,
Thank you for your comments on the Worship Theses. I found them of benefit to the discussion. As a member of the COP I can tell you that this type of conversation is precisely what we had in mind. The Theses, as we tried to make clear, are not a declaration. They are our attempt to start a healthy discussion. We seem to have lost our ability to talk with each other for the purpose of edification. But with help like your blog something very good could happen.

For the purpose of this discussion I think it is necessary for me to disclose that I wrote the Theses for the Council. I would feel a bit dishonest in making the following comments if I did not tell you that. The COP certainly made substantive contributions, and did a lot of word-smithing. They did adopt the Theses as their effort.

The Theses are limited by two self-imposed parameters. First, I wanted to use only the Scripture and the Confessions as sources. The intent was to use the solid ground of our common authorities and avoid side arguments about the validity of one Father over another. Second, I wanted the Theses to be relatively short because I was afraid they might not be used if they were too long.

Both you and Pastor James Waddell have noted that the Theses lack an adequate discussion of the impact love should have on our freedom. (You can find his analysis of the Theses at Worship Concord Journal.) I agree. In this context in particular we are congregationalists and have lost sight of the Church as the body of Christ. I think that theological debate, (i.e. talking with each other under the Word of God, as opposed to defending personal opinions, resulting in power struggles and name calling), is one method of regaining that sight. It is confusing and painful when congregations and Pastors go their own way without thought about how their choices of rites and ceremonies will impact their neighbor. Here we can see the influence of our culture in the forms of independence and choice. If this discussion can gain some traction we may have some impact on exposing that cultural influence.

With regard to Thesis IV I could certainly have clarified the issue better. However, I disagree with some of your comments regarding the imposition of rites and ceremonies. I understand that a Pastor is making a sort of imposition when he chooses a liturgy and hymns. That is clearly not the type of imposition referred to in the Thesis. The Pastor imposes his “choices” on the congregation for the sake of order, (or in the negative, as you note, so that there won’t be chaos), so that the Gospel may be heard. Yes, we live with impositions for the sake of order. Many such impositions also result from the cherished motto, “We have always done it this way.” I also agree that the Word of God imposes certain forms such as the verba of the sacraments. These exceptions should have been stated.

You are correct when you state that one sinful characteristic by which erroneous impositions might be recognized is for the sake of earning merit. If we say we must use certain forms, rites or ceremonies because they work merit for us we have sinned. That is not, however, the only way in which we may err by imposing certain forms, rites or ceremonies.

True prayer, charity, and fasting have God’s command; and where they do, it is a sin to omit them. But where they are not command by God’s law but have set form derived from human tradition, such works belong to the human traditions of which Christ says (Matthew 15:9) ‘In vain do they worship me with the precepts of men.’ AP XII.143(XIIb para 46)

Here Melancthon recognizes that when we impose a certain form, rite or ceremony that does not have the command of God we are sinning, we are worshipping in vain. In the present context this happens when brothers imply that their neighbor is sinning when he uses different forms, rites or ceremonies regardless of their theological purity. This was the type of imposition I was referencing in the Theses IV.

This brings us to the topic of adiaphoron. Waddell rightly chastises me for not having included a clearer thesis on this pivotal element of the discussion. By narrowly defining the highest form of worship as faith I had hoped to convey that worship is not adiaphoron, (Thesis I), that some forms, rites and ceremonies of worship are, (Theses II, & VI) and that many are not, (Thesis V). Still, I think that Waddell is correct. We do not seem to understand what adiaphoron means. Had I included something on adiaphoron I may have precluded the characterization that many have leveled against the Theses that now “anything goes.” That is certainly not the point of the Theses.

Speaking of definitions, Waddell also suggests a definition of liturgy, (Thesis III). I do not find AP XXIV.80very helpful because there Melancthon is simply pointing out that liturgy does not mean sacrifice. I submitted a working definition of liturgy for his comments and I would ask the same of you. I think of liturgy as, “A man-made order for the public service of God to men, through the Word and Sacraments.” I would appreciate your thoughts.

I cannot tell you how important I and the rest of the Council think it is that these kind of conversations take place. I think your blog and others like it can be helpful in this effort. God bless you in your work.

Terry Forke

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.


Montana District President Terry Forke Replies to Pastor Preus BJS Article on Worship Theses — 29 Comments

  1. DP Forke says:

    Speaking of definitions, Waddell also suggests a definition of liturgy, (Thesis III). I do not find AP XXIV.80very helpful because there Melancthon is simply pointing out that liturgy does not mean sacrifice. I submitted a working definition of liturgy for his comments and I would ask the same of you. I think of liturgy as, “A man-made order for the public service of God to men, through the Word and Sacraments.” I would appreciate your thoughts.

    I am a bit befuddled by the statement that, “I do not find AP XXIV.80 very helpful because Melancthon [sic] is simply pointing out that liturgy does not mean sacrifice.” Melanchthon also goes on to say:

    But let us speak of the word liturgy. 80] This word does not properly signify a sacrifice, but rather the public ministry, and agrees aptly with our belief, namely, that one minister who consecrates tenders the body and blood of the Lord to the rest of the people, just as one minister who preaches tenders the Gospel to the people, as Paul says, 1 Cor. 4:1: Let a man so account of us as of the ministers of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God, i.e., of the Gospel and the Sacraments. And 2 Cor. 5:20: We are ambassadors for Christ, as 81] though God did beseech you by us; we pray you in Christ’s stead, Be ye reconciled to God. Thus the term leitourgia agrees aptly with the ministry. For it is an old word, ordinarily employed in public civil administrations, and signified to the Greeks public burdens, as tribute, the expense of equipping a fleet, or similar things, as the oration of Demosthenes, For Leptines, testifies, all of which is occupied with the discussion of public duties and immunities: ((greek)), i.e.: He will say that some unworthy men, having found an immunity, have withdrawn from public burdens. And thus they spoke in the time of the Romans, as the rescript of Pertinax, On the Law of Exemption, shows: ((greek), Even though the number of children does not liberate parents from all public burdens. And the Commentary upon Demosthenes states that leitourgia is a kind of tribute, the expense of the games, the expense of equipping vessels, of attending to the gymnasia and similar public offices. 82] And Paul in 2 Cor. 9:12 employs it for a collection. The taking of the collection not only supplies those things which are wanting to the saints, but also causes them to give more thanks abundantly to God, etc. And in Phil. 2:25 he calls Epaphroditus a ((greek)), one who ministered to my wants, 83] where assuredly a sacrificer cannot be understood. But there is no need of more testimonies, since examples are everywhere obvious to those reading the Greek writers, in whom leitourgia is employed for public civil burdens or ministries. And on account of the diphthong, grammarians do not derive it from lite, which signifies prayers, but from public goods, which they call leita, so that leitourgeo means, I attend to, I administer public goods. [End of quotation]

    There is much more to what Melanchthon says than simply the notion that “liturgy” doesn’t mean sacrifice. Clearly liturgy in the definition of the Lutheran Confessions means at least the administration of the means of grace according to Christ’s institution. That is not an adiaphora and that is not something “man-made.” Therefore the proposed definition must be taken off the table: ““A man-made order for the public service of God to men, through the Word and Sacraments.”

    That is confusing the Confessional definition of “rite” with the Confessional definition of “liturgy.” Connected with this are “ceremonies.” “Ceremony,” “rite” and “liturgy” each have distinct definitions within the Book of Concord. Aspects of rite may be adiaphora, but not all aspects of rite. Certain “made-made” ceremonies are adiaphora under times when there is not a cause of confession in effect (per Formula of Concord X). Liturgy under the definition of the Lutheran Confessions is not an adiaphoron. And as pointed out the Bible definitely does not make “worship” an indifferent matter. Though it should be pointed out that German word for adiaphora is “mitteldinge” and isn’t best translated as “indifferent.”

    Also at a loss in the COP document is any notion of what the Book of Concord speaks of as catholicity or the continuity of the church. There are numerous passages in the Confessions that speak this way. One cannot separate liturgical theology from ecclesiology. This is not made clear in the COP document. This is why it is not surprising that there is the avoidance of the very beginning of Augsburg Confession and Apology Article XXIV, where the clear statement is made that Lutherans do not abolish the historic order of the Mass or its attendant practices where they square with justification by grace (rather than simply “evangelism”). Lutherans were not starting a new church. Today many of the so-called “contemporary worship” practices are simply just Baptist, Pentecostal, or representing some other heritage than Lutheran (Arminian, Methodist, Calvinist) et al.

    The travesty in this is that the model theological conference ignores this fact in that novelty and alien confession extant in contemporary worship is given equal standing with historic Lutheran liturgy and its attendant practices. One is reminded of the statement of Charles Porterfield Krauth in this regard:

    When error is admitted into the Church, it will be found that the stages of its progress are always three. It begins by asking toleration. Its friends say to the majority: You need not be afraid of us; we are few, and weak; only let us alone; we shall not disturb the faith of others. The church has her standards of doctrine; of course we shall never interfere with them; we ask only for ourselves to be spared interference with our private opinions. Indulged in this for a time, error goes on to assert equal rights. Truth and error are two balancing forces. The Church shall do nothing which looks like deciding between them; that would be partiality. It is bigotry to assert any superior right for the truth. We are to agree to differ, and any favoring of the truth, because it is truth, is partisanship. What the friends of truth and error hold in common is fundamental. Anything on which they differ is ipso facto non-essential. Anybody who makes account of such a thing is a disturber of the peace of the church. Truth and error are two co-ordinate powers and the great secret of church-statesmanship is to preserve the balance between them. From this point error soon goes on to its natural end, which is to assert supremacy. Truth started with tolerating, it comes to be merely tolerated, and that only for a time. Error claims a preference for its judgments on all disputed points. It puts men into positions, not as at first in spite of their departure from the Church’s faith, but in consequence of it. Their recommendation is that they repudiate that faith, and position is given them to teach others to repudiate it, and to make them skilful in combating it.

    (From Charles Porterfield Krauth. The Conservative Reformation and Its Theology. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott & Co., 1872, pp. 195-96.)

  2. Pr. Frahm,

    Thank you for bringing out the “big guns” from the past and clarifying article XXIV.


  3. As I mentioned in the introduction we are honored to have a bishop comment on the site. It is also good that the COP decided to open up this conversation.

    Here is my main concern with the theses. As written they pretty much allow just about any sort of worship form as long as there are no words in the form that contradict Lutheran teaching. But Lutheran and Scriptural worship is so much more than correct doctrine. It is also correct form. When we look at how liturgy is done in the Old Testament and in the book of Revelation we find a rich, formal, gesture-laden, reverent, holy and joyful form. I am always struck at how Jesus in the first vision of Revelation (chapter 1) looks like a liturgical pastor standing in a liturgical chancel. He is wearing a white robe with a gold sash and is standing in front of lit candles.

    The COP’s theses do not come close to taking into account this Biblical and Confessional approach to worship. Instead they end up with a least common denominator approach that allows for just about any approach to form. I ask of Bishop Forke that he address this issue with the Council of Presidents and that in future statements they reflect the need for Biblical forms.


  4. Firstly, I think that Mr. Forke, should be commended for allowing this to be posted. It takes great courage to engage anyone w/an opposing view. Kudos to you sir. (Especially, on BJS) No, most of the “run of the mill” members know nothing of these things. We know no terms, German or Latin, & have not been well schooled in our doctrine. But…who was do to this, ensure this was done, & why have they not????? Old school, “grandfather’s Church children” find out as we are walking out the door. The “brand new models” speaking of those who are sought out for their seeking value, are sought & w/ a furvor that is most unacceptable. The get them in the door, & make them a drone member (works based member) is not working!!! While at the same time, forgetting those who for generations have been faithful to Christ and to the Church. What does our Scripture say on this?! This is backwards thinking, the way of men, not of men of God!!!!! How many like me & the 9 other families I know are there & do you BOD, BRTFFG, or Synod value that enough to ask or find out why we departed? No, we do not follow the new model, method, nor agenda. We accepted it, long before you acknowledged it. We are best asked to leave in quiet and in “united” surrender. Is that what my 4 generations of family worked & fought for in the LCMS? I knew them, & I can say MOST CERTAINLY NOT!!!

    Seekers, tend to be fickle & seek a feeling rather than the knowing, there is always a reason, they seek to find. They invest little, give little, do little and are too soon gone. The found, Christ’s Own, who’s names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, are foundational, their houses are built on the Rock and now, are thrown over for those who’s houses are built of sand. How is this method of thinking of any value to Christ or His Church????? This is polar opposite to Scripture, let alone Luther or anyone else. I believe that was made rather evident in Pastor Harrison’s new book, let alone Luther’s letters & writings. Scripture above all, & nothing in that Book is “adiphoric” folks.

    Adiphoria, is not the all in all. It was intended to explain little bits, not everything someone thinks to be little!!!! Adiphoria, never depended/s on the culture, age, or social agenda. Let alone numbers in positive or negative. The Lord does not weigh worth or His Commission this way!!!! We have lost sight of what the true definition of adiphoria really is, what it actually incorporates, and most importantly, what it does not!

    Termage, is vital, as in it’s context, it bespeaks everything we believe. Case in point, in some translations of the Word, we now see ox, but in the older & more accurate translations, it is calf. It is huge world of difference between those two ox & calf, if you know your Biblical history & Biblical significance! Most of this, is not adiphoria, that term was changed to fit an agenda.

    Also, we must be very carefull, in arguing our points, on both sides, that we check our work and termage. Pastor Frahm, there is no such thing as “mittledinge”. That translated means middle bargin. The term you, I believe, intended, is mitte-dinge: middle things. One letter, one item, makes a huge difference. Just as the verbage in the reccommendations do. We must all, at this most important jucture, take care in what we say, how we say it, and the terms we use to say it in. Termage, is not, nor never will be adiphoria!!!!
    It is the reason we speak here on the present goings on. We are all brothers & sisters here, we have a common goal, to be good stewards of what we have been given. That first, means, HIS CHURCH. All the denoms are going the way of CGM/Emergent, learn from those who walked before us! Blaze a trail, preserve the beacon of Truth, stay what we were, go back to what we were, and when the inevitable occurs, we will shine more brightly, than most!!! How can I, a simple, ignorant ewe, see this, and those who set the bar do not? It is why me & mine departed. I must trust, & in this current situation, my trust was missplaced in the Church of my youth. But, hey, I am my Grandfather’s granddaughter, I come from great stock. I wonder…do those in high places come from such?

  5. Also pertinent here is Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration VI:
    So, too, this doctrine of the Law is needful for believers, in order that they may not hit upon a holiness and devotion of their own, and under the pretext of the Spirit of God set up a self-chosen worship, without God’s Word and command, as it is written Deut. 12:8,28,32: Ye shall not do … every man whatsoever is right in his own eyes, etc., but observe and hear all these words which I command thee. Thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish therefrom.

    This thought is clearly a partial concern that is behind such important passages from the Augsburg Confession and its Apology (in addition to ecclesiology, continuity, catholicity, reverence, catechesis, repentance):

    1] Falsely are our churches accused of abolishing the Mass; for the Mass is retained among 2] us, and celebrated with the highest reverence. Nearly all the usual ceremonies are also preserved, save that the parts sung in Latin are interspersed here and there with German hymns, which have been added 3] to teach the people. For ceremonies are needed to this end alone that the unlearned 4] be taught [what they need to know of Christ]. And not only has Paul commanded to use in the church a language understood by the people 1 Cor. 14, 2. 9, but it has also been so ordained by man’s law. 5] The people are accustomed to partake of the Sacrament together, if any be fit for it, and this also increases the reverence and devotion of public 6] worship. For none are admitted 7] except they be first examined. The people are also advised concerning the dignity and use of the Sacrament, how great consolation it brings anxious consciences, that they may learn to believe God, and to expect and ask of Him all that is good. 8] [In this connection they are also instructed regarding other and false teachings on the Sacrament.] This worship pleases God; such use of the Sacrament nourishes true devotion 9] toward God. It does not, therefore, appear that the Mass is more devoutly celebrated among our adversaries than among us.
    Augsburg Confession, Article XXIV,1-9


    At the outset we must again make the preliminary statement that we 1] do not abolish the Mass, but religiously maintain and defend it. For among us masses are celebrated every Lord’s Day and on the other festivals, in which the Sacrament is offered to those who wish to use it, after they have been examined and absolved. And the usual public ceremonies are observed, the series of lessons, of prayers, vestments, and other like things.
    Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article XXIV,1

  6. I am not hearing much about the “drama” involved in worship, that is, the message being given by the structure and progress of worship patterns. Zwingli said that worship is the family gathered around God and structured his worship patterns accordingly. But Luther and Lutherans see worship as God coming to us. Thus the worship pattern for Lutherans has always been different from the Reformed.

    Worship patterns are not adiaphora in the sense that nothing is given or matters. The worship pattern of the church universal was inherited from the Jews in the same pattern that Jesus and the disciples used; thus the altar, the candlesticks, the lectionary readings, the preaching, and the singing.

    Jesus tells a parable about the publican and the pharisee coming to worship. Both bring a prayer to God. However, there is a difference in the manner of their prayer. The pharisee’s manner is that of a righteous person coming before God to benefit God. The publican comes expressing his unwothyness, looking for God’s approach to him. What and how worship proceeds in the traditional p5/15 services tells a message, a message like that of the publican. So-called contemporary worship makes me feel like the pharisee.

  7. With respect to Rev. Kozak, regardless of what we may prefer, that is simply not true.

    A. There are districts within the LCMS that on paper and officially consider their prime officer “bishop,” for example, the English District.

    B. Our CCM has ruled that we do, in fact, have “ecclesiastical supervisors.” Though on the surface this may not be thought to be the equivalent of “bishops,” a little etymology suffices to show otherwise. The word bishop comes from the greek Episcopos (epi+scopos, or over+seer). Now, remember that in English, we have forms of “high English” and “low English,” usually related to the linguistic origins of the word. Words of Germanic root tend to be “low,” while romantic/latin roots tend to be “high.” (For example, we don’t eat “swine” (German), we eat “pork” (Latin.)

    The latin word for “over+seer” is “super+visor”. What is an “ecclesiastical supervisor”? Quite literally, a “bishop.”


    One may not like having bishops, nor believe them Biblical, but there is little question: the LCMS most definitely has them.

  8. I should add, the insight into the roots of “ecclesiastical supervisor” is not my own. I wish it were!

  9. Back to the SUBJECT…

    The Wilken Worship Principle:Pentecostals worship the way they do because they believe what Pentecostals believe. Lutherans worship the way they do because they believe what Lutherans believe.

    Lutherans worshiping like Pentecostals make no more sense than Pentecostals worshiping like Lutherans.

    Let’s be honest: We’re talking about Lutherans adopting Pentecostal worship forms and practices. If Lutherans weren’t doing this, the LCMS would have no “worship wars” to speak of.

    We shouldn’t concede that Pentecostal worship forms are innocuous, as long as they don’t explicitly contradict Lutheran doctrine. Under that rubric, a congregation could sing “Love Me Tender” or “Blah, Blah, Blah” and it would pass for Lutheran Worship.

    The COP document, as helpful as it may be, fails to recognize that there has been a Lutheran form of worship entirely consistent with historic Lutheran doctrine (and the historic practice of the Church). The burden of proof lies with those Lutherans who would abandon it in favor of other forms.

    We are not starting with a blank slate, or reinventing the wheel.


  10. @Todd Wilken #11
    Granting all your points, and agreeing wholeheartedly with them, I raise this question (and it’s one I’ve raised before on this site): What about the musical settings of our Lutheran liturgy? I have come to the conclusion that much of the controversy about worship in the LCMS is not necessarily about the words–the text, but about the melodies (or lack thereof) that our worship is set to. After over a year with LSB, I still have a deuce of a time singing some of those “chants”, especially in Divine Service I and II. After a lifetime singing in choirs of all kinds, and being rather adept at reading music, I get rather frustrated, and angry–and that’s no way to worship. LSB has much to recommend it, however I believe a case can be made for some singable tunes (melodies, if you will), without changing one blessed word of the liturgical texts. We don’t need the pentecostal ditties, “God/girlfriend/boyfriend songs (per Michael Horton), and insipid feel-good melodies and words that clutter up our CW and “blended” worship landscapes. Please–give us some real melodies, not intellectual musical exercises! Maybe this ought to be the subject of a whole ‘nother posting, but I had to get it off my chest.

    Now I feel better (and I hope we sing DS IV tomorrow).

  11. The discussion that is going on over worship needs to be expanded to include the relationship between continuity/catholicity and Biblical hermeneutics. Even if many who are pro-contemporary/pentacostal “worship forms” are willing to accept the sociologocial argument that undergirds the maxim lex orandi statuat legem credendi, these are often the same people who do not care if Lutheran churches become non-denominational. We are movin toward an age of post-denominationalism they say (not meaning the same hing as those who have always triumphed confessionalism against denominationalism) These are the same people willing to support synchretistic mission efforts for which creating Lutheran congregations is immaterial (e.g. Lutheran Inner City Network Coalition (LINC) houston). Why? The answer isn’t that these people are malicously trying to destroy the rechtglaeubige Kirche. It is that they are Biblicists (Bible Worshippers) of the worst kind. Lutheran dogma for them is no more than a matter of emphasis that is true to the Bible in as much as it was true in its historical context (almost always seen contra Rome). For them the Bible is a magical amulet, the vocables of which have the inherent power to maintain true teaching within any context. One of the ironies of this position is that it is more magical than the claim that the Lord’s Supper is a medicine of immortality. It is the sort of magical understanding of the Biblical words that grants to the Reformed that they have the Lord’s Supper. That the recitation of certain vocables has an inherent power is the Roman understanding. Another irony is that any translation of the Bible results in dogmatizing simply by using cetain vocabulary in different contexts, simply because English words have different semantic domains than Hebrew/Greek words. For them Sola Scriptura means something different it meant for a man who could argue for retaining the practice of private confession. For them it is incomprehensible that everything could hinge on whether or not Romans 12:2 refers to repentance or to a measurable increase in active righteousness. For them, it is not understood that apart from a vigilant adherence to the confession recieved a Roman understanding of justification will again rear its head. It all comes down to Art. IV understood holistically, to the person and work of Jesus.
    They’ve already begun to read the Bible as a different book.

  12. Johannes,

    You wrote, “I have come to the conclusion that much of the controversy about worship in the LCMS is not necessarily about the words–the text, but about the melodies (or lack thereof) that our worship is set to.”

    I used to think so too. But not anymore. Those LCMS pastors that are leading the way in worship experimentation have gone far beyond changing melodies. They have not only changed the texts, they have abandoned the texts altogether. Lutheran theology has become a hindrance to them, an obstacle to be avoided.

    Now, these pastors seldom admit this. They maintain the debate is all about music style. But it isn’t.

    As long as the LCMS continues to be distracted by the “it’s only about the music” excuse, we will never admit the true nature of our theological differences.


  13. the viva vox Christi, the Word purely PREACHED and not the Bible qua Bible is what is true and worth rallying around. How is this preaching normed? Sola the authoritative tradition, namely Scripture.

  14. In Worship we are dealing with the events transpiring between authority and community, between the Word of God and the people of God. If there weren’t ambiguity about how this normally occurs from our perspective, then people within the LCMS wouldn’t have wildly varying understandings of the the office of the ministry.

  15. Zwingli worked from the same New Testament as Luther, but he had a different Jesus. This is as obvious in his worship reform as it contrasts with Luther’s as it is in their polemics. The Jesus of Zwingli’s spiritualism was an idol. We must remember that the first commandment is cast over all theology, especially worship-talk.

  16. The Lutheran CW services that I’ve seen discarded the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer. If they didn’t discard confession and absolution also, they pared it down to the bad things I did to my neighbor that week.

    We have to argue the words and doctrine first, then worry about Rock vs. Bach later.

  17. The LCMS is trying to shoehorn many different kinds of worship and doctrine into one synod. People believe different things and have different practices. Historically those who have shared the same confession have joined together to become a family of believers as a congregation and even as a synod, but now there are different groups divided by different confessions and practices all trying to be united in one synod. I can’t see how this situation can last very much longer.

  18. Like any false doctrine, it should be dealt with immediately. Unfortuntantly, when this sickness was first diagnosed, it wasn’t dealt with. Administrations past and present allowed this cancer to spread thru out the synod and now they want to find a way to live with it and while some continue to promote it. Why? My answer is very pesimistic, but I’m amongst brothers and sisters in Christ, so please correct me if I’m wrong. I think the political reality is, whether some are pro or con in past or present administrations, any inforcement of uniformity of worship in the past 30 years would have splintered the synod beyond repair. There would have been defections and no recent synodical president wants that on his watch. Now compare that to how President Walther and those who followed shortly afterward would have handled this, the institution would not have been their first concern.


  19. Michael, you are right, as far as my observations (not like that is worth much). Institution has taken precedence above Sola Scriptura, Sola Gracia & Sola Fide. Sola Christos, to put it the way my husband heard it from a board of elders & Pastor (LCMS) “The Bible doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone”. 30 or so years of the allowing of the definition of adiphoria, to be tweaked & then altogether redefined, has had fatal, yes, fatal results. Your analogy w/cancer, is spot on. Cancer, if not caught & treated early, is most likely to become terminal. There is a split coming, now it is by member or small congregation. People are fleeing, and no one is asking why, or are they, and not liking the answer. It’s tough to admit error, but until that happens, the LCMS is in danger of becoming a run of the mill, average church, that if the choice is offered, people who are firmly founded, will say “no thanks, I’ll pass”. They already are.

  20. @Todd Wilken #14
    Again, Pastor Wilken, I agree that many pastors and music directors have effectively destroyed the liturgy, textually and musically. I have endured blended and contemporary worship, and have seen what has been done to our liturgy, in the name of variety or appeal or evangelism or whatever. What’s more, I do not believe that the texts of our liturgy are adiophora. However, I see no reason why those texts cannot be set to singable melodies by a skilled musician or musicians. I repeat–let’s not change one blessed word–not a one. Just give us good melodies that really sing, please!

  21. Johannes,

    Granted, but what is driving the advocates of Pentecostal worship forms has nothing to do with singable melodies.


  22. In our dialogues about or debates over Lutheran worship we are often reminded that it doesn’t really matter how we worship as long as the Gospel is purely proclaimed and the sacraments are rightly administered in accordance with the Word of God. This rings true to me. What more could we ask for than to receive Christ, His forgiveness, mercy and very life in His body and blood in worship? The problem is that when this freedom is put into practice as a right for each and every pastor to rework the liturgy in order to serve the Gospel, as he sees fit, the opposite is happening.

    The liturgies written by many of our pastors contain songs and confessions with false doctrine that come from outside the Lutheran or Catholic (Universal) Church. The foci become law, men’s works, symbolism,and our feelings and psyche instead of Gospel, Christ’s work for us, and the concrete presence of God with us serving us through His Word and Sacraments.

    If the district and synod presidents or overseers truly believe that the Gospel is to be purely proclaimed and sacraments rightly administered in accordance with the Word of God and they visit these services, at least some of which I and others have personally witnessed, they would honestly have to admit that these new services do not meet this standard. They would then be forced to do the unpleasant task of correcting or disciplining those they are called to oversee.

    If new contemporary liturgies have been written that are just as good or better than those handed down through the Church and they meet the Gospel/Sacramental standard, than share them with all of the congregations which make up the LCMS . Show us the new and improved liturgies so that we may all agree to accept them together and all may benefit from them. If they don’t meet this standard which God gave for the good of the body of Christ, than keep them away from us.

  23. In our dialogues about or debates over Lutheran worship we are often reminded that it doesn’t really matter how we worship as long as the Gospel is purely proclaimed and the sacraments are rightly administered in accordance with the Word of God.

    But this isn’t only about the mechanics of the delivery, right? The Scriptures do say something about repentance, reverence, the church, the revelation of heaven on earth in the Divine Service, letting the Word of God be richly and substantively used in what is sung, that no unconfessional theology be taught in songs, liturgies, or prayers.

    As Pr. Wilken pointed out, it is not that these LCMS churches are writing new liturgies or new hymns. They aren’t. THEY ARE IMPORTING THEM FROM NON-LUTHERAN SOURCES AS IS. It isn’t that we have a bunch of liturgical scholars producing new musical settings of the historic liturgy or having entirely new Lutheran forms. THEY ARE INTRODUCING NOT JUST A DIFFERENT “STYLE” OR SOMETHING MODERN, BUT A DIFFERENT CONFESSION OF FAITH PACKAGED IN PENTECOSTAL SONGS AND WORSHIP PATTERNS THAT EXPRESS A HETERODOX CONFESSION.

    The problem with contemporary worship is not that it is new, but that it is alien. It is like that sci-fi program V or like the invasion of the body snatchers. The old Lutheran people are now doing Pentecostal and Baptist stuff. There are lots of newer Lutheran hymns that are good. In that they are modern or contemporary with us today. (Contemporary means “in the same time as” and not “new” or “recent.”) The problem is that Lutherans do not know or recognize their own heritage – historic liturgy, traditional ceremonies, weekly communion, Lutheran chorales, etc. We’re too influenced by Americanized Christianity, “Christian” radio, “Christian” bookstores, Word-Faith movement, revivalism, and left-over Pietism.

    Even in Lutheran arguments about this we say, “As long as the Gospel and sacraments are still there, what does it matter.” In that argument we reduce everything down to mere performance of the task in isolation. That’s good old American pragmatism, mechanical, and forgets that liturgy goes on coram Deo in the church catholic, for starters.

  24. Well said Pr. Frahm.
    The Lord told Moses to take off his sandals when he stood before Him at the burning bush. We are called to show the same kind of fear and love for God when He comes to us in worship and prayer.

  25. @johannes #25
    Johannes you are asking the real question of substance today:
    Is there only one form of music in which the divine service can take shape?
    make no doubt I’m not asking about the words of the creed or the ordo. These are commonly accepted words of the catholic tradition; but musical ability and style is another matter entirely built out of the gifts of the congregation who worship and the time in which they worship.

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