Scripps Howard Newservice Interviews BJS Contributor Phillip Magness on Worship Wars

Editor’s Note: Phillip Magness, Cantor at Bethany Lutheran Church Naperville, Illinois and regular columnist on this website  was interviewed last week by the Scripps Howard Newservice which serves over 700 newspapers around the world. I have the blessing of serving with Cantor Magness. The historic Divine Service and the Daily Offices are upheld by Cantor Magness but no one could rightly accuse us of practicing dead orthodoxy. These traditional services sparkle with  an array of psalms, hymns and spiritual songs (Ephesians 5:19). Choir selections range from Bach and Handel to Rutter and Haugen. The choirs themselves include a traditional senior choir, a youth ensemble, several children’s choirs  and we even have a choir that sings  mostly “contemporary” music in the praise genre. All choirs exist to support and enhance  congregational singing and all of our services follow the traditional order of the Divine Service or the Daily Offices. The 40 rank organ is the lead instrument but instrumentation is also widely varied. Just this weekend we had a brass choir, a viola, a clarinet,  and a violin – not to mention  sung psalms led by the grand piano.  The Christmas midnight mass  candlelight recessional of “Silent Night” is accompanied by accordion, and  worship is also regularly  enhanced by  conga drums (typically with African melodies from the hymnal), finger cymbals (typically with Chinese melodies from the hymnal), two bell choirs and even an occasional electric bass guitar. This is not blended worship. It is authentic worship, closely following the  historic orders from the Lutheran Service Book.

Here is the introduction to the story from Scripps Howard:

If members of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod have heard it once, they’ve heard their national leaders repeat this mantra a thousand times: “This is not your grandfather’s church.”

That’s certainly what musician Phillip Magness experienced when he took a sabbatical from Bethany Lutheran Church in Naperville, Ill., and began a research tour after the 2006 release of the Lutheran Service Book. Since he led the committee charged with promoting the new hymnal, Magness wanted to see what was happening in the conservative denomination’s sanctuaries.

“What I found out is that we’re a lot like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates,” he said. “It says ‘Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod’ on the sign, but when you go inside you have no idea what you’re going to get. … Some of our churches are playing with the structure of the liturgy and some are playing with the content and our whole synod is trying to find out how to draw some boundaries.”

Here is another quote:

Magness believes that church leaders should attempt to work with all members to create services that are faithful to the past, but not stuck in the past. A common warning sign that trouble is ahead, he added, is when pastors begin altering the words of crucial prayers and liturgical texts — even the ancient creeds.

The bottom line, he said, is that dividing a church into separate, even competing, worship services rarely produces growth. At least, that isn’t what is happening in the Lutheran congregations he has studied.

To read the entire story you can click here.

And, From Pr Wilken, here is the interview with article author Terry Mattingly on Issues Etc:

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.


Scripps Howard Newservice Interviews BJS Contributor Phillip Magness on Worship Wars — 2 Comments

  1. Well done! You can almost hear the sweat beading in St Louis, all the way here in WI. Well said & well done! Cheers Phillip!

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