Can’t we have a Nice Conversation around Here? More on the Theses on Worship by Klemet Preus

Just when I want to rise above the rancor and politics of past discussions about worship and actually argue the issues reasonably and openly with the type of candor and self conscious vulnerability that might possibly lead to something helpful and even unifying for the church, someone says something that just drags me down into the synodical gutter of cynicism again and forces me back into that caustic and helpless mood which wants to blast away rather than gently invite. So here goes.

President Forke honestly and refreshingly assured us:

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.

And so we have conversed. What makes the discussion helpful is that there is no convention issue at stake. There is no finger pointing in the theses of the COP. There is no hidden agenda in my heart. I’m not trying to win the argument and strut my victory all over the world of cyberspace. I am not writing to force my will on others and Pastor Forke assures us of the same from the COP. I am not trying to make any political hay from my comments. This discussion may actually transcend both the synod’s skirmishes and the eternal three year cycle in which we LCMSers find ourselves. I was just hoping that we could talk some theology without being partisan. Some of us actually enjoy the process and I for one believe it honors Jesus. And I say this as one who is deeply and unapologetically partisan.    

So imagine my chagrin – no, disgust – that Jesus First and specifically David Luecke take the COP theses and on their basis declare victory in the ongoing worship wars. In the process he vilifies the Ft. Wayne seminary, (“Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne was a center for those who assessed the LCMS as no longer conservative enough and needing to be restored to Confessional integrity. The politics of that movement played itself out in Synodical leadership through the 1990s and early 2000s“), he caricatures the confessional movement (“The Confessional movement’s insistence on uniformity not only in doctrine but also in practices included the newly re-emerging liturgical worship forms as a requirement to be faithfully Lutheran),” and he vanquishes his bizarre and tired straw man which postulates some ridiculous cleavage between the past and the present (“A clash between 20th century interests and 16th century principles is apparent in the vocabulary. “The liturgy” is the favored term now, meaning all the components of the classic Catholic mass, in pre-Vatican II practice).”

Of this last criticism I can only express my weariness at yet another weird and unhelpful distinction. First it was “substance” verses “Style.” Then we were treated to two different types of pastors one who were “ranchers” and the other “shepherds.” In case you haven’t heard of this one the good guys were the ranchers. Then there was the notorious distinction between the “village church” and the “camp church.” More recently we heard of “Confessional pastors” verses “Missional pastors.” Now it is this silly “20th century interest” verses “16th century principle.” Please give us a break from these distinctions which are frankly offensive. They offend logic. They offend those pastors who want to be both ranchers and shepherds or both missional and confessional. They offend any process which wants to do away with categories where I have to be bad and you get to be good. They offend any efforts to unite the synod. And they are offensives to Jesus. They do not put Jesus first. So, Pastor Luecke, stop it.  

Unfortunately the worship wars are not over as Pastor Luecke falsely contends. And when they do end his side will not have won any more than my side. They will be over only when people are able to continue, undistracted, to discuss the issues until a type of agreement can be achieved.

OK, I think that I have gotten that little PQ out of my system and I am going to try to go on being nice for a while as I continue to discuss these matters with President Forke and others who actually don’t care as much about winning and losing as they do about truth.

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