Excellent Dialogue: District President Forke Replies to Pr. Preus

Editor’s Note: We are honored to have the  President of the Montana District, The Rev. Terry Forke, leave a lengthy and well reasoned  comment on one of Klemet’s posts. So that  our readers do not miss it, I thought I would post it here on the home page. Personally, I still find President Forke’s definition of liturgy too stark and bare but it is gratifying to see these two churchmen dialoguing in such a  straightforward and respectful  way to the benefit of us all – Pastor Rossow.

The comment was left on Klemet’s Open Letter to Rev.Forke. Here it is in its entirety.


December 9th, 2009 at 15:35 | #10

Pastor Preuss,
I too have been absent for a time. A little COP, a little BRTFSSG, and a lengthy hunting trip which serves as an antidote to the previous two.

First, let’s deal with the word, “liturgy.” I agree that it is used in various ways in the vain attempt to be correct. (Funny thing, I too like to be correct.) That is why I proposed a definition to keep our discussion on track. The intent of my definition was to recognize the historical roots of the word, (a common or public service), while at the same time making it recognizable to those who use it regularly.

  1. Since the Scripture and the Confessions do not prescribe a form of liturgy, (my definition) I think it is appropriate to admit that all liturgies are manmade.
  2. Since the Scripture, in the context of worship, enjoins us to do all things in order it is appropriate to acknowledge that there should be order to this service. (Something that appears to be lacking in what passes for “worship” in many places.)
  3. Since we are talking about what takes place in the context of the congregation I acknowledge that this is a public, and not prescribing private devotionals.
  4. Since God is always the giver and we are always the receiver it is essential that we acknowledge the service rendered by the use of a liturgy as God’s service to us. This little detail, if admitted by all would help carry the conversation past many disagreements. I am afraid that a large part of the LCMS would be unwilling to confess this. (I fully aware of the argument that we respond to the service of God with prayer and praise. This too we receive, but it is not primary.)
  5. Since God has bound us to receive His gifts through the Word and Sacraments it is fitting to confess that the liturgy is also bound to His means of grace for the sake of its purpose, that is proclaiming the Gospel.

Secondly, the “adiaphora.” I would like to spend some time talking about this, but first let me explain why I wrote the Theses the way I did. I often hear something to the effect, “Worship is adiaphora.” That makes me crazy. Worship is not adiaphora. It is commanded by God. Such a statement betrays a basic misunderstanding of what the Scriptures and Confessions say about worship. I did not want the discussion of worship to get drug in that direction. That is why I said the whole discussion will turn on this distinction between worship and liturgy. Despite what others have written about the Theses a brief summary would run something like this: God commands worship and He draws some fairly strict parameters around the freedom He has given us to receive that worship. In my view we can say that worship and liturgy, (in its simplest sense, an order), are commanded. How the liturgy is constructed, (forms, rights and ceremonies) is not commanded. There are parameters, for the sake of the Gospel, that bound how the liturgy may be constructed. These I have tried to outline in Theses II, III, and V.

Thirdly, the Jesus First comments are abominable. I have not had time to answer them. I hope to get that done this afternoon.

I will have to let Article XXIV go until another time. I have a five hour drive ahead of me. God bless you. I am not adept at negotiating the halls of the blogs yet so I hope to be able to find your answer because I enjoy the conversation.

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.


Excellent Dialogue: District President Forke Replies to Pr. Preus — 3 Comments

  1. President Forke,

    Did you get an elk? Still remember that one lone hunting tirp–just the three of us and the hike to camp and just missing the big snow storm.


  2. I appreciated Pres. Forke’s comment that even our praise in response to God’s service comes from Him, as copied below:

    “(I fully aware of the argument that we respond to the service of God with prayer and praise. This too we receive, but it is not primary.)”

    Luther noted this in his Genesis Commentary. God gave Adam literally everything, *including* the way Adam could respond in love, praise, thanksgiving, and obedience from out of trust, as quoted below:

    “And so when Adam had been created in such a way that he was, as it were, intoxicated with rejoicing toward God and was delighted also with all the other creatures, there is now created a new tree for the distinguishing of good and evil, so that Adam might have a definite way to express his worship and reverence toward God. After everything had been entrusted to him to make use of according to his will, whether he wished to do so for necessity or for pleasure, God finally demands from Adam that at this tree of the knowledge of good and evil he demonstrate his reverence and obedience toward God and that he maintain this practice, as it were, of worshiping God by not eating anything from it (LW 1:94).”

    On the next page: “Our reason indeed becomes provoked at the creation of this tree, since because of it we sinned and fell into the wrath of God and into death. But why does it not become provoked in the same way because the Law was given by God and later on the Gospel was revealed by the Son of God? Have not endless offenses of errors and heresies followed as a result of this? Therefore let us learn *that some external form of worship and a definite work of obedience were necessary for man*, who was created to have all the other living creatures under his control, to know his Creator, and to thank Him…(LW 1:95).”

    While there are clearly differences between Adam’s situation and our own, the general prinicple is valid that even our praise of God is given us by Him…perhaps seen in the liturgical responses: “Let us bless the Lord. Thanks be to God.” Followed immediately by: “The Lord bless you and keep you, etc.”

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