I just finished re-reading one of my favorite papers on liturgy and indifferent matters written by our now Synod President. It can be found here:
What is striking about this paper is that it points out how we have turned freedom tempered by love into license. The Bible and Confessions do not specifically require one form of worship, which many will cite for freedom, but the Bible and Confessions actually set uniformity before us as a goal in our worship. Pres. Harrison points out that Lutheran theology of worship (and the early Lutheran Church) was strongly governed by love and not freedom. This means that the Lutherans sought uniformity in order to promote unity among Lutherans, even if it meant having to give up some neat ideas of how to do things in worship (if only we desired such uniformity and unity today).
I also find it interesting that adding one letter to a word of the German of the Triglotta has resulted in pure congregational independence in regards to their liturgical choices (for more on that see the paper).
Mostly from reading the paper I realize that the problems of worship in our Life Together are deep. We are lacking love to temper our freedom. What I mean by this is that we do not consider the parish down the street or across the district before we do what we want to do in establishing worship practices. Instead, freedom is given as the reason why such things are allowable, and freedom is flaunted against whatever was “traditional” before.
Where is the love? Where is the love in the introduction of innovations in a congregation, campus or seminary chapel? It seems that no one worries about the offense such things may cause to others. These things are not good for our Synod as they break the bonds of mutual love and support that we have had for one another.
Those men who have taken up shepherding in congregations where the innovations have become the norm are not to blame for breaking love, but those who first introduced such things have not regarded their duty of love first.
Anyone considering introducing such innovations needs to consider their neighbor pastors and congregations (as well as the neighbor within the Synod) and the bond of love that we are supposed to have for each other before touting their freedom to do what they please. The fact of the matter is, in our bond as walking together, we are not free to do these things because of our bond of love.
Another difficult thing in this is that the way that we worship affects what we believe, and so as worship becomes more diverse, the actual theological unity we once shared is being torn apart. Many will try to say that worship forms have no effect on belief, but that is not true at all. Worship forms flow out of belief and right back into it as well. For the results, look at the diverse theology in those church bodies who embraced diversity in worship long ago.
I guess the prudent thing would be a call to repent, but what fruit can such repentance produce? The horse is out of the barn here, and what can be done to bring back some love into our Life Together in worship? There are entire congregations whose innovative worship is now the congregation’s tradition. (Maybe that is the 15% of Synod that is not viewed as being able to come into agreement) What can be done in such situations? Maybe Luther’s gentle reforms of the Catholic Mass could serve as a general guide. Perhaps a more aggressive program of reform is necessary. In any case, those given ecclesiastical supervision have certainly been given a monumental task of helping to restore love in our relationship to others within our Synod. Lord have mercy.