Getting Ready for the 2013 Synodical Convention – An Article by Martin Noland in the Recent LCA Clarion

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I commend Synodical Secretary, Dr. Raymond L. Hartwig, for sending frequent and informative reminders to congregations by postcard and e-mail about significant changes to convention procedures adopted at the 2010 convention. In this article, I intend to review only two of those changes: the process for electing the Synodical President and the process for memorializing the synodical convention. Persons interested in other issues of convention procedures may find relevant information here.

Electing the Synodical President

The most important new procedure for 2013 is that the 2012 district delegates will elect the new Synodical President. The most important procedural fact is that these same district delegates need to be appointed by your congregation’s voters’ assembly prior to the deadline for registration for your 2012 district convention. For most districts that means you need to schedule your voters’ assembly as soon as possible, if you have not already done so.

Here is the new procedure, step-by-step:

  1. congregations appoint two persons (one pastor and one layperson) to be their delegates to their 2012 district convention, at a voters’ assembly prior to the registration deadline for that convention;
  2. district delegates may vote for Synodical President in 2013 only if they attend the 2012 district convention;
  3. the Secretary of Synod will send out ballots and procedures for the nominations of president and first vice-president to congregations at least five months prior to the 2013 synodical convention;
  4. each congregation may nominate two ordained ministers for synodical president and two ordained ministers for first vice-president;
  5. the candidates for synodical president will be the top three nominees among ballots received for that position; candidates for the first vice-president will be the top twenty nominees among ballots received for that position; no floor nominations will be accepted;
  6. the Convention Workbook will publish the names of the presidential and first vice-president candidates and their biographical data;
  7. the two delegates from each congregation that attended the 2012 district convention will vote for the synodical president by audited mail or audited Internet ballot; if one or both delegates are unavailable, substitutes will be accepted;
  8. “The most important new procedure for 2013 is that the 2012 district delegates will elect the Synodical President.”

  9. if a nominee for synodical president does not receive a majority on the first ballot, the nominee with the least votes drops out, and a second ballot will be cast;
  10. the synodical president-elect will choose five out of the top twenty nominees for first vice-president as the slate of nominees to be considered by the convention;
  11. the first election to be conducted by the synodical convention will be for first vice-president, from the five nominees selected by the president-elect.

Memorializing the Synodical Convention

There has been some confusion about the new procedure for memorializing the Synodical Convention. Resolution 8-06A had intended to prioritize overtures submitted by circuits and districts. This would have resulted in overtures from individual congregations being received by the floor committees, but not, in most cases, being considered by the convention during its sessions. Resolution 8-06A was declined, with the result that individual congregations may still send overtures directly to the synodical convention and they have as good a chance as others of being considered by the convention itself.

At the same time, bylaw 4.2.1 (b) (2010 Handbook, p. 191) does state that “the district convention is the instrument to receive overtures (Bylaws” [my emphasis]. The cited bylaws do not exist, because they were part of Resolution 8-06A and were declined. I believe that fair-minded people will see that, since Resolution 8-06A was declined, the old process still exists and therefore overtures for the synodical convention do not have to be received by the district convention.

However, a new procedure for certain types of overtures was adopted and is found in Bylaw 4.2.1 (b & d) (2010 Handbook, p. 191). These types of overtures pertain to “synodwide triennial mission and ministry emphases.” According to bylaw 4.2.1 (b), these types of overtures may originate with an individual congregation, but must be adopted by the respective circuit forum. Overtures thus adopted will be considered by the district convention, which must submit a list of two or three such emphases to the national convention. Emphases adopted by the national convention must then be used by the President, LCMS Board of Directors, and national offices in their setting of financial, budgetary, and programmatic goals for the triennium between conventions (see Bylaws (a), 3.5.1, 3.5.2).

Since the officers and boards of the synod must follow these “emphases,” they are not slogans, but real priorities that determine where your offering dollar is spent. Congregations should consider where they want their “synod and mission” offerings spent as the deadline for submitting overtures to the circuit forums approach. Deadlines are normally the week prior to the circuit forum. You can determine the date and location of your circuit forum by contacting your Circuit Counselor.

Suggestions for Overtures

This is the time in the synodical triennium when folks start thinking about what types of overtures they might send to Synod, partly since some folks discuss these matters at district conventions. Some deadlines have already passed, e.g., the deadline for overtures to the North Dakota District Convention was October 13th. Check your Circuit Counselor or district office for information about your deadlines and applicable procedures.

One area that was completely overlooked in the restructuring at the 2010 convention was the matter of the synod’s “dispute resolution process,” which is the LCMS “church court.” A case involving an LCMS teacher and her LCMS school is presently working its way through the U.S. Supreme Court. [See Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School, petitioner, v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, et al., Respondents, U. S. Supreme Court Case No. 10-553.] This may have significant implications both for the status of our teachers and the procedures of our church court. I have previously expressed concern that, since 1965, revisions to our church court, and to powers of “suspension,” were adopted for political reasons, not due to principles of justice or fairness. [In 1992, the then existing adjudication system was abolished and the present reconciliation system adopted.] This is a highly complex area that affects the livelihood of all church workers. It deserves careful review by a committee appointed by the president, with revisions suggested for consideration by the 2016 convention.

Other areas of concern that I have heard about that could become overtures include:

  1. training all pastoral candidates more thoroughly, which applies specifically to the Specific Ministry Pastor and other Alternate Route programs;
  2. improving the information provided in district financial reports;
  3. requiring use of doctrinally-reviewed Lutheran worship resources at all district and circuit gatherings;
  4. encouraging regular use of Lutheran Service Book in all congregations, and reminding congregations of their constitutional agreement to use only doctrinally-reviewed Lutheran worship resources (Constitution Article VI.4);
  5. supporting full-time campus ministries in proximity to major universities in the U.S., which could become a triennial mission and ministry emphasis; and
  6. encouraging congregations to LIVE TOGETHER in peace, by seeking the common good, by supporting their pastors, teachers, and other church-workers with adequate compensation, and by protecting the same from personal attacks from within or without.

Rev. Dr. Martin R. Noland
Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church, Evansville, Indian


Getting Ready for the 2013 Synodical Convention – An Article by Martin Noland in the Recent LCA Clarion — 40 Comments

  1. Well said, Dr. Noland.

    May I suggest that another area of concern should be a renewal of commitment to the Objectives of the Synod, Constitution, Article III, see 2010 Handbook, p. 13.

    The first objective is the promotion of the Unity of the True Faith–in other words, our doctrine. That means the Gospel. This has been the first objective/priority of synod since its founding. Dr. Cameron MacKenzie clearly explains the reason why this Unity is the first objective:
    “But why was this doctrinal unity, this unity in the Word, so important to the founders of the Missouri Synod? It was precise-ly because of the churchly character of the synod. You will recall that in describing the church, we have remarked more than once upon the marks of the church, the Word and the sacraments. According to the Lutheran Confessions, the Word of God and the sacraments are the marks of the Church because they are the only means by which the Holy Spirit creates and sustains faith.38 Synod’s commitment to maintaining the right preaching of the gospel and the correct administration of the sacraments arises, therefore, out of a concern for the salvation of those for whom the means of grace are intended. For false doctrine dishonors God’s name and endangers salvation by leading people away from God’s grace in Christ. Our Lord Himself said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32).”
    MacKenzie, Cameron A. “C.F.W. Walther and the Missouri Synod Today” [online]Wyoming District Pastors’ Conference Sept. 16, 17, 1997. p 43. Available from

    The Unity of the True Faith is almost a fiction these days.

    Strong words? Check it out.

    Of course, such commitment means lots of work–necessary work–for the SP, DP’s and Circuit Counselors.


  2. Dear Johannes,

    I heartily agree with you and your concern about the Objectives of Synod. I agree with you that we need to remind each other, and our officers, that the first objective of synod is the FIRST OBJECTIVE of synod, i.e., it has a natural PRIORITY. Because without the unity of the true faith, in both doctrine and doctrinally-determined-practice, we will slowly but surely lose all the pieces that make up the LCMS.

    The pieces include: laymen, congregations, pastors, parochial school teachers, elementary schools, high schools, universities, seminaries, career missionaries, international educators, military chaplains, campus ministers, institutional chaplains, deaconnesses, DCEs and other church-workers at the national level, North American ethnic ministries, and many other specialized ministries.

    The “unity of the true faith” is the “mortar” that keeps all these “bricks” together. Our church-body is like a 164 year old brick building whose “mortar” is eroding, and whose walls are losing “bricks.” The Seminex event was like one of the “church steeples” collapsing. Yes, they rebuilt the seminary, but the reason it collapsed was that the “mortar” (unity of the true faith) was eroding all around. We will continue to have “bricks” falling and “walls” caving in, unless the entire structure is “tuck-pointed” (i.e., replacement of mortar and bad bricks) with new “mortar” using the “old recipe” (i.e, the true faith found in our Lutheran confessions). Some “tuck-pointing” has already been done, but a lot more remains.

    I believe that our new synodical administration is up to this task and has already demonstrated its ability to accomplish it. District Presidents and Circuit Counselors are also involved, as you observe, but so are all pastors, school principals, and lay leaders. Anyone who cares about our church and its future should be involved, no matter what their position or situation.

    “Tuck-pointing” is not glamorous work, but it does save a structure and all its pieces for the next generation. It is the least that we can do for our children and grand-children1

    Thanks, as always, for excellent thoughts and counsel, Johannes!

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  3. RE: # 2 Requirement on voting for Synodical President

    So the Synodical voting Pastoral and Congregational Delegate must attend the District Convention!

    The Lay Delegate due to any circumstance (Leaves congregation, area, or dies!) is unable to cast the congregation’s ballot for the Synodical president–can a replacement/alternate cast that ballot??

    or does the Congregation lose it’s Lay vote? ballot?

    OR must a lay alternate also attend the District Convention? [No end to this scenario!!]

    At what point will the ‘poll tax’–attendance at the District Convention, be lifted!!??

    The District Convention includes a Sunday Session, must the Pastor leave his charge/congregation just to be certified for the Synodical vote??

    We just get rid of this system!!

  4. Where is the requirement that congregations use approved materials in the constitution? My copy says only that congregations must exclusively use doctrinally pure materials. The set of materials approved by synod and those that are doctrinally pure are not coextensive

    Shall I tell my pastor we can’t sing the hymns he writes unless it has a synod seal of approval?

    This argument about the constitutions requirements is just wrong.

    Good info otherwise.

  5. M L Schulz :
    RE: # 2 Requirement on voting for Synodical President
    So the Synodical voting Pastoral and Congregational Delegate must attend the District Convention!
    The Lay Delegate due to any circumstance (Leaves congregation, area, or dies!) is unable to cast the congregation’s ballot for the Synodical president–can a replacement/alternate cast that ballot??
    or does the Congregation lose it’s Lay vote? ballot?
    OR must a lay alternate also attend the District Convention? [No end to this scenario!!]
    At what point will the ‘poll tax’–attendance at the District Convention, be lifted!!??
    The District Convention includes a Sunday Session, must the Pastor leave his charge/congregation just to be certified for the Synodical vote??
    We just get rid of this system!!

    “7. the two delegates from each congregation that attended the 2012 district convention will vote for the synodical president by audited mail or audited Internet ballot; if one or both delegates are unavailable, substitutes will be accepted;”

  6. jim claybourn @5 :
    “7. the two delegates from each congregation that attended the 2012 district convention will vote for the synodical president by audited mail or audited Internet ballot; if one or both delegates are unavailable, substitutes will be accepted;”

    My understanding of the wording of the bylaw is that substitutes will be accepted. However, material from our DP has strongly emphasized that only those delegates or alternates who attended the District Convention will be permitted to vote. (This in agreement with Mailing #1 from Secretary Hartwig’s office.) It has been strongly emphasized in our district materials that substitutes will not be able to be appointed by the congregation. When I asked the DP, he said that was the word from Secretary Hartwig.

    I have not pushed for more clarity, because the whole thing has started to sound a lot like “how much can I get away with and not have to face any consequences?” The bottom line remains, it is VERY important that delegates attend their district conventions. It is not an unimportant thing.

  7. @boaz #4
    The very idea of a Synod is walking TOGETHER, thus the individual authority of doctrinal review of ONE pastor certainly does not meet the language or intent of Art. VI.4. Consider, if I use Pelagian material and on my authority I say it’s doctrinally pure. Is it? Can I use it in keeping with our Constitution? Can you see the disorder and disunity if doctrinal review rest on the individual pastor/congregation to determine? This is a huge problem today. This is intended to legislate our unity. No one is coerced, any can leave the Synod, but as pastors/congregations as members of the Synod they have chosen to bind themself to the Constitution which restricts Christian freedom in many ways for the benefit of the group.

    So yes, you should ask your pastor who doctrinally approved the material if needed.

  8. “Self-appointed theological watch-dogs!”

    That’s how we are sometimes unfairly characterized.

    We read in God’s Word, “So you, son of man, I have made a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. If I say to the wicked, O wicked one, you shall surely die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked person shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, that person shall die in his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul.

    “And you, son of man, say to the house of Israel, Thus have you said: ‘Surely our transgressions and our sins are upon us, and we rot away because of them. How then can we live?’ Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?” (Ezekiel 33:7-11)

    Love for the lost sheep motivates a pastor to sound the warning.

  9. Yes! I am aware of the substitute provision in # 8!!!

    But if a ‘substitute may be accepted’ then there really is no legitimate point to make the attendance of the Delegate mandatory–other than perhaps increase the attendance at the District Conventions!!!!

  10. @boaz #4

    Dear Boaz,

    Since you talk about how this would affect “your pastor” I assume that you are a layman.

    I assume you are referring to these statements in my article:

    3. requiring use of doctrinally-reviewed Lutheran worship resources at all district and circuit gatherings;
    4. encouraging regular use of Lutheran Service Book in all congregations, and reminding congregations of their constitutional agreement to use only doctrinally-reviewed Lutheran worship resources (Constitution Article VI.4);

    The only reason that I have suggested that these be considered as overtures is because it is a confused area that needs clarification. If there was no confusion, or disagreements, then there would no need for the synod to spend time and energy on the issue at convention.

    The problem is that many congregations and pastors now read Constitution VI.4 in isolation from its context in the Handbook and Lutheran theology, and then say “We will be our own judges and decide arbitrarily what is “doctrinally pure”; and we don’t care what our brother pastors, neighboring congregations, or synod think about it.” (“arbitrarily” defined here as “based on or subject to individual judgment or discretion”).

    Well . . . if they don’t care what the synod, brother pastors, or neighboring congregations think, why are they a member of synod? I have never understand that mindset, personally. It is certainly not a Lutheran way of thinking.

    When VI.4 says “doctrinally pure” it was not intended to “hang out in thin air.” There has to be some Lutheran WAY of determining whether materials are “doctrinally pure,” and “ways and means” are usually provided in Bylaws, in this case, Bylaws 3.93 to That is the natural and most sensible way to read our Constitution and Handbook.

    For specifics, the LCMS Handbook presently has the following statements that pertain to worship practices:

    Constitution Preamble. 2. “Our Lord’s will that the diversities of gifts should be used for the common profit. I Cor 12:4-31” {comment: right from the start, this means we pastors in the synod are not a bunch of “lone wolves” who do “whatever is right in his own eyes”}

    Constitution III.1. “The Synod, under Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions, shall conserve and promote the unity of the true faith (Eph 4:3-6; I Cor 1:10)” {comment: the first purpose of the synod is to preserve and promote UNITY, not to promote fractious diversity}

    Constitution III.7. “Encourage congregations to strive for uniformity in church practice, but also to develop an appreciation of a variety of responsible practices and customs which are in harmony with our common profession of faith” {comment: my suggested overture #4 above is just a rewording of this paragraph; the synod in convention can only ENCOURAGE uniformity at the congregational level by recommending that congregations use Lutheran Service Book (because of Constitution Article VII), but it can URGE, and if necessary MANDATE ON THE BASIS OF CONDITION OF MEMBERSHIP VI.4 “responsible practices and customs in harmony with our common profession of faith”}

    Constitution VI.4 “Exclusive use of doctrinally pure agenda, hymnbooks, and catechisms in church and school” {comment: since this specifically rules out non-Lutheran hymnbooks and liturgybooks, it also rules out individual non-Lutheran hymns, songs, liturgies, etc. by direct deduction of intent. This needs to be reiterated at convention, because many congregations willfully ignore it}

    Bylaws 3.93 to deal with doctrinal review, whose purpose is to “assist the President of the Synod in the exercise of his responsibilty that ALL doctrinal content of the synod or any of its agencies’ materials be in accord with the Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions.”

    What is not covered in all of this is the matter of the home-grown liturgy and hymns of the local LCMS pastor that is used just for his own congregation. I am not saying that this must pass the review at the synodical level, but it should pass through some sort of peer review.

    What about appointing someone in each circuit, perhaps a committe of two – one pastor and one Director of Parish Music (or equivalent), to review home-grown hymns and liturgy before use in their circuit congregations? Is that practical, fair, or flexible? I don’t know. Let’s talk about it.

    Another area of concern is the production of worship materials by “Lutheran” organizations, or companies, that have not passed LCMS doctrinal review. I think that all of these groups should have some means of acquiring approval for their materials that are sold or otherwise distributed.

    I don’t know the best answers to these problems, but identifying and clarifying the problem is the first step toward finding a solution. The main problem here are those pastors and congregations that OBSTINATELY REFUSE to WORK TOGETHER with the rest of us with respect to Article VI.4., because they claim a (non-Lutheran) right to ARBITRARILY judge their own worship practices.

    The answer lies in the synod providing a fair, flexible, and practical way in which some sort of doctrinal review can be provided for all hymns and liturgies used in congregations, and then we can all be reasonably assured that what is happening in congregations truly is DOCTRINALLY PURE.

    I think that is a goal worth working toward, especially if it will lead to greater harmony in the synod overall. I, for one, think we could use a lot more CONCORDIA!

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  11. Pr. Noland, I agree with much of what you say. The wording of your proposal in the post seems to assume that there is a requirement in the constitution that only materials reviewed and approves by synod can be used it the congregation is in violation of the constitution. I’ve heard other pastors make the same argument. But that requirement is not there currently.

    I disagree that we need to impose a further process to have all materials pre approved. If the synod approves a pastor as fit to be called, and stand up and preach to congregations the law and gospel, its silly to say he isn’t qualified to judge the worthiness of hymns and orders used. If pastors can’t be trusted to use doctrinally pure materials they can’t be trusted to preach or teach either. Preaching where the most harm can be done and nobody is suggesting a sermon preapproval process.

    We have a process in place to deal with congregations and pastors that teach falsely. Use of impure materials is evidence of false teaching. If we aren’t going to look at the evidence and use the process in place to deal with false teachers, then why would we do anything differently with those who would flout the new rules you propose? There is no reason to burden good teachers with a silly extra layer of bureacracy when it won’t be enforced against the bad teachers.

  12. Mr. Boaz,

    I have to leave in a few minutes for the weekend, so I have to brief, and won’t be back until next week. I think you presume things about pastors that are simply not the case.

    The fact is that our synod gives pastors enormous amount of training for preaching and teaching Bible classes, and some training (maybe one class) for teaching catechism. It gives them one class on how to conduct the liturgy, with some historical study of its roots. But . . .

    In the past, the LCMS gave its pastors little training in how to judge the doctrinal worthiness of hymns and liturgical elements. The training in worship classes presumed pastors would only use offiicial hymnals and agendas, per Constitution Article VI.4. When LCMS pastors started abandoning the official Lutheran worship sources, they did not use the doctrinal criteria for worship found in the Scriptures and the Lutheran confession. What is actually going on in various congregations is prima facie evidence of that, since much of it has no relationship at all to Lutheran theology – and a whole lot to do with American Baptist-Methodist-Pentecostal-Protestant theology.

    I don’t assume that we have non-Lutheran worship practices in many places because those pastors WANT to be non-Lutheran or because they don’t care. I know, from talking to many of them, they simply DON’T KNOW what they are doing in this particular field of Practical-Applied Theology. But they think they know what they are doing, because they have an M.Div. or some sort of certificate on the wall.

    Just because you understand the elements of Lutheran theology, does not mean you know how to apply it to a particular practice or genre. This is PRECISELY the reason we are in such bad shape in so many congregations in this field.

    I have specialized training in historical theology, with a subset in systematics. I do not presume to speak–with any authority–on exegetical matters. I leave that to our exegetes. I do not presume to speak–with any authority–on Hebrew and Greek. I leave that to our linguists. I do not presume to speak–with any authority–on matters of pastoral counseling. I leave that to those counseling experts. Etc., etc.

    All of us pastors can rightly claim to be experts in preaching, in teaching religion, in conducting the liturgy and worship, and in pastoral visitation. This is what we were trained for; and this is what we do every week. In every other area, we are more or less amateurs, and either need to get additional training, consult the experts, or utilize talent that we have in our congregation, among our laymen or other church-workers, who have expertise in those areas. To NOT do this, is simply arrogance.

    The sad thing about most home-grown liturgies and hymns is that they are usually amateurish. The dangerous thing is that they may be doctrinally unsound and lead people away from the Gospel.

    Our pastors should welcome a “second opinion” or review of home-grown hymns and liturgies, not fight against peer review. Peer review, of some sort, is all that I am suggesting. Again, I don’t understand this anti-social-and-anti-synod sentiment. It doesn’t make sense to me, any way that you look at it.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  13. Martin R. Noland :
    The LCMS gives our pastors ABSOLUTELY ZERO training in how to judge the doctrinal worthiness of hymns and liturgical orders….

    It wasn’t always like this. Dr. James Brauer did a truly, wonderful job doing this when I was a student at the Sem. Now, I hear, they have brought in praise band, so-called “contemporary worships experts” to teach the worship class for students.

  14. Peer review is great. Institutionalizing it as a rule is a bad idea. If the censors approve something, do we all then have to admit its doctrinally pure? cph put out a lot of junk in the seventies. Is that all to be deemed doctrinally pure? And cph already puts out liturgy builders. What do you do with that? And what happens if we get another ablaze president and he refuses to give the imprimatur to orders and hymns published by smaller high church publishing houses?

    Rules requiring review of materials is a law based method that won’t work any better than what we have now. We already have lots of churches openly using impure materials. I think everybody here knows of lcms churches that regularly sing songs that plainly teach false doctrine. Why would adding more rules make them more likely to be enforced?

    Also, why wouldn’t instruction at sem apply to hymns and materials. I’m assuming seminaries teach pastors to detect false doctrine. If one can craft a law and gospel sermon, emphasizing justification through faith found in word in sacrament, they should have no problem recognizing songs and liturgies that don’t do that. It’s not a coincidence that the worse the songs and materials, the more legalistic and works based the preaching is.

  15. @Martin R. Noland #10

    Constitution VI.4 “Exclusive use of doctrinally pure agenda, hymnbooks, and catechisms in church and school” {comment: since this specifically rules out non-Lutheran hymnbooks and liturgybooks, it also rules out individual non-Lutheran hymns, songs, liturgies, etc. by direct deduction of intent.

    Noting that the last three LCMS hymnals include a variety of individual hymns of non-Lutheran origin, I am not clear on how the Constitution “rules out individual non-Lutheran hymns” in the official publication of our own hymnals. Do you consider it inappropriate to include such hymns?

    Forgive me if this next question seems a bit elementary: How exactly do you define what a “Lutheran hymn” is?

  16. @R.D. #17 ,

    Would you please provide specifics for your allegation, along with substantiation? Have you submitted such findings to the COW or CTCR? What was their response?

  17. @R.D. #17 I suspect R.D. is making a private judgment as to what is doctrinally pure or not. And while we should look with an eye to pure doctrine, we cannot impose our judgments on the Synod without taking proper steps, such as Carl Vehse suggests. LSB would have been dontrinally certified by one or more (probably more, in the case of LSB) doctrinal reviewers. One CAN challenge a document’s doctrinal certification with the Commission on Doctrinal Review, if one is convinced that it is doctrinally problematic.

  18. R.D.,

    1. Some have spoken of Lutheran hymnody as the sung confession of the church. If that is true, then don’t you think it would appropriate to expect synodical members to hold a quia subscription to the LSB? (A “quia” subscription means we subscribe to it because it IS a faithful and accurate confession and exposition of God’s holy Word.)

    Or would it be satisfactory and sufficient for us to maintain a quatenus subscription to the LSB — _insofar_ as it is faithful to the Word of God?

    2. I mean, really, if the LSB is in fact doctrinally pure, why would anyone have any problems with expecting an unconditional subscription to it from members in our synod — perhaps even stated as such by resolution of the synod in convention? (What would have to happen before anyone would agree to make such a subscription to the LSB — given the fact that the members of synod maintain that it is in fact “doctrinally pure” until proven otherwise?)

    Is it unreasonable for confessional Lutherans to imagine that the Church could have a hymnal to which they COULD make a quia subscription — or do steadfast Lutherans believe that “quia subscription” must be reserved exclusively in reference to the Book of Concord? Perhaps it is. [Perhaps it is impossible for Lutherans today or in the future to compose or compile anything to which one would hold a quia subscription. I guess that makes the Concordia (e.g. AC of 1530 and BoC 1580) to be all the more remarkable since only Christians of the 16th century could have accomplished such a thing by the grace of God!]

    3. If one COULD find a single doctrinal flaw in LSB, would anyone else actually be willing to state that the LSB is not doctrinally pure — because all it would take is just ONE doctrinal flaw and the hymnal wouldn’t be doctrinally pure, right? (To what extent would people permit “poetic license” in the face of dogmatic, systematic statements of THE Faith, not merely “personal faith”?)

    4. IF it could be demonstrated that the LSB is not doctrinally pure, what do you suppose would be the consequence? (Note what measures were taken when a CPH version of the Book of Concord came out where certain issues dealing with format caused an uproar and a revision and reprinting of the volume at what was presumably a costly price.) What if it became clear that the LSB was not doctrinally pure, but the COW, the CTCR, CPH and the COP were not willing to do anything about it because it would create great strife in the synod and great costs would be incurred? Surely, you don’t suppose anything like that has EVER happened in The LCMS, do you?

    5. Before you make any allegations and attempt to substantiate them with specific examples, wouldn’t it be important to get a few of these ground rules clear — if you, R.D., were so inclined as to be more detailed in your complaint?

    6. Having spent some time on the hymn subcommittee for the LSB and having served as a doctrinal reviewer for the synod, I might be aware some of the consequences for calling doctrinal purity into question. One might think that being a stickler for doctrinal purity would be well-accepted and respected in the LCMS, though it seems, R.D., like you think that might not always be the case.

    7. Do you think that “doctrinal purity” is simply intended to mean that a person “can’t find anything wrong with it”? Isn’t it quite possible to recite or sing religious statements which are rather innocuous — and one certainly can’t find anything “wrong” with that? Isn’t it quite possible to use volumes of Scriptural words and make them sound like one is actually saying something substantive when the manner of their use amounts to little more than stringing the words together without having any particular coherent meaning — but that isn’t sinful or contrary to pure doctrine, is it?

    Still, I suppose there might be some who recommend that we should rather understand doctrinal purity in the POSITIVE rather than the negative sense. That is, instead of saying “I don’t see anything wrong with it,” we would say, “I know specifically what pure doctrine DOES: It strikes the sinner speechless coram Deo and it proclaims the works of Christ without making it sound as though the Christian has a debt to pay for the Gospel or that obedience is the goal of the Gospel. Pure doctrine would not imagine that our acts of praise or attempts at glorifying God or making Him great are truly the means by which He is actually praised.

    In that case, pure doctrine without equivocation would confess that the Lord is glorified and praised by HIS works where His Law has produced repentance and where His Gospel bestows life and salvation by His means of grace. If there are hymns, for example, which fail to be doctrinally pure in that sense, would it be right to call them into question?

    I mean, what really is the point of being “doctrinally pure” if it simplistically means that one can’t find anything wrong with it? Shouldn’t we rather understand something to be doctrinally pure if it actually and truly kicks the devil back to hell, puts the world in its place, and exposes our wretchedness only to pronounce — not merely “assure” or “talk about” — that we are robed in Christ’s righteous and seated with Him in the heavenly places? Well, anyway, those are the only kinds of hymns that I care to sing.

    It IS certainly reasonable to ask you, R.D., to provide specific referents when you lob a grenade into the room anonymously (though I wouldn’t assume that you, R.D., haven’t submitted evidence of concerns to the proper authorities which may in fact stand behind the pessimistic one-liner.)

    I suppose we would all like to believe that the doctrinal reviewers, the COW, the CTCR, and the faithful and knowledgeable servants at CPH would NEVER ever let anything slip in which was not meet, right and salutary, but I’m not certain that has always been the case. I have a feeling that there are a number of people who are willing to accept the LSB as being doctrinally pure who haven’t actually read through every hymn but who understandably take for granted that it is because the COW, the CTCR, etc., even the synod in convention has approved it, therefore it must be okay — and shame on anyone who casts aspersions on it!

    Yet didn’t the COW in its own document introducing LSB state that the LSB contained some hymns which were “weaker” than others? Unfortunately, neither the COW or the synodical staff, nor the CTCR, etc., were willing to identify specifically which hymns were weaker or stronger. Wouldn’t it be nice if they had done so — and had educated us about what makes some hymns weaker and some hymns stronger?

    But would ANYONE be willing to bell THAT cat — to state unequivocally that these 12 or 18 or . . . hymns are the weaker hymns? If any of those hymns should be on the all-time top favorites, well, the person or committee doing being critical of those hymns would not be very popular, would they? Best to lay low and hope for something better on other fronts by being “judicious” in actually selecting the hymns for services . . .

    Personally, if I had a physician prescribing medications to me for a disease which could be terminal, I would prefer him to prescribe only the best. I might be looking for a different doctor if he were to say to me, “Some of the medication I’ve prescribed is weaker than the others — but I won’t tell you which is which.” And sin is much more deadly than cancer ever could be.

    Still, I contend that the issue is not to place blame. Shall we not all, as steel sharpens steel, work toward the future, from one generation to the next, to hone and refine such things as we pray, recite, and sing preferably to the point that we could make a quia confession to a hymnal and service book?

    That would certainly be a hymnal we could place into the hands of our children and into the hands of Christ’s flock and be able to say without reservation or qualification, “You can subscribe unconditionally to everything in this hymnal. It is doctrinally pure and there is nothing dubious or ambiguous about it. It exposes your sin and your great need. At no point does it ask you to rely upon your determination or dedication based upon natural revelation to sanctify yourself or to glorify God but rather it points unambiguously and without metaphorical allusions to the actual and clear work of Christ through His words of promise and peace.”

    So, R.D., I hope you’ve learned your lesson not to make private judgments and be so critical of LSB without getting formal acknowledgement from the authorities that such challenges to the hymnal’s doctrinal certification have properly been called into question and substantiated with specifics — or to treat Const. Art. VI.4 as if it didn’t really apply! 😉

    Kyrie eleison.

  19. @Rev. Joel A. Brondos #20

    Very well said, much better than this layman could ever articulate. You know, I would think on such a forum as this, that the fact LSB is not doctrinally pure (I did not say heretical) would be self-evident. Moreover, the same hymns to which I object to being in a Lutheran hymnal are the same ones scholars have criticized for years.

    I lament that we have included in our hymnals such junk that has displaced great hymnary. Even ELH, the best Lutheran hymnal in the US today, has “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” (though, they brilliantly changed the tune!)

    So you were there, when they put together the hymnal? I was looking through it and said, “We can tear out this page and knock out two bad hymns at once. But if we tear out this other page, we lose one good hymn and one bad one. We’re better off to jettison this good one if it gets rid of bad theology.” It’s a false choice, but as long as we produce such hymnals, it is our only choice. Sometimes it causes me to tremble.

    But I do have the solution. Put together a doctrinally pure hymnal. Do not tell me it cannot be done. It has nothing to do with subjective tastes. It has everything to do with good theology and great music. Just as we do not adorn the altar with plastic plates and disposable picnic table cloth, we should not use cheap hymns. After all, it’s for the children. So let us gather three good learned men who know what they’re doing and let them assemble a doctrinally pure hymnal, with only the best of our music, omitting wherever there is doubt, never compromising, and we will be so much better for it. Until that day, we will have to step through a minefield of bad hymns, being careful and diligent as to which hymns (and what kind of theology!) we teach to our dear children.

    As for a quia subscription to a perfected hymnal, perhaps in a few hundred years. 😉 Point being, time/scholar/layman tested for generations and found to be in complete harmony with the inerrant Word. But I can say LSB, TLH, and ELH won’t make it to quia subscription!

  20. @Rev. Joel A. Brondos #20

    I forgot…you are absolutely dead-on with your #7. A question we have not asked enough with regard to doctrine and practice is, “what is right about it, or, what makes it right and salutary?” On the surface, there may not appear to be anything wrong with using paper plates at the altar. After all, such is (on the surface) adiaphora. If we ask, “what is wrong with it,” it is difficult to answer. There may not be anything wrong with it – if that is all we have. But if we ask, “what is right about it,” we can get to the heart of the matter: perhaps we have gold plated vessels we keep stored away for ourselves, and use paper plates for God’s service. Now this uncovers a big problem as we likely are in the process of breaking at least commandments 1,3,7. Perhaps we have an errant view of what the Supper is, if we find it sufficient to withhold our best.

    “Go, Tell it On the Mountain.” What’s right about it? “What a Friend we Have in Jesus.” What is right about it? We answer those questions honestly, these do not make it into a Lutheran hymnal. In their place, we put in hymns that teach us about Jesus, our justification, and the means by which we are brought into and sustained within the fold. Sing it enough, we will remember it at a time when we cannot remember anything else.

  21. @Rev. Joel A. Brondos #20 : “Note what measures were taken when a CPH version of the Book of Concord came out where certain issues dealing with format caused an uproar and a revision and reprinting of the volume at what was presumably a costly price.”

    While there were “certain issues dealing with format,” the “uproar,” was primarily caused by some of the doctrinal challenges, which resulted in the LCMS Commission on Doctrinal Review (CDR) revoking the certification of Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions. A Reader’s Edition:

    “Of the 44 points raised by challengers and evaluated below, the review panel found 21 to present no significant doctrinal concerns at all; these were primarily small matters of style or non-doctrinal editorial choices. Ten raise legitimate concerns over textual issues. Nine identify inadequate, misleading, or inaccurate statements in the editorial material. Four point out passages where at least some additional clarification or explanation is needed to account for significant changes from the underlying Bente/Dau translation.” (pp. 3-4)

    In response, the CPH issued a 16-page “Supplement of Explanations and Clarifications for the First Edition (2005)” which contained corrections to the issues identified in the CDR review. A printed Supplement (item number 53-1153) was (is?) available from CPH free of charge on request and comes with an adhesive backing for attaching to the inside of the First Edition. An approved Second Edition (2007) of Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions. A Reader’s Edition was subsequently printed and published.

  22. @R.D. #21 : “You know, I would think on such a forum as this, that the fact LSB is not doctrinally pure (I did not say heretical) would be self-evident.”

    This response still leaves the questions in #18 unanswered. Also, the burden of proof is with the claimant.

  23. @boaz #15

    Dear Mr. Boaz,

    Thanks for your comments. When you say that institutionalizing peer review is a bad idea, I guess you are saying that CPH’s new process for peer-reviewed manuscripts and books is also a bad idea. You may be right, but I am willing to give that process a chance.

    I don’t have a good answer to this problem, i.e, the blatant disregard for LCMS Constitution VI.4. I am not one who likes to throw out congregations or pastors just because they have violated “our covenant,” whatever that is. I want to see clear evidence of rejection of church-wide, 500-year-old Lutheran doctrine (i.e., any doctrine in the Lutheran confessions or Scriptures) before I am ready to consider removal for these type of reasons.

    But I think there should be ways to influence those congregations or pastors, and move them in a more Lutheran direction. “Peer pressure” is very influential, without being dogmatic or punitive.

    As it is, right now, if a neighboring congregation in my circuit is doing offensive stuff in worship (i.e., not offensive to me, but offensive to our common confession), there is nothing I can do about it. They will tell me, “Butt out, bub!” There is little the circuit counselor can do. They will tell him, “Go fly a kite, counselor! We have judged that this stuff is doctrinally sound; and we don’t care what you or others think!” And this happens all the time.

    Over the course of time, this will do two things: those congregations that engage in “contemporary worship” (another name for modern-Evangelical worship) will increasingly be weaned off Lutheran doctrine and Lutheran ways of reading the Bible; they will join with like-minded non-Lutheran LCMS congregations, either for the purpose of leaving the LCMS – or taking over the LCMS and forcing their ways on the rest of us. The truth is that this Evangelical worship stuff is breeding grounds for schism and sectarianism (see LCMS Constitution, Article III.1; cf. FC SD X, 5).

    I am not against projector screens, use of songs not in the hymnbook, electronic guitars and drums, songs with pop rythms or syncopations, etc., as long as they are used in a proper way (though I am not likely to introduce them). I am not against local congregations and pastors coming up with new songs and worship elements that are not in the hymnbook, agenda, or sold by CPH. But . . .

    I AM against doctrinally impure hymns and doctrinally impure worship elements (Constutiton Article VI.4). There has to be some real, flexible, and practical way to guard against these things in all congregations, for the benefit of the church and all her members. I am open to suggestions for such “ways and means,” and I think these suggestions should come to the synodical convention in the form of overtures. Then let the national convention hash it out.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  24. @Carl H #16

    Dear Carl H. and other BJS bloggers,

    You ask a good question, Mr. H. Let me clarify my statements in comment #10.

    The question is how should the phrase in Constitution VI.4–“Exclusive use of doctrinally pure agenda, hymnbooks, and catechisms in church and school”–be understood and applied?

    FIRST. It is obvious to me, and I think everyone else, that this means that LCMS congregations should not use the Anglican Book of Common Prayer (BCP), “The Hymnal for Worship & Celebration” (Word, 1986), or other non-Lutheran-denominational prayerbooks or hymnbooks. They have agreed (Constitution VI.4) that they won’t buy those BOOKS and they won’t put them in their pews.

    SECOND. This does not mean, however, that elements from the BCP won’t be found in the official hymnbooks of the LCMS. These most often are elements, prayers, or hymns that are common to Christians throughout the world. On occasion, these are elements, prayers, or hymns that are specific to that denomination, but are perfectly acceptable for use in our churches.

    If this were not true, we wouldn’t be able to use any elements in the BCP in the Lutheran church. Then, in that case, the “Holy Eucharist I” in the BCP would exclude our use of the Kyrie, Gloria in Excelsis, versicles for the Collect of the Day, the Nicene Creed, the opening to the Eucharist, the Sanctus, the Lord’s Prayer, the Agnus Dei, and the Benediction.

    Then, in that case, we couldn’t use any hymns in “The Hymnal . . .” such as: Praise to the Lord the Almighty (Lobe den Herren), Holy God We Praise Thy Name (Grosser Gott), We Praise Thee O God our Redeemer (Kremser), All People that On Earth Do Dwell (Old 100th), A Mighty Fortress is Our God (Ein Feste Burg), Children of the Heavenly Father (Tryggare Kan Ingen Vara), O God our Help in Ages Past (St. Anne), All Creatures of our God and King (Lasst uns Erfreuen), etc., etc.

    THIRD. How, then, do editors of Lutheran hymnbooks decide what can be included and what has to be excluded? On a doctrinal basis, pure and simple.

    Completely orthodox hymns can be produced by non-Lutherans, because Christians are found in every Christian denomination that accepts the doctrine of the Apostles Creed. Our confessions say the same thing, in different words, about the universality of the Christian church (see Preface to the Book of Concord, para. 22; Tappert, pp. 11-12).

    Therefore you cannot use the ethnic or denominational background of a Christian author to determine that his/her hymn (or prayer, or other element) is doctrinally sound, or unsound. You have to judge both the actual meaning of the words and actions, and how those words and actions are understood by the audience, to determine doctrinal purity. I am quite content to sing a hymn written by an Anglican, Methodist, Baptist, Moravian, Quaker, Pentecostal, Russian Orthodox, or even a Roman Catholic author, IF it has passed LUTHERAN doctrinal review by a competent reviewer.

    Someone in this series of comments expressed concern about how certain political parties “gum up the works” when they have politically taken-over the official LCMS doctrinal review process for their own purposes. I know this has happened in the past. In such cases, we have to say that, though the parties involved were members of a Lutheran church, they did not exercise LUTHERAN doctrinal review.

    FOURTH. The problem in applying Constitution VI.4 today is that many congregations print out their entire services, or project those entire services on their sanctuary screens, bringing in the potential for individual hymns, prayers, and elements that are not in the official hymnbook or agenda, and have not passed doctrinal review. How do we deal with that?

    When I say that VI.4 “rules out individual non-Lutheran hymns, songs, liturgies, etc.,” I mean by the adjective “non-Lutheran” the same Lutheran doctrinal criteria used by competent LUTHERAN doctrinal reviewers.

    So it would be more precise for me to have written that VI.4 “rules out individual hymns, songs, liturgies, etc. that transgress Lutheran doctrinal criteria.” I am sorry if that was not clear.

    Please don’t ask me to explain any or all the Lutheran doctrinal criteria involved in competent Lutheran doctrinal review. That would take a book-length treatment on the subject. If you are interested in the topic, I recommend Dr. James Brauer’s book, “Worship, Gottesdienst, Cultus Dei” available here:

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  25. Pastor Noland,

    You suggested:

    The LCMS gives our pastors ABSOLUTELY ZERO training in how to judge the doctrinal worthiness of hymns and liturgical orders….

    As a current student of Concordia Seminary in St. Louis I can assure you that this statement is incorrect. As evidence that you would seem to meet with approval of the training we do in fact receive, one of the primary texts we study is Dr. James Brauer’s book, “Worship, Gottesdienst, Cultus Dei,” which you yourself have recommended in this thread.

    I would encourage the readers of this blog to become more familiar with the actual training that goes on at our two great seminaries. As a student who is in his second year of learning, I can tell you that what the seminaries need is more support from the church, not less. I give thanks to Christ Jesus each day for the privilege I have to study here.


  26. Dear Reverend Noland and Seminarian Hunsacker-

    In my training (at CTSFW) we did have one class on Lutheran Worship with a couple of weeks on doctrinal criteria for hymns and liturgical orders. Unfortunately, that was before the days of Brauer’s book, though we did make reference to “Lutheran Worship: History and Practice.”

    These lectures were wonderful and I can still hear Kantor Resch’s voice instructing us. However, this was simply one class (every other subject matter has a series of courses). The training is not zero, but it is very, very little in comparison with the other subjects and in light of the fact that this whole question of Lutheran worship is in controversy among us.

    On the other hand, the rich chapel life ingrained a genuinely Lutheran ethos in liturgy and hymns, thereby teaching me how the criteria actually operate. This lesson was not simply an academic exercise, but spiritually faith-strengthening under the crosses of life.

    The “external” constitutional rule ought to be acknowledged, understood (and we are trying to come to terms with what it says and means, as Rev. Noland advocates), and followed in our confessional fellowship. Along with this, the internal rule of “koinonia”–that we glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ with one heart and one mouth (Romans 15)–ought to be even more strenuously fostered as the very rationale for the constitutional rule (in my reading and understanding of both of these rules).

    Finally, notice how these words of Paul in Romans 15 are themselves “worshipful,” i.e. the *instruction* he is giving is at the same time *doxology*, a “rule” couched in the language of worship. The full terminology for the First Person (“God and Father”) and the Second Person (“our Lord Jesus Christ”) of the Trinity is employed; and, of course, the concern for “unity” is very much the achievement of the Holy Spirit in His Work. The full terminology is akin to how on Easter in our congregations we “pull out all the stops.” When this “one heart and one mouth” laudation of the Trinity is going on (the voice of justified sinners…book of Romans), it is the work of God in His service to us, and so I think we can say that unity in worship is itself worship (comparable to unity in doctrine being itself worship).

    Blessed Advent.
    Rev. Matthew Johnson

  27. @Mark Hunsaker #27
    @Rev. Matthew Johnson #28

    Dear Seminarian Hunsaker and Pastor Johnson,

    Thank you very, very much for your comments! I reviewed my comment #12, and you are right. So I have asked Web-Master Norm Fisher to revise it, to more accurately reflect the true state of affairs.

    You don’t know how pleased we are to hear that students at both seminaries are receiving this training today! My comment was based on experiences 20 to 30 years ago and the difficulties faced in this area by our worship faculties.

    I was not trying to cast aspersions on either seminary or their faculties–certainly not! They have been our greatest allies in this struggle over the years. But I am also trying to make people realize that almost all the older pastors have not received adequate training in the matter of doctrinal criteria for worship. Why is this?

    When I went on vicarage over thirty years ago, the church office produced bulletins and newsletters like everyone else did, with spirit duplicators ( and mimeograph machines ( The masters were produced by typing, and one error could mean you had to start all over again. Xerography was just becoming available for the biggest church offices, but for most churches the spirit or mimeo process was the most economical for both time and money. And of course, hardly anyone had personal computers. It was just too costly, in time and money, to do your own (DIY) liturgy and hymns, except for the rare occasion or festival.

    By the time I entered my first parish, which was a large church (ca. 2000), many churches were using personal computers, dot matrix printers, and in-office xerography machines. This made possible the production and use of home-grown liturgies and hymns. Pastors and church musicians no longer were limited to what was in the hymnal. The rise of lawsuits due to copyright infringements led many folks to “grow their own.” This was the technological background for the rise of “alternative worship.”

    The teaching of worship classes, up until this time, did not have to contend with the possibility of DIY liturgy and hymns. All LCMS congregations had one of the official hymnbooks. The worship classes assumed that fact, and spent the few and precious hours in class (and assignments) on learning how to do the liturgies, the occasional services, and the historical and theological background for those things. They didn’t explain the Lutheran criteria in any DETAIL, because only the hymnal editors really needed to know that.

    Then everything exploded after I entered the parish ministry (1984). “Fellowship Ministries” and “Worship Innovations” offered non-official hymnals for Lutheran congregations and published essays and articles attacking Lutheran doctrinal criteria for worship.

    David Luecke’s book “Evangelical Style and Lutheran Substance” (St Louis: CPH, 1988) contains the essence of those arguments and the attacks against the Lutheran church and her defenders. Luecke credited professors at the Evangelical Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, CA for his ideas, specifically Carl George and Peter Wagner (see and With Luecke, the American Evangelical tradition was making inroads into the LCMS, no doubt about it!

    In response, the faculties at our seminaries began to write and teach against these trends. But they were hampered by political pressures in the church to stay quiet. The conflicts over worship were, without a doubt, one of the major factors in the firing of Robert Preus. After Preus was gone, the enemies-of-Lutheran-worship attacked the friends-of-Lutheran-worship on that faculty (see John Pless, “On Silencing the Lord’s Song,” LOGIA 3 #3 (July 1994): Logia Forum, 85-86).

    Our theological faculties have been hindered from teaching our future pastors about the doctrinal criteria for worship, because the enemies-of-Lutheran-worship have had their way with our church and seminaries for too many years. I know that our seminary faculties in the worship department have been teaching correctly on these matters, but it has also, for them, been a matter of survival against heavy odds.

    Dr. Brauer did a bold and brilliant thing in publishing “Worship, Gottesdienst, Cultus Dei.” If the seminaries actually use that book, as you have testified, AND the students UNDERSTAND what our Lutheran confessions say about worship, the Lutheran church will be preserved for another generation. But I would not say we are “out of the tunnel” yet! Just look at the guys doing New Jersey Jam (see

    As an appendix, I am including a list of four years of LOGIA articles and LOGIA Forum pieces on worship topics, from 1992-1996. I don’t have time to include years after that. You can see that this was a major concern for LOGIA in its early years, and still is.

    To obtain the LOGIA articles, either by individual issues or on CD disk, point your browser to: If you are not a subscriber, you might consider that, too!

    Joel Brondos, who commented above, gets credit for all the work on Logia Forum in those years, and also has many good articles and pieces to his own credit on this list. Tim Rossow, now head-master of “Brothers of John the Steadfast,” gets credit for keeping up LOGIA circulation as “Subscription Manager” in those days. John Pless, Dale Meyer, Lawrence Rast, Paul Grime, Richard Resch, Jon Vieker, and Paul McCain are on the list, as are MANY other friends-of-Lutheran-worship.

    I apologize to the many friends-of-Lutheran worship that are not on that list, since it was not intended to be a comprehensive list of “friends,” but a list of articles in a specific period. All of these “friends-of-Lutheran-worship” deserve your thanks, and the thanks of the church, for enduring all sorts of garbage from the enemies-of-Lutheran-worship, so that the truth could see the light of day.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

    (see to order online)

    Ken Schurb, “The Church: Hospital or Gymnasium,” 1 #1, 17-22.
    Richard Resch, “Consumerism and the Church,” 1 #1, Forum, 75-76.
    Harold Senkbeil, “A Search for Greener Pastures,” 1 #1, Forum, 77-78.
    Martin Luther, “Public Worship and Concord,” 2 #1, Forum, 52-53.
    Norman Nagel, “Whose Liturgy is It?,” 2 #2, 4-8.
    John Pless, “Toward a Confessional Lutheran Understanding of Liturgy,” 2 #2, 9-13.
    Dennis Marzolf, “Johannes Bugenhagen and the Lutheran Mass,” 2 #2, 14-19.
    Richard Resch, “Church Music at the Close of the Twentieth Century: The Entanglement of Sacred and Secular,” 2 #2, 21-27.
    Hermann Sasse, “Ecclesia Orans: Letters Addressed to Lutheran Pastors,” 2 #2, 18-34.
    Joel Brondos, “Allegorical Worship,” 2 #2, Forum, 47-48.
    Luther and Walther, “Easter Buffonery and Effective Ministry, 2 #2, Forum, 49.
    Bo Giertz, “Doing Without Liturgy,” 2 #2, Forum, 50.
    Robert W. Schaibley, “A Lutheran Strategy for Urban Ministry: Evangelism and the Means of Grace,” 2 #3, 6-13.
    James Tiefel, “Liturgical Worship for Evangelism and Outreach,” 2 #3, 28-43.
    Gerald Bray, “Instruction or Religious Entertainment,” 2 #3, Forum, 70-71.
    Charles Evanson, “Gottesdienst and Evangelical Identity,” 2 #3, Forum, 72.
    Joel Brondos, “The Joy of the Divine Service,” 2 #3, Forum, 73-74.
    Thomas Rank, “Lutheran Hymnal, Jr.,” 2 #4, Forum, 77-78.
    John Fenton, “God’s Service to Us,” 2 #4, Forum, 79.
    Joel Brondos, “Pastor Couldn’t We?” 3 #1, Forum, 64-66.
    Paul McCain, “Resourcing the Resource,” 3 #1, Forum, 73-75.
    Lawrence Rast, Jr., “A House Dividing? Reflections on GCC ’93,” 3 #1, Forum, 77-80.
    Dennis Marzolf, “That The Unlearned May be Taught,” 3 #2, 4-7.
    Paul Grime, “Lutheran Hymnody: Is it Possible or Even Necessary Anymore?” 3 #2, 8-17.
    Jon Vieker, “We All Believe in One True God: Luther’s Liturgical Confession of the Church’s Continuity of Doctrine throughout the Ages,” 3 #2, 26-32.
    Richard Resch, “Music: Gift of God or Tool of the Devil?,” 3 #2, 33-38.
    Gregory Lockwood, “Hymnody and Liturgy Across Cultures: A Case Study: Papua New Guinea,” 3 #2, 40-43.
    Andrew Pfeiffer, “Myths About Worship,” 3 #2, Forum, 77-78.
    Paul Westermeyer, “Reflections on the Office,” 3 #2, Forum, 78-79.
    Eugene Peterson, “The Glamour of Worship, 3 #2, Forum, 80.
    Harold Senkbeil, “One Song, One Voice,” 3 #2, Forum, 81.
    James Bushur, “Worship: The Activity of the Trinity,” 3 #3, 3-12.
    David P. Saar, “Let Us Pray: A Historical Examination of the Collect of the Day,” 3 #3, 13-22.
    John Pless, “On Silencing the Lord’s Song,” 3 #3, Forum, 85-86.
    Joel Brondos, “Real Life Worship Readers,” 3 #4, Forum, 77.
    Charles Evanson, “New Directions,” 4 #1, 3-10.
    Tom Winger, “Lex Orandi Revisited,” 4 #1, Forum, 65-66.
    J. M. Braun, “A Sauer Note,” 4 #1, Forum, 71.
    Martin R. Noland, “The Christian Philosophy and the Christian Religion,” 4 #2, 43-47.
    Joel Brondos, “Unfinished Business,” 4 #3, Forum, 85-86.
    Richard Collmann, “The Tyranny of the Familiar,” 4 #3, Forum, 72.
    Jon Vieker, “The Service is Divine,” 4 #3, Forum, 75-76.
    Charles Evanson, “Grace-Full Use,” 4 #3, Forum, 76-78.
    John Pless, “Community of Joy,” 4 #3, Forum, 78-79.
    Jeffrey Larson, “Except for Rituals,” 4 #3, Forum, 79-81.
    Craig Parton, “Luther Lite,” 4 #4, Forum, 83-84.
    Joel Brondos, “The Holy Things for the Holy Ones,” 5 #1, 15-24.
    Os Guinness, “Style, Style, Style,” 5 #1, Forum, 70.
    Frank Senn, “Alternative Worship,” 5 #1, Forum, 75-79.
    Dale Meyer, “Teaching the Kyrie, 5 #1, Forum, 80-84.
    Michael Hinrichs, “Liturgical Uniformity in Missouri,” 5 #2, 15-24.
    William Kilps, “Real Presence in the Liturgy,” 5 #2, Forum, 75.
    Eugene Peterson, “Neo-Baalism,” 5 #2, Forum, 75-76.
    Joel Brondos, “On the Public Reading of Scriptures,” 5 #2, Forum, 78-79.

  28. Reverned Noland-

    Thank-you for your usual thoroughness. I first heard of you while a student at the seminary from my professors and look forward to what you write and present. In you we have a conversation partner who always keeps the main thing the main thing, as you have demonstrated again in this entire thread.

    Matthew Johnson

  29. If you don’t trust me with an M.Div. to judge whether a hymn or song is doctrinally sound, why on earth do you trust me to get into a pulpit?

  30. Monster Cable :
    If you don’t trust me with an M.Div. to judge whether a hymn or song is doctrinally sound, why on earth do you trust me to get into a pulpit?

    I will take a stab at this one. It is a good question on the surface.

    First of all, I trust the Church with both. The Church is in charge of making sure that sound doctrine is taught by both our worship materials and our pastors. Aberrations occur, and there must be a mechanism for dealing with them. Providing doctrinally sound teaching from the pulpit and throughout worship is one of the most important reasons to have a Synod at all.

    From a practical standpoint, historically hymns and songs had more staying power than sermons, because they were written down and because people sang them. A small error in a sermon might not be noticed and probably wouldn’t be repeated–or it could be corrected subsequently–though clearly errors should not happen at all, and great care should be taken by each pastor to prevent this. But hymns and songs were more difficult to correct because their texts were frozen in place, by being written down in a hymnal, bulletin, or handout. Furthermore, they were often memorized or at least partially memorized–again, giving them ‘staying power’. It’s a lot easier to memorize something that rhymes and has a steady cadence than a sermon. And hymns and songs are used more than once–that has historically been rare with sermons. Again, that usage means that it is likely that they will be learned and remembered, and it makes it all the more crucial to get them right doctrinally.

    Regarding preaching, the effects of errors in preaching are just now becoming more widespread. It is an interesting phenomenon that now that youtube or simply audio recordings of sermons are often on congregational websites, they can be heard over and over. Will this give them the same or similar ‘staying power’ to hymns and songs? This is a question worth pondering and it should give pastors all the more reason to be very watchful and careful in both areas.

    There is another practical issue as well. Hymns and songs are used widely in the Church. Right teachings and consistent practices make for easy, reasonable, trustworthy transfers between congregations when moving to a new area for school- or work-related reasons. A hymn or song that is ‘approved’ by the Synod has been thoroughly vetted by a team of pastors and is used in multiple churches. One that has been introduced only in one church has usually been vetted, or at least looked over, by only one pastor. That does not necessarily mean that it’s bad, but it does mean that it doesn’t give transferable knowledge to congregants, and also that the responsibility for vetting falls heavily on just one person. Thus that practice should be approached with great caution.

    Also, from a practical standpoint, we have a truly outstanding hymnody. Any substitution into it means one less opportunity to learn and use something that is timeless and thorough in its theology. That, again, does not mean that replacements should never occur. It simply means that the question, “Which is better?” should be asked as well. And again, caution should be employed when something is either added or discarded.

    I hasten to add that caution should not move into paranoia. We are not the frozen chosen, and neither are our hymns. But there should always be a healthy caution that honors, for the sake of good order and sound doctrine, the timeless practices and usages of the past, while making sure that vernacular worship is always present among us.

  31. @Monster Cable #31

    Dear Monster,

    I assume that, maybe, you have not read my previous comments. I do answer your question there, admittedly in a disjointed way, which is the nature of “serial blogging.” Please see my comments above, #2, 10, 12, 25, 26, & 29.

    MY trusting YOU, Mr. Monster, has nothing to do with this issue. The issue is not between you and me, but between you (if you are pastor) and the Lutheran church.

    Assuming you are a pastor, the Lutheran church has many requirements that you must complete and many conditions that you must meet before you receive your first call. Your having a Master of Divinity degree is only part of that. The Diploma of Vocation (or whatever it is presently called) certifies that you have personally passed the review of the faculty of the seminary that you attended, and that in their judgement, you are competent to serve as a pastor in the Lutheran church. Without that diploma you cannot receive your first call (see LCMS Bylaw 2.8.1). This should remind you that you always serve the church by permission of the Synod, just as a pastor performs a wedding at the permission of the states

    Once you have received your first call and become an “individual member” of the synod, you still have certain conditions that must be met in order to hold membership in the synod (see LCMS Bylaw 2.11.1 and Constitution Article VI). These conditions are: 1) continued acceptance of confessional article of the synod’s constitution (VI.1); 2) renunciation of unionism and syncretism of every description (VI.2); 3) accepting only a “regular call” and maintaining a blameless life (VI.3); and 4) using only doctrinally pure agenda, hymnbooks, and catechisms; (VI.4).

    If you violate those conditions, you have “de facto” removed yourself from membership in the synod. The determination of violation “de jure” is a matter for synod’s officers. If they decide that you are “in violation,” you will be removed from membership in the synod and not be eligible to preach or do anything that belongs to a pastor’s job. This is what Article VI means; it is not something I am imposing on you.

    How is this monitored? District Presidents are given the responsibility to: “exercise supervision over the doctrine, life, and administration of office of the ordained and commissioned ministers of their district and acquaint themselves with the religious conditions of the congregations of their district. To this end, they shall visit and, according as they deem it necessary, hold investigations in the congregations. Their assistants in this work are the circuit counselors” (Constitution XII.7). Part of this work is reviewing the hymnbooks and agenda and catechisms used by congregations. But what if worship materials actually used are ephemeral?

    What I have suggested, in this series of comments, and in the article that I wrote for Lutheran Concerns, is that since pastors and congregations have the technology to write and use worship elements that are not in published “books,” and this ability can easily be misused to bypass the intent of Article VI.4, therefore to continue the intent of Article VI.4, and not burden the District President or Circuit Counselor with the job of reviewing every worship material from every congregation, that some type of “peer review” process be developed for use by synod’s congregations.

    Hmmm . . . looks like we already have makings of an overture here. 🙂

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  32. @Ginny Valleau #34,

    Good overtures! However, to add some teeth to the overture, “To Clarify Synod’s Reaffirmation of Close(d) Communion“, the following “RESOLVED” should be added:

    RESOLVED, That, for such synodical members who, contrary to the Missouri Synod’s official position of close(d) Communion, do publicly invite all baptized Christians who believe in the Real Presence and agree with our doctrine even though they are not members of a Missouri Synod Congregation, their ecclesiastical supervisors suspend the membership of such synodical members, and if a synodical member is unrepentant and does not change his actions, the ecclesiastical supervisor is to proceed according the Synod Bylaws to have the individual or congregational member expelled from the Missouri Synod.

  33. @Monster Cable #31

    Dear Monster,

    I have given some more thought to your question. By the way, I agree with “Old Saint John’s” comment #32, which showed up after I started working on comment #33. My additional thoughts are these:

    I suspect that many people in the LCMS would like to neutralize, or eliminate, LCMS Constitution Article VI.4. The proof of this is seen in the work of the previous synod president’s “Blue Ribbon Task Force on Synodical Structure and Governance.” In its Final Report, p. 21, Recommendation #1 urged wholesale changes to the LCMS Constitution. This included deletion of the phrase “exclusive use of doctrinally pure” from Article VI.4 (see p. 1.5 of that report), which would have resulted in “every man for himself” in LCMS worship practices.

    This came to the convention as Resolution 8-30 (see Today’s Business, Proposed Resolutions, p. 154 and 161). The resolution was “amended to death” and then finally adopted as Resolution 8-30B, which resulted in a synod-wide study on Article VI of the LCMS Constitution (see Convention Proceedings, pp. 168-169). This potential change would not have gotten that far, if there was not a lot of people wanting to change it, or some very powerful people wanting to do so.

    I have written more about Res. 8-30B here: So this is a live issue and subject to debate in the triennium 2010-13.

    What if the synod in 2013 decides to neutralize or eliminate Article VI.4? Then it would no longer be a matter between you and the Lutheran church. Then it would become a matter between you and my DUTY as a shepherd of God’s flock.

    As a pastor, I have responsibility for the spiritual care and nourishment of each INDIVIDUAL member of my congregation. The German pastors called it “privatseelsorge” (literally, “individual-soul-care”). When I first entered the ministry, I just saw it as my duty. As I have lived with “my people,” now in three congregations, it has also become something that I care about FROM THE HEART. I care for “my people” in this way in a similar way as I care about my own children.

    What would happen if I lost one of my own children through a tragic accident? I would never get over it. The loss would be with me until my dying day. I could not console myself with the idea, “Oh, well, I have two more.” Certainly not!

    In the same way, a good pastor does not want to lose any single, individual member of his flock to a non-Lutheran church (where they will not hear the Gospel clearly, or at all), much less to a non-Christian faith or unbelief. This is what Jesus’ parable of the Shepherd Who Searches for the One Sheep means.

    So how does this “privatseelsorge” business affect the worship that goes on in LCMS churches that are not my own?

    A Lutheran pastor who cares about the individual members of his congregation will not– when they visit other locales or move there–counsel them to visit or join a Lutheran congregation that he believes will have a negative impact on their spiritual life. People are moving around a whole lot more than they used to, so a pastor is called on for advice and judgment about other congregations all the time.

    How can he judge this? In a very few cases, he may know a distant congregation or pastor personally. But in 99% of the cases, he only knows that they are in the LCMS Lutheran Annual.

    Today, due to many factors, the inclusion of a congregation in the Lutheran Annual (i.e., being a member of the synod) is hardly the “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.” How do I know this? Laymen complain to me all the time that they can’t find an LCMS congregation where there is Lutheran preaching, teaching, catechesis, or worship. It’s slim pickins out there in some places, sad to say!

    Specifically to the worship angle. If we had a system whereby worship elements were reviewed, then I could at least say, “Even though they don’t use the same hymnal as we do, their worship materials have passed doctrinal review.”

    You see, I have a different approach to this than many of my colleagues.

    Some pastors go the “traditionalist” route. They say that you absolutely must use only the historic liturgy, as found in Luther’s two masses, the historic offices, and only hymns written by Lutherans. Anything else is heretical, they say. So they approve only the official hymnals (TLH, LW, LSB), or might write their own that is even more traditional.

    Others go the “uniformity” route. They say that everything must be uniform in the synod, but don’t explain what they mean by “uniform.” Properly understood as “recognizably the same, with some variance,” that term is fine. But not if it means “exactly the same down to dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s.” That would be contrary to Augsburg Confession VII.3.

    My approach is the “doctrinal criteria” route of Constitution Article VI.4 “worship has to be doctrinally pure,” both in the verbal components of worship (i.e., what worship teaches doctrinally) and in other aspects and elements of worship (i.e., that it adheres to Scriptural and confessional principles about worship). A congregation whose worship comports with Lutheran doctrinal criteria, as found in the Scriptures and Lutheran confessions, is one that I can confidently recommend to “my people.”

    A congregation whose worship DOES NOT comport with Lutheran doctrinal criteria, as found in the Scriptures and Lutheran confessions, is one that I cannot confidently recommend to “my people.” Furthermore, their errors in worship tell me something about the pastor and the probability that the same errors will show up in his preaching, teaching, and catechesis.

    I have found, by experience, that the worship practices of a Lutheran congregation are a significant indicator of the doctrinal integrity of the pastor and that congregation. Just like I have found that the tints of color in my senior member’s faces is a significant indicator of health, or decline in health. If they start looking pale, or yellowed, I will always stop to ask them “How are you doing these days?” The indicator prompts a need for investigation.

    You should also know that I view all congregations in the LCMS that have “doctrinally pure” worship as equal to mine. What this means is that if I have a congregational member who decides they would rather join another LCMS church in our locale, for whatever reason–driving time, additional programs, bigger congregation, to worship with adult children or grandchildren–I don’t mind at all. Whatever is best for my members is fine with me.

    But if they are thinking about joining a local LCMS congregation that has doctrinally impure worship, then I have to wave the warning flags. Of course, I cannot prohibit their transfer, but I can strongly warn against it–and in those cases, I WILL!

    Furthermore, as a member of the synod, I am concerned about the long-term effects of “doctrinally impure” worship on the church-at-large. So, even if the synod doesn’t care and eliminates VI.4, I still care.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  34. Monster Cable :
    If you don’t trust me with an M.Div. to judge whether a hymn or song is doctrinally sound, why on earth do you trust me to get into a pulpit?

    1. thank you for the brevity

    2. because while no one remembers the sermons, hymns or songs tend to be catchy

  35. Martin R. Noland #10 :
    “4. encouraging regular use of Lutheran Service Book in all congregations, and reminding congregations of their constitutional agreement to use only doctrinally-reviewed Lutheran worship resources (Constitution Article VI.4);”

    It seems to me that Article VI should be updated to prevent loopholes.

    Could not one argue that putting non-Lutheran liturgy in a bulletin or on a PowerPoint slide is not technically a violation of Article VI? I think that would violate the spirit of Article VI but not the letter of it.

    Or am I overthinking this?

  36. @David C. Busby #38

    Dear Mr. Busby,

    Now you have got the idea!

    You are correct. Hymns and liturgical elements, actions, and aspects that are contrary to Lutheran doctrine in a bulletin or Powerpoint slide are not prohibited by the LETTER of the law in Article VI.4, since they are not in a “book.”

    But they are contrary to the SPIRIT and INTENT of that law throughout synodical history.

    Furthermore, there is no practical way right now for Circuit Counselors or District Presidents to review worship elements, since they change every week in non-hymnal congregations, and a visitation might happen only once every three years, if that.

    There are three loopholes that the advocates and users of “alternative worship” take advantage of:
    1) They say “I am not using a non-Lutheran hymnbook” (True);
    2) District Presidents and Circuit Counselors don’t have the time to review ca. 170 worship folders/power points for each non-hymnal congregation in a triennium (True);
    3) They imply that Article VI.4 only applies to the words of a hymn or liturgical elements (False).

    The last loophole is a smokescreen, since it is obvious by reading Dr. James Brauer’s book “Worship, Gottesdienst, Cultus Dei” that there are MANY principles involved in Lutheran worship. His book is filled with all of the relevant citations from the Lutheran confessions. It is not just a matter of the words of the hymn or liturgical element agreeing with Lutheran doctrine.

    Anyone who says they accepts the Lutheran confessions without reservation (Constitution Article II) and ignores those Lutheran worship principles is either ignorant or a liar. As I said previously, I think most of the congregations and pastors involved in the offending forms of “alternative worship” are simply ignorant of these things, sad to say.

    Before we close the loophole with bylaws, I think we need a synod-wide study of Brauer’s book, so people will understand why the loopholes are wrong and what the parameters of Lutheran worship are.

    The question is: How do we close these loopholes in a fair, flexible, and practical way? I am open to ideas for “ways and means” on this one. If people have a good idea, they should send it in to synod as an overture.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

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