by Pastor William Weedon on Weedon’s Blog:
My parish had sent up a sort of trial balloon at the District Convention. it more or less made it through floor committee. It was to encourage the parishes of our District and of our Synod to use for our services and rites one of the Synod’s hymnbooks/agendas: TLH, LW, LSB and even All God’s People Sing, Hymnal Supplement ’98, and Worship Supplement. It specifically wasn’t speaking of hymns or other attendant music – it spoke to the services and rites.
It was fascinating to HEAR how people perceived the resolution. Some apparently thought we were saying that uniformity in man-made ceremonies were necessary, and persuaded the convention to include the words of AC VII – as though any of us really denied them or thought that the unity of the church hung upon observance of man-made ceremonies and rites!
Others fixated on the use of the word “exclusive use” as though the Synod Constitution had never said that a condition of Synodical membership is the exclusive use of doctrinally pure Agenda and Hymnbooks.
Some noted that this WAS the language of the constitution but that it really had been ignored (and apparently rightly ignored) for a long time.
Some rightly noted that the liturgy was gift and could not be compelled by any law. Others noted that though the language was “encourage” the clear intent was to use it as a club.
One very sane man pointed out that the Lutheran Symbols had a LOT more to say on this subject than the single snippet from AC VII and that if we heard the Symbols all the way out, they actually sounded rather in harmony with what the resolution was proposing.
Sigh. So much fear, so much reading into and failing to put the best construction. What if the resolution meant no more than it said: that we should encourage each other toward what our constitution itself says that we aim at? What if it never was about coercion or manipulation but about encouraging each other toward the faithful use of faithful resources?
I hesitated to speak on it since it DID come from us and thus it was our own words that had the attention of the convention, but how utterly disheartening to see them misconstrued in this manner. The Synod is and remains ADVISORY to the member congregations. It CAN advise. It CANNOT legislate. But when it cannot encourage for fear that it is in fact thereby legislating, we have something seriously broken in our relationships. No, you’ll never hear me say that the problem is we don’t trust each other. Jeremiah 17:5 is in my Bible. The problem with us isn’t’ that we don’t trust each other; it’s that we do not trust our Lord’s words – at least we don’t trust them to deliver what they promise without a boost from us.
And sooner or later someone really needs to do the hard work of assessing what it means to “submit to one another” in the Lord and how that isn’t in conflict with, but is the expression of, perfect Christian freedom. I know, I know. Luther already did that hard work. But no one reads him anymore… Sadness.
Or even Walther (this is for you, Petersen):
“We are not insisting that there be uniformity in perception or feeling or taste among all believing Christians-neither dare anyone demand that all be minded as he. Nevertheless, it remains true that the Lutheran liturgy distinguishes Lutheran worship from the worship of other churches to such an extent that the houses of worship of the latter look like lecture halls in which the hearers are merely addressed or instructed, while our churches are in truth houses of prayer in which Christians serve the great God publicly before the world.
“Uniformity of ceremonies (perhaps according to the Saxon Church order published by the Synod, which is the simplest among the many Lutheran church orders) would be highly desirable because of its usefulness. A poor slave of the pope finds one and same form of service, no matter where he goes, by which he at once recognizes his church.
“With us it is different. Whoever comes from Germany without a true understanding of the doctrine often has to look for his church for a long time, and many have already been lost to our church because of this search. How different it would be if the entire Lutheran church had a uniform form of worship! This would, of course, first of all yield only an external advantage, however, one which is by no means unimportant. Has not many a Lutheran already kept his distance from the sects because he saw at the Lord’s Supper they broke the bread instead of distributing wafers?
“The objection: “What would be the use of uniformity of ceremonies?” was answered with the counter question, “What is the use of a flag on the battlefield? Even though a soldier cannot defeat the enemy with it, he nevertheless sees by the flag where he belongs. We ought not to refuse to walk in the footsteps of our fathers. They were so far removed from being ashamed of the good ceremonies that they publicly confess in the passage quoted: “It is not true that we do away with all such external ornaments.””
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