So this Church-Growther and this Liturgomaniac Walk into a Bar…; Micro Koinonia Project Coming to BJS, by Pr. Rossow

So this Church –Growther and this Liturgomaniac walk into a bar… Well, it isn’t quite like that but it is close. It’s not a joke, it’s not a bar and it’s not really a church-growther and a liturgomaniac but it is about a pastor who espouses many church growth principles and a pastor who espouses the liturgy sitting down to talk to see how far apart they are and how close they can get, and doing it all for the world to see here on BJS.

One of my friends and colleagues is Pastor Mark Schulz from Trinity Lutheran Church in Lisle, Illinois, the next suburb over from me and my church, Bethany Lutheran in Naperville, Illinois. He and I have been in the same circuit for over ten years, had coffee together through the years, given each other grief about how we “do” church and also shared some life experience together. I had the pleasure of teaching religion/confirmation to his son Christian for two years at our day school here at Bethany.

We had lunch together today and agreed to have an online discussion about our similarities and differences and invite the BJS crowd to chime in via the comment section.

We will start out with each of us giving a summary view of what goes on in our churches and the principles that we use to guide those activities. Then in consequent postings we will critique each other’s practice and principles. We are not sure where it is headed or how long it will go on but we are both really enthused about having it out on line here and seeing where out little Micro-Koinonia Project ends up. We hope and pray it will be a blessing for our beloved Lutheran Church Missouri Synod.

About Pastor Tim Rossow

Rev. Dr. Timothy Rossow is the Director of Development for Lutherans in Africa. He served Bethany Lutheran Church in Naperville, IL as the Sr. Pastor for 22 years (1994-2016) and was Sr. Pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran in Dearborn, MI prior to that. He is the founder of Brothers of John the Steadfast but handed off the Sr. Editor position to Rev. Joshua Scheer in 2015. He currently resides in Ocean Shores WA with his wife Phyllis. He regularly teaches in Africa. He also paints watercolors, reads philosophy and golfs. He is currently represented in two art galleries in the Pacific Northwest. His M Div is from Concordia, St. Louis and he has an MA in philosophy from St. Louis University and a D Min from Concordia, Fort Wayne.

Comments

So this Church-Growther and this Liturgomaniac Walk into a Bar…; Micro Koinonia Project Coming to BJS, by Pr. Rossow — 242 Comments

  1. @Rev. James Schulz #143

    There’s no disputing that historic and contemporary arguments for vestment-less clergy come from theology and denominations that deny the efficacy of the means of grace.

    This is technically a true statement.

    It is also true that historic and contemporary arguments denying justification by faith come from theology and denominations that use the Western Liturgy.

    Also true. But beside the point.

    One can use the Western Mass and not deny justification; and one can not vest and not deny the means of grace.

    I wore a clerical collar for a chunk of my life. I have no problem wearing one and once again, I don’t think there is anything wrong with it.

    But I have plenty of spiritual conversations with strangers and friends alike. I never disliked wearing the collar, but I just don’t miss it either.

  2. I do find it funny that we’re so concerned about a clerical-less or alb-less LCMS pastor who none the less proclaims the Word and administers the Sacraments faithfully, but not so concerned about the Methodist priestess up the road who dresses in an alb and clerical just like us and yet proclaims a false Gospel. Which I wonder is truly the greater “danger”? I would take 10 dress shirt wearing, faithful Gospel proclaiming, Word and Sacrament LCMS pastors over 1 clerical, vestment, stole wearing, false Gospel spouting, female Methodist any day.

  3. @Mark Louderback #152

    And so what is your rationale for not wearing vestments when presiding at the divine service when the overwhelming evidence of church history and the Lutheran Confessions encourage wearing vestments, any vestments? And a suit and tie is not “vestments.”

  4. @Rev. McCall #154

    Please, Rev. McCall, don’t sidetrack the argument. I’m just as concerned about error of “Methodist priestesses.” Don’t try to make me look like I’m not. The subject is vestments, that’s all. What is your rationale for not wearing vestments? Perhaps the rationale reveals a false doctrine you don’t want others to critique.

  5. @Rev. James Schulz #156
    Call it a sidetrack if you want, but I’m trying to be a little more rational here. If the worst thing we have out of this argument over vestments is how we dress, good Lord are we lucky! I am just trying to express my feelings that if the worst thing my faithful Word and Sacrament brother down the road does is not vest, I’ll take that any day. I see I also brought out the “false doctrine” charges. BJS bloggers tend to jump to that rather quickly, but I give you credit for showing some restraint. I personally vest for every service. I wear my alb, my stole, and a pectoral cross. I even chant! I wear my clerical on Sunday’s and when I do hospital or shut-in visits, but not day to day. In my town (about 10,000 people) most everybody knows I’m a pastor already. We practice closed communion and clearly state that policy on our bulletin, on our communion cards, and in my opening announcements. I preach from the pulpit and even move to behind the altar for the Service of the Sacrament. We use LSB and the organ or piano accompany our hymns every service. I haven’t been charged with false doctrine by anyone who has actually visited or attended my church, but feel free to insinuate your false charges anyway. Now that I have checked off all the correct boxes needed to be “confessional” LCMS, is it OK that I stick up for my fellow brothers in Christ who proclaim the same message I do, yet might dress just a little different?

  6. @Rev. McCall #158

    Rev. McCall, thank you for your response. We’re kindred spirits in how we carry out ministry and preside at the divine service. However, I don’t think it’s fair to insinuate that engaging in a discussion about vestments is somehow less worthy than a discussion about female pastors, etc. It fits in with the bigger discussion here about “contemporary” worship, a distinguishing feature of which is vestment-less clergy presiding at the worship service.

    We don’t need to get into a discussion of whether a white Geneva is more/less appropriate than an alb or chasuble. Or whether you should wear vestments at an outdoor church camp service (I probably wouldn’t), but I’m afraid that the rationale some pastors have for vestment-less worship is based on a faulty understanding of Church and Ministry, and Evangelism. My experience has been that these pastors choose not wear vestments because they think the visitor is turned off by authoritative, organized religion. The less we can look like “church” even to the point of removing crosses from the gathering space of where Christ crucified is proclaimed, then maybe, just maybe, we can convince the cynical, anti-establishment unbeliever. The divine service should not be designed for the unbeliever as Scripture and the Confessions teach.

    It think that rationale for vestment-less clergy is dangerous. “‘All things are lawful,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful,’ but not all things build up” (1 Corinthians 10:23). Or maybe there’s another reason I’m not aware of.

  7. Pastor Louderback #134,

    You just proved my points, of your own accord perfectly. If it relevant, priority, or matter, to you as a person in your life & priorites, your needs, wants, desires, or goals,

    it doesn’t matter to you?

    Peanut analogy, sir. Your a leader, but if you do or know those you mock, won’t/don’t see you as anything remotely, as shepherd like. The one, in millions, does matter, just not to you, or your needs, etc. I thought they taught that in any pick one, Sem.

    Have you spoken to anyone, who’s ever watched what you use a simple analogy w/ a grin?
    Have you seen what it does, or even know a nut can take a life? I have, it was the Pastoral Hatchling. It could have been me & my husband, you came to minister to at a Children’s Hospital. Your needs or likes or feelings, as a holder of the Divine Office, get ck’d at the door.
    Sheep only matter, based on what you understand, value, give priority to, look to you & depend on you, only if it matters to you?

    I don’t want a Pastor, who only values what they know, understand, or pertains as a priority to them, personally.

    That is not what Shepherd’s do.

    Nor should it ever be or be allowed, let alone encouraged. What comfort could you offer, to a parent, who’s little one, was allergic to nuts…what comfort & joy can you offer anyone, for what doesn’t matter to you…as you said personally?
    Don’t they teach this stuff to & for Sem students? Or is it just you, being pithy.

  8. Everyone did a good job of presenting their arguments.  As usual I don’t think any hearts and minds were changed.  The Micro-Koinonia Brothers have an interesting (but not impossible) challenge – consensus, not just debate.

  9. John Rixe,

    When I visited my Papa at the home, & watched all the residents, adore my baby, and one gave him a Peanut Butter cookie, & watched my little boy, pet the Therapy Dog there at the same time….who knew my Mum, my Husband & I, would drive a few blocks, after that 22month old went into Anaphylaxis, I’d be running in, carrying my baby, saying…”Please, please, my baby, my baby, he’s in anaphylactic shock…please my baby.”

    I’ve seen it & tried to help others, & that is what can be seen. What CoWo values, is appearnces, not substance. If it doesn’t relate or is relevant to the Office, what comfort, counsel, promise or joy can those who can’t, give your sheep, in you pens?

    To Him, no matter who old or long in the tooth anyone may be, we are still His “baby”. He came for them, & now we need to be relevant?!

  10. @Rev. James Schulz #159
    Thank you as well. My only hesitation in much of what gets argued here on BJS and even here about vestments is that so much of it requires assumptions on our part. I admit I am guilty of it as well. I had perhaps a different experience in my church growing up. We used the TLH every Sunday (even long after the ‘heretical’ LW came out) but we also did things that many would consider CoWo. In looking back I never believed our church focused on anything other than Word and Sacrament in worship. I never thought of my pastor as less authoritative or holding less of an office even though he didn’t wear a clerical. And I never thought of him as an enthusiast even though he never preached from the pulpit, but rather walked around. My field work supervisor at the sem had medical problems that prevented him from wearing a clerical and vesting. He needed to wear loose fitting clothes around his neck so they did not rub his trach. He also had difficulty standing so he would often preach while sitting on a chair in front of the chancel area. What would someone think of that if they walked in on any given Sunday and saw it? Yet he was as solid as they come in what he preached and taught. So when I hear many of the things being discussed here I think of my own church growing up or my supervisor or even myself. If someone saw me at work today not wearing a clerical would it be fair for them to make the same assumptions about all that I do or practice?

  11. @Rev. McCall #163

    “What would someone think of that if they walked in on any given Sunday and saw it?”

    They’d think as I would that it was an exception to the otherwise accepted rule that pastors wear vestments when presiding at worship.

    I don’t think proponents for vestment-less pastors are arguing their point based on medical conditions of pastors. They are doing it for reasons I mentioned here:

    @Rev. James Schulz #159

    The vestment-less pastor arguments are unconvincing as compared to the theology and practice of the church catholic in general and the Lutheran church in particular.

  12. @Rev. James Schulz #155

    I told you my reasons up here:

    @Mark Louderback #136

    You speak about church history encouraging vestments — and I agree — but in Scripture there are no vestments encouraged or discouraged. Jesus looked like everyone else when He preached. So did Paul.

    There is nothing wrong with vestments. I don’t wear them. And nor do I wear a suit and tie.

    @John Rixe #153

    I learned that lesson the hard way…

    @Dutch #160

    If it relevant, priority, or matter, to you as a person in your life & priorites, your needs, wants, desires, or goals…

    (Yawn) This gets boring Dutch. Once again, relevant is determined by the individual you are reaching out to, not your own personal desires.

    The peanut analogy is an analogy. Let me reverse it: not having a peanut allergy, I would not care if I are peanuts. But if I were serving something that had peanuts (and was not obvious) I would certainly let others know about it.

    It is not all about me. Read the posts, react to them, and this will be easier.

    The funny thing is, I tend to believe that liturgical worship does indeed work that way — a group thinks “We like this; we’ve done it; others need to learn it!” They determine what is relevant as opposed to what others think.

    What comfort could you offer, to a parent, who’s little one, was allergic to nuts…

    At least they are not allergic to chocolate. I mean, that would REALLY be bad.

    Anyway, when you are done riding on your high horse, it would be nice if you got off, re-read my post more closely, and didn’t break the 8th commandment in your interpretation.

    Was your writing REALLY the kindest, possible way? Hmm?

    How is that for being a pastor? 🙂

  13. My high horse?
    You prove every point, for no CoWo w/every post & word you type.
    And the Net is fo’eva.

    How no Confessional Pastors or laity, don’t & aren’t willing to decry, what you mockinly say, is beyond me.

    My Dad always said, “if ya don’t know & understand the sting, that’s when I’d be on my knees.”

    I’ll make sure to read this, in the DVD’s I have to make for my boys. The DVD’s are for as I am leaving PL, not cause it’s fun. I’ll make sure the link is listed, for the kid who said,
    “I promise, I’ll never do that to a sheep of mine.

    Again, you prove the point, perfectly, you only value what you value. Mocking what ya don’t, doesn’t help your case, at all. You lead, you are no Shepherd. Otherwise, that the very least, you’d post what you’d want someone you did value, to see. As it is, you make the case, for CoWo, & all we decry here, worthy.

  14. @Mark Louderback #165

    So, your rationale for not wearing vestments is “because I don’t have to“?

    You quote the Old Testament in that post. I’ll quote the Old Testament in the passage where God specifically addresses the subject of vestments: “Make sacred garments for your brother Aaron to give him dignity and honor.” (Exodus 28:2)

    God himself says vestments convey “dignity and honor” but your best argument regarding wearing vestments is “I don’t have to!” I get the impression from your post that you believe – contrary to God’s opinion – that vestments convey arrogance and hypocrisy. Is that your rationale?

  15. @Mark Louderback #165

    Dutch gets about as boring as you do every time you show up at BJS, always starting from the exact same point. I am sure we bug the snot out of you because we don’t move closer to your position, just as I never seem to notice you moving off your intractable position. A lot of blather is about “personal choice,” and little of it comes from Scriptural or Confessinal basis.

    For the ONE article about Justification or the few references to adiaphora, there are also plenty about “retaining the Mass”, “for good order”, as has been shown about vestments. There is also “consordia, walking together, “lex credendi…”, koinania… I do not see how personal and individualized CoWo does anything to support the una sancta, let alone our small synod.

  16. I have read through this thread and the topic has turned to vestments. I have seen questions asked:

    @Rev. James Schulz #156 “What is your rationale for not wearing vestments?”

    @Rev. James Schulz #102 ““Why don’t they want pastors to wear vestments?”

    I haven’t seen an answer to why it is good not to wear vestments.

    Some responses say that vestments are fine and good and that a pastor can wear them or not because both are fine.

    Okay, but that is not a reason for choosing not to wear them. What is the reason that motivates some not to wear them? I ask because it is a break from what was usual and customary to something new and unusual. Generally there is some reason for choosing to do something new and different. What is the reason?

  17. Jason # 168,

    This isn’t about vestments, this is about who I want around my Mum, my husband & my sons, when that “bus” brings me in the ER.

    It’s about who I want having acsess to my boys, my husband, my Mum & our families, in that nasty little room of the ER.

    I know that room, I’ve sat in it, & many a Pastor there. Those there, were shepherds, not leaders.

    How dare the 8th Card be played, w/all of us, who no matter our vocation, are still wives, husbands, sons & daughters, children, or wait for it….serving brothers & sisters.

    But, they, we are only “relevant” as the Holder is trained.
    Pax Christi,
    Dutch

  18. The question in liturgical practices is not, or should not be, “What can we get away with?”

    It should be, “In what setting does God’s service to us shine through in the best possible way?”

    I contend that the ‘best possible way’ in the broad sense of the phrase is to be who we are, distinctively and recognizably Lutheran, because that ‘sets’ the Gospel message best and ALSO because it makes us recognizably catholic and timeless in our worship.

    Uniformity in worship (not identicality, but uniformity) is desirable because of the reasons above and also because in our increasingly mobile society it makes ‘finding a church HOME’ in a new location a slam dunk. You walk into a new church, you recognize the teaching, the liturgy, and the practices, and you’re home. That’s it, not a lot of energy needed to research the local churches, just find one and join, with confidence. We used to have that, and we have lost it, and it’s so misguided and such a horrible waste.

    So instead of questioning each and every single custom that we have established as catholic Lutherans, we should largely both embrace and rise above them. The field day that Satan has with these kinds of conversations is not that people are trying to limit each other’s practices, but rather that we have to spend so much time and energy on this when we could be providing uniform worship in a unified way, and moving forward together in fervent love to one another and in proclaiming the Gospel to all nations, and talking about how to do THAT instead of talking about what we novelty can and can’t get away with. The right place for broad novelty is in programs, not in worship.

  19. @Mark Louderback #165
    In response to your comment about Jesus not wearing anything different, where is your proof? The soldiers gamble for his seamless robe, which from what have read is not a common article of clothing. Also how did strangers recognize Him as a Rabbi upon seeing Him? The example of John the Baptizer shows that what we wear identifies us. Why did the priests have to wear whag they did? There is much more evidence in Scripture to support the use of vestments than your arguments from thin air (and living at the altitude I do, I know thin air when I breath it.)

  20. @Mrs. Hume #169

    Exactly. The discussion about pastors not wearing vestments is a concrete example of the rationale that drives the entire Contemporary Worship movement. Why? I’m afraid the “why” of the contemporary worship movement is a faulty understanding of Church and Ministry, Evangelism, and the definition of Faith. My evaluation is that the contemporary worship movement is driven by the belief that because the un-churched and de-churched are turned off by authoritative, organized religion, then the less we can look like “church” even to the point of removing crosses from the gathering space of where Christ crucified is proclaimed, then maybe, just maybe, we can convince the cynical, anti-establishment unbeliever into heaven. The divine service is not primarily for the unbeliever to be convinced into heaven, nor is it for the believer to be emoted into a deeper faith.

  21. @Rev. James Schulz #164
    I agree, but lots of comments here are not based on actual knowledge. They assume lots of things, they hear something and speculate further, or they maybe actually attend a church once as a visitor and see something and then assume even more. I’m saying that’s not fair. I do think vestments are good and I do think they reflect a better, more proper understanding of the Office of Ministry (that’s why I wear them!) It does strike me as odd if I walk into a church and see otherwise. However how will I know what is truly going on if I don’t ask? We actually did this in sem when we visited a church in CA. We all had different thoughts on what went on in the worship service we attended and what kind of theology the pastor believed and taught, but we said, “Rather than making a judgment call based on what we saw, lets ask the pastor what was behind what was going on, what he believes and if this is how he always does worship.” He talked with us and confirmed that he was a Baptist, enthusiast, CG guy and then we said, “OK. This wasn’t a one off thing or a medical thing or anything else, he is just a “Schwarmgeisterei” I think is the German word for it. I think someone on this thread though made a comment about a church they went to (once) that didn’t include Confession/Absolution or a Creed. Heck, that could have been my church on The Sunday of the Passion if my members had all taken advantage of Private Confession/Absolution that week! So I guess if I was making a point here it would be that I would hope most folks don’t jump to radical conclusions about other churches without really trying to talk to the pastor or visiting several more times to really understand. Your question is a good one that if answered would reveal true motive for such a practice: “What is your rationale for not wearing vestments?”

  22. @Mark Louderback #165
    @Pastor Joshua Scheer #172

    In light of the interesting comments from Pr. Scheer in regard to the clothing of Jesus perhaps another passage to consider would be Matthew 9:20-22 (with parallels in Mark 5 and Luke 8). A woman with a hemhorrage of blood comes up in the crowd and, correctly identifying Jesus, touches the “hem” of His garment. A better translation might be the “tassel” of His garment. Notice that she touches not simply Jesus’ garment, but rather its tassel.

    The same Greek word for tassel here in Matthew is used in Numbers 15:37ff for the tassels on the garments that the Israelites were to wear (these tassels were to have attached to them a cord blue in color…see also Exodus 39:24-26 in reference to the garments of the priests). Jesus was a pious and Law observing Jewish man, identifiable in this even by His clothing.

  23. @Jason #168

    You misunderstand what bugs me. I don’t mind it when people disagree with my position. I fully recognize that others have differing opinions.

    What bothers me is when people don’t read my posts; or just twist them around.

    Example #1: Dutch.

    Dutch asks me about relevance. I explain that a person is not “relevant” or not, but the info they give is relevant to people (or not.) I use the example of peanut allergy.

    And she goes down a rabbit hole, accusing me of not caring about those with peanut allergies.

    That gets old.

    Example #2: Rev. James Schulz

    He asks me about vestments. I reply with Scripture passage and reason. And then go a bit further in talking— and his response, ignoring what I wrote is “because I don’t have to”. Well, no, that was not what I said.

    That gets tiring.

    Let’s take a look at the flip side:

    Example #3: Joshua Scheer

    So, I make a comment about Jesus not wearing anything different, and he reads the post and then responds to my point.

    He requires a serious response that I will give.

    So, don’t misunderstand. I don’t mind people disagreeing with me. I fully understand that I do not toe the party line on Steadfast and my views represent something that is entirely not politically correct.

    That people disagree with me is fine. That people disagree with minutia (peanut allergies!) or don’t read my posts (I don’t have to!) is what makes the conversations painful.

  24. @Pastor Joshua Scheer #172
    @Rev. Matthew Johnson #175

    Ok, I think you are right Joshua about the robe he wore as being set apart — but I always saw that simply as a gift given to him to honor him.

    Yes, he wore tassels, because that is what Jews did at that time. He was not dressed differently from the crowds (but perhaps in a nicer robe).

    Did strangers recognize Him as a Rabbi? Did he really dress like the Pharisees did, or the Sadducees, or someone else serving in the Temple?

    I’d have to say this is one where the burden of proof would be upon you to show that His dress was different from everyone else. A nicer robe, yes. But vestments? Uniform as a pastor wears? I don’t think that is there.

  25. @Mark Louderback #176
    My original question was: “What is the Bible teaching you are trying to communicate by not wearing vestments?”

    I read from your post #136: “We do not need to…” and “We don’t have to…” as “I don’t need/have to…”

    Please clarify for me then from your answer what you mean by what I’ve put in bold from your post @Mark Louderback #136 :

    “We do not need to dress a certain way, put on a certain face, pretend as though we are “pious” to come to church. We don’t have to put on masks; or act as if we are hunky-dory when we are hurting. We can be ourselves —

    That’s what I read to be your rationale for not wearing vestments. Are you saying you can’t wear vestments without “pretending” or “putting on a mask” or “acting as if we’re all hunky-dory.” Do you feel like a hypocrite by wearing vestments so in good conscience you choose not to? And frankly I sense you are intimating those who do wear vestments are being hypocrites, that we’re “not being ourselves.”

    Really, I’m looking for clarity from your answer. Please help me understand.

  26. Luther preferred to retain vestments (as he did with any ancient practice that did not obscure the Gospel) but conducted services both vested and unvested. What is interesting is why he chose on occasion to go unvested. It was to comfort those Lutherans who had been subjected to Calvinist error that prohibited vestments and were troubled by retention of what they considered “popish” practice. A temporary suspension of historic practice until proper teaching could overcome error.

    Retaining sound historic practice is the default position of Lutherans. The assaults throughout history of Calvinism and Rationalism against it (still present today) it are reason enough to exercise Chrisitian freedom in favor of tradition. The tradition is not empty of meaning either on the positive or negative side, thus not truly “indifferent” as modernity would like to construe it.

  27. Pastor Tim Rossow :
    John B.,
    You make a good point from a soc/psych point of view. I tend to be more blunt and direct than a soc/psych approach but do appreciate that the former can deliver more unity….Rather than shoot for the middle, the philosopher identifies the fundamental and true principles and then seeks to conform to them and let things be built on that foundation….One of the problems in our synod is that I and other confessionals take that approach and believe that it is inherent in true religion Luther takes this approach as well….The Scriptures are the record of religious truth…

    Pr. Rossow – my apologies for not having the opportunity to respond sooner.

    The suggestion that I offered was influenced by some of the products of the Harvard Negotiation Project – an effort launched by President Kennedy in an effort to reframe the dialogue between the USA and USSR during the height of the cold war. I happen to think the logic applies to many human interactions and aligns very well with the “law of love”. It is too easy for those who are inclined to “speak the truth in love” to behave in ways that contradict the message of love. It’s not Scripture, but I think “Getting to Yes” offers some good insight to how to temper that behavior as we live together in Matthew 18.

    There is a large middle ground, one fundamental and true principle, whenever two Lutherans gather together in our Lord’s name to discuss matters in dispute – it is the doctrine of Justification. Too often, in my opinion, justification is ignored in the way that disputes among Lutherans are defined. We prefer to be driven by our differences and forget that all of us – warts and all – has been called children by the same Abba. “Family Feud” is the consequence of the sin that each of us brings to the conversation. Irrespective of the issue, acknowledging our sin and affirming the solution to our condition seems like a pretty good place to begin the discussion and, in the heat of argument, a pretty good place for retreat.

    It may be splitting hairs, but I think of Scripture as the revelation of spiritual truth, rather than religious truth – the distinction being the difference between the message that God is communicating and the boundaries that we, with imperfect hearing, try to place around that message.

  28. @Rev. James Schulz #178

    Shall we review the tape?

    You asked: And so what is your rationale for not wearing vestments when presiding at the divine service when the overwhelming evidence of church history and the Lutheran Confessions encourage wearing vestments, any vestments? And a suit and tie is not “vestments.”

    I answered:

    I told you my reasons up here: Mark Louderback #136

    Which we go to and find this:

    But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” (1 Sam 14:7)
    We do not need to dress a certain way, put on a certain face, pretend as though we are “pious” to come to church. We don’t have to put on masks or act as if we are hunky-dory when we are hurting. We can be ourselves — God knows us and loves us as we are. He sent His Son to die for us when we were sinners, not after we achieved perfection.
    And I, as their pastor, am just as dependent upon God’s grace for my salvation — for my every work — as they are.

    That is my response.

    Now, I added a few more points about the historical use of vestments — but that is not the reason for not using them.

    I’m glad you are now asking questions about what I actually said, instead of sound biting the “You don’t cause you don’t have to!” line.

    So, you ask: Are you saying you can’t wear vestments without “pretending” or “putting on a mask” or “acting as if we’re all hunky-dory.” Do you feel like a hypocrite by wearing vestments so in good conscience you choose not to? And frankly I sense you are intimating those who do wear vestments are being hypocrites, that we’re “not being ourselves.”

    Once again: nothing wrong with wearing vestments. I wore vestments for years and I still wear them now (for certain occasions). I could comfortably wear them and not feel hypocritical, odd, whatever.

    I had a member at a previous congregation and she made beautiful vestments — it was awesome.

    But, for some people, vestments do not communicate what we intend to communicate. We intend for the vestment to not draw attention to the person and rather draw attention to Christ—for some though, they just see it as drawing attention to the individual, separating them, perhaps in their mind, thinking that they are better, holier, than they are.

    As well, people do indeed use clothing to mask themselves. They do not feel as though they can be themselves around others—especially at church, which is the place of judgement and accusation and (ultimately) hypocrisy.

    So, at my congregation, we don’t wear anything special to demonstrate that Christ takes us as we are. “While we were still sinners…” and the like. We don’t have to wear special clothing. We don’t have to pretend we are anything other than ourselves. God loves us. And others love us.

    That is what we teach by what we do.

    It was to comfort those Lutherans who had been subjected to Calvinist error that prohibited vestments and were troubled by retention of what they considered “popish” practice.

    I did not know this. It is nice to see him meeting people where they were.

    Once again, whether one wears vestments or doesn’t where vestments is pretty much a matter of personal preference. I’ve seen CoWo pastors wear them and CoWo pastors not wear them.

  29. @Mark Louderback #181
    Thank you for the response. I summarize and understand what you said here…:

    “for some though, they just see it as drawing attention to the individual, separating them, perhaps in their mind, thinking that they are better, holier, than they are.”

    …. to mean you don’t wear vestments because people (all people? most people? or just the people you are trying to reach?) think that you would be “better, holier than they are.”

    And I summarize and understand this (putting in bold the sentence I think stands out for my understanding of what you’ve said)…:

    “So, at my congregation, we don’t wear anything special to demonstrate that Christ takes us as we are. “While we were still sinners…” and the like. We don’t have to wear special clothing. We don’t have to pretend we are anything other than ourselves. God loves us. And others love us. That is what we teach by what we do. “

    …to mean you agree with those who interpret vestments to be a barrier to authentic expression of faith.

    I hope I haven’t misrepresented your rationale for not wearing vestments. My experience by and large has not been that people interpret vestments as the pastor thinking he is “better, holier, than they are.” I’m sure there are people that think that way, but they need to change their thinking. Most people are open-minded enough that with some patient instruction and after getting to know their pastor, they too will come to appreciate vestments and how they they communicate the “glory and for beauty” God speaks about in Exodus 28:2 and not a “holier-than-thou” attitude. I also think the trend for the younger generation “seekers” is to look for churches where the pastor wears vestments during worship.

    The exception to the rule should not determine our practice. Where does it end? Do we remove crosses from our sanctuaries because some are offended by what it communicates or by what some denominations have falsely communicated by it?

    With all due respect to you as a minister of the gospel, I think your rationale for not wearing vestments in the long run is not helpful to the message of the gospel. Are you sinning by not wearing vestments? Of course not. But you are swimming against the tide of Scripture and history which supports the practice and has found it beneficial in teaching the faith.

    But I’m ready to be corrected if my opinion is dangerous to the future of pure gospel preaching.

  30. @Rev. James Schulz #182

    …. to mean you don’t wear vestments because people (all people? most people? or just the people you are trying to reach?) think that you would be “better, holier than they are.”

    The people I am trying to reach, yes. They would not understand vestments the way you or I understand vestments.

    My experience by and large has not been that people interpret vestments as the pastor thinking he is “better, holier, than they are.”

    And that, of course, would lead you to continue to wear them, right? Suppose you DID come across that attitude — what exactly would be your response?

    Most people are open-minded enough that with some patient instruction and after getting to know their pastor, they too will come to appreciate vestments and how they they communicate the “glory and for beauty” God speaks about in Exodus 28:2 and not a “holier-than-thou” attitude.

    I appreciate that, but that is the standard response for anything. You want to wear a chasuble? Patient instruction. Scapula? Patient instruction. Mitre? Patient instruction.

    It is not that I don’t believe this — it is just that at some point, some people will look at where your service is, and not be patient for the instruction.

    Doing all of these things are fine — I’m reaching out to the not patients.

    The exception to the rule should not determine our practice.

    Absolutely. Love for our fellow brothers and sisters should.

    Do we remove crosses from our sanctuaries because some are offended by what it communicates or by what some denominations have falsely communicated by it?</b.

    The distinction is that the cross is mentioned in Scripture; a suplus and cassock are not.

    With all due respect to you as a minister of the gospel, I think your rationale for not wearing vestments in the long run is not helpful to the message of the gospel. Are you sinning by not wearing vestments? Of course not. But you are swimming against the tide of Scripture and history which supports the practice and has found it beneficial in teaching the faith.

    Let’s say I am: now exactly is this not helpful to the message of the Gospel? I mean…let’s say I have an even poorer response. “I don’t like vestments so I don’t wear them.” How would that not be helpful to the Gospel?

    What exactly is the danger? I just don’t see it. I don’t see what difference it makes what you wear. Which is why there is a great variety of liturgical clothes worn — I don’t mean not worn, I mean worn. The mitre, the scapula, the chasuble, alb vs cassock, etc.

    What is the difference what you wear? I mean this as a serious question. I think with patient instruction, you can wear just about anything.

  31. @Mark Louderback #183

    I appreciate your willingness to continue the discussion even though I disagree with your rationale for not wearing vestments.

    I think there is a line that needs to be drawn on this issue. For me the line is vestments vs. no vestments at all. Those who are “not patient for the instruction” are the exception rather than the rule. The danger in catering to their impatience or rejection of receiving instruction is that churches do indeed remove crosses from sanctuaries such as Willow Creek in Barrington, IL notably did after conducting a survey. Along with such accommodation comes a theology of glory, which avoids all offense.

    Is Walther’s opinion towards these things hopelessly outdated for us today?:

    “We refuse to be guided by those who are offended by our church customs. We adhere to them all the more firmly when someone wants to cause us to have a guilty conscience on account of them…. It is truly distressing that many of our fellow Christians find the difference between Lutheranism and Papism in outward things. It is a pity and dreadful cowardice when one sacrifices the good ancient church customs to please the deluded American sects, lest they accuse us of being papistic! Indeed! Am I to be afraid of a Methodist, who perverts the saving word, or be ashamed in the matter of my good cause, and not rather rejoice that the sects can tell by our ceremonies that I do not belong to them? …We are not insisting that there be uniformity of perception or feelings or of 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 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 the Christians serve the great God publicly before the world.” – Essays for the Church, Volume 1:194.

  32. pastor louderback,

    i have posted a time or two here but generally hang back and follow the various discussions because i’m just a layperson and not nearly as smart or up to date as most people here.. i say that just to say that i don’t feel like i have a dog in this liturgical vs contemporary fight.. i have my preferences based on my experience but i’m not too vocal about it..

    that being said, i just wanted to relate my personal position regarding my pastor who does wear a white robe during the service.. my understanding regarding the robe (see, i don’t even know the proper name for it) is that it corresponds with the way God the Father sees ME, as a forgiven child of God, washed and regenerated in the blood of the Lamp, clean and white and pure..

    for me, and i’m wondering if there’s anyone in your church who feels the same, i NEED that visual reminder every week..i struggle mightily with my old Adam every day and for me, again i may be the only person on the planet with this problem, i sometimes can lose sight of who i am in Christ.. that weekly reminder, the pastor doesn’t even have to say a word, of my pastor clothed in the white robe is an awesome reminder of who i really am..

    anyway, i find that simple little thing, my pastor’s white robe, to be such a comfort and source of direction back to the work of Christ on the cross for ME that i can’t stomach the idea of my pastor just wearing normal clothes..

    i understand i’m probably just weak or something..but still, there may very well be someone like me in your church who would really benefit from such a simple practice on your part..

    if you read this, thanks!

    +pax Christi+

    jonathan

  33. @jonathan #185

    i have posted a time or two here but generally hang back and follow the various discussions because i’m just a layperson and not nearly as smart or up to date as most people here..

    See, I think I’m the idiot for running my mouth most of the time…or by running my mouth people see me as an idiot most of the time…one or the other.

    Hanging back probably is the smart thing to do. 🙂

    So, are there people who would gain from my wearing a robe? Probably not. I mean I am not the only Lutheran church in the area, and people who want to have a robe or a traditional service can certainly find one. So I don’t feel as though I am denying my people anything.

    As well, there are rich images that are used in our service that emphasize the salvation that Christ has won for His people. That is one of the blessings of contemporary worship, is the opportunity to use a riches of visual elements.

    I don’t think it is a matter of you being weak — I just think it is a matter of you being different from others. And there is nothing wrong with that. I celebrate the fact that you gain so much from the white that your pastor wears — and how you yourself are covered as well by the righteousness of God.

    I guess the question is, as comforted as you feel is as off-put as others feel. What is to be done about them, you know?

    Thanks for your thoughts. You ought to express them more often.

  34. @Mark Louderback #186

    “What is to be done about them, you know?”

    Teach them, of course.

    “That is one of the blessings of contemporary worship, is the opportunity to use a riches of visual elements.”

    Compared to what? Surely you don’t mean to imply that traditional, liturgical, Lutheran worship lacks visual elements? Do you have in mind the big screen that has become so cliché in contemporary worship?

  35. @jonathan #185

    Thank you, Jonathan, for so moving a witness! Your hesitancy to speak up reminded me of the many times my grandmother would remind us, “It is better to be silent and thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.” Normally that’s pretty wise advice, but this time you hit one out of the park!

  36. @Ted Crandall #188

    Good advice from grandma. But I’ve come to appreciate Luther’s advice to Melanchthon (on a different topic, but apropos to speaking out):

    “Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly.” – A Letter From Luther to Melanchthon, Letter no. 99, 1 August 1521, From the Wartburg

    In other words, Don’t hold back! Speak your mind! “Speak the truth in love” of course, but if you say something stupid or wrong, admit it, apologize and move on. If someone disagrees with you, who cares? That’s their problem, right? The words you say will have an impact on them and you can always learn from what someone else says to you.

    Now, what’s next in this discussion? PowerPoint screens or choice of music when it comes to the Contemporary Worship movement? Ted, “cliché” says it all. It is sooooo “yesterday.”

  37. But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” (1 Sam 14:7)

    Yes, God sees the heart. But the congregation doesn’t. Vestments pertain to what the congregation sees.

    If a pastor is preaching in a house church in some place where the church is persecuted such that even owning vestments could be dangerous, then it seems reasonable to break with historic custom for the sake of reaching people.

    I noticed that many point to the discussions of adiaphora in the confessions.

    It would be interesting to read to a recently written treatise on not wearing vestments. Who can point us to it?

  38. @Mark Louderback #186

    > So, are there people who would gain from my wearing a robe? Probably not.

    You should wear a robe to help emphasize that the message is not about you. This helps people who just naturally don’t like the way you look, and it helps people who might like the way you look. Wearing a robe also encourages people to respect the historical nature of the Christian church on earth, and even the universality and catholicity of the church.

    Even if you think you can mentally enumerate over every individual in your congregation and are 100% sure that they would not be helped by your wearing a robe, of course attendance is not static. People visit, children are born, and so on.

  39. It’s good to care deeply about your pastor wearing a robe (or not) in your own congregation.  Why should you care about other congregations?  You will never, never, never change anyone’s minds on this issue except those in your own local church.  (repeat never)

  40. @John Rixe #192
    I have grown to care, very much, about having a ‘norm’. What does a normal LCMS church do? What are the practices and programs that we can pretty much expect and take for granted?

    There is a difference between having a norm and marching in lockstep, but the radical congregationalism that has taken hold in our Synod is preventing a lot of good. It is preventing people from recognizing a good church choice when they move. It is preventing people from being able to simply recommend a local church to someone who is moving away with any confidence that that church will even be recognizable. It is implying that all of anyone’s practices regarding worship are completely insignificant. It is destroying our catholicity, and it is causing reductionism in our theology.

    We don’t have to be identical in our practices, but we should be reasonably uniform. That’s just good sense; and it’s confessional and Biblical as well.

    The issue is not vestments or not, or chanting or not, or liturgy or not. The issue is radically individualist pastors or congregations preventing any semblance of uniformity among congregations from being a reasonable assumption. We are losing a great deal thereby. ‘I’m OK, you’re OK’ is not a good mode for a church body.

  41. @John Rixe #192 ” You will never, never, never change anyone’s minds on this issue except those in your own local church. (repeat never)”

    I acknowledge some are very committed to a particular point of view and will not change. However, not everyone to a person is 100% committed to their position. Some on this very thread point out that they themselves were contemporary worship enthusiasts and now are pretty much against it. So the “never, repeat, never” assertion is an exaggeration. Heck, some pastors even turn atheist, so we know people change their minds based on what other people say.

    It is important not to overlook that huge majority of people who are not committed to any position. They benefit from these discussions. That is a good reason to discuss these issues.

    I just object to the notion that it is pointless to discuss things because everyone is too set in their ways, or closed-minded, or whatever to listen to any other ideas.

    Think of all the 9 year olds out there who don’t have an opinion, yet. Then think of the 10, 11 and 12 year olds. Then the 13, 14, 15, 16 year olds, etc., all the way till you get to the centenarians. At some point people come to certain opinions, before that they are open and some are even open to changing their minds based on experience, teaching, etc.

    By all means, keep talking!

    And someone please point me to a concise, organized treatise in support of not wearing vestments.

  42. @John Rixe #192
    I care about other congregations because my members visit or even move there. Our fathers in the faith embraced their full freedom in the Gospel and willingly submitted to uniformity in order to outwardly express their inward unity. Uniformity preserves peace (as evidenced by all of the worship wars since those pastors and congregations introduced their diversity and innovations). Uniformity also teaches discipline (not letting the Old Adam always have his every whim and innovation in worship). Some of the most restrictive Church Order books came from the greatest confessors of the Faith and Christian Liberty. Frankly – the lack of love among those who would rather be diverse and have it their way is reflecting a deeper spiritual problem.

    Should I care about vestments – having known what they are about (and that Jesus wore them) makes me say yes. Should I care about the preacher down the street not wearing them? Yes, because most often there is no good theological reason in our church body not to wear them (at least I have not heard one yet). That preacher may be trying to teach my people if they visit, or his people may someday be members of my church – so I do tend to care about a man so embracing his individuality as to throw out something that has been traditionally Lutheran for theological reasons.

  43. My comment was limited to the issue of vestments only.  It doesn’t seem very important. Please see comment 154.  Discussion is good for understanding and tolerance of opposing opinions.  I don’t think anyone in the 85% cares about vestments  outside of his/her own church.  (I’m just guessing)  

    I’m not happy with the lack of love by those who would impose vestments (or no vestments) on everyone.

  44. @Ted Crandall #187

    Teach them, of course.

    Unpack this a bit: how would you do this?

    Surely you don’t mean to imply that traditional, liturgical, Lutheran worship lacks visual elements? Do you have in mind the big screen that has become so cliché in contemporary worship?

    Yes, I do. Compared to a contemporary service, the traditional, liturgical Lutheran worship lacks visual elements. Don’t get me wrong: it HAS visual elements, but not as much.

    It does not only have to be a screen — it could be other art. When was the last time you saw live painting in a traditional service?

    “It is better to be silent and thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.”

    I never believed that…what does that say about me…

    @mbw #191

    You should wear a robe to help emphasize that the message is not about you.

    Why would wearing a robe help emphasize that?

    Let’s say you have not been to church since you were a kid—and then it was C&E. You go to church cause a friend invites you. The person in front of you is wearing a robe/not wearing a robe.

    Why, in each situation, would you think the message is or is not about the individual? Why or why not? What about what they would be wearing would influence your thinking on the subject?

    We make these statements sometimes when it comes to what we do — but I think that it generally means “This is what we want to teach.” Whether it in fact teaches that or not…well, I question that.

    I would say that what the person says would lead you to see what they are saying is or is not about the individual. Not what they wear.

    Wearing a robe also encourages people to respect the historical nature of the Christian church on earth, and even the universality and catholicity of the church.

    Well, I guess I would rather that people were connected to the historic church by what we taught—that is to say, what I teach is what Jesus taught. It is what Paul taught. It is what Luther taught. Not so much by the traditions: what I wore is what Paul wore. Do I know this? Not so much. And it is not so much important.

    @Old Time St. John’s #193

    ‘I’m OK, you’re OK’ is not a good mode for a church body.

    Well, how about “I’m proclaiming the Gospel; you are proclaiming the Gospel” — is that good enough? Or “I’m teaching Lutheran beliefs; you are teaching Lutheran beliefs.” Isn’t that too enough?

    @Mrs. Hume #194

    It is important not to overlook that huge majority of people who are not committed to any position. They benefit from these discussions. That is a good reason to discuss these issues.

    Absolutely. I agree completely.

    And someone please point me to a concise, organized treatise in support of not wearing vestments.

    I am unfamiliar with any. Sorry.

  45. @Rev. James Schulz #184

    I appreciate your willingness to continue the discussion even though I disagree with your rationale for not wearing vestments.

    No problem. I’m always one to try and explain why I do what I do. I think this is important.

    I think there is a line that needs to be drawn on this issue. For me the line is vestments vs. no vestments at all.

    I’m unsure what you mean by this. As in “There is a line as to a person being a Lutheran or not a Lutheran”? Or “This is what I personally could do or not do”? Just not sure what you refer to.

    Those who are “not patient for the instruction” are the exception rather than the rule.

    Sure. No doubt.

    Once again, what do we do about them?

    The danger in catering to their impatience or rejection of receiving instruction is that churches do indeed remove crosses from sanctuaries such as Willow Creek in Barrington, IL notably did after conducting a survey. Along with such accommodation comes a theology of glory, which avoids all offense.

    I’m sure that you can find a single example for all sorts of behavior. We’ve had several guys in our church body who loved to wear vestments, abandon the truth and become RC and orthodox. It does not mean that wearing vestments is dangerous — or that not wearing vestments is.

    I don’t see that not wearing vestments leads to an accommodating theology of glory any more than wearing vestments leads to an eastern orthodox position.

    As far as Walther goes, I think that he is dealing with a bit of a different nuanced position than I am. I’m doing what I do, not out of fear of being labeled a Roman Catholic — we did an imposition of Ashes for Ash Wednesday — no, I do it out of love for people who are uncomfortable with pastors in robes; I do it because I want to strip down false assumptions that people have about who God is, what faith is, what the Gospel is, etc.

    “Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly.”

    My question is, will you let me do this? Support I am wrong about vestments — just flat wrong. Don’t these words speak to me? Ought I not keep on doing what I am doing, even in error, if I am bolding rejoicing and proclaiming Christ?

    Once again, I did not hear an answer to my question: in what way does not wearing vestments hinder or not hinder with the Gospel?

    You said: With all due respect to you as a minister of the gospel, I think your rationale for not wearing vestments in the long run is not helpful to the message of the gospel.

    How is it not helpful?

  46. @John Rixe #192
    How about if your district president said to you (if you’re a pastor):

    “A word of advice, John, wear vestments.”

    And if you don’t start wearing vestments, he told you some time later:

    “I can’t recommend you for ministry (i.e. calls) to other congregations of our synod because you don’t wear vestments.”

    Would that motivate you to “get in line with the program”? In other words, even though there is nothing “wrong” with what you are doing, our synod does it this way, and by going against the grain you are causing unnecessary disunity in our synod that needs to be stopped at your congregation.

    What would you do if your district president gave you that advice?

  47. @Mark Louderback #198

    “How is it not helpful?”

    The overwhelming argument from Scripture, the Confessions, and even our culture is to wear vestments. The only rationale I have heard here for not wearing vestments is to accommodate the cynical unbeliever. Not wearing vestments says to me, “we believe the divine service ought to be designed more for attracting the unbeliever than it is to strengthen the believer.” That’s not good for the gospel because the gospel must convey the whole essence of who God is: his transcendence, his authority, the Law and Gospel – a message which vestments intend to convey. Not wearing vestments weakens that message.

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