Doctrine means nothing when Practice can mean anything.

Recently I was discussing some things with a fellow pastor and I uttered the phrase above.  Many comments recently on this blog have been directed to the belief that solid Lutheran beliefs (expressed in the Book of Concord) can find their expression in a wide diversity of practices.

These things remind me of the Coexist bumper stickers you see on cars.  The use a number of religious symbols to spell out the word.  Would an LCMS bumper sticker say the same thing, using symbols of organs, praise bands, vested pastors, polo and khaki pastors, pastors in pulpit, pastors wandering around during sermons,  women readers, communion rails under pastoral care, and drive-by open communion groups?  How much of the discussion around needing such diversity and “broad consensus” stems not from theology but the general attitude that also produces the “coexist” bumper stickers?

While affirming that absolute uniformity in all ceremonies is not necessary in the Church, our fathers in the faith (including LCMS fathers) made uniformity something to be sought after.  The knew the benefit in having practices that lined up with each other from parish to parish.  They knew the comfort that would bring to people of all generations.  They knew the catholic principle behind the church, that it is not trapped in a certain time or place.  They also knew that doctrine informs practice and that practice informs doctrine.

Do we think we know better than our fathers?  Do we really think that diversity of practices can still be upheld and still claim to have doctrinal unity?  And this is now something in the LCMS over a generation old, which means in the flow of Lex Credendi, Lex Orandi, the practices that we have now tolerated have begun to affect our beliefs.

Diverse practices will come home to roost – and I wonder if the great disunity and disharmony today in the LCMS is only the fruit of a generation or better of allowing so many diverse practices to coexist under the banner of confessional Lutheranism.  Too often now, we can find “lifelong Lutherans” with completely different ideas on what it means to be Lutheran, and this is the result of having so many different practices.

But that is another thing that diversity of practices does – it is no longer about beliefs or doctrine, but about practices.  The focus has shifted.  When practice can mean almost anything, doctrine means almost nothing.

Those who now seek after uniformity are accused of being legalistic and loveless, sinning against those whom they try to “impose” ceremonies upon.  But behind the superficial accusation of sin (and the pious rebellion of the Old Adam), is the truth that uniformity serves Christ’s Church and that means Christians, real people who struggle in this life.  Uniformity serves the next generation of Christians by not creating a destructive feedback loop of diverse practices lessening or changing doctrine.  Those who strive for uniformity are trying to show love to those who are not just in front of them, but to those who come later, perhaps generations later.

The practical question is this:  what does uniformity look like in the LCMS of 2012?  I would suggest services of Lutheran Service Book, its Agenda and so forth (including vestments for clergy).  The rites of LSB still resemble those that are common across the whole Evangelical Lutheran Church.  But as of lately, even discussions here on BJS haven’t allowed such “broad consensus” – Is there really a unity of belief underlying this stubborn diversity?


Comments

Doctrine means nothing when Practice can mean anything. — 145 Comments

  1. Love seeing this written. How about adding some more items to the question of doctrine/practice such as grape juice or “pre-consecrated” elements for the Lord’s Supper.

  2. If we approach this from a gospel perspective, it might be worthwhile to think about how unloving it is to cause so much confusion through such a wide diversity of practice. Even well-catechized church members have sometimes been thrown off by weird practices because it leads to uncertainty about the efficacy of the Sacraments.

  3. Great article Joshua!
    Just to help clarify your thoughts a bit.
    *The consequences* of “Diverse practices will come home to roost…”

  4. Joshua,

    The other side will most certainly cry “Christian Freedom!”

    However, to paraphrase my ancient ancestor William Wallace – “The anything goes group will not only take away our liturgical lives and our historic and orthodox catholic continuity, they will most certainly also take away OUR freedom!”

    Inevitably, and without any question in my mind, the simple accusation of loveless legalism made against us must absolutely turn into a serious charge; one of which we will be found totally and completely guilty, without trial or defense. We will then be told to repent and change on pain of exclusion from our fathers’ church body.

    They cannot and will not tolerate our continued existence within their midst. We are an offense to them – a stench in their nostrils – one which they must work tirelessly to remove at all costs.

    In this battle there will be no truce, no peace, no middle ground, and no non-combatants. Those who are not with us are against us.

    We in WELS and you in LCMS need to understand this and act accordingly. The so-called “Worship War” is not a war-game. It is the real deal. And we have no where else to go. Our backs are up against the wall.

    “He which hath no stomach to this fight, Let him depart; his passport shall be made, And crowns for convoy put into his purse; We would not die in that man’s company . . . For he to-day that sheds his blood with me Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile (or in a different synod!).

    Deo Vindice!

    Pastor Spencer

  5. @Gail Ludvigson #2
    There is a real sense in which the weird practices come FROM uncertainty about the efficacy of the Sacraments, as well as leading us there. When the proponents of Schwärmer piety and praxis say that they can’t reach the lost through the Church’s historical Divine Service, they are basically saying that Word and Sacrament ministry has lost its efficacy. This is both the root and fruit of Schwärmer piety and praxis.
    Pax Christi+,
    -Matt Mills

  6. Strawman. Doctrine is doctrine and practice must teach it. Nobody is arguing practice can mean anything. It must teach doctrine.

    The argument is that there is not a single form that teaches doctrine. There are good reasons to have a single practice, but Christians are sinful and such unity is hard to enforce without binding consciences and falsely teaching that there is a single form that must be followed.

    Also, historical perspective would show lutherans have never been united in doctrine and practice. Did the Tuebingen school arise because of bad practice? Did the reformed gain sway with German princes because of bad practice? The elca is more liturgical than the lcms is, but it hasn’t prevented them from further abandoning doctrine. There are some good lutherans teaching sound doctrine without the traditional liturgy. I don’t think we should be attacking them. But there are also a lot of bad lutherans teaching liberalism or charismatic junk, and they should be brought into line. Not because they don’t use the hymnal, but because they are teaching false doctrine.

  7. Gail Ludvigson :Love seeing this written. How about adding some more items to the question of doctrine/practice such as grape juice or “pre-consecrated” elements for the Lord’s Supper.

    This brings up a question that I would like to have answered. There have been times when we have run short of consecrated bread and wine during our communion service. The reserve supply is located only a few feet from the altar. On one occasion I forgot to remind the pastor that I had added non-consecrated bread to the supply to avoid running out. Is it proper to assume that the words of institution apply to all of the elements that will be used at that particular service? Or must the elements all be located on the altar at the time the words are spoken?

  8. Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. (1 Corinthians 9:19-23)

  9. @boaz #5
    Here are a few potential straw men in your post:
    1) There is nothing “false” about teaching that a common form of worship must be followed by the Church out of love, and to preserve public harmony (only to teach that it merits grace, or makes satisfactions for sins.) It is, in fact, the consistent historical position of the Lutheran Confessions (Ap XV.)
    2) Nor is it historically inaccurate to say that there have been long periods where the Lutheran church in a given place has enjoyed unity in doctrine and praxis.
    3) We can say that ELCA has wandered further from Christianity, but I’m not sure we can say that ELCA gone further in “abandoning Lutheran doctrine” than the LC-MS. Neither an American Evangelical church w/ a yard sign that reads “LC-MS” nor a Unitarian/Universalist assembly w/ a yard sign that reads “ELCA” is really a “Lutheran Church.” They have both totally abandoned Lutheran doctrine. (I can’t prove this, but I believe that any vestiges of meaningful Lutheranism that remain in ghettoized corners of the ELCA owe their survival to the Western Liturgy.)
    4) The only good Lutherans teaching sound doctrine without the traditional liturgy I have ever met were working towards the reintroduction of the traditional liturgy in their previously deluded congregations. I have never met a good Lutheran pastor teaching sound doctrine who preferred Schwärmer piety and praxis to the traditional liturgy. Never.

    Pax Christi+,
    -Matt Mills

  10. f I want to study advanced Lutheran Theology I will get my M. Div. from Concordia Seminary!

    If I want to have a meaningful worship service in my LCMS church I think the Liturgy should be kept to the confines of the :

    Lutheran Service Book: Pew Edition

    Lutheran Service Book: Liturgy Accompaniment Edition

    Lutheran Service Book: Agenda

    Lutheran Service Book: Guitar Chord Edition

    Lutheran Service Book: Hymn Accompaniment Edition

    Lutheran Service Book: Lectionary – 1 Year

    Lutheran Service Book: Lectionary – 3 Year, Series A

    Lutheran Service Book: Lectionary – 3 Year, Series B

    Lutheran Service Book: Lectionary – 3 Year, Series C

    Isn’t this enough?
    IXOYC

  11. @Mark Huntemann #12
    Isn’t this [LSB] enough?
    IXOYC

    It is, if you have LSB. Matt, being more inclusive, added LW and TLH.

    (Some congregations haven’t changed yet by choice, others because they can’t afford it. But all three hymnals and their supporting texts are still approved.)

  12. Of course, Pastor Scheer seems to be suggesting the corollary: Doctrine means everything when practice means very few things. Or perhaps only one thing. Mr. Mills, presenting anecdotal evidence in his #4, seems to agree.

    And yet, I know quite a number of very liturgical LCMS pastors whose theology, apart from women pastors and same-sex stuff, sound, write, preach, and teach just like the former ALC. Make that the conservative wing of the ELCA. Make that the current NALC. Whatever.

    But, post-Kantian, Continental Lutheranism, highly reductionistic as it is, isn’t classical Missouri Synod. It isn’t the old Synodical Conference. It isn’t the Lutheranism of Luther, Melanchthon, Chemnitz, and Gerhard. Indeed, it is something else.

    Which is another way to say that while all doctrinally orthodox Lutherans are confessional, all Confessional Lutherans are not doctrinally orthodox.

    Liturgiosity is no guarantee. Don’t be fooled.

  13. @Robert #15
    I’m not saying that “Liturgiosity” is a guarantee of Confessionalism, but I do say that the rejection of the liturgy equates to a rejection of genuine Lutheran doctrine and piety. There are certainly folks who do liturgical worship for the wrong reasons, but again that hardly proves the existence of pastors who reject the liturgy while retaining Lutheran doctrine. Additionally, even pastors who use the liturgy for the wrong reasons give their congregations something valuable in the liturgy itself (solid Scripture, Christological focus, cross, grace etc.) Those congregations are better off w/ a solid liturgy and weak pastor than they would be w/ a weak pastor pushing Schwärmer piety and praxis.
    There’s no down-side to the liturgy, or upside to Schwärmer piety and praxis.

  14. @Rich #6
    The reserve supply is located only a few feet from the altar. On one occasion I forgot to remind the pastor that I had added non-consecrated bread to the supply to avoid running out.

    [You shouldn’t mix them. Let it “run out”, then add and let the Pastor consecrate. If it runs out in the middle of a table, wafers can be broken to complete the table.

    I’m glad you are “cutting it close!” Too many have too much left over to consume easily, which is the proper thing to do. –“Altar guild trained; and Pastor advised”]

    At one church we had a free standing altar. There were shelves on the back side, (not visible to the congregation). That Pastor kept a roll of wafers and a small flagon of wine there. But yes, he consecrated that, if/when he needed it, as much as he put on the altar.

  15. Pastor Scheer,
    I’m not convinced by that argument. Even IF all LCMS churches do what you propose, the listing of problems would still be there.

  16. @Rich #6
    Rich, I would suggest you talk to your pastor about it. He will be able to explain it to you and address any pastoral concerns he may have.

    @Andrew #18
    I like your new graphic. The problem of diversity in worship practices would be settled if we all could agree to use one of our standard hymnals and agendas. That would not necessarily fix Open Communion or women’s roles (although the older hymnals had more associated with the pastor and less to assistants), but it would help with the “worship wars” stuff. It would also help our own members as they move and travel to have a general idea of what to expect. It would also show a great deal of progress in showing self-sacrificing love for each other in our Synod. Never know what could happen after that. With such new found love for each other, we might actually be able to communicate to discuss other diverse practices and seek out uniformity.

  17. @Robert #15

    Not that this would be a good situation, but hasn’t the liturgy preserved the faith at different times history in the face otherwise of bad doctrine?

    What if the liberals you refer to didn’t even have the liturgy? Wouldn’t that be worse?

  18. As this conversation unfolds, one must know something about the LSB, LW, TLH worship resources.

    The “A” which means assisting minister does not include layman. The LCMS Worship Committee erred when they added layman to the “A”.

    Practice teaches Doctrine.

    The worship service is for the pastor to do. If anther pastor is visiting, and is invited to assist, great. Otherwise, he, like everyone else, sits in the pew and hears the Word.

    Let the pastor do what Christ gave him to do. Lead the sheep. Love the sheep. Feed the sheep.

  19. How does Comment #7 relate to uniformity in doctrine, diversity in unmandated practice?  Thanks.

  20. @John Rixe #7

    @John Rixe #22
    Sorry for missing that comment.

    The 1 Cor 9 passage is taking about freedom (rights) and love (self-sacrifice).
    The Concordia readers edition puts this in FC SD, X, par 9:
    9 We believe, teach, and confess that the community of God in every place and every time has, according to its circumstances, the good right, power, and authority to change and decrease or increase ceremonies ‹that are truly adiaphora›. They should do this thoughtfully and without giving offense, in an orderly and appropriate way, whenever it is considered most profitable, most beneficial, and best for good order, Christian discipline, and the Church’s edification. Furthermore, we can yield and give in with a good conscience to the weak in faith in such outward adiaphora. Paul teaches this in Romans 14 and proves it by his example (see Acts 16:3; 21:26; 1 Corinthians 9:19).
    Concordia : The Lutheran Confessions, Edited by Paul Timothy McCain (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2005), 598.

    The difficulty is that this passage is used by those not weak in faith to drive through just about any innovation that breaks uniformity.

    Remember that the confessors who wrote this had NO PROBLEMS submitting to very strict church orders during their time. They viewed it as submission to others. They also viewed it as trying to visibly represent the unity that God had created between them. Do you see how the claim of freedom is nothing compared to that charity toward the neighbor (voluntary bondage)? Key behind this also is that the Reformers never thought of doing church for the sake of the unchurched. Divine Service was for those whom the Spirit gathered (Christians), not an attraction tool for the pagan world. WORSHIP IS NOT AN EVANGELISM TOOL in that sense, but people hear the Gospel in Church, and where that Gospel is purely preached and taught, there evangelism is going on.

    For Paul’s living exposition of what he writes, see the Timothy (Acts 16:3) and Titus (Gal 2:3) circumcision stuff.

    IF anyone was requiring uniformity of worship in order to gain salvation, then we would be duty bound to resist. Those are the ceremonies that our Confession is against, the ceremonies that the RCC believed merited grace from God.

  21. @Pastor Joshua Scheer #23

    Thanks much.  This helps.  I personally would prefer uniformity in unmandated practice.  I really like LSB.  However, I wouldn’t want legislated unformity.  There are many congregations, including mine, that feel at least one of the services should be informal contemporary.  I don’t feel their motives are selfish or careless. 

    Of course, there are boundaries but…..Should the style/format of services be a basis for  us to act unfriendly or even break fellowship?  Seems to me there are bigger hills to die on.  

  22. @John Rixe #24
    I personally would prefer uniformity in unmandated practice.

    Right, John.
    It would be heavenly if Pastors adhered to their ordination vows and congregations studied the Book of Concord (after the Scriptures) and earnestly endeavored to be Lutheran in every way.

    What’s more, things might work better on earth, too!

  23. Key behind this also is that the Reformers never thought of doing church for the sake of the unchurched.

    Were there any unchurched at the time of the reformers?   How about the apostles?  Did they ever do church for the sake of the unchurched?  (Honest questions – I simply don’t know)

  24. @Pastor Joshua Scheer #23

    “Key behind this also is that the Reformers never thought of doing church for the sake of the unchurched. Divine Service was for those whom the Spirit gathered (Christians), not an attraction tool for the pagan world. WORSHIP IS NOT AN EVANGELISM TOOL in that sense, but people hear the Gospel in Church, and where that Gospel is purely preached and taught, there evangelism is going on.”

    My current congregation appears to believe that worship is an evangelism tool. Or that to keep the people coming, they have to always vary the liturgy with cut-and-paste options. Thanks to the link at this site to the EL-LC, I have found a local congregation that appears to operate as if the Divine Service is for believers, not the “unchurched.” I have visited it once and found a spirit of reverence that is totally lacking in my present congregation. The people were friendly and welcoming before and after the service, but church was church, not a “how are they going to try to be new and different and entertaining today” “worship experience”.

  25. @John Rixe #26

    By the time of the Reformation, all of Europe was “Christianized.” The church was a basic part, and maybe the biggest part of society and government. America is very new to the world stage, with its novel idea of seperation of church and state, as we understand it today. So everybody was catholic. It was just assumed. Some of the classical part of society/culture we the fmaily, the church, maybe the economy, government. There just wasn’t any distinction. In their mindset, there barely was anything considered “unchurched.” If you were that bad or outside, you were excommunicated.

    So when the Augustana was written, you see references to authority. Secular princes signed it. Martin Luther appealed to his elector. Luther told the princes to put down the Peasants’ Revolt. He had to deal with Philip of Hesse. Anyway, there was the Christian West, Moors driven out of Spain, Mohammedans controlling the Holy Land…. What is this thing called the “unchurched?” People either followed the Right religion of Christ, or the wrongs ones of Judaism or Islam. There really weren’t any heathen barbarians anymore, but even they worsipped their cultic gods and goddesses. Atheism was probably only discussed at philisophical universities, if even that.

  26. It seems to me that the idea of adapting Christian worship to reach outsiders and unbelievers has been around for quite some time:

    “If, therefore, the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your minds? But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you.” 1 Corinthians 14:23-25

  27. What does “unchurched” really mean? If we are talking about the 1500’s, weren’t there plenty of people who just didn’t attend regularly even though they were baptised when they were babies? It seems unchurched implies that the person doesn’t understand the service because he didn’t grow up with it. It seems something very explicit like the liturgy would be easier to understand than contemporary services that use so much allusion to stuff assuming people know what it means. Contemporary Christian music can only make sense to those who get all the references.

  28. @John Rixe #7
    You keep misquoting Paul. When he says “I” does he mean the whole corporate church or just himself? We are always as individuals to be willing to hold off or change for the sake of the weaker brother (i.e. eating meat prepared for idols or not eating meat for idols) but Paul in no way is stating that the whole CHURCH must change for the sake of an individual. We all tend to fall back on these “proof texts” but lets be intellectually honest and actually read what they are saying and not try to make them say what we want them to say.

    @Carl H #30
    I think conducting worship in someones native language is a far cry from what CoWo advocates. The Lutheran church switched several times, from Latin to German, from German to English, etc. the substance, the form, the rituals however DO NOT change. Only the language they are spoken in.

  29. On a lighter note, can one seriously purchase the bumper sticker you have pictured Rev. Scheer? I, for one, would be interested in sporting such a fine statement on the rear end of my pick-up truck.

  30. @Rev. McCall #33

    Pastor, help me out here:

    Please show me the places where I was misquoting Paul and being intellectually dishonest.

    I thought I just cut-and-pasted then asked a couple questions.

    Blessings on you and your ministry this Lord’s Day.

  31. @Rev. McCall #33

    Does the quote from the confessions in comment 23 indicate Paul was acting as an example to the “community of God”? Are the confessions talking about an individual or the whole church here?

  32. @Rev. McCall #34
    If you have a local printing shop, they can make anything you desire.
    Of course, the expense is in the set up; they are likely to be cheaper per piece by the 1000. 🙂
    (Perhaps you could find buyers for the surplus at the district/synodical conventions.)

  33. @John Rixe #35
    Thank you for your blessing. May God continue to bless you as well!

    This text has been thrown out hundreds of times to me as proof for changing corporate worship practices. Yet where in the text does it say such? Let’s start with what is the context surrounding Paul’s statement? He begins by speaking about individuals eating food offered to idols in front of weaker Christians who don’t understand Christian freedom. That’s our individual change we should make for a weaker brother. Paul says that’s good. Then he moves to his own personal changes that he has made/given up as a further example. He lists the taking of a wife, eating and drinking, and working for a living. Yet he points out he has voluntarily and personally given these things up for the sake of the Gospel. He then goes into the verses you quoted. His very point is the antithesis to what you are trying to say. He is telling the Corinthian Christians, as individuals, the same, to not force their individual desires and choices upon a weaker brother. He is not speaking about corporate worship or the rites or practices of the church. This means that if I go out to eat with a brother in Christ who doesn’t understand that I am free to eat pork, I should order chicken so as to not offend him, until he learns better. This is Christian making changes in Christian freedom for the sake of another Christian who is weaker in the faith. To make the leap that somehow Paul meant this statement to individuals to be applied to the church as a whole and it’s corporate worship goes beyond what the text and Paul says. You are trying to say that Paul means that Christians should change corporate worship practices for the sake of the unbeliever. Where is that in the text?

    As Pr. Scheer rightly points out about the Confessions:
    “Remember that the confessors who wrote this had NO PROBLEMS submitting to very strict church orders during their time. They viewed it as submission to others. They also viewed it as trying to visibly represent the unity that God had created between them. Do you see how the claim of freedom is nothing compared to that charity toward the neighbor (voluntary bondage)? Key behind this also is that the Reformers never thought of doing church for the sake of the unchurched. Divine Service was for those whom the Spirit gathered (Christians), not an attraction tool for the pagan world. WORSHIP IS NOT AN EVANGELISM TOOL in that sense, but people hear the Gospel in Church, and where that Gospel is purely preached and taught, there evangelism is going on.”

    When I insist the church change for ME, I am not acting in Christian freedom or unity, but in a spirit of selfishness. When I insist the church change her practice for ME, I am not creating unity. I am not submitting to the church or Christ. I am acting in a spirit of divisive selfishness, promoting my own desires in the name of “Christian freedom”.

  34. Maybe practice can mean anything because doctrine means everything.

  35. @Rev. McCall #38

    To make the leap that somehow Paul meant this statement to individuals to be applied to the church as a whole and it’s corporate worship goes beyond what the text and Paul says. You are trying to say that Paul means that Christians should change corporate worship practices for the sake of the unbeliever. Where is that in the text?

    Please see comment 36.

  36. As a recent convert and a music minister, I wrestle hard and deep with these issues on daily basis, especially given that the congregation I serve is truly a microcosm of the denomination at large (except that we get along and don’t argue much). I’m not completely sold on the idea of liturgical uniformity; from my graduate studies in music history, it would appear that this was a rather late development in the church, one which the east never truly embraced. I certainly see value in it, but I’m not sure it is scripturally mandated or essential for true Lutheranism. I am totally in favor of vestments and glad my church uses them, but I hear WELS preachers wear a suit yet are on average more traditionally conservative.

    Here’s my pitch: Our uniformity ought to take it’s dying stand on the Divine Service. Not necessarily the exact ones found in the LSB (though they are quite outstanding IMO). I believe there is nothing wrong with congregations writing their own divine services with fresh music, provided they follow the same text/sequence of elements. It absolutely must be about substance over style. The minute we try to include our stylistic ideals and re-label them as “substance,” dissenters see double-speak and this justifies differences of substance in their eyes.

    In the book “Gathered Guests,” from CPH, p.534 gives this outline as a “bare minimum” of a Lutheran service of worship: (Confession and Absolution), Praise and Prayer, Reading of the Word of God (according to a pericopal system), Exposition of the Word of God (sermon), Prayer for all sorts and conditions and offering of the people, Preface and Consecration of bread and wine with the Words of Institution, Reception of the Sacrament of the Altar, and finally Dismissal with the Lord’s Blessing.

    Personally, I find this to be a bit too minimalistic, but let’s be honest: For how much of our synod would even that much be significant progress? Perhaps we can start there as a basis of uniformity. We create more walls when we go cold turkey, all or nothing, my way or the highway, with the more “progressive” members of our denomination. Perhaps this bare minimum “Lutheran service” could be a potential bridge-builder, and a way to win over to the ancient tradition those who are not able to lay down their garage bands and hawaiian shirts. I love the chanted liturgy, but expecting low-church CCM trend driven evangelicals to jump ship and adopt it overnight is highly unrealistic. We are not going to roll out of bed one day and wake up to find a unified denomination. I believe it has to be worked towards.

  37. “In other words, our priority is to be the church.

    But much of current evangelicalism’s “gospel” doesn’t create a church,
    nourish people deeply through Christ-centered Word and Sacrament,
    stress pastoral care and spiritual formation,
    free and equip people to pursue their vocations in the world,
    and embrace suffering and the way of the Cross as the “method” by which God’s will will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

    That is the “culture” that must change.”

    http://www.internetmonk.com/archive/which-culture-most-threatens-the-church

  38. Wonderful post, I agree 100%. You should send a copy to our President. I feel we will be moving further away from our roots instead of going back to them.

    What is in store for us in the next Convention? Has this issue been address?

    Pew Member!

  39. Miguel :
    I’m not completely sold on the idea of liturgical uniformity; from my graduate studies in music history, it would appear that this was a rather late development in the church, one which the east never truly embraced. I certainly see value in it, but I’m not sure it is scripturally mandated or essential for true Lutheranism. I am totally in favor of vestments and glad my church uses them, but I hear WELS preachers wear a suit yet are on average more traditionally conservative.

    Just a point of clarity. WELS pastors most often wear suits “under their vestments” during worship. A few wear clerical shirt and collar under vestments. Unfortunately, a rare few wear a casual untucked shirt and no vestments.

  40. @John Rixe #41
    Paul is not talking about unbelievers and neither are the confessions. They specifically say “weak in faith”. That is still a believer, not an unbeliever. Again, nowhere does Paul or the confessions talk about changing anything for the sake of the unbeliever. The main point you skip is:

    “The difficulty is that this passage is used by those not weak in faith to drive through just about any innovation that breaks uniformity.”

    If someone weak in the faith doesn’t understand why we make the sign of the cross, then I would not force them to do it. But my goal (and Paul’s) is to continue to educate the weak in faith so that they DO come to appreciate such practice and do see it rightly as good, not to simply do away with it all together. And there are clearly some things Paul does not consider able to be set aside for the sake of the weaker brother. Look at how he deals with communion later on in chapter 11. And Paul never advocates changes in worship practice. He talks about his own personal desires that he sets aside (what he eats, whether he marries or not, if he gets paid or not).

    Finally, look at the criteria in post #23:
    “They should do this thoughtfully and without giving offense, in an orderly and appropriate way, whenever it is considered most profitable, most beneficial, and best for good order, Christian discipline, and the Church’s edification.”

    How is watering down a confession good for church discipline or edification? How is changing or removing the creeds good? How is introducing “I” centered praise songs in place of Christ centered hymns beneficial or edifying? How is creating a worship service different from the synod’s approved materials and different from 2,000 years of church history best for good order? How does switching to CoWo not give offense to some who have grown up with and love the liturgy in the church? I had a little old lady in CA once who told me with tears in her eyes how sad she was that her church switched to CoWo and moved away from the liturgy. She said she felt as though her church stopped caring about her and cared more about the people that never came that they were supposedly trying to reach. That’s thoughtful and non-offensive?

    From FC SD X, paragraph 10:
    “We also believe, teach, and confess that in a time when confession is necessary, as when the enemies of God’s Word want to suppress the pure teaching of the holy gospel, the entire community of God, indeed every Christian, especially servants of the Word as the leaders of the community of God, are obligated according to God’s Word to confess true teaching and everything that pertains to the whole of religion freely and publicly. They are to do so not only with words, but also in actions and deeds.”

  41. I got timed out. My final point is this, adiaphora ceases to be adiaphora and within the realm of Christian freedom when it communicates anything less than the pure gospel. So when I change the confession/absolution to read, “Lord I need your forgiveness to be a better person” I have downplayed or deliberately denied original sin. Now my confession is no longer a matter of adiaphora but suppresses the pure gospel and MUST be changed.

  42. @Rev. McCall #46

    Thanks.   I’m not sure I can easily distinguish between an unbeliever and ‘weak in faith’ but I agree with the rest of your comment.   The contemporary services in my circuit have none of the bad things you have listed so my experience is limited.  Also they are usually in addition to the traditional not a replacement.

    How do we realistically solve the worship wars?

    I don’t think we can convince thousands of voters assemblies to drop their contemporary services.

    Should we split again into 2 synods?  I don’t think this is a big enough issue.

    Should we just spend many more years going over the same arguments?

    I like Miguel’s suggestion.

  43. @John Rixe #48
    I’m glad to hear your churches do not, unfortunately I just received a bulletin from last weekend from a church in my circuit that is worse than I even described.

    I like Miguel’s suggestion as well, but the problem is any church can and does claim to have all those elements in it’s service. The problem is truly the content and the pure gospel that is or isn’t proclaimed by it. It needs to be a both/and. We need to have both the same elements/practices of worship and the correct content in them.

    God Bless!

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