Steadfast Office – The Divine Call

So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” (John 20:21-23)

The Evangelical Lutheran Church reads this Bible passage and many others at the ordinations of the men our Lord Jesus Christ calls into His service to preach the Word in season and out of season. The Preaching Office is so important that the Reformers addressed its importance in Article XIV of the Augsburg Confession (Augustana). Let us review:

” It is taught among us that nobody should publicly teach or preach or administer the sacraments in the church without a regular call.”

What does Augustana XIV mean? Has its meaning changed since the Confession was read before the Princes in 1530? For some in The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod (LCMS), Augustana means everything concerning the Preaching Office. For others, it means nothing. What happened to Augustana XIV? Where did go?

The LCMS has always held that a pastor was a man who was educated (seminary residency), examined, called (Divine Call), and ordained. She was serious about Augustana XIV. No one was to publicly teach or preach in the Church, nor administer the sacraments in the Church, without a regular call (rite vocatus). In 1989, everything changed for the LCMS. The Synod voted, in convention, to rescind Augustana XIV and replace it with the “lay ministry.”

I asked earlier, what happened to Augustana XIV? The answer is that politics removed it from the LCMS.  1989 was a fateful year for the LCMS. She discarded a primary doctrine which the Evangelical Lutheran Church held for 459 years. Now, education and examination are no longer primary instruments in the Church. (See 2 Tim. 2:2; 3:2; Titus 1:9)

The LCMS has created many programs to put men into the preaching office; DELTO (Distance Education Leading to Ordination); AR (Alternate Route); SMPP (Specific Ministry Pastoral Program), and others. The LCMS has also rejected Augustana XIV by allowing men who resigned their Divine Call to continue to preach and administer the sacraments. She also allows men who have retired (resigned their Divine Call) to do the same. She also allows men to “read” sermons written by the pastor during his absence.  Why? And yet, she condemns the actions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America for allowing women in the preaching office. What’s the difference? Rejection of the Confession is still rejection.

What can be done about this? Can Augustana XIV be restored in the LCMS? Is there any hope that this terrible wrong can be corrected? My answer is yes. I say IT’S TIME! The President of the Synod has been given all the tools and authority to correct the problems stemming from the rejection of Augustana XIV. His actions must include discipline and possible removal of those who do not conform.

It is about theology. It has to be about theology otherwise the LCMS is just another business in the United States of America. In my previous post, Steadfast Office – Theology, not Politics, Rev. McCall made an astute observation in his comment (#23). He asked, (paraphrasing) if nothing is done about an erring brother, does that mean I am still tolerating  such behavior (tolerating his sin)? Or, do I or he need to leave.

His questions are asked because politics have taken over the LCMS. If the LCMS held to the Holy Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions, Rev. McCall’s questions would not have to be asked. The erring brother, congregation, District President, or whom ever sinned was corrected, then all would be well in the LCMS. As it is, those who do hold fast to the Scriptures and Lutheran Confessions are asking if they have to leave what they confess. This is just wrong. If the erring person refuses to confess his sin and repent (turn from evil), he must be removed from the Church (Matthew 18)

My prayer is that the Lord of the Church grant strength and courage to His Church to stand strong and be bold to call sinners to repentance.


Steadfast Office – The Divine Call — 66 Comments

  1. @Carl Vehse #48
    But certainly Luther wasn’t talking about individual atomistic “congregations” when he advocated the therm “a congregation of saints” in the Apostles Creed. We aren’t confessing a plurality of “churches” in our creeds, but one “Church.” Luther’s preference for the translation of Gemeinde over Gemindshaft can’t be read as favoring individual congregations over the one holy catholic and apostolic church.

    If you’re going to invoke Luther, go ahead and translate “die Gemeide” as “THE Congregation” (though not “A congregation”) in your 1851 quote: but use the term as Luther does in your second quote, to denote the one holy catholic and apostolic church, not an individual non-profit licienced by the state of fill-in-the-blank.

    Mr. President, we must not allow a Gemindshaft gap! (Sorry, I just wanted to write that.)

    Pax Christi+,
    -Matt Mills

  2. @Rev. McCall #50
    I have read what you’ve written here Pastor, and I’ve heard it before, but as we started w/ AC XIV, I’m not sure that Pieper and AC XIV are on the same sheet of music. From my read of the text, AC XIV clearly asserts that the call is made “by means of a set ecclesiastical rite” (if not ordination, then what?) The Roman Confutation makes the same assumption, only insisting that “the rite” be presided over by a Bishop. In the Apology there is no denial that the call is “by means of the rite” (of ordination) only the denial that a bishop is necessary. If AC XIV wasn’t about a call “by means of the rite” (of ordination) why doesn’t the Apology correct the Confutations assumption that it was? What have I missed Pastor? Where does this separation of call and ordination originate, because I don’t see it in the AC or Apology?
    Pax Christi+,
    -Matt Mills

  3. @Matthew Mills #52
    I’m not sure I disagree with you or maybe something was lost in internet translation. I don’t think the call and ordination should be separate. I think ordination and installation should be separate. I think we do the opposite by artificially separating the call and ordination by having a “Call Day” and then months later having an ordination/installation service.
    So if the call and ordination are so closely linked, as I think you are rightly saying and I would agree, THEY should be linked together, not ordination and installation. And what better way to do that then to have those who have acted on behalf of the Church to train these men to then ordain them upon their receiving their call? Church trains, Church ordains.
    Installation is then done at the calling congregation and becomes in itself, a stand alone rite that still emphasizes the call. The man who was trained, called, and ordained by the Church, is now placed into the Office of Ministry specifically as that congregations pastor. The call is to them and that is what Installation emphasizes.
    I think separating Ordination from Installation and separating neither one from the call is a better expression of our theology. In looking at both services in the LSB Agenda, I think they bear out what I’m saying. Ordination focuses on the preparation and training of the man and his call. For lack of better term, it is a little more general in the way it speaks of the call and the Office of Ministry. Installation is much more specific. It’s about this called pastor and holder of the Office of Ministry being placed as YOUR pastor. Don’t know if that helped or not!

  4. Can a pastor called to one congregation forgive the sins of members of another congregation?

    After all, the liturgy says “called and ordained.”

  5. @Rich #55
    That may be a loaded question. In what regard do you mean “forgive the sins of members of another congregation”? As in that person just so happens to be visiting my church on Sunday and receives absolution in the service? or like a person refuses to repent for a sin and a pastor withholds absolution from them so they go to another pastor down the road to try to get forgiven?

  6. @Pastor Ted Crandall #47
    “Why is only the “body of Elders” mentioned and not the all powerful voters’ assembly?”

    Now, there’s a discussion starter!

    The “Elders” in Paul’s time were Pastors, weren’t they?

    [I could tell you stories about who really pulled the strings in the only “all powerful, all male voters” I’ve experienced, (but not here)!]

  7. @Rev. McCall #56
    “…or like a person refuses to repent for a sin and a pastor withholds absolution from them so they go to another pastor down the road to try to get forgiven?”

    Unfortunately, I’ve seen exactly that happen, using a “forgiving” pastor blinded by church growth principles. He encourages the people to see him as so much more loving and Christ-like than “that harsh pastor” across town. (Both pastors are in the LCMS.) Lord have mercy!

  8. @Rich #55

    I wasn’t trying to load the question. Several pastors on this site have written about participating in pulpit exchanges. My pastor as a youth sometimes did this with other pastors of his circuit during the season of Lent, and I believe it was actually encouraged at one time.

    The question was aimed at the contention that a pastor speaks on Christ’s behalf only before the congregation to which he was called. If this is true, the efficacy of the sacraments is dependent on the presence of one who is called, is it not?

  9. This issue is very difficult to resolve if the discussion remains in the realm of the call. The German of ACXIV (ordenlich) makes clear that the process for entry into the office need be “orderly.” That is to say, the individual has not imposed himself or contravened the ordinary process. Now, a person can believe that a particular process is utterly insufficient and yet acknowledge that one who follows that process is in good order as things may stand.

    The main topic, however, should be not the call, but the office. If we agreed on what the office was, the rest would not be difficult to resolve.

    The chief problem is that our practice suggests the office is something like a quality that adheres to an indivual. But a “public office” (“offentlichen Amt”) is actually like being a mayor, governor or policman. No one is any of these things “at large.” Think of the oddity of a would-be mayor insisting that because he had this or that diploma he could enter any city and make official speeches and cut ribbons. Or what if he claimed this was his due because he had once been a mayor elsewhere?

    *Any* universality of the office, as with any public office, must be based on its particularity otherwise what is conceived is not a concrete “office” as such. (And the opposite is indeed the position we have always rejected.)

    Many also hold the inverse view which is as bad, namely, that if one has the necessary tool for cutting ribbons and does so, has the voice for making speeches and makes them, that he then must be in the office of mayor. (It is like saying a person is a policeman whenever he defends his home because police also do this.)

    Finally, the practical questions raised could easily be handled in the way President Harrison (now) and many retirees have done. (As to vacancies, it is hard to see why it matters if the pastor has gone to the parish to preach or the parishoners have come to the pastor to listen.)


  10. @Rich #60
    I didn’t think that you were, but just wanted to make sure. It sounds as though your specific question then is not about a parishioner visiting another congregation, but rather a pastor pulpit exchange or Lenten round robin, that sort of thing. Walther’s “Pastoral Theology” gives some good insights into the call itself that may or may not apply. Check that out sometime. I don’t know of anything off the top of my head that says such a practice is bad in and of itself. No congregation is vacant so no congregation is treating the visiting pastor then like a hireling by not extending him a call. All the pastors have a right and proper call to their respective congregations so no one is acting as a vacancy pastor or anything like that. Where I find the conflict in such an arrangement though is, “Are you sure you know what those other pastors are going to be preaching from your pulpit?”

    So as to my personal views, I personally don’t like round robin type deals or pulpit swaps. I am called to my congregation and I take very seriously what I preach and teach them. If false teaching is presented by another pastor with my blessing as part of a round robin or a one-off mission Sunday guest preacher, that’s my fault for allowing him to occupy the pulpit in my church. And trust me when I say that it happens. I also find personally that there is no reason why I should not and could not plan ahead for Lent or Advent and manage to write six or so extra sermons. It’s not like I don’t know it’s coming every year at the same time.

  11. @Jim Strawn #61
    Weren’t the Apostles pastors “at large”? Didn’t they send other pastors to speak for them at various locations?

    If the “ordenlich” in the German text is read in light of the Reformers’ consistent use of the term “Kirchenordnung” for “liturgy” then the German “ordentlichen Beruf” dovetails neatly w/ the Latin “rite vocatus.” Both refer to a call by means of a specific “order” not just any old orderly or correct process we might come up with. Again, there is no doubt how the Roman’s interpreted AC XIV, and there is no attempt in the Apology to disabuse them of the assumption that we were saying that ordination was the prerequisite of preaching, teaching and administering the sacraments. Any modern or post-modern attempt to make AC XIV say something more, or less than: “we only allow ordained ministers preach teach or administer the sacraments in our churches” is intellectually dishonest or linguistically weak.
    Trying to read the Latin “rite vocatus” as “rightly called” is like reading the sentence: “The orthodox rabbi asked if the chicken salad was kosher” and insisting on the word “kosher” taking the figurative meaning of “genuine, legitimate, or proper.” No, if an orthodox rabbi uses the word kosher in a sentence about chicken, he is referring to dietary restrictions, and if a 16th century theologian uses the Latin word “rite” in a sentence about ecclesiastical order, he is referring to a churchly rite. Even if “odentlichen” is only “orderly” and has no connection to “Kirchenordung” I don’t see that the German text requires us to trump the clarity of the Latin. The orderly way to call pastors in the church is, was, and has been since the time of the apostles, the laying on of hands; ordination.

    Pax Christi+,
    -Matt Mills

  12. @helen #40

    Helen, I agree with. Your point is my point exactly. For me, there is no distance I would travel to ensure my family received faithful service of Word & Sacrament from a faithful pastor.

  13. @Pastor John Wurst #64
    there is no distance I would travel to ensure my family received faithful service of Word & Sacrament from a faithful pastor.

    [I take you to mean “wouldn’t” ?]

    In Fredricksburg, Texas, there are still a number of small houses known as “Sunday houses”. Farmers who lived too far away to get to church on Sunday morning would come in with their families on Saturday, do any business they had in the town, and sleep and eat in their “Sunday house” on Saturday night.

    To someone who can’t find a faithful church where he lives, I have suggested finding one elsewhere and using the same method (with a motel). If not every Sunday, then at least once a month for the Supper.
    There are quite a few good Lutheran sermons on line to fashion a service around on ‘home’ Sundays.

  14. @helen #65
    Excellent idea, Helen! I may try that. There are several good Lutheran churches three or four hours from here which would enable me to see my state while visiting these churches!

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