Steadfast Media Pick of the Week — A Throwback Pick

A Throwback Pick

The pick this week is a presentation by Dr. David Scaer from Symposia 2002 entitled “Missouri’s Identity Crisis: Rootless in America.” Dr. Scaer discusses how the Missouri Synod is an umbrella for multiple “cultures” each with an identifiable cause. Some are fascinated by the Reformed freestyle of worship while others pay attention to things liturgical. Some see Synod as an association of congregations held together by a commitment to the Lutheran Confessions while other see it as a corporation of congregations and employees where doctrinal disagreements are handled as disputes within the corporate structure. Though 10 years-old, the categories are still applicable and highlight how little has been done to address the situation.


In addition to recommending this particular presentation I made this pick to promote CTS Media, Concordia Theological Seminary’s archive of presentations and papers from various conferences, events, and journals. Both seminaries have done a great job of making resources available with CTS Media focusing on conferences and events and Concordia Seminary’s iTunes U focusing on classrooms and lectures.


Steadfast Media Pick of the Week — A Throwback Pick — 4 Comments

  1. A written text of “Missouri’s Identity Crisis: Rootless in America” is in Logia, Vol. XII(1), 2003, pp. 35-40.

    However, confessional Lutherans in the Missouri Synod (or the name seemingly preferred – the Sasse Admiration Synod) will soon discern some main points in Scaer’s paper, amid analogies from a 1981 book on economic and cultural divisions in North America by a pop sociologist/futurist:

    1. The pejorative view against the 2001 convention’s reaffirming (in 7-17a) Walther’s Kirche und Amt as the Synod’s official position and understanding of the doctrine of church and ministry under Holy Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions, which, of course, it has been since two years before Loehe spilt with Walther and the Missouri Synod because of his non-Lutheran views of church and ministry;
    2. The claimed absence of references to the Lutheran Confessions in the Brief Statement of 1932, which, of course, there are;
    3. The expressed promotion that the Synod is a church, which, of course, it isn’t; and
    4. The enticement for ordination being a sacrament, which, of course, it also isn’t.

    Scaer’s boogeyman theory of “bizarre congregationalism,” which conjectures that a congregation could be deprived of its church property by a few people (including even a synod lawyer), is more questionable a decade later, now that the LCMS abandoned its three and a half-year old lawsuit against an Oakland congregation to take its church property for the District, although the Synod and some of its districts do not appear to have completely abandoned such attempts.

  2. Thanks for highlighting points of disagreement with what Dr. Scaer put forth. If I understood your wording correctly, I would disagree that these are main points. I viewed them as commentary and/or illustrations of a broader mindset. Also, I dont’ think the analogies were taken from the pop psychology book referenced. The book served as the jumping off point for the idea that, “… one organization can provide cover for a variety of cultural communities.” From there Dr. Scaer attempts to identify and illustrate the mindset of those “cultural communities.”

  3. We are all in debt to Dr. Scaer for his incisive analysis of the state of the Missouri Synod. No less incisive is Dr. Sasse’s remarkable essay – which Dr. Scaer references – “Confession(Confessionalism) and Theology in the Missouri Synod” (1951) which is available in “Scripture & the Church: Selected Essays of Hermann Sasse,” pp.189ff. In the light of the sad history from that time until now, it is not too much to say that his essay was truly prophetic. I often find myself wishing that all our pastors would “read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest” this astonishingly perceptive essay. He speaks of the “receding of the Confessions” in all of American Lutheranism, and in that connection observes that in the Missouri Synod the Brief Statement had in practice (albeit not in theory) all but replaced the Confessions themselves. Already in 1951 Sasse faithfully addressed the issues – the doctrine of Holy Scripture, its inspiration and inerrancy, and the doctrine of the Church, its fellowship and Ministry – which in due course have become so divisive. I often find myself wondering how different our Church’s history would have been had it taken to heart the fraternal warnings of Dr. Sasse. And I give thanks that through the efforts of Drs. Harrison, Nagel, Feuerhahn, the splendid theological works of Dr. Sasse are now available to those who can no longer read the original German.

  4. I do agree with Prof. Scaer’s statement (p. 38), “Lex orandi lex credendi (which is often cited to show that liturgy shapes doctrine) is more correctly interpreted the other way around: dogma is the standard for the liturgy.”

    In his paper, “Grabau and the Saxon Pastors: The Doctrine of the Holy Ministry, 1840-1845” (Concordia Historical Institute Quarterly, 62,1995), Rev. William M. Cwirla had noted:

    “We might summarize the liturgical distinction between the parties in this way: Grabau worked in the direction lex orandi lex credendi (what is prayed in confessed); the Saxons worked it the other way, lex credendi lex orandi (what is confessed is prayed).”

    As for Jaroslav Pelikan going over to the Eastern Church, it was not because the Missouri Synod became Baptist, but rather because Pelikan finally realized he was never really Lutheran. Others have since realized the same thing as they finally left the ditch on the side of the Missouri Synod road and swam the Bosporus or Tiber. In the ditch on the other side there are the PLI/CGM/methobapticostals.

    Concerning Missouri Synod’s so-called “identity crisis,” I propose a synodical identity name with lots of historical meaning: Die Englisch Evangelische Lutherische Synode von Missouri, Texas, und anderen Staaten.

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