Great Stuff — How Can We Give a Witness for Jesus Christ in the Public Square While Avoiding the Errors of Unionism and Syncretism?

Received by email and posted on by Pastor Clint Poppe. If you didn’t receive this by email, sign up for ACELC’s emails.


ACELCLike many of you reading this post, I have been riding an emotional roller coaster since the tragic shootings in Newtown, CT. Many have worked hard to bring comfort and peace to a horrific situation; sadly, a few have tried to use this as an opportunity to gain political ground. This is as true “inside the Beltway” as it is in the Church. I would like to try to move beyond the emotions, if possible, for a theological look at what I perceive to be the issue at hand that is causing some, if not many, to question the LCMS stance against unionism and syncretism.

Recently, during Sunday morning Bible study, one of my members said she could not believe this was happening all over again and wondered out loud: “Haven’t we learned anything from Yankee Stadium?” Another member, in response said: “I don’t understand what the big deal is, after all, didn’t Jesus eat and drink with tax collectors?” As I have tried to listen to all sides during the last several weeks, it appears that the vast majority have a strong desire to be faithful to the Word of God, and want the life-giving, life-changing Gospel to be proclaimed in the best way possible.

So, what is the best way to do it? That seems to be the question at hand for many among us. Is the best and most faithful way to proclaim Christ and His Word, when a terrible tragedy strikes, to participate in the community service or vigil, or to intentionally stay away? I believe this question is one that would be of benefit for us to wrestle with, under God’s Word.

In preparation for a congregational study on this very topic, I was reminded of an excellent article by the Rev. Daniel Preus, currently serving as the 4th Vice President of the LCMS. He was very close to the situation following Yankee Stadium, serving then as 1st VP, and this essay delivered in 2003 can possibly serve as a starting point for our study. It is available by clicking here. (You might also want to check out the ACELC Errors Document on Unionism and Syncretism)

Here are some excerpts from Pastor Preus’ article to whet your appetite:

For Christians it goes without saying that we are going to talk about Jesus to those who do not yet know Him, and for that matter, also to those who do. Jesus says that He is the way, the truth and the life and that nobody comes to the Father except through Him (John 14:6). Peter says that there is “no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Again St. Peter says, “Always be ready to give an answer to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, in meekness and in fear” (I Peter 3:15). Why? Because the hope that is in us is the only hope for sinful people, the only hope of salvation, the only hope of deliverance from sin, the only hope of everlasting life.

So, there is no question that Christians are to proclaim the Gospel, that they are to announce the Good News about forgiveness, salvation and life in the Savior, Jesus. And the proclamation of Christians should not be limited to the sanctuary. “Go and make disciples of all people,” Jesus says in Matthew. “Preach the Gospel to every creature,” He says in Mark. Every one of us should be like Andrew who found his brother Peter and brought him to Jesus (John 1). Every one of us should be like Philip who found Nathanael and told him he had found the Messiah and when Nathanael resisted, Philip said, “Come and you will see.” There simply is no question that Christians who are the light of the world, according to Jesus, are to be a light in the world through their actions and their speech.

Does this mean then that Christians have the right and the duty to speak the Word of God and proclaim the Gospel, not only in the church, but also in the public square? Of course! And when these opportunities come our way, we should be grateful and take advantage of them.

At the same time, the Scriptures warn us again and again to avoid certain relationships and activities with false teachers, with unbelievers and especially with the teachers, preachers and prophets of false religions. And so St. Paul says, “I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people” (Rom. 16:17?18). So Jesus Himself warns us against false teaching and false prophets and says, “At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or, ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and miracles to deceive the elect – if that were possible. So be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time” (Mark 13:21?23). And in the book of Revelation Jesus commends the Ephesians for their intolerance over against false teaching. He says, “I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false” (Revelation 2:3).

Finally, the entire Old Testament, from which I shall quote extensively in the second part of my presentation, makes it clear that believers, children of God, are absolutely forbidden to worship false gods or to combine their worship in any way with the worship of false gods. In fact, the major sin of the Israelites, condemned over and over again by God’s prophets was that of syncretism according to which they wished both to worship the God of Israel and give honor to the gods of the nations surrounding them.

As Christians, we gladly submit to both these truths: 1. We are to proclaim the Gospel unashamedly to everyone who will listen and 2. We cannot worship together with those whose worship is directed to any god other than the Triune God who alone is Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier and who alone is God in the true sense of the word. There was a day when it was much easier to hold these two truths in the proper balance. To those who know the Scriptures well it should not be difficult today either. But the postmodern world in which we live has severely complicated life for us Christians.

Is it possible today to study the paradox that Rev. Preus has clearly outlined, under God’s Word, no matter what side of the issue we are currently on, and let God’s Word have its way with us? To me, that would be true koinonia. That is my prayer.

Rev. Clint K. Poppe
Chairman, ACELC

About Norm Fisher

Norm was raised in the UCC in Connecticut, and like many fell away from the church after high school. With this background he saw it primarily as a service organization. On the miracle of his first child he came back to the church. On moving to Texas a few years later he found a home in Lutheranism when he was invited to a confessional church a half-hour away by our new neighbors.

He is one of those people who found a like mind in computers while in Middle School and has been programming ever since. He's responsible for many websites, including the Book of Concord,, and several other sites.

He has served the church in various positions, including financial secretary, sunday school teacher, elder, PTF board member, and choir member.

Norm has been involved behind the scenes in many of the "go-to" websites for Lutherans going back many years.


Great Stuff — How Can We Give a Witness for Jesus Christ in the Public Square While Avoiding the Errors of Unionism and Syncretism? — 46 Comments

  1. I don’t think anyone around here is in favor of joint syncretic worship.  The issue seems to be:  does serial prayer following a disclaimer constitute joint worship?  There are huge emotional arguments on both sides which will now probably be repeated again. 🙂

  2. In his February 17-18, 2003, paper, “How Can We Give a Witness for Jesus Christ in the Public Square While Avoiding the Errors of Unionism and Syncretism?,” Rev. Preus discusses events that incorporate both religious and civic elements and offers some counsel given by Prof. David Adams in his paper, “The Church in the Public Square in a Pluralistic Society” (Concordia Journal, 28:4, October, 2002, 364-390). Preus specifically mentioned the following theses from Prof. Adams:

    Thesis 7: To the Extent That a Civil Religious Event Is an Event Involving Christians of Different Confessions, Participation in the Event Must Be Governed by the Same Principles That Govern Our Interaction with Other Christian Church Bodies.

    Thesis 8: To the Extent That a Civil Religious Event Is an Event Involving Participants from Non-Christian Faith Groups, Participation in the Event Must Be Shaped by the Requirements of the First Commandment.

    Rev. Preus also pointed out that in addition the the First Commandment, the Second Commandment is also involved. A BJS discussion last month, pointed out that the Newtown interfaith prayer service was a violation of, at least, the First, Second, Third, Fourth, Sixth (in a spiritual sense), and Eighth Commandments.

    One of the terms in the Rev. Poppe’s article, and in Rev. Preus’s 2003 paper, and in the referenced 2002 Concordia Journal paper is “public square.” Today, the “public square” is simply not an open area in which public meetings are held, or gatherings that include public officials or clerics of varous religions, but the “public square” may also include the presence of the fifth-column media, their nationwide broadcast communications, and the media’s anti-Christian agenda. This media presence also has to be weighed in any decision about the appearance of unionism and syncretism.

  3. @John Rixe #1

    John: It seems to me that Pastor Poppe is urging us to move away from emotional arguments and onto scriptural arguments. Arguments are not wrong in themselves; scriptural arguments are good and necessary. As Pastor Poppe prays, may we “let God’s Word have its way with us.”

  4. BTW, someone needs to fix the html coding on this thread for font size and to get rid of the underlining, without repeating any huge emotional arguments, of course.

  5. @John Rixe #1
    We need to be careful of our definitions. We should be very aware of how the event is being perceived and not just of how we see it. We may think it is just “serial prayer” but when the media calls it worship, when the former Atlantic DP of the LCMS calls it worship, when the President of the United States “message” is called a “sermon” and he is referred to as a “preacher in chief” by the media, and when several of the other of the participants refer to it as worship, when it is structured like a worship service, it really is hard to justify saying, “Yeah but I didn’t think it was!” The same should be true of any future event. Even if we think it isn’t worship, how are most people in America viewing the event? How is the media portraying the event?
    Also, to be fair, if you are going to reference the “disclaimer” at the beginning please also reference the “disclaimer” after the Benediction where Pr. Morris invited everyone to pray, not to the one true God, but with the clergy of their choice. 🙁 Whatever disclaimers and supposed Gospel there may have been at that event, it was all undone when the supposed proclaimer of that Gospel encouraged people to then pray to false gods.

    So as the point of this article asks, how can we do this better?

  6. It is not clear how one goes from a “LCMS stance against unionism and syncretism” to “Is the best and most faithful way to proclaim Christ and His Word, when a terrible tragedy strikes, to participate in the community service or vigil, or to intentionally stay away?”

    The phrase, “best and most faithful way” concedes, by definition, that there are good, better, faithful, and more faithful ways, which would, again by definition, not be sinful as unionism and syncretism. Thus the dichotomy of deciding whether an action is unionistic/syncretic or not, is transformed into a question of categorizing various relative options as good, better, or best faithful ways “to proclaim Christ and His Word.”

    If a unionistic/syncretic action, according to the LCMS stance, is NO WAY to proclaim Christ and His Word, then Rev. Poppe’s “question at hand for many among us” represents a completely different question than the very title of this thread.

    Both are good questions, but they are not the same.

  7. @Carl Vehse #6

    The question is mine; the title is the title of Daniel Preus’s paper. It is my hope that the paper might be a good starting point in fraternal discussion in order to answer my question.

    Some have implied that there are “more faithful” and “less faithful” ways to respond to tragic situations such as Newtown and Yankee Stadium so I think that topic needs to be a part of the discussion. I did not mean to imply that there are “levels of faithfulness.” My personal preference would be the categories of faithful and unfaithful.

    In Christ, Clint

  8. @Rev. Clint K. Poppe #8: “My personal preference would be the categories of faithful and unfaithful.”

    For any religious/civic event a Christian should first decide, using Theses 7 and 8, above, into which of the two categories of faithful and unfaithful his participation would fall. If the former, then one may address the question of selecting a good, better, or best way to proclaim Christ and His Word.

  9. @Robert Moeller, Jr. #3


    “2. We cannot worship together with those whose worship is directed to any god other than the Triune God who alone is Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier and who alone is God in the true sense of the word.”

    My point is that everybody agrees with this statement.  The real issue in contention is not this but whether serial prayer after a disclaimer constitutes “worship together.”

  10. @Rev. McCall #6

    “Rick, you know that Morris got conned into giving the closing announcements!
    [Yes, he should have handed them back to the officer of the ministerial association.]” – Helen

    You are correct that whether or not the closing announcement constitutes joint worship remains an unresolved issue.

  11. @John Rixe #10

    John, in my personal conversations with pastors and laity, I can assure you that not “everybody” agrees with the statement you refer to. That is why fraternal discussion under God’s Word is needed.

    Thanks, Clint

  12. @John Rixe #1

    What happened in Newtown and Yankee stadium was joint worship and a total whorehouse of heathenism. Let no one who is a true Lutheran be deceived on this point.

    Prayer is an act of worship. There is no such thing as “prayer without worship.” A Confessional Lutheran would know this.

  13. A disclaimer before a syncretic prayer/worship service means absolutely nothing. That is just like how Lifeway Christian Stores continued to sell “The Shack” with a disclaimer.

  14. If a LCMS pastor participates in a sedar meal with a Jewish Rabbi, doesn’t that fall into the trap Unionism and Syncretism? I would imagine that it does. Some feedback would be most helpful though.

  15. @Nicholas #14 : Prayer is an act of worship. There is no such thing as “prayer without worship.” A Confessional Lutheran would know this.

    AC.XXI.3-4: “He is to be prayed to, and has promised that He will hear our prayer; and this worship He approves above all, to wit, that in all afflictions He be called upon, 1 John 2, 1: If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, etc.”

    Question 201 of the The Small Catechism (CPH, 1943) asks: “What is prayer? Prayer is an act of worship…”

    However, Question 194 in the The Small Catechism (CPH, 1991) now asks: “What is prayer? Prayer is speaking to God in words and thoughts.”

  16. “Prayer is an act of worship.” Agreed.

    “Serial prayer is an act of joint worship.” Open issue among many Lutherans.

  17. @John Rixe #18

    Only among non-Confessional “Lutherans,” whether they call themselves “confessional” or not. Even David Benke falsely calls himself a “confessional Lutheran.”

  18. @John Rixe #18

    You’re being dishonest by saying “serial prayer.” Newtown was a joint prayer service. It was a single ceremony that Pr. Morris took part in with all the pagan clerics, and pronounced God’s blessing on the whole affair.

    You are still deliberately misrepresenting what happened in Newtown.

  19. If anyone thinks that Newtown was “serial prayer,” whatever that might be, they are lacking in common sense.

    There was an invocation, a psalm, Scripture readings (and scripture readings), sermon, prayers, liturgical chanting, liturgical standing and sitting, and a benediction and they were all done in the order of liturgical worship in the Christian tradition.

  20. In 2012 there was a disgraceful CCM opinion which nuanced between a LCMS member “partaking” in the Lord’s Supper officiated by an XXXA pastrix and a LCMS member “taking part” in the same Lord’s Supper.

    Even worse, during the Kieschnick regime, there was a blasphemous opinion of the CTCR, which nuanced between LCMS members participating in an interfaith “serial” or “seriatim” prayer service where various clerics of different religious (Christian and/or non-Christian) groups or churches take turns (serially) leading the gathered people by offering prayers to their own God or gods, and LCMS members participating in a joint interfaith prayer service where various clerics of different religious (Christian and/or non-Christian) groups or churches jointly led the gathered people by offering prayers to their own God or gods.

    Ecclesiastical supervision?!? Zero! Zip! Zilch!

  21. @Nicholas #20

    “You’re being dishonest “……
    “You are still deliberately misrepresenting……” 

    Please don’t assign motivation without empirical proof.  I’m not advocating anything but merely describing an open issue that has been discussed considerably.  I have no opinion as to whether Newtown fits the CTCR label of serial prayer.

  22. @Carl Vehse #17

    The change in the wording in our synodical Catechism regarding the definition of prayer is indeed an interesting question, and one that I have been researching for some time. Any insight you can share with regard to this change in wording, which I believe reflects a major theological change, would be most enlightening.

    Thanks, Clint

  23. Regarding “serial prayer,” can anyone provide Scriptural, Confessional, or historical evidence that this practice is God pleasing? It seems to me that this is a false distinction and simply “putting lipstick on a pig.” Please help me understand the argument that this is an acceptable form of worship.

    Thanks, Clint

  24. @Rev. Clint K. Poppe #26
    Regarding “serial prayer,” can anyone provide Scriptural, Confessional, or historical evidence that this practice is God pleasing?

    I can’t see it as “God pleasing” [but can we do anything to please God?]

    If it is NOT “God pleasing” there is a CTCR document that needs to be revoked and burned, to cease confusing the half-trained (and as a rebuke to those who approve it and should know better!)

    You don’t let a toddler loose in your sharp knife drawer and blame the toddler when he’s bleeding!

  25. If the members of CCM or CTCR, or the DPs or even the SP permit something that Holy Scripture forbids, then they have sinned.

    Benke had Kieschnick’s opinion to sin in 2001, and Morris had Yeadon’s permission to sin in 2012, but it was still sin. All four of them are equally guilty, and sadly, unrepentant.

    Of course there are “Lutherans” for whom interfaith prayer is an “open issue,” just as there are “Lutherans” for whom the Trinity, the Deity of Christ, subsitutionary atonement, the inspiration of Scripture, and abortion, homosexuality, adultery, fornication, and cohabitation are all “open issues.”

  26. Rev. Clint K. Poppe #25 ,

    In the 1943 edition the complete answer to the Question 201 is, “Prayer is an act of worship wherein we bring our petitions before God with our hearts and lips and offer up praise and thanksgiving.”

    One might check H.C. Schwan’s German edition of Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation or an earlier English edition before the 1943 version was published.

  27. @Rev. Clint K. Poppe #26: “Regarding “serial prayer,” can anyone provide Scriptural, Confessional, or historical evidence that this practice is God pleasing? It seems to me that this is a false distinction and simply “putting lipstick on a pig.”

    Here are some excerpts from Rev. Wallace Schulz’s June 25, 2002, “Written Statement of the Matter in Dispute“:

    God deals with us through His Word which always involves both His Law and His Gospel. God’s Word of Law and Gospel never conflicts with itself. Therefore, to say God’s Gospel sets aside His First Commandment, which clearly expresses His will against prayer and worship with heathen, is to reduce God’s Word to less than His will.

    THE NINTH MISCONCEPTION is that when one participates in an interfaith situation along with other clerics, even of non-Christian religions, one can pray “among” but not “with” these other participants.

    This expression is found neither in the Bible nor in the Lutheran Confessions. Rather, this expression comes from the Pope. In an October 21, 1998 letter, Cardinal O’Connor of New York writes to defend Pastor Benke’s participation in the 1998 interfaith service with heathen participants by citing Pope John Paul II at Assisi when he said, “We are coming together to pray, not to pray together”

    Dr. Adams, in a letter to Dr. Wallace Schulz, dated March 18, 2002, regarding the standard translation of the First Commandment, writes:
    Q.: Does the public prayer of an individual with those of other faiths violate the first commandment by welcoming other gods into the presence of Yahweh?
    A.: We often fail to appreciate the full import of the First Commandment by translating the text (Ex. 20:2) as, “You shall have no other gods before me.” The Hebrew text says: [Hebrew text] Here the crucial phrase is [Hebrew phrase] While we often carelessly translate this phrase “before me,” the Hebrew working is rather more precise. Here this phrase conveys the literal sense of “before my face” or “in my presence.” The point here is that Yahweh is not claiming the right to be first in our affections (as “before” can easily be misunderstood), He is prohibiting us from allowing any other god into His presence. Yahweh does not want to be our first god, or to be first in our life; He must be our only god. This is a demand for a radical and absolute exclusivity in our relationship with the realm of divine beings….

    The bottom line is this: no matter how noble our intentions might be, even in witnessing, no matter how convincing our excuses initially sound, our intentions or actions dare never be used to trump God’s will and Word, especially as it is clearly expressed in the First Commandment, “Thou shalt have no other gods before My face.”

    [One of the complaints made against DP Benke, which applies also to the case of a still publicly unrepentant Rev. Morris, was] “You have publicly broken the Second Commandment… Instead of keeping God’s name sacred and separate from every other name, it was made common and dragged to the level of Allah, etc. Instead of doing what God commanded among the nations (the preaching of repentance) prayer to Jesus was mingled shamelessly with prayers of Allah. You represented our Lord as if He were one among many. He is One and Only.

    It should be disturbing to Lutherans that The Schulz Report was mentioned nowhere in President Harrison’s various letters and video regarding the Newtown blasphemy.

  28. Serial prayer is like taking all the food on your dinner plate and dividing it into the different food groups, and then eating each food group sequentially (serially) believing that it will not all come out in the end one big mess.

    The only reason this is an issue is because there are those who believe it is o.k. and god-pleasing to worship with heterodox Christians and false Christians (unionism), and those of other non-Christian religions (syncretism). They simply disagree with the Synod Constitution on this matter and have deliberately acted contrary to it. And they have played the Synod as a fool by saying something isn’t what it really was … a worship service … and to further “confuse” the issue with this silly notion of serial prayer until they can finally change Synod’s position.

    In the process, by smooth “missional” talk they deceive the hearts of the naive. Now we must talk about the whole thing, which is a strategy that has been successful in influencing doctrinal change by calling a whole number of doctrines into question, then confusion, and then into discussion toward a heterodox position – even practicing heterodoxy ( e.g. open communion) and naturalizing it in our fellowship knowing that the Synod lacks any kind of integrity in exercising proper ecclesiastical supervision. Rev. Benke’s non-Biblical exoneration in the face of the clear Scriptural and Confessional witnesses against his actions at Yankee Stadium is the epitome of the failure of the LCMS to even discipline the most egregious violations against the most fundamental of God’s teachings – You shall have no other gods before my face.

    Do not misunderstand me. Those advocating change believe differently of what Scripture says. I assign no motives in that they are deliberately and knowingly trying to move the Synod into heterodoxy. They believe they are right in their understanding. Nevertheless, it is in fact exactly what is happening. We are deeply divided and this saddens me to no end.

    Now here we go again … “confusion” … then ongoing and endless discussion that will more than likely have no faithful resolution but a temporary compromise at best in order to maintain Synod unity and peace, and through time, solidify the compromise into the official position of Synod.

    Of course I certainly hope for better, and discussion can prove helpful and beneficial, and I pray that it is, but Synod’s record on this this last century leaves one with very little confidence for an orthodox outcome. God help us.

  29. Until we can get the LCMS leadership to do something about the sodomy advocates still on the clergy roster, we certainly won’t be able to get them to do anything about syncretism/interfaith worship: (Shows that Matthew Becker once taught at Concordia Portland, where he required the reading of “Queer Edward II.”)

  30. The concept of a serial prayer makes no sense to me. When I think of the word serial I think of a series of events or a continuation of things which have something in common with one another. Christian and heathen prayers have nothing in common with each other. The Triune God and man made false gods have nothing in common with one another. What then is a worldly serial prayer a series of? It is a series of lies which have no unity or anything to do with the truth of Jesus Christ. Why do we want to try to link the truth of Jesus to a series of the lies of this world? As a witness to our neighbor? That’s not how it works. Jesus wants our serial prayers to be a series of ceaseless prayer to him. Those prayers serve to witness to and seek help for our neighbor.

    Jesus High Priestly Prayer in the seventeenth chapter of John has a lot to say about this issue. The Father glorifies the Son and the Son his Father. They do not join or share their glory with false gods. Jesus made his disciples one just as he and his Father are one. He didn’t make us one with the world, but one with the Father and with fellow disciples so that the world may know that God sent his Son and loved the world just as He loved his Son. Jesus uses our unity with him and with our fellow disciples to share His Gospel with the world. Our unity with the world causes separation from God and one another and only serves as a false witness to our neighbor. Prayer in the Divine Service serves as a witness to our neighbor. Joining a Christian prayer with a series of false prayers to false gods serves to confuse our neighbor and lead him further astray.

  31. @Carl Vehse #31

    I am working with a German/Latin scholar, trying to track down any changes in our synodical Catechisms over the years. I hope to have an article out in a month or two.

    Thanks, Clint

  32. @Nicholas #30

    Regarding “open questions,” CFW Walther had this to say:

    “Now if two Lutheran theologians hold opposing positions on such a doctrine, then one of them is obviously in error. Furthermore, it never happened in the better days of the Lutheran Church that Lutheran theologians tolerated contradictory opinions or error in other theologians, thereby leaving that issue as an “open question…” This theory of open questions may have arisen from a misunderstanding of the doctrine that we should not immediately condemn those who err. So now they want us to tolerate also the error itself until an agreement is finally reached. But although we should be tolerant with an erring person, the error itself should never be tolerated in the Lutheran Church. No issue concerning which God has already given us the answer in His Word may be treated as an open question. Whether a doctrinal issue has been dealt with in the Lutheran Confessions is finally not the issue. The issue is whether that question has been clearly answered in the Scriptures. Questions that are not answered in the Bible do not belong in the church at all.” Essays for the Church, Volume I, 1992 CPH, 135-6.

    In Christ, Clint

  33. @Carl Vehse #22

    Regarding ecclesiastical supervision (or the lack thereof), again, CFW Walther:

    “Also those churches are considered to be “pure” where false teaching is not allowed to raise its head, although there may be many members who hold erroneous views; but they are not allowed to make them public. If they do so they will be admonished, and if it turns out that they are stubborn, they are excommunicated. We say “the true visible church is pure,” but not implying that an error can never arise in its midst; rather that, when error does arise and becomes public, it will be punished. Only those who proclaim pure doctrine are recognized as being the voice of the “true church.”” Essays for the Church, I:137.

    In Christ, Clint

  34. @Rev. Clint K. Poppe #36
    From my great-great grandfather’s German/English Catechism of 1912, St. Louis Publishing House:

    Question 208: “What is prayer?”
    A: It is an act of worship wherein we with our hearts and lips bring our petitions before God and offer up praise and thanks to Him.

    The German phrase is “derjenige Gottesdienst” which I believe translates pretty close to the English, “an act of worship”. My German is not great, but “derjenige” seems to have this sense of being associated with or always part of something. Therefore a more wooden, literal translation might stress that. “It is always an act of worship” or something along those lines.

  35. There has been mention of CCM decisions above. Bylaw 3.9.2 covers composition, selection and activities of CCM. There are five members, of whom three are ordained and two lawyers. It is unclear whether the lawyers are to be of the laity or ordained men, who also have law degrees. Each member serves a six-year term, with the possibility of serving a second six-year term. A prospective member of CCM is first nominated by district boards of directors. There is no prohibition of inter-district consultations on prospective members for CCM. Such nominations are submitted to to the Council of Presidents (COP). For each vacancy on CCM, COP prepare a list of five nominees culled from those submitted by the district boards of directors and submit the list to the Synodical President, who in consultation with the Synodical VPs, is required to choose from the COP list. The pick of the SP must be ratified by a majority of COP. Thus CCM is very much a creature of COP. The general laity have no standing before CCM. Only members of Synod (congregations, ordained and commissioned individual members) have legal standing in addition to synodical entities such as boards, commissions and agencies. Those with standing may petition CCM for a ruling and request to appear before CCM. Only if the petition involves an officer of synod or synodical agency is rebuttal prescribed. CCM decisions are binding, barring unlikely overturning by a Synodical Convention.

    CCM also has a veto on overtures to Synodical Conventions and may intervene in discussions of Floor Committees.

  36. There were several significant events in the first two-thirds of the 20th century in the Missouri Synod which probably affected (if not effected) the Missouri Synod’s change in the definition of “prayer” in the Explanation section of the CPH-published Small Catechism.

    1. The 1963 dissolution of the Evangelical Lutheran Synodical Conference of North America, organized in 1872 by the LCMS and WELS. The Slovak Synod and the ELS joined later. The WELS and ELS had left the Conference in the 1950s; the Slovak Synod was absorbed into the LCMS. According to Prof. Mark E. Braun, Wisconsin Lutheran College (A Tale of Two Synods: Lessons from the Dissolution of the Synodical Conference, Milwaukee: Northwestern Publishing House, 2003), the split was due to:

    Missouri’s continued participation in the military chaplaincy; its acceptance of the Scouting movement; its changed stance on prayer fellowship and prayer witness; and the apparent erosion in its insistence on the inerrancy of Scripture. [pp. 1-2]

    Nowhere was debate waged more fiercely than over prayer fellowship. Both synods looked back on a prayer fellowship position explicated by Missouri’s Friederich Bente in 1905. Responding to criticism that Missouri pastors had refused to pray with members of other Lutheran synods in free conferences, Bente granted the existence of true children of God in all churches. He insisted that Missouri would “never deny all communion of faith and prayer” to those “who err from weakness or lack of insight” but would patiently support them. The Ohio and Iowa Synods, however, could not rightly be considered “weak brothers” because they persistently adhered to false doctrines regarding election, conversion, the Antichrist, Sunday, and other teachings. As long as they persisted in false doctrine despite Missouri admonition, Missouri’s “arm’s were tied” and the synod could not embrace Iowa and Ohio “as brothers.” Prayer fellowship with the “adversaries” in these synods would make them guilty of “lies and deceit, controversy and inconsequence,” and so there could “never be any talk of joint prayer services between us and them.” [Friederich Bente, “Warum koennen wir keine gemeinsame Gottesdienste mit Ohioern und Iowaern veranstalten und abhalten?” (Why can we not organize and hold joint services with the Ohio and Iowa [Synods]?), Lehre und Wehre, 51, March, 1905, 110–15. [p. 4]

    According to Bente, “If we can become one with the Ohio men in prayer, we will also have to invite them to our altars” [Bente, pp. 110-111]. In his 1975 “Wisconsin’s Interchurch Relations in the First Third of This Century,” Edward C. Fredrich noted, “Bente stands for the unit concept of fellowship even if he does not use the term.” The practice of the selective concept of fellowship is more evident today as “unionism” is treated as just dried ink on an old document. Incidentally, the Ohio and Iowa Synods were eventually digested into the XXXA.

    More historical information about the evolution of the Missouri Synod’s position on prayer fellowship is in John F. Brug’s article, “The Synodical Conference and Prayer Fellowship

    2. The September 20, 1945, Statement of the Forty-Four, including these positions:

    VIII. We affirm our conviction that any two or more Christians may pray together to the Triune God in the name of Jesus Christ if the purpose for which they meet and pray is right according to the Word of God. This obviously includes meetings of groups called for the purpose of discussing doctrinal differences. We therefore deplore the tendency to decide the question of prayer fellowship on any other basis beyond the clear words of Scripture.

    IX. We believe that the term “unionism” should be applied only to acts in which a clear and unmistakable denial of Scriptural truth or approval of error is involved. We therefore deplore the tendency to apply this non-Biblical term to any and every contact between Christians of different denominations.

    XI. We affirm our conviction that in keeping with the historic Lutheran tradition and in harmony with the Synodical resolution adopted in 1938 regarding Church fellowship, such fellowship is possible without complete agreement in details of doctrine and practice which have never been considered divisive in the Lutheran Church.

    3. Long term effects from the first half of the 20th century, discussed by Edward E. Busch (“Another Turning Point,” Currents in THeology and Mission, 2, April, 1975, 75-76) as noted by Mark E. Braun (in “Theodore Graebner: Bellwether of Changes in the Missouri Synod,” Wisconsin Lutheran Quarterly, 106:3, Summer 2009, p. 186). These included:

    a. the initial cooperation among Lutherans to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the Reformation in 1917-18;
    b. the hastening of the process of Americanization during and after World War I, as Lutherans made the transition from German to English;
    c. the formulation of the American Lutheran Publicity Bureau in 1914, followed by publication of The American L:utheran, beginning in 1918, as a “loyal opposition voice” in Missouri;
    d. the 1920s challenge Dr. Adolph Brux made to Missouri’s traditional understanding of Romans 16:17-18 and its longstanding position on church fellowship;

    Busch also made the case for including the All-Lutheran Conference in Columbus, Ohio, on January 20, 1941, because, according to E. Clifford Nelson (Lutheranism in North America, 1914-1970, Augsburg Pub. House, 1972, p. 130), “the meeting marked the first time in history that the Missouri synod had joined in prayer with [National C]ouncil Lutherans”.

    And, of course, there were several significant events in the last one-third of the 20th century for which the answer to Question 194, along with the Benke-Yankee Stadium heresy and the Morris-Newtown heresy were simply the results.

  37. tell the cc’s dp’s and bod’s to stop breaking their oaths of faithfulness to the Lord-as a group
    root out the human problems who refuse to answer our letters of concern and betray us as our churches die with this very stuff via apathy—–shame

  38. @Carl Vehse #42

    Thanks Rick, very helpful information. I have long suspected that the change in wording from 1943’s catechism to the 1991 edition was intended to clearly distinguish the LCMS from WELS regarding the prayer fellowship question. What may have resulted, intended or not, is the false understanding that somehow prayer is not an act of worship, adding to the current confusion regarding “serial” prayer and civic services.

    In Christ, Clint

  39. From the previous post by Herr Vese:

    “And, of course, there were several significant events in the last one-third of the 20th century for which the answer to Question 194, along with the Benke-Yankee Stadium heresy and the Morris-Newtown heresy were simply the results.”

    And these were found to be compatible with the LCMS constitutional prohibtion of unionism and syncretism by legermain of CCM rulings – thus transforming the constitution into a “living document” without the requirement of amendment.

  40. From the Lutheran Witness, August, 2013, pp. 13-14:

    Just as the committee on Life Together prepared to present their resolutions to the delegation, the room grew quiet as LCMS New England District President Timothy Yeadon was introduced to the assembly and then addressed Harrison directly.

    “It’s ironic you put me on Life Together. We had a tough year in New England living as saints of the Lord,” said Yeadon, referencing the events in Boston, Newtown, and Superstorm Sandy. “But, President Harrison, Jesus found a way… for you and me and Pastor [Robert] Morris to stand at the foot of the cross. And that’s what makes all the difference in the world.”

    “Satan has failed to divide us from one another, and we will never be divided from Jesus and we will never be divided from each other. And so the New England District wanted you to know, President Harrison, that we love you in the Lord. And we wish you all the best as you lead us in these next three years, into what I believe with all my heart will be the finest days of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.“ Applause filled the air as Yeadon presented Harrison with a Boston Red Sox jersey as a token of reconciliation.

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