Affirming Christianity and the Rise of Islam in the UK

My wife works for a company headquartered in England and goes to the UK at least twice a year.   She usually stays with her boss and his family.  She worked at the plant which is located in rural England, toward Cornwall.

My wife’s boss  is not active in Church.  His wife and one daughter are interested. The family  knows  Natalie’s desire to attend Liturgy.  A year or so ago, the boss’ wife and one of her daughters decided to go to church and invited my wife. They went to a Church of England congregation that they thought might be “okay”.  Natalie informed me via phone of her ‘worship experience’ and could not get into all the gory details at the time.  When back she gave me their congregational literature including this:

I asked my wife regarding the “communion book” above, “Oh, this is the children’s service?”

“No”, she said with a wry smile, “The main service.”

The entire worship booklet is done in juvenile font.  It is a form of the Divine Liturgy including, “The Bible Lesson” followed by the “Talk”, i.e. Sermon.  The service was complete with vestment-less priest, an unidentified preacher (Natalie did not know if he was clergy or lay), raising and swaying of arms, power-point etc.   My wife said the sermon was not a proclamation of the Gospel but an interesting educational lesson.   Here is what the church building looks like (from the website:  it’s not that cold in the UK…yet!):


At least the order of service  did not include inclusive language and  it is the form of  the Divine Service, but on the  first page of the booklet, this caught  my attention because of the question:

Why do we come together in Church?  This is a good question with strong Biblical/Confessional educational answers for our edification as the Church, Christ’s body.  The answer, like this congregation’s service booklet,has  many important words from Scripture like God, Jesus, forgiven, etc. but their answer is not correct.

First:   The stated problem is not understanding each other and caring for each other. This is their diagnosis of the human condition.  God becomes “sad” over this but not the “wrath of God” revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth (Romans 1: 2), hiding it, avoiding it, making the truth palpable.   They have tried to make truth palpable and thereby make it into less than the truth…a lie.

Second: They then have a “Jesus” that fits their diagnosis:  Jesus is our little helper so we can understand “God’s plan”.  His is not the Name above all names to Whom every knee shall bow. I think understanding is important but according to this statement, that’s all.  Jesus is  just to help us understand so we are enabled to understand and care for each other and by doing such works of understanding and caring, I guess we are saved: on our own. Soft-Pelagianism?  Quite.  This is “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood” theology:  “It’s   beautiful in God’s neighborhood, He  is certainly not the power unto salvation for all believe, to joyfully believe, relieved in His grace.

Third, it is mentioned that  His dying and rising is  so “we might be forgiven”.  Note the qualifying “might“.  Jesus  is not the rock of our salvation. Like a lamb led to the slaughter, upon the Cross He forgave the whole human race so that by the preaching the Word we believe and take hold of His promises for wearied sinners.   Objective justification?   Hardly.   But there are no wearied sinners because the preaching of the Law/Gospel is devolved into an object lesson.  ‘Jesus’ is the example/paradigm/model  of how we are to live.  His dying and rising is really the divine object lesson of understanding and caring but His death and resurrection is not salvation. So there is no Atonement. Atonement is missing in so much of Christian preaching, teaching and Sacraments.  So much so, Concordia Seminary’s ’08 Symposia was on the “flights from the atonement”.

Finally, His “bread and wine” invites us.  It is not His Body and Blood by which He gives us the fruits of the Atonement, given and shed for you.  How does bread and wine invite? They do invite, call nor enlighten by themselves.  Only the Lord calls, gathers, enlightens and sanctifies the whole Christian Church.

So why do we come to church?  We read above: To hear the “big story” but especially and centrally “our story”. This is what the writer wants to put forth as the raison d’etre of coming to Church: to tell our story, our narrative.  It is about us, we are at the center. The icon of the Church is certainly not:

But it is certainly this:

The Lord is in the background and our narrative, our story,  is central and the preacher only points to them and the result will either be despair or spiritual pride.  In such an icon above, if I watched Joel Osteen, I would probably learn much more about Joel Osteen than Jesus Christ.

One time in the UK, Natalie  stayed with a consultant who lives in Cambridge and she, with her co-worker, attended a congregation of Evangelical Lutheran Church of England, near her co-worker’s home.  It was good.  In fact, looking up the ELCE, one of their objectives is,  “The encouragement of liturgical conformity” which fits neatly into The Book of Concord. I thank the Lord.

This communion book is indicative of what goes for much Christianity: so squishy and wishy-washy.  No Savior need to die and rise for this type of ostensibly Christian religion. It is not about the “Rock of our Salvation”. A recent article reports about the utter decline of the Church of England and that many English youth are becoming Muslims, while Christians play games with youth and adults.  There is much to comment in the article as to the reasons given for the surge in English youth turning toward Mecca.  One comment grabbed me:

“Islam says NO – this is no and full stop. And people find a sense of direction in it, because their religion of origin has lost that, and not because it never had it in the first instance,” Dr. Sara Silvestri, Senior Lecturer at City University

I say Amen.  The Law says No and full stop.  The “religion of origin” has lost it. Why? Churches and denominations began to lose it when they jettisoned traditional values as binding and absolute and come up with so-called  new values.  In the ’60s, it was called the “new morality” which was only the old immorality. C. S. Lewis chronicled this in an excellent essay, “The Poison of Subjectivism”:

This whole attempt to jettison traditional values as something subjective and to substitute a new scheme of values for them is wrong. It is like trying to lift yourself by your own coat collar. Let us get two propositions written into our minds with indelible ink.

(1) The human mind has no more power of inventing a new value than of planting a new sun in the sky or a new primary colour in the spectrum.

(2) Every attempt to do so consists in arbitrarily selecting some one maxim of traditional morality, isolating it from the rest, and erecting it into an unum necessarium. (endnote 1)

God says No.  His wrath is revealed against all ungodliness, not just what my church or political party or club says is wrong according to our value system(s).  For instance: in the communion book, note that affirmation becomes central, the unum necessarium.  When “affirmation” becomes a virtue then finally  wrong will be affirmed and transgression accepted.  God is made of stronger stuff, stronger than even our virtuous sinfulness.  Only when the Law in all its sternness is preached, then and only then we know the sweetness of His Gospel.

Youth are being pointed in the wrong direction in Islam: man-made legalisms with enough of the Law to confuse.  As one bard sang, Like a great unknown, with no direction home, like a rolling stone.  Squishy teaching will not point people to the Savior and to our eternal home.  Others, of all stripes, will come along and will direct, even dictatorially, to themselves and false religions, theological and political.  Mothers and Fathers begin by saying No that the Yes be heard.  Pastors and teachers as well.  All knowing full well the doctrine of God’s No and God’s Yes, Law and Promise.  Kyrie, eleison.

(endnote 1) The second proposition will bear a little illustration. Ordinary morality tells us to honour our parents and cherish our children. By taking the second precept alone you construct a Futurist Ethic in which the claims of ‘posterity’ are the sole criterion. Ordinary morality tells us to keep promises and also to feed the hungry. By taking the second precept alone you get a Communist Ethic in which ‘production’, and distribution of the products to the people, are the sole criteria. Ordinary morality tells us, ceteris paribus, to love our kindred and fellow-citizens more than strangers. By isolating this precept you can get either an Aristocratic Ethic with the claims of our class as sole criterion, or a Racialist Ethic where no claims but those of blood are acknowledged. These monomaniac systems are then used as a ground from which to attack traditional morality; but absurdly, since it is from traditional morality alone that they derive such semblance of validity as they possess.

About Pastor Mark Schroeder

I am currently the Pastor at Concordia Lutheran Mission, authorized by Good Shepherd Lutheran, Roanoke, Virginia. I have been an AELC then an ELCA pastor since my Ordination April 24, 1983 until leaving the ELCA and being accepted by Colloquy, June 1, 2010. My wife is Natalie and we have three children, Luke, Talitha and Abraham.


Affirming Christianity and the Rise of Islam in the UK — 21 Comments

  1. And they wonder why religion is on the decline in England. You may not be able to do liturgy as high as it was a hundred years ago, but if you hold a “juvenile service” no one’s going to take you seriously. You at least have to give people some meat.

  2. Indeed– and the same with our LCMS congregations. How many of our Synodical congregations would be right at home in the service listed above, even using the same cartoonish and childish materials?

    Kids leave our congregations when they grow up, often because so many of our congregations are just as juvenile.

  3. @Brad #2

    Kids leave our congregations when they grow up, often because so many of our congregations are just as juvenile.

    You may be right but this is shocking to me.  I’ve never heard of any LCMS congregation using cartoonish and childish materials among adults.  Do you have some evidence?  In a synod our size there may be 1 or 2 weird outliers but are there “so many”?


  4. IMHO CoWo itself is cartoonish. When I go to a restaurant I want the steak & potatoes, not a happy meal!!!

  5. @John Rixe #5
    IMHO CoWo itself is cartoonish. –a layman

    It is, John, because “it’s all about us”, just like the English service.
    [The Baptists are into “all about us” liturgical now, according to geneveith this morning!]

    Whereas worship is all about what God does for us.

    (It might be easier to convey God’s truth in Segoe Print
    (“cartoonish” sorry I don’t know how to execute here) than 7-11 ditties.) 🙁

  6. @helen #6

    Again there’s a wide variety of contemporary services so generalizations aren’t always helpful. I’ve attended contemporary services that are Christ centered.

    Seems like we’ve had this discussion before. 🙂

    “…we want to make full use of the worship treasures of the past, present, and future.” – Pr Matt Harrison

  7. @John Rixe #7
    Seems like we’ve had this discussion before. 🙂

    “…we want to make full use of the worship treasures of the past, present, and future.” – Pr Matt Harrison

    I’m sure we, or someone, has! 😉

    And I’ll admit that there is variance in traditional services also; some preachers, at least on some Sundays, just don’t have their sermons together. But one can always absorb Gospel from the propers, if they are used. (And, as a respected Prof once told a seminarian, during a particularly arid spell at that place, “Don’t skip chapel! If the sermon is too bad, you can always read the Psalms in the pew Bible.”)

    Let’s be sure they are treasures, and not just the neighbor child’s cast off baubles! 🙁 [Past, present, or future!]

  8. Let’s be sure they are treasures, and not just the neighbor child’s cast off baubles! [Past, present, or future!]

    Totally agree. The contemporary/blended services at our church retain all the propers and ordinaries. Instruments and hymns are contemporary.

  9. @John Rixe #3

    John– our congregations can be juvenile without cartoons. Though the PowerPoint slides that are often part of the Praise Bands and Sermon Series, borrow an awful lot of cartoons.

    As others have noted, ditching historic Christian worship is itself a juvenile act. Is there any thought process so iconic to the late teenage / early twenty year range, as assuming that what I think/know/invented today is better than what my parents think/know/invented yesterday?

    And besides worship proper, the fare our Synod has served up for district and synodical youth gatherings, is ridiculously childish (so say the youth of our parish.) Pop concerts and laser light shows that are reminiscent of teenage oriented pop stars, casts a juvenile light upon the Church. Our youth finally showed a sign of hope for our Church body, when they had came back from the High Things Youth Conference.

    If we only held to our Confessions, this would never arise. We would not have “abolished the Mass,” but rather kept all the traditions and ceremonies that we’ve inherited, and which comport with Holy Scripture. But alas, our Synod has long since left the Confessions on various points. Perhaps she will study and commitee her way back someday. Until then, we suffer with all the inroads of juvenile Enthusiasm run amok.

  10. Some CW pastors incorporate brief video clips during their sermons to make or illustrate a point. I’ve seen one, before I walked out, which was a Popeye cartoon.

    I felt sorry for some of the elderly Lutherans there with walkers for whom the effort to quickly leave would have been too cumbersome.

  11. Pop concerts and laser light shows that are reminiscent of teenage oriented pop stars, casts a juvenile light upon the Church.

    As has been pointed out repeatedly, the pop concerts and laser light shows were “mass events” intended to be juvenile entertainment not divine worship.  The kids from our congregation were bright enough to make the distinction and had fun. 🙂 

    Still looking for evidence of cartoonish and childish divine worship materials being used by “so many” of our congregations.

  12. @John Rixe #12
    I won’t insult the kids of your congregation, though your tasteless insult of ours would have been a dangerously poor choice had you done it in my presence.

    I am done with you.

  13. @John Rixe #12 : Still looking for evidence of cartoonish and childish divine worship materials being used by “so many” of our congregations.

    In the past I’ve looked around, too, for some commercial web site that sells canned sermons on CW/CGM religious themes. There are free trade magazines for churches (just like there are free trade magazines for scientists) and they probably have plenty of ads for such sermon provider services in them. Ads selling sermons were in The Christian Workers Magazine in 1916.

    On line there is Sermon Central

  14. @John Rixe #16
    @Carl Vehse #15
    Yes, I think I’ve occasionally heard one of those 50¢ canned sermons for busy pastors.

    I heard the same [bad] sermon, to the last detail, twice on one Sunday. It was given in the regular morning service, and again at a dedication of a new building, with two different preachers doing the honors. 🙁 A unique experience, I’m thankful to add!

  15. On the third point – isn’t it Scriptural to say Jesus’ dying and rising was so that we *might* be forgiven?

    John 3:17 – “… that the world through Him *might* be saved?”

    (Not in terms of those who have faith, however – for those who have faith *are* forgiven – but speaking in terms of all of mankind / unbelievers.)

  16. @Peter Bockoven #18 Peter, John 3: 17, the Greek for “saved” is passive, past tense. My Greek is not the best, but even if that verb is qualified in an English translation with “might”, it is clear that at that juncture in the Gospel, the Cross and Resurrection are still in the future, to be accomplished and once accomplished, the Lord said: “It is finished”. We are forgiven in Christ, every last one of us. As John the Baptist preached, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of world.” Every last stinking sin and every last one one of us who all have fallen short of the glory of God. Now faith, in the preaching and teaching of the Word creates faith and brings us to the knowledge of so great a salvation that I too am a forgiven sinner and so saved (1 Timothy 2: 1-7: note the “for all”). Faith looks to Christ alone not my self to see whether I am forgiven or not. Christ is the rock of our salvation and our forgiveness, not me. As it is said here in the South, “Y’all” are forgiven in Jesus Christ. No “might”, “may” or possibly. Faith holds tight to Jesus Christ realizing Yes, I am forgiven, repentant and believing. But we can go by His Cross breathing no repentant vow, holding on to our “dearest souvenirs of hell” but even that need not be the last word! The Church’s call to all and to her pastors, “stewards of the mysteries of Christ” (1 Corinthians 4: 1-2) is to minister and administer His gifts, His means of grace for faith in the forgiveness won once for ALL (see Hebrews 10: 10), whereby by faith through grace we are justified, as a gift. I hope this helps.

  17. @Pr. Mark Schroeder #19
    The word “might” does not necessarily indicate mere possibility as opposed to certainty. It can also be used to indicate purpose, as in the Bible reference Peter Bockoven quotes, which he might (?) have done in order that we might (!) have an example of what he might (?) have in mind with his question.

  18. @Carl Vehse #11

    My LCMS CoWo pastor opened his sermon yesterday with the YouTube video of the shirtless dancing man starting a movement. The topic of the canned* sermon was the first in a series on discipleship. I’m still not sure what the connection was…

    * I know it’s canned because I found the sermon notes verbatim on three different churches’ websites but I can’t trace it’s authorship.

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