Who Really is Practicing Selective Fellowship?

Communion FellowshipBecause I won’t commune members of the LCMS who believe that communion should be open to all who want it, or all who have been baptized, or all who believe in the Real Presence, I am accused of practicing selective fellowship.  Au contrari I’m practicing confessional fellowship. Those communing all members of the LCMS are the real ones practicing selective fellowship.

The Lord Jesus gives the unity that is found in Holy Communion.  When we commune with others we know we are not at one with, we are introducing our sinful disunity into the Lord’s holy unity.  When the Roman Catholic or Orthodox Church practice closed Communion, even though they have errors in their theology, they don’t introduce disunity into God’s unity.  They are at one in their errors.

Those in the LCMS who are communing everyone based on the LCMS label are practicing arbitrary selective fellowship.  They aren’t communing based on confession but on a label.  Though there is no established unity they are arbitrarily selecting this group of people to be in fellowship. And this has consequences.

Because they are communing people who believe every Christian should be invited to the Lord’s Table, they are confessing that everything from baptizing babies to ordaining women to cohabitating fornicators doesn’t matter, is not divisive of church fellowship, and can be worthily communed with.  They are accepting a man-made disunity into God’s unity and because of that some of them are weak, sick, and a number of them have died (1 Cor. 11:30).

I know; I know; this is too harsh, strident, stringent, narrow-minded, and hardheaded. This verse is so offensive that the 1991 LCMS enchiridion deemed it not suitable for children and so left it out. For crying our loud, even drug companies are willing to tell the whole world that a drug of theirs can cause sudden death….and that, even when taken as prescribed.  But we’re afraid to tell our kids the full consequences of wrongly receiving Communion. We’ll go right up to telling our kiddos that taking Communion wrongly leads to judgment.  We just won’t tell them how serious that judgment might be.  That’s like a drug company saying, “Our drug can have serious side effects but we’re not telling you what those are.”

And do note, 1 Corinthians 11:30 doesn’t limit the consequences of an unworthy communion practice to just the individuals wrongly communing.  Paul warns the churches of Corinth. He says “many of you” not “many of them.” Whole churches are being warned, whole churches are suffering the judgment of the Lord because others are misusing the Sacrament of the Lord. I think someone should be warning us. I think our leaders should be pleading with us as Moses and Aaron do the recalcitrant Old Testament Church not to continue to rebel against the Word of the Lord by practicing a fellowship that doesn’t exist.  We are in fact spiritually living together before marriage.  There’s no more blessing of the Lord in spiritual cohabitating than there is in physical.

So, the first step toward real koinonia is to stop communing with people we know believe in open Communion when we believe in closed or believe in closed when we believe in open.  We’re not sending each other to hell; we’re recognizing there is disunity among us that is offensive to the one body of Christ.  We should talk; we should meet; we should study together.  We just shouldn’t be communing together.  Doing so does not help.  It in fact hurts.  It makes us weaker, sicker, and deader.  None of us wants to select this sort of fellowship, do we?


Comments

Who Really is Practicing Selective Fellowship? — 118 Comments

  1. Big Boy :
    Thomas, let’s refrain from calling people “worm sacks”. You sin no less than they do.

    Actually, “worm sack” was an expression Luther famously applied to himself as a sinner like everybody else.

    It is commonly used among Lutherans as a reference to the sinfulness and frailty of human beings in general – including that of the one actually using the expression in the individual case – rather than as an insult indicating that some are worse sinners than others.

    It seems to me that “Thomas”‘ usage of the expression falls under this category – although I can see how it the expression would most likely be perceived as offensive to someone who is not aware of its background and common usage …

  2. >>opinion of the CCM (11-2610) given in December, 2011 . . . Simply stated, you are NOT ALLOWED to withhold communion from ANYONE who is part of the Synod without the express knowledge and permission of the Synod

    In my opinion the CCM went quite beyond its proper purview in telling local congregations and their pastors whom they are or are not allowed to Commune. Similarly, their opinion 11-2598 really is in the scope of the the Commission on Theology and Church Relations, not the Commission on Constitutional Matters.

    I was on a Floor Committee at the last Convention and in his remarks to the Floor Committees President Harrison expressed concern that the CCM has morphed over a long period of time into a sort of “court of canon law” that it was never intended to be. Thousands of pages of expansive new “canon laws” such as these are added each triennium, which are supposedly perpetually binding, but of which the members of Synod are often not even informed. His suggestion was that only those CCM opinions specifically ratified by the subsequent Convention of Synod become binding; otherwise they are applicable only for the remainder of that triennium. It seems to me this would be a more open, deliberate, and collaborative process, and more in step with the nature of our Synod.

    Though it was too late for this modification to be considered at the 2013 Convention perhaps it will be raised in 2016. In the meantime, however, I believe that new members have been recently appointed by President Harrison to the CCM who will be reserved in their actions.

  3. @Rev. Greg Schultz #49
    “bound by them because of their willing, voluntary membership in the LCMS and yet believe that they are *not* bound by them.”

    You are right to point out the error, but you are wrong that those in the LCMS are bound to synod opinions. The scripture and the lutheran confessions are binding. Synod councils are not.

  4. @R.D. #3
    No, I am not wrong about the binding opinions. That is exactly the way the opinions are understood according to the synod’s current political structure. Now, you may say (as others have) that our consciences are bound to the Scriptures and Confessions, and that is correct. My simple point is that the Synod is in error about this, and that is also part of your public confession whether you want to believe it or not…unless, of course, you go into a State of Confession or leave Missouri altogether.

  5. @Rev. Greg Schultz #4
    Is a synod a church or not? The confessions teach that the church is where the gospel is preached in its truth and purity and the sacraments are rightly administered. I have yet to find a synod that has called a pastor to that synod’s pulpit and altar.

    Let’s not confuse what binds us together as church with what binds us together as this man-made thing called a synod. The church is bound by the means of grace. The synod is bound by constitution and bylaws. The means of grace trump the documents of man every time.

  6. @R.D. #5
    For or a man-made organization like the L*C*MS to usurp the name “Church” to itself seems presumptuous, at best. And a ‘synod’ is a meeting of bishops – not an organization. So, the poor girl has been wrong for many decades, and it shows. I do not confuse what binds folks together, but the sad fact is that the LCMS – including all its members and parishoners – are bound together by constitution and bylaws. And those bylaws and undisciplined erroneous practices are its outward, public confession.

  7. @Rev. Greg Schultz #4
    No, I am not wrong about the binding opinions. That is exactly the way the opinions are understood according to the synod’s current political structure.

    The CCM has said so, in reference to itself. When it backs that up with an accurate reference to Scripture/the Confessions it will get some respect.

    [“Because I said so” is only a useful comment for parents of small children and then only if followed up at a more convenient time by “Why I said so.”]

  8. helen :
    [“Because I said so” is only a useful comment for parents of small children and then only if followed up at a more convenient time by “Why I said so.”]

    So true.
    Even the most familiar Biblical precedence for the use of that kind of reasoning on the part of a human ruler (from whom one would not expect LCMS officials to be too eager to take their example) receives its validity only from the implicit divine explanation as to how he came to have written what he wrote.

    And that explanation most certainly does not ascribe inerrancy to the one who asserted it, and most certainly not in regards to the subject matter in which he himself so authoritatively claimed it.

    A lesson to be learned there, I guess …

  9. @John Rixe

    ” ‘full unity of doctrine and practice’ seems nice but impossible”. Quit much John? Thanks be to God you were not part of the early church. It’s rough times out there. And that means we must be equally as steadfast. If every time we allow just one more lesser crime to happen, so we are watered down to nothing. If we let this slip to fight a bigger battle The Enemy’s camp continues to encroach, and we lose one more thing. We MUST say no more and take back lost ground. For I would rather be the last Christian on earth who follows as best he could, to death, than to become one more of the lost. I would rather squabble over the “little” things as you so eroneously see them, than to have my children grow up to see them with a less Orthodox Church than I have. I will pray for boldness for you, as you so sorely need it.

  10. @Rev. Kevin Vogts #2
    Thousands of pages of expansive new “canon laws” such as these are added each triennium, which are supposedly perpetually binding, but of which the members of Synod are often not even informed.

    CCM opinions should be published in the next available Reporter/Witness. If that is not “appropriate” it’s probably not appropriate to write them. We could probably do without most of the “by-laws” of the last decades, too.

    This is what comes of having Texans in the driver’s seat!
    They amend their state constitution every election, too.
    🙁

  11. >>CCM opinions should be published in the next available Reporter/Witness

    Having formerly been on the editorial committee for these publications I know that this would be quite expensive. Perhaps a notice listing the topics and a summary, with a web address for those who wish to read them in full.

    However, a better solution would be to roll back the ad hoc expansion of the CCM’s purview which has gradually taken place over several decades. Aside from the content of the ruling itself, it is very odd indeed for the Synod to have it be the Commission on Constitutional Matters—not the Commission on Theology and Church Relations, and/or seminary faculties, and/or Praesidium, and/or Council of Presidents—making the determination that “reception of the Lord’s Supper, by itself, does not constitute ‘[t]aking part in the services and sacramental rites’ of a congregation,” but rather only administration of the Sacrament (CCM 11-2598).

    The volume of CCM opinions could thus be vastly reduced. And I would also implement Pres. Harrison’s suggestion that only those ratified by the Synod at its subsequent Convention would become permanent. Otherwise they would be binding only for the remainder of that triennium.

  12. Then my apologies to you both for my poor wording. Unfortunately, I tend to post like I talk, and sometimes the meaning gets lost without my wry facial expressions.

  13. @Rev. Kevin Vogts #12
    The volume of CCM opinions could thus be vastly reduced. And I would also implement Pres. Harrison’s suggestion that only those ratified by the Synod at its subsequent Convention would become permanent. Otherwise they would be binding only for the remainder of that triennium.

    If it would be “too expensive” to print, maybe we’d have less of it!
    My intent, however arrived at, (although I was thinking of the “sanitizing effect of daylight”, i.e., public knowledge).

    They would just bundle the ones that shouldn’t have been written into something else…like Congress adds “pork”! (Nobody seems to want to stop either practice!)

  14. It was quite a momentous and distressing decision when we stopped printing full obituaries of rostered workers in The Lutheran Witness and instead print only a brief notice. We had to balance the cost of the 2+ pages in full-color on glossy stock for obituaries in every issue with the extra articles that could be included instead. Also the print for the full obituaries was of necessity extremely small, really outside the limits of what is comfortable to read, especially for those who may be most interested in them. But if full obituaries of all rostered workers were printed in full-size type, over 50% of the pages in some issues would have been obituaries. We had to consider whether that fulfilled the specific purposes of The Lutheran Witness. The same would apply to printing CCM rulings.

  15. A worthwhile lesson in putting the best construction on things, or rather, on not assuming too much regarding that of which one really knows very little.

    Those who actually wear the shoes might know so much more about how they fit – and the shoemaker might know a whole lot more about how complicated it is to make them fit – than those who are merely observing from the outside – and certainly they might know more than those who are merely assuming from the outside.

    In fact, my guess is that it is fairly safe to assume that they usually will …

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