Elsie Moe Went To Church

CommunionThe Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod’s official and historical position on the Lord’s Supper is that she practices close[d] communion.  The practice of close[d] communion is a key component of our doctrine that’s rooted in scripture and our confessions.  From a broader perspective, Holy Communion is a public confession of our faith.  Therefore, it may be helpful for the synod to examine herself from the perspective of a pastor examining a visitor to his parish.

Imagine for a moment that Elsie Moe, a vacationing LCMS member, decided to visit a confessional LCMS church.  Let’s say that the pastor saw Elsie, approached her and struck up a conversation.  While chatting, Elsie indicated that she was planning on receiving communion.  The pastor began asking her a few questions and was floored by what he heard.  Elsie said that she was a member of the synod in good standing, knew about the Book of Concord, but often disagreed or ignored the old, outdated and cumbersome Symbolical Books.  As the conversation progressed, it became apparent to the pastor that Elsie was firmly entrenched in relativism, emotionalism, enthusiasm, charismaticism, decision theology and the Church Growth Movement.  It was also revealed that she was severely conflicted, confused, and even belligerent regarding areas of pure doctrine, communion, worship practices, the Office of Holy Ministry, and so on.  As the pastor looked on in disbelief, Elsie smiled and asked in a matter-of-fact tone, “So, are we good?”

The LCMS, in her current state, is Elsie Moe.  While I’m not a pastor, I don’t imagine Elsie would be allowed to receive communion that day.  She is unrepentant, confused, and in many cases, downright heterodox.  As a synod, our fellowship is quite fractured.  We don’t believe the same things, we don’t practice the same way, and we’re no longer unified in our confessions.  If properly examined by a diligent pastor, the LCMS would likely not be admitted to her own altar.

Here’s what C.F.W. Walther says on the subject of communion.

“The Holy Supper is one of the marks, one of the banners of the church, one of the seals of the church’s doctrine and faith (Rom.4:11; see 1Cor.10:21; Ex.12:48). In whichever church one receives the Holy Supper, one is confessing that church and its doctrine. There cannot be a more inward, brotherly fellowship than that into which one enters with those in whose fellowship he receives the holy supper….Even one who confesses the Real Presence cannot ordinarily, except in the case of death, be admitted if he is and wants to remain, not a member of our orthodox church, but rather a Roman Catholic, Reformed, so-called Evangelical or Unionist, Methodist, Baptist, in short, a member of an erring fellowship. For the Sacrament, as it is a seal of faith, is also the banner of the fellowship in which it is administered” (Walther, Pastoral Theology, p. 110–111, 149).

Additionally, former LCMS President and sainted Rev. Dr. A.L. Barry put it this way:

While the Lord’s Supper is always a personal matter, it is never a private matter. That is an important truth that is often overlooked. Those who commune at the same altar are thereby declaring publically that they are united in the doctrine of the Apostles (Acts 2:42). Therefore, fellowship in the Supper is church fellowship. This is what is taught by Holy Scripture in 1 Cor. 10 and 11.” (What about Fellowship in the Lord’s Supper)

Notice that the common thread in both references above is that altar fellowship is not just personal, but also about a common and public confession.  Sadly, communion  practice is among the many issues being debated right now.  In my opinion, the Lord’s Supper should be considered a closed (pun intended) subject that has long since been settled.  However, communion practice isn’t the main point of this piece.  No, the point of this post is broader.  As a synod, we’re broken and in need of repair.

So, what’s the solution?  How should we deal with Elsie Moe?  Well, here’s how the LCMS leadership is dealing with her.  They have decided to let her continue in her error for years on end while only briefly chatting with her once or twice annually.  Likewise, they have decided that when those rare meetings do occur, they will actually allow Elsie to frame the discussion in ways that may result in significant changes to the doctrine and practice of the church.  Both approaches would be reckless, unloving, and absurd if Elsie were a person.  Yet, the Koinonia Project (KP) appears to embrace that which I just spelled out.  Wouldn’t a pastor be considered derelict in his duties if he addressed Elsie’s error in a manner consistent with that of the Koinonia Project?  KP isn’t what Elsie Moe needs. Elsie Moe needs to be re-catechized.

Image credit: Shutterstock


Comments

Elsie Moe Went To Church — 62 Comments

  1. @John Rixe #49
    Here is the problem:
    Yes, Pastors are to rebuke, keep an eye on fellow pastors, make sure we all walk in line with God. The “buddy system” perhaps?

    Yet to publicly comment and even rebuke, it comes with oh so many problems, and part of it is fellow confessional men.

    Yes, What I saw in the video is not right, unless I hear Elder Hart is SMP and ordained, then I back away (call him pastor). Debate Wichita and SMP, etc. later. But this is no different than fellow Churches having that children’s sermon led by a Sunday School teacher, etc. All of it, no place in the Divine Service where only a pastor can rightly preach.

    Here is the kicker. Once I brought this up at a Circuit meeting about an issue similar, a non-ordained man preaching, doing pastoral work. I was dragged through the muck by fellow confessional men, “I was sinning against the main pastor.” I was stunned.

    Perhaps a DELTO man does not know what he is talking about, lesser pastor that I am to many. Perhaps this is sin, but I can say, “just as ordained as you my friend.” “Take that.” But if I say that, I am just as bad (so I don’t).

    Realistically, I have no avenue to call out error. I can hit it at times, but I am struggling to keep a small parish alive and working, and we are reaching out and saving the lost, a few; but praise be the Holy Spirit.

    Many of our CV’s, Circuits are a shambles, it is “every man for himself” at times. Sad, so sad.

    Now old ACELC, you call out error, you say; then list it. Publish it, but be prepared to defend and have valid proof. I saw a video, now I must follow through, and perhaps get knocked down. Oh yes, I will be blasted, from all sides.

    Here is the kicker, fellow so called confessionals; you must love one another as the battle goes, find common ground. Fellow confessionals are actually the worst to one another in the trenches.

    I want to hear from you Randy, call me next week. You seem to care greatly.

  2. @Pastor David L. Prentice Jr. #1

    Pastor Prentice,

    You actually make the case for the ACELC. Those who point out error in an attempt to help a fellow LCMS member/pastor are often shunned or berated. The ACELC provides a unified confessional voice where one currently doesn’t exist.

    You stated:

    “Now old ACELC, you call out error, you say; then list it. Publish it, but be prepared to defend and have valid proof. I saw a video, now I must follow through, and perhaps get knocked down. Oh yes, I will be blasted, from all sides.

    Have you seen the ACELC’s Evidence of Error documents? They can be found here:

    http://www.acelc.net/page/acelc_admonition__error_documents_12773

  3. @Randy Yovanovich #2
    I hear you, but as I stated, pointing out error “in general” is OK. You need to make the case with examples and list the pastors, Churches, etc. in error.

    Perhaps start an Excel Spreadsheet of errors and examples, with valid proof, and pastors of ACELC (and those backed by ACELC) will step up and contact Churches in error, and leadership that allows for error. Then report on the ongoing fight. You must bring error and discussion into the light. and one must think long and hard before bringing up error.

    Names and numbers must be public. And ACELC and fellow pastors must dialog and discuss in proper, civil manner. I once had a discussion with a fellow BJS member on phone, no name given, it ended with a few choice words by them, a phone slam.

    That is not the way to discuss.

  4. @Randy Yovanovich #2
    OK, I saw some examples of names, but here is one I want proof: (on the PDF for Ministry)

    While attempts to salvage the Confessional integrity of Article XIV were made with the
    establishment of the Distance Education Leading to Ordination (DELTO) program, in reality not
    all DELTO men have been ordained. Some still provide Word and Sacrament ministry to LCMS
    congregations without the benefit of ordination.

    I am DELTO, all men in DELTO are ordained, I know of none serving a Church in a lay ministry capacity. Name the ones in error please…

  5. Pastor Tim Rossow :
    If he wants a Formula of Concord type product produced, President Harrison, who knows the truth, needs to chair a meeting of right-teaching theologians and discuss the divisions in the LCMS and then assert what we teach and what we reject. In that process he could bring in those who hold positions contrary to Scripture and the Confessions to fine tune the understanding of the problem but to give them a seat at the table is illogical and counter-productive.

    Interesting that you want what is essentially a pope who dictates what should be taught.

    Should Kieschnick, who had the same power, have done this? Should he have forbidden those who disagree with him even a seat at the table but rather summarily rejected them? After all, I would posit that he would find their interpretation of Scripture and the Confessions lacking, thereby saying that what they teach is against Scripture and the Confessions. Is this really the way the synod should be run — that he who has the power rules even over the determination of doctrine?

  6. @Athanasius #5

    he would find their interpretation of Scripture and the Confessions lacking, thereby saying that what they teach is against Scripture and the Confessions.

    Sounds like you’re assuming quite a lot about somebody who doesn’t identify as “confessional.”

    Is this really the way the synod should be run — that he who has the power rules even over the determination of doctrine?

    Truth is irrespective of authority. Sometimes truth must be spoken to power, and sometimes power must speak truth. The important thing is that truth is spoken, power is a red herring. If you have power and you do not use it to speak truth, you are neglecting your responsibility.

    Synodical officials, conventions, or popular consensus do not “determine” doctrine. The Word of God determines doctrine, and it is our responsibility to agree with it. The Lutheran Confessions do exactly this, and EVERY minister in our synod has sworn that they agree with this. That makes those who take issue with confessional doctrine either dishonest or ignorant. Best construction says the latter, but you know that we have plenty of both.

    All we want is a Synod who actually believes, teaches, and confesses what it claims to believe, teach and confess. We’re not asking anybody to pontificate ex cathedra.

  7. @Athanasius #5
    Should Kieschnick, who had the same power, have done this? Should he have forbidden those who disagree with him even a seat at the table but rather summarily rejected them?

    The issue shouldn’t be what the SP or DP “wants”.
    But since you ask, CRM became epidemic under Kieschnick.
    Did you ever meet a CRM who was “disposed of” because he was too “liberal”?

    @Miguel #6
    All we want is a Synod who actually believes, teaches, and confesses what it claims to believe, teach and confess. We’re not asking anybody to pontificate ex cathedra.

    Amen!

  8. Athanasius :

    Interesting that you want what is essentially a pope who dictates what should be taught.

    We already have that. They are called District Presidents. Between developing call list, direct supervision of the pastors (SP and CV’s don’t have that), lay ministry, district programs, seminary grad assignment/ordinations….. The LCMS has popes, and I can name all 35 of them. Some are actually pretty good and do a God pleasing job. Some others are absolutely horrendous, comparable to the Popes Martin Luther had to deal with.

  9. @Miguel #6

    “All we want is a Synod who actually believes, teaches, and confesses what it claims to believe, teach and confess. We’re not asking anybody to pontificate ex cathedra.”

    Quote of the decade. Thank you, Miguel.

  10. @Miguel #6

    “The Word of God determines doctrine, and it is our responsibility to agree with it. The Lutheran Confessions do exactly this, and EVERY minister in our synod has sworn that they agree with this.”

    Those ministers who have sworn that they agree with the Lutheran Confessions, but do not agree, have broken fellowship with the LCMS and should seriously consider removing their names from the LCMS roster. To remain on the roster is dishonest.

  11. @Randy Yovanovich #2
    Another challenge point, and this came from long conversation with my older and wiser assistant pastor between worship services.

    Rebuke – public and private.

    If you rebuke a brother pastor for errors of pastoral conduct, after contacting him and discussing of course, you need to make it public on the nature of the rebuke if he fails to heed the rebuke. Yes, you go through channels, CV, then DP, then SP; and if all else fails, you simply say, “we are at odds” and as pastor, I can call him out.” My Church calls him out.

    If it is private sin, keep it private. Help your brother.

    Yes, we are public officials, called and serving. We must take the heat, be allowed to defend, have our day. But we need to keep error in the light, not sneaking around and alluding to it.

    Yes, I have seen the video, I must now call Rev. Woolsey, may take weeks again, I will after Christmas. He may rebuff me, he may take it to heart.

    If you call someone out, you need to make it open and public.

    Not sure what this really means, but I am working it through.

  12. Dear BJS Bloggers,

    I know this post is a hypothetical situation and allegorical on top of that (i.e., Elsie Moe represents LCMS). All allegories and parables have limitations, as we were taught in homiletics and exegesis classes. So you can’t stretch the analogy too far. What pertains to individuals does not always pertain to classes of people, and vice versa, as we were taught in logic class. I assume you all had some training, somewhere, in logic.

    As to the real situation of closed communion, with real people, see the new post by Pastor Andersen. I’ll post a couple of comments there about that practice this morning.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

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