Archive for August, 2010

To the Victors Belong the Spoils

Posted in Uncategorized on August 31, 2010 by Country Preacher

So the political saying goes.  The new administration has power to appoint new people.  Those who supported the candidate, receive favorable treatment.  Those who opposed him, find themselves suddenly left out in the cold.

However, we know that in the church it is not to be so.  The church does not work according to power as the world sees it.  We have only the power and authority of the word of God.   So, when groups start forming for the purpose of “calling to repentance” those in our church who they see as less than orthodox, especially in light of a “favorable administration”, it makes me worry that political power plays are about to be attempted, or at least expected.

Pr. Pepperkorn over at Lutheran Logomaniac has written a mild, and well thought out, critique of a group that has formed and says that they only want to document errors in the synod, but need a constitution and funding structure to do it(?).  The responses have been worrisome.  Words like “deal with” and “cracking down” are used.

I stayed up late last night trying to find where it was that Saint Paul suggested “cracking down” and “dealing with” brothers in the faith.  Assuming they aren’t an “immoral brother”, I found no references to “dealing with” people or “cracking down” on them.  I find many references to love forgiving a multitude of sins, of bearing with a weaker brother, making certain that the log is out first, and of using every resource to attempt to restore the erring brother (OK, I was cheating, the last two are actually our Lord, not Saint Paul) and so on.

As the L.L. has pointed out, this is not the wise way to proceed.  I think the responses to his article show him to be correct – it stokes the fires of unloving behavior.  We want our “gotcha” moment, rather than doing the hard work of gently persuading our brothers that they are in error, so that they return to the truth.

While I of course hope that Pr. Harrison is able to work with the Council of Presidents, I certainly hope he does not “deal with them”.  While I pray that he will be faithful in his conduct, his conversation, and in gently restoring some erring brothers, I similarly pray that he does not resort to “cracking down” on anyone.  I pray that not a single District President is removed under Pr. Harrison.  I pray that not a single pastor feels “dealt with” under his administration.  It is not the way of the church or of the Gospel.

Might it someday be necessary?  Perhaps, but only if Satan has his way.  It is a sad situation, only to be used when order has broken down in the church, when discipline has failed, when our Lord has withdrawn his spirit from those who were called to be his servants, and when Satan has been given free reign over the doctrine and life of a steward of the mysteries.   We would be saying that the lost sheep can not be restored, but that we must cut it off.  The lost coin is truly lost.  The son who was dead is not now alive, but has truly died.

There is no joy in heaven over one sinner who refuses to repent.   There should be no joy in our synod either.  It is not a day to which we should look expectantly and hopefully, but one which we pray never arrives, and which we face only with much fear and trembling. Like divorce in a marriage, it is a topic that should never even be discussed by  those in the church.  It should be rather avoided at all costs, and undertaken only with the deepest of piety and in the gravest of circumstances.  Let us pray that day never arrives.

The Future is Now

Posted in Uncategorized on August 30, 2010 by Country Preacher

We are now getting our first look at what our President meant when he said, “If you want to keep your current health plan, you can.”  He meant that you can keep it exactly as it was when this law passed, with no changes ever.  If any changes are ever made, then it must become compliant with a 2000+ page law that no one in congress actually read.  If your health plan ever violates one of those two thousand pages, or one of the tens of thousands of pages of regulations that go along with it, do you know what will happen?  No one does, because those regulations haven’t been written yet.

Oh, and you can keep your current plan, but since it can make no changes, and therefore can not implement common sense cost cutting measures that may arise from time to time, the cost of these grandfathered plans will rise dramatically.  So, yes you can keep it.  But in about three more years, it is almost a certainty that you will not want to.

What does this mean for our churches?  Concordia Plans has its largest single year increase in almost a decade.   So, for all those struggling congregations out there, let me just reassure you : You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Let us Build a City, and a Tower…

Posted in Uncategorized on August 30, 2010 by Country Preacher

Are we the pinnacle of Western Civilization?  If so, that means that the only way to go is down.

It was once assumed that technology could solve everything.  Simple things like infections used to kill people, but anti-biotics solved that.  Until the infections became resistant.  Medieval problems like bed-bugs were obliterated, until they came back – this time immune to most insecticides.  Ancient dieseases like Typhoid and Leprosy were almost entirely destroyed, but they are back.

We built great cities to show our industrial might and good ol’ American can-do-itness.  After all, ancient Rome may have been almost 1 million people, but we have many cities that large.  Except for all the cities that are collapsing.  (HT: Respublica)  Indeed, people have been moving to the suburbs for decades.  So, is the great society that we have created about to collapse?  Have we built the tower as high as it can go, and now there is only confusion and decay in store for our society?  Stay tuned…

ACELC II

Posted in Uncategorized on August 30, 2010 by Country Preacher

Kudos to Pr. Newman, a member of the ACELC steering committee, who responded very quickly to my comments earlier to day.  In the interest of an open dialogue, (and let’s be honest, many do not read the ‘comments’) I am reprinting it here, with further  commentary.

I appreciate so much you putting the best construction on our words. We have not said ANYWHERE that we want more than to Fraternally address these errors.

So you have said.  I did not say that you do not want to do that.  What I said was that you wanted to do more than dialogue about the diverse teaching and practice in our synod.  Our new synod president has called for a dialogue.  You are calling for congregations to accept your pronouncement regarding the error, and to then repent of that error.  That is not a dialogue.

We don’t care who does it. We are not asking that we judge and jury, but only asking people to consider whether or not there is substance to our plea for discussion.

Yet your own admonition says, “Unfortunately, the LCMS has strayed off her orthodox foundations.”  I’m pretty sure that such a statement would universally be considered a judgment.  So indeed, you are judging.  But that’s OK.  Pastors are called to do just that.  I have no objection to you fulfilling your office as pastor.  But you can not then deny that it is what you are doing.

You cite the fact that we want to have an official organization as evidence of this. Would you make the same charge against LLL, LWML, Higher Things, or any other group within our Synod which also has a Constitution and By-Laws? These things are required to have legal status, nothing more.

As I am sure you know, all of those organizations exist to further the mission and ministry of the synod.  What you are proposing is to go against the direction of the synod.  That is fine, but a legal organization to do so seems suspect to many.  Insofar as you are working in favor of Scripture and the confessions, then your work is laudable.  However, to say that one needs a constitution and bylaws in order to do so is to accept uncritically the American way of doing things.  Saint Thomas of Jefferson is by no means our patron.  Where was the constitution and bylaws behind the first apostolic council in Jerusalem, or the council of Nicea, the Diet of Augsburg, or even the production of the Formula of Concord? (Produced by essentially a circuit visitor and his friends.)  None of these confessions had any sort of official constitutional backing. (Especially the Formula.)  Of course you need standards, but you do not then need a constitution to advance them.  That you are seeking “legal status” is an entire topic in itself, but it is not a sine qua non for confessional discussion, fraternal admonition, or even for judging doctrine.

Would you join a group that had no standards. Perhaps you would, but I wouldn’t. The fact that we want to officially organize proves nothing except that we want to organize. If you have questions about our motives, maybe you would consider asking us rather than assuming the worst.

I do not question your desire to organize.  I do question the wisdom of the entire endeavor.  Officially organizing to call the synod to repentance can not be said to be a value neutral thing, especially as you just finished saying that you would not join a group without standards.  (As for me, I wouldn’t want to be a part of any group that would accept someone like me as a member.)  Given that the ELCA has seen groups form for some of the very purposes you have described, and then seen those groups encourage congregations to leave the ELCA, and then form into a new church body, you can perhaps see why others might be reticent to simply accept your approach to organization, which seems to be, on the one hand, “sign our document and support us”, and on the other, “nothing to see here, move along.” (I could also cite in our own synod’s history ELIM/AELC)

One of the challenges with working in the church is that we are always working in the public eye.  This means that, whatever we do reflects on the one who sent us.  In other words, we must always consider what message it sends to others.  To put it yet another way, “How will this look to those outside of our group.” (That is, not only the LCMS, but also those outside of the ACELC)  In law, it is said that for public officials, it is not enough that everything be ‘above board’, but that they must avoid even the appearance of impropriety.  So for the church.  It is not enough that our actions reflect the truth and love of Christ, but that our actions not even have a whiff of violating those two things.  Your zeal for the truth is certainly not in question.  It is rather the wisdom of acting as you have, and how that will be seen in the context of the love we owe each other as brothers in Christ and members of the LCMS that is coming under scrutiny.

We have a new president who has called for dialogue in the church.  I Believe that there has been enough written which is designed to call the synod to repentance for her error.   Should President-Elect Harrison’s efforts at Concord fail, there will always be an opportunity to say, “This is no longer an orthodox church body” and to walk away.  You give the appearance of beginning that process, just as our president is calling for an honest,  loving, and scriptural conversation.  My suggestion is that you give his idea a chance to work before organizing that appears to lead in other directions.

The ACELC

Posted in Uncategorized on August 30, 2010 by Country Preacher

Lutheran Logomaniac has a great post that summarizes some of my own concerns with the ACELC (Producers of the ‘Fraternal Admonition’).  I had tried to be charitable in understanding their goals, but given the very public nature of their speech, and the rather confrontational way they have presented themselves, I don’t think one can reasonably claim that they are only interested in dialogue.  They state quite clearly that they are interested in far more. (C0ongregations accepting statements, a constituting convention, etc.)  Read over at LL for a good description of some of my concerns.  Thanks to Pr. P. for the work on this.

A Fraternal Admonition III

Posted in Uncategorized on August 30, 2010 by Country Preacher

Article 2, Holy Communion.

This article is somewhat disturbing to me.  I would be interested to see where in Holy Scripture or the Lutheran Confessions it says “full agreement in every article of doctrine must serve as the standard of admission to Holy Communion.”   Following this principle, I must break fellowship with everyone who does not hold to the Perpetual Virginity of Mary (my entire circuit, most of my congregation, and I expect almost all of my district), even though I consider it a point of doctrine which does not rise to the level of severing fellowship.  (See my previous post on this subject.)

Also, they reject the toleration of the error whereby “Lutherans from heterodox Church bodies with which the LCMS is not in fellowship” are admitted to the altar.  Do they similarly reject allowing Lutherans to commune who are from church bodies with which the LCMS is not in fellowship, if those church bodies are not heterodox?  This is not addressed.  One assumes, based on the general tone of the discussion, that they believe this is allowed, but only if  there is “full agreement in every article of doctrine”.  Yet, such a view is at odds with the LCMS official view, which, oddly, is more strict than their own.

And if they are less strict than the official policy, then who is the be the judge of whether “full agreement in every article of doctrine” has been reached?  Is that not the synod in convention?

Taking their statement at face value, we should admit to the altar all those who are part of churches that we have not declared to be heterodox.  This would mean all Lutherans except the ELCA are welcomed at the altar. Obviously their statement does not mean that.

If perhaps they have in mind some middle path, it is not spelled out in this document.  I am left essentially unclear as to what exactly their view of fellowship in the sacrament is, and who I should admit to the altar.   While I realize the point they are trying to make, I would appreciate a clearer, and probably more charitable view of admission to the Sacrament.  A few words from our confessions regarding worthy admission, or I should say, worthy reception, would have been very helpful.

Indeed, throughout the document,article 6 excepted, there are no quotes from scripture or the confessions.  This is a common tactic in our synod, but it leads to a theology that is divorced from the very Scripture and Confession which they claim to hold.

Faith Journey

Posted in Uncategorized on August 30, 2010 by Country Preacher

It’s an absolutely Arminian term, and Lutheran’s should be careful never to use it. Not that the term itself is entirely bad, but the use in American Christianity is so corrupted that it can not be used profitably in our context. It is sort of like saying “Purpose driven Lutheranism”. Well, yes, you could do it, but given the absolutely terrible theology permeating “The Purpose Driven Life”, it would just be a terrible idea. It sends the wrong message.
Why do I bring this up? You don’t want to know. If you remember these words, and keep your eyes open for the next year, it will become apparent.