A Fraternal Admonition III

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.

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4 Responses to “A Fraternal Admonition III”

  1. As I read the Fraternal Admonition on whole, I am getting the sense that what “full agreement in every article of doctrine” means is that there must be full agreement in every article of doctrine as expressed in the Book of Concord.

    We could find extreme examples of disagreement over when the second coming of Christ occurs in the book of Revelation, or whether or not women should wear a head covering, but such examples only serve to show that the point of the Fraternal admonition has been missed. In this case the point preceeded the second article and read, “Holy Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions teach that unity (that is, full agreement) in doctrine and practice is the basis for establishing pulpit and altar fellowship.”

    Dr. Francis Pieper describes this unity in this way: “We speak of the unity in the faith as it is to be created according to God’s will. And this is the agreement not merely in several articles of Christian doctrine but in all articles.

    Thus the Lutheran Church understood the unity in the faith willed by God. It defined “the true unity of the Christian church” in Article VII of the Augsburg Confession thus: “that there unanimously, according to a pure understanding, the Gospel is preached and the holy sacraments purely administered according to the Gospel” [AC VII 1]. The Lutheran Church confesses in the Formula of Concord, Article X: “We believe, teach, and confess that no church should condemn another because it has fewer or more external ceremonies not commanded by God, as long as there is mutual agreement in doctrine and all its articles, as well as in the right use of the holy sacrament” (FC Ep X 7). Here our Church declares that by “correct unity” it understands agreement “in the doctrine and all articles of the same,” not merely in some of the same. At the conclusion of Article XI of the Formula of Concord, our Church asserts that it has a true desire and love for unity and strives for it, but it must be [real] unity: “We desire such harmony as will not violate God’s honor, that will not detract anything from the divine truth of the holy Gospel, that will not give place to the smallest of error” (FC SD XI 96).” —Francis Pieper; quoted from “At Home in the House of My Fathers” by Pr. Matthew C. Harrison, p. 574.

    Now, I can’t speak for the ACELC, but I suspect that their view of what constitutes agreement on every article of faith is likely close to that as what Pieper describes. Which means that we can concievably disagree on whether or not Mary was perpetually a virgin and still commune together.

    Of course, it follows that if unity in all articles of faith, as defined above, is necessary to having altar and pulpit fellowship then the same is true for communion.

    • forestboar Says:

      Yet that is precisely my point. Most people take for granted that semper virgo is not an article of faith in our confessions. I submit that it is, and that it is not a matter for debate, but rather something which we, with the church at all times and places, accept as truth. It is not a minor point. It is as much a part of our doctrine as the feeding of the five thousand or the account of Jonah. To discard it is to discard the authority of the confessional witness itself regarding our faith. I do not consider this in any way to be an “open question”, and I believe that those who reject it are in error. However, I am also willing to concede that I do not know everything, and that perhaps father Pieper (who held to Semper Virgo) was correct on this point : we need not sever fellowship because of a difference regardingthis doctrine, so long as the person is orthodox in all others. However, if some will say, “we must have unity on every point of doctrine”, and yet consider the semper virgo to be non-doctrinal (and therefore non-divisive) then I must respect their belief enough to admit that we do not share fellowship. I can not simply consign semper virgo to the realm of adiaphora, when it is (rather obviously to me) confessed in our confessions, any more than I can consign the mass(we religiously keep and defend it) or confession (after all, it would be wicked to abolish in the church) to adiaphora.
      I’m not really trying to make this about semper virgo, but I know some who believe that that the chalice is scripturally the only means of distribution. They would elevate this to the level of doctrine. What of that? I don’t believe it is. So, to say we agree on every point of doctrine is not true. I am simply saying that such a thing as “full agreement” is not as easy to achieve as you would think.

      • So, then, am I correct that you would commune with others who disagree with you on an article of faith you confess is not a matter for debate, and not a minor point?

        Furthermore, are you also claiming that we can have pulpit and altar fellowship with those who disagree with us on any articles of faith which are not minor points and not a matter for debate?

        Finally, and in lieu of comments you have made in another thread you posted on the ACELC, how will you be able to discuss with others in the synod in open dialogue doctrinal matters you believe are not open to debate?

        Thank you for the dialogue. I look forward to your responses.

      • forestboar Says:

        I look forward to the theological discussions called for by our president elect. I pray that many of these thorny issues will be hashed out among us as we discuss what it means to confess the one holy catholic and apostolic faith as laid out in Holy Scripture and the Lutheran Symbols.

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