Friday, September 4, 2009

Exceptional Indeed

What would we do without Acts 2? You can piece together a definition of the Church from other Scriptures, of course - but nowhere else is it all laid out so clearly and in such detail. The Church is the baptized people of God (who have been called to baptism through the preaching of the Word) now gathered around the apostles' teaching and fellowship, the Lord's Supper, and the liturgy.

An attack on any of those things - preaching, baptism, apostolic teaching, apostolic fellowship, the Lord's Supper, or the prayers - is an attack at the heart of who we are as the Church. In the Missouri Synod the chief attack comes at the apostles' fellowship - that is, at the Ministry. Our Synod has endorsed communities of the baptized where there is no apostolic fellowship - but how can you have anything else on the list without that? How could you do without any one item in that list? Can the Church just be a cabal of ministers to the exclusion of all the baptized? Well then, how can the Church be a cabal of the baptized to the exclusion of those who stand in the apostolic office?

All that came to mind as I read in the President's Leadership News (who is paying for this by the way?) that the Synod is "exceptionally united in what we believe, teach, and confess." I wrote this letter to the editor of the Reporter, with which the President's Leadership News was delivered. The editor responded and said that he won't print it because the PLN has no editorial relationship with the Reporter. Right: it just rides on the same mailing permit and costs. . .

Dear Editor,

I would like to humbly take exception to Pres. Kieschnick's comments
included in the latest Reporter that the Synod is "exceptionally
united in what we believe, teach, and confess." For twenty years now
the Missouri Synod has been deeply divided over our confessional
subscription to Article XIV of the Augsburg Confession - which states
that no one should publicly preach or administer the Sacraments unless
he has a "regular, public call" (rite vocatus) - that is, unless he is
a pastor, a man called to the Office of the Ministry. In 1989, the
Synod in Convention introduced a resolution (1989 Resolution 3-05B)
that allowed for laymen to preach and conduct the sacraments without
receiving a valid call and being placed into this Office ("lay

That the Synod is deeply divided on this topic is shown in that 1)
both seminary systematics faculties issued a joint statement in July
2007 against the Synod's current understanding and practice saying,
"[T]he Treatise [on the Power and Primacy of the Pope] does not
imagine churches without ordained ministers of some kind, even in
emergency situations or when no one else will call and ordain men for
the office. As confessors of the same doctrine, neither should we."
and 2) The Northern, Central, and Southern Illinois districts all
passed resolutions in 2009 memorializing the 2010 Synod in Convention
to retract this violation of our confessions.

I hope and pray that the next Synod Convention will have the courage
to follow the guidance of our seminary faculties and undo what was
done in 1989. That would be a great step toward making Pres.
Kieschnick's headline true.



  1. Aren't these the same seminaries that send out their students (still laymen) to PREACH in the pulpits of LC-MS congregations?

  2. Jeff of the Great North,

    A perennial question. With most traditional Lutherans, I lament the "vicar system." However, as I've argued before - I don't think it's "preaching" if a man studying for the ministry reads the pastor's sermon in public worship. If the vicar is doing anything besides that, I think it's out of bounds. My full thoughts on the matter can be read at this link:

    However - you are right in noting that with the publication of the statement the seminary has publicly revealed if not hypocrisy then certainly a division in their ranks: for they do sent out vicar whom they know will be "licensed" to preach and administer the sacraments.

    Well, hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue - so it's better than nothing. And if after 18 years (1989-2007) the systematics faculties have finally stepped up to the plate - better late than never. And if the practical department has a different view - better a house divided than one unified in error.

    In short - I was very grateful to read the systematics faculties' statement. In the Synod these days, one should take what one can get.



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