Saturday, September 5, 2009

A Serious Proposal

Two years ago our district's pastoral conference dealt with worship. We had an excellent panel of pastors representing all sides of the divisions among us. At the end of it, putting on my best churchmanly behavior I asked if the panelists would each consider the following proposal. Use whatever instrumentation, whatever songs, whatever state of unvestedness, whatever PowerPoint slides you prefer in your congregation's worship: but for the actual words, the order of the service, use one of the services as printed in LSB, TLH, or LW.

I think this would be a great step toward unity in worship among us. Given the rhetoric from the advocates of contemporary worship, I also thought that this would be an acceptable middle road for them. After all, they would still have all the accoutrements they claim necessary to reaching out in today's world.

But, oddly enough, the chief proponent of contemporary worship on the panel reacted negatively. It seems that there really is more to it than the externalities: he wanted control over the words, too. He wanted the opportunity to tell his congregation what to say each week and in what order to say it.

Well, his reaction aside, I still think the proposal is a good one. I think men of good will who have an honest disagreement with TGC (The Gottesdienst Crowd) would find this acceptable. And I think it would redound to the whole Synod's benefit. One small step, and all that.



  1. It was a striking moment when he turned down the proposal. I still think it's a good one over all. I'd go with McCain's oft quoted words, though: say the black, do the red. Within the red there is variety galore enough for every parish to shape its own use of ceremony.

  2. I think this might be a revealing decision: it's not about the music being in the "style of the people," but rather about being new, going against the established, etc. It's neo-Pietism.

  3. I'm somewhat surprised, though not entirely, that the contemporary worship proponent turned down your proposal. It belies the claim that substance and style, form and content can be distinguished and separated in practice to the point of divorce, as though without harm to the entire enterprise. If the rite is taken seriously, the ceremony (broadly speaking) will follow accordingly. So to that extent, I think the contemporary worship proponent answered correctly.

    For the same reason, Father Curtis, I can't agree with your proposal; not as it stands. I think you give too much away. For one thing, no disrespect intended, to offer the use of "whatever songs" contravenes the proposal and undoes the point and purpose in preserving the rites intact. Hymnody is not the neutral or throwaway "incidental" that it is too often treated as. I am continually surprised and dismayed by the way that hymnody is dealt with (or not) by otherwise liturgically-minded guys. I say that, not so much concerning you or your proposal, Father Curtis, but on the basis of numerous observations out and about.

    Aside from that first and foremost caveat, in a more general fashion, I simply don't agree that one can actually preserve even the rite itself by maintaining the words apart from a certain decorum of ceremony. Of course I do agree that there is a good deal of latitude, even beyond the parameters of what I would strongly prefer. But there are points at which the rite is contradicted by the conduct, in such a way that it is simply no longer the same rite at all. It makes a mockery and hypocrisy of the words to take them upon the lips while the rest of the body is altogether elsewhere; and, I would suggest, in such a case the heart, too, is far removed from the lip service in question.

    Would it contribute to greater unity of practice? Sounds good on the surface, but I don't believe it would. If anything, I think it would make things worse. Because the real difference in the current theology and practice of worship is deeper than the rites that are used; though I absolutely believe that the rites are of fundamental importance and significance. It is only that the rites are not a free-floating text that can ever be rightly disconnected from appropriate conduct.

    If the rites are taken seriously, so will the ceremonies, even within their broad margins of freedom. And so will the hymnody be taken with utmost seriousness, in harmony with the rites and the gifts of Christ which they convey. And when the preaching, too, is taken seriously as an integral part of the Liturgy, then the rites and ceremonies will flow together to the real heart of the matter, which is the Body and Blood of Christ.

    It is in such liturgical preaching, to and from the Altar, within a measured diversity of ceremonial practice, that true unity is found.

  4. I think you're right on, Fr. Stuckwisch. That is why the fellow wouldn't go for it: the words imply a ceremony.

    But that's points to the utility of the proposal. If someone agreed to stick to the words in LSB for a year, even with all the "whatever you wants" - I wonder if the rite might change the whatevers rather than the other way around. . .


  5. Maybe so. The words are not empty, after all, but the very Word of Christ. So that is a worthwhile point to consider.

    On the other hand, actions speak louder than words; it's true, even if it is cliche. "Be warm and well fed" just doesn't cut it, if no clothing or food are provided for the brother or sister in need.

  6. Rev. Curtis, I think that is a spot on suggestion - not in the sense that I think it is ideal, but I think it is a vast improvement over what we have. Sadly, this is the way we have to think in this world - what would improve the current situation.

    However, some of my members on their travels to see their son (bound in captivity for a year, as it were - let the reader understand) visited a church where what you described happens on Saturday night. A "contemporary" service that followed the hymnals, just with whatever songs. And my members were horrified. . . however, I was quick to point that surely it was better than what was there 5 years prior in their all over the place service.

    Baby steps, baby steps it seems. But that is what you must expect when dealing with folks who are still on milk and not onto solid food yet.

  7. I'm not surprised at all that the good fellow turned down your proposal. It would turn his world and practice upside down.

    What you see as an accomodation (which I don't particularly agree with but understand its generous spirit) he sees as capitulation to everything he has cast off.

    We'll keep encouraging folks to return to our good Lutheran roots no matter how many times we're told, "No."

  8. It's an interesting proposal, but I'm nearly positive that it will fall on deaf ears to those who are convinced that the relevant, entertaining, people-pleasing "style" is the way to go. I don't think we give the guys who are gung-ho about "contemporary worship" enough credit. They know what they're doing. They really believe in their heart of hearts that it's the right thing to do. They know what the historic liturgy is and they find it lacking and unproductive. Asking them to capitulate, even in this seemingly small way, is akin to them asking us to compromise and substitute their "praise songs" for the historic hymnody. They will, undoubtedly, see this request as condescending, even as we "Gottesdienst-crowders" would see their request if reversed. There are two different theologies of worship at play here and until that is recognized by both sides there will be no advance toward unity, no matter how much either side is willing to budge.

    But, beyond all this, the real problem with this proposal, imho, is that it doesn't work. I've seen this very thing attempted many times and it just doesn't play. Contemporary "praise songs" interspersed throughout the traditional liturgy is like mixing oil and water, or like the husband who wants to be devoted to his wife and his mistress at the same time. Nothing good can come from such. Better to get to the root of the problem - or not. A compromise built upon competing allegiances to contradictory theologies of worship is doomed from the get go, at least as I see things.

  9. I would seriously propose we use only one hymnal, Lutheran Service Book and agree that within it there is plenty of "variety" and "freedom" ... and I would propose we agree on common rubrics, rites and ceremonies and agree to set aside our personal preferences and instead, for the sake of unity, surrender such to facilitate greater unity.

    Would TGC agree to this?

  10. It is difficult to know what you are actually proposing and asking "us" to agree to, Brother McCain. On the one hand, you affirm that the LSB provides for plenty of "variety" and "freedom." Yet, on the other hand, you suggest that there should be "common rubrics, rites and ceremonies." So, for my part at least, I would have to ask you to clarify the parameters of that which is to be held in common. For example, in those numerous places where the LSB rubrics are either silent or open-ended, does that mean anything goes, or that nothing goes? Is there freedom in such a case? Or does the silence of the LSB become a kind of negative command, or a prohibition, of that which God has not forbidden?

    Chanting would clearly be okay, since the LSB clearly sets that forth. But what about those the other "big three" bugaboos: Would the use of chasubles, the elevation and genuflecting be permissible under your proposal? Or not?

    As much as I am not willing to endorse a "whatever" approach to everything beyond the bare rite, so am I not willing to curtail the genuine freedom of adiaphora, which belongs not only to our confession but to the Gospel itself. As there are differences in congregations and in architectural spaces and furnishings, etc., so is there a need for pastoral discernment and discretion for the sake of the free course of the Gospel. That can be abused, obviously, but the cure is not a lockstep uniformity in every jot and tittle of practice.

    The evangelical key is found in the unity of a common confession of the faith, embodied in orthodox preaching and practice, pastorally administered according to the particular circumstances of the people in each place.

    In any case, neither the LSB nor anything else that CPH (or Gottesdienst) might publish will take the place of genuine pastoral care and ongoing pastoral catechesis.

  11. The evangelical key is found in the unity of a common confession of the faith, embodied in orthodox preaching and practice, pastorally administered according to the particular circumstances of the people in each place.

    Exactly! A common confession of the faith is the key. If that is present, orthodox preaching and practice will follow, and those things that are truly adiaphora will not cause scandal and division.

    The deep divide present in our synod over worship, lay "ministers," the service of women, who should be permitted to the altar, etc. is symptomatic of the disease with which we are afflicted, namely the fact that we do not share a common confession of the faith.

    We hear from above that we are "extremely united," but this "unity" is based upon widespread agreement on many basic, or fundamental, doctrines of the Christian faith, and is a "unity" which does not recognize that a common confession of the faith will reveal itself in how that faith is lived out (practiced). "We believe the same things, we just practice what we believe in different ways" is the company line. While it is certainly possible to practice what we believe in different ways, when we analyze the different ways our supposed unified beliefs are practiced in our synod today, it is obvious that our beliefs are not as unified as advertised.

    For that reason, I believe that any solutions to fix our disunity which focus merely upon practice are certain to fail, since this is an exercise in treating the symptoms instead of the disease. Unless, and until, we recognize that the variant (and often contradictory) practices in our synod reveal that we do not share a common confession of the faith, our efforts toward trying to affect greater unity among us is akin to trying to reach a destination up ahead while walking on a treadmill. We'll never get there no matter how fast we walk or run. The kind of serious, honest, heart-to-heart dialogue with Scripture and Confessions in hand, as suggested by Matt Harrison, is what is needed in our synod. Anything less is an exercise in futility.

  12. Rev. McCain,

    What you propose - a uniform rite with a uniform ceremony, perhaps with a number of sanctioned options at various points - can only be had one of two ways.

    One, as in the days of the apostles, by a heart-felt harmony of spirit and teaching, an ideal unity flowing from mutual consent freely arrived upon. That's never happened since their time. Same with holding property in common - only the apostles could pull it off. A glimpse of heaven perhaps. . .

    Two, as in the days of the Lutheran Church Orders or today in Rome's Corpus Iuris Canonici, a rite and ceremony can be enforced by ecclesiastical law. That is, if one does not follow the rite and innovates, then one is charged with breaking the peace, or disobedience to a superior, or whatnot, and either corrected or put out of the ministry.

    For my part, I'd be all for either method of doing it. You could say that today we are pursuing the first way - we have open and honest debate and hope that it will lean to that unity flowing from mutual understanding and purpose. It hasn't yet, but we can keep trying. Of course it will never work, if by "work" you mean that we get everybody in Synod to sign up for it. But we can continue to try to aim for it. That is what Gottesdienst is really about - arguing for a ceremony that best confesses our doctrine and trying to persuade others of the same.

    Or we could revert to the old Lutheran Church Order way and have real Superintendents/Bishops/Overseers with the authority to cast out of the clergy those who don't go along. Of course that will not work either - if by "work" you mean you keep the whole Synod. Countless folks would leave rather than submit to that limitation of Christian freedom.

    So - I fear that we are stuck with the status quo: arguing for what is best, and trying to convince one another of acceptable bounds of diversity in ceremony and rite.


  13. I am interested in Paul McCain's idea of LSB only and wonder if he would have agreed when LW was our hymnal? Would he have so quickly shut off those bound to TLH in favor of LW? I think we need to be careful here. I love LSB and we use it religiously... however we also use a few things from LW, HS98, WS (especially two Eucharistic prayers), and Worship in the Name of Jesus -- all of which have the imprimatur of Synod on them. Is that wrong?

  14. I appreciate the approach that my dear friend and colleague, Father Curtis, has set forth. And for my part, I am receptive to the idea of an evangelical form of canon law, which could be agreed upon and accepted volunatarily in the freedom of faith and the service of love.

    I remain somewhat concerned, within the context of this discussion, as to what the parameters of a "common ceremony" would be. It is one thing to have a common rite, which would presumably include, to some extent, a common set of rubrics. But the evangelical church catholic has never insisted upon a strict uniformity in ceremonies; nor would it be possible or profitable to do so, in my opinion. As I have tried to suggest, there are differences in congregations and their circumstances, including differences in church architecture and other available resources, that really require a freedom and flexibility in ceremony; which is rightly ordered by way of pastoral care. Simply to speak of a "common ceremony" is either misleading or else a dangerous course of action.

    As far as I have understood, Rome never attempted to enforce a universal uniformity of "rubric, rite and ceremony" until Trent, as part of its counter-Reformation. Prior to that point, there were always local customs, as well as regional rites and ceremonies, etc. That is likewise the case with the Lutheran Church Orders; they were territorial, not universally binding upon all who would be and call themselves "Lutheran." Although there are perhaps worthwhile similarities to consider between those territories and modern "synods," they aren't the same thing.

    In any case, an evangelical canon law won't really work without real evangelical bishops; as some of us have discussed in the past.

  15. If we are going to discuss what ought to be done in love, and for the sake of love, it is chiefly ourselves -- and not our fraternal opponents -- whom we ought to be admonishing.

    It is a fair question to ask: What are we willing to forego for the sake of a more unified practice? In matters that are truly free, love will give up everything for the sake of the neighbor.

    But faith will not yield anything in matters that pertain to the confession of the Gospel. And here is the rub, I think. The sort of practices to which "we" object are not really free, because they compete with, distract from, overshadow and obfuscate the Gospel (where they do not contradict it altogether). That is my objection to the original "serious proposal." Maintaining the rite intact, while allowing "whatever" else to be done along with it, is self-defeating if not hypocritical. The "whatever" must be constrained by parameters that serve and support the clarity of the catechesis and confession of the Gospel. That is for the sake of faith, and therefore also for the sake of love.

    It is a different sort of error, but no less an error, to resort to the opposite extreme; that is, to replace the "whatever" with a strict lockstep uniformity in all respects of rubric, rite and ceremony. Some things can and should be specified, surely, and agreed upon and accepted in brotherly concord. But there must also remain the free course of the Gospel; the external contours of which will not be the same in every time and place.

  16. Just to take one example, which is perhaps less volatile than others, but which has come up in conversations before:

    Would "a common rubric, rite and ceremony" include the use of a single lectionary? And if so, would "the Gottesdienst crowd" be willing to accept and live with the three-year lectionary, for the sake of a greater unity of practice?

  17. Fr. Stuckwisch,

    I think it is, indeed, fair to say that Rome and the old Lutheran Church Orders enforced a rite and ceremony - not every jot and tittle, but for example:

    * A priest in the 14th century would have been ran out of town by his Bishop if he did not genuflect after each consecration. That ceremony was specifically added by a pontiff after a controversy in the 13th century. After it was added to the canon law of the Roman Rite, it had the force of, well, law. It's true that in the 14th century the Roman Rite was not universal over the face of Europe, there was also a Gallic Rite, for example - but that was also enforced as law by the Gaulish bishops. An enforced Rite is an enforced Rite no matter the size of the jurisdiction. And they were Geographic, not based on preference of the priest.

    * I forget the name of the Lutheran pastor, but some fellow in the 17th century was kicked out for not using enough water in his baptisms. The rite said "pour" and he sprinkled. Out he went.

    What distinguishes an evangelical canon from a legalistic one is not so much scope, but teleology. Rome claims that disregard her canons has an impact on justification - it's a sin to omit them, it justifies to keep them (this is all over the Apology IV). An evangelical order is for peace and harmony - with no claim that the rites and ceremonies therein justify. They exist merely for good order.


  18. Of course, Father Curtis, I realize that canon law can (legitimately) become quite specific. I agree with your distinction between scope and teleology; although I would also maintain that the scope of the law can be overdone, and that it shouldn't be. What has been done in the past is no guarantee, in itself, that it should have been done then; nor that it should be done now. It is instructive and interesting, but not decisive.

    Also, in contrast to Rome (especially after Trent), the Lutheran Church orders were not all of the same kind in their scope; not at all. Some were quite detailed and specific; others were not so.

    Obviously, I have no objection to genuflecting. But would I suggest that we ought to make genuflecting a matter of canon law? I don't believe that would be in the best service of either faith or love at this point. And that is precisely to my point: It remains necessary that the Church collectively, and pastors within their respective parishes, be able to exercise discernment and discretion appropriate to the circumstances; which aren't the same everywhere and always.

    I trust that it is understood, that I don't regard that freedom as open-ended. As I have said, I'm not in favor of a "whatever" approach, either. A common rite is desirable. A common set of rubrics, allowing for pastoral discretion and discernment, goes hand-in-hand with a common rite. Ceremonies, it seems to me, can be determined to some extent, and surely established within certain boundaries, yes. But I don't believe that every detail can or should be legislated.

    But we are already in agreement on that point, when you acknowledge that not every jot and tittle was specified.

    And I still wonder if "we" would be willing to forfeit our evangelical and confessional freedom in ceremonies, if a minimalistic lowest-common-denominator approach were taken to establishing and legislating "a common ceremony" across "the Synod."

    Besides, it is one thing to say: Here is a ceremony that all of us will agree to practice in common. It is quite another thing to say: None of us may practice any ceremonies that are not specified for all of us. The first could be helpfully achieved, I warrant. The latter would be oppressive, and more typical of Calvinism than Lutheranism.

  19. Actually, it seems to me that the "scope" of a proposed canon law does have a bearing upon whether it is evangelical or not. I don't mean with respect to the extent of its scope, but as to that which it actually presumes to legislate. Any law that would impede or prevent the free course of the Gospel would not be evangelical, whether or not it presumed to justify its adherents.

    As to what Rome was doing even prior to the Reformation, it was also making laws concerning Confession and the Holy Communion. Our Lutheran Confessions reject such an approach; because the free gifts of the Gospel cannot be fruitfully forced upon people. That touches upon what I was getting at.

    I've already said that a canon law won't work without real evangelical bishops. Even then, parish pastors are entrusted with the stewardship of the Mysteries of God. I don't think they should be autonymous, but neither do I believe they should be autobots. They are men under authority, and also men who are given authority in the name and stead of Christ.

  20. I just think it would be a good idea if we all used the same hymnal. Since now over 75% of our congregations are using Lutheran Service Book, I think it would be smart if we all agreed to use LSB.

    But, alas, everyone loves their freedom to pick/choose mix/match.

    As I've said for some time now, American Lutherans cherish their American individual liberties very much.

    Typisch Amerikanisch

  21. It's a shame that the GTC is unwilling to surrender their liberties and heed the evangelical and pastoral wisdom from our chief teacher, Martin Luther, who wrote in the Wittenberg Church Order of 1542:

    Now even though external rites and orders … add nothing to salvation, it is unChristian to quarrel over such things and confuse the common people. We should consider the edification of the laity more important than our own ideas and opinions … Let each one surrender his own opinions and get together in a friendly way and come to a common decision about these external matters, so that there will be one uniform practice throughout your district instead of disorder … For even though from the viewpoint of faith, the external orders are free and can without scruples be changed by anyone at anytime, yet from the viewpoint of love you are not free to use this liberty…

  22. If your comments are offered in response to me, Pastor McCain, you should certainly know that I can hardly speak for the whole "GTC." I speak for myself. But even at that, you are being unfair to suggest that I am unwilling to get along in a friendly way.

    All I asked for was a clarification of what you had in mind by "a common rubric, rite and ceremony." You can belittle or criticize my interest in the freedom of that which the Lord has left free, but I am concerned that we do not err to the right or to the left of that which is in service and support of the Gospel.

    So, can you answer my question, or do you not actually have anything in mind? When you ask us to give up what you describe as "personal preferences," are you not willing or able to identify what you mean by that?

    I am only interested in knowing whether you would regard the LSB rubrics as both the minimum and maximum of liturgical practice; and if, when you speak of "a common ceremony," you are advocating a lockstep uniformity in every "jot and tittle" of practice. Because, if that is what you are suggesting, I can't agree to it. Not because I am unwilling to sacrifice my own proclivities for the sake of love; but because I am unwilling to sacrifice the freedom of the Gospel or to give up the exercise of responsible pastoral care for the people of God. So shoot me if you want.

    For the time being, given past conversations, it is hard not to read between the lines in your counter-proposal, Pastor McCain. You often accuse the "GTC" of being legalistic in various ways, but it is every bit as legalistic to forbid adiaphora as it would be to mandate adiaphora. So that is why I am asking for a clarification of what you have in mind when you speak of "a common ceremony." Does that mean we all have to look and act like St. Paul, Des Peres? Is that to be the benchmark and the norm of Lutheranism?

    For what it's worth, I use the LSB; I abide by its rubrics; and I follow the three-year lectionary, along with the vast majority of the LCMS. So where exactly is it that I am supposedly unwilling to be "friendly" and to accommodate myself to my brethren?

  23. It is more than a bit deceiving to make the claim that 75% of our congregations are using LSB without qualifying that claim with other pertinent information. How many congregations use LSB for their "traditional" service, but use other, non-Lutheran resources for the "contemporary" service they piece together? How many congregations only purchased the Builder and use bits and pieces of the liturgy, blending them with their methobapticostal stuff? I know many congregations in my district that "use" LSB, but not exclusively, and often in ways that would not even warrant saying that they are using LSB.

    It is, furthermore, most ridiculous to ridicule TGC (it's not GTC, but TGC - we should get the derogatory label correct, shouldn't we? - more affective that way, I think) for their unwillingness to surrender their liberties, etc. when, in reality, it is not TGC who abuse their liberties at all. Either McCain is out of touch with what is actually going on in our synod, or he is just so fixated on deriding TGC that he chooses to ignore reality.

    What Fr. Stuckwisch stated above is the key, namely that what truly matters is a common confession of the faith. Those who belong to TGC share a common confession of the faith, not only with each other, as if they are some sort of sect of "liturgical pietists," but with all true Lutherans who adhere to the same theology of worship. That common confession of the faith is not shared with those who turn "worship" into an entertaining, people-pleasing, revivalistic time of "giving our hearts to Jesus up there," which is why the original proposal simply won't - can't - work. We need to establish what worship IS before we can begin to talk about moving toward unity in HOW we worship.

    With all of that said, I know with absolute certainty that I share a common confession of the faith with some who do not use LSB, even as I do not share a common confession of the faith with many who do "use" LSB.

  24. Would we not be better of a a church body if we could all agree on using the same hymnal and agreeing on those rites and ceremonies instituted by men precisely for the reasons Luther indicates?

    I do not think that saying one of us should be free to set up a Tabernacle in the congregation, or practice Good Friday prostrations while most/many others don't is any more conducive for unity in the Faith as it is when Pastor Biedenbender divests himself of clerical attire and takes the stage.

    Now, I know how discomforting this comment is to the TGC, but it is the principle of striving for the greatest uniformity possible in these things that I keep arguing for and to me this applies to the "high side" of the equation as much as it would the "low side."

  25. The question, Paul, is: Does using a Tabernacle or Good Friday prostrations result in a different confession of the faith? After hearing from the brothers who practice these things, I would answer that question with a hearty "No." I do not use a Tabernacle, nor have I practiced Good Friday prostrations, but I trust the brothers who do these things and know that I share a common confession of the faith with them.

    Not so with Pastor Biedenbender who divests himself of clerical attire and takes the stage. There's a different confession of the faith there - a different theology of worship.

    Do you really not understand that?

    Your consistent urging of using the same hymnal (rites and rubrics) for the sake of fostering greater unity is understandable, but it loses credibility when you fail to distinguish the HUGE gap which exists between the differences in ceremony among like-minded brothers of TGC and the differences which exist with those who adhere to a completely different theology of worship and do not share a common confession of the faith. In other words, your argument is greatly weakened by putting the acceptable variations of ceremony (true adiaphora) on par with the variations employed by those who follow after every wind of doctrine and employ the latest fads and gadgets for the sake of relevance (false adiaphora).

    It's really not about "high" or "low"; it's about a common confession of the faith. I maintain that such is possible among those who fall on the "high" or "low" side of the equation. It would be nice if we all used the same hymnal, rites, and rubrics, but it is not necessary and, as Rick has pointed out above, is not feasible, as we all find ourselves in different places which require different degrees of pastoral care and discretion. What is possible - and necessary - is that we all share a common confession of the faith, which our worship will bear out in practice, be it "high," "low," or "somewhere in between."

  26. I believe a common confession can be greatly enhanced and facilitated if we would strive for maximal implementation of the comments that Dr. Luther made, no matter what the rite or ceremony instituted by men is.

    I remain convinced of this. It is a hopelessly naieve position and idealistic to a fault, I know. I can't change how things are, but I like to allow myself to imagine how they could be, or might be.

    To dream, the impossible dream

  27. Pastor McCain, can you not simply answer my question? When you speak of "a common rubric, rite and ceremony," do you suggest that the LSB should be both a minimum and maximum of liturgical practice? In other words, that only what it specifically permits is permitted, and that whatever it does not indicate is therefore forbidden? Because, if that is what you have in mind, then I can't in good conscience agree with you; nor is that the sort of approach that Dr. Luther advocates.

    But, if you have specific concerns about specific practices, and would like to suggest that, in love, those practices be either used or set aside in common -- fine, let's discuss those things in a fraternal manner. That is the very sort of thing that the Gottesdienst editors are trying to prompt and facilitate.

    However, to continue pointing to the LSB as though it answers all the questions and single-handedly provides for a uniformity of practice, that is simply not reasonable. Because, (a) the LSB allows for a rather wide range of practices, all the more so if the Lutheran Service Builder is considered to be a genuine use of the LSB; (b) the LSB rubrics, even considering the Altar Book, are for the most part rather general and minimalistic; so, (c) there are a host of particulars and a good many specific questions that the LSB rubrics don't address in one way or the other. I'm still trying to clarify whether your proposal of "a common rubric, rite and ceremony" would treat LSB silence as a point of freedom or as a tacit prohibition. The fact that you have not answered my question tends to confirm my cause for concern.

    It is disingenuous to imply that a congregation using the LSBuilder to cut and paste up the order and form of the Service every week is actually conforming in a friendly way to "a common rubric, rite and ceremony," while at the same time suggesting that those who (e.g.) elevate the Sacrament and genuflect in the presence of Christ are not.

    Everyone who's ever stumbled onto a blog knows that you really, really hate Tabernacles, so I'll set that aside. But why do you regard Good Friday prostrations as problematic or divisive? It is that sort of objection that leads me to believe that what you are actually proposing is a minimalistic, lowest-common-denominator approach, which would be far more akin to Zwingli and Calvin than Luther.

  28. How very amusing.

    Fr. Stuckwisch, I am thoroughly enjoying your means of handling our predictable interlocutor, but alas, he is so predictable that we already know he will pay no attention to reason.

    In addition to your latest unimpeachable rejoinder, I might add that it seems another telltale sign has surfaced in this latest complaint about Good Friday prostrations. It would seem that for him it is all a matter of show. No wonder we can't seem to see eye to eye.

  29. Rick, would you agree that it would be good if we all used the same hymnal?

  30. Dear Paul,

    Yes, as a matter of general principle, I think it would be good if we all used the same hymnal. That is one of the chief reasons that I have encouraged the use of LSB from day one.

    But simply using the same hymnal doesn't answer all the questions or guarantee a unity of practice. And, by the same token, using different hymnals does not prevent a unity of practice.

  31. Paul,

    Do you share a common confession of the faith with all LCMS pastors who use LSB?

  32. Hi Rick,

    Great, that's my only point in my comments. I just think it would be great if we could even all agree to use the same hymnal. Heck, I'd even love it if we would all agree to use the same Divine Service out of Lutheran Service Book.

    Like I said, I'm a hopeless idealist, perhaps, but...a guy can dream, can't he?

    I've never suggested, even remotely, that using the same hymnal settles all questions. Sure seem to me that not using the same hymnal doesn't do much for unity in practice.


  33. As an example of my point:

    My congregation uses LSB. Congregations using TLH are likely to have a very similar practice to ours; close enough that members could go from one to the other without difficulty. By contrast, congregations that ostensibly "use LSB," but muck about with it by way of the Builder, may look and sound quite different.

    Even aside from the Builder, which seems to have birthed what is perhaps the greatest bit of liturgical mischief in recent years, it is enitrely possible for different congregations all using the LSB to be all over the map in their respective rites and ceremonies. The book is beautiful and brilliant, and I love it, but it is a masterpiece of compromise as much as it is anything. Theoretically, it allows us all to be in the same book, while each congregation proceeds to do its own thing.

    Which is among the reasons why I don't believe it is the answer to maintain that the LSB should be the maximum and minimum of liturgical practice. That doesn't yet provide for a unity of practice, but offers a letter-of-the-law strategy that actually curtails godly freedom while pretending outward unity.

    And, again, I say that as someone who is very grateful for the LSB, and who has promoted it from the beginning.

  34. Dear Paul,

    I agree with your sentiments concerning the use of one book. To some extent, it would be nice to have a common order and rite, even allowing for more than one musical setting (in the proper sense of that term). LSB has more "settings" than it needs; but in principle I'm not opposed to having more than one. The East uses Chrysostom most of the time and Basil at other key times in the year. At Emmaus, we use Setting Three most of the time, and Setting One at key times in the year.

    But my concern, Paul -- which is a sincere and serious concern -- is with the way the silences in LSB (for example) are to be regarded: Are they points of freedom, where pastoral care, discernment and discretion are exercised, in view of the Church's tradition and catholicity, with love for the congregation? Or does silence mean that either nothing goes, or else majority rules?

    The reason I ask and press this question is in view of other discussions, as well as this one, where you have objected to practices that have historic precedent but which lack common usage across the LCMS in our day. I posed the particular question, for example, concerning the Good Friday prostrations, because you expressed opposition to that practice. Why? Is it really fair to suggest that such a sign of reverence for the Cross of Christ is of no difference than the fellow who does away with vestments and struts across his "stage" to the backbeat of his five-man electric praise band?

    I'm all in favor of promoting the use of a common service book and hymnal; and I truly believe the LSB is an excellent choice for such a common book. But I believe there needs to be a different criteria for identifying and exercising the unity within which such a common book should find its place and usage.

  35. Even aside from the Builder, which seems to have birthed what is perhaps the greatest bit of liturgical mischief in recent years

    If you actually believe that, you've been asleep for the past twenty years. Seriously, we get it. You don't like the Builder, but I've seen it reintroduce a lot of congregations to a structured liturgy whereas before the pastor did whatever struck his fancy. Let's not indulge too much in the whole "bash the Builder" thing.

    Now as for your concern about the "silence" of LSB.

    Can you provide a detailed and concrete list of these silences? I'd find that instructive, for I'm not sure I understand what you are talking about.

    The Good Friday floor practices have their roots as was, finally, admitted in non-Lutheran sources, not Lutheran. That, to me, is problematic, to say the least. Let's try to stick to the point of your example, now, shall we?

    You have a real penchant for the whole "But I can do it, because they are doing that." You've got enough kids to be an expert in that kind of childish non-sequitor.

    But, if you really in fact truly do think I would endorse Pastor Bob's song/dance routine, I don't. Never have, so I have no idea why you feel such a need to try to play this particular game in these conversations.

    The solution to bad practice is not to replace it with bad practices on the "high side" of the equation.

    What comes out very clearly in your comments Rick is that you remain disgruntled about Lutheran Service Book because you did not get your way on various issues and did not see your agenda fully realized.

  36. Wow, Paul, you go from courteous and agreeable to downright rude and mean pretty quickly. What on earth did I say to rile you up?

    I have been sticking to the point at hand, and you still haven't answered my question. I did not say that you were in favor of song and dance routines. I know very well that you are not. So I asked you to clarify why you would equate the Good Friday prostrations with such song and dance routines. Because I think your statement that such disparate examples are finally no different from each other is unfair and unfounded, and just plain wrong.

    You are also quite mistaken in your reading of my attitude regarding the LSB, and I frankly have no idea what "agenda" you are referring to. I think the Collects should have been included in the pew edition, and I think the entire Psalter should have been included. I think that we should not have gotten rid of Luther and Gerhardt hymns, and that we should not have included token "contemporary" songs. But I would hardly say that I am "disgruntled" with the book. I don't even know where that comes from. Ask the people in my district how I feel about the LSB, which I spent two years promoting at every opportunity I could get.

    Also, to clarify, it's not so much the Builder itself that I dislike as the way it was promoted and the way that I have seen it used. All this talk about using the same book means nothing when the rites are routinely shuffled and modifed and cut and pasted. I have yet to see the Builder used simply to print out an order of service from the book "as is." I'm sure that happens, but I haven't seen it. I have seen it grossly abused, in the very way it was promoted by certain people already back in 2006. Am I disgruntled about that? Yes, I suppose I am.

    Paul, I have provided you with examples of those things the LSB is silent about in the past. The problem with such a list is that it is ultimately endless. There are all sorts of things the LSB does not specify. So I am simply asking you, in such cases, is there freedom or prohibition? Where the LSB does not indicate what could or should be done, does a pastor have discretion to exercise pastoral care and make decisions? Or is he constrained by the lowest-common-denominator of broad synodical practices?

    In response to the one specific example at hand -- which you raised in this conversation -- instead of answering my question about it, you have resorted to insulting me. Or trying to, at any rate. What gives with that? I asked you on what basis you objected to the Good Friday prostrations, and I posed that as one example of where the LSB is silent. Does the LSB prohibit Good Friday prostrations? Does it say anything at all about them? Then it is silent. So my question would be, in that case: Are Good Friday prostrations free, or are they prohibited. You have previously said, or implied, that not only are they not free, but they are an abuse on par with not wearing vestments and parading about on a stage. On what basis or criteria? How is it a non-sequitor for me to ask that? And why is it so hard for you to answer?

  37. Rick:

    Bad practice, based on bad theology, is bad. No matter if it looks liturgical or not. Why is it so hard for you to understand that?


  38. Bad practice, based on bad theology, is bad. No matter if it looks liturgical or not. Why is it so hard for you to understand that?

    Clearly, that settles matters then. Wow!

    Fr. Stuckwisch, why bother? Really? You can't carry on a discussion with someone who resorts to the "na na na na naaaa na" technique.

  39. Okay, Paul, I assume you're simply not going to deal with the Good Friday prostrations. Perhaps you've given your critique of that practice elsewhere. Fine. Forget that one.

    I don't have my Altar Book here at home, so I may well be forgetting something, but let me try again with those four big bugaboos I also mentioned previously: Chanting, Chasubles, Elevation, and Genuflecting.

    Chanting is set forth as a norm in the LSB, so that is clearly within the parameters that you have identified, Paul. Fair enough. But now, what about those places where chanting isn't indicated. In particular, the LSB is silent as to whether the Verba may be chanted in Setting One and Setting Two. In view of that silence, should a pastor be free to chant the Verba when using those settings? Or is he obliged not to chant them in that context?

    As I recall, chasubles are another point where the LSB is silent. For the sake of argument, let's assume that they aren't mentioned. If that is the case, then is a pastor free to use a chasuble or not? And either way, Why?

    Likewise in the case of the elevation of the Sacrament and in the case of genuflecting at various points in the Liturgy. Where the LSB is silent, are these ceremonies free? Or are they prohibited? And either way, Why?

    What about the sign of the cross? The LSB identifies a number places where the sign of the cross is appropriate. Great! But may the sign of the cross also be made in other places, where the LSB has not so indicated?

    That may begin to sound like a silly question, but I continue to ask quite seriously and sincerely. If am ridiculed for trying, let that be on the head of my accuser. These are particular examples, which mainly aim at determining whether or not LSB silence is to be interpreted as freedom or prohibition.

    In a larger vein, it is neither wise nor right nor really even possible for all congregations to have "a common ceremony," if that is taken to mean that all of them have to do the same things in the same way. What works with a small congregation in a small space won't work so well in a large congregation and a large space. And what may be beautifully appropriate, meet, right and salutary in a large situation, may not be at all appropriate or feasible in a smaller situation. That is why there needs to be clear criteria based on a common confession of the faith, and clear parameters within which to work and proceed, and a freedom for pastoral discernment and discretion. When I speak of LSB silences, therefore, I do not offer that as a critique, but as an obsrvation and a statement of fact. No book is going to be able to answer all of the questions, and I honestly wouldn't want one that tried.

  40. I wanted to let everyone know that I've written privately to Pastor Stuckwisch about this, but also simply here to state that I do apologize for the inappropriately rude remarks and the argumentative approach I take on these issues, in general, and most recently directed to him specifically.

    I do not feel I'm making a positive contribution and it would be best for me to withdraw entirely from conversations on this blog site.


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