Saturday, July 31, 2010

Once a pastor always a pastor?

The brothers over at the Brothers of St. John the Steadfast were discussing a recent article here at Gottesdienst wherein I mentioned that Rev. Matt Harrison was by virtue of his ordination "ontologically a bishop." The brothers wondered at my choice of words. I agree that they were perhaps not the best and I posted this in reply:

"Thanks for the kind words, fellas.

I didn’t mean “ontologically” to imply Rome’s theory of the indelible character. We don’t go for that. But I do think that ordination is the final step in God’s calling a man to be a minister through the Church (according to Chemnitz’ Enchiridion, this begins with education, call, testing, and then ordination). Once God does that, I believe the man is a pastor, a minister, until he dies, or until the Church defrocks him for just reason. I think our practice proves that this is what the Missouri Synod really believes: retired pastors are still pastors; as are men who serve as DP’s and so forth. How do I know? Because every time they are called to fill in for somebody on vacation they are not “installed” or “re-ordained.” If “ontologically a pastor” is not a good way of speaking – then help me out with another. “Once a pastor always a pastor”? I’m open to suggestions to get across the truth that one is a minister by the Call of the whole church, which is no revoked just because he’s serving as a professor, editor, or on CRM status.

Some say that Walther taught something different: that if you are not actually serving a parish, you are a layman. If that’s what Walther meant, I think he was wrong. If any would defend that doctrine (I’m looking at you Vehse) I’m going to want a prooftext, from, like, you know: the Bible.

So what do you think? Am I Romanist for saying that the guys who have been pastors of congregations and are now on CRM status should still be referred to as Ministers of the Gospel? Is that unLutheran? That retired pastors are still pastors and when they fill in for vacationing pastors that this is not lay ministry?

If I'm right - then what is the best way to speak of this reality?


Does Ordination Matter?

Photographic proof.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Liturgical Form Follows Sanitary Function

By Larry Beane, with a HT to the Rev. David Juhl.

The form of the liturgy has developed based on both spiritual and practical matters. Obviously, at the Last Supper, our Lord used neither individual wafers nor individual communion cups. There is no evidence to suggest that the original disciples knelt at a rail, nor were they dismissed with the sign of the cross. And nobody is suggesting that we recline and pass around a common loaf as did the Twelve.

So, liturgical form does change over the centuries, and in our culture, change can be rapid.

One factor that will likely be an increasing influence on our liturgical practice in the United States is how to make distribution more sanitary and to minimize the role of germs in the Holy Sacrament. Americans are very concerned about health and sanitation.

Purity Solutions recognizes this concern about germs, and in fact, makes some bold claims about the effect the fear of germs has on thousands of people who either stop communing, quit the church, or start attending non-sacramental churches:
An estimated 30 percent of congregations will stop receiving communion during the cold and flu season. The worry of passing germs and the embarrassment of not participating in communion prevents some church goers from attending church, reducing donations to support the work of the church. Recent surveys have shown that charitable donations are also decreasing due to the continuing rise in fuel prices. With church attendance and donations on the decline, churches are looking for new ideas to increase attendance.
The founders of the company explain how they identified the problem for which they founded Purity Solutions, as well their quest to create a form of "self-communion" that "could be received at any time and any place."
With the most recent concern of spreading germs, it has become apparent that a germ free way to receive communion must be developed. As there are many people that do not receive communion because of the chance of getting sick or catching someone else’s germs. People by the thousands were starting to stay away from communion because of the germs. The church community needed a solution and Purity just happened to have the solution.
The flagship of their line of products is a host dispenser into which wafers are loaded into a tube, which serves as a sacramental vessel on the altar during consecration. During the distribution itself, the pastor or lay distribution assistant clicks the trigger on the device to distribute the hosts - which he or she never touches. This is touted as a much more sanitary method of distribution, as well as more efficient in terms of time and money. It is hoped that this will increase church attendance and participation in the Eucharist.

They have also developed several forms of communion wafers:
  • Classic - standard hosts preloaded into dispenser tubes
  • Body + Blood - hosts pre-infused with wine during the baking process
  • Pillow Pak™ - individually sealed "Body + Blood" hosts
Purity Solutions even includes a rubrical modification to the consecration which takes into account the innovative nature of this communion vessel, its contents, and manner of distribution:
Our Lord Jesus Christ, on the night when he was betrayed, *took bread, blessed, broke the bread and gave it to his disciples, saying," Take, eat; this is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

* When the clergy says “took bread” the clergy picks up the dispenser, dispenses a host into his or her hand, sets the dispenser down, breaks the host and raises it up. The clergy can also choose to have a small plate with one of the larger size hosts that he or she can break and raise up.

In the same way he *took the cup, thanked and said,” Drink from it, all of you.
This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. Do this, as often as you drink from it, in remembrance of me.”

* If Purity Wine-Infused Hosts are being used the clergy raises the dispenser. The clergy can also choose to have a chalice of wine to raise up.

When the clergy or lay person dispenses the host into the parishioners hand he or she should say, the body and blood of Christ given for you or the body and blood of Christ shed for you.
It's hard to predict whether or not this will catch on, but I think there's a fairly good chance. And if it does, it will influence liturgical practice.

Obviously, the biggest issue is with the "wine infused hosts." There is no wine left over after baking. At best, this is basically a reversion to receiving the sacrament in one kind. Secondly, this method of distribution is intended for manual (in the hand) reception of the Lord's Body. Congregations and parishes used to the practice of receiving the hosts orally would have to modify that practice. Third, there is the issue of the reliquiae - the remaining consecrated hosts. The traditional use of a paten (the plate upon which the hosts are placed) allows the pastor a great deal of control over how many hosts to consecrate. The Purity Solutions dispenser is all pre-loaded, thus potentially resulting in a large number of consecrated hosts. This could lead congregations using the dispenser into a need for a tabernacle.

And there is the issue of aesthetics. Obviously, this is not essential to the validity or efficaciousness of the Sacrament, but reception of the Body and Blood of Christ from a mechanical dispenser that makes a noise like a staple gun is a rather stark change to the simple dignity of the pastor placing the miraculous Lord's Body and Blood directly into the mouth of the communicant.

One benefit of traditional communion is its low-tech nature. Currently, we can celebrate communion in the church or in private pastoral care situations with no worries of mechanical breakdown, dead batteries, or wireless interruptions. The more Holy Communion depends on gadgetry and a multiplicity of distribution methods the more possible impediments there are to its celebration.

Finally, I would like to see their research. I just find it hard to buy their marketing claim that hordes of people shy away from sacramental churches because of the threat of germs. It might be true, but it would behoove Purity Solutions to share these numbers.

Until they do, I think Purity Solutions is a "solution" in search of a problem. And yet, at the same time, I can see CPH selling their products one day, and I can certainly imagine LCMS congregations employing these products. And considering the "law of unintended consequences," I can see yet another thing to create unnecessary divisions and liturgical diversity in our midst.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Cirque de No Way!

Next up on the Liturgical Trainwreck Channel: the PC-USA (with emphasis on the PC). You know this is an extreme example when the least offensive element is the dancing girls. This is one you watch holding your breath praying the "Please, God, don't let this be a Missouri Synod Trainwreck" collect.

HT: The Rev'd Fr. Esget, who is "waiting for the parousia." Aren't we all, Padre? Aren't we all...

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A Symposium on the Incarnation

Here following, in chronological order, is an exchange of correspondence which began after Pastor Brian Hamer’s second installment of his essay, “Reflections on the Promenade Sermon,” was published in our Trinity 2010 issue. The concluding part of his essay will appear in our Michaelmas 2010 issue, which is soon to be published. What, you don't subscribe? You may take care of that little matter by clicking here.

Congratulations on another thought-provoking issue of Gottesdienst. I particularly enjoyed the spoof of Facebook and Pastor Fabrizius' very pastoral essay on global warming, which in my opinion would communicate well with laypeople.

I have a concern, however. Please bear with me. Understand up front that I write not as someone who pooh-poohs the liturgical heritage you so heroically defend, but as a sympathizer who has been knocked down and ground into the dust in the battle to uphold the holy ministry of Word and Sacrament. I write in brotherly concern over a couple of points where I think we need to be especially careful in order not to set ourselves back even further.

In Brian Hamer’s essay on the Second Article vs. preachers drifting around the sanctuary, I found that Pastor Hamer best understood the pastoral vocation when he referred to God speaking “through a human agent.” On the other hand, when he says “God chooses to reveal Himself incarnationally,” his language becomes dangerously misleading. The ministry is not “God made flesh” in the body of the pastor. For the sake of a clear confession, the Word “incarnation” must be set aside to describe the person of Christ. There is only one incarnation of God. I urge you not to describe the ministry as an “incarnational” event, but as a vocation in which God speaks (in Pastor Hamer’s own words) “through a human agent.”

In my perhaps solitary opinion, arguing over whether the ministry is ontological or functional is unproductive. Whatever “—ology” you file it under, it is a definite vocation, specifically ordained by God so that we may find Christ present in Word and Sacrament―not in the body of the pastor as such.

Rev. Robin Fish, Jr.
Exec. Asst., Good News Journal
Organist & Choir Director, Epiphany LCMS St. Louis, MO

Rev. Fish,
Greetings; thanks for your email and your kind compliments.

We always appreciate feedback, and especially when it indicates a reflective consideration of the material presented in the journal. Thank you kindly for taking the time to engage the important matter over which you have raised a question.

I will forward your concerns to Pastor Hamer, but I do have some thoughts of my own on the matter, and I appreciate having the opportunity to enter this conversation, if I may.

My understanding of your point is that you are concerned that by using the term “incarnational” in referring to the pastor one could be wading unintentionally close to a riptide of blasphemy, since of course only Christ is the Incarnate God. So your concern pertains to language rather than to theology. On the latter we are of course agreed.

As you are doubtless aware, the term ‘incarnational’ has certainly been subject to considerable abuse in recent years. I recall, for instance—I am not making this up—hearing a pastor defend his use of a dinosaur costume in a chapel message for children by saying it was incarnational. So I would agree that a certain circumspection is always helpful when we choose theological terms.

But as I read Pastor Hamer’s article, it seems to me that he has been careful to avoid such a misunderstanding, even in the very sentence you cite. Your concern over his assertion that “God chooses to reveal himself incarnationally” does not address the very next words in the essay, namely: “to prepare His people to understand the incarnation of Christ.” I take it you do not consider these words to be sufficient clarification.

For my part, I find Luther’s example of God's use of Adam as his agent, which is Pastor Hamer’s referent regarding the words in question, to be particularly helpful. Adam is no more the incarnate God than the pastor is, and yet there is something quite fitting about God’s use of Adam, and of the pastor, to speak. These men, created in the image of God, are themselves reflections of the Incarnate One who is the Image of God.

In addition, I’d say that the pastor is actually a bit more than simply “a human agent”; he is, rather, an agent who is human. He is an agent more fit than an angel to be an ambassador for Christ, because he is human. In fact, I might add, because he is a man, and we can even go so far as to see this as the reason for the biblical prohibition of women pastors. The pastor must be male because Christ is male, the Second Adam.

Those are my initial thoughts, for what they’re worth.

Again, many thanks.


Pastor Eckardt,

I appreciate your re-emphasizing that my concern about “incarnational” is an issue of language, not of theology. However, I don’t think it should be minimized thereby. One of the key principles in sacramental theology, as I see it, is that “words mean things” and their meaning is most important. I feel no need to quibble over whether we say pastors are “human agents” or “agents who happen to be human”; and anyway, in my first response I was simply citing Pastor Hamer’s language. What I do deem important is the sense of the word “incarnation.”

I’m not trying to accuse anyone of blasphemy, but we surely don’t need the static that might result from a needless misunderstanding over our choice of words. I don’t have a total aversion to the word “incarnational.” I agree that it can be a useful and meaningful term, if it is used advisedly. I don’t think, however, that Pastor Hamer used it so, even with the qualifying phrase that followed the bit I quoted. His essay got more mileage out of the concept of ministry as “incarnation” than just that one crass quote. And I don’t agree that such a use of “incarnation” can be defended based on his quotes from Luther.

The problem is what we are saying, or at least suggesting, when we import the term “incarnation” into a discussion of the ministry. Being creatures of flesh does not make us an incarnation. Being humans made in the image of God, and even specifically men in the image of Christ, does not make us an incarnation. Even being God’s mouthpiece does not make us an incarnation. Ambassador, yes. Instrument through whom God speaks, yes. You could go out on a limb (I have, risking charges of heresy;) and say that all Christians are a sort of “incarnation” to the extent that Christ is formed in us (Galatians 4:19), etc.

But there is a good reason we call Jesus the “Incarnate One.” In respect whereof we speak of His incarnation, He is unique. We are of the flesh from the moment of our origin; He is the Only-Begotten of the Father who became flesh. We are justified because of this mystery. Everything we believe about the sacraments, especially their saving and healing power, spins out of the incarnation mystery.

To be sure, the church needs a refresher course on what Christ says of preachers: “He who receives you receives me” (St. Matthew 10:40; St. John 13:20). But this happens not when you shake the pastor’s hand, but when you listen to his kerygma. The people need to be directed, in the clearest terms, to where Christ is bodily present for them: the preached message and the sacraments.

In my opinion, Gottesdienst’s great value to the church lies in unambiguously and uncompromisingly pointing this out. The trap to avoid is, as Pastor Hamer himself argues in his essay, letting people think (either by telling them so, or by failing to tell them otherwise) that their encounter with the incarnate God occurs through the person of their pastor (or through human charisma, or feelings, or ecstatic experiences, or flights of pious imagination, etc.). God's mouthpiece may walk a cross-shadowed way and even “bear in [his] body the marks of Jesus” (Gal. 6:17), and so share in the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings (Phil. 3:10), just as Hamer (pace Luther) points out regarding Methuselah. But this matters chiefly because our infirmities bear witness that our ministry is established not on human power, but on the power of Christ manifested in Word and Sacrament.

Peace in Him,
Rev. Robin Fish, Jr.

Dr. Eckardt,

Greetings and thanks for the feedback.

I think you have answered his concerns sufficiently. Thanks for taking the lead in that matter. Indeed, I did not intend to communicate that Christ is incarnate in the body of the pastor, nor do I think I said such a thing. Rather, I believe that Christ is still incarnate in the preaching of the Gospel and the giving of the sacraments. In that sense, I think it is safe to say that Christ is incarnate through the pastoral office as He dispenses the gifts of the Gospel through His ordained ministers.

An interesting sidebar conversation for your stellar journal would be on the appropriate use of the word “incarnation.” I know some confessional Lutherans use the term to refer to the work of Christ through the life of the believer (third article). Others prefer to reserve it strictly for the second article. There might be a case for appropriate theological nomenclature on the use of “incarnation” vs. “incarnational,” to wit, that the former (as a noun or as a verb) usually refers to the et incarnatus est of the Creed, and the latter (as an adjective) to the entire scope of His person and work, past or present. I would have to check the dogmatics books on this one before going any further.

Thanks again for the feedback and keep up the great work with Gottesdienst.

Rev. Brian Hamer
Pastor, Redeemer Lutheran Church,
Bayside, NY


Your usage seems appropriate to me. “Incarnation” need not only refer to our Lord. It is used commonly to mean “take shape” or “form,” and it has a profitable use to describe the tangibility of the Lord’s gifts in the ministry and the means of grace. I wonder if substituting the term “fleshly” or “tangible” would help to assuage concerns.

+Rev. Christopher S. Esget
Immanuel Ev.-Lutheran Church and School (LCMS)
Alexandria, Virginia


That especially clear light that Luther shed upon the Scriptures, Law and Gospel, is a proverbially tough nut to crack. One of the first inter-Lutheran dust ups was on this topic under the name of Antinomianism. Ever since, “antinomian” has been a favorite epithet among Lutherans debating one another. As an epithet, it is widely and imprecisely used. So let's aim at some more precision.

Hard Core Antinomianism: The moral law simply does not apply to Christians. You may do whatever you find desirous – indeed, to indulge in acts that are contrary to the moral law may be encouraged because it helps get it out of your flesh's system. This is Münzer and almost nobody else.

Agricolan Antinomianism: The classic brand. Christians do not need to hear the preaching of the Law because the Gospel alone will bring about good works. This is refuted in FC VI.

Once Saved, Always Saved Antinomianism: A Christian does not lose his faith even if he engages in open, willful, persistent sin. Luther seems to have imputed this idea to the Agricolans, but maybe that wasn't quite fair. At any rate, he vociferously attacks this version of Antinomianism in SA III.3.42-45.

Liturgical Antinomianism: Binding, enforced regulations regarding the worship life of the Church are incompatible with the Gospel. The COP's theses on worship released some months ago tread awfully close to this error – it is refuted in AC XXVIII.

Moral Law Antinomianism. Someone who denies part of the moral law is rightly called an Antinomian. However, the title is usually tossed about in a way that casts all heat and no light due to the fact that it is almost always used as a form of begging the question. For example, let us imagine two men and name them...oh, I don't know.... “Luther” and “Rehwinkel.” Luther says contraception is a sin, Rehwinkel says it isn't. Luther calls Rehwinkel an Antinomian; Rehwinkel calls Luther a Binder of Consciences. Both of those statements are begging the question. The debate is whether or not contraception is a sin. If it is, then Luther's no Binder of Consciences. If it is isn't, then Rehwinkel is no Antinomian. So just calling someone with whom you disagree over a particular point of moral law an Antinomian is really just a fancy way of restating your position without arguing for it: that is, question begging, petitio principii. Now, it is certainly true that Lutherans who accept homosexual acts as A-OK are rightly called Antinomians – it's just that saying so in the midst of an argument with them is not an argument, but just a statement of one's position.

Are there any that I missed?


Monday, July 26, 2010

New Poll: The Common Service

Gottesdienst has long been supportive of the use of the Common Service in English speaking Lutheranism. Our reasoning can be read in this modest proposal for the use of the Common Service today. This venerable English-speaking descendant of Luther's Latin Mass was once a rallying point of liturgical unity across American Lutheranism - and is the only serious contender for the role if such unity should ever be viewed as desirable yet again.

So what is the state of the Common Service in your congregation? Please answer the poll at right and put in the comments any notes you think worthwhile for others to read - for example, did you reintroduce the service where you are now serving? Did some pastor come in and take it away from you? Did you leave it for a while but then come back to it?

The congregations I'm serving now began holding Divine Service in English in 1915-16. The Common Service has been the only order of Communion ever used here in these 95 years. Any others with that kind of history? Anybody out there serving or attending a congregation where it's never been used? If so, when was that parish founded?


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Road Trip to Detroit, Anyone?

By Larry Beane, shamelessly cross-posted from Father Hollywood...

This year's St. Michael's Liturgical Conference looks like a winner.

In great contrast to the rock bands, skits, and dancing girls at the disturbingly-titled Worship Service/Mass Event at the LCMS National Youth Gathering (read and weep) in the New Orleans Superdome, the theme of the 13th annual St. Michael's Conference at Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church in Detroit will be:
Augsburg Confession, Article XXIV: “Falsely are our churches accused of abolishing the Mass; for the Mass is retained among us, and celebrated with the highest reverence.” The conference will examine the Mass in the Lutheran Confessions and the writings of Luther, stressing the practical contemporary application of our Confession “The Mass is celebrated among us with the highest reverence.”
The keynote address will be given by one of my former professors, the brilliant Lutheran scholar the Rev. Prof. Roland Ziegler:
of Concordia Theological Seminary Fort Wayne, will address the question “What does it mean when the Augsburg Confession claims that the subscribing churches retained the Mass?” This requires a historical investigation of the form of worship used among Lutherans around 1530 and the decade to follow, and what dogmatic relevance the form of the Mass had among Lutherans in the time of the reformation. Only then can we discern what this statement means for contemporary practice.
Now how much would you pay? But wait! There's more!...
Sectional presenters will be Fr. Burnell Eckardt, Pastor of St. Paul, Kewanee, and editor of Gottesdienst magazine; the Reverend Dr. Daniel Reuning, Kantor and church musician of Redeemer Lutheran Church of Fort Wayne, and Dean of Chapel at CTS for 31 years; Deacon David Muehlenbruch of Bethany Lutheran Church, Fort Wayne, and of the Lex Orandi web site; and Fr. Mark Braden, Pastor of Zion Detroit.

Sectional presentations will treat of both the ceremony and the rite of the Lutheran high Mass, with special attention paid to the rubrics for the Celebrant, Deacon and Subdeacon, and the chanting of the Gospel.

At the Mass, Fr. David Petersen of Redeemer, Fort Wayne will preach, the Rt. Rev. David Stechholz, Bishop of the English District, will preside, and Fr. Braden will serve as Celebrant.

Zion Detroit sponsored the St. Michael Liturgical Conference from 1998 until 2005. From 2006-2008 the St Michael Liturgical Conferences were held at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
My family and parochial duties (not to mention financial limitations) will keep me a good thousand miles away, but I've been to St. Michael's conferences while studying at Fort Wayne, and they were always top-notch in both scholarship and hospitality. I highly recommend them to any Lutheran.

This year's conference will not only feature a District President (the Bishop of the English District), but also two Fort Wayne professors (Prof. Ziegler and Dr. Reuning). Fr. Braden (Zion's pastor) is also a classmate of mine. He is not only a scholar and an exegete, but also a beloved Seelsorger and brother in the ministry. Dr. Eckardt, Fr. Petersen, and Dcn Muhlenbruch are all remarkable scholars and churchmen.

If you can get to Detroit on Monday, September 27, 2010, I recommend you sign up now!

Now this is what a "Mass Event" ought to look like!

Worship Service/Mass Event Pictures

"We have not abolished the Mass [event?]..."

Here are the official pictures.

Viewer discretion is advised.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Problem

How long are the inroads American Evangelicalism's theory of worship has made into Lutheranism? Within the LCMS, how great is the ignorance of basic Lutheran tenets about worship? Why does it seem you can't have a conversation with someone on the praise band side of the fence?

I give you the opening paragraph from an article lauding the new contemporary worship services (as well as Lutheran services) at Concordia - Seward. This is from the current issue of Seward's alumni magazine.

"Put down your books and pray awhile. On Tuesday and Thursday evenings students can take part in Evening Prayer, a 20-minute gathering that uses liturgies from the non-divine services of the Lutheran Service Book as its foundation."

Whatever the mild criticisms LSB has encountered from the traditionalist camp, I don't think anyone has ever called them "non-divine."

You see: folks don't even know the terms. They don't know how to talk about the liturgical heritage we all share. Prayer offices, the divine office, non-Eucharistic services - these are, evidently, foreign vocabulary items.

And did you catch "as its foundation"? I wonder what wood, hay, stubble is being built thereon.

The facing page begins: "The thumping backbeat of Christian rock music is what you'll hear when passing by Weller Hall on Wednesday evenings."

Passing by indeed!


Monday, July 19, 2010

On Modesty, the Rights of Men, and the Failure of the Prophetic Voice of the Church

Beloved in the Lord, would you give a naked picture of your wife to the postman? If the US Government started requiring you to give postmen naked pictures of your wife before you could mail a letter - do you think it would be meet, right, and salutary for the Church to speak against this using Her prophetic voice?

Well, golly, friends, the US Government is requiring lots of folks to let government employees see naked pictures of themselves, their wives, and their children before allowing them to board planes. This is wrong. It violates the integrity of the household, the sanctity of the marriage bond, the innocence of childhood, and the prerogatives of the Hausvater.

Even the Gentiles know this. Dubai won't allow the scanners because they are contradictory to Islam and insulting to women. They are right. They are also contradictory to all human decency and any sense of Christian modesty.

The next time you are at the airport and they want to take a pornoscan of you or your loved one, you have the blessing of this incumbent of the Apostolic Ministry to tell them, "No, thank you, that would violate my religious principles." Some minimum wage ruffian might then pat you down, but then you could count that toward becoming a Confessor.

Any objections to this post along the lines of "they can't really see anything" or "we need this for our security" or "this isn't the Church's business" will simply be referred here.


Friday, July 16, 2010

Red Chairs and Confessional Seals

I have heard that some of the “Red Chair” messages at the Synod Convention include a pastor (or two) telling stories about those who have come to him to confess their sins, and how the pastor then absolved them.

I have also heard that this prima facie breaking of our ordination vow (included explicitly since LW's rite and implicitly by the whole history of Christianity before that) was addressed at the convention by noting that the pastor either obtained the permission of the penitent to tell the story or changed the names Dragnet-wise.

I didn't watch the videos and I didn't hear the explanation of what went on. But I'll address the situation as it is described above: it is very troubling. Our own Fr. David Petersen has this advice for hearing confession:

When a penitent comes for the first time he needs to be reassured and reminded that this is a gift from God that actually forgives sins and that all sins die in your ear. Not because of some confidentiality agreement, that is for doctors and lawyers, but because they are genuinely and literally forgiven. They are removed. If the pastor speaks them again he brings them and damnation on himself. You took an oath to this effect and you do not want to go to Hell. You are aware that Hell is a possibility. It would, in fact, be just and that frightens you. Tell him you are promising that you will not judge him for what he confesses nor will you ever speak of it again in any way. You will never tell anyone what he has confessed - even without his name. In other words, you are not promising merely to never say "John told me . . ." but to never even say, "Someone once told me . . ." You will never speak these sins again even to people that do not know him. You will not use him or his problems as a discussion point in winkel or as a case study for a paper. They are gone. They are put to death with Jesus. They are left in the grave. You will never speak them again in any circumstance or for any reason.

Brethren, the ordination vow you swore (if you were ordained under the LCMS rite of 1982 and onward - before then, the vow is implicit in the history of Christianity) states simply that you "will never divulge the sins confessed to you." If you want to make some fancy argument such that "divulge" is avoided if permission is sought or names changed - I think you are treading on thin ice, and frankly, I don't buy it. Father Petersen's advice is the best advice anyone will give you in regards to keeping that vow and for encouraging people to make use of this comforting Sacrament.


Thursday, July 15, 2010

What Harrison Can Do

The following will appear, Dv, in the next print issue of Gottesdienst along with other analysis of the future of traditional, confessional Lutheranism in the LCMS from many of the other Gottesdienst editors.

What Harrison Can Do

by Fr. H. R. Curtis

I have often wondered at people lamenting the LCMS' lack of bishops. The problem with the LCMS is that she has far too many bishops. A bishop, in the Lutheran understanding, is a holder of the pastoral office exercising all the duties thereof. There is only one Office of the Ministry, and it can only be passed on whole and undivided. You can't give some men just give a piece of the Office, as in Rome's understanding. Some men, for the sake of good order, might not exercise all of the duties thereof - but all have the same Office, all are bishops.

Therefore a bishop acting as a bishop is a shepherd of souls - he is somebody's pastor. He's a steward of the mysteries and as such has the authority to see to the proper administration of those mysteries: "To this we answer that it is lawful for bishops or pastors to make ordinances that things be done orderly in the Church." (AC XXVIII.53)

Instead of a few of these sorts of bishops, exercising all the duties of their office over a few large territories, the LCMS has thousands of these bishops over small territories. Thousands of men each and every week, who are the shepherds of souls, have and exercise the authority to make ordinances about how things are done in the services of the Church. We have lots, and lots, and lots of bishops.


The President of the LCMS does not and cannot, therefore, act as a bishop in this Lutheran sense. He is not the pastor of anybody. (At least, he hasn't been in about half a century.) And he does not have the right to change any parish's ceremonies and order of service. And, since he is nobody's pastor, neither is he the pastor of the other pastors of the Synod - and thus those pastors do not owe him the obedience that "hearers owe their pastors" in these sorts of matters. Or to put it another way: the President of the Missouri Synod is not empowered to excommunicate anybody.

So, first off, curtail your expectations of the new President of the Missouri Synod. He cannot stop neo-evangelical worship and the ongoing abolishment of the Mass among us with the nod of his head. He cannot say to that Winkel colleague of yours, "Stop communing Methodists, and use the Common Service." He is not serving as bishop. No doubt, he is by virtue of his ordination ontologically a bishop, but he is not exercising that Biblical Office over anybody; rather, he exercises an office created by the Constitution and By-Laws of the LCMS.

But here is what President Harrison can do, and what I hope he does, for the cause of confessional Lutheranism in North America and around the world.

The Rule of IV

The problems that beset us can be helpfully arranged by reference to the Augsburg Confession. And, happily enough for the mnemonically challenged, the really problematic ones these days are: IV, XIV, and XXIV. President Harrison can aid the cause of traditional, confessional Lutheranism under each article.

AC IV: Grace Alone (No, Seriously: Alone)

The outgoing leadership of the LCMS has made no bones about their focus on Missions. The Ablaze! campaign was the heart and soul of President Kieschnick's vision for what the LCMS was to be: an evangelical powerhouse growing by way of adult conversions and critical events. He was also found of a certain rhetoric that was, frankly, Arminian in tone. It boiled down to this: Life is short, and Hell is not. Every time I snap my fingers somebody goes to Hell. Get out there and stop that from happening! If we don't give, pray, and tell the message, people will end up in Hell to whom we could have gotten the message and saved them from such a fate.

Um, what about grace alone? What about the Election of Grace? Will God really lose one of his elect if I'm lazy and do nothing? Is the population of heaven a function of my exertion? I explored this issue in much greater detail at the Gottesdienst West conference this summer (paper here), but for now let me get right to what President Harrison can do to help turn back the tide of this Functional Arminianism and Arminian rhetoric. He can simply say something like this each time he speaks of missions: Brethren, God saves us by grace and he has promised that no one can snatch his elect from his hands. If you decide to sit around and never tell anybody about Jesus, you will not be able to take a little lamb from his hand. But how can you keep from speaking of Jesus? You are saved by God's grace! And more grace abounds - he will use you as an instrument for speaking the word of grace so that all his elect might be gathered in from every tribe and nation. . .

AC XIV: Pastors pastor

This is the hardest theological task President Harrison will face. For twenty years now the LCMS has been, not only in practice around the edges, but officially on paper and at the center, a heterodox body. In 1989, the LCMS tossed out AC XIV and its insistence that only those placed in the Office of the Ministry shall preach, teach, and administer the Sacraments.

This is the most pressing, clear cut issue for Missouri and world Lutheranism today. If the Missouri Synod, the founder of so many confessional church bodies around the world, can simply get by without pastors in large swaths of her territory - then why shouldn't we Russians, Haitians, South Africans, save time and money and just train laymen to do these functions as well?

This is an open scandal, a denial of Scriptural truth, and a delight to the devil, the world, and the flesh. The rejection of the Biblical mandate and need for placing men in the Office of the Ministry is firmly entrenched in many districts (not to mention many hearts and minds). But there is hope. In July 2007, the systematics faculties of the seminaries came out forcefully against the current LCMS teaching in a joint statement that was ignored by the Kieschnick administration. President Harrison could resurrect this document and use his talents as a good teacher and powerful preacher to lead us into faithfulness.

He also has the services of a First VP who has been rock solid on this issue. In fact, while he was DP in SID, now First VP Mueller not only prevented any consecrations by laity, but was even known to volunteer his time on Sunday mornings to serve areas that could not find any other vacancy pastor. Now we need these two godly men to preach and teach on this topic both publicly and at the COP table and call the Synod to repentance. This will take bravery and strength. Pray for them.

AC XXIV: Ubi missa est?

The conventions of the LCMS are notoriously hard to analyze. Why did the 2010 convention pass the bulk of President Kieschnick's vision for the day-to-day operations of the Synod - and then hand it over to Matt Harrison to run? Verily, this is a great mystery.

But maybe it was that opening service. In 2007, when I and the greater part of the Gottesdienst editorial staff were delegates, the opening service was Divine Service, Setting 1 from LSB. During the convention proceedings some of the walking music was performed by a praise band - but it was just the walking music. Never entered the Divine Service. But on opening night of this convention, President Kieschnick's worship planning team really let 'er rip. Oh, it was still the DS - mostly. But there were some "fresh" lines mixed in with the Kyrie - sort of a chancel dramatic reading if not a chancel drama. And there was a "techie" TV altar. And there was a real life praise band. And there were key changes of which no one was warned. And there were. . .

This was all a first. And there were so many of these firsts. And I wonder if it wasn't all a bit much for many of the delegates coming from nice, normal LCMS churches. How many of those 50 or so swing voters saw that worship service and thought - gosh, has it come to this? All us Lutherans in the room and we do - this?

The way forward for President Harrison here couldn't be easier. Another local story, if you'll indulge me. We used to have these worship wars, I am told, in the SID at pastors' conferences. One circuit would host conference and it was all praise bandy and ex corde orders of service. Another would host and it was time to play duck the censer and keep up with the Gregorian chant tones. In other words, the corporate worship of the brethren became the time to score points. The DP (yes, this is another Herb Mueller story) finally took things in hand and encouraged the planning committee to take the worship at conferences from then on - and to just do the orders as printed in LSB.

Peace and prosperity ever since. Worship is worship again and not point scoring. When Lutherans gather, we follow Lutheran orders of service that all Lutherans know and everybody's happy. In 2013 I'll bet dollars to donuts that President Harrison instructs the chaplain to just do what's in the book. And in the meantime, he can just say a few nice things here and there about the rich heritage of our Lutheran worship, how great LSB is, and how neat it is to worship just like grandpa did. That's all he needs to do to lend a lot of support to the liturgy - the ensuing silence about "diverse forms of worship" after nine years of hearing about it will be worth more, and be more classy, than any argumentative statements he could come up with.

Of course, if President Harrison encouraged a pastor here or there to rediscover the Common Service, had a talk with the St. Louis Seminary about what's appropriate in chapel, and wants to lead Vespers at the next Gottesdienst Octoberfest, that would be fine, too.


Santiago Matamoros

The Feast of St. James the Greater, July 25, falls on Sunday this year and appropriately replaces the Trinity VIII propers.

The excesses of James' medieval cult, especially the indulgenced pilgrimage to Compostela, were a favorite target of Luther - but that should not diminish our joy in God's gift of James. Rather, it should be all the moor (ha!) reason for us to celebrate this early martyr and Son of Thunder.

Here is a link to a Roman Catholic explanation of the legend and day of James the Greater that is interesting - and demonstrates that many of the abuses that Luther pointed out are, sadly, still a part of Roman piety. But this link also includes a couple of great recipes for your Feast day lunch.

Finally, here are the propers as listed in the Daily Divine Service Book: A Lutheran Daily Missal (2011 - we hope). The bracketed propers are in conformity with LSB, the unbracketed propers are the older, traditional propers.


St. James the Elder, Apostle

July 25

Double Second Class – Red Vestments – Apostles’ Preface

Beginning of the Divine Service: turn to (A) p. STARTOFDS


How precious also are thy thóughts unto mé, O God! * how gréat is the súm of them!

(Psalm 139: 17)


O LORD, thou hast seárched me, and knówn me. * Thou knowest my sitting dówn and my rísing up.

Glory be to the Fáther and tó the Son * and tó the Hóly Ghost.

As it was in the beginning, is now, and éver sháll be, * wórld without énd. Amen.

(Psalm 139: 1-2a)



I will speak of thy testimonies álso befóre kings, * and will nót be a-shamed. (Psalm 119: 46)


I will sing of the mercies of the LÓRD for éver: * with my mouth will I make known thy faithfulness to all génerátions.

And the heavens shall praise thy wónders, O LORD: * thy faithfulness also in the congregátion óf the saints.

Bless-ed is the people that knów the jóyful sound: * they shall walk, O LORD, in the líght of thy cóuntenance.

In thy name shall théy rejoice áll the day: * and in thy righteousness shall they bé exálted.

Glory be to the Fáther and tó the Son * and tó the Hóly Ghost.

As it was in the beginning, is now, and éver sháll be, * wórld without énd. Amen.

(Psalm 89: 1, 5, 15-16)]

Turn to (C) p. KYRIE

(D) Collect of the Day

Grant, O Lord, that, as Thine Apostle Saint James readily obeyed the calling of Thy Son Jèsus Christ : we may by Thy grace be enabled to forsake all worldly and carnal affectiòns, and to follow Him alone; who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Hòly Ghost : ever one God, world without end. Amen.

[(E) The First Lesson: Acts 11: 27 – 12: 5]

[For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men. 10 We are fools for Christ's sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honourable, but we are despised. 11 Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace; 12 And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: 13 Being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day. 14 I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you. 15 For though ye have ten thousand instructers in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel].

(F) Gradual

Thou mayest make prínces in áll the earth. * I will make thy name to be remembered in áll


Instead of thy fathers shall bé thy chíldren, * therefore shall the people praise thee for éver and

éver. (Psalm 45: 16-17)


[How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things.

Their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world.

(Romans 10: 15b, 18b)]

(G) The Epistle Lesson: I Corinthians 4: 9-15

For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men. 10 We are fools for Christ's sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honourable, but we are despised. 11 Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace; 12 And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: 13 Being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day. 14 I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you. 15 For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.

[The Epistle Lesson: Romans 8: 28-39]

[And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. 29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. 31 What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? 32 He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? 33 Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. 34 Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. 37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. 38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, 39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.]

(H) The Verse


Grace is poured ínto thy lips: * therefore God hath bléssed thee for éver. (Psalm 45: 2b)

[The Verse]

[The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, bút to mínister,* and to give his life a ránsom for mány. (Mark 10:45)]

Turn to (I) p. GOSPELPREP

(J) The Holy Gospel: Matthew 20: 20-23

Then came to him the mother of Zebedee's children with her sons, worshipping him, and desiring a certain thing of him. 21 And he said unto her, What wilt thou? She saith unto him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom. 22 But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? They say unto him, We are able. 23 And he saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father.

[The Holy Gospel: Mark 10: 35-45]

[And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, come unto him, saying, Master, we would that thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we shall desire. 36 And he said unto them, What would ye that I should do for you? 37 They said unto him, Grant unto us that we may sit, one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left hand, in thy glory. 38 But Jesus said unto them, Ye know not what ye ask: can ye drink of the cup that I drink of? and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? 39 And they said unto him, We can. And Jesus said unto them, Ye shall indeed drink of the cup that I drink of; and with the baptism that I am baptized withal shall ye be baptized: 40 But to sit on my right hand and on my left hand is not mine to give; but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared. 41 And when the ten heard it, they began to be much displeased with James and John. 42 But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. 43 But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: 44 And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. 45 For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.]

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


The Convention gives us the opportunity to listen to Lutherans of all stripes at the microphone. Some of them speak foreign languages - like Evangelicalese, Pietistiche, etc. But the one that drives me absolutely up the wall is Genderpanderish.

"I would just like to thank my sisters and brothers in Christ. . . "

This is the cheesiest and must stop. It serves as a code, of course. If you say "sisters and brothers" instead of "brothers and sisters," or, saints preserve us!, "brethren," then you are one of those benevolent males who love and respect womyn.

But come on. This is condescending at best - and anti-apostolic at worst. Let me clue you in, guys: the latest generation of women see this as the worst sort of Boomer idiocy. And if Paul said ajdelfoi' when addressing the Romans, did this make him a misogynist? The feminists certainly think so - but then again, they aren't real big on, well, you know, Christianity.

So let's stick with "brethren," brethren.


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Power of Beard

Friends, do not underestimate the power of Beard. Even two mustachios can be pretty powerful.


Congratulations to Rev. Matthew Harrison

The election, moments ago, of Rev. Matthew Harrison to the office of President of the Lutheran Church -- Missouri Synod, is a remarkable demonstration of the mysterious ways of God.

Rev. Harrison is, in my estimation, a theologian of impressive stature, who knows the history of the Synod as well as what counts for confessional Lutheran theology. I heard him speak up in Minnesota a few months ago, very impressive. I have known him for some time, but in my estimation, he has gained much in theological clarity and sense. The grace of God is with him.

He's going to need it.

Moments after the election, while waiting for the ballot boxes to reset for the election of first VP of Synod, the delegation had to listen to a traditional Trinitarian hymn "Holy God We Praise Thy Name," but with a rhythm section and a male vocalist. It was pure praise band stuff, which confessional Lutherans find, well, rather repulsive. It doesn't match the words being sung. It's the very kind of thing we've been teaching our people to avoid.

So here we have a truly schizophrenic situation. The music here is unbefitting worship, but the election tells another story. A divided synod, but hopefully one which wend its way through the worship wars to a God-pleasing resolution.

Could we dare to hope for such a thing? Well, years ago I would never have expected that a Matthew Harrison would have had a chance to be elected President of the Missouri Synod.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Ripley's BION: Liturgical Edition

Click above for the summary, or here for the full-blown experience of a "fine, fine opening worship service well within the bounds of the traditional Western rite, and including appropriate diverse forms and aspects," per one district president.

Parental discretion is advised.

Poll on First Communion

Please answer our poll questions at right concerning bringing the young folks in your parish to the Lord's Table.

In the comments, if your parish communes people younger than 5th grade, please list your state.

This is purely for curiosity's sake.


Saturday, July 10, 2010

LCMS Cringe-vention?

Where are the Chinese acrobats, the two-headed cow, and the guy who juggles chainsaws when you need them?

Altered Altar

Prayers ascend for the Synod Convention in steamy Houston. And they ascend, evidently, from the flat out weirdest looking altar ever. To wit.

Where to begin? The TV in the altar is a nice touch for Americans, keeps all our holies in the same place. And the sort of ice sculptoresque, touchdownish, sort of not quite representative altar crucifix is well..., er.. let's leave it at that.

Weird altars seem to be a thing with Synod gatherings. At the one youth gathering I went to, the altar was actually lowered from the ceiling. It was a giant lamb. When it got to the stage, the top half was hauled back up to the ceiling and there was the altar with four lamby legs.


Haec ecclesia pappi tui non est!