Saturday, January 1, 2011

Calendar Trainwreck?

By Larry Beane

The 2011 calendar from Concordia Theological Seminary has just arrived.

Above is the picture for March.  The caption reads: "Rev. Steve Ahlersmeyer shares a children's message at St. Peter's Lutheran Church in Fort Wayne, Indiana."

Well, let me get this disclaimer out of the way up front: 1) I do not know Pr. Ahlersmeyer, and I have no reason to doubt his orthodoxy, integrity, and faithfulness as a pastor, 2) I have the utmost respect and affection for CTS, from which I graduated in 2004. CTS - Fort Wayne openly promotes liturgical worship, the use of the hymnals, eucharistic vestments, processions, bowing and the sign of the cross, the chalice, and even on occasion, incense - both in chapel services and classroom instruction.  CTS is blessed with an extraordinary faculty of world class scholars and a campus that is the envy of theological schools the world over, and is doing an exemplary job in its mission of training pastors, both from America and from abroad.


I don't understand why CTS would advocate for such a practice as a "children's message" - a ritual lacking not only in our hymnal and its resources, but also in the Lutheran liturgical tradition.  This is precisely the kind of liturgical innovation that our Symbols decry.  While many faithful pastors are stuck with such local customs and have to roll back such things gradually and with a lot of teaching - why would CTS even consider depicting a pastor sitting with his back turned to the altar which is only a few feet away, buttocks planted square in the chancel area, with a paper bag and what seems to be a puppet with which to entertain a child who has become the center of a kind of stage show?

Our professors painstakingly explained why the liturgy is not entertainment, why choirs are best located in the loft, why vestments hide the man, why liturgical innovation is a bad idea, why preaching is a sacred act, and why the altar ought to be treated with reverence - but for 31 days of the current year, CTS is asking its alumni, supporters, and members of LCMS congregations to put this picture up in a prominent location, at least partially, for the purpose of promoting the seminary.  A picture is indeed worth a thousand words.

I just don't get it.


  1. You don't get it, you say? The children's sermon is supposed to provide an illustration which is very easy to understand, right?. And so this one does, coming as it does on the CTS calendar, of all places. This is a picture, worth a thousand words, of just what is the matter with the Missouri Synod: pandering, compromising, mixing good and bad, etc.

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  3. I'm more concerned with Harvala being in the calendar--but more than that, I have concerns with him being on the faculty.

  4. This is the milieu in which we live. Get used to it, because crosses are good to bear. Crosses make one refine what is worth fighting.

  5. Dear Fr. Alan:

    I have no idea who he is. I guess I'm a little out of the loop.

  6. I find an even greater reason to be depressed over this photo in considering why there is only one child who responded to this altar call.

    This could be an encouraging aspect of this train wreck image. My experience in congregations we have visited where this is done is that there are quite a few parents who do not encourage their children to participate (or perhaps, like me, would not allow them even if they wanted to).

    However, I suspect the primary reason for there being only one child at the altar is that this is one of the increasing majority of LCMS congregations where children are an endangered species due to the appalling decline in fertility caused by the church's approval of contraception.

    That, I contend, is an even more depressing symptom of the state of our churches than the children's sermon, and the most disturbing abomination I noticed in this photo. Children are such an anomaly these days that it is no wonder we feel a need to treat them differently.

    Which is more troublesome: that pastors preach children's sermons, or that pastors fail to preach and teach about the blessings of children and against contraception, and thus have almost no children in their congregations to preach the Gospel to?

  7. This calendar bugs me. Yeah, I know it's a cross to bear, etc. CTS wants everyone to like her and so pulls some dumb stunts.

    I hung it up in the church hall but I am seriously considering replacing it with one that has kittens on it. Kittens are cuter and more orthodox than puppet time.

  8. Championing a bad practice, and deeming it poster worthy, is not the same as calling it a cross. If crosses are good to bear, then the first step, for those who would be theologians of the cross, is to call a cross, or anything, what it is.

    A couple of thoughts in response to Fr. Beane's generous and Christian introduction to the topic. 1. I would say that this picture, unless it is a photoshopped prank, is itself a reason to doubt Pr. Ahlersmeyer's integrity. If one were stuck for a time with the kiddie sermon, it is still the pastor's decision whether to sit down in the midst of the chancel the way he is, and use irreverent props.

    2. My own respect for CTS is real and pertains to the good it has done, but is tempered with disgust for the ways it has betrayed the good it has done. For example, while it openly promotes liturgical worship, bowing, the sign of the cross, and the use of incense, it also cracks down on some who actually do these things when those practices do not suit it's whim. The most successful seminarist (whether MDiv or Deaconess, I suppose) or pastor these days is the one who can correctly predict when a practice will be openly promoted by or embarrass those who can choose to promote you or do you harm. This double minded character of the seminary is a problem for the Church, and cause for our prayer. And indeed it is exemplified by the very example Fr. Beane highlights.

  9. The parish I serve is one of the “original twelve" of the LMCS. The current building’s (110 years old) architectural design features three solid pews in the front in which the children sat and were instructed in the catechism in the middle of the service. Spilt pews were for men on the pulpit side and women on the lectern side. Families sat in the rear in solid pews.

    So there is some precedent for instruction of youth within the context of the service. I would venture to guess the children’s talk came into vogue under pietism about a hundred years ago. What I fear is the practice of removing children from the service for their own service or as to not be a distraction to the adults. Children’s sermon, kids talks, whatever you want to call them, if they are to be done must be conducted within the context of the liturgy, have something to do with more than “a little moral pep talk” geared for the adults. The Prayers and Preaching order LSB is such an excellent place in which a pastor can do some winsome instruction for our youth within the context of the liturgy if this is necessary. In my particular context, “the children’s talk” is done in summer, on non-communion Sundays, within the context of Prayer and Preaching. Fortunately, (or unfortunately,) this falls to about six – eight Sundays per year. Yup and I guess we could have George Harrison’s It Don't Come Easy as the sermon hymn!

  10. Fr. Beane,

    You say, "I don't understand why CTS would advocate for such a practice as a "children's message" - a ritual lacking not only in our hymnal and its resources, but also in the Lutheran liturgical tradition. This is precisely the kind of liturgical innovation that our Symbols decry." Could you elaborate or explain your contention that the idea of having a children's sermon is something our symbols decry. What in the symbols are you referencing and how does it apply to children's sermons?

    While I don't generally like children's sermon - I do one every week - they come up front and we work on a bit of catechism memory work. I'm not sure how that is antithetical to or decried by the symbols.

  11. Dear Eric:

    It's a liturgical innovation. It is completely outside of the Catholic tradition. I would have you look at AC15 and AC24 (and Ap 24) for starters.

    The "children's message" is typically executed like the picture, butt planted in front of the altar (try to pull that off respectfully and in a dignified way), with puppets or vegetables or balloons or other frivolities (a word you'll find in FC SD 10), and trying to get the kids to help you put on a show.

    In one of the congregations we sang for in the Kantorei, a woman was even "preaching" this "sermon" - and it wasn't exactly what I would call from a ladylike posture. Most of my adult life as a layman I was stuck in churches that had this practice. I cannot think of a single instance of one that I have ever seen that I wasn't disgusted by the affair. That's just my opinion, of course, but my revulsion is reflected in the default Lutheran position that we are not free to "make up crap" (in the words of Dr. Weinrich). But that is part of why I love the Lutheran Symbols so much. They make it clear that our freedom in ceremonies is tempered by the received tradition. Children's "sermons" do not cut the mustard (ditto for dancing girls, pop songs, labyrinths, so-called praise bands, and other innovations designed to "fix" our "broken" Western liturgical tradition.

    But the Mass (Article 24) is not broken. Please don't fix it for us, Eric.

    If you have inherited the practice and are in the midst of trying to catechize your way out of it lovingly, than so be it. And if you are not planting your glutes in front of the altar or telling jokes, that's a bonus. But I believe that all you're doing is applying the proverbial lipstick to the proverbial barnyard animal - and sometimes that's what a pastor must do out of love. I understand that a lot of pastors have inherited this ancient "tradition" from the days of lava lamps and bell bottoms, and undoing it cannot be done overnight - but please don't try to make it out to be anything other than what it is: an anti-liturgical, anti-worship, tradition-be-damned baby-boomer novum.

    At best it is a sort-of catechetical "break" in the actual worship. Catechesis is catechesis - it is not worship. While ceremonies do serve to teach, and while the catechism can be incorporated into worship specifically designed to catechize young people (which is not the point of the *Eucharistic Service*), there is a reason we don't sing, pray, and meditate on, for example, the words of DC 12:28ff ("The Erroneous Articles of the Schwenckfeldians"). The same goes for Veggie Tales episodes.

    I think the theme of Higher Things is helpful. When you work, work. When you play, play. When you worship, worship. Teach the little ones the catechism and use props and silliness in the Sunday School classroom. There is a place for it, just not between the Invocation and the Benediction.

    And the fact that we were never taught to do a "children's sermon" nor were we ever shown one at Kramer Chapel, nor was the practice championed by any of the profs that you and I both studied under - teaches us that the practice (however common it is) is essentially un-Lutheran.

  12. Dear Larry,

    I am not going to debate whether or not there is much tomfoolery with Children sermons. Nor am I going to attempt to laud the practice (I think putting lipstick on a pig is an apt description). Nor am I going to try to "fix" anything. Not my point.

    I do want you to defend your words. AC 15 - How does that decry children's sermons. Certain children's sermons that are not profitable for tranquility or good order - sure. But how does the concept itself violate that?

    Or AC 24 and its apology - Let's take AP 24.3 - "However, ceremonies should be celebrated to teach people Scripture, that those admonished by the Word may conceive faith and godly fear, and may also pray. (This is the intent of ceremonies)." One might say, "See, I am seeking solely to teach - how does this violate AP 24? Do children's sermons, by their existence, teach ex opera operato or re-establish masses for the dead?

    I have no problem with an argument that such things probably shouldn't be done - but to say that they fly in the face of the Confessions is a claim you have not backed up.

    1. Where do the symbols decry liturgical innovation, and of what sort do they decry?
    2. How do these quotes apply to Children's sermons?

    Again, I cannot quibble with children's sermons being poor practice, but how are they condemned or precluded by the Confessions. That's a strong claim, and you haven't fleshed it out.

  13. Dear Dr. H:

    You make a great observation and point. It's absolutely true that all of our churches are looking at demographic decline - and a cursory glance at the number of children in church makes the point. Our culture has changed since the triumph of "family planning."

  14. Dear Dave:

    I don't understand your point about crosses.

    I think some crosses are self-imposed. When someone decides to become liturgically "creative" (whether by adding a children's sermon, subtracting celebrations of the eucharist, wearing a Barney outfit at the altar, or adding a Polka Service), he is imposing a cross on other pastors who have to contend with pressure to imitate the innovation.

    Those kinds of crosses are like drunk driving or spontaneously deciding to juggle chainsaws. They result in negative consequences that can hardly be considered honorable.

    Your advice to "get used to it" can either mean "this is going to be a struggle that we will be contending with for a long time," or it can also mean "just give up because this is how it is."

  15. Fr. Brown,

    I think Fr. Beane already answered your questions. I mean, seriously. The confessions say we don't make up ceremonies that are frivolous. You seem to agree that children's sermons are both 1. new (aka "made up") and 2. frivolous. QED.


  16. No reformed (that's the theological rational for it) children's sermons at my parish. There are papers out there in this topic. Ultimately it doubts the efficacy of the Word to young minds and uses object lessons to small children whose minds don't think in the abstract.

    I was sadden, I didn't want CTS promoting this at my parish, so I threw away the CTS calendar in lieu of the Thrivent calendar. Yikes!

    And they didn't format the calendar right. In past years, if I didn't want to look at the picture for a given month, you could cut it off and continue to use the previous month picture.

  17. Dear Eric:

    You admit that children's sermons are "poor practice." That ought to end the discussion right there. Can you show us where our symbols advocate "poor practice"? Is "poor practice" part of our evangelical freedom? Is "poor practice" part of our evangelical liturgical tradition? Is "poor practice" part and parcel of our Lutheran reformation?

    To the contrary, our confessions are designed to counter poor "doctrine" and "practice" - words that appear in tandem throughout the confessions.

    "Our churches teach that those rites should be observed which can be observed without sin..." (AC15). "Those rites" (of which examples are given) are traditional practices inherited from our forbears. Traditionalism is the default position. Our rites *are* to be altered where "it is intended to earn grace and make satisfaction for sin..." - which is why the early Lutherans did break with tradition on some liturgical matters.

    Did not having a children's sermon lead people to believe they could earn grace? Does adding a children's sermon correct false doctrine from previous times when there was no such thing? This is why Lutherans changed ceremonies. They didn't change them on a whim like pastors commonly do today, convinced that it is their prerogative to do so.

    In AC24, we confess that our Masses are celebrated "with the greatest reverence." We have "retained" the "customary ceremonies." As far as teaching the people, this is why the early Lutherans changed from Latin to German - they did not add a children's sermon, did they? They certainly had children. They certainly needed teaching. But they did not do this. Children's sermons came after the age of television, after Sesame Street. They came after the 1960s revolt against tradition and authority.

    In Ap24, we confess: "We keep traditional liturgical forms, such as the order of the lessons, prayers, vestments, etc." The children's sermon is an innovation. It is not a "traditional liturgical form."

    As we confess in the AC Conclusion: "we have introduced nothing, either in doctrine *or in ceremonies* that is contrary to Holy Scripture *or the universal Christian church*" (German). "Nothing has been received among us, in doctrine *or in ceremonies*, that is contrary to Scripture *or the church catholic.*" (Latin).

    Where is the children's sermon in the universal liturgical heritage of the church?


  18. continued...

    Many who advocate for the position that the liturgy is optional for the church (one of whom goes so far as to say that Ap24 no longer applies to our subscription!) take the tack that doctrine is important, but ceremonies are "anything goes." The opinion is that you can have dancing girls at your service as long as you recite your catechism during their gyrations. Our confessions just don't speak that way. We bind ourselves to traditional liturgical forms.

    Ceremonies may be altered "as long as it does so without frivolity and offense" and "orderly" and expressing "discipline" and "evangelical decorum." The children's sermon, even if the pastor is not squatting, using puppets, and cracking jokes - interrupts the flow of the service to allow for an innovation - however well-intended - that detracts and distracts from the traditional ceremonies to which we bind ourselves for the sake of love and the gospel.

    I believe the children's sermon is a manifestation of "childolatry" - in which people worship their children and pander to them rather than bring them up submissively to the Lord. We don't have an elderly sermon, a teenage sermon, a middle-age sermon, a black sermon, a white sermon, a country-music-listener sermon, a biker sermon, and special sermons for people who like frozen yogurt. And if a church did such things, we would not be having this discussion.

    The children's sermon teaches kids that they are not part of the community, that they must have "special" rites just for them.

    Again, in Luther's day, the Mass really was was broken. It was not in the vernacular. It confessed false doctrine. The focus was not on Christ. Those things were changed - but with a scalpel, not with a cleaver. Adding a children's sermon is cut of the same cloth as making up your own creed, moving the main parts of the liturgy around, adding dancers and skits and puppets and clowns, and caving in to the culture of Disney and Sesame Street.

    If you think that's good for your parish, that's your business. But I'm not going to lie to you and tell you I think the confessions encourage or condone such things. The Book of Concord speaks of worship in a traditional way that submits to our ancestors.

    Children's sermons "give offense" to me. They do not represent "good order." As a layman, I had to endure all kinds of "frivolity" as we were expected to coo and chuckle at the show. Is it too much to ask pastors to just conduct a liturgy and preach the gospel?

    Thank God for the "conservative reformation" and for the liturgical treasures we have inherited. Let us pray for the humility not to monkey with those treasures.

  19. Dear Rev. Weinkauf:

    "And they didn't format the calendar right. In past years, if I didn't want to look at the picture for a given month, you could cut it off and continue to use the previous month picture."

    Here here! And I thought *I* was the only one who did that! ;-)

  20. Larry and Heath,

    Look at what the Confessions say. You quote: "We keep traditional liturgical forms, such as the order of the lessons, prayers, vestments, etc."

    As one can do a children's lesson without abandoning those things - therefore it doesn't directly follow that to choose to add a service of necessity violates the confessions.

    Now, this is not to say that the Confession "encourage or condone" such things. That's not the standard of violation - to violate is to go against. You admit that ceremonies may be altered so long as offense is not given. This is not speaking to offending your sensibilities but hampering the faith (otherwise what do we say to those who claim that they will be "offended" if their beloved children's sermon is removed?). Do many children's sermons act the fool - I'll concede this. But is this something fundamental to adding an additional period of teaching? I went to the Kantori service of Carols for Epiphany in Wichita - there were two meditations? Does this then, too, violate Confessional standards?

    In this argument you paint with too broad a brush based on too many assumptions, and it won't fly unless someone offhand agrees that "teaching children about Jesus" (as one might say) is frivolous.

    Lament, decry the tomfoolery, the childoltry where it occurs (for there is much of that) - but to simply say that the Confessions mean that one is bound to specific forms. That goes beyond the Confessions, and to assert that it is automatically contraconfessional only serves to misuse the Confessions.

    Just as we ought not use Luther as a stick to try to beat people into agreement with us, so, if we are going to claim Confessional grounds on a subject, it shouldn't be based on a derivation or an assumption of what the Confessions imply about liturgical usages. All that will do is needlessly alienate anyone you'd try to persuade away from the practice by backing them into a "Confessional" corner. And if we want to use "offense" in the "this upsets me" as opposed to the "this causes me to lose faith" sense, that will lose quite often.

  21. Dear Eric:

    The liturgy is not a waxen nose. Haven't we seen enough innovation in our own lifetimes (just since Vatican II) to make you love the inherent traditionalism of the Book of Concord? People do leave the faith because of the "tomfoolery" of liturgical tinkering. Just among our classmates at the seminary we saw good men utterly scandalized by the practices of the LCMS that violate our catholic tradition. Many of these men have left the ministry, the LCMS, and Lutheranism. I don't agree with them, but when one of our classmates was bullied into "consecrating" as a vicar and another was hassled by his parish for not having a Polka Service, one can hardly blame them for leaving.

    As a layman, I was scandalized by contemporary worship, nonstandard liturgical texts, children's sermons, the Lord's blood being put in the garbage, infrequent communion - and irreverence in general. As a layman, I could have seen myself leaving Lutheranism over such things.

    Why not just submit to our received tradition and stop looking for a loophole for you to do your own thing?

    "Offense" is a collective matter. Congregations that "do their own thing" in departure of the catholic tradition cause offense to the church catholic. Children's sermons are sectarian innovations. That in and of itself makes them (as you yourself have called them) "poor practice" and putting lipstick in a pig.

    The confessions are not canon law. Just because there is no confessional prohibition against putting young girls in tights and having them gyrate at the altar doesn't mean that this is a confessionally defensible practice - its being done under the banner of the LCMS notwithstanding.

    The Book of Concord is not merely a "letter of the law" to work around when we want to deviate from the catholic tradition, but rather, there is a "spirit" of the Book of Concord, the spirit of the conservative reformation and submission to catholic tradition for the sake of love and good order.

    American Lutherans have turned the Mass into entertainment. And no amount of lipstick will turn the pig of their own creation into a beauty queen.

  22. Are you serious, Eric? What part of "the Mass is retained among us, and celebrated with the highest reverence" allows for the didactic modern innovation of the 'children's message'?

    or this at the CA's Epilogus: "in doctrine and ceremonies nothing has been received on our part against Scripture or the Church Catholic." Part of the very reason for this liturgical traditionalism is the concern that an improper message will be communicated by the innovation, whether explicitly or implicitly. For the very next sentence is "For it is manifest that we have taken most diligent care that no new and ungodly doctrine should creep into ouir churches." Doctrine doesn't always walk in to the church with clear articulation. Sometimes it creeps in with cute innovations. Sometimes it says one thing to one hearer, and something more innocent or neutral to another. But your role in the Church is not to have practices which can be justified by clever argumentation, and which could pass doctrinal review. Your role is to be a servant of the liturgy, and of the Church (and the Church is far more than the assembled faces that pay your salary).

    When we confess that "our churches...only omit some abuses which are new, and which have been erroneously accepted by the corruption of the times," we ought to think not only of the corruptions of the late medieval church, but also of the liturgical corruptions of our own times, like the so called 'children's message,' especially if it is really true that ecclesia semper reformanda est.

  23. Larry,

    You begin, "The liturgy is not a waxen nose. Haven't we seen enough innovation in our own lifetimes (just since Vatican II) to make you love the inherent traditionalism of the Book of Concord?" Be that as it may (and I think this is a fine argument), this is *not* an argument based upon the Confessions.

    You see, I don't necessarily disagree with your aims, your complaints, your laments. However - I do disagree with your assertion that children sermons violate the confessions. That's it. Simple as that.

    The argument has to be whether a specific innovation is good and beneficial, because the Confessions themselves allow that there is innovation that is good and beneficial (they defend the vernacular mass, a massive innovation).

    For the sake of love and good order, one could argue, the folks of Wittenberg should have abandoned the German Mass - and that would have been a submission to catholic tradition as well. Yet, they didn't (other than Melanchthon and his ilk in the Interim). Why? Because their focus was upon what is good.

    When your arguments move from the idea of whether or not something is beneficial and rather focus on whether it is traditional, you've abandoned the sense of the Confessions, for while they are conservative, they are also about reformation, about seeking that which is good, about proclaiming ever more clearly the Catholic faith - not simply saying, "We've never done that before."

    And no, I do not mean to trumpet children's sermons as the "great reformation of our day". They are truly and utterly indifferent to me. But to simply assert that chlidren's sermons violate the Confessions do a disservice to the Confessions and make a strawman out of Children's sermon, letting anyone who does do tomfoolery write you off. It's poor argumentation - and unless someone shares your views, they won't be persuaded by your emotional appeals.

  24. Now who is the one imagining things in the Symbols? I am not opposing the vernacular mass, but I do challenge your claim that the Confessions specifically champion or defend it. What I do see in the Confessions is the claim that the Latin is retained, and that vernacular parts are added.

  25. Dear Eric:

    Emotion has nothing to do with it. You want to have a practice that you yourself have called "poor practice" and "lipstick on a pig" (these are your very own words) - and you are using our confessions as a fig leaf to cover the shame of it.

    If it is "poor practice," why defend it at all? And why not have the integrity to at least begin to put an end to it rather than try to defend "poor practice" on confessional grounds? Are you seriously arguing that our confessions support and defend "poor practice" in matters as important as worship and approve of something that you yourself call "lipstick on a pig"? The whole idea behind the metaphor is that something ugly is being covered up in a cosmetic sense to only make it appear beautiful. That is deception - which is also covered under our confessional standard in the Small Catechism, the 8th commandment.

    You seem to want your cake and eat it. You want to be "confessional" while pushing the good confessions (and their overwhelming deference to tradition and liturgical dignity) aside. And in fact, the very same argument you are making to defend children's sermons can be used (and are used) to defend not just "contemporary worship" but clowns, dancers, skits, speaking in gibberish, and every other manner of liturgical mischief in our synod. I just cannot read and study the Lutheran confessions and come to the conclusion that they are liturgically licentious. In fact, I find them to be a safe haven of liturgical dignity - something that seems to be increasingly rare in our synod of Lone Rangers and Do-It-Yourselfers.

    On the one hand, what you do in your parish is none of my concern. But on the other hand, we are in communion with each other, and we are interacting here on this blog, a place where opinions and arguments can be made. I am entitled to my opinion, and you are free to reject it and continue "poor practice" unabated.

    I don't think children's sermons are as bad as other practices that are common in our synodical life. But I think you are selling your parishioners (children and adults) short when you give your children a separate sermon - even if it is administered with the lipstick of the catechism. And I think you are also so enamored of your freedom that you have confused true freedom of the Gospel (the freedom to be forgiven in Christ) with a different kind of freedom - the self-declared freedom to do something that you admit is "poor practice" and then claim that the Lutheran Confessions defend such "poor practice." That is actually license rather than freedom.

    I mean, unless you are being compelled, why subject your congregation to "poor practice" at all? Why not give them something better, something noble? Why not at least move in that direction? Why not admit that the confessions have much to say to us in matters of worship, and that they really don't say: "Just do whatever the heck you want"?

  26. I bunch of converted-by-marriage poorly-catechized seminary wives probably picked the photographs.

  27. Dear Larry,

    You say, "Emotion has nothing to do with it. You want to have a practice that you yourself have called "poor practice" and "lipstick on a pig" (these are your very own words) - and you are using our confessions as a fig leaf to cover the shame of it."

    Again, you are missing my point.

    I am not here trying to argue that the Confessions endorse Children's sermons. I am not arguing here that one should have them. I am not saying that I *want* them.

    What I object to is the assertion that Children's Sermons, irregardless of their shape, form, or content, contradict the confessions.

    That's it - that's the only contention that I object to.

    I am not attempting here to defend a practice that is poor -- I am objecting to the way in which that practice is attacked.

    Why? Because if you say, "The this violates the Confessions", and it does not directly do so - what is the opposite? There becomes an assumed permission contained within in the Confessions. This is the point that Latif jumps too when he says that things like contemporary worship can be justified the same way.

    The point I make is that the Confessions should not be used to condemn something like Children's sermon. Why? Because then, once a person is convinced that you are using the Confessions out of context, making they say something they do not clearly say, they will assume Confessional endorsement of something that the Confessions do not endorse.

  28. Latif,

    Where do the Confessions defend the use of the vernacular? AC25, which reads, "Falsely are our churches accused of abolishing the Mass; for the Mass is retained among 2] us, and celebrated with the highest reverence. Nearly all the usual ceremonies are also preserved, save that the parts sung in Latin are interspersed here and there with German hymns, which have been added 3] to teach the people. For ceremonies are needed to this end alone that the unlearned 4] be taught [what they need to know of Christ]. And not only has Paul commanded to use in the church a language understood by the people 1 Cor. 14:2-9, but it has also been so ordained by man's law"

    Please note that they:

    1. Defend the insertion of German hymns.
    2. Say that this is beneficial for teachings.
    3. Say that Paul teaches that worship should be conducted in a language that the people understand.
    4. Also, they say that moving to a vernacular is not an abandoning of the Mass.

    That is a defense and championing of the vernacular Mass. I would note, however, that one can champion and defend a vernacular mass without condemning the Latin Mass. If one were to point to the Confessions and say, "One cannot do a Mass in Latin" then they would be misquoting the Confessions, and attaching to them an assertion they do not teach.

  29. Hello Eric. Are you in there? You made claims about the vernacular mass, and then you quote article XXIV, which proves my point, and disproves yours. (And by the way, it is article XXIV, and not XXV.) You say, "That is a defense and championing of the vernacular Mass." It is not. Read it again, and maybe study what a vernacular mass is.

    And what exactly do you meamn by this: "This is the point that Latif jumps too when he says that things like contemporary worship can be justified the same way" ? Rather than jumping, I am reading the clear Confessions, which I made my own when I subscribed to them, and taking them seriously.

  30. To drive home the fact that you wrongly attributed to me the statement that "contemporary worship can be justified the same way," I must state that the reason I would never say that in that way is that the children's sermon is in itself an engaging in "contemporary worship."

  31. Latif,

    Two apologies are in order. First, thank you for noting my referencing of the article of the AC. You are quite correct, that is AC 24.

    Second, I ended up taking your discussion of "innovation" and conflated it with Fr. Beane's statement "And in fact, the very same argument you are making to defend children's sermons can be used (and are used) to defend not just "contemporary worship" but clowns, dancers, skits, speaking in gibberish, and every other manner of liturgical mischief in our synod". My apologies.

  32. Again, I will ask - how precisely do children's sermons (not puppet shows, but the simple insertion of a time of catechatical teaching) of necessity violate the Confessions?

    Is it because it is an innovation? Then do we violate the confessions when we sing the Nunc Dimitiss in the Common Service and close with the Aaronic Benediction - things that are not found in the medieval Mass?

    Is it because it is so often abused? The abuse of a practice doesn't mean than a practice cannot be done properly (no more than a person getting drunk means that all drinking is sinful).

    Again, I'm not worried about whether or not it is "good" - because that's not the standards by which the practice is being judged. It is being judged as, in and of itself, contrary to the Confessions. How precisely?

  33. Eric,

    I think you are trying a bait and switch on us. You want to condemn children's sermons and then all of a sudden defend "an additional time of catechesis."

    So maybe we should clarify terms. A children's sermon, as even a seven year old child (especially) knows is when a pastor presses the pause button on reverence and decorum in the House of God and invites forward the kids to sit around him on the chancel steps and a chat.

    That is against the Lutheran confessions because it is a new, irreverent, frivolous, and pandering ceremony.

    What do you mean by "an additional time of catechesis"? Do you mean an additional 10 minutes added on to the sermon, as Luther often did, to address specific doctrinal issues from the pulpit? I think that's fine. It's just an extension of the sermon specifically focused on teaching doctrine.

    Or do you mean, pausing the service, inviting the children down front, and having them recite the catechism? I know several pastors who use this method as a way of meeting their parishes half-way: the kids still come up front, but the pastor is fighting to keep things reverent and focused on the Word. But it's tough - that March of the Kinder up front is, after all, designed and bound to cause smiles and giggles as Tommy pulls Sally's hair and Billy stops to tie his shoes.

    Why defend a half-way measure as if you would have created it ex nihilo if the full-blown Childrens' Sermon didn't exist?

    Or: the March of the Kiddies Up Front is always going to be frivolous and irreverent. The Confessions are against frivolous and irreverent.

    We all admit the pastoral realities. Where Children's Sermons are in place, and the people (at least a vocal part of the people) like them - it is bad pastoral practice to just end them without any explanation or transition. The "additional time of catechesis and the March of the Penguins" is a good move toward reverence in the service. But there's no getting around its inherent irreverence and aetiology.


  34. Heath,

    Thank you for your response. I was not trying to bait and switch - I was trying concede other points (such as the worth of children's sermons themselves) to focus on the specific, direct idea that they fundamentally contradiction the confessions of necessity.

    You list four things that show that a children's sermon (for the sake of discussion, imagine some "ideal" children's sermon, if you will concede such a thing - that way we don't debate specifics) - that it is "new, irreverent, frivolous, and pandering ceremony."

    Fundamentally then, is anything that is "new" in a service against the Confessions? I think to argue that goes beyond the Confessions. The Confession allow for the introduction of new tradition.

    While I will agree that the Confessions teach that worship should be reverent, I cannot concede that, in and of themselves, children sermons *must* be irreverent. You yourself note that making them catecatical is a move towards reverence.

    As for frivolous and pandering, I again agree that these are not condoned by the Confession, but I will not concede that every children's sermon is fundamentally frivolous (for if it is truly teaching, that is not frivolous) nor if it bears with people, addressing pastoral realities, it is not pandering.

    Therefore, something that is "new" being against the Confessions, I disagree with. As for the other three - it is not that children sermons themselves are against the Confessions, but that in so far as they are done irrevently, friviously, and panderingly, they are against the Confessions.

    A "Mass" that is irreverent, frivolous, or pandering is against the Confessions - but that does mean that "Mass" is against the Confessions.

  35. Dear Eric:

    Your question has already been answered. I know you disagree with the answer, but if you're not convinced you're not convinced.

    You want me to cite something like this: "Article 12 paragraph 6 of the Gemuetlichkeit Articles says: 'We believe, teach, and confess that children's sermons are an innovation and an abomination, and they are anathema."

    No, there is nothing like that.

    Rather there is an overarching and consistent commitment to tradition, to conservative reformation, to only changing things in the liturgy that are broken for the sake of the gospel. There is a respect for a submissive continuity in liturgical forms that has become considered quaint in postmodern anything-goes American Entertainment-Lutheranism.

    If you think the worship of the National Youth Gathering, for example, is an example of confessional worship practice, there's just not a lot I can say to convince you otherwise.

    Lacking a "Thou shalt not," modern Lutherans find all kinds of things they claim are confessional practices: such as "ordaining" women, teaching evolution, having dancing girls, praise bands, chancel dramas, and a mosh pit as part of the Divine Service.

    After all, do the confessions actually say (HT: the serpent) "Thou shalt have no praise band or dancing girls?"

    I have no reason to believe pastors and congregations introduce all of these novelties with the best of intentions. And I'm sure they actually believe that they are following the footsteps of a Luther who started us down the path of rejecting all of those bad old traditions so that we could worship without set forms, with that strange warmness of heart, and in ways that substitute cuteness for formality. But that is a fictional Luther.

    It is strange that someone who decries Pietism so much is in favor of something that is so much at home in a Pietistic setting. Why not just call the "bad practice" (your words) of the children's sermon by what it really is: a "kiddie conventicle."

    The reformers made changes to the Mass where it was broken. Modern Americans take that which isn't broken, break it, and then appeal to the reformers. That's how it works. And frankly things like this contribute to the fact that CTS is a feeder seminary for Eastern Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, and Anglicanism.

    And what a pathetic shame that is!

    But please, Eric, feel free to play Mister Rogers at your Divine Service. Just don't ask for my blessing - Aaronic, ironic, or otherwise.

    Ap 24:1 is not just a good idea. It's a promise we make to our great-grandchildren. But then again, the Africans and Russians will be evangelizing them anyway.

  36. Heath,

    One additional thing, even though it doesn't tie directly to my concerns. You ask, "Why defend a half-way measure as if you would have created it ex nihilo if the full-blown Childrens' Sermon didn't exist?"

    I'm not defending it as though I would have created it. The fact it, it exists. How do we respond to it is my concern. If we slap at it with the Confessions, we can end up painting ourselves into a corner where anything that is "new" is deemed anti-Confessional... which contradicts the Confessions own approach that specifically allows for the addition and growth of tradition.

    I'm not concerned here with the defense of Children's sermons, but rather I am concerned about the implications of attacking them as being against the Confessions.

  37. Larry,

    Here I must slightly disagree with you on a very specific point. You say, "Rather there is an overarching and consistent commitment to tradition, to conservative reformation, to only changing things in the liturgy that are broken for the sake of the gospel."

    You push the Confessional adherence to tradition too far there. There was no necessity that brought about the insertion of the Nunc Dimittis into the Mass - it was not broken. However, it was added because it is good teaching. The Aaronic Benediction was added, not because "Ite, Missa Est" was broken, but because it was a good, salutary addition.

    When Melanchthon pens the Augustana, he well knows that these additions are taking place in Wittenberg. I will conclude, then, that neither he nor the signers thought such things violated the Confession.

    That is simply my point. Asserting that I think the NYG worship is "Confessional" is not germane to my qualms, nor is referencing any of the other tomfooleries that go on. You put a weight and emphasis on the Confessions that is not there, and that only does a disservice to the faith.

  38. Brother Larry:

    I meant the former in my first post. This is something we have inherited and it's not going to go away without a generation or two translating to the Church Triumphant.

    Further, strictly my opinion, if a congregation wants a "childrens message", chances are good that previous pastors have not been good preachers. Say what you will about oratory and rhetoric, if adults claim that children "don't get nothing out of the sermon", then one might say that adults "don't get nothing out of the sermon".

    Brother Dahling is right about what was once called "Christenlehre". If one should do a "childrens message", then let it be Christenlehre. Teach the Catechism. Tie in one of the pericopes to the Catechism. I tried to do this at my previous parish. I thought it worked well. Certain members did not. They wanted a show. I would not give them a show. We need not travel down that road.

    Further, call a thing what it is. Call it Christenlehre, not "childrens message".

    This whole sordid mess should challenge pastors to write their sermons not so much in lofty prose but in such a way that a seven year old child could understand what you said. That's a challenge to we pastors as teachers of the faith and it's a challenge that we're all up to taking.

    Rev. David M. Juhl
    Our Savior, Momence, IL

  39. Dear Eric:

    The Nunc is a biblical canticle. Biblical canticles have a long and distinguished career in public worship. The Aaronic benediction is part of the medieval Mass - it was reserved for use by bishops - of which all Lutheran pastors are.

    The Nunc Dimittis is not novel. It dates back to the New Testament. The Aaronic Benediction is not novel. It dates back to the Old Testament. Was there a children's sermon in the temple or synagogue?

    There are liturgical practices that deviate from the spirit of, say, Ap 24 - otherwise, what is the purpose of Ap 24? If "anything goes" is the confessional principle of worship, why do our confessions mention things like "frivolity" and "offense" - which many argue is only subjective and unknowable anyway?

    The Kiddie Konventicle and its attendant ceremonies is not biblical, not confessional, not traditional, and (once again) you admit is lipsticked pork and "bad practice."

  40. Dear Dave:

    I see what you're saying, but we also have some things that the 19th century Americanischer Lutheraner (pardon my German) did not have: Sunday School, Children's Bibles, VBS, videos, etc. There is a time and a place for reciting the catechism, for classroom lecture, for Bible study, for working through systematic theology - and yes, even using silliness to teach adults and children alike.

    But the Divine Service ought to be for worship, prayer, the forgiveness of sins, the Sacrament of the Altar, and proclamation.

    Sermons (whether intended for adults, kids, or a combination of the two) are different than reciting the catechism.

    At some point, we need to actually *worship* instead of constantly being taught how to worship. There is a time and place for that, but just like in driver's education, there is a time to leave the classroom and actually get in a car and drive.

    Sometimes I wonder if we're catechizing people to death.

    God forbid that we have five seconds of reverent silence in our service without filling the air with reciting the catechism, explaining why we make the sign of the cross, or announcing "and now we turn to page such-and-such in the front part of our hymnals to confess our common faith in the words of the Nicene Creed."

    I think the children's sermon (or whatever we want to call in in German to make it sound more Lutheran) is just more chatter, just another cultus interruptus. Children have benefited from the Divine Service for centuries. It is only in recent times that children have been segregated and put into "children's church." The "children's sermon" or marching the Kinder to the front of the Kirche to be drilled on the catechism is just our version of this segregation.

    I have not seen a children's sermon in many years, but I do remember how embarrassed the kids were, being made the center of attention, being the source of laughing and pointing in a time and place that even children understand ought to be focused on Jesus and the Word of God.

    But I do agree with you that there is a lot of baggage we have inherited, and that good pastors will turn lemons into lemonade. The Catechism is certainly an improvement over sock puppets.

  41. Dear Larry,

    You realize that someone who was adamant that children's sermons are a good thing could then quote Mark 10:13-16 at you, which is especially interesting because in that passage Christ takes the children in His arm in the midst of His teaching. I don't think that is the point of the text, one could argue it, and many have. Or one might even point to Jesus in the temple, where there is discussion back and forth.

    Still, to the point, both the NC and the AB were additions and changes to the practice of the time that were not done simply to fix an error but because they were beneficial in their own right. That has to be the standard taught by the Confessions - whether something is beneficial, not whether it is "new" or has some ancient usage.

  42. Eric:
    The Aaronic blessing does not replace the Ite. Rather, the Benedicamus replaces the Ite in the penitential seasons, and still does for those who celebrate Mass according to those rubrics.

    And regarding the Nunc Dimitis, this in my view is best seen as an example of the healthy, organic development of the liturgy from the broad perspective of the two millennia of the genuine Catholic tradition of the liturgy, rather than as an innovation. That is the way to view the addition of something so beautiful by the early Lutherans. It is not on par with anything the Pietists gave us, or that our grandfathers in old Missouri gave us, or that Terry Ditmer gives us.

  43. Eric,

    You ignored the main portion of my argument - which is that stopping the flow of the service to insert something that is not listed in the service, which is the march of the children up front, is, in its very nature, irreverent and frivolous.

    I actually wrote about it quite a bit to demonstrate just how asking all the young children to march up front leads to irreverence and frivolity.

    I invite commentary on those points.


  44. Dear Eric:

    Like I said, do what you want. I have no doubt that you will. It's the cultural milieu of our time. We have gone from Everone a Minister to Everyone a Pope. Pastors change the liturgy all the time. They have become editors rather than recipients of the tradition. We all know so much better than our forbears. It's not our grandfather's church, sfter all.

    And I know you can find all sorts of support from the Bible and the confessions for it - just as do the advocates of the dancing girls and rock bands.

    I know that you are not going to be swayed on this - and it isn't my point. But I am grateful for the many "lurkers" who are able to hear both sides of the discussion and make up their own minds. They often thank me for allowing these discussions to have a hearing, and for hearing reasons why they have a visceral reaction to such things.

    I do believe that all of these fads will end up in the dustbin at some point - in spite of some people's delusions. I actually had a fellow seminarian adamantly argue that the music of Amy Grant will be as influential and stand the test of time as much as J.S. Bach. He was serious and sincere. He is also a pastor today and has little regard for the liturgy.

    Our great-great-grandchildren - after being won back from Paganism and Cynicism thanks to the preaching of Bishop Obare's great-great-grandson - will find our liturgical practices to be quaint - if not puzzling - just as we do when we read in old copies of Der Lutheraner about how some Lutheran churches introduced using individual straws as a means of drinking the Lord's blood from a common chalice.

    The good news is that the chaff will actually blow away.

  45. "I do believe that all of these fads will end up in the dustbin at some point - in spite of some people's delusions."

    There is no snark in what I am about to say.

    Larry, that's the most intelligent thing I've heard you say in this whole discussion. In time, much kerfuffle will disappear and our progeny will live to see our rites conducted with reverence and dignity. They will, Deo volente, know nothing of childrens sermons, individual cups, etc. However (and there's always a however in life), they are here and we deal with them. Sometimes we have to cooperate with them. So be it. Work toward the future and let the present deal with itself.

    Satis est. Sic satis superque.

    Rev. David M. Juhl
    Our Savior, Momence, IL

  46. Dear Dave:

    That's what we're doing having this discussion! Part of Gottesdienst's mission is to help shape the dialog and give future pastors some confessional guidance.

    Of course, that can't happen unless we are willing to challenge the bad practices that surround us. We may have to endure them, but we don;t have to be bullied into liking them, approving them, or despairing that we're stuck with these things.

    I'm confident that right will defeat wrong - and yet, we must continue to confess the right against the wrong.

  47. Brother Larry:

    Have you called the seminary about your complaint? Have you called Pastor Ahlersmeyer to ask why St. Peter congregation has childrens sermons?

  48. Heath,

    I had ignored it because my concern was the idea of it being anti-confessional. But, as you asked nicely, I'll address your point.

    I think it stretches the matter to say that automatically a movement of children is irreverent or frivolous. Children can be reverent, and they may be brought forward for something that is not frivolous. Is this often the case with Children's sermons - I'll give you that often it is not.

    Moreover, this becomes contextual. Does a Gospel Procession become disruptive and frivolous if it is not specifically called for in the rubrics? Here I would say it becomes a matter of local custom. In a place where such things are customary, it neither disturbs the service nor is frivolous. In a place where a procession isn't the custom, it would be quite disruptive and could easily be seen as "frivolous" and unnecessary.

  49. @Larry,

    You don't need to convince me that children's sermons are not part of the ideal service. I would not be overly upset if they are in the dustbin. But, I'm not going to worry about being un-confessional when I do a catechism lesson, and I dislike the assertion that to have such a thing fundamentally violates the confessions.

    As for the future, perhaps and hopefully individual cups will be a thing of the past... but I shudder to think what trials they will face, for the Church always is facing something strange and less then respectful. We should thus always be focused on increasing in respect and better teaching the faith. That is what it means to be Confessional.

  50. Fr. Juhl writes: "Have you called the seminary about your complaint? Have you called Pastor Ahlersmeyer to ask why St. Peter congregation has childrens sermons?"

    Fr. David: These actions might take place by someone or several people at some point, especially if the ones who decide to do so conclude that they will have a fair and fraternal hearing in the matter.

    However, it is not as though those things must be done before we can publicly comment on these public matters.

  51. Eric,

    We are not talking about maybes and ideals - we are talking on the very real plain of pastoral practice. I have never seen a children's sermon or "additional time of catechesis" that involved all the kids coming up the aisle unaccompanied by parents in the middle of the service that was reverent and not frivolous and intended to make people smile and laugh.

    I don't believe they exist.

    I am open only to empirical proof to disprove my belief. I want to see a video of a children's sermon or "additonal time of catechesis" that is as reverent and non-frivolous as the Gospel procession you mention.

    My absurdity here has a point: we both know that such things just are not designed to be reverent. The children coming forward unaccompanied by adults is designed to be frivolous "Carefree and not serious" as Merriam-Webster puts it. If you want a serious, reverent time of catechesis in church you could do that from the pulpit without the kids coming forward.

    That's the other definition of frivolous: superfluous. Since the children could be spoken to from the pulpit - and since that would actually be more effective b/c they would be sitting next to mom and dad who would insist that they pay attention - the March of the Children to the Chancel simply cannot have been invented for any other use than frivolity.

    So why not do that? Have the kids stay in the pew from now on and add a 5 minute addendum at the end of the sermon, "And now, I want to speak especially to the children of the parish..."

    If this is about teaching, do something that is guaranteed to make sure they pay attention better: make them sit with mom and dad while you teach them.


  52. Heath,

    I have the children come up to the front pew where I can make direct eye contact, make them repeat back the lesson of the day. I then question them on the implications of the lesson. I think this makes for good teaching, and I can be the one who insists that they pay attention.

    And why do you assume a reverent Gospel Procession - what if it was one poorly done, a traipsing Gospel procession accompanied by liturgical dancers? Could I compare to that? I can find one that tops that one.

    Which is part of the point - reverence can be brought out in a rite, and a rite that would be reverent otherwise can be destroyed with flippancy. And while having children walk to the front is not designed to be "reverent" this doesn't mean that it is designed to be irreverent, it may and often is simply a matter of mere practicality.

    And so you know, the idea of having the children simply sit up front (although with a Sunday School teacher rather than parent) has been discussed. It was the old custom here that fell out probably around 30 years ago. I do think that probably would be more reverent (especially if said Sunday School teacher is willing to box someone on their ears).

    But again, this drives home my initial qualm. We can agree that by our Confessional standards our worship is to be reverential. Now, the discussion becomes what is reverential, not just a simply, "that's not Confessional" jump. It can be a discussion on what actually is good and how things can be improved, rather than an outright abandon something or be unconfessional.

    Also, I would ask one thing. Is a child who comes forward to receive a blessing at the Communion rail, therefore, of necessity frivolous and irreverent? I would say neither. And just because a parent isn't walking with the child means that reverence is ignored. The worst spanking of my life is one I got when I misbehaved in a children's sermon... that discipline taught me much about proper reverence in Church (the tale of which you may find here

  53. @Dcn. Gaba:

    No, Latif. That should be the first step taken. If there is a problem, take it to those who cause the problem. If a person is civil, that person should receive a fair hearing.

    I've learned the hard way so many times (even recently) that broadcasting stuff on blogs about other people and other congregations before talking to the other people and the other congregations is not what our Lord has in mind in Matthew 18.

    Have the public give and take, but only after you've dealt with the problem brother to brother, if the problem needs to be made public.

  54. If you say something is anti-confessional, you are condemning those who do it and preach it as sinners teaching false doctrine.

    So are all unrepentant preachers of children's sermons damned to hell? Or, is having a children's sermon an indifferent matter that may or may not be used improperly, like any other ceremonial practice?

    Thre is no middle ground. You can't say a practice is unconfessional without condemning those who engage in it and teach it as sinners needing repentance.

  55. Boaz,

    There is some middle ground, I think: the real world. In the real world, I must tolerate in my parish unconfessional and unbiblical practice while trying to move the beloved people of my parish in a better direction. The most common afflictions are undoubtedly the individual cups, the Battle Flag of the Republic in the Prince of Peace's chancel, lay readers, etc. These things are all contrary to the letter and spirit of our Confessions in just the ways we are speaking of here: they are new ceremonies that are contrary the life and practice of the catholic church, which we claim in our Lutheran Confessions is not what we are about. And two out of three of them are in my parish every week. . .

    And it can be even more difficult: I know a faithful brother who must deal with a board of elders largely composed of the Daughters of Job!

    Now, the guy who instigated that practice was undoubtedly unfaithful. But the guy who inherits the practice is - in the modern parlance - just up a creek without a paddle.

    But a first step is calling a thing what it is - even if it pinches me in some uncomfortable places. To avoid that uncomfortable pinch, we try to create more wiggle room for ourselves: it's just practice, is it really that irreverent?, I can teach around the message it sends, etc. But I, for one, am thankful when, for example, Fr. Ben Ball visits and chastises me for the things that still pinch. . .


  56. Fr. David:

    After your last comment, I put on my Benihana uniform, combed my hair, had a peanut butter on 12 grain sandwich, and pondered your words. And after consideration, I must say that while my own personal approach would probably be to write publicly about this seminary poster/calendar AND send a copy of my critique simultaneously to the sem and to the pastor, I do not condemn those who might not do all of that.

    In fact, the seminary itself ought also be speaking out, in the classroom, in the print world, on the internet, and on the speaker circuit, on these matters. If it had a rector or president who had theological junk worthy of being protected from the TSA, or if the semninary faculty collectively had such, then perhaps what we would see in this day and age would be a calendar with two big pictures side by side for each month, the one picture showing what is wrong with the synod, like the synod youth worship, for example, and the other with something that is beautiful and right, like, say, a simple and revertent mass in Momence or some such locality, with little captions under each, explaining what is wrong, and what is right. The first copies of the calendar would be sent to the culprits, and to the liturgical heroes, with invitations to a symposium on the real worship issues of the day.

    Of course no seminary will ever act like the near cartoonish version about which I was only 86% serious. But it would be refreshing to see that than to see what we have today out of the seminaries.

    But the problem, I think, with you saying "if the problem needs to be made public" is that this already is a public problem. It isn't made such by us. The ministry of the Church is a public matter. Offenses against it, and against the liturgy, are public in nature. Approaches to addressing them ought likewise be public.

  57. Dear Dave:

    You ask...

    "Have you called the seminary about your complaint? Have you called Pastor Ahlersmeyer to ask why St. Peter congregation has childrens sermons?"


    This is not a Matt 18 situation. The synodical handbook treats every disagreement as such, and even requires a face-to-face meeting before any charges can be made - even if the offense is grave, public, and without dispute - such as rostered LCMS pastors openly endorsing women's "ordination."

    This is not that kind of a situation. First of all, Matt 18 applies when "your brother sins against you." Neither the pastor nor the seminary has sinned against me. Matt 18 also deals with private matters (per our own confessional subscription in the Large Catechism). The seminary sent out thousands of these calendars. This blog is also public.

    Like I said, I have no reason to accuse Pr. Ahlersmeyer nor the seminary. The best construction is that the pastor inherited the practice. The seminary is a more difficult situation, but I can also assume it is an anomaly since I have never heard of a children's sermon being delivered in the chapel or taught in homiletics classes. Maybe the calendars are not as well overseen since the days when the Rev. Scott Klemsz was in charge of such matters. I believe, sends out a bad message and butts up against what we are taught and confess about divine worship. That's my opinion, I'm entitled to have it, and to express it.

    Also, I have no vocation of oversight over any pastor or seminary. I am not a DP or member of a board overseeing a seminary. I am not entitled to exercise authority over either. I am not an "Ecclesiastical Supervisor." And while I am not entitled to exercise authority, I am entitled to express an opinion.

    And that is what I am doing in my vocation as one of the Gottesdienst editors. I guess you could say that I am an "Ecclesiastical Journalist."

    I find that the "have you spoken with your brother face to face about this?" line of reasoning is often a thinly-veiled effort to gag and bully. Ironically, had Luther been subject to the current LCMS handbook, he could not have published the Smalcald Articles without securing a private papal audience in Rome.

    I am not accusing anyone, nor seeking anyone's removal from the roster, over children's sermons. This is just one example of a practice that is nearly ubiquitous (no matter what the Book of Concord has to say), and I do have compassion for pastors who have to do things that violate their sense of propriety out of pastoral concerns - such as pastors who are grieved that they cannot offer the Sacrament every Sunday, as every pastor and congregation promises to do in their endorsements of the Book of Concord.

    I believe that part of the solution to what ails us is free speech. We can write and deliver papers. We can debate. We can read and write blogs. We can publish books without going through a synodical gatekeeper. And as long as the discourse is civil (I have bent over backwards to give the seminary and Pr. Ahlersmeyer the benefit of the doubt), I don't see why we should gag anyone from expressing an opinion.

    In fact, Pr. Ahlersmeyer and representatives of the seminary are more than welcome to comment here, and I would insist that they be treated respectfully and with due Christian decorum.

  58. Dear Larry,

    RE: Gemuetlichkeit Artikeln

    Oh, that such a treasure trove could be unearthed! Although these are not found even in the Sources and Contexts companion volume to KW, these would no doubt be worth the read.

    If an extant edition could be produced, I would encourage seminarians at CTS to ask Prof. Ziegler to start a reading group in the commons.

    Seriously, though, great reference! :)

  59. Heath,

    So basically, unless one is actively trying to get rid of the children's sermon, one is no longer confessional (as they are no longer simply tolerating a practice until it can be removed but just engaging in it)?

    I think that puts too fine a point - that is no longer a "pinch" but a vice of condemnation.

  60. Eric,

    When Christians disagree we should strive to be precise about our disagreements so as to avoid misplaced animosity. Our disagreement is about what makes for reverence and what makes for frivolity.

    It's a tough disagreement - and emblematic of our times - because we both say we condemn frivolity in the Divine Service along with the Confessions. Yet, things have come to such a pass that evidently one of us does not know what frivolity is.

    So, make of that what you will.


  61. The theological "why?" there are children's sermons during the Divine Service give every reason as to why the practice should not be used by Lutherans.

    This is Reformed theology for "age-appropriate" material that doubts the efficacy of the Word for children in the rest of the service/preaching. That is what this practice teaches.

    Eric, I am sorry you inherited this practice but you are also teaching that your "adult" sermon is not for children to listen, and the sermon/Word doesn't work upon them because they are small minded and may not understand it. Practice teaches. Lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivendi.

  62. Actually, my parents say that their kids who come up for the "Catechism Lesson" will also end up mentioning things in the sermon that were not brought up in the "Catechism lesson."

    You might be referring to what happens in many places, but not what happens of necessity in every child focused moment of teaching. I don't think one spending three or four minutes explaining the liturgy to children during the service would be teaching that those very kids should ignore or fail to get anything out of the service.

    You give a common theological why, but not every why.

  63. Ok, so those pastors who are not actively working to eliminate the practice of having children come near the ordained pastor about the Gospel are sinners condemned by our confessions for teaching false doctrine.


    If that's what our doctrine is, then proclaim it and teach it. Don't make half-hearted sarcastic remarks about it. Call those childen's-Sermon preaching pastors to repentance.

  64. woops, should be: "those pastors who are not actively working to eliminate the practice of having children come near the ordained pastor to hear about the Gospel are sinners condemned by our confessions for teaching false doctrine."

  65. Moreover, not only the pastors, but it must also be that knowledgeable Christians who remain in congregations that teach the false doctrine that permits children to approach the altar and hear the Gospel during the Divine Service are also condemned.

    I guess I'll be staying home Sundays from now on, no Orthodox are around here and even the Catholics have children's sermons.

    Or maybe, it's really not a matter of doctrine binding on my conscience. Hmm?

  66. Just a thought: children thrive on ritual. And ritual teaches (it doesn't only need to be taught; it itself teaches a fair amount). When the children grow up in a ritual rich environment in worship, they are immediately involved. There are actions to do (make the sign of the cross, for example) at various times. Times to sit, to stand, to kneel. Times to sing and times to be silent. The same gestures made and repeated. Pictures and statuary to look at. Candles to be lighted. Children thrive on all this. You don't need a children's sermon in a ritual rich environment; you need a children's sermons in the barren wasteland of an over-intellectualized and overly-Protestantized services.

    To me, it's simple: why insert something not in the rubrics? Why encourage its insertion? Rather, maximally USE the rubrics and give the kids a service they will treasure - like little Anastasia Curtis studying the ways in which her father and I differ in how we lead the Matins for chapel! They attend to details like no tomorrow.

  67. Boaz,

    Again - the disagreement is on what makes for reverence and what makes for frivolity. I've never seen a "children's sermon" that didn't encourage frivolity for all the reasons I mentioned above.

    I've also mentioned above the various compromises that a Lutheran pastor, and yes, parishioner, must live with.

    Therefore, I reject your either/or. Rome wasn't built in a day, and the church will not see the end to a whole host of troubling, frivolous innovations in a day either (individual cups, national flags in the chancel, communion but every other week, etc.).

    I think that a solid Lutheran pastor ought to be working toward fixing those problems - and trust me, that bit of Law touches me too (as I have also mentioned).

    Obviously, to those who can't see frivolity and irreverence in the children's sermon ceremony none of this will make much sense. The argument with those folks is not exactly one of being "confessional" or "unconfessional" - it's an argument about what exactly the confessions mean when they say "frivolity."


  68. Fr. William,

    Ha! Yes, that one has sharp eyes - and a wit to match.


  69. It's your either/or, not mine. When you call something anti-confessional, or false doctrine, there is no compromise with it. The second commandment prohibits compromise with false doctrine. Do you agree or disagree with this? Or is it okay to compromise with false doctrine if it's too much trouble to eliminate it?

    I say no, one can never compromise true doctrine. You seem to think it's okay to tolerate false doctrine as long as one "works" at teaching against it. On what basis? It should be eliminated.

    But you're stuck compromising with false doctrine because you seem to make every rubric and tradition a requirement of our doctrine, and that is not what our doctrine says at all. Our doctrine carefully addresses the power of the church to bind consciences to traditions and worship practices. ACXXVIII says the church never binds consciences to tradition simply to preserve tradition. It only binds consciences to love one's neighbor, and in a particular time and context, if one's neighbor is weak in faith, tempted by superstition or susceptible to false doctrine, the church may regulate a practice that may tempt those weak Christians. That's never been a carte blanche to institute a service like the Levitical. We keep traditions in Christian freedom, not out of obligation. Our doctrine does not demand or prohibit any particular human tradition.

    So, if keeping traditional practice is a matter of doctrine, you will be forever compromising with false doctrine. But our doctrine doesn't require traditional practice and never makes us compromise with false doctrine, it makes us compromise our wants and preferences so the very weakest Christians are not harmed by traditions or innovations.

    Children's sermons are not inherently anti-confessional, as whether it teaches the gospel depends on the content. In a particular context, say in 18th century orthodox russia or 17th century puritan boston, it might needlessly offend and rightly be regulated. But, based on his description, I'd be surprised if Pr. Brown's children's message could offend any Lutheran not looking to find offense.

  70. Boaz,

    I think we are still talking past each other. I'll try to boil it down as simply as I can.

    The Confessions say we should reject ceremonies that are frivolous.

    I think children's sermons are frivolous.

    You are free to disagree on the second point.


  71. Boaz,

    Further - you see the distinction we're all making between ceremony and doctrine, right?

    I think my colleague and "internet friend," Fr. Brown should consider a stronger practice in his parish's ceremony - I'm not accusing him of false doctrine.

    You see, the Confessions advocate not only doctrine, but also ceremony. So there is more than one way of being against the Confessions - it's one thing to not celebrate the Supper every Lord's Day and quite another to deny the Real Presence.

    Really, this is what is so discouraging about web discussions sometimes. . .


  72. Heath,

    I'm only your internet friend. . . I thought we were convention friends too =o)

    This really ends up how far you want to push "lex orandi, lex credendi". Even here in these very comments, I've been told that I am teaching Reformed theology and denying the efficacy of the Word because of a catechism lesson.

    My concern is precisely that I don't think everyone maintains the distinction between doctrine and practice (although related, do not misunderstand me!), and again, back to my initial concern, this distinction is especially easy to confuse when a practice is described as being against the Confessions.

    I have no problem with one thinking something I do is frivolous - I may disagree (just as Heath might disagree if I deemed one of his practices as being frivolous). Eh, so be it, it happens. I'm called here, Fr. Curtis is called there, and let us both pray to God that He be with us, for without Him we will bring it all to utter destruction.

    However, the implication that one violates the Confessions -- that ends up being another kettle of fish. And Heath, you've been careful to avoid doing that, for which I thank you.

    When next we meet, perhaps we can debate frivolity [and why apparently you think your children can't walk to the front of the Church reverently unless you or your wife are with them making sure they behave >=o) ] And you'll be wrong, and I'll be right, but you won't be convinced of it, and perhaps we both will learn something (if only to become more convinced of our position).

  73. Eric & Boaz, with the same rational for children's sermons, we should be doing "teen sermons." Also an "aged sermon" for old people with dementia. "Immigrant sermons." Why not? These groups need focused talk, specialized language as children. Maybe all immigrants should be asked to come up with children, because of language and cultural barriers, this will help them get more out of the regular sermon.

    Please know, I am not accusing anyone of false teaching. Where did children's sermons originate? Why the practice? I think the discussion has exhaused itself in this forum, but do one thing please. Please do this. Ask, inquire, maybe a little digging, with several of your fellow Lutheran members "why do we have children's sermons?/what is the theological reason?"... you'll get a Reformed response regarding faith and worship. You may be surprised what people say.

  74. Dear Boaz:

    You're making a leap between not upholding the confessions and false doctrine. They are not necessarily the same thing.

    For example, our confessions are quite clear in confessing that we (Lutherans) have Holy Communion every Sunday. Of course, for a lot of reasons, not all of our congregations uphold that salutary practice.

    Having the sacrament every other week is not "false doctrine" but it does not practice what we preach, it does not carry out what we say we do.

    Ditto for children's sermons.

    I mean, why do we bother subscribing to documents that say that we have the Eucharist every Sunday and decry frivolity in our worship if we're then going to claim that non-communion Sundays and frivolous worship are in our churches is within our confessional standards?

    This is a matter of wanting the confessional cake and eating the confessions too. Either we submit to them, or we don't. But not every transgression against the BOC is "false doctrine."

    Not everything in the Book of Concord is doctrinal. Much of it is an agreement to practice certain things *based* on our doctrine and on the conservative nature of our reformation. We Lutherans have a whole different understanding of the Reformation than, say, the Reformed or the Anabaptists.

    Similarly, you make the leap between not confessing the Book of Concord and going to hell. I don't accept that dichotomy. I don't know that Lutherans have ever argued that only Lutherans have salvation, and those who violate the BOC are hell-bound.

    My point is that we Lutherans all sign on to a confessional standard, and then we go on a crusade to find loopholes - and then rail against the guys who point out the dissonance.

    I think you would be hard-pressed to find any pastor in the LCMS that doesn't compromise in matters of practice for the sake of pastoral care. For example, pastors who know their parishioners need to have the Holy Sacrament often (as in our confessional standard of communion every week) and yet do not offer it every week so as not to offend the weaker brethren who are not ready for such a change. These things take time.

    Pastors have to make such decisions all the time - and matters of praxis are just not as cut-and-dried as, say, seeking the removal of a pastor from the roster for denying the Trinity or worshiping the Buddha.

    My point is that if we are going to subscribe to the confessions - which make clear statements of both doctrine *and* practice - we should try to uphold those confessions. Those who cannot might want to reconsider their standing as Lutherans. If a man is willing to go to the mat to defend infrequent communion, one might reasonably ask him why he at least doesn't desire that his congregation have the sacrament every week. The matter is not necessarily doctrinal - but it is hard to have unity when our Symbols are seen as ignorable and optional.

    I hope this helps explain the subtlety of the matter a little bit.

  75. This comment has been removed by the author.

  76. Rev. Weinkauf,

    I want to make one point that I think is very important.

    "Eric & Boaz, with the same rational for children's sermons, we should be doing "teen sermons." Also an "aged sermon" for old people with dementia. "Immigrant sermons." Why not?"

    I am not arguing from a perspective of "should". I'm not "advocating" anything. I'm not saying that one should do children's sermons. I'm approaching this more as a public defender rather than a promoter - are children sermons, all of them, guilty as charged? I'll defend them.

    And don't worry, when the hordes of raving reformed come for you, I'll defend you too.

  77. Eric,

    Oh, yeah! The convention - 2007 was so long ago, and we try to forget anything Synodical...

    I think you should consider Fr. Weinkauf's point a little further. Children's sermons share the same rationale as the Evangelical's "Children's Church." Where does this slippery slope end? Fr. Weedon also had some great points about all of Church being for children.

    Children's sermons send the message, "Here's a part of the service for you kids, since the rest of us is not so much for you." I don't think that's a good message to send.

    And it doesn't matter if that's what you mean for it to send - intention has nothing to do with it.

    So, I urge you, to consider these things from Frs. Weinkauf and Weedon - and I'll leave it at that.


  78. Eric:

    You are trying hard to maintain a tension between defending and advocating. Your defense, however, notwithstanding your intentions, will advocate the practice to many potential hearers of this discussion. They will say to themselves, Look at the good the children's sermon is doing; look how well it can be done. Hey, let's all just do it the way wise Pastor Brown does it.

    Just tell us, are you opposed to the children's sermon, even a well intentioned one, even one that is practiced with great decorum, and with lots of catechesis? If so, tell us why.

    Or are you in favor of it? And if so, why? and if so, be proud of it. Put it on youtube, so others will see the secret to doing it right.

  79. Maybe there is wisdom in what some Lutherans have around the world - actual oversight rather than the freedom to get creative.

    For example, in some countries, the liturgy is actually regulated by the bishops and/or the king. That kind of control is designed to keep the liturgy from falling into the cult of individuality. It would be nice to have this kind of unity out of love - but one look at modern LCMS practice shows how well that works.

    In other words, there is a reason we have rubrics. Maybe they actually ought to be followed. Imagine that!

    The funny thing is that we actually have "may" and "shall" rubrics in our hymnals - which makes no sense at all when a pastor can, at his discretion make liturgical insertions and deletions that defy any rubric anywhere (not to mention the catholic tradition we have inherited and that our confessions endorse) in order to have a mini-catechism class, puppet show, bible study, or additional homily - and sometimes even get rid of things like the Creed to free up time for the kiddie program (I've seen that done too).

    It really means that there are no "shall" rubrics in actual practice. Instead of all of the rubrics in the hymnal, maybe we ought to have just one big line in red at the beginning of the service. And this rubric should say: "Do whatever the heck you want." That pretty much sums up LCMS worship.

    Maybe we should have one more rubric at the end: "We hope you enjoyed the show. Be sure to tip the performers on the way out."

    And of course, in addition to liturgical catechism recitation, there are other pastors who like to have similar liturgical insertions to make way for a skit or a performance by the dancing girls in tights.

    And if the liturgy is that pliable, we have no leg to stand on if we criticize free-form, non-liturgical worship. All that is happening there is more of the very creativity that Eric is defending. It's just a matter of degree at that point.

    So, as much as I don't like centralized authority in matters of the state, when it comes to the church, maybe episkope is better than anarchy.

    Of course, episkope in the LCMS is a matter of having "suits" at "corporate" telling the "branch offices" how to do "business." We are the quintessentially American church.

    Maybe we need a Mission Province here.

  80. (chuckle) I must say that it is conversations such as this that make me love GD so much. What a way to ring in the new year!

    For what it is worth, I thought the picture was a sad commentary as well. But for entirely different reasons.

    I'm sure you guys know that I love children's messages. And in fact, I think mine are indeed all on the web...(I think the audio is, not the video). I don't see them as frivolous or anything else like that.

    But to add to this: when I grew up, we had children's messages. I can still vividly remember some of them. I could quote what the pastor was saying and the point he looked to make.

    That pastor, that I developed a relationship with (I left before confirmation) was the one I went back to when I was wondering about going into the ministry.

    Children's messages allows the pastor to make a connection to a group that he might not have that much chance to talk to. And that can make an impact. can either thank or blame children's messages for getting me in the ministry. Obviously that is fuel for the fire no matter what side you support! :)

    But, I've still got 25 more comments to plow through. I'm glad that this is such a crucial shiboleth that needs to be made: can a confessional Lutheran support children's messages?

    I wonder: will this be addressed in the koinonia? ;)

    Have a blessed New Year guys.

  81. Fr. Louderback,

    I was just waiting for you to chime in - I thought we had maybe lost you to the New Year celebration. . .

    Yes, this is the kind of minutiae we enjoy discussing. Because we take reverence seriously. We have disagreements amongst ourselves over what best makes for reverence and what makes for frivolity.

    Serious question: When was the last time you heard a discussion of what makes for reverence in worship at a PLI conference?

    There's a time and a place for everything - see the post above this one for another example of what I mean. Someone mentioned it above - when you work, work; when you play, play; when you worship, worship.


  82. Part of my reason for posting this in the first place was owing to the fact that it depicts a practice that the seminary doesn't teach or endorse. It strikes me as odd.

    There are worship practices in our congregations that CTS does not teach, practice, and in many cases, specifically discourages - at least it did when I was a student.

    For example, there is a rubric to allow the "handshake of peace" - a post-Vatican II liturgical practice that has made it into our hymnals as a "may" rubric.

    Also: individual communion vessels, children's sermons, praise bands, speaking in tongues, chancel dramas, the page-5 style "Dry Mass," dancing girls, processions with ribbons being waved around, etc. These are things that can be witnessed in LCMS parishes every Sunday, but are not taught, endorsed, or practiced by CTS.

    I would be equally surprised to see a CTS calendar with liturgical dancers or praise bands being depicted.

    So, Eric, if the children's sermon is such a good thing, should the seminary be teaching it? Should we have them at Kramer Chapel? And if that innovation ought to be stressed in our seminary, why not the others? Should we have liturgical dancers at Kramer Chapel?

    If you say "no" to liturgical dancers but "yes" to children's sermons, why?

    I suspect the answer is that *you* like children's sermons, and *you* don't like dancing girls at the service. I think this entire discussion boils down to this: do we submit to our received tradition, or do we do what is right in our own eyes?

    On paper, we confess the former, but in practice, we do the latter.

  83. Advocacy of the so called children's message has brought to the discussion many benefits and fruits which result from this type of contact, this sort of pastor-children moment. They learn the catechism. The gospel hits home with them a bit more effectively. A closer relationship with the pastor is fostered, and a spiritual trust is built and nurtured. Some will end up in the Church's Ministry in part as a result of these contacts. (And as a bonus, they will be the type of pastor who will be in favor of the children's message, and thus we see one way the practice is perpetuated; hooray for us.) Et cetera.

    These arguments bring to mind a couple of thoughts. The first is just something I'll mention in passing. Not that this is the intention of these advocates, but one might think, in view of aspects of this discussion, that the traditionalists on this issue are antichildren. We don't like children (and of course children tend not to like us very much either). We don't have much use for them. We don't really care about reaching them, or effectively inculcating the gospel in them. In general, we are the type of men who would rather spend our time with grown ups, whether talking philosophy or watching a football game, than with kids. Spending time with kids is for the mothers and the deaconesses, and best done away from us, down the hall somewhere. Now while all of this might describe me personally, I would urge that this is not necessarily the case with the opponents of the children's message, and is really quite beside the point.

    Our real concern (and this is my second point) is that there is a time and place for things. Why cannot such personal catechetical contact take place outside the liturgy? and especially outside the holy mass? If we were a church community in some sort of concentration camp and ruled by prison guards or a fascist government, and were told for some reason that all of our spiritual and catechetical contact with our people must take place within the confines of one weekly gathering which must as a whole be technically a mass, beginning with the invocation, and ending with the final blessing, then I could see inserting into that context one on one catechetical instruction with a child. But in the ordinary situation of the real world of the modern church, what exactly is the compulsion to stop the liturgy at some point, and do a children's message, before letting the liturgy kick in again?

  84. Dear Mark:

    For all of its mischief, irreverence in worship has had one good result: I think it has served to shock, to be a wake-up call to jolt the church out of her lukewarmness and worldliness.

    I never thought about attending seminary and becoming a pastor until I moved to Atlanta and saw the sorry state of our churches and pastors - who seemed to be competing with one another to see who could be less Lutheran - from the guy who conducted the Eucharist in a brown business suit, to the chancel dramas, to the pastor who cracked jokes during the distribution, to the myriad services I attended with no Holy Communion, no confession, no creed, no sense that this was something important.

    It was terrible! It took weeks and weeks of "church shopping" and wading through crap just to find a congregation that had liturgical propriety at all.

    We ended up having to drive an hour each way to go to an LCMS church that actually worshiped the way our confessions say we do. And that in a major metropolis that hosted the Olympics and boasted the busiest airport in the world.

    That sad state of affairs made me consider the holy ministry.

    I think we are seeing a backlash among young people. I think we are seeing a return to the liturgy and to reverence. I think we are seeing young people tired of baby boomer bourgeois goofiness.

    I also think our church's international contacts are exposing the shallowness of the way many of our churches conduct worship according to the shallowness of our suburban culture of entertainment. And I think CTS has done a good job for the most part. CSL seems to be a little less consistent.

    And we're seeing a return to traditionalism across denominational lines, from Baptists who are dabbling in creeds and liturgies to young Roman Catholics reacquainting themselves with the Tridentine Mass, we are seeing a return to normalcy. Young nuns wear habits, young Lutherans are crossing themselves, and young pastors are less inclined to do the kiddie shows and pop music - much to the chagrin of aging boomers who are shocked to see things like (gasp!) cassocks.

    The 1960s have been a pox on the liturgy of the church and on faith in Jesus. Thank God that we're now approaching half a century from that trainwreck of a decade! The "youth culture" has given us the golden calf of entertainment - which is precisely what "contemporary worship" is. "Pop" (as in "pop" music) is short for popular - as in "vox populi, vox Dei." You can't worship God *and* the youth culture.

    And I do credit Gottesdienst and the work of faithful professors in helping to teach seminarians why not all forms of worship are created equal. There is a reason why a crucifix is better than a golden calf, and why a chorale is inherently better than a gyrating coed inhaling a microphone.

    There is still hope that if I die at a ripe old age, I will actually have a male pastor wearing a stole come and reverently pray and give me Holy Communion at my death bed without me having to do that myself as well.

  85. Latif and Larry,

    You ask: "Just tell us, are you opposed to the children's sermon, even a well intentioned one, even one that is practiced with great decorum, and with lots of catechesis? If so, tell us why.

    Or are you in favor of it? And if so, why? and if so, be proud of it. Put it on youtube, so others will see the secret to doing it right."

    This may be hard for people to understand, but either way, I don't really care. I am neither for or against children sermons fundamentally.

    I am against when parents want dog and pony shows that are cutesy time. I tend to think object lessons are horrible, precisely because they aren't age appropriate for most children (and to be honest are often quite tangential). If they are to be done, I want them to be focused on teaching and to be educational rather than "entertaining".

    But this doesn't mean that I think every congregation should have one - I don't think anything is lacking if there is not one. I'm not going to knock someone who ends the inherited practice of children's sermons.

    But... I'm not going to knock someone who starts - I'm not going to simply assume that he panders and is engaging in Reformed theology (any more than I'm going to assume that a pastor who starts wearing a chausible or chanting is just a closet Roman Catholic). Nor, might I add, would I let someone assume that just because, say for example, Fr. Beane doesn't do children's lessons that this means that he hates children and wants nothing to do with them.

    Too many assumptions get made -- just as one might suggest (as Fr. Beane does) that I'll defend children's sermons because I "like" them, many assume that they are opposed simply because many here "don't like" them. Again, I really, sincerely, and I am honest, have no love or fondness of the practice. If it were not something inherited here, I wouldn't have started them. . . but if that is to be the local custom, then by gum, we're going to do them well. We won't do them every other week - if it's part of the service, then let it be part of the service. It won't be cutesy time, it will be a time of focusing upon God.

    How can this be all be? One simple reason.

    This is a matter of freedom. Let people be free - only do not use your freedom as an occasion to sin. Whatever you do, do it well. Use it to point to Christ. Soli Deo Gloria.

    I've been given one altar to serve, one altar that is my responsibility. I'm not going to condemn someone for doing something I do not do - I'm not going to insist that their practice in particulars be mine, for as Confessional Lutherans we acknowledge that rites and customs need not be identical (for the unity of the Church lies not in uniformity).

  86. One other comment to as regards Fr. Beane's question: "So, Eric, if the children's sermon is such a good thing, should the seminary be teaching it? Should we have them at Kramer Chapel? And if that innovation ought to be stressed in our seminary, why not the others? Should we have liturgical dancers at Kramer Chapel?

    My answer would be -- we may (note again the freedom word). I think it would be wise if the Seminaries spent more time teaching pedagogy -- when we were there the fact that Parish Ed was basically making sure that Seminarians knew the Catechism is an utter disgrace. I would prefer, even just a good class session or two on, "If you get asked, shoehorned, or inherit this, here are some things to consider." I think that would be fine.

    As for Kramer Chapel... um... there aren't really children there at those services with regularity. Of course, I think it could be quite entertaining to make all the 1st year students sit up in front and be quizzed =o)

    As for the dancing girls - with a children's sermon, I can at least see a didactic value to that (and I think teaching is a valuable part of the Divine Service). Regardless of the reasons why people might want a children's sermon, I can use it as a time to teach. Liturgical dance -- I don't see how it can be used as time of teaching. Thus, I can't ever see myself introducing it.

    Also - now to Heath, I greatly appreciate what Pastor Weedon writes. I think it is wise and apt. I would never argue that children's sermons are needed or necessary. I'd even be much more apt to follow a strict "Say the black, do the Red" set up than many here might like, with all the curtailing of many historical forms that we are currently free to use.

    But when you say, "And it doesn't matter if that's what you mean for it to send - intention has nothing to do with it" I think you overstate things a bit (although in a very Postmodern way, by the by, as that phrase posits the creation of discourse apart from the word. Foucualt would be proud.). Inferences may be drawn from an action, and certainly not all those inferences are helpful or beneficial, or ultimately, accurate.

    But if this is your contention, it must be applied to all situations. How then does this apply to when other things that, while perhaps present historically, are reintroduced? What message does using incense send to other congregations in one's fellowship (because remember, it's what what you are doing and what people learn from that. It's not what you say, it's all about the message you send.) "Obviously", one might say, "any congregation that uses incense wants to be Roman Catholic, hates the rest of us that don't, and thinks we aren't really Lutheran." That's the message that is sent. . .

    If someone said such things to me, I'd argue that no, that message is not being sent. It's a conclusion that is being jumped to that violates all semblance of the 8th Commandment. Thus I would be careful to judge a practice that way, as I believe it is said somewhere, with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

  87. Brown writes: "with a children's sermon, I can at least see a didactic value to that (and I think teaching is a valuable part of the Divine Service). Regardless of the reasons why people might want a children's sermon, I can use it as a time to teach. Liturgical dance -- I don't see how it can be used as time of teaching. Thus, I can't ever see myself introducing it."

    Aside from failing to appreciate what a Confessional attitude would tell us about the children's sermon, I think you have shown us something else in your thinking as well, and I think it might be summed up best in what you write above. Namely, you see a didactic character and purpose to the Mass, where I see a doxological and sacramental character. I would argue that even the homily should be assessed in those terms, rather than in ways which end up, wittingly or not, placing it in the category of a lecture or a catechesis.

    Viewing the liturgy in this way, it makes sense that you would be in favor of (though you try to convince us that you are neither in favor of nor against) the insertions in the liturgy of things which can be argued as having a catechetical value.

    Conversely, if the lack of catechetical value in liturgical dancing is your only reason for opposing it, you are blinding yourself to the fact that its advocates would never claim it has didactic value. They see it as an aid to devotion, and as having doxological value. They are wrong. But your view leaves yourself unequipped to deal with advocates of the ribbon dancers. What you are looking for in the liturgy would leave us with a choice between two poles, a workshop in creative catechesis, or a free for all community church worship experience. Neither knows the liturgy for what it is and what its genius is.

    Ceremonies teach us what we need to know of Christ. Right? But does that mean teaching is the reason we gather, and therefore we are free to be creative in what we do when we gather? Or does it mean that the liturgical tradition itself teaches? It teaches those who cannot yet read. It teaches with words, music, action, with eating and drinking. It teaches more profoundly than anything the education majors could ever dream up. So much so that "teaching" is hardly an adequate term for it. Yet you want to halt what the Confessions say has a teaching value, so that you can now teach the children. And you claim that in doing so the focus is on God? Perhaps you have convinced yourself of this. And that is sad.

  88. Latif,

    I do believe that there is a didactic element to the Mass (as well as a sacramental and doxological - note that I said that teaching was a part -- implying strongly that I also recognize other parts). Simply because I chose to focus on one aspect doesn't mean that I fundamentally ignore the others.

    If one says that they wish to glorify God via liturgical dance, my response would be that the corporate worship is not the setting for individual acts of devotion. That is a doxological approach.

    Also, I do believe that the normal order can be interrupted for the insertion of a didactic element. A fine, fine example of a didactic insertion can be found on this very site:

    This interrupts the normal flow yet teaches much and is beneficial. I may even use it this year, even though I'm fairly certain it has never been done and my congregation and would certainly be seen as an innovation. I may just put it at the end of the bulletin instead, though, so as to not preempt the Creed. I will ponder on this.

  89. Dear Latif:

    I think you have hit on an important issue: "What is the purpose of the Mass?"

    One of the reasons a lot of my Baptist relatives stopped attending church is that, for them, the service was a lecture on the Bible. There was no sense of the sacramental, mystical, divine Presence. It was all about "getting something out of the sermon" (i.e. lecture, catechesis, doctrine, head knowledge).

    And that can be had by watching TV or by reading the Bible at home.

    In my own conversion to Lutheranism, I resonated with the fact that Jesus *is here* and he is here *for me* in Word and Sacrament. Instead of God Talk, we have God Present. You can't get that Presence on YouTube or in reading Lutheranism 101 in your recliner (which is where I read it, BTW!).

    I think catechesis is important; I spend a lot of my time teaching the faith in school and in church. I think doctrine is important; I spend two hours every Saturday night lecturing on the Book of Concord. And there is an imparting of information in the readings and sermon - and yes, even in the occasional announcement.

    But I think we confessional types sometimes emphasize doctrine to the detriment of other things. I don't think it is an either/or, but a both/and. We can teach correct doctrine without draining the lifeblood out of the faith, turning the church into a Reformed-style lecture hall, replacing the mystery of the Lord's presence with "if x then y, multiply by pi, and do not divide by zero."

    Confessional pastors do catechize. We teach. We write. We read. We attend lectures. We give lectures. But I think we overdo it sometimes. And the missal kiddie-chesis (even without the sock puppet) is a manifestation of that.

    Sometimes Lutheran services almost come off as "dress rehearsals" for true worship rather than worship itself. At some point, you need to put away the Dr. Ruth Westheimer book and actually spend time with your wife. Sometimes Confessional Lutherans seem to enjoy reading about the Christian life (or lecturing about it) than living it.

    Sermons (be they for adults or children) are primarily proclamation - calls to repentance and declarations of grace. Pastor Berg's current article in Gottesdienst is a beautiful exposition of what preaching is - and as wonderful as the article is, I won't be interrupting the Divine Service tomorrow to read it to either the adults or the kids.

    Thanks, Br. Latif, for the food for thought.

  90. Re: catachetical dancing girls...

    We could line up ten gals in tights and let each one portray a different commandment. One could do an interpretive dance on idolatry, one on misusing the Lord's name, one on the Sabbath, etc. There are endless possibilities for catechesis here - and, of course, it's all about our freedom in the Gospel, right?

    I do think the Smalcald Articles and the Tretise may be harder to dance to, but there are ways of holding the audience's attention...

    As the culture becomes more juvenile and as attention spans get shorter (a la the film "Idiocracy"), we may need to do "children's sermons" for the adults. And if we want to know how to hold their attention, just watch the commercials during the Super Bowl.

    Behold, the 22nd century American Lutheran church service!

    And if you have not seen Pr. Fisk's YouTube videos regarding the National Youth Gathering (including not only dancing gals by even a "drum circle") - it is a must.

  91. I totally don't belong here, but in case anyone is interested in a girl's perspective:

    I like kids. I'm a mother to a handful of them. I dislike children's sermons, mostly on practical grounds: precisely because of the impact they have upon my children; precisely because children's sermons work against my work as a mother during Divine Worship; precisely because they do to my children what they did to Fr. Brown, as reported in his anecdote @ Confessional Gadfly. Even at their best--face forward catechesis from a reverent pastor--children's sermons encourage my children to descend and make them that much more unmanageable.

    Let's assume that the problem is my kids are remarkably bad and that I'm a terrible mother. Thus, if the dear pastor wants to do this terrible mother any favors while yet reaching her bad children in a unique way that might only be accomplished during the Divine Worship, stop with the children's sermons and start communing children. Because that's something you can do. The "children's sermon" is my thing--something I do every day, all day with my little ones in my house. During DW, there is not a clear benefit to the pastor getting on the kids’ level, thereby invoking “house” and playing mommy (even more problematic in our case, as the pastor is Dad). During DW, we, all of us, even my drooling, snot-nosed babies, want God. Not a good-intentioned moment to play school or picnic. God. And on days when the kids do a brilliant job getting in their own way during worship, it does them no favors when the pastor, with his good heart and open smiles, takes it upon himself to get in their way, too.

    No snark intended; no snark achieved. :) Carry on, gentlemen.

  92. Father Hollywood,

    Wow! So, both you and I became pastors because of children's messages! How awesome is that!

    Time will tell whether CoWo and children's messages are a flash in the pan or here to stay. Wait and see. That is all we can do.

    Well, not exactly: what you are doing is strong arming your opinion on this to try and muster up confessional authority with what you: you can't do children's messages and be a Lutheran. I think that is not a helpful or correct position.

    The reason being of course, we say we are Lutheran because we teach what Scripture teaches. Nowhere does Scripture teach "Don't have children's messages."

    So, oppose them as you will. Don't do them, encourage others to stop, etc. That is fine by me. But must we insist that this is a confessional battle? That Luther, Melanchthon, and others wrote in order to forbid them? Really?

    Must we bring everything to the level of "You are not a Confessional Lutheran!"?

  93. Pr Curtis,

    No, no New Year's resolutions along those lines. My flesh is far too weak for that.

    You asked about PLI conference and reverence: I don't remember anyone ever talking about worship. We saw worship, different kinds of worship. I thought it was reverent.

    Problem is, what I think is reverent probably isn't reverent enough, eh? Frivolity vs reverence and all that.

    I guess I just don't think about it that way--that is to say, I don't think "I take reverence seriously." I take God seriously. From that, people see how I act and behave, and that is reverence.

    As far as the time and place for much contact do I have with the kids of the congregation? Not much. I look back on my growing up and we were actively involved in the church. But I didn't talk to my pastor that much. He didn't teach me in Sunday School. Once again, I did not have confirmation.

    So, the time that he taught children's messages was the time for us to connect. And when I needed advice, years later, about going to Sem, I called him. (shrug) Maybe this is not the story for everyone in the world, but it is the story for me.

    Grant then that children's messages are terrible frivolous activities that ruin the reverence of the service. Grant that they are anti-confessional, liturgical novelties.

    I'd still do them. Because I saw what they did for me. Just like they did for Father Hollywood--just in the other direction. ;)

    So, did your pastor do children's messages when you were growing up? Do you remember any of them? Did you like them at the time?

  94. Oh, and I wanted to say this Father Holly--anytime you are on your death bed, give me a call, and I will commune you, stole, incense, whatever you want.

    I find that interesting. For me, I'd just want communion. The guy could be in collar or band T-shirt. Whatever he wears would not effect what I receive.

    I tend to think that this is the core difference in all of this. I understand your confessional position. But I really just see it as an issue of taste. You like your reverential, liturgical service. Great. I do to. But I also like my more casual CoWO service. And others do as well.

    What they both "do" is the same thing: they bring God's gifts to God's people and give people the opportunity to respond to those gifts.

    Mine isn't reverent enough for you? Fine--but it is reverent enough for those who come to it. Isn't that good enough? Why must it be more than that?

  95. A few last random thoughts:

    Gauntless, if I am here, everyone belongs here.

    But if you don't want your kids to go down for a children's message, don't send them.

    I will say, that I am not "playing" anything when I do children's messages. I'm am bringing God to your kids. Incarnation, icon of Christ, all of that. I'm a pastor and I'm bringing kids up in the faith.

    There was a comment above (and I apologize for lacking desire and energy to search it out) that said that it is unfair that those opposing children's messages are made to be against children.

    Sure. I agree with this. The problem is, people indeed may think that. People coming to a church where they feel uncomfortable with their kids to begin with -- kids make noise, don't sit still, they say things out loud--I had a baby snoring loud enough to wake the dead the other sunday.

    So, yeah, people can indeed get the idea that "Church is not for me and my child."

    Why do you think there is only one child in the picture?

    I will ask my video team about putting up my children's messages on our website, if anyone really wants to watch and see and take note of how I do it. That is, if you are serious about it. If not, that's fine too.

  96. Dear Mark:

    Worse than the children's sermon was the irreverence during the Sacrament and the turning of the worship service into a show - complete with a skit performed in front of the altar.

    I was deeply offended at that, way more than a children's sermon. My wife, a new convert to our evangelical catholic faith, was likewise deeply offended and became quite skeptical of Lutheranism as a result (we would actually read the confessions together, so she saw first hand the fact that we do not practice what we preach).

    There is a lot of disagreement in the LCMS about what is good and right and proper - and even what is "Lutheran" in matters of worship. You and I disagree adamantly about it.

    I think we have these debates because we have the luxury to have them.

    We live in an affluent society that is heavily influenced by the entertainment world. It has influenced the church. We also live in a highly Protestantized religious culture - and it is hard to argue that this has not had an influence on us as Lutherans. Our brethren around the world are content to kneel and make the sign of the cross. They don't have the luxury of putting on a show. They have not yet become rich and decadent enough to Disney up their services.

    I have no authority to tell any other pastor not to ditch the liturgy or not to introduce drums, guitars, clowns, dancers, or any other such things into their worship services. But I can express my dismay at them, cite quotations from our Book of Concord, make a case for why these things are un-Lutheran and spiritually harmful to a church that confesses the Real Presence, and I can carry out my call where I am.

    I really don't like these discussions. I find no joy in them. In fact, they do depress me at times. I do really feel for the lay people who truly want worship to be worship, who seek the reverence that ought to be obvious as people who believe Jesus is truly present in our worship. And I do get a lot of e-mail from lurkers who thank me for standing up for the liturgy. They do help me to keep a positive attitude about these ugly fights. They are worth the trouble.

    After Katrina, I had a lot of visitors to my church tearfully thanking us for having a liturgical service - as many of them came from areas where there was no liturgical service in the LCMS churches to be found. How sad! And what a disgrace.

    I do not believe all worship is created equal. I do believe Apology 24 still speaks to us today. And I don't care how many experts tell me that the only way to reach young people is to let the world's methods of entertainment into the sanctuary - I don't believe it; I won't teach it; and I won't confess it.

    I thank God that I do serve a parish that wants nothing to do with children's sermons, guitars, and dancing girls. I pray that as we move away from the radical generation of the 1960s, that the pendulum will come back - and I think that it is.

    Entertainment Worship is a failed experiment. Maybe I won't live to see the day that it is mothballed in all of our churches, but maybe my son will.

    Peace in Christ!

  97. Dear Mark:

    When I am on my deathbed, I do not want to be distracted by irreverence. It sends a message when you show up at a person's deathbed in sandals and shorts - as one of my colleagues did.

    Maybe it doesn't matter to you, but I would never dress like I'm going to a beach party or changing oil to give someone what may be their last Communion on this side of the grave. It does matter.

    No, I would like to know that my pastor cares about his vocation. I want a serious pastor, not a goofball or a clown - giving me pastoral care.

    I don't think that is too much to ask.

  98. Dear Mark:

    Reverence is not a matter of taste. There is a time and a place for being casual. But any time a sinful human being encounters God's Presence in Scripture, his reaction is not to be casual, but to fall on his face in worship.

    Protestants have more casual worship because to them, Jesus is not really present. They are there to talk about Him in a lecture or catechesis. But churches who believe in the Real Presence see worship as a supernatural encounter with the living God.

    I'm afraid that casualness teaches something at odds with our confessions - which is why one of my very bright, lifelong Lutheran high school students a few years back - who attended a "contemporary" Lutheran church - was shocked to learn that we (Lutherans) believe in the real presence. This girl had been confirmed - but she also observed what her pastor confessed about the Sacrament by his casualness.

    She thought only Roman Catholics believed in the Real Presence, because they did things like bow and cross themselves.

    Actions speak louder than words. Body language and rubrics matter.

  99. Brown writes: "I do believe that there is a didactic element to the Mass...note that I said that teaching was a part -- implying strongly that I also recognize other parts"

    The thrust of your discourse, if not an exact phraseology, tells us that you see not merely didactic parts in the liturgy, but the liturgy as having a largely didactic character and purpose.

    I would argue, however, that the very character of the liturgy is not to be found or appreciated by seeing it as didactic, but through another lense altogether, as I outlined earlier, and that one of the dangers that even well intentioned Lutherans face is that when we begin to look upon those "parts" that seem particularly like "didactic" moments (like the homily or the lections), chiefly or directly in terms of how best to exploit them didactically, we end up by cheating both those parts, and the liturgy as a whole, out of what could be accomplished in the Church. So preaching becomes what laymen call "preachy," or what I would call didactic. And we end up justifying any number of innovations, for the sake of "teachable moments."

    The liturgy teaches, cultivates, educates, and catechizes. It also brings us new life and union with the Triune God. But these ends (even these "teaching" ends) are compromised when we look upon the liturgy or any part of it, for the teaching that we can actively exploit through our doing, and through our clever teaching.

  100. Gauntlets,

    I agree with you. I don't particularly like children's sermons. I wouldn't ever plan on introducing them, and I would much, much prefer to have parents teach their own children as they have been given to do (you mean parents teach... can't we just send them to Sunday school, that way we never have to talk about God). I'd much rather Dad teach his kids the catechism rather than just sloughing that off to the pastor to cram in during Catechism class. Neither of these are ideal.

    Of course, this does point out that I tend to view that if there is way to use a children's sermon, it has to be catecatical - taking up the head of the house's duty.

  101. Eric:

    You wrote this, "This may be hard for people to understand, but either way, I don't really care. I am neither for or against children sermons fundamentally."

    Then you wrote this, "I don't particularly like children's sermons."

    From the East Side of Milwaukee, it looks a lot like you are squirming.

  102. Isn't the East side of Milwaukee a lake?

    Actually, Latif, the point is this. By saying that I am neither for nor against children sermons, I am not going to say, "Oh, you really need to have one of those" (which would be for) nor will I say, "Oh, you can't have one of those" (which would be against them).

    Personally - I don't like children's sermons all that much. I don't enjoy them. If I were to rank all the things I do during the week, the catechism lesson on Sunday morning would be quite low on the list.

    The fact that I don't like them does not mean that they ought to be deemed as against the Confessions or impermissible - just as the fact that I might enjoy something (say, Def Leppard albums, or fruitcakes) means that it would be good and salutary to include in a service.

    That isn't squirming - it's simply trying not to become a tyrant based upon my own personal preferences. For more, you might view my blog post from this morning where I had written about this very distinction earlier this morning.

  103. Fr Hollywood,

    You know, the more I hear the more sympathy I have for you...because I see that you are more like me.

    I mean you say:

    I really don't like these discussions. I find no joy in them. In fact, they do depress me at times. I do really feel for the lay people who truly want worship to be worship, who seek the reverence that ought to be obvious as people who believe Jesus is truly present in our worship. And I do get a lot of e-mail from lurkers who thank me for standing up for the liturgy. They do help me to keep a positive attitude about these ugly fights. They are worth the trouble.

    And much the same is true for me as well. This is my situation just as much as it is your situation. Down to the responses and depression.

    That's too bad isn't it? I mean, I don't mean to depress you; I don't mean to cause stress and hurt to lay people out there.

    But on the other hand, I do what I do because I AM a Lutheran. So...there is the bind for you.

    I'll have some more thoughts on your comments later. But for right now, I hope that you just know that I understand fully what you are talking about--because I feel as though I am in the very same boat.

    I will though, point out one of the differences: in my model of what the Synod would be like, both you and I would do our thing; your model is seeking to run me off. That is the distinction. So, my sympathy for your position is tempered by my realization that you want me out; while I don't want you out.

    You should ponder that in your struggles and depression.

    More later. Take care.

  104. Dear Mark:

    I believe the only solution is what Marquart proposed: an amicable divorce.

    Just as the LCMS and the ALC had to break off fellowship, and just as the LCMS is not in fellowship with the ELCA as that body has a different understanding of what it means to be Lutheran - I see that we have some elements in our fellowship that ought to be examined to see if we are being honest in retaining fellowship.

    Sometimes there are simply irreconcilable differences, and mutual recognition of that makes the most sense.

    I know that I will never partake of the Holy Sacrament in a place where there is a rock band or dancing girls. I will never preach in such a place. And at least so far, we are not compelled to say Mass and preach in places and situations where it would grieve our consciences.

  105. Dear Mark:

    As a postscript, it does make sense that you have a "big tent" view of the synod. It is that way in the Anglican communion - which has a pretty much "anything goes" approach to church fellowship.

    The ELCA has that kind of a big tent as well, as there are conservative, confessional types in the ELCA alongside

    I see doctrine and practice going together, whereas you see doctrine as all-important and practice being pretty much "do whetever is right in your own eyes." I see "lex credendi lex orandi," and you see "whatever floats yer boat" as long as you recite the catechism when you're doing it.

    Again, I appeal to Marquart's wisdom that it would be more honest to break up the LCMS. I mean, it is already essentially broken - even though we share a retirement plan.

  106. The only problem with the amicable divorce scenario is that it would not be a "divorce", but a trivorce, a quint-vorce, a shattering? Would I fit in your tent, oh Father Hollywood? Or would I be outside it? Where is that line drawn...

    The simple fact is that too many folks on the "right" would want to draw that tent demarcation line at far, far too many places in the zeal to get it "right". Or at least that is my concern, and probably the concern of many, which is why I think Marquardt's divorce has not happened yet.

  107. Dear Eric:

    Whatever. Those are things that would have to come out of talks. Just like how we talk to go into communion with other church bodies.

    And the Reformation was just such a divorce.

    The Reformation was a "necessary evil" but it was necessary. We simply could not remain in communion with churches with whom we had such differences.

    One of Rome's arguments against the Reformation is that it would result in thousands of denominations - and they were right.

    But the alternative was to stay in communion with Rome.

    American Lutheranism is already splintered.

    The LCMS is, in fact, splintered - if we're going to be honest. I find it hard to consider myself in communion with pastors who advocate for women's "ordination" or with congregations that turn worship into entertainment with rock music and dancing girls. I know technically I am, but I certainly would never of my own volition participate in any such thing. I will attend churches with a women wearing deacon stoles at the altar.

    I just think it's better to be honest than to ignore the elephant in the parlor. Marquart was certainly honest even as he was wise on this side of the grave.

  108. I assume you mean "I will [not] attend churches with women wearing deacon stoles at the altar" =o)

    The other aspect, too, that comes with a theological divorce is that one is kicked out, that one is given the boot. Rome's protestations about fracturing the Church ring hollow when they are given well after the excommunications. There's always a specific line of demarcation, and specific issue... and when that comes, the divorce will come.

  109. Dear Eric:

    Thanks for the editing job!

    That's why I think what we already have is a strained (if not broken) fellowship, and maybe we need to be honest about it.

    Dissolution is the hardest political matter - but it can be done as the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia have proven.

  110. Pondering this more (oh, wonderful, Brown thinks and talks MORE), the thing that sits slightly uneasy with me is that you almost imply that this split would be settled after it is done - let's break apart and the chips will fall where they may (this may not be what you intend, it maybe that you just don't want to suggest the lines along which a division would occur - if so, what follows won't apply).

    Czechoslovakia had an obvious reason for splitting Czechs that way and Slovaks that way. The Ukraine wanted out of Russia. Those are clear, specific issues. We would need something clear and specific, that is not a matter of personal interpretation, to be the line of demarcation - and that would have to be the cause of the split (you don't get to make up the reason for the divorce after the divorce).

    "They aren't reverent" wouldn't work, because that is a judgment call. We can debate whether something is reverent or not. "They don't use a hymnal that is approved by the Synod" would be. Women's ordination would be a clear one. And whatever issue it is would have to come first - otherwise, how do congregations know where they stand. There may be two (or more) synods in the LCMS, but what separates them -- until there is a firm sense of that, nothing will get done.

  111. Dear Eric:

    Again, we go into theological talks to go into fellowship, and that is how we would go out of fellowship. Maybe in the course of dialog we would have a more clear "line of demarcation" as you call it - but I think the "hold the institution together at all costs" mentality is foolhardy. The Church is not the bureaucracy or the institution. Synods come and go.

    It's almost as if we believe our political structure and governance is our master and not our servant.

    Once again, I will not attend services, preach at, or commune at many congregations within our fellowship. And I know that I'm not alone. I know a lot of pastors who attend district and synodical functions and will not take communion.

    All I am saying is let's confront the reality instead of just trying to be Anglican about it and saying "anything goes" as long as we slap a Luther Seal on the front of the building and share a retirement plan.

  112. I think the bright line of demarcation is out there already: lay ministry. Would you commune from the hand of a lay minister, or would you not?


  113. I think that's a very good line (or at least a potential one), and as long as you aren't going to state that this includes congregation elders who assist in some places, I'm guessing we'd be on the same side of the line. =o)

    But this hits a point - it is something concrete. It is A or B. It can be nailed down and is objective.

  114. The difference between a man supposing to celebrate the Sacrament who is not an ordained priest, on the one hand, and a layman laying his hands on the venerable Eucharist to help givie It out, on the other hand, is that the former makes for a fraud sacrament, deceives many people, and is indeed a greater crime. The similarity between the former and the latter, however, is that both are highly improper, and opposed to the Confessions, and the Church.

    Therefore, understanding that in the latter scenario, again we are speaking of a practice with which some pastors feel stuck, and from which other pastors can be converted if we keep talking about it, I must say it is an issue that is worthy of serious attention.

    The general doctrine of christian vocation is sometimes a trendy one among us. So we could start by simply asking why one should lay hands on the Sacrament whom God has not called to do so.

  115. Is the offense that they be laymen, or that along with their proper election and assignment of that task mediately by their congregations they don't receive an ordination? Order is maintained either way, and no one takes upon the task of his own accord without the consent of the specific congregation.

  116. The offense is that they run without being sent.

    And what's this talk of "order." That's not the problem - have not you read that the Office was not created merely for the sake of good order?

    The Church has no authority to do other than her Lord gave her to do. And the MO Synod knows very well that she is not doing what her Lord told her to do. Otherwise, she would call them "pastor."

    So, no, I don't buy the "they are pastor's in God's eyes." Nor do I buy the "no harm, no foul, because it's the Word that makes the Sacrament." The Word says that pastors are are the Stewards of the Mysteries.

    I won't receive the sacrament from one of these men because I have no assurance that is a sacrament. See the Systematics Faculties' 2007 statement on the Ministry if you don't believe me.


  117. Father Hollywood,

    Unfortunately, I don't believe in divorce. So, what is plan B?

    Your refusal to take the sacrament in my church is simply not Scriptural. It certainly is not the teaching of our church. It always amuses me how we are always willing to insist that others obey authority, but refuse to allow ourselves to be under authority.

    I would, because I am a Lutheran, and a Scriptural guy, commune at your congregation. Or any LCMS congregation.

    Anyway, going to what you say up above, I like the story about the girl and the real presence.

    The only problem with the story is the Pew Charitable Poll that came out last year. What percentage of Roman Catholics don't think the body and blood are present? Like, over 50%?

    Seems as though what they are doing does not work...

    Seriously: it is one thing to make arguments about what our actions teach—it is entirely something different to ask people what they are learning from the actions. The disconnect is what causes people to question exactly why we do things that are not working.

    You can claim the lex crendenti...I just don't buy that it is true.

    Re: clothing. You said:

    It sends a message when you show up at a person's deathbed in sandals and shorts - as one of my colleagues did.

    I dunno. My bro is a physicist and I was visiting his lab and they were working with lasers, so I had to wear safety glasses. Which were the dorkiest things I had seen. But they went along with my bro who dressed pretty dorky.

    But I at some point you realize "He doesn't care. He doesn't care what he looks like. And it doesn't matter. Why? Because all that matters is the results. He is bringing truth to people and no one cares what he looks like doing that."

    I thought about myself (this was back in my trad co days) and I was all about what I wore. People judge you by what you wear. It is important.

    Because it is more about me than about God? That seems to be what I came up with...

    So maybe the guy wearing sandals came to the point when he had the "I'll take the wrench" response (to make a Good Wil Hunting reference) He's tired of having to dress a certain way when what he is wearing has nothing to do with what he is bringing: the truth.

    Could be maybe?

    Still though: even your refusal to commune with me does not negate the brotherhood that we are in: those who became pastors because of children's sermons. I'm starting a Facebook page; hopefully you'll be a fan.

  118. Father Hollywood,

    BTW, I love how you paint my position with that of the ELCA. It is amusing.

    So I will paint your positon with that of Nancy Pelosi--your position is the standard liberal response. We can't solve the problem, let's run away from it. Perhaps you can quote Pres Obama to me "We won the election." Hmm?

    No. I don't buy it. Your comparison, my comparison, the whole divorce thing. It is not an option. Sure, it is what the world would tell us to do--but I don't think that all of the sudden you want to be contextual in your church approach.

    Speaking of which, the part that you write about this being a "luxury" of the west is...well, it is obvious. We do what we do because of where our culture is. We are reaching out to our culture, not the culture of Africa.

    Things are different there. So, the context would change.

    What would not change is Christ. And our pointing to Him.

    Your argument is simply "The best way to preach Christ is only one way" and since that is not Scriptural, it simply comes across as your opinion. Fact? Mmm...

    I wanted to say one more thing about clothing: the dirty secret of "real Lutherans" like you, is the problem that once you go reverent, there is no stopping the critiques.

    So, would my alb and stole have been "reverent" enough? Well, no, not by Sem prof who said that a stole was liturgical underwear. Could I celebrate communion without washing my hands? Is that too not reverent enough?

    I'm not interested in running on that treadmill. I've jumped off. I'll take the wrench myself.

  119. Dear Mark:

    I don't "believe" in divorce either. But there are times when it is the only thing to do in a fallen world. We both know it. I would not counsel a woman who is being beaten to stay put. Our Lord Himself cited infidelity.

    Divorce is a metaphor in this case of being unable to be yoked with those who believe differently. It is ironic that a Lutheran would condier severing fellowship to be "unscriptural" ("Dr. Luther, please pick up the white courtesy phone...").

    I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic church, and I believe the pastor up the road at St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church is my brother in Christ and in the holy ministry. But I will not take communion from his hand. I don't see how that is unscriptural.

    We do have internal differences in the LCMS - and they do go beyond practice. We have lay ministers (and in some cases, even members of boards of elders) saying the Words of Institution over bread and wine - and because these churches are members of the LCMS, you would consider it "unscriptural" for me to refuse to commune in such a church?

    We have churches in which the Lord's blood is regularly dumped in the garbage. We have churches that put women in vestments at the altar. We have churches that have the dancing girls and clowns. I'm offended by such frivolous practices, and will not commune in such places - but this is "unscriptural"?

    As far as the guy in sandals goes, I know more about the situation than you do, and I can tell you that it hurt the family involved. It was careless and callous of the pastor. Just the simple act of using a small communion kit with a real chalice and real linens and a real crucifix is a confession. My shut-ins appreciate it.

    Sure, you can "do communion" with a shot glass from Margaritaville and a Happy Meal bag, but why? That would have no effect on the reality of the Lord's presence, and if it all that one has - that's all that one has. But intentional casualness communicates a lack of belief - especially when we are talking about the most profound reality in the universe - the real physical and miraculous presence of the Lord in space and time for us men and for our salvation.

    Yes, you could take your wife out on your anniversary just having changed the oil in your car, dressed in tattered jeans, and reeking of sweat - but (unless it is necessary due to genuine circumstances) - it tells your wife that you think she is unimportant.

    We live in one of the richest countries in the world, we spend thousands of dollars to eat and be entertained, but we're content to serve the Lord's boy and blood to shut-ins using a cheap plastic communion kit that we got for free at our graduation? It does send a message.

    The fact that we are even discussing this is a sad commentary on our broken synod.

    And you're right about Roman Catholics and their lack of confession of the Real Presence - and that lack of faith follows 40 years since the liturgy was gutted at Vatican II. Thanks for making my point.

  120. Rev. Brown writes: "Is the offense that they be laymen, or that along with their proper election and assignment of that task mediately by their congregations they don't receive an ordination? Order is maintained either way, and no one takes upon the task of his own accord without the consent of the specific congregation."

    Beyond what Fr. Curtis says about the danger of using "good order" as one's contrived rationale for ungodly innovation, I must add that I reject the premise that lay administration of the most blessed Sacrament could possibly qualify as good order.

    It is the opposite. It is out of order, when a man not "ordered" into the holy presbyteral office does what is given specifically to that office.

    Moreover, it is not true that in every case this is done with the consent and permission of the congregation, as if that would make it okay. For in some cases the more active collaborator and direct consenter is not the congregation, but the district bureaucracy. Look, eg., at the mission churches being run by DELTO students (or SMP), some of whom call themselves "deacons."

    But I do suggest that a Gottesdienst editor create a new post devoted to this topic.

  121. Heath and Latif,

    Specifically I was referring to an elder who assists.

    And I can guess what you think already, but Latif, what do you make of the Communion Assistant practice that Rome has authorized?

  122. Yes, please devote something to this topic of the office of the ministry and "lay ministers".

  123. Eric says, "Specifically I was referring to an elder who assists."

    Both of my comments were applicable to both scenarios.

    You then write, "what do you make of the Communion Assistant practice that Rome has authorized?"

    Please elaborate.

  124. Eric:

    You speak of "elders" administering Holy Communion to the people as having some sort of propriety because they have "proper election and assignment of that task mediately by their congregations" ??

    Who taught you that these people have "proper election and assignment" to do this? The seminary? Some example from the tradition of the Church? I can't wait to hear this.

    And I again urge that this topic deserves to be not merely tucked in after the first 115 comments or so, but given its own post.

  125. Latif,

    The elders of my congregation are elected. Among their duties is to assist the Pastor in the distribution.

  126. Dear Mark:

    I am bound to my congregation and call. If my congregation remains in the LCMS, so do I. If they leave, so do I. My attachment is to them, not to any particular church bureaucracy. Synods come and go, even as fellowships are entered into and broken.

    But nevertheless, we're not obliged to accept any teachings that violate the BOC ("popes and councils have erred...") - even if 51% of a convention votes to amend the Augsburg Confession. AC14 still stands, Wichita 1989 notwithstanding. I am also not obliged to travel to your parish and commune from your hand as some kind of oath of fealty. That is not going to happen.

    Before the heroic Bishop Obare broke the "feminazi barrier" in 2005, it was a shibboleth in the (Lutheran) Church of Sweden for any man seeking ordination to go to a woman "priest" and take "communion" from her hand. I'm not planning on attending any happy-clappy entertainment-church, whether the sign says "Assemblies of God" or "LCMS" - communing or otherwise.

    I'm expressing my opinion as a Christian pastor and a member of synod that I find entertainment-worship to be repulsive, and would not commune in front of a stage with a drum kit, dancing girls, or a puppet show. I would not subject my wife and son to it. I advise my parishioners who may be traveling not to just visit the closest LCMS congregation, but to look at their website or ask for advice.

    Some of my parishioners have come back shell-shocked at what goes on in LCMS congregations. Then, they tell me that what I have been saying for years is true. It would make more sense to have a peaceful dissolution rather than having to actually phone up the local pastor and ask him if he actually has a liturgy and uses the hymnal (Lord, have mercy!).

    I'm just being honest.

    I do hope the new administration addresses the abomination of "lay ministry" that we have in the LCMS. I do believe this issue can be addressed and fixed - even as the abomination of female "ordination" was turned back in Latvia.

    But once again, if my parish stays in the LCMS, so do I. If they leave, so do I. But I will not be bullied into attending a worship service that looks like a circus or a rock concert. You can keep it.

  127. Pr. Brown:
    You write: "The elders of my congregation are elected. Among their duties is to assist the Pastor in the distribution."

    What is your point?

  128. Also, by the way, this very premise (that one of the duties of your elected elders is to assist in the distribution of the Sacrament) is not at all self evident. In fact, I challenge it. For this is not a true duty, but a fake duty, an unfortunately imagined one. But the burden is yours to show in what way this is truly their duty.

  129. Again, Eric, what is the new RC policy on which you want me to comment?

  130. Latif,

    The RC policy would be the Eucharistic Assistants - and example of which might be seen here.

    And I hate to tell you this - my elder's duties aren't "fake". They have been given them by the congregation. Now, you might argue that this is a duty that is improperly given, but that's not fake or imagined.

    And actually, the burden isn't mine. Whenever someone does something that you don't like, they don't have to prove that it is permissible to you. If you are attempt to correct or reprove someone, you're the one who has to demonstrate that what they do is inconclusively improper. "I say you are wrong, prove to me that you aren't wrong" isn't correction.

  131. I took another closer look at the calendar photo and there's just something about the lighting. It's really not bright enough for the regular lighting you'd expect during a service. I think what we have here is actually a children's confession. The pastor and the boy are in a session of private confession wherein, perhaps, the red toy means sins loosed and the pink toy means sins bound. This interpretation certainly puts the whole subject into a much more solidly Lutheran frame, wouldn't you agree?

  132. Eric:
    You say, "The RC policy would be the Eucharistic Assistants."

    This is basically the same phrasing you used when you initially asked for my reaction to it. It is not very productive to explain a phrase using the same terms used in the question. To be sure, I had suspected that in general you had in mind the modern practice of the extraordinary ministers of the eucharist, but I wanted to get you, an articulate master of divinity, to articulate the practice you had in mind, and to tell me exactly what your question about it was. Your link told me for sure that the modern eucharistic ministers is what you generally had in mind.

    So the first thing to note is that, to be sure, the phenomenon of the so called eucharistic ministers is not brand new. (And that is why I wanted a clearer articulation of your question, since it seemed you may have had in mind something begun more recently.)

    It is postconciliar, and part of the whole decentralization of the Ministry in that communion. What is there possibly to support in that practice? Why do you ask about it? What is you opinion of it?

    Sadly, your "elders," I must say, are being told to do what amounts to what in the modern Roman Rite would be called the duties of the eucharistic ministers. I know that in many of our parishes, this predates the council, so I am not claiming that our elders handling the Eucharist comes from the abuses of the Novus Ordo. The RC eucharistic ministers phenomenon, rather, is a Protestantization of the RC Church, and of its understanding and practice of the Eucharist. Problems in the modern church float around, cross pollinate, and come back around. So while our own problems in this regard may predate Vat. II, today it is fair to say that it is also akin to the liturgical errors of modern Romanism.

  133. Eric writes: "And I hate to tell you this - my elder's duties aren't "fake". They have been given them by the congregation. Now, you might argue that this is a duty that is improperly given, but that's not fake or imagined."

    You "hate" to say these things? Why?

    The expectation placed upon your elders to handle and give out the Sacrament is not a true duty just because it was given to them by the congregation. Your congregation is wrong. And many pastors patiently suffer such situations, but dealing with the realities of pastoral exisgencies doesn't mean one should say a practice is proper just because it is mandated by the people. When I say this "duty" is imagined, I don't mean the elders themselves dreamed it up. What I mean is that this expectation of them is not one of their true duties; it is a false one. As a "duty" it is false, fake, imagined.

  134. And seriously, isn't it a bit weird to discuss this question at the end of this discussion on children's sermons?

  135. Eric,
    You write: "And actually, the burden isn't mine."

    Yes, it is. You have a certain practice, and appear proud of it. So defend it.

    You write: "Whenever someone does something that you don't like, they don't have to prove that it is permissible to you."

    This is not, in fact, about what I like personally. You have no reason to make such a claim of me. This is a churchly issue, not a personal one. Please be adult about this.

    You write: "If you are attempt to correct or reprove someone, you're the one who has to demonstrate that what they do is inconclusively improper."

    I am not here to correct or instruct you, a pastor of the church. As a brother, however, I will do so, if needbe. But you make it sound like liturgical and sacramental practice is subjective, and beyond criticism so long as no one has brought forth conclusive proof against it. Rather, what you do publicly in the church should be defensible with conclusive arguments from the Symbols, and the tradition of the Church.

    You write: " "I say you are wrong, prove to me that you aren't wrong" isn't correction."

    I have not begun to correct you. I have so far only been sorting out the necessary evil of the debating prolegomena with you. If you would like to defend the "duty" of your elders distributing the Sacrament, then show us how it conforms to the fourteenth article of the Augustana.

  136. Rev. Deacon Gaba,

    When elders assist with the Distribution, are they administering the Sacrament? I have never understood the argument which begins with answering that question in the affirmative. Assisting the pastor in Distributing the Holy Sacrament is not a violation of AC XIV, unless it can be shown that such assistance is not merely assistance, but administration. I don't think such can be shown. And, if such could be shown, then there are a great many of us who have no business decrying the unfortunate decision made by our synod in convention in Wichita in 1989. After all, who are we to criticize "lay ministry" if we are guilty of employing "lay ministers" in our midst?

    One of my elders assists me with the Distribution every Sunday. I don't "patiently suffer this situation," since I am not convinced that this is a violation of AC XIV, or that it endorses and promotes what has become known as "lay ministry" among us.

    But, I am listening . . .

  137. I agree that there is some lack of definition among us concerning what "administration" means. Certainly, when the AC was written, only clergy were used as "eucharistic ministers" and the term "elder" was reserved (as it is scripturally) to ordained men.

    We American Lutherans have certainly inherited a practice that is quite a bit different than the catholic tradition of our Lutheran elders. In fact, the Presbyterian churches make a distinction between "teaching elders" (our "pastors") and "ruling elders" (our "board of elders"). I suspect we're once again suffering the fallout of someone 100 years ago deciding not to be Lutheran, and passing the mutation along to future descendants (that would be us).

    *Can* the pastor "delegate" the physical act of distribution without violating AC14? I have to admit that I'm undecided about it. When my congregation had two pastors, we limited the distribution to the ordained men.

    Now that I am the only pastor, we have reverted back to a lay elder assisting with the blood. He will take my direction as to whom to commune. And I commune him first after I have communed myself. I'm not entirely comfortable with this practice, but it would cause a riot if I were to insist on distributing everything myself. I know it, and I am just not going to die on that hill, even though it is the more traditional and historically Lutheran practice.

    By the same token, most LCMS churches only allow men to serve as "elders" - which implies that they are quasi-ordained ministers of some kind (since we limit the pastoral office to men). The LCMS allows women to be elders as long as they are not (I forget the exact wording) performing distinct functions of the pastoral office. Of course, should any layman, man or woman, be performing distinctly pastoral functions? Is this not what WELS was wrestling with when they had to deal with women saying the words of institution over bread and wine for other women to eat and to drink? Is this why we only ordain men and only let men serve on the Board of Elders?

    In short, we have a lot of things messed up. Our deviation from tradition has introduced a lot of confusion.

    And I believe it could all be fixed easily by changing from un-ordained lay assistants functioning as deacons (which is what we have now), to, well, actually having ordained deacons serving in this capacity. Once again, why not male deaconesses to fix this dissonance?

    And this makes a great point about tradition. It isn't always a question of "can" we do this or that?, or even "should" we do this or that? Rather, by holding to tradition (which is really the definition of conservatism) we avoid unintended consequences down the road. We avoid the opening of the proverbial "can of worms." (And yes, I know Eric is just itching to make a joke about the Diet of Worms right now - sorry to steal your thunder, Eric).

    Had we retained the practice of ordaining men to serve in the diaconate, and having deacons assist the pastor in the distribution - we would have never confused the faithful by applying a biblical term for the pastor ("elder") to an unordained lay assistant. That was a bad idea from the beginning. We would not be asking whether laymen can or should distribute, and we would have skirted (pun intended) the entire question of whether or not women can, may, or should assist in distribution.

    The problem would simply have never come up. That's the beauty of holding to tradition wherever possible to do so without sin (as our confessions advocate). The best way to get rid of bad, confusing, or questionable practice is never to introduce it at all.

  138. Fr. Messer:
    You ask, "When elders assist with the Distribution, are they administering the Sacrament?"

    I would certainly suggest that they are taking part in the administration of the Sacrament, yes.

    I suggest we seek the opinion and historical and liturgical input on this from our brethren in sister churches around the world. That might help broaden our perspective.

    I also suggest we ask your question the other way around, namely, Do we really teach that administrare pertains only to saying the Words of Christ over the bread and wine? If so, whence do we derive this notion?

    If it is true that the giving out of the Sacrament is not an administering of the Sacrament, then seriously why not have the acolytes help, even the poor girl acolytes, or the men and women who (unfortunately in my view) also read the lections?

    When a physician administers medicine to me, he serves the medicine to me, or he serves me with the medicine. We see this by looking closely at the word, Ad-minister. Some lexicographers even say that to administer is to give something ritually. I am the last to say we should lean on secular lexicography in Theology, but I do think in this case they show wisdom.

    Liturgical tradition forbids even the subdeacon from touching the sacred vessels in the Mass, though his service does bring him very close to the eucharist, and so he wears the maniple, and the eucharistic vestment (which in his case is the tunicle). Such liturgical tradition (upon which we could certainly elaborate), rather than the practice of having laymen serve the Sacrament, is what is affirmed and assumed by our Confession. But I'm open to all serious and respectful dialogue on the matter, and I hope the conversation continues.

  139. Latif,

    I administer the Sacrament. The elders assist me in the distribution. The congregation approves of this and even selects the elders who will do this.

    Both the Pastor and the people being served are content. No one is claiming a task unto themselves without the consent of the faithful.

    Moreover, this is a common practice within our Synod (if not the overwhelming majority practice at congregations with only one pastor), and thus shouldn't cause any major confusion (even though as Larry notes having a regular diaconate would be better - I approve of this idea, but alas, it is not the common custom in the LCMS).

    I don't know if this counts as a defense, and frankly, I don't know why you think that I must defend a common practice simply because you tell me to defend it. That's awfully rude, especially when you had previously said, "I can't wait to hear this." I can put the best construction on many things, but this tone is starting to make me uncomfortable.

    If it is not meant to be there, we can chalk it up to the medium -- I don't think single column comment posts set up the "prolegomena". I hadn't even been aware that this was supposed to be a debate.

  140. I don't see you chalking anything up to the medium. But I am content with you reading me however you will. Also, no one has claimed that you have to defend this. Defend it or don't. The point is that you have openly made the claim that this is a good and appropriate thing, and so I openly challenge you on it. And if your latest comment is your defense, so be it. I won't ask you about it further.

    On the other hand, turning now toward anyone else who might be interested in diuscussing the topic, I will say that claiming that a practice has the consent of the faithful, the approval of the faithful, the specific election of the faithful, or that it is a very common practice, hardly makes for an argument in a discussion on matters confessional Lutheran.

    And allow me to interject again that my critique is with the thing itself, not with those who practice it. For we are speaking of a practice that is so common, it is ingrained in Missouri's very fiber. Yet it is always worth establishing first principles, and asking anew in each generation, Is this or that practice really faithful to what we profess, to what we confess?

  141. Rev. Deacon Gaba,

    Thanks for the response. I do appreciate you bringing this subject up, since I do believe it worth our time to discuss.

    I guess I simply cannot understand how employing elders (and, yes, I concur with probably everyone here that it is an unfortunate title, etc.) to assist the pastor in Distributing the Holy Sacrament is unfaithful to what we profess and confess. Your allusion to having acolytes, etc. assist is a red herring. We're talking about men within the congregation who have been elected to serve as elders. These men are not "administering" the Sacrament, not by any of the definitions of that term I have seen. The pastor is administering, they are assisting.

    If you asked every member of the congregation I serve if they thought our elders were administering the Sacrament, they would say, quickly and decisively, "No!" Most of them would go on to tell you that our elders are not permitted to administer the Sacrament, and a great many of them would even refer to AC XIV.

    Your bringing in the example of a physician administering medication to you argues against your position, since a physician often uses physician's assistants and nurses to distribute the medication he administers.

    I have a high regard for the Holy Sacrament of our Lord's very Body and Blood and do my very best to treat our Lord as reverently and respectfully as I can, but I am not convinced that such reverence and respect must include making sure that no layperson touches the sacred vessels. I'm sorry, but that just seems a little over the top, even for an ultra-confessional chap like me. But, then again, maybe the fact that this seems over the top to me negates my having that pristine title.

    Whatever the case, I remain unconvinced that employing elders to assist the pastor in the Distribution is unfaithful to what we profess and confess, since I do not believe that such assistance results in administration. Does our practice jive completely with the practice of the OHCAC throughout her history? No. Our practice could be improved to bring us more in line with that tradition and history, for sure. But, is our practice, in and of itself, unfaithful to what we profess and confess? I don't see it.

  142. Dear Tom:

    I believe Dr. Eckardt wrote a piece about it a while back that makes a good case that administration includes distribution.

    Maybe he will report it for discussion.

    Although I wish we had never deviated from our received tradition, and though I think what we have now is a mess ("elders" being used as functional pastors, etc.), I'm not convinced that the pastor using other men's hands to assist constitutes a violation of AC14.

    But the one thing nagging at me is the question of why, if it is only assisting and not administering, why do most of our congregations insist that the elders distributing the sacrament be men? It suggests that they are doing pastoral work.

    That is unresolved in my own mind. I am firmly on the fence on this one. Like I said, the reality is that in my parish, it would be received badly if I were to change this - to the point of distraction from the holiness of the distribution itself. It's just not worth a fight over.

  143. Fr. Messer:

    You write, "Your bringing in the example of a physician administering medication to you argues against your position, since a physician often uses physician's assistants and nurses to distribute the medication he administers."

    The point of my medicine analogy is that the one who gives me the medicine, no matter what his title is, cardiologist, nurse, whatever, can be said to be "administering" it to me, since "administer" can simply be defined as a meting out or dispensing something, whether religiously, or medically.

  144. "I'm not convinced that the pastor using other men's hands to assist constitutes a violation of AC14."

    Fr. Beane:
    To be clear, I would in no way make the statement that the pastor using other men's hands to assist constitutes a violation of CA XIV. What I suggest diverges from the Confession is specifically when those men are men who are neither assisting priests nor actual deacons.

  145. Fr. Beane,

    I'd love to read what Fr. Eckardt has written about this. Did his article appear in a past issue of Gottesdienst?

    I think I'm about where you are on this, although I may be a little less itchy about it than you are. I wish things were less "messy" among us, and I agree that it would have been best to have never deviated from our received tradition in this area - an ordained diaconate, rather than the innovative "lay elders" we have, would be much preferred. Fr. Petersen had an excellent article in Gottesdienst about this a while back.

    But, we have what we have. The question is: Does what we have violate AC XIV? I don't think it does, since I'm not convinced that assisting is administrating. But, I could be wrong (it's been known to happen from time to time).

    What is truly messy about this is our inconsistency from congregation to congregation. If we're going to have elders (and, like it or not, we are), then we should allow Fr. Curtis to draw up some canons that we would all submit to regarding their service among us. But, of course, that will happen right after pigs start flying and hell freezes over.

    My elders serve as crucifer, read the OT and Epistle, and assist with the Distribution. They have been thoroughly trained for this service, they take it seriously, and I couldn't be more pleased with their faithful assistance. That assistance is a blessing to me, and until it can be shown that such assistance puts us at odds with our confession of the faith, I will gladly receive it. Neither the elders nor the congregation is the least bit confused by this. If I were to say, "I'm going on vacation and the elders will preach and administer the Sacrament in my absence," both the elders and the congregation would set me straight that no such thing was going to happen. Why? AC XIV.

  146. Dear Tom:

    I honestly can't remember where Dr. Eckardt's article appeared. Maybe we can get it reprinted here on GO.

    Once again, one of the things that makes me wonder about our practice is why we (most of us) insist that our elders be male.

    Should a woman be put into that office and be permitted to distribute the elements? In the RC church, this is not only common, I would say typical. Women routinely perform the functions that your (and my) Board of Elders performs. My church requires elders to be male.

    If they aren't preaching and administering, why do they need to be male?

    My own theory is that, while unordained, our Boards of Elders are functional deacons. And if that is the case, it makes me wonder if we're barking up the same tree as Wicheta 1989.

    My theory may well be all wet. I'd love a discussion about it.

    Personally, I greatly appreciate my Board of Elders, and I do rely on them quite a bit in giving pastoral care. But men come and go from the Board of Elders (they are elected in my congregation). And even that being said, there is a saying in my parish: "once an elder, always an elder" - which suggests a vestigial self-understanding of being something more than just being a lay assistant in carrying out these duties.

  147. Dear Br. Latif:

    Yes, I was imprecise in my words! I *meant* what you were referring to: lay assistants. Thanks for the clarification.

  148. I was going to post something about the liturgical Schutzstaffel on the prowl for the heretics among us inviting little children up to give them a message during the Divine Service, but I see I'm too late, the discussion has drifted off into a conversation about elders and AC XIV.

    Oh, well.

  149. Dear Paul:

    "Say the black, do the re...," wait, what?


  150. If you read from a CPH arch book, does that then count as saying the black? =o)

  151. Dear Eric:

    I was actually wondering more about the *red.*

    But a lot of people don't know that a very early rubric has been discovered in an early edition of the Book of Common Prayer (Dcn. Gaba can probably tell you what year...) that reads like this:

    "Heere ye prieft planteth his pofterior mufculature fecurely within ye chancell in a dignified mannere, whilft ye deacon ringeth ye bell for ye children to trudge forwarde fullenly that they mayeft obferve ye rite of ye Children's Meffage, ye Arch Booke, ye Tales of ye Vegetablation, ye ftocking puppette, et cetera fimilare longfuffering puerile entertainments..."

    I mean, this is a breakthrough!

    But Fr. Weedon is still trying to find a *Lutheran*But 16th century rubric...

  152. Fr. Beane,

    Dang it, I was cleverly trying to avoid having to address the "why not women" issue. So much for that! It was a good try, though. :)

    I do think you are onto something with your theory that our elders serve as functional deacons. I'm not sure that it necessarily follows that we're barking up the same tree as Wichita 89, though. Our practice of having elders assist the pastor in our congregations long predates the tragic decision to ignore AC XIV made there. Prior to that, it was understood (if not upheld everywhere) that elders were to assist the pastor in performing his duties, but not to perform those duties on their own. That is still the default understanding throughout our synod regarding elders.

    As for "why not women," the understanding is that, while our "functional deacons" are not preaching or administering the Sacraments, they are assisting with functions associated with the OHM, and are exercising authority, under the discretion of the pastor, and so women are prohibited from that service. I would argue that, even after the resolution passed in 2004, this is still the default position among us.

    My congregation, too, requires our elders to be male (as well as our congregational president and vice president), for the reasons stated above.

    Are those reasons valid? I believe they are.

    The real tragedy among us is that we allow two contradictory beliefs to exist simultaneously in this area, which creates much confusion in our synod. Why does that congregation allow women elders and this one doesn't? And, how can they both be right at the same time?

    I pray that we will eventually take a fresh look at this in the future and reach some agreed upon decisions around the the Word of God and our Confessions.

  153. I suspect reading an Arch book instead of the sermon might actually be a great improvement in certain places, whether to children, or to adults.

    : )

  154. Dear Paul:


    Personally, I think Jughead is on dope...

  155. I usually toss the CTS calendar but 2011 hangs proudly on my study wall. Can't wait for March.


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