Monday, January 31, 2011

Congratulations, Fr. Petersen

Our own departmental editor, Fr. David Petersen, was fĂȘted by the loving people of Redeemer as well as the bishop of the English District this past Sunday on the occasion of a double anniversary: 15 years since receiving Holy Orders and 10 years as Pastor of Redeemer.

I mention it here not only because of Fr. Petersen's connection to the journal, but also because of one interesting liturgical reason and one point of familial pride. First, the latter point: my mom made all the vestments and paraments which were donated by a friend of Redeemer for this occasion. They are beautiful, if I don't say so myself. If you are (or your parish is) interested in such appointments, I can put you in touch with her.

But now the liturgical point - thanks to the example of the Rt. Rev. Obare at the installation of President Harrison, Fr. Petersen had the idea of reintroducing the full vesture of the bishop at Redeemer - so Bishop Stechholz carried not only his usual crozier but also wore the mitre. As the wide world of Confessional Lutheranism gets wider, we in the Missouri Synod are learning a lot from our brethren in societies that have not had to live through the same history we have. In Siberia and Kenya they wear the mitre and keep the traditional form of church governance as the Confessions say we desire. They don't have the US's sad history of virulent anti-catholicism and anti-clericalism. Now that we have more contact with our brothers around the world, it is hoped that we will not only teach and lead but also learn and follow.



  1. Fr. Curtis,

    The Lord be with you. My question is this:

    Why does the English District President call himself Bishop? Why do others?

    I can see Bishop Obare. He is the head of the ELCK.

    I can see if we called Preseident Harrison our Bishop. He is the head of the LCMS.

    However, DP Stechholtz is a man serving under our Bishop.

    I respect President Stechholtz very much and commend his work in the LCMS.

    I've always wondered this and I guess I forgot to ask. Curious mind(s) want to know?

    Pastor Wurst

  2. Fr. Wurst,

    Good questions! First, all Lutheran pastors are bishops. This is a big deal in our Confessions. There is no iure divino distinction between priest and bishop: Jesus gave one apostolic office into which ministers are placed; the terms presbyter and bishop are used interchangeably in the NT, etc. See the Treatise and the indispensable article by Piepkorn, A Lutheran View of the Validity of Lutheran Orders (available on

    Second, the Lutheran Churches since the beginning have also found it useful to observe a iure humano distinction between holders of the one office. Some of them are given the take of specifically overseeing large numbers of pastors and parishes. These we call overseers, episkopoi. They are equal in office to all other pastors, but are over them for the sake of good order.

    Some years back the English District in convention specifically gave the title of Bishop to their District President. But whether a district does so or not really doesn't matter: the proof of the pudding is in the eating. And the fact is that in the MO Synod, the DPs are bishops: no ordination can take place apart from them (they can give their approval for others to ordain, but that consent is required) and they have the power to discipline and even remove from fellowship pastors and congregations. Those are the historic duties of the Bishop. It's just what they are whether we call them that or not.

    A rose by any other name. . .


  3. Fr. Curtis,

    Thank you so much for this in-depth explanation. I am now a learned man on this subject because of your aid to another brother.

    Blessings in Christ,

    + Pr. Wurst

  4. According to our confessions, can pastors have a pastor?

    According to the LCMS, does any pastor have a pastor?

  5. Phil,

    Let's start from square one. Jesus is the "Pastor and Bishop" of our souls. He sends out undershepherds to stand in his stead here on earth and bring us His gifts of Word and Sacraments. Everybody needs these gifts and so everybody needs a pastor.

    A pastor is in an odd situation in that he often receives the Sacrament of the Altar from his own hand and must listen to his own sermons. But he also needs someone to tell him whether he can receive the Supper (that is, preach the Law and the Gospel to him), absolve him of his sins, and teach him the Word. For no man can be the judge of his own case. So we should not confuse the pastor communing himself and hearing his own sermons as being his own pastor. That is an impossibility.

    So who is his pastor? He has at least one and should have at least two. First, there is the man set in authority over him according to the Church's usual order. This is his bishop - or, in our usual nomenclature, his District President. This man has the authority to oversee his doctrine - that is, teach him, preach the Word to him. And this man has the authority to remove him from fellowship - that is, the authority to bind his sins.

    Yes, I know: many DPs do not do a good job at this. There are precious few teachers of the Word among them. But still, that is their job description - you can read it right in the Constitution of the LCMS.

    Second, every pastor should have a father confessor, who should not be his bishop. Of course, his bishop could do this duty, but it is good if someone else does for a number of reasons. This man is very much the pastor - the Seelsorger - of the local pastor: he hears his sins, absolves, and gives wise counsel.

    The next question, of course, is who is the Bishop's pastor? For that, you can look to the Roman practice: even the pope has a pastor. This goes to show that even in the midst of their distorted view of the Church and the ministry of the chief bishop, they realize that every man needs a pastor.

    Again, I think what actually happens is more important that the words the LCMS has used or avoided using. The Constitution doesn't say anything about the pastors having a pastor; it doesn't say that the DP is the "pastor to pastors." It doesn't use those words, but that is the reality. The man who oversees your doctrine is your pastor. The man who can remove you from fellowship with the Church is your pastor. And the man who hears your confession and pronounces forgiveness is your pastor (and thus the need for a father confessor).

    That's how I look at it. . .


  6. Thanks, that was helpful! I would only comment that I would think it's not just what happens that matters, but what actually is the case.

    I've often thought that denying a pastor his own pastor was in a certain way equivalent to defining him as being outside the Church.

    I also think that the ad orientem liturgy is a much stronger confession of the reality of the pastor as an undershepherd and not as the ultimate shepherd.

  7. Why is anticatholicism in the sense of wanting to separate ourselves from their doctrines and avoid confusion a bad thing? If non Lutherans associate us with the antichrist because of hat and robes, seems easy enough to take them off. It also avoids offense and division. What's the benefit of the mitre, how does it teach the Gospel or point to Jesus. It wasn't part of early Christian or Jewish worship. It's a pagan headpiece. Another example of Roman influence on Christian practice.

    Besides, American Lutherans in mitres with crosiers look as ridiculous as Lutherans leading praise bands. Did everybody kiss his ring? How do those things point to Christ exactly?

  8. I want vestments like that. Do you think your mother would have time for ordination vestments still? I would imagine it is to late.

  9. Sem. Beltz,

    Plenty of time...She likes to get ordination orders in March but most guys don't get around to it until May. So get yours in and you'll be alright.


  10. Dear Boaz:

    Lutherans all over the world have bishops who look like bishops. Many of our Protestant brethren use the same mockery of Lutheran pastors who wear clerical collars. "Why look like the papists," they ask, "when you can look like a Methodist instead?"

    The miter and crosier are not symbols of Rome. There are Lutherans, Anglicans, and Orthodox Christians who have never been under the pope who likewise have retained these symbols of pastoral oversight (episkope).

    In fact, Lutherans in Scandinavia (and by extension, Africa) have never known anything but bishops who wear vestments just like Bp. Stechholz. It's really a terrible slander to insult these faithful servants of the Word who are today on the cutting edge of the war to defend the Bible against powerful forces of unbelief. Bishop Obare of Kenya is arguably one of the most courageous Christians on the planet - and he is a mitered-and-crosiered Lutheran bishop in full altar and pulpit fellowship with the LCMS. In fact, he preached (wearing his miter) at Pres. Harrison's installation service.

    The "separation" you speak "to avoid offense and division" has been used as an excuse to shun the sign of the cross, weekly communion, and even (believe it or not) candles! There is actually a quote from Walther where he defends *candles* from those who think they are (let's say it all together...) "too catholic."

    Far from pagan, the miter has its origin in the turban worn by Old Testament priests. It is no more "pagan" than the fact that we wear pants originally associated with ancient Iranians. These kinds of "guilt by association" charges are the kinds of things one reads in Jack Chick tracts or Seventh Day Adventist literature. These are the same people who denounce us as "baby sprinklers" and as those who eat the papist "death cookie" in our eucharist (which is also accused of being a Pagan ceremony that dates back to the Pharaohnic Egypt).

    I think the bishops vestments are a beautiful confession that we Lutherans are Catholic and Apostolic Christians.

  11. Boaz,

    The anti-catholicism of which I spoke relates to the American experience with the Know Nothing party, the KKK, and so forth. That Anglo-Saxon Protestant aversion to the papacy (a good aversion, in my opinion) also led them to look askance at anything that, to them, smacked of popery - vestments, chanting, candles, Confession & Absolution, infant baptism, etc.

    Add WWI into the mix with its moves against Germans, and suddenly the Missouri Synod is very scared to look alien to the local Presbyterians.

    But it's time to grow up. Take a look at our Confessions. The Apology (XXIV.1) confesses that we rejoice in keeping vestments, candles, lectionaries, and so forth. Why? Precisely because they do so beautifully confess Christ as the vesting prayers demonstrate.

    As for the mitre - it serves to remind our DPs that they are to be bishops: real pastors exercising churchly authority, not the business suit CEO's of a mere corporation.

    As for pagan origin - bah. Shall we toss the alb because it was once a pagan (and Roman!) toga? These things have long since been baptized and passed into churchly usage. Nobody looks at a mitre today and say, "How pagan!" Rather, folks look at mitres and say, "Oh, a bishop."

    That's a message that the MO Synod needs to hear and a confession we need to make.


  12. PS: One more think on the anti-catholicism and its affects on Lutheranism. Two of the worst abuses of the Protestantizing influence on American Lutheranism can be traced to this anti-catholicism: 1. Schmucker's American Recension of the AC and 2. The MO Synod's Catechism of 1943 without Confession & Absolution and the sign of the cross in the morning and evening prayer.


  13. Well, someone really knows their Jack Chick tracts! I had the "death cookie" one for quite awhile but sadly, I lost it. More's the pity.

  14. Dear Pastor Anderson:

    Never fear! All the Chick tracts are available online here:

    And here is your death cookie:

    My favorite "gospel" tract is "Somebody Goofed" right here:

  15. Fr. Heath:
    You write, "Two of the worst abuses of the Protestantizing influence on American Lutheranism can be traced to this anti-catholicism: 1. Schmucker's American Recension of the AC and 2. The MO Synod's Catechism of 1943 without Confession & Absolution and the sign of the cross in the morning and evening prayer."

    One matter I would place on the same list is the Missouri Synod scandal of the official approval, since 1989, of laymen administering a fraud sacrament. DELTO and SMP only work within the parameters of that same scandal, they don't actually end it. The so-called deacons that exist within that system do not solve the probem either; they added the new problem of making it harder for LC-MS Lutherans to ever understand or accept the ministry of real deacons.

    And bringing that line of thought back around to episcopacy, let me add that, historically, the office of deacon is part and parcel of a church that has bishops, since the deacon is a special servant of the bishop. And if, therefore, the diconate is to gain a foot hold, perhaps the English District would be a logical place.

  16. Dcn Gaba, right on as usual! Why this rejection of ad orientem?

  17. Rev. Deacon,

    Quite right on the rejection of AC XIV, bringing the history down to our own day. This is part and parcel of the American anti-clericalism - indeed, it is its very essence: no cleric needed!


  18. Phil,

    Father Petersen can give you more of a history of Redeemer's architecture than I can - but my understanding is that a predecessor of Fr. Petersen redesigned the chancel of Redeemer to have a free standing altar during the days of the "Liturgical Renewal Movement" after Vatican II. While you and I (and many in the contemporary Roman communion) have some criticisms of the movement - including the ad occidentalem - there is no doubt that the effects it had on Lutheranism were in many ways salutary: it actually got Lutherans thinking about ceremony and recovering the beauty and reverence of our traditions.

    Father Petersen celebrates ad orientem for the weeday masses at Redeemer, but retains his predecessor's custom in using the free standing altar during the Sunday Divine Service.


  19. I don't say this as condemnation of any pastor in particular, nor of the pastoral decision to say mass one way or another, since many factors play into such decisions. I would simply argue, however, that an altar with space behind it, ie., the so-called free standing altar, does not necessitate the celebration of mass versus populum. There might be reasons for a pastor to say mass behind an altar in a certain circumstance, but architecture is not one of them.

    Interestingly, the die hard versus populum advocates do not let architecture stop them, at least where they can finagle a way to get behind the altar. For example, mass is virtually always celebrated versus populum at Kramer Chapel at the Fort Wayne Seminary, despite the fact that to do so, the priest must stand on a space that was never designed for it, over a grate above the back stairs. I would love a wind to come through there and blow up the pastor's alb. A little liturgical seven year itch for the practical theologians to ponder.

    But in virtually every case of a free standing altar, you can still say mass in the traditional manner if you really want to do so. And I argue that it is mistaken to suggest that this would be somehow architecturally inapprpriate. The space behind a free standing altar could be used for incensations at high mass, and perhaps for a tabernacle. I see no liturgical compulsion for a pastor to stand back there and give the prayers, sing the consecration, give announcements, etc.

  20. Rev. Deacon,

    Quite right - and Fr. Petersen does celebrate mass before Redeemer's main altar in the traditional manner when low mass is held there. But as you note, he has his pastoral reasons for celebrating versus populum on Sunday. My point was that since the architecture was radically changed by his predecessor specifically to allow for this (I believe the old altar was affixed to the wall). And this certainly plays into how Fr. Petersen has approached the situation. But again, I don't want to speak for him or put words in his mouth.


  21. Question about the wearing of the chasuble. As an associate pastor in a small Confessional Lutheran synod (Independent Lutheran Diocese) that permits the chasuble, what is the "protocol" of wearing the pectoral cross? My way of thinking is that our Presiding Bishop and assisting bishops (the senior pastor of the congregation is one of them) would wear the pectoral cross over the chasuble, while the "rank & file" pastors (like myself) would wear the pectoral cross under the chasuble. Is this correct or does "adiophora" come into play.


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