Thursday, April 28, 2011

Whither the future of the pastorate in the LCMS?

Rev. Harrison, president of the Missouri Synod, here lays out the best possible case for packing up and going to the seminary. In this article, Rev. Harrison responds to many of the points I have raised before. One of the best aspects of Rev. Harrison's character is his optimism and love for the Church of Christ and our little Synod within the Church. If you are considering the seminary, you should read his article and think it over.

It will come as no surprise to readers of this blog that I disagree with Rev. Harrison when it comes to the outlook for the future need of clergy in the Missouri Synod. I do not think we will need to replace "300 retiring pastors each year" - and Rev. Harrison admits in his article that that number is indeed probably too high. And while Rev. Harrison is more sanguine on the prospects for the US economy, I think this is rather a red herring. An economic recovery will not, I think, translate directly into a need for more pastors (although it may translate into many of the part-time calls going full-time, which is not nothing). In his article Rev. Harrison also did not directly address the issues of "lay ministry," rural population collapse, and the birth rate among LCMS membership - all of which must be factored into the equation for our future need (and, of course, the latter two are closely related). I know that President Harrison would like to be doing more to deal with the "lay ministry" problem, and I look forward to seeing what actions end up being taken over the course of his tenure.

Our differing viewpoints no doubt come from our differing experiences (mine by necessity much more limited than his), personalities, and the vantages from which we are viewing the problem. But there are two things that I think we both, the optimist and the pessimist, agree on:

1. If you wish to put yourself forward as a candidate for the ministry of Christ's Church, there is no better way to do it than by attending one of our seminaries in the residential MDiv program.

2. The future is unknown. So while some (pace James) say, "Next year I will go to this or that city and study and be ordained," a wise man will know that he does not know the future, and so before he heads off to CSL or CTS he will have a back up plan to feed and clothe his family just in case the Lord has other plans for him than the ones he has made for himself.


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Plus ça change ("The more things change...)

By Larry Beane

"All this skepticism, uncertainty, and experimenting has unfortunately unsettled only too many pastors in the church around us.  These pastors themselves have lost faith, more or less, in the divinely ordained means of grace.  They are casting about for new means and methods by which to reach and hold men.  They are experimenting with all sorts of novelties and attractions.  Their churches and services are becoming more and more places of entertainment.  They try to outbid and outdo one another in sensations calculated to draw.  And so the church, like Samson of old, is shorn of her locks, and is degraded to make sport for the Philistines of the world.  No true Lutheran pastor can stoop to such prostitution of his office and of his church."

~ G.H. Gerberding, 1903
The Lutheran Pastor,  p.124

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Pope wrong, Stuckwisch right (again)

For some time now our own Dr. Stuckwisch has been telling us all to read the Harry Potter books, while Cardinal Ratzinger warned in 2003 that the books "distort Christianity in the soul, before it can grow properly." In the Pope's defense, he wrote that in the middle of the series, before he could read it to the end. He was wrong. Rick was right. JK Rowling's series is a shining example of the often repeated truth that There Is Only One Story.

I don't read many novels anymore, which is much to my detriment, I'm sure, but there it is. To tempt me, a book of fiction must be really and truly excellent. I just don't have the patience otherwise. When my wife started reading them to the kids I reluctantly listened in - then was hooked, and by the end truly addicted and excited to see the finish.

This was a great way to read the books, by the way: together as a family. Our oldest is 8 and the books have some more grown up sections dealing with the relations between the sexes that could use some parental editing for that age (probably PG or PG-13). Reading it this way also allowed us to have great discussions about the morality portrayed in the book. It is very realistic, and therefore very ambiguous - again, reading together as a family is a very good idea with these books. [And speaking of the relations between the sexes and being realistic - my goodness does Rowling get it all pitch perfectly, hilariously right! One of the many laugh out loud scenes in the books deals with several of the boy characters agonizing over asking girls to a dance. But then the happy go lucky, ever confident, self-effacing jokester Fred Weasley shouts across the room at the beautiful and talented Angelina Johnson, "Oi! Angelina! Want to come to the ball with me?" Of course she does - that's always how it works out for the Fred Weasleys of the world.]

Since I want you to read them, I don't want to include any spoilers. But again I will say: there is only one story in the whole world worth telling - what C.S. Lewis called the "good dreams" left by God for every tribe and nation and what Eusebius called the Praeparatio Evangelii. Mrs. Rowling, by her own admission, lurks about the outskirts of orthodox Christianity - but she has penned a brilliant, engaging, and entertaining "good dream."


Monday, April 25, 2011

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Alleluia! Christ is Risen!

He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

A blessed Easter to you and yours.


Thursday, April 14, 2011

If you don't see the point of the liturgy and its ceremonies. . .

Recently I was party to a conversation between pastors regarding the ceremonies of Passiontide and Holy Week. One fellow said that he couldn't see the point in leaving out the Gloria Patri during Passiontide. That brought to mind this famous quotation from Chesterton's essay, "The Drift from Domesticity."

In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, "I don't see the use of this; let us clear it away." To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: "If you don't see the use of it, I certainly won't let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it."

This paradox rests on the most elementary common sense. The gate or fence did not grow there. It was not set up by somnambulists who built it in their sleep. It is highly improbable that it was put there by escaped lunatics who were for some reason loose in the street. Some person had some reason for thinking it would be a good thing for somebody. And until we know what the reason was, we really cannot judge whether the reason was reasonable. It is extremely probable that we have overlooked some whole aspect of the question, if something set up by human beings like ourselves seems to be entirely meaningless and mysterious.

One of the first principles of liturgical, churchly thinking is that our fathers in the faith deserve our honor and respect. The liturgy is, first and foremost, a gift, an inheritance, something handed down from our fathers. Let us not be ungrateful, snide, or know-it-all children.


Call Day Update from CID

Below I predicted that Call Day would see between 5%-10% of the men not receive full-time calls. Alas, it appears I was an optimist. Several readers from the CID have let me know that their district president just sent out an email announcement for all the district parish newsletters. It reads, in part: "It is anticipated that approximately 20-30 Seminary candidates will have to wait until after Call Day before receiving their first call."

Please note, that's 20-30 not receiving any call - some number will also, of course, receive calls that will be intentionally part-time in nature.

Pray for these young men and their families. And pray for wisdom among the men who have the charge to fix this imbalance. And if you know someone contemplating Seminary - by all means encourage him to first make sure he has a back up plan for feeding his family.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Looking ahead to Call Day

With a very late Easter, this year's Call Day, or really, Call Days, are scheduled at the Missouri Synod's two seminaries for May 3 and 4. For the past several years the number of congregations willing to call graduates as full-time pastors has been smaller than the number of graduates put forward by the seminaries for such calls. I have already given my own analysis of this problem as well as proposed solutions.

But what will this Call Day show us about the clerical labor market in the Missouri Synod? I've been following the issues about the lack of placements for a few years and these are my educated guesses of what is to come.

1. The trend of falling demand for full-time pastoral work will continue. There will not be enough full-time, 1 Cor. 9:14 calls to give one to each graduate seeking such a call. This trend began, at the very latest, with the class of 2004. Expect an announcement from one or both seminaries that several candidates are awaiting calls. Further, several of the calls that will be handed out in May will not be full-pay pastoral calls. It may be difficult to assess just how many of the calls will fall into this latter category since the seminaries are not required to make such details public knowledge (although especially St. Louis has taken some pains in actually announcing which calls are intentionally "worker-priest" situations at the Call Day service). However, I expect the total number of graduates not receiving a full-time call (that is, those receiving no call at all and those receiving a "worker-priest" call) to be in the 5%-10% range. For the purposes of this calculation, we leave aside those going on to graduate work, even though some of them surely would seek calls if they thought they could get them.

2. We will not see a repeat of last year where a vastly disproportional majority of the unplaced men were from CTS. I know some will disagree with me, but I do not believe that the COP as a whole "has it in" for Ft. Wayne. The testimony of more than two or three witnesses that certain District Presidents simply will not take CTS graduates is too overwhelming to be doubted, but I do not believe that this represents a majority of the Council. While we may well suspect that such biases among some members of the COP contributed to last year's imbalance, another factor that must be reckoned with is the traditionally high (and equally disproportional) number of students from CSL who take assistant/associate positions. As I narrated in a previous post, the greatest loss in demand for pastoral work is in small, semi-rural Midwestern parishes: this is going to hit CTS harder than CSL based on the historical trend of CTS placements to sole pastor positions in just these sorts of parishes.

However, last year was a frankly embarrassing breakdown in one of the material principles of the Missouri Synod: Synodical bonhomie. Look for the COP to bend over backwards to make sure that the number of unplaced graduates from each institution is in proportion to the size of their graduating classes. And yes, the district elections of 2009 and the Synodical elections of 2010 will only help this situation.

3. The big question: will all the men who don't receive calls in the first week of May receive them before the start of the next academic year? Or before next Call Day? Or ever? In one sense, probably - in a more significant sense: no. Yes, fields of service will probably be found for them in one way or another - some part-time, some full-time, some worker-priest.

However, it is an open secret that there is a large number of men on Candidate Status (once called "CRM") who are ready, willing, and able to serve but for whom no call can be found. Exactly what this number is can be difficult to determine; the best information that I can get seems to indicate that the total number of men on "candidate status" and "non-candidate status" is somewhere around 250. What proportion of those men are ready, willing, and able and what proportion are on "non-candidate status"? It seems that such numbers are not publicly available - but if we suppose that each district contains three men of the "candidate status," ready, willing, and able sort, we are already running over 100. At any rate, there is no doubt that it is greater than nil. Thus, any way you slice it, we have persistent clerical unemployment and underemployment in the LCMS - either because we have a shortage of congregations willing to issue I Cor 9:14 calls or because we have a glut of clergy: you can choose your own characterization.

I know that these issues are being debated in the highest offices of the Synod and I pray that God would grant our Synodical officials wisdom in addressing them. But this is all the more reason why these issues should also be discussed at the circuit, parish, and free conference level. Our Synodical polity, to say nothing of Christian charity, demands considered thought from all corners, for we currently have both a great number of sheep without undershepherds (permanently non-calling congregations, congregations served by "lay ministers," etc.) and a great number of undershepherds without flocks. It is a complicated problem - I have put forward my ideas in these pages before: if you have good ideas, you should discuss them here, in your Winkels, at your General Pastors' Conferences, with your DP, etc. This problem affects the whole Synod, and the whole Synod should be dedicated to correcting it.


My Song is Love Unknown

By Larry Beane

The suggested Hymn of the Day for last Sunday, the fifth Sunday in Lent (Judica) is Lenten hymn My Song Is Love Unknown (LSB 430).  The text was written by an English cleric named Samuel Crossman (1624-83). 

Crossman began his churchly life as a Puritan - the faction of the post-Reformation Church of England that corresponds roughly to the more radical elements of the German Reformation.  The Puritans sought to "purify" the English Church of its more Catholic elements - which in matters of liturgy, included things like candles, vestments, and the sign of the cross - which they considered to be "popery."  One could argue that the Puritans were seventeenth century English OOGs (Opponents Of Gottesdienst).

After being expelled from the English Church in 1662, Crossman renounced his Puritanism, and in 1665 and was ordained a priest in the Anglican Church, serving as a royal chaplain, and shortly before his death, being named the Dean of the Cathedral Church of the Holy and Undivided Trinity in Bristol.

Coldplay's A Message (video above) borrows its "hook" from the hymn and builds a rock ballad on it.

Of course, fans of Issues, Etc. are familiar with a particular Coldplay tune.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

A Lenten Sermon by Fr. Chad Kendall

[Note: I have the privilege to review sermons in my highly-lucrative job as Sermons Editor of Gottesdienst.  As the bribes get more lavish with each issue, it is sometimes hard to select just two.  The good news is that GO provides an outlet for even more fine preaching than can be contained in our print edition (the current issue, Passiontide-Easter 2011, includes a Good Friday Sermon by Fr. William Weedon and an Easter proclamation by our own GO Editor Fr. Heath Curtis).  Please find another outstanding Lenten sermon preached last year on Laetare, March 3, 2010 by Fr. Chad Kendall.   +LB]

St. John 3:1-15; Numbers 21

Dearly beloved,

We continue the Lenten theme of seeing glimpses of Jesus and His acts of salvation as they give us snapshots from the Old Testament and then the fulfillment of those snapshots in the gospels. The Old Testament, as we often discover, is a difficult collection of God’s word. Those of us who are brave enough to attempt to understand the Old Testament often walk away getting some historical accounts but we often leave wondering what it really means for the big picture. “What does it have to do with Jesus?” we may say.

Jesus makes it clear throughout the gospels that the Old Testament prophesies of Him. In other words, the interpretive lens that we use to understand the Old Testament is Jesus, His cross, and His empty tomb. The same is true today as we muse upon the mystery of the holy scriptures. The Old Testament lection for today is from Numbers. It gives us some important history of the desert wanderings of God’s people. They had been wandering and waiting for the Lord to give them the promised land. They journey toward it.

Suddenly, they come upon the land called Edom. Edom was a fruitful and good land with much wild game and water. The Israelites ask the Edomites of they could pass through Edom and they would pay for whatever they ate and drank. The Edomites refused. They warned the Israelites that if they even stepped foot in Edom, they would be slain with the sword. This left Israel with a very unfriendly option: the Israelites had to pass through a terrible desert. There was nothing to drink, nothing to eat, and it was horribly hot. It was quite a contrast to the fertile land of Edom.

To get to the promised land, they had to move on, so they go into the desert. The people begin to grumble against God and Moses for they are hungry and thirsty. They even complained about the manna that God rained down from heaven. This made God angry, and He responded by sending snakes. It is said that they were fiery serpents. What this meant is that they had the appearance of fire. They were a hot orange color. They were everywhere and they bit the Israelites. Many of the people began to die. This took place that the people would see their sin and repent.

They did see their sins and they asked Moses to pray to God that God would take away the serpents. There is a very important detail here and it has bearing for your life. As is the case in the Bible, the point is hidden in the details. Notice that God doesn’t take away the serpents. What God does instead is He gives an anti-dote for when they get bit. Remember this because I will come back to it.

God tells Moses to fashion a serpent out of bronze. Why bronze? Because when the sun shone on the bronze, it looked just like the fiery serpents that were biting the people. Then God tells Moses to fasten that bronze serpent on a pole and raise it up for all to see. Whoever would look at it would be healed of the deadly venom of the serpent. The first dimension to this is that it is history that includes God’s hand. But there is the spiritual side to this, too. In St. John 3:15, Jesus makes one statement that packs a punch and gives us the other dimension to the account in Numbers.

Jesus says, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” Jesus is the fulfillment of the serpent on the pole. But why? Well, as I mentioned, when the people ask Moses to ask God to take away the fiery serpents, God doesn’t take them away. This bears meaning for your life. The fiery serpents represent sin and Satan. Satan is in this world and no matter how much we would like him gone, he is here.

How often do we watch the news on TV and shake our heads at the horrible occurrences in the world today? We think about the tragedies, the hardships, the sicknesses and catastrophes in the world, and we wish the world were different. How often do we privately think within our own minds, being careful not to share our innermost thoughts about our own sin? We look at our sin and we exclaim quietly to ourselves that we just can’t stop the sins that trouble us?

We may even pray that God will take away the sinful urges, the sinful tendencies, the most evil thoughts we have. But, we find that those same sins keep coming up, even though we ask God to take them away. What must we conclude? That God does not hear us? Or worse, that there is no God? Or that God does not want to help us? By no means! The answer to your sins are wrapped up in the account of the fiery serpent. The serpent is here to stay. God has allowed Satan to roam the earth for a time.

So what must we conclude? Jesus gives you a way out. The bronze serpent looked just like the real thing. It had the fiery appearance, it was in the form of the serpent. But it was God’s appointed means of healing. Anyone who looked upon the bronze serpent on the pole and believed that God had appointed that to be the healing anti-dote for the deadly venom, that person would by healed of the deadly bite and live. Jesus shows us once again that the Old Testament is about Him.

As Moses lifted up the serpent on the pole, so must the Son of Man be lifted up. Why? Because whoever looks upon Christ crucified and believes that Jesus on the cross has been appointed to die for the sins of the world, that person shall be healed of the deadly venomous bite of the serpent Satan. Jesus is God in the flesh. He looked just like we sinners, but with one exception–Jesus had no sin. What does this mean for Christians? It means that you will never live in this world and be free from sin. It means that the fiery serpent Satan is always lurking under logs and rocks. He may bite you at any time.

What this means, is that you never really leave the cross of Jesus. This is why Christians are fond of the crucifix. It is that continual reminder that Jesus died on the cross in order to heal mankind of the deadly snake bite. So, St. Paul says, “We preach Christ crucified.” Christ crucified means life for us. We look to the cross and find the anti-venom that gives life. The sting of death, sin, and hell came at Jesus on the cross, so that we experience the blessing of redemption.

So, as we listen to the history of God’s people, we see God’s hand descending from heaven in order to forgive, heal, bring mercy and love from heaven to earth. Jesus descended from heaven, took on flesh, came as one of us and was raised up for all to see that those who believe, shall find all the blessings of the forgiveness of their sins. Your sins are forgiven. Your sinful urges and tendencies have been atoned for by Jesus. So, we behold Christ on the cross this Lenten season, as we see the cross in the horizon, yet all the while we find ourselves kneeling at the foot of the cross looking upon God hanging there for our salvation. Amen.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Not all adiaphora are created equal

That's Prof. Charles Arand's phrase, and while I disagree with the good professor on the application of that insight, it is a very true insight nonetheless. I was reminded of this when it comes to a clergyman's dress while reading through Jacob Abbott's biography of Peter the Great. Here is what he says about Peter changing the uniform of his army.

He abolished the dress which the Guards had been accustomed to wear—an ancient Muscovite costume, which, like the dress of the Highlanders of Scotland, was strongly associated in the minds of the men with ancient national customs, many of which the emperor now wished to abolish. Instead of this old costume the emperor dressed his new troops in a modern military uniform. This was not only much more convenient than the old dress, but the change exerted a great influence in disenthralling the minds of the men from the influence of old ideas and associations. It made them feel at once as if they were new men, belonging to a new age—one marked by a new and higher civilization than they had been accustomed to in former years. The effect which was produced by this simple change was very marked—so great is the influence of dress and other outward symbols on the sentiments of the mind and on the character.

I suspect that when a Lutheran pastor decides to put away his alb, stole, and chasuble and take up the polo shirt, Birkenstocks, and khakis he feels much the same thing.


Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Office of the Holy Ministry, cont.

[NB: This discussion started over at on an unrelated thread. It turned into a very good exchange concerning Walther, the MO Synod, Chemnitz, and the Confessions on the Ministry. I invited the folks there to continue the discussion here if they liked. Just previous to this post, Pr. Bohler asked me for a summary of my disagreements with Walther.]

There are many points in Walther's theology of the Ministry that I take issue with.

One is what exactly he means by "transference." He begins the theses by saying that the Office of the Ministry and the Priesthood of all Believers are separate things: "The holy ministry, or the pastoral office, is an office distinct from the priestly office, which belongs to all believers." That's good. They are distinct.

But then he seems to take away with the hand what he gave with the right, for the ministry is merely the administration of "the common rights of the spiritual priesthood in behalf of all." How can they be distinct if the Pastoral Office is nothing other than administering the "common rights" of the Priestly Office of all believers?

So Walther says, and Pieper continues to say in Christian Dogmatics, that every single Christian has the duty to preach, teach, baptize, administer the Lord's Supper, and pronounce absolution. I just don't find this is the Bible. I see Jesus giving these duties to his 12, and I see them appointing others in their stead. But I challenge anyone to find the Bible passage where Jesus gives these duties to all Christians.

This is the great hermeneutical divide: when you see Jesus giving these duties to his apostles do you read that as Jesus giving these duties, this Office, to the Church or to the Ministry or to Both? Do the apostles represent the Church, the Ministry, or Both? Walther clearly says the Church or Both. Wisconsin is bang on following Walther here. I say that is nonsense: the apostles are called apart from the Church from within the Church and made the Ministers.

It is really quite rich of the Missouri Synod's Waltherians to argue for a male only ministry by saying that Jesus only called male apostles and then use the same Bible passages (Matt 28, John 20) to say that these duties are given "immediately to all Christians" (Walther's and Pieper's words). Wisconsin is consistent on this and says that women may in fact perform all pastoral functions (preach the Word and administer the Sacraments) - just not in a way that hold authority over men. You may see John Brug's (president of WELS seminary) new book, The Ministry of the Word for verification of this point.

In Thesis VI, Walther makes his famous claim that only the "congregation" is the Church. To the end of his days, he said that no organization besides a local congregation could issue a call. This was once a very big bone of contention between WI and MO and there is a lot of literature on it. Since at least 1962, the MO Synod has reneged on this point.

Furthermore, Walther seems to think that the congregation can thus call a man into the office *apart from other clergy.* This is a tragic contradiction of the Treatise where the Church is laity and clergy together. No cabal of clergymen can call other clergymen to the office, but neither can a cabal of laymen do the same. Again, Chemnitz makes it clear that no one can come into the Office without the whole Church, clergy and laity, together doing their part.

Walther seems to have no concept of the entire church placing a man into the one Office of the Ministry through the work of the Church gathering in one place. Rather, each congregation just calls a man to do the duties they have all been given to do in their stead for the sake of good order according to the Lord's commands.

Some Lutherans are afraid that there is a pope hiding in every cupboard and thus think that the denial of the indelible character of ordination means that we must think along Walther's lines: as soon as a man isn't serving as a pastor he is a layman. Otherwise, you are just like the pope! Otherwise, you believe in the indelible character!

Nonsense. When the Confessions deny the indelible character they are denying 1) that a man can never be removed from Office, that the NT presbyterhood adheres in him as an Aristotelean qualitas and 2) that the power of the Ministry comes from this qualitas. But the Confessions are not saying that if an ordained man is not serving right at this moment as a parish pastor he has reverted to lay status. Um, wouldn't that be like, oh, I don't know: MARTIN LUTHER HIMSELF?

Once Christ places a man in the Office through His Church (which is clergy and laity together) he is in that Office until he is removed from it. Call this the Call with a capital C. His assignment throughout his life will change - parish pastor, college professor, district official, Lutheran Hour speaker, etc. Call this the call with a little c. One of Walther's problems is that he is so afraid of the indelible character that he confuses being placed into the Office with serving at a particular location in the Church.

For those interested in getting ad fontes in this argument, here is a suggested reading list:

AC (especially articles IV-VII, XIV, XXVIII)
Treatise on Power and Primacy of the Pope
Chemnitz' Enchiridion
Walther's Church and Ministry.

I think you will find that, in the words of Sesame Street, one of these things is not like the others.

And I leave aside the odd history of the adoption of Walther's Church and Ministry back in 1870-71 (hint: it wasn't written yet when it was adopted by the Convention! Kind of like voting on Obamacare. . . )

This has really turned into its own discussion much apart from this thread. I am therefore going to post this comment at Gottesdienst Online with a link back to the rest of the discussion here at Steadfast Lutherans. I invite Pr. Bohler and any others who wish to continue discussion Walther, the LCMS, Chemnitz, the Confessions, and the Ministry to continue the discussion over there.


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Is an assistant or associate pastor really a pastor?

Of course. But strict Waltherians disagree. This came out on another forum in the comments on an unrelated article Read all about it from this comment and on down.

Once again, praise God for the conserving nature of the liturgy, in this case the liturgy for the rite of ordination which makes clear that Jesus created the ministry into which the Church (clergy and laity together) place fit candidates.


What the New Pastor Needs

Call Day is less than a month away and the reality of leaving school and becoming responsible for the pastoral care of one of Christ's flocks is surely taking on new prominence in the minds of the candidates. Here's my short list of what the new pastor needs before he gets to his ordination day. What other tools of the trade do you recommend? What's essential and what's icing on the cake?

* A mass kit for Communion calls that includes a real chalice, paten, and crucifix. The one I've linked to from Autom is very reasonably priced and looks quite nice.

* Vestments: cassock, surplice, alb, cincture, and a complete set of chasubles and stoles. Gottesdienst has long advocated the recovery of the chasuble among Lutherans in North America and it continues to gain ground. A good way to introduce it is with a red set for ordination. You can get what you need at the usual places (CPH, Almy, Gaspard), but I'm a little biased given that my mom sews vestments and paraments (including the beautiful gold set at Fr. Petersen's parish). You can email her for a quote at:

* Books: Treasury of Daily Prayer, LSB Pastor's Companion, LSB Agenda, and LSB Altar Book from CPH; The Conduct of the Service by Piepkorn and McClean and Ceremony and Celebration by Lang (email Fr. Petersen for these); Daily Divine Service Book; Brotherhood Prayer Book; LPLC CD (link to buy at right).


Monday, April 4, 2011

How the other half lives II

Speaking of weird stuff in the American Evangelical world. . . a word must be added about the bizarre things churches get named these days.

Not too far down from the best gyros in St. Louis, for example, is "the gathering" (like e.e. cummings, get it? Too cool for capitals). This always sounds like a horror movie to me. In the next town over is Mosaic - which is meant to appeal, if I decipher the adverts correctly, to people who listen to NPR and wear squarish black framed glasses.

In the Evangelicalized wing of the Missouri Synod you can find both 1C (which means whatever you want it to mean. I am not making this up: "Often the name of a church isn't personal. 1C can mean: 1Creator, 1Christ, 1Counselor, 1Creed, 1st Commandment, 1Church...Determine what 1C means to you! It always prompts a question." Um, yes it does.) and C2.

But the weirdest, oddest, awkward-Midwestiest has got to be the iWorshipCenter. From the pastor's bio: "Mac or PC? PC (also iPad and iPhone)." Right.

I admit, there is a bit of the rubbernecker fascination in this for me. I find it hard to stifle a laugh every time I head up to Springfield and pass the iWorshipCenter. But that is a failing in me. This is a real phenomenon among real live Christians, so I do not want to slip into mean-spiritedness. I have larger theological fish to fry with most of the churches above - let them call themselves what they like. It does me no harm.

But to those of my own tradition going after this fad I do mean to express my honest bewilderment and perhaps point out something that they may not be thinking about: when you seek to draw people in with a certain sort of panache you are also unwittingly seeking to push people out. That is, the demographics game is a two edged sword. There is a sort of person who will be intrigued by a church name that sounds like an app or that intentionally means nothing. And then again, there will be people who find it all rather silly - at the very least, fads change. One must admit, I think, that Mosaic, Epic, C2, etc., will probably sound a little more dated than "St. Matthew's" another decade or two down the road.

But whatever. Like I said, call your church whatever you want. Indeed, this is rather helpful. It makes it easier to find an LCMS church in the town you'll be vacationing in this summer. If it is named for a letter, number, or sounds like it might be a hip sushi bar, they probably won't be dishing out the Lutheran Mass.


Luther quote bleg

Somewhere, sometime, perhaps in a seminary galaxy far, far away I remember reading a Luther quotation (or somebody who claimed Luther said something) along these lines.

Should a midwife baptize a child who seems to be on death's door, but then the child lives, she should tell nobody and let the baptism at church proceed normally.

Can anyone verify that this is a Luther quote and provide documentation?

Thanks in advance.


Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Ladies of Gottesdienst Easter Hat Contest

Father Petersen's parish got it all started with this article in the Witness. Our ladies had a great time with it and we're looking forward to a second year - in fact, the ladies liked it so much that they brought out the hats again for Mothers' Day. Take a picture of your ladies on Easter in their bonnets and we'll post them here at Gottesdienst. Maybe we'll even come up with a prize. Since Petersen's congregation has already achieved fame and fortune via headgear, we'll make him the impartial judge.

You can even pass on some hat links....

It is a laudable custom, based upon a Scriptural injunction (1 Cor. 11:3-15), for women to wear an appropriate head covering in Church, especially at the time of divine service.

-The General Rubrics of The Lutheran Liturgy

How the other half lives

So, let's say you've got one of those fancy rock'n'roll churches with the band, and the screen, and the coffee. And of course you are encouraging everybody to mull around and look at stuff in the gift shop and talk to each other in the Worship Center and so forth and so on before worship begins. How are you going to get everybody together for everything to start on time? Ring a church bell? Are you mad? You've got to have something cooler than that. You've got to have a countdown to worship video!

There is an entire cottage industry going for making these things. They range from the eerily Orwellian to the amazingly annoying. And here's one about how your church is so unique - you know, you and all the other churches buying this video. It reminds me of the StarzPlay opening on Netflix.

Weird, huh?


PS: "We want to unleash compassion in our community"? Is Compassion the name of some beast? Why is it bound? If it gets unbound, will Ragnarök happen? I mean, who else is "passionate" and "relentless" but Odin? The Wolf watches the hall. . .

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Through Monday: 20% off of DDSB and New Testament in His Blood

The publisher has extended the 20% off deal. You can pick up any of the DDSB volumes (and Dr. Eckardt's The New Testament in His Blood) for 20% off through April with coupon code SPLISH.

And if you would like your copy of DDSB personalized, instructions for how to do that are here.