Saturday, June 11, 2011

A Beautiful Custom of Unity from Russia

By Larry Beane, cross-posted at Father Hollywood.

Here is an expression of "walking together" in the faith (which is what the word "Synod" means) as expressed by the Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church from the "unofficial blog of St. Andrew's Congregation" in Novosibirsk.  There are many reasons why such an expression of unity among the clergy would not work in the Missouri Synod:
  • The synodically approved cross would likely be a magenta corporate logo with a registered trademark notification.  
  • The "confessional" types would condemn a cross without a corpus to be Nestorian.
  • No matter what the cross would look like, it would be politicized. 
  • It would become a "Formula X" issue that would bring out the secret desire of every Lutheran pastor to be Martin Luther nailing the theses to the church door and burning papal bulls while shouting "Freedom of the Gospel!" at the top of his lungs.
  • It would have to be made so as to clash neither with traditional clerical garb nor khakis and polo shirts.
  • It would be required for deaconesses, DCEs, DCOs and other "Ministers of Religion - Commissioned" to also be presented with the same synodical pectoral cross, thus ruining it.
  • To work in the U.S., there would have to be a place for decals honoring one's favorite college or NFL team.
But for our brothers in Russia, the priestly pectoral cross works out well, and it is a beautiful traditional expression of both the Holy Office and the unity of the congregations served by these men.


  1. For all of the reasons you mention, and more, Fr. Hollywood, this idea would never work. And what it sadly comes down to is the fact that, in our little ministerium, we basically can't stand each other. Lord, have mercy.

  2. None of the Lutheran Churches at the time of the Reformation or in the several generations there after attempted to live without a Church Order. Our little American experiment of a church without a Church Order has failed.


  3. Cecil,

    A typical Church Order of this era would include not only what we today call a Constitution and Bylaws (rules about how one may be removed, how one may be called to a new field of service, etc.), but also included the orders of service that had to be followed by all the clergy. For an interesting, and very short, description of a Church Order see Part 3 of Chemnitz' Enchiridion.

    In short, the same men who wrote Formula of Concord X also had no problem setting down Church Orders for each regional church that laid out exactly how worship was to be conducted.

    This should cause us great pause. Perhaps our interpretation of FC X as meaning "anything goes according to any individual pastor and/or congregation's whim" is not as open and shut as many would make it out to be today.


  4. Pastor Anderson, that is the saddest thing that I have read in a long time. Do you honestly believe it to be true?

    I myself cannot believe that a bunch of pastors could stand themselves very long if they had to hold anger in their heart towards their brothers. That simply has to be resolved.

    As to Pr Curtis' comments—I don't understand how you can write about election as you do and then point to our church as a failure. How can we be a failure? We're doing God's work here in God's place. On this side of the resurrection, there simply is no failure any more.

    The reason why we are diverse is because we're big. That brings diversity. We should celebrate the fact that we have the size we do to have the problems we have.

    I'm not saying that we don't have some issues to work through—we do. You guys need to see me as Lutheran for starters. :) But come now: we have problems because we are large, with many pastors, with different ways of looking at things. We are the example to the world of confessional Lutheranism. We don't hate each other.

    We can't all wear a pectoral cross—but we all proclaim a crucified Christ. That's enough, isn't it?

  5. Believing that unity in Missouri is an impossibility only strengthens the reality that unity will not happen. One can not cry out for some sort of harmonious unity while being stuck in pessimism. If we wanted our church to have full unity, on such things, how boring and laborious things would me. Let's get matters straight on the important matters and worry about the guitars and polo shirts later or not at all.

  6. This is, of course, exactly the problem. Many of us firmly believe that the guitars and polo shirts are an important matter. They confess something, as symbols always do. And yes, Pastor Q, I do believe it to be true. Which is not to say that pastors with divergent views couldn't get together and maybe have a nice conversation over a beer (I didn't mean to imply that we are all out to kill each other). But we can't stand each other's practice and the doctrine that stands behind that practice, that, many times (at least for me) I cannot find to recognizably confess the doctrine we believe when I look at it.

  7. "Our little American experiment" saved us in the 70's. The clergy would have never elected Preus or chosen to stay loyal to the Confessions.

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  9. Well Pastor Anderson, once again, I find the view pretty gosh darn depressing. In our world, we are battling against the wicked foe—and yet within our own Synod we have to point to each other and say "I cannot stand this practice!" Really?

    I don't mind people taking clothing seriously and doctrine seriously and question what motivates who—but is it really right to talk about not being able to stand those who are going to be in Heaven with us? Is it really a legitimate way of talking about those that we are in Christ with? I would say not.

    I think we can say "I think you're wrong" pretty unheatedly.

  10. Dear Mark:

    Timnothy McVeigh may well "be going to heaven with us" (he was visited by a pastor just before his execution). This is not to say that we are to condone things that are offensive. Worship (however well intended) that bows the knee to the golden calf of Entertainment is offensive to a lot of people.

    I think you make a good point about our size. Hugeness is not always a good thing, think about the USSR, Communist China, the Roman Empire, even the Roman Catholic Church. Big is not always better.

    But it is a shame that even on something like worship we have such radical departures from our own tradition as confessed in the Book of Concord. And I think that is the source of much of our malaise in terms of our want of unity in the LCMS.

  11. At the time of the Formula, around 1580-1600, how many different Church orders were there among the Lutherans in Germany?

    And I would assert that we had a de facto order - we have by-laws and approved hymnbooks and an agenda, each with rubrics. It's just... at some point in the past 50 years we stopped caring whether or not people followed them.

  12. Can everyone just use the synodically approved hymnals at the very least? This is what the constitution requires, and I don't totally understand why anyone would feel that they can just ignore it. Following our own rules would solve so many problems.

  13. Fr. Louderback,

    You continue to demonstrate your willful misunderstanding of my thesis. As I have repeated over and over again: election doesn't mean that we can't sin. We do sin. We do fail. The good news of God's grace alone salvation is that even for all our screw ups we won't be able to stop His plans. But we must needs repent of our sins. Really, this is all in the paper and the audio. Try harder.

    And guys - we're not big. How laughable! A million people in church on Sunday? That's not big. There are more Roman Catholics in Chicago than there are MO Synod Lutherans in the country. If they can have at least a semblance of liturgical order, so can we.

    And Fr. Mietzner is right: just following our own meager Church Order would be a big improvement.

    As to "how many church orders in Germany" - several, but only one for where you happened to live. If you lived in Augsburg you had one order to follow, you could not just choose what you wanted to do to the detriment of the ministry of the guy down the block.



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