Friday, March 9, 2012

Chanting, Ceremonies, and Consciences

At a recent gathering where I was privy to some of the discussions and decisions regarding the conduct of the services, a quite different approach was taken to chanting (and to the music in general) than was taken with respect to other ceremonies.

One ceremony, in particular, was a matter of concern: Some of the pastors preferred to bend the knee (to genuflect), and others were not so inclined. No one disputed the freedom of this ceremony. No one suggested that it was commanded by God; nor did anyone argue that it was forbidden. But some were concerned that, by engaging in this admittedly free ceremony, the pastors who did so were confusing the people and burdening consciences. So, in order to avoid this danger, the ceremony was ruled "out of order."

Ceremonies in general were viewed with similar caution and suspicion, though I'm not aware that any other practices were given the ax. There were differences of opinion, naturally, but the basic perspective of those in charge seemed to be, that pastors should not risk doing anything that isn't necessary, pedagogical, or practical. It was implied that nothing should be done simply for the sake of reverence, elegance, and beauty . . .

Except for the ceremony of chanting (and music in general). In this case, the standard was set very high. The liturgy was not only to be chanted, but to be chanted well. It was expected to be beautiful. It was deliberately intended to impress the Christians who were gathered together for worship. It was to show the lay people an example of how nicely things could be done, even if those things weren't being done (or done so well) in their home congregations.

I do not recall any conversations as to whether chanting might burden anyone's conscience. Nor did I consider such concerns at the time. Why would I? I don't believe that the simple practice of a free ceremony burdens consciences. I do understand that what pastors do is not just a matter of their own personal piety, but a public profession of the faith, as well as a powerful means of catechesis. But where the Word of God is being taught in its truth and purity, and the Law and the Gospel are being properly distinguished, and the Gospel is predominating, there is little danger that chanting, as opposed to speaking, is going to shipwreck anyone's faith. There's precious little danger that bending the knee, as opposed to standing, will do so, either.

In retrospect, though, I am thinking about the insistence on a certain proficiency and quality of chanting. I'm wondering, too, about those pastors who were not permitted to participate in the services because their chanting wasn't up to snuff. What about the burden on their consciences? What about the message sent to other pastors, and to would-be future pastors?

I do believe that having standards is not only fine, but good and right. We should put our best foot forward. We should offer our best abilities and talents, the first fruits of God's good gifts to us. Not everyone has the same gifts, but each of us should serve where he is qualified to do so, as well as he can. So, it seems to me that, in certain circumstances, it is appropriate for a pastor who is not able to chant so well to step aside, in order that another pastor may serve that role with God-given skill. In other cases, and certainly within his own congregation, a pastor should simply chant as well as he is able, or else speak the Liturgy with simple dignity and reverence.

With that, I'm also thinking about the very different way that bending the knee was considered and dealt with at that gathering, in contrast to chanting. If it is appropriate to have high standards for the latter, should there not also be similar or analogous standards for the posture and movement of those pastors who serve at the Lord's Altar? As chanting is a form of elevated speech, so is bending the knee a more profound expression of humility. One's heart can be equally faithful with or without chanting, whether standing or kneeling; or equally hypocritical, either way. But we are dealing here with standards of conduct, that is to say, with outward ceremonies; which, while free, are not incidental. Clearly, these things have an impact and make an impression.

So, what is my point? On the one hand, I'm looking for greater clarity and consistency in the way that ceremonies are considered. I'm curious whether Lutherans may be particularly prone to a double-standard in this respect, in dealing with music on a quite different level than other ceremonies. Surely our concern for the neighbor's conscience should prevail in all circumstances, along with our strong defense and right exercise of freedom. And by the same token, we should be as concerned about the posture and movement of our bodies as we are about the quality and character of our voices. We should neither be cocky about our chanting, nor careless and cavalier in the conduct of any other ceremonies. The same Lord is the object of devout faith and reverent worship in each case, and the same neighbors are set alongside of us, that we might serve them with Christian courtesy, respect and love.


  1. I suppose a fitting question for the soldiers of conscience who, in reflex-like fashion, bring immediate attention to "burdening" consciences would be: "Are our consciences being held captive, or are we being held captive by our consciences?" Luther always advised never to go against conscience, but that very conscience which Luther referenced was one that was always held captive by the Word of God." A conscience held captive by the Word of God is always a free and happy one, one that rejoices in the truth that "all things are yours in Christ." Ironically, it is only a conscience held captive to the Word of God that, when push comes to shove, is really never burdened, so to speak. Conversely, it is a conscience not held captive to the Word of God that, when push comes to shove, that constantly comes to be burdened. Once the game of omniscience/playing God of the soldiers of conscience is exposed as the violation of the First Commandment that it is, "conscience" is then quickly exposed as "preference with respect to taste" and the posture of "caution" is exposed as a billboard which reservedly exclaims in nervous fashion: "We're a bit allergic, if not threatened, by your taste, we don't have our Epipen on hand, and frankly, none of this is our fault." One's taste becomes one's god, and any challenge (small or great) to one's taste (individual or corporate) is the greatest sin against which "conscience" must caution.

    It never ceases to amaze me how conscience is confessed and used less and less as the gift of God that assists in guarding oneself from true danger--danger, that is, which is defined by the Word of God (!), and more and more a matter of preserving, confirming, and advancing one's default setting on life, one's modus operandi, one's "taste."

    I often wonder about those who seem constantly and immediately burdened by things of the senses--particuarly those of the out-of-the-ordinary sort, the imaginative sort, the artful sort, et al. To what is their conscience held captive? Certainly not the canonical scriptures, as read aloud and listened to in the assembly gathered around font, ambo, and altar, where their conscience is constantly being held captive by God himself in Christ through the Spirit, and thus only liberated from the sinful condition--and that on God's own promise.

    To me, this resembles fideism to a great extent. Subsitute "conscience" for "faith" in this respect. An superlative antidote for fideism is, to approximate Norman Nagel: "Faith is no big deal; Jesus is the big deal." So here also: "Conscience is no big deal; the Word of God (read "Jesus") is the big deal." This is not to say that conscience is not important, anymore than faith is not important when combating against fideism. Rather, it is to proclaim him who is important, who is only, and who so often is proclaimed, in deafening silent fashion, as the least important in discussions and spheres of activity like these.

    One more cause for repentance, if nothing else.

    1. Yes, thank you, Christopher. Your thoughtful comments are very helpful and much appreciated. Excellent.

      God bless you and your family.

  2. "the basic perspective of those in charge seemed to be, that pastors should not risk doing anything that isn't necessary, pedagogical, or practical"

    It is surprising how easily Lutherans, who would otherwise recoil from the severity of consistent Calvinists who hold to the regulative principle, begin to apply the same approach: It's unnecessary, so we shouldn't do it. It seems to me that there is some connection between the Regulative Principle, the idea that we need to get back to the simple worship forms of the Early Church (as if we knew for sure that they were simple), and the thought that the main problem with the Medieval mass was that it was just too complicated.

    I wonder how those folks understand the commands in Exodus 28 to make priestly garments "for glory and for beauty." Dr. Veith's book State of the Arts was helpful for me in clarifying the Biblical role of art, especially the chapters on Bezalel and Aaron. It was interesting to note that the relevant Biblical passages all had to do with both divine and diabolical liturgy--Solomon's Temple and the golden calf. It seems to me that there was an obvious connection between liturgy and beauty that we have lost.

  3. Re: chanting. It's just part of the job. Any cursory look at the history of Lutheran worship confirms this. A look at the hymnal confirms this. Reading Luther confirms this. It's as much a part of the job as public reading, writing sermons, or visiting shut ins. It is an absolute travesty that the seminaries evidently don't look at it this way. With very, very few exceptions, anyone can learn to chant DS Settings I and III, Matins and Vespers (that'll get you through 99.9% of Lutheran parishes).

    No pastor does all parts of his job equally well. Many great preachers are not so great at teaching confirmation class - and vice versa. No one expects anyone to be great at everything. And thus many folks might have a hard time learning to chant passably. I, for one, did not find it easy at all. AT ALL. My seminary career in field work and vicarage contains many memories of that terrible, clammy, hot-eared feeling of embarrassment as I completely flubbed some chanting. But it got better with a lot of practice and baptism by fire.

    To anyone who says "I just can't chant" I ask, How do you know? In the first week of Greek class how many guys thought, "I just can't learn Greek"? But you *had* to learn Greek, so you did, passably enough. If the seminaries won't force their MDiv students to learn to chant, then in all probability many won't ever find out what their abilities really are.

    "They want to teach but they cannot even sing" - Luther on Titus 1:10, WA 25:30 (Docere volunt, qui non novit [sic] canere.)


  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Before I entered seminary, a recently-ordained pastor counseled me to join the chapel choir. This was the choir that sang at various times during chapel services. Everyone was accepted - no auditions.

    I took that advice. It was the first (and only) voice training I ever had. It was invaluable. It was free, and rehearsal was at lunch time.

    I counsel every seminarian I run into the do the same (if this is still being done). Amazingly, some guys didn't want to give up part of their lunch.

    This was a free practicum on chanting. Guys, you can shove food in the pie hole any time. You need to know how to chant, to hold a tune, to project your voice, etc. This is a no-brainer!

    After a year in chapel choir, I tried out for the Kantorei and made the cut.

    We all have differing abilities - but very few men at tone deaf. Somehow, we all manage to sing Happy Birthday for our kids (does anyone just say "I can't sing" and insist on speaking it?).

    We should view chanting (as Fr. Curtis says) as part of what we do. I think most of the guys who say they "can't" really means they are scared or they are lazy.

    It is the same every week, and if you are saying 50 masses a week, in two years you will have a hundred (at least) under your belt. It will become second nature - but only if you take a leap of faith and do it.

    1. It is one of my regrets that I didn't take advantage of those opportunities while at the Sem. I continue practicing and doing the best I can, and I suppose I've made some headway over the years.

      I doubt, though, that even Fr. Petersen is saying 50 masses a week. It probably isn't canonically legit. But I suspect you meant 50 per year.

      Thanks for your comments, in any case.

    2. LOL. Yes, 50 a year. It's not quite like the middle ages, but sometimes it feels like I've said fifty by the end of the week. :-)

  6. After reading that bending the knee was ruled "out of order", I recalled a similar situation when I was a first year pre-sem student.

    I was home for Christmas break. After I had received Communion, at the dismissal, I dared to cross myself. The Pastor nearly fainted.

    A few days later, the Vicar was visiting my grandmother at home. While there he delivered a message for me from the Pastor. Basically, I was informed that, since I planned to go to seminary, I should not practice a ceremony that might not be welcomed in any congregation to which I might be called.

    My reply, sent via the Vicar, was that the reverse was also valid. If that congregation made use of this and/or other such, I could find myself unwilling to accept their practices.

    Needless to say, I had no intention of declaring any acceptable ceremony to be "out of order."

    1. It is an amazing thing that kneeling should be ruled "out of order."

      In many cases, that means only the laity are permitted to kneel during reception, not the clergy. I guess that's kind of how American Lutheranism describes the laity as "the priesthood" - from which a man is apparently defrocked when he takes holy orders. :-)

      There is a proof text for genuflecting - Phil 2:10.

      To make it "out of order" is to remove it from adiaphora and actually to contradict the Bible. Imagine, being told "Jesus, the King of the Universe is here" and "You may NOT bow."

      My question is this: "Do you really believe what you say you believe, if you are going to rule kneeling before Jesus to be 'out of order'?"

      Of course, Tim Tebow can do the same ceremony in the NFL, but in the LCMS, out comes the yellow hanky and a 15-yard penalty for un-Lutheranlike conduct.

      Sometimes being in the LCMS is like reading Edgar Allan Poe's "The System of Dr. Tarr and Prof. Fether."

      I say if anyone says you may not kneel, see FC X and disobey any such rubrics.

      It used to be only Caesars and Communists who would compel pastors not to bow to Jesus. Now, we do the work of Caesar and Stalin ourselves!

      Yes, it is Dr. Tarr and Prof. Fether.

  7. Question for the Gottesdienst folk:

    When, and where, did Gottesdienst specifically and explicitly reject and condemn the false doctrine contained in the "Holy Mass" as it is still being distributed at the Zion Detroit web site?

    1. Brother Paul,

      I'm not sure why you're asking this question, or why you're asking it here.

      Why, exactly, would Gottesdienst have a responsibility or reason to comment on the Holy Mass at Zion, Detroit?

      Probably there is an obvious reason, but I'm usually so far out of the loop that I've given up on trying to keep up.

      Thanks in advance for whatever help you can give me, in order to be able to respond to your question, as may be appropriate.

      A blessed Lententide to you and yours.

  8. Rick, I would simply be interested in knowing when and where Gottesdienst, either online, or in print, every rejected and condemned the form of the "Holy Mass" per the link I provided:

    Since Gottesdienst clearly wishes to push a certain agenda on these matters, I'd like to know if it draws the line at some point, and so...the fact that Zion Detroit for many years was sort of an "epicenter" for the High Church movement in The LCMS, and once again is sponsoring a liturgical gathering, the fact that it continues to propagate this Mass on its web site is of concern to me, and others.

    I'd like to know where Gottesdienst and its various contributors stand on this Mass.

    1. Thanks for the link, Paul. I've taken a look at the ordinary of the Mass, which I assume to be the point of concern. Oddly enough, I haven't looked at this before -- leastwise not closely or in detail.

      So, here's my assessment: Most of what's in the ordinary is quite beautiful and really commendable. It's obviously drawing on historic sources, as indicated, and there is still a great deal that all of us stand to learn from the past. I appreciate the rubrics, which are helpful, even though I also appreciate the clarity of the layout in LSB, especially for the laity. It would be nice if the LSB Altar Book had more extensive rubrics along these lines.

      There are some points of concern, that I would not be able to pray in good conscience, and to which I could not give my "Amen." The Offertorium, for example, is misleading at best, with its references to the offering of the host and cup, even before the consecration, "for all my countless sins," etc. Perhaps this could be interpreted in an orthodox manner, but the plain language does not lend itself to such a spin.

      Other references to our sacrifice and oblation are less objectionable, as most of them could be understood as eucharistic sacrifices (i.e. praise and thanksgiving). But there's an awful lot of those references, which shifts the emphasis from where it ought to be.

      Similarly with respect to the various commemorations of the saints. Most of those are perfectly fine, and yet there are too many of them, in my opinion. In some cases, it is difficult to tell the intention. General references to the prayers and intercessions of the saints in heaven don't trouble me, although I wonder again at the extent of this language. But I am uncomfortable with occasional inferences that the merits of the saints in heaven will avail for us before God. Perhaps that, too, can be spun in an acceptable way, but I would prefer not to have such ambiguity.

      I don't care for the eucharistic prayers, because they seem far more intercessory than eucharistic. There's a lot more pleading for stuff than giving thanks for what God has already done and promised. And if there are going to be Epicleses for the consecration of the Sacrament, I would much prefer to see those prior to the Verba Testamenti.

    2. Now, having offered my critique, I need to make a point of contacting Fr. Braden and discussing my concerns with him. I count him as a friend and colleague, and I also know him to be a faithful Lutheran pastor. I'd like to hear his explanation for the things I've indicated above, and I owe it to him to offer whatever sort of fraternal assistance and support I may be able to provide -- whether to uphold his own efforts to make changes where necessary, or by way of correction, if such be the case. I know that he inherited a difficult situation, as well as a history with its own luggage, so to speak. It may well be that, at the present time, he is simply following the advice I have heard from lots of folks, that he should not make any swift or significant changes without patient persistence in teaching and guiding and shepherding the flock.

    3. Along with my interest in the "Holy Mass" at Zion, I'm almost as much or more curious about the "agenda" to which you refer, which "Gottesdienst clearly wishes to push." I'm going to have to mull over that, and perhaps I should post something on that, in the hopes of working it out.

      Strangely enough, although I'm one of the online editors of Gottesdienst, I'm not at all clear on our "agenda." Actually, I don't really think that we all have the same "agenda," but that hasn't seemed a problem between us. I honestly don't think of myself as being part of any "High Church Movement," although I will embrace till the end of my days what Dr. Weinrich once said in class: "I have a very high opinion of the Church. She is, after all, the Bride of Christ, and she ought to be treated like a lady."

  9. Just a thought....Gottesdienst has expended a lot of paper and ink and now bandwidth critiquing and criticizing many other congregations and liturgical practices, so I'm sure it will want to make very clear where and how the "Holy Mass" still being made available from Zion in Detroit represents a very clear and dangerous departure from Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions. Thanks, Rick. A blessed Lent to you too.

  10. Dear Paul:

    You just accused a member of synod of "false doctrine" in a public forum, and did so in writing. You had better take this to the DP and not drag other members of synod into this.

    You work in St. Louis. I'm sure you know the procedure for following through with your accusation.

    By using the words "false doctrine" you have taken this out of the realm of blogging and simply giving private opinions. That is not just a pejorative or even a loaded term - it is a legal term. I'm a member of synod, and I will not be dragged into what you have just (apparently) set in motion. You have really made further fraternal discussion impossible, and that is unfortunate - because I think it could have been discussed without the accusation.

    Not now.

    Members of synod are entitled to due process.

    For the record, I am not comfortable even with this accusation being posted in this forum with my name attached as an editor. The accusation was made by Pastor McCain, and those are his words - not mine, and not Gottesdienst's.

  11. Dear Larry:

    Since Gottesdienst has never hesitated before to point out, in explicit details, the faults, failings and errors of many practices in member congregations of the Synod, I find it more than a little odd that you are now so defensive when being asked to do the same with this "Holy Mass" posted on the Zion web site.

    Do you believe the intercessions to the saints, asking them to help make a good sacrifice of the Mass in that "Holy Mass" is true or false doctrine?

    Are you really now willing to buy into the LCMS mythology that in such matters there can be no public criticism? That would surprise me.

    I know this hits pretty close to home for the Gottesdienst crew, but...I think these are important questions to be dealt with, not ducked.

    1. Dear Paul:

      There is also a "mythology" that says members of synod cannot sue other members of synod. I think if you want to make such statements and accusations, you should do it at your own website.

      This is only "close to home" here because you decided to make your accusation here. I have not been to Detroit in more than a decade. If you have a problem with Pastor Braden or the liturgy he is using, maybe you should speak with Pastor Braden. He was a classmate of mine, and I have never heard of him being accused of false doctrine by anyone. Nor have I heard anyone play the "guilt by association" card regarding some of our top theologians in synod who have spoken at the St. Michael's conferences. I have never heard of any of our professors being accused of false-doctrine-by-association. And if you'd like to make accusations like that, I really would prefer you don't do it at GO.

      But since you ask, if you really do have questions about where I stand on praying to the saints or the belief that the Mass is a propitious sacrifice, you are welcome to come to Salem Lutheran Church in Gretna, LA and see for yourself what order of Holy Mass we use.

      Our service times are Sunday at 10:00 am and Wednesday at 7:30 pm.

      I know Pastor (Herman) Otten gets irritated with you when he sends you questionnaires quizzing you on your orthodoxy - and then implying that since you don't reply, you must have something to hide. Don't be surprised when other people treat your interrogations the same way. Hint: I think you are right to hold such questions in contempt and ignore them for the insulting twaddle that they are.

      But getting beyond the rhetoric and "guilt by association," how many LCMS pastors really are praying to the saints and saying Masses with the understanding that they are propitious (rather than eucharistic) sacrifices?

      Can you even find one?

      Now how many of our congregations are abandoning the historic liturgy?


    2. Larry, two wrongs, do not make a right. If you want to posture yourself as a critic of all things liturgical in The LCMS, then at least be consistent.

      You can't turn a blind eye to the Ordinary presently posted on the Zion Lutheran Detroit web site and then expect to remain credible when you attack others who do not conform to your understanding of worship and liturgy.

      This is so self-evident that I can't undertand why this is not clear.

      I have no interest in discussing this further. It will simply devolve into senseless ad hominem.

  12. Dear Rick, thanks for your thoughtful response. I to had never taken a close look at it until the gentleman from Germany drew it to my attention. Which makes me very concerned that it remains publicly distributed on that web site, communicating, in my view, what I regard as grave doctrinal error.

    While I appreciate your desire to try to suggest some of this may be understood properly, I would respectfully say that it is really has no place in our liturgical practice, and the reason this all came up in the first place is because the point is that simply because a congregation is on the "higher side" of the liturgical equation, gives them no more liberty to head off on their own, as is the case here, than the men prancing around the chancel [stage as they might call it] in their polo shirts importing bad theology via their liturgical practices.

    I do appreciate, Rick, your brotherly and careful response. I hope your fellow Gottesdienst online contributors and writers share your opinion.

  13. HR, please see the link to the material, provided in the posts above. I know Pastor Braden is a nice guy. I'm sure many of the pastors and congregations that Gottesdienst has strongly pilloried over the years, for justifiable [in their opinion] reasons, but have you guys always refrained from doing so until you have personally contacted people?

    The public posting of the "Holy Mass" on that web site makes it a public matter, subject to public criticism and comment.

    I am not saying Pastor Braden is guilty of false doctrine. I am saying the Ordinary in that Mass contains quite a boat load of it.

    I appreciated Rick's reaction to it, though I do not agree that it can be "properly understood" and I appreciate that he recognizes, at least, how it is "misleading."

    I welcome your thoughts as well.

    1. Sorry - I hate Blogger's new "reply" thing I missed the chunks of your back and forth with Rick that pointed out exactly what you were talking about. Updated comment here.

      As per usual, Rick nailed it and I heartily second his careful comments.

      And I will email Fr. Braden and encourage him to read Rick's words and talk it over with Rick, and with Bp. Stechholz. That seems like the brotherly thing to do, yes?


    2. I certainly desire nobody to do the whole "I'm tattling on the DP" thing....I have every confidence that Pr. Braden will consider the wise counsel he has received, I've already been copied on a few such messages.

      It's just time to pull that material down and close the door on that sad and sorry past situation.

      Of course your approach is the brotherly approach.

      oes Gottesdienst always do that when critiquing other fellow pastors in our Synod? I ask this sincerely. Not baiting.

    3. Here's the distinction, as I see it, for when personal contact is required.

      Sometimes, probably the majority of the time, we critique widespread bad practice. For example, we are not fans of the children's sermon, worship in khakis and polos, praise bands, and disposable individual cups. I feel just fine critiquing all those things, including photographs, without sending a note to everyone who practices them.

      But if I am going to say that a specific individual is doing something that is against the Confessions or the Bible, then I think a note is required. The last time that came up with me on this blog was in regard to Dr. Becker. The last time it come up closer to home was with a nearby parish using grape juice for communion.

      That's the distinction I try to abide by, FWIW.


    4. Heath, I've seen Gottesdienst going after specific pastors, institutions, congregations posting pictures of them and mocking them. Seriously. You guys can't have it both ways.

  14. Since Gottesdienst has been an enthuiastic promoter of the liturgical conference held there, I am surprised the Gottesdienst contributors and editors are unfamiliar with Zion's liturgical history, practices, and what's on their web site by way of liturgical examples and models:

    For instance:

    1. As I said, I'm usually so far out of the loop, I've given up on trying to catch up. I wish I were more up to speed than I am.

      I'm certainly aware of Zion's history and significance -- and I have appreciated getting to know Fr. Braden from other gatherings (in Fort Wayen and Kewanee) -- but I've never actually been to Zion.

  15. Rick, ditto. I had actually kind of just given up on any of these issues as simply impossible of being discussed, since there are so many powerful emotions attached to them. But, as I said, thanks for responding to my questions as you have.


  16. Paul,

    Perhaps you should have informed the brothers here that both Fr. Braden and a couple of his parishioners had clearly informed you in public (I witnessed it of FB a while back) that some of the parts of the Ordinary of the Holy Mass that appear on their website have already been deleted and/or revised.

    That might have been some helpful information for the brothers here to consider. As it is, you gave the impression that this is the Ordinary being used, when you know full well that it is not. Pity, that.

    Fr. Braden is not just a nice guy, but he is Lutheran through and through, and the Holy Mass being conducted under his watch at Zion in Detroit is beautiful and most certainly Lutheran. I had the pleasure of attending the St. Michael Liturgical Conference there this past September - simply Divine!

    1. Thank you, Brother Messer, for providing this information. It is along the lines of what I suspected, and hoped to be the case, but it is good to have this clarification.

      As I have said above, I know Fr. Braden to be a faithful Lutheran pastor, and your words have simply confirmed that again.

  17. Tom, the issue is not what is happening in the church on Sunday, but what the church has on its web site.

    This was drawn to my attention by a confessional Lutheran in Germany, so this is not merely a local concern. I have communicated personally with Pastor Braden, as have others, and I have every confidence he will remove the Ordinary from the web site, since leaving it there is leaving a very misleading impression, one I'm sure he does not wish to be communicating. It could be that he and the congregation is incapable of the technical requirements for removing the materials. I'm sure there are those who will gladly be of assistance.

  18. I have never, in all my years as a follower of Gottesdiest, ever heard or read any criticism of a pastor or congregation that does not make full use of the broad array of ceremonial that is at our disposal from historic Lutheranism. I have read a lot of critique of pastors who (1) put forth no effort to model reverence in their conduct of the liturgy and (2) make no effort to learn the whats and the whys of Lutheran ceremonial. I am frankly quite irritated with the caricature that is being put forth of these guys as being obsessed with rubrics for the sake of rubrics, or that they are looking down on their brothers that do not have the same amount of ceremonial as they use.

  19. I'm very happy to report that Zion Detroit's web site has been updated and the Ordinary of the "Holy Mass" that contained so much offensive false teaching is no longer being made available, but has been deleted.

    Thanks be to God.

  20. Now that the controversy is over, now that we all agree that Fr. Braden and Zion have been vindicated from implications of false doctrine, maybe CPH will consider adding Zion's current Holy Mass ordo as Divine Service 6 (what's one more at this point?).

    I think all of the attention has been good. Now I really want to attend the next St. Michael's Conference!

    Any chance of a Gottesdienst event in the Motor City? "It's halftime at Gottesdienst..."

    1. Larry, I never accused Pastor Braden of false doctrine. You know that.

      And, no, we are not going to add another DS to LSB. Besides, we already have the TLH pg. 15 in it. Satis est.

    2. Paul, I never accused you of accusing Pastor Braden of false doctrine. You know that.

      But I do like the "royal we." Nice touch, Paul. I didn't realize that you were unilaterally in charge of what goes in the hymnals: "CPH c'est moi!"?

      But since you *are* CPH, how about putting the 1986 translation of the Small Catechism into the public domain?

      Tibi, Paule, satis numquam satis est!

  21. This comment has been removed by the author.

  22. For the record…

    First, let me thank the gentlemen above that spoke well of me. I appreciate it. Thank you.

    As Rev. McCain mentioned above, I spoke with him a couple of weeks ago and made it clear that Zion does not use the prayers in question.

    The Ordos have not been removed from the website. Following the link "Liturgical Resources" on the Zion website, you will find the following description under the "Ordinary of the Mass" link:

    "Zion's Ordo is not currently available in electronic form. A project underway will make Zion's Ordo, and a complete set of Propers, available in the future. The Ordos available -here- were used historically at Zion, but are not reflective of the best Lutheran practice. They are retained here because they are a part of Zion's history."

    The word "-here-" is a link to the Ordos. I would like to thank the several gentlemen that contacted me privately, including Rev. McCain, whose suggestions led to this solution.

    As Rev. McCain mentions above, Zion does host a liturgical conference, the St. Michael Liturgical Conference, to be held, Lord willing, on Monday, September 24th of this year. I invite everyone to attend the conference, and to enjoy the beauty, and purity, of the Holy Mass at Zion Detroit.

  23. I'm disappointed that Pastor Braden has provided a link to the Ordinary that is "not the best Lutheran practice" but in fact contains content that is entirely contrary to the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions.

    Let the dead bury the dead.

    This is no "solution" Pastor Braden. I urge you simply to delete and remove this material, permanetly, from your congregations' web site.

  24. With all due respect, unfortunately, in my opinion, the issue remains unresolved. The materials are still posted and available publicly.

    Describing them as “not reflective of the best Lutheran practice” falls far short of how they should be described: “These materials are no longer used because they contain content that is contrary to the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions, specifically prayers for the intercession of the departed saints and language about the Eucharistic Host as a sacrifice for sins.”

    For example, we read this in the liturgy:

    Receive, O holy Father, almighty and everlasting God, this spotless Host which I, Your unworthy servant, offer to You, my living and true God, for all my countless sins, offenses and neglect; and for all those here present; and for all faithful Christians, living and departed; that it may avail for their salvation and mine, unto life eternal. Amen

    I have expressed my concerns to Pastor Braden and respectfully recommended the materials simply be deleted entirely and replaced with what is now being used. I do not believe it serves any useful purpose to post liturgical materials that contain such bad doctrine, without at the very least pointing out precisely what is wrong with it, and why.

    There is nothing else to do at this point, given the state of how these things are handled in our Synod these days, but I believe the concerns remain unresolved.

    It seems to me that if we are willing merely to shrug our shoulders at this but then get up in arms at liturgical forms and statements from those who are moving away in the other direction, there is inconsistency that is not helpful.

    Respectfully submitted.

  25. Dear Paul:

    I think there is a difference in perspective.

    The view is different from a parish pastor in an actual parish with actual parishioners. This is always the risk when non-parish pastors make pronouncements from the ivory tower.

    The bottom line is this:

    1) These prayers were used in the past.
    2) They were abolished years ago by Pr, Braden.
    3) Pr. Braden has put a disclaimer on this former liturgy that it is presented on the website for historical purposes, but is no longer used (his abolition of the practice speaks volumes).
    4) He is tactfully describing it as "not the best Lutheran practice."

    Thus he is condemning the practice while being sensitive to the history of his parish and the tough times they have been through.

    You are upset that he is not using stronger language to condemn this antiquated practice that he himself put an end to.

    For someone who constantly condemns "extremism," I'm baffled by your harsh condemnation. I think Mark is showing some mature pastoral consideration to his congregation and its troubled past - while wisely moving to a clear liturgical and evangelical confession of the Gospel.

    The past is the past. Why beat up the parishioners over this? Why make some of them wonder if their absolutions and eucharists and baptisms were valid? This this is a very real concern among typical parishioners.

    Maybe there is a good pastoral reason to post this liturgy with the disclaimer rather than remove it outright. That is Mark's call, not yours, not mine. If he were teaching false doctrine, it would be our business. But he isn't, and Zion isn't. End of story.

    Decades ago, a former pastor of my congregation was defrocked for marital infidelity. People needed reassurance that their baptisms were valid. To a trained theologian, this would not be an issue. But to a lot of people, this was a grave concern. A wise pastor will be sensitive to such things. Someone not serving in the parish ministry may not understand this.

    And I think Pr. Braden is a wise pastor who has been faithfully serving a congregation that was bruised by the previous pastor's departure. You can bash Fenton safely from the sidelines and look like a hero - but to many of Mark's parishioners, this was their pastor whom they loved - and maybe still do. This was the guy who baptized their children. Maybe it is wise for Mark not to take the easy way out and look like the swaggering hero with the big stick. (continued...)

    1. (Continued...)

      So, my opinion is that maybe you should go ride a motorcycle or a horse instead of Pr. Braden. You do not know what his pastoral care issues are. I mean, if he were teaching false doctrine, you would be right to sound the alarm. But he isn't. He is the good guy here. Maybe there are reasons be doesn't go after a dead horse with a bazooka. That's what the 8th commandment is all about.

      Another example, my congregation used to (years ago) throw the Lord's blood in the garbage. The altar guild was following the directions of previous pastors. After we discussed the issue and the procedures, they were horrified that they were treating the Lord's blood this way.

      I assured them that this was not their sin, that this was something that had been done for years, and for them not to feel responsible. I abhor the previous practice, but I do not want faithful members of the altar guild to beat themselves up over it years later. Nor is it my business to bash the previous pastor - who was beloved in the parish and who taught me many salutary things. The matter with the Lord's blood was terrible, but it is done and in the past. We can't change the past, but we can put better procedures in place from now on.

      That should be our focus.

      Maybe I should be ranted at on a public forum for not harshly condemning this practice in the congregation (that I put a stop to years ago) and those who took part in it? Even Luther took a long time to undo some bad practices left over from days when false doctrine and practice held sway in the church. How long did it take him to offer the sacrament under both kinds? Maybe he should have been defrocked for being so patient?

      Maybe there will come a time when Mark would feel comfortable severing those ties in a stronger way, but maybe that time is not yet. But again, that is his call as the pastor of that parish - not yours, not mine.

      I'm honored to call Pr. Braden my brother in the ministry. Sometimes the real world of the parish can place a pastor "between the devil and the deep blue sea" - exposed to critics who will damn him if he does and damn him if he doesn't. To his credit, his main concern is his congregation and love for his parishioners - not pleasing you, not pleasing me, not pleasing CPH, and not pleasing Gottesdienst,

      And that is as it should be.

    2. Fr. Beane,

      I think the comparison to how the Precious Blood is dealt with is spot on. That is one that many a parish pastor has had to deal with.

      Receptionism is a false doctrine - the result of a peculiar sort of Scholasticism within Lutheranism. Tossing the Precious Blood down the drain or in the toilet is a confession of that false doctrine. "It's just wine, afterall."

      Yet, this peculiar sort of Scholasticism was quite common in mid-century North American Lutheranism. Many pastors today will find themselves serving in places in which the habits of Receptionism linger - and will be connected in the minds of the people to the good pastors who loved them and cared for them. Treading lightly in the right direction is called for.


  26. Larry, you make some good points, but you do need to avoid the ad hominem fallacy in your arguments.

    You may find this video helpful:

  27. Dear Paul:

    Nice deflection to avoid addressing the "good points" in the argument.

    There is a better way to do it, though:


Comments are moderated. Neither spam, vulgarity, comments that are insulting, slanderous or otherwise unbefitting of Christian dignity nor anonymous posts will be published.