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Messages - Rev. Spaceman

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Your Turn / Re: Church of the Lutheran Brethren
« on: March 20, 2023, 10:36:02 PM »
I recently had some guests in worship who said they were members of a CLB congregation. I honestly don't know anything about this Lutheran body; I've rarely heard of them.

Any insights to this church body and what distinguishes them from other Lutheran groups in America?

The group originated from congregations that left the United Norwegian Lutheran Church (UNLC) in the year 1900. UNLC was formed in 1890. The CLB folks were critical of allowing nominal members to be on church rolls without displaying a true commitment. They sought to promote "pure" congregations. As as been mentioned, they are, like other Norwegian Lutheran bodies, influenced by the Haugean revival tradition.

Your Turn / Re: St. Paul Lutheran Seminary
« on: July 15, 2021, 11:36:58 PM »
As I mentioned in my private message, both ILT and St. Paul's are independent Lutheran schools, not controlled by a particular denomination, though most students at both schools would come from the "centrist" Lutheran camp of NALC, LCMC, CALC, etc.

Your Turn / Re: St. Paul Lutheran Seminary
« on: July 15, 2021, 10:11:13 PM »

St. Paul Lutheran Seminary came out of a schism with another institution, namely the Institute of Lutheran Theology, in 2011, I believe. I don't have much contact with the folks at St. Paul Lutheran Seminary, so I can't say much more than that other than it is an online based school like ILT.

In the interest of full disclosure, I serve on the faculty of the Institute of Lutheran Theology.

Your Turn / Re: Athanasian Creed
« on: May 29, 2021, 12:23:26 AM »
Yes, I was just being more polite in my language :)

It was emphasizing that explicit rejection of the faith confessed is serious indeed.

It was emphasizing that explicit rejection of the faith has eternal consequences.

Your Turn / Re: Athanasian Creed
« on: May 28, 2021, 09:09:15 PM »
We use it every year on Trinity Sunday. We break it up into three parts. I view it as an important teaching opportunity. I take the time to explain the history behind it, how it emerged as a response to the threat posed to the faith by the Arian Goths. I believe it needs to be understood in that spirit. The point is not to say that intellectual understanding of the Trinity is what saves. It was emphasizing that explicit rejection of the faith confessed is serious indeed.

We've talked about this topic before, but rather than resurrect an old buried thread I'm starting this one fresh to discuss Trinity Sunday and whether people plan to use the Athanasian Creed. What are the pros and cons of using it, especially if the sermon is not totally or in part devoted to explaining some of the parts of it that on the surface seem to contradict basic tenets of the faith as people have come to understand it?

We plan to confess the Athanasian Creed this Sunday and do so responsively. I'm not sure yet, but I think I'm going to focus on the idea of "giving an account" and the relationship between reality and one's understanding/description of it. Reality is simply God's story/narrative; you are what God says you are, not what you say you are. The Truth is what God says happened (per Peter's Pentecost sermon), not what anyone else says happened. The Law and Gospel proclaim God's account of your life and therefore focus on Christ for you rather than you in isolation. Repentance and faith are simply a matter of squaring our account of ourselves and others with God's Word/reality.

Your Turn / Re: The Rev. Dr. Cathi Braasch, STS. In Memoriam
« on: September 10, 2020, 09:37:31 PM »
Cathi was a great friend and mentor to many. She provided my family and me with much encouragement. She will be greatly missed, but we give thanks for resurrection hope.

Your Turn / Re: The US Flag
« on: July 07, 2014, 06:09:36 PM »
We said the Pledge of Allegiance and sang God Bless Our Native Land after the Divine Service today, and we have a US Flag near the chancel, along with that Methodist Sunday School flag that was so popular over the years, but we've actually had people in our congregation speak out in favor of removing the flags.

I recall reading that the only reason the national flag was put in Missouri Synod churches was because of anti-German sentiments during World War I.  Strange thing considering the people we were at war with at the time were supposedly worshipping the same God. This is also why no one speaks German anymore in the Missouri grandpa (born in 1931) didn't know a word of German but his parents were raised speaking it. Both of them went through Confirmation using German-language Kirchengesangbuchs. My great-grandma offered to teach me when I was a kid but I stupidly refused.

Back to the topic, we removed the flags from our nave about three years ago, moving them to the parish hall, but a woman who rarely attended church complained so much about it that they were put back.

The transition from European languages such as German (and Norwegian, Swedish, etc.) to English happened fairly swiftly after US involvement in WWI.  This was partially due to anti-German sentiment in the US, but it also had to do with the fact that immigration after WWI pretty much ground to a halt.  In some places with a strong German heritage, the use of German persisted until quite late, perhaps the 40s and 50s, though English was used alongside it.

Yes, the practice of placing a US flag in the chancel was a way for German ethnic congregations (as well as Norwegians, Swedes, and Danes, along with other folk) to demonstrate their loyalty to the US.  It became even more popular during WWII, and interestingly, advertisements from Augsburg Publishing House can be found in The Lutheran Herald (the publication of the Norwegian Lutheran Church of America/Evangelical Lutheran Church) for churches to purchase a US flag to place in their sanctuaries.  No joke!  It seems that the purpose behind the placement of a flag evolved from something to demonstrate loyalty for their own protection to something to demonstrate support for the country more generally.

Personally, I'd prefer to not have a US flag in the sanctuary for reasons already stated.  But I also don't think it's the end of the world.  I think it can, along with the "Christian flag" of the International Sunday School Movement, be used to teach people about the place of civil authority.

Your Turn / Re: Interesting Developments in Wittenberg
« on: April 10, 2014, 09:03:03 PM »
So is anyone going to answer my question about why they think there is a need to establish a "new" Wittenberg Center, when one is already in place with the cooperation and support of the majority of Lutheran churches in Germany? And the established center apparently has the support of major Lutheran educational foundations and historic sites in "Lutherland."

Charles, I didn't take the time to read all 14 pages of this discussion, so I don't know if anyone responded to you or not.  But I will say that I was a part of the Wittenberg Center about 10 years ago when I did my internship in Germany in cooperation between the Wittenberg Center and a German congregation in Leipzig.  My understanding is (unless something has changed recently) that the Wittenberg Center has really been scaled back in size, and there is no longer a full time presence there.  Rather, an American pastor who also serves in the area devotes some time there.  So, that might explain why the LCMS felt that it was justified to establish a presence there.

Your Turn / Re: Reflections on ELCA Predecessor Church Bodies
« on: March 06, 2014, 12:31:23 PM »
This is an observation or maybe a mistaken impression.  It seems to me that in the ethnic experience of the Swedes that for varied reasons one time Lutherans became Swedish Covenant or Swedish Baptists.  It seems in the Norwegian experience there were those  who were more Baptist and Covenant than Lutheran but stayed Lutheran in name. 

That would be similar to my observations, too, Paul.  My recollection is that those who study the demographics note that only about 1/3rd of the Swedish immigrants to the US remained with Lutheran churches.

While the Swedish Baptist and the various Swedish Covenant churches are rather easy to identify because, like the Augustana Synod, they emphasized their Swedish ethnicity, one should note Swedish-American Methodists were particularly adept at meeting new immigrants upon their arrival to the US.

Pax, Steven+

The percentages of various ethnic groups that came from Lutheran lands in the old country that joined Lutheran churches in the US is interesting and a lot lower than what many might think:

Estimates are:

Norwegians: 30 percent
Finns: 25 percent
Swedes: 16 percent
Danes: 9 percent

These numbers seem low, but they would be even lower were it not for missionary pastors drawing immigrants into congregations.  The remainder became Methodists, Baptists, Mission Covenant, Evangelical Free, various other Christian churches, even Mormons, and some nothing at all.

Your Turn / Re: Reflections on ELCA Predecessor Church Bodies
« on: March 04, 2014, 11:58:11 AM »
Regarding the Augustana Synod, a relatively new book is available (AugsgurgFortress, 2008), The Augustana Story, by Maria Erling and Mark Granquist. It covers much of the territory discussed here.

A couple of other points/questions:
1. At the time of their formation many in the Evangelical Covenant/Mission Friends considered themselves Lutheran. So there were other options for Swedish Lutherans. In Sweden they are in full communion with the Church of Sweden, and even share the same publishing house.
2. It is my understanding that Rome has never formally condemned Swedish orders as they have Anglican orders. Is this correct?


Yes, the Granquist and Erling book is good, probably the first American Lutheran denominational history written in 40 years or so.  And it approaches things from a much different perspective than previous works, whose goal was to preserve the identity of their particular group when mergers were impending.  Mark Granquist is actually my doctoral adviser.

Regarding the Swedish Mission Covenant, it is true that many members of it at the outset probably still considered themselves Lutheran, but in time it was understood to be a departure from the Lutheran tradition (as in no acceptance of the Augsburg Confession), though in some places Lutheran elements are retained, as in Luther's Small Catechism.  If I remember correctly, the main issue leading to the departure of the Mission Covenant in the US was a dispute about the nature of the atonement, centering around the theology of a man named Waldenstrom, who interpreted it in a more subjective manner.

Your Turn / Re: Reflections on ELCA Predecessor Church Bodies
« on: March 03, 2014, 05:24:41 PM »
The Augustana Synod consisted of Swedes and
the ALC consisted of Norwegians.  So they waited
until 1962 to join their fellow Swedes in the LCA.
Why would that matter?  They were in fellowship with The American Lutheran Conference from 1930-1960 with the Norwegians...

Time-out for clarification.

The synodical alliances of that time period are sometimes hard to understand.  First of all, one must distinguish between the "old ALC" formed in 1930 (consisting of three/four different German background synods) and the "new ALC" of 1960 (made complete in 1963 when the Lutheran Free Church joined it), officially abbreviated "TALC" to distinguish it from the old, German ALC.  The American Lutheran Church of 1960/63 (TALC) consisted of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, ELC, (Norwegian, and the largest group of the merger), the "old" ALC of 1930 (German in background), and the United Evangelical Lutheran Church, UELC, (Danish in background, of the "sad" variety from the Danish "inner mission" tradition as opposed to the other Danish group that joined with the LCA in 1962).  Compared to the ELC and ALC, the UELC was quite small, comprising only about three percent of the membership of the new TALC.  And as I said, in 1963, the Lutheran Free Church (also of Norwegian background) finally mustered enough votes to join TALC, but about 20 percent of its congregations declined to merge, and instead formed a new group call the Association of Free Lutheran Congregations, AFLC.

As to why the Augustana Evangelical Lutheran Church (Swedish) did not join TALC and instead joined the LCA, that is a complex matter, but I'll try to explain.  In the years leading up to the mergers of the 1960s, there were three broad groupings of Lutherans in the United States.  The one would be the Synodical Conference, which included the Missouri Synod, regarded as the most doctrinally rigid of the three.  On the other end of the spectrum was the ULCA, regarded as the least doctrinally rigid.  In the middle was a type of "protective alliance" of a few different synods called the American Lutheran Conference.  These were groups that participated with the ULCA in the National Lutheran Council, but feared the influence of the ULCA in theological matters.  The American Lutheran Conference folks were not quite as doctrinally rigid as the Synodical Conference folks, but they shared a greater kinship with the Synodical Conference than they did the ULCA.  The American Lutheran Conference consisted, I think, of the following groups: ELC (Norwegian), ALC (German), UELC (Danish), Lutheran Free Church, Augustana Evangelical Lutheran Church.  Maybe I'm missing one or two in there.  But numerically, all three groups were about the same size.  Note here that the Augustana Church identified itself with these more doctrinally rigid groups.

The American Lutheran Conference, which was based on the Minneapolis Theses of 1925, written by Hans Gerhard Stub, the first president of the ELC, became the foundation for the eventual merger that produced the TALC in 1960.  Why, then, didn't the Augustana Swedes join them?  Well, historically, the Augustana Synod had ties to the eastern Lutheran groups that went on to form the ULCA in 1918.  They were originally a part of the General Council, but they declined to participate in the 1918 merger, pursuing an independent future.  And so they were pulled in a couple of directions.  Theologically, they tended to agree with their American Lutheran Conference sister synods.  But they also felt that merger negotiations should be open to all Lutherans who wanted to participate.  But the rest of the American Lutheran Conference wanted to exclude the ULCA from negotiations.  And that is what caused them to merge into the LCA in 1962.

Your Turn / Re: Reflections on ELCA Predecessor Church Bodies
« on: March 03, 2014, 04:36:17 PM »
[It is my understanding that in the Augustana Synod (the Church of Sweden in the USA) it was bishops who ordained; and since in Sweden the reformation was fairly gentle-- that is, bishops who had been Catholic and therefore in apostolic succession simply became Lutheran bishops instead, and kept on ordaining the way they had before-- the Church of Sweden claims apostolic succession.  Rome and the Orthodox disagree; but as I read literature about apostolic succession it seems that at its worst it is one more excuse we baptized employ to divide ourselves and declare others In Error.

But yes, I have known many Augustana Synod pastors who would note that the Historic Episcopate and Apostolic Succession was no big deal since they'd been doing ministry within it their whole careers.  Some LCA pastors, too, whose roots (and whose bishops) were Augustana, noted AS/HE as part of their identity.

Take note of my previous post.  The Augustana Evangelical Lutheran Church was not "the Church of Sweden in the USA."  It was a Swedish-Lutheran ethnic synod, but it was not understood to be simply the American "arm" of the Church of Sweden.

The claim that the Church of Sweden has to have held on to apostolic succession is actually a good one.  The Church of Sweden, though it had severed ties with Rome in 1527, I think, did not become explicitly Lutheran until 1593.  For several decades it was just understood to be a nationally-run church independent of Rome.  Some bishops, including Laurentius Petri, brother of Olavus Petri, were consecrated as bishops, but without papal confirmation.  It is a practice that they just kept on doing (and by extension, the Finnish Church has the same claim), but without much theological significance attached to it.  Lutheran pastors from other countries have never had any trouble working within the Church of Sweden, for example. 

Your Turn / Re: Reflections on ELCA Predecessor Church Bodies
« on: March 03, 2014, 04:27:47 PM »

[1) I understand that at least one of the predecessor bodies (prior to LCA) had the Histoic Episcopate or Apostolic Succession.  I've met several fine, old pastors ordained by bishops who had this excellent and now lost mark of the church.  I'm thinking it was the Augustana strand?  Maybe not, but I'd love to hear who did and why it was kabashed.

2) A great thesis, I think, could be done on the relative ecclesiologies and theologies of the ALC vs LCA - not in compettiton, just comparison.  For it seems to me I was always told that the ALC was more conservative and the LCA more liberal.  However, from historical perspective - the limited view I have -- it seems that the finer point is that, as we know, the ALC was more congregationalist and LCA more hierarchical.  As such, it seems to me and I would love to hear some discussion on this -- the ALC was actually more susceptible to cultural shifts and trends as a congregationalist polity because each congregation could, in many ways, go their own way (a bit overstated, I know, but without central authroity and oversight whose interpretaton is correct?).  The LCA, on the other hand, with its structure of bishops and some sort of palpable unity would actually slow down the integration of cultural shifts and preserve more of the tradition (truly conservative in the sense Luther and even Christ were). 

What say you?  I'm leaving for camp today, so I'll probably not have access to this discussion til Friday night, but I still would love to hear some thoughts!

Regarding the historic episcopate: Actually, no.  This is a common misunderstanding.  The Augustana Evangelical Lutheran Church (commonly called Augustana Synod) never did have an understanding of itself as having any kind of historic episcopate.  Although they were a Swedish-based ethnic synod (the only Lutheran option for Swedish-Americans), they did not view themselves as simply the daughter church of the Church of Sweden.  George Stephenson's description of the Augustana Synod as "a daughter" is true in the sense that they shared an ethnic kinship, but not much more than that.  In fact, there was often strong resistance against identifying their group in such a way.  When Archbishop Nathan Soderblom from Sweden visited the US in the 1920s, he was welcomed by the Augustana Synod for ethnic reasons, but the content of his preaching was heavily criticized by many within the Augustana Synod, claiming he was preaching essentially a Unitarian understanding of Christianity.  And what is even more telling is that Soderblom presented a pectoral cross to the then-president of the Synod (Brandelle, I think).  They accepted the cross, but with the explanation that in doing so they did not adopt any kind of understanding of the role of a bishop or apostolic succession of bishops.  But they did acknowledge it as a sign of friendship.  Having said this, there were some isolated voices in the Augustana Synod who wanted to adopt such an understanding, but they were definitely a minority.  If I remember right, I think there were a few pastors who went to Sweden to receive ordination from Swedish bishops, but this practice was not mainstream.

Regarding the LCA as "liberal" and TALC as more "conservative," in some ways those generalizations hold truth, but I think it's more complex than that, and it all depends on what one means by those descriptions.  The LCA tradition was more Americanized in general, and they weren't all that involved in the theological disputes that happened among more Midwestern-based Lutheran synods.  Hence, they were less doctrinally rigid, content to affirm subscription to the Lutheran confessions as a basis for church fellowship rather than requiring explanatory theses beyond that.  But when we think about "liberals," which tradition did Mark Hanson come out of?  He came out of TALC!  I say this not to single out Mark Hanson, but simply to demonstrate that there were "liberal" and "conservative" elements in both of those groups.  And by the way, if I'm not mistaken, I think that TALC actually approved the use of the title "bishop" before the LCA did.

Your Turn / Forum Letter defect Feburary, 2014
« on: February 11, 2014, 12:24:14 AM »
Did anyone else have a printing defect in their copy of Forum Letter this month?  I was getting into an article only to notice that one page was mostly blank, and a bunch of content was missing. 

Your Turn / Re: What Is Your Favorite Christmas Carol?
« on: December 26, 2013, 11:56:40 PM »
A suggestion by Dr. Nagel that I try to meet: Read Go Giertz "The Hammer of God " once a year. Guards against Pietism.

I am well aware of the Hammer of God, having read it a number of times.  And I'm well aware of the possible dangers of subjectivism.  There certainly are aspects of historical Pietism that can be theologically critiqued.  But you're ignoring a large part of history is you just dismiss Pietism as a whole.  It (and coming up with a single, accepted definition of Pietism is hard indeed) was a corrective to established churches that were failing in their task of feeding people with the Word of God.  Subjective and objective, they always need to be held in proper tension.  I think it's important to look at a historical phenomenon with a little more nuance.

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