Monday night: 7 Marks

Started by Richard Johnson, August 24, 2010, 12:17:16 AM

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Richard Johnson

I'm here in Columbus, OH, attending three back-to-back events: the meeting of the so-called Seven Marks Society, a theological conference convened by Lutheran CORE, and the constituting convention of the North American Lutheran Church.

I don't know why these things are happening in Columbus, but there is a bit of irony here, considering that the ELCA constituting convention was also in Columbus back in 1987.

The first meeting tonight was that of the Seven Marks Society. Since this is likely to be the least known to most of you, let me give you some background. This group arose out of conversation at last year's general retreat of the Society of the Holy Trinity (STS). I did not attend the (after hours) session at which this idea was developed, but my impression was that it was conceived as a sort of advocacy group for the evangelical catholic persuasion in the cluster of groups that are part of, or sympathetic to, Lutheran CORE. Obviously the early leadership of the Seven Marks Society (let's just call it 7M for simplicity) all came from the Society of the Holy Trinity, but in that Society there is a strong aversion to becoming involved in denominational politics at any level. So perhaps one could say that 7M was conceived as a way of having some political (in the best sense of the term) influence by those of the evangelical catholic point of view. There was supposed to be a constituting convention of this 7M group some months back, but it was canceled due to some severe weather problems that made travel difficult. Ironically, holding it immediately prior to these other events likely increased the attendance. I didn't get a precise count tonight, but I would think there may have been 75 or so in the room, mostly clergy (many members of STS), though also some laity.

Tonight began (as one might think) with Vespers. Then the group was welcomed by Pr. Tim Hubert, who has been chairing the steering committee. We also heard words of welcome from Paul Ulring, senior pastor of Upper Arlington Lutheran Church, a 6000 member, three campus, ten pastor congregation that is about to take its second vote to leave the ELCA (first passed by 92%). Greetings also from Bp. Paull Spring of Lutheran CORE.

Pr. Hubert presented a "vision" for 7M, in which he portrayed 7M as a "resource" for congregations and pastors. This was followed by a response from Pr. Larry Yoder, who had very harsh things to say about the ELCA. He recalled being asked by Bp. Michael McDaniel for his reaction to the first draft of the constitution back in Commission for a New Lutheran Church days. His resonse was that it was Marxist: the first principle is power, and how categories of of gender, race and economic class can be given power. He quoted Robert Jenson at the first Call to Faithfulness conference, accusing the ELCA of becoming captive to Gnosticism, "the inevitable alternative to the gospel" (and he observed that this accusation, and this Conference, took place just three years into the ELCA). In his view, this Gnostic tendency is encapsulated in the claim that "the Holy Spirit is doing a new thing." He traced further the trajectory of opposition in the ELCA--the 9.5 Theses, the Society of the Holy Trinity, Word Alone. He then critiqued last summer's sexuality decisions as "a Biblical and theological issue of the first order," a direct affront to the sixth and first commandments, as well as to each article of the Creed.

After all this, Pr. Yoder admitted to some confusion about the proposed 7M constitution, and what the precise purpose and mission might be.  It is that last observation that seemed to be shared by many. What, exactly, is this group, and what is its purpose? There was extended and sometimes rambling conversation about what the proper name for the group really might be--Seven Marks, yes, but is it a society? A ministerium? A synod? Or what? This confusion was evident at several points. The proposed constitution defines it as an "evangelical catholic ministerium of Lutheran bishops, pastors, laity and congregations"--a rather expansive view of the term "ministerium," seems to me. This was confused further by the group's receiving greetings from Bishop Sutton, of the Anglican Church in North America--some 600 congregations who have left the Episcopal Church. But they have clearly formed a church, and the suggestion that this is somehow parallel to what 7M intends is misleading to say the least. So is the proposal that the group have a "bishop protector"--apparently a term in use among some Roman Catholic orders, but one that is likely to have much traction among Lutherans.

The proposed constitution includes a statement of its mission: "to evangelize the world according to the Lutheran witness within the Great Tradition." Well, that's a lofty goal. But it seems to have little relationship to anything else that has been said about this proposed group.

I had dinner with a couple of others who, like me, have watched this with some interest, but without personal involvement heretofore. We agreed that there was considerable lack of clarity here. One of my dinner partners, a Canadian, quote the Canadian journalist Allan Fotheringham, who once remarked of something that it "muddifies the fuzzification nicely." So far, that seems about right to me. But we shall see what tomorrow might bring.
The Rev. Richard O. Johnson, STS

Durkin_Park

Thanks for this update, very interesting.

Keith Falk

#2


I would second Richard's musings, and add my own...

The discussion seemed to be a rehash of what we talked about that evening when the group was proposed... and in the e-mail conversations which have followed the past several months.  No name (society? order? association? ministerium?) because no purpose has been claimed by the group.  Whether or not in the allotted time a purpose can be articulated and claimed by the group remains to be seen.  I'm not as optimistic as I was heading into the evening.
Rev. Keith Falk, STS

tom

Great update. And yes the need a purpose that is spelled out clearly or as so often the case there will be talk aplenty but no result. Wish I could be there.

mariemeyer

Richard:

Thanks for your report.  Speaking from the LCMS side of the aisle, I pray a clear understanding of purpose will emerge today.

Marie Meyer

frluther1517

I wish not to be dour about such an event and gathering for these are difficult times when have caused us in many ways to rethink how we work together in ministry bound by a common confession.  Knowing some of those who first started this 7M movement I got to hear first hand about the after hours meeting at the STS general retreat.  Unfortunately I wasn't there to take part in the discussions.  My first question to one of those at that meeting was, "What's the point of this society?"  He tried as best he could to explain it, but a couple of other phone conversations later and I still didn't get or grasp the purpose of the society.  That has personally led me to not sign-on and support it, because I still just don't get it.  And I fully admit that's my problem, not those who are working to form a faithful EC witness within Lutheranism.  Part of me fears this is a further splitting of Lutheranism into for lack of a better term, "interest groups" and unintentionally causing further splits into smaller and smaller sects...perhaps that is inevitable at this point.  

I continue to hope and pray for this gathering that they may unite on a common purpose and vision for its mission.  

Blessed Holy Spirit please bring clarity of purpose and vision to the Seven Marks Society as you did of old to the prophets, judges, and the Holy Apostles; may the work they do in their meetings give right glory and true praise to You, for You live and reign with the Father and Son now and forever.  Amen.    

Evangel

Quote from: Rev. Ian Wolfe, STS on August 24, 2010, 10:05:32 AM
I wish not to be dour about such an event and gathering for these are difficult times when have caused us in many ways to rethink how we work together in ministry bound by a common confession.  Knowing some of those who first started this 7M movement I got to hear first hand about the after hours meeting at the STS general retreat.  Unfortunately I wasn't there to take part in the discussions.  My first question to one of those at that meeting was, "What's the point of this society?"  He tried as best he could to explain it, but a couple of other phone conversations later and I still didn't get or grasp the purpose of the society.  That has personally led me to not sign-on and support it, because I still just don't get it.  And I fully admit that's my problem, not those who are working to form a faithful EC witness within Lutheranism.  Part of me fears this is a further splitting of Lutheranism into for lack of a better term, "interest groups" and unintentionally causing further splits into smaller and smaller sects...perhaps that is inevitable at this point.  

I continue to hope and pray for this gathering that they may unite on a common purpose and vision for its mission.  

Blessed Holy Spirit please bring clarity of purpose and vision to the Seven Marks Society as you did of old to the prophets, judges, and the Holy Apostles; may the work they do in their meetings give right glory and true praise to You, for You live and reign with the Father and Son now and forever.  Amen.    

Since I got an invite (and I assume those who invited me know me somewhat) I've asked the same question.  I guess I saw it as analogous to an LCMC district ... meaning nothing terribly important, but a mutual affinity group that may be more likely to work together on mission and ministry.

Those of us in SC, GA, and NC have been meeting in Columbia SC for several months now on a more or less monthly basis and have talked about forming a district.  But the important question is asked "why?" - and we can't really answer it.  We come together for fellowship, prayer, mutual support - but we don't need to create a district to do that.  LCMC, ELCA/Core folks (probably future NALC) and seminarians (Southern and ILT) have been (and are invited to become) a part of our fellowship in this area.

I actually think we are better off not forming an organization - to do so puts up membership barriers.  We are happy to have LCMC/ELCA/NALC (or any other Lutheran) clergy and laypeople show up.  Maybe that's just my type ... not a joiner of organizations ... YMMV.

Perhaps this is the kind of thought process the 7M folks need to go through.
Mark Schimmel, Pastor
Zion Lutheran Church, LCMC
Priddy, TX
--
ACXXIII, "Your majesty will graciously take into account the fact that, in these last times of which the Scriptures prophesy, the world is growing worse and men are becoming weaker and more infirm."

GoCubsGo

Perhaps what the 7M group could do is campaign for (by that I mean argue in favor of and not politically manuever) an "order" within the NALC that is more in line with EC interests.  What I mean is a "district" or "deanery" within the NALC that is governed by a Bishop (not a Dean) and that maintains a stricter standard of discipline and obedience to confessional and catholic orthodoxy.  Sort of a non-geographic synod model that allows a group with a different ecclesiology to remain within the larger body of the NALC.

Just a thought--but I'm with others who wonder what is this Seven Marks thing anyway?

Team Hesse

Quote from: GoCubsGo on August 24, 2010, 12:46:36 PM
Perhaps what the 7M group could do is campaign for (by that I mean argue in favor of and not politically manuever) an "order" within the NALC that is more in line with EC interests.  What I mean is a "district" or "deanery" within the NALC that is governed by a Bishop (not a Dean) and that maintains a stricter standard of discipline and obedience to confessional and catholic orthodoxy.  Sort of a non-geographic synod model that allows a group with a different ecclesiology to remain within the larger body of the NALC.

Just a thought--but I'm with others who wonder what is this Seven Marks thing anyway?

In some of the original discussion regarding NALC there was talk of making room for what at the time was called "affinity groups."  Recognizing that there are differences in ecclesiology (in particular) and other notions about what Lutherans can and cannot support, there was this language of allowing like-minded folks to gather in a non-geographic way to honor whatever it is they wish to honor.  Recognizing the success of the STS model, and wishing it to find ways to incorporate some of the rest of us, some of us were hoping for a clearer embrace of the concept of affinity groups.  This language seems to have mostly disappeared from the NALC proposals.  The 7M Society obviously embraced this language from an EC mindset, and I am aware of an attempt by some of my friends to propose a  non-geographic society emphasizing the Theology of the Cross over and against theologies of glory, wherever they rear their ugly heads.  If this concept is not actually launched in Columbus it is my impression it will be launched in Brookings this fall.  Stay tuned...
Again, the model is non-denominational, along the lines of STS, for those of us who embrace the theology of the cross as central to our confession of faith.  It would include lay folks as well as clergy.
Lou

revjagow

Quote from: GoCubsGo on August 24, 2010, 12:46:36 PM
Perhaps what the 7M group could do is campaign for (by that I mean argue in favor of and not politically manuever) an "order" within the NALC that is more in line with EC interests.  What I mean is a "district" or "deanery" within the NALC that is governed by a Bishop (not a Dean) and that maintains a stricter standard of discipline and obedience to confessional and catholic orthodoxy.  Sort of a non-geographic synod model that allows a group with a different ecclesiology to remain within the larger body of the NALC.

Just a thought--but I'm with others who wonder what is this Seven Marks thing anyway?

I'm not sure the organizers are 100% certain (at least, that was my impression from conversations last October).  All the more reason to have a conference like this one where you can communicate clearly with one another what your interests are and then take a well-thought out platform to the NALC constituting meeting.  Its certainly far better than not organizing and letting your voice get lost in the crowd.

As a new subscriber to the Rule, I came into the Society at the tail end of the three year study of Luther's "Seven Marks of the Church."  Folks can go back to the beginning of that study and read the address of Senior Frank Senn at the STS website (under "News and Resources" (top menu) and "2006 General Retreat" (side menu).  A snippet on where the Seven Marks comes from in the Senior's Address:

QuoteIn his 1520 treatise On the Papacy at Rome, Luther wrote: "Not Rome or this place or that place, but baptism, the sacrament, and the gospel are the signs by which the existence of the church in the world can be noticed externally." Almost twenty years later, in a long section of the treatise On Councils and the Church, written with a sense of despair over whether the pope — or the emperor — would ever call a free council to deal with the theological differences and practical abuses that were tearing apart Christendom, Luther presented seven external marks of the church. They are:

    1. The preaching of the Word;
    2. The sacrament of baptism;
    3. The sacrament of the altar;
    4. The office of the keys publicly exercised;
    5. The ordination or calling of ministers;
    7. The holy possession of the sacred cross.

I, for one, feel very blessed to have been a part of this study, even if it was at the end.  Going back and reading Luther's treatise and engaging in the study and discussion of what makes a church right at the time when all these other things were going on with North American Lutheranism was pretty cool. 
Soli Deo Gloria!

SmithL

Thanks for the update and analysis, Richard.

Sublime_Harbinger

Quote from: Richard Johnson on August 24, 2010, 12:17:16 AM
Obviously the early leadership of the Seven Marks Society (let's just call it 7M for simplicity) all came from the Society of the Holy Trinity

Not entirely true.  7M was originally the brainchild of two guests at last fall's STS retreat.  One of those guests would go on to sign the roll of STS, and one would not.  Both however, recognized that many of those within STS would be sympathetic to the their original shared vision, and enlisted the help of diverse others in STS in hopes of generating enough voices to have an impact.

The original vision for 7M came out of a frustration that congregations that wanted to leave the ELCA had plenty of options if they were of a congregationalist mindset, and little to none if they were of an evangelical catholic mindset.  The original desire was to create a group that would work alongside CORE, which had itself at that point displayed an affinity for congregationalism through its Common Confession.  CORE would be able to help transition and provide resources for congregations moving to congregationalist denominations like LCMC and AFLC.  7M would work with concerned parties on the formation of a new denomination with a little more of an EC leaning.

Unfortunately, I don't think the original gathering of interested parties quite caught that vision, and in any case, when CORE decided a short time later to take a direct hand in forming the new denomination, the original vision became a moot point.  We communicated with those in the CORE leadership who were also members of 7M our desire to be involved in the conversations around forming a new denomination, but I don't think we had much, if any, impact on those conversations.  I don't think anyone is to blame for that, by the way, things just happened very quickly on all fronts and we sort of got left behind.

Some of 7M are pleased with what NALC has to offer, others are not.  But what is clear is that the original vision of 7M, such as it was, can no longer come to pass.  In the wake of that, new ideas for the vision of 7M have sprung up: for it to be a ministerium, or a publisher of resources, etc.  Interested parties will continue to refine this new vision and others will simply move on.  That is the source of the muddled fuzziness as it were, and I'm sure it will continue until the membership sorts itself out around a new vision.

Lawrence804

Excellent post, Sublime_Harbinger. The best summary of what 7 Marks was originally conceived as. The key issue: will NALC, once it is officially formed, be hospitable to EC congregations, even though the new body as a whole is not particularly EC? Will EC congregations have a respected role within the Big Tent of NALC? I think and hope the answer will be Yes to both questions.

dakotaduck

Quote
In his 1520 treatise On the Papacy at Rome, Luther wrote: "Not Rome or this place or that place, but baptism, the sacrament, and the gospel are the signs by which the existence of the church in the world can be noticed externally." Almost twenty years later, in a long section of the treatise On Councils and the Church, written with a sense of despair over whether the pope — or the emperor — would ever call a free council to deal with the theological differences and practical abuses that were tearing apart Christendom, Luther presented seven external marks of the church. They are:

    1. The preaching of the Word;
    2. The sacrament of baptism;
    3. The sacrament of the altar;
    4. The office of the keys publicly exercised;
    5. The ordination or calling of ministers;
    7. The holy possession of the sacred cross.

Thank you for all of your comments and information.  I can't help but add my two bits.
My understanding is that the sixth mark is 'public prayer and praise' and the seventh is 'persecution'.  For those of us who are literalists, I don't think that carrying around a ceremonial cross counts.  And I think that we are called to be the persecutee, rather than the persecutor. 

Dadoo

Quote from: dakotaduck on August 25, 2010, 05:33:55 PM
Quote
In his 1520 treatise On the Papacy at Rome, Luther wrote: "Not Rome or this place or that place, but baptism, the sacrament, and the gospel are the signs by which the existence of the church in the world can be noticed externally." Almost twenty years later, in a long section of the treatise On Councils and the Church, written with a sense of despair over whether the pope — or the emperor — would ever call a free council to deal with the theological differences and practical abuses that were tearing apart Christendom, Luther presented seven external marks of the church. They are:

    1. The preaching of the Word;
    2. The sacrament of baptism;
    3. The sacrament of the altar;
    4. The office of the keys publicly exercised;
    5. The ordination or calling of ministers;
    7. The holy possession of the sacred cross.

Thank you for all of your comments and information.  I can't help but add my two bits.
My understanding is that the sixth mark is 'public prayer and praise' and the seventh is 'persecution'.  For those of us who are literalists, I don't think that carrying around a ceremonial cross counts.  And I think that we are called to be the persecutee, rather than the persecutor. 


Actually the last one is sometimes morphed into "Discipleship" which includes persecution as a matter of course
Peter Kruse

Diversity and tolerance are very complex concepts. Rigid conformity is needed to ensure their full realization. - Mike Adams

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