Author Topic: Unity and the Means of Grace  (Read 30113 times)

iowakatie1981

  • Guest
Re: Unity and the Means of Grace
« Reply #45 on: November 20, 2010, 08:26:56 PM »
Help me out here, if I'm not thinking about this correctly.

But if the Sacraments are primarily about God's action in and through the Word and elements, then is determining whether to receive them based on "what we know" about "somebody" ultimately making the Sacraments more about them (and us) than about God?

If one holds that Sacraments can be validly celebrated by persons in (even grave, besetting) sin, and that the Sacrament is still "valid" despite one's personal misgivings about the theology/praxis of the celebrant, then how is absenting oneself from the grace given in the Sacrament a faithful response to the offer of that grace?

Weedon

  • Guest
Re: Unity and the Means of Grace
« Reply #46 on: November 20, 2010, 08:37:51 PM »
Katie,

No one questions that such sacraments are true sacraments; they question whether we hold the same faith to the degree that we can celebrate them together with integrity.  Does that make sense?

Michael Slusser

  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 5336
    • View Profile
Re: Unity and the Means of Grace
« Reply #47 on: November 20, 2010, 08:38:54 PM »
Fr. Slusser,

According to the RCC, any church body not in communion with Rome is schismatic by definition, right?

I know that I cannot in good conscience take communion at any altar where false doctrine is being taught, whether the sign out front says "LCMS" or not. In this case, the schism would come from the false doctrine, not the refusal to take communion.

At the same time, it is not hard for me to imagine that some refuse to take communion for trivial reasons, in order to make a statement about things or people they don't like that don't rise to the level of false doctrine. In this case, I think the refusal to take communion is sinful.

In my experience, I have never refused to take communion at an LCMS church; even in ones where I was not at all comfortable with some of their practices. But other Lutherans draw the line in different places and things that don't offend me may offend them. So I'm not going to automatically condemn one as schismatic who chooses to sit out communion. Besides, the reason a person does not go to communion may be due to issues with their own conscience that have nothing to do with making a comment about the congregation or celebrant or other Christians. Regardless, the right thing to do is to get together pronto and hash out our differences so that we can return to joyful unity.

From an RC point of view,  churches not in communion with us are in schism with us. That is what schism means. That does not make it a matter of indifference when those churches are threatened with schism within their own body.

Legitimate reasons exist for refusing to take communion on a particular occasion, and are not schismatic acts. For example, something that has happened or been said may have made me so angry for the moment that I feel I am in no fit condition to welcome my Lord. Or I may find myself convinced of sin that I must confess (the way we do it) before receiving communion. Or (and this is a bit iffy, but not unorthodox) it may be an act of penance on my part for receiving carelessly and casually, a prayer that my desire and appreciation for the sacrament may be restored. As you see, I agree with your last paragraph.

But in my earlier post I spoke of those who will not, as a rule, communicate with their brothers in the church, and the words "as a rule" are key. The legitimate abstinence I described above reflects the fact that I am the problem; refusing to communicate with the brothers as a rule is a declaration that they are the problem. Oh, yes, if a liturgy is being carried out in an outrageous fashion, I would not participate.

I'm working on 17th century England at the moment, where the Test Acts--which required taking communion in the service of the Church of England was demanded as a condition for all kinds of ordinary civil liberties--were being used to uncover both Romanists and Dissenters, so that their property could be subjected to extra taxation and they could be prevented from serving on any public body. I'm currently sensitive to requiring communion. I still, as a fellow Christian (even if one wallowing in false doctrine), beg my brothers and sisters in other churches not to do things that threaten the communion within their churches.

Peace,
Michael
Fr. Michael Slusser
Retired Roman Catholic priest and theologian

Michael Slusser

  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 5336
    • View Profile
Re: Unity and the Means of Grace
« Reply #48 on: November 20, 2010, 08:40:48 PM »
Help me out here, if I'm not thinking about this correctly.

But if the Sacraments are primarily about God's action in and through the Word and elements, then is determining whether to receive them based on "what we know" about "somebody" ultimately making the Sacraments more about them (and us) than about God?


I think you've put your finger on a very important aspect of the question.

Peace,
Michael
Fr. Michael Slusser
Retired Roman Catholic priest and theologian

J.L. Precup

  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 1122
    • View Profile
Re: Unity and the Means of Grace
« Reply #49 on: November 20, 2010, 08:59:29 PM »
Katie,

No one questions that such sacraments are true sacraments; they question whether we hold the same faith to the degree that we can celebrate them together with integrity.  Does that make sense?

"Does that make sense?"  Not so much.  It seems to put undue influence on outward preparation.  When you travel, and commune at another congregation, for instance, do you question that all there hold the same faith to the degree you do to celebrate it with integrity?  Who is the determiner of holding "the same faith to the degree that we can celebrate them together with integrity?"  Does not that make the emphasis on what we do instead of looking to the Lord of the Feast who determines who is invited to His meal?  

I do not intend to sound negative to your post, but your statement may make sense to me if you elaborated further.
« Last Edit: November 21, 2010, 01:19:30 AM by J.L. Precup »
Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love's sake. Amen.

cssml

  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 944
    • View Profile
Re: Unity and the Means of Grace
« Reply #50 on: November 20, 2010, 09:03:20 PM »
Yes, Luther had received the Law and Gospel readings and the Lord’s Supper in the Mass all his life.  But it was by subjecting the Mass to the normative authority of the Holy Scriptures (from which he had discovered the pure gospel that reveals the righteousness of faith) that he was able to rid it of its objectionable features.

Luther was an ordained Catholic priest, therefore when he offered that sacrifice of the Mass, it was valid, and in some sense, I suppose it remained valid until his death.  He was not however given the authority (nor is any priest) to simply cast aside what the Church always understood to be true.  You can read countless quotes from Church Fathers on this:

   http://www.catholic.com/library/Sacrifice_of_the_Mass.asp

So this gets back to an earlier, thread, and that is "by what authority" did he 'discover' this 'new understanding', and by what authority did he reject the normative understanding of his time, of the Fathers and the constant teaching of the Church through all time, up to today?

Quote


There is an intimate connection between right teaching and right worship.  We cannot disconnect the one from the other.  When considering which precedes which, perhaps it would be helpful to distinguish between experience and norm.  Experientially, the right worship establishes for our faith the right doctrine.  But the norm for right worship must be the Holy Scriptures.  I think we all agree that as we pray, so we believe.  My question is: What norms our prayers?  Or are the prayers the norm?

To apply this to today’s worship wars, I’d like to offer a suggestion for thought.  Is it possible that the reason Lutherans adopt revivalistic forms of worship is because they have already embraced the theological tenets of revivalism?  Folks choose the worship they choose on account of what they believe. 

Well, it moves both ways, doesn't it?  Consider the great Lutheran chorales.  They teach the faith and they pray the faith and do both beautifully.


iowakatie1981

  • Guest
Re: Unity and the Means of Grace
« Reply #51 on: November 20, 2010, 09:11:57 PM »
Well...sort of, but not really...and bear with me here, because I suffer from poor catechesis and a very non-rigorous seminary education, so some of this is me "thinking out loud," but for me anyway, we would have to be talking about matters of extreme difference in faith.  Ex: I can't imagine myself communing at herchurch (Heck, I can't imagine myself showing up there at all!), or the Seusscharist (start messing with the Words of Institution and I start getting nervous).  But there are a lot of things I disagree with the ELCA about at this moment, and regardless, I can't see myself refusing to commune at say, a synod assembly.  

Otherwise, our only option (it seems to me) is making people sign off on a ridiculously detailed statement of faith as they walk in the door every Sunday, so we know that everyone communing is personally and at that exact moment in 100% doctrinal agreement.  But what about people who say, "I'm willing to submit to the teaching on Doctrine X, even though I'm not entirely sure about it" - are they in or out?  What about people who would agree with 99% of the statement?  Or 98%?  It seems like once we start drawing lines about "who we won't commune with, because they're 2% wrong", we're treading on awful thin ice.  

Katie,

No one questions that such sacraments are true sacraments; they question whether we hold the same faith to the degree that we can celebrate them together with integrity.  Does that make sense?

Weedon

  • Guest
Re: Unity and the Means of Grace
« Reply #52 on: November 20, 2010, 09:13:49 PM »
Pr. Precup,

Those who have come to the conclusion that there are grave errors in the Synod are not abstaining from the celebration of the Sacrament when they go on vacation per se; it is with those pastors whom they know from Winkel and such that they perceive error.  It is absolutely false to assert (as some seem to imply) that they have not gone to the brothers, spoken with them, sought correction and reconciliation.  In my own District I know of such a case.  It was after the conversation took place that they determined they could not commune together because there was apparently a different understanding of the faith once delivered to the saints in operation.  To insist on those who raise such objections first communing together before being allowed a seat at the table simply communicates to them that they are unwelcome in the discussion.  That is the exact opposite of what the Koinonia Project seeks to provide.

Weedon

  • Guest
Re: Unity and the Means of Grace
« Reply #53 on: November 20, 2010, 09:18:45 PM »
Katie,

I'll give the specifics of the disagreement in my own District.  It involves whether or not a pastor sins against our Synodical covenant and God's Word in inviting a pastor who does not share our confession of the faith (a Roman priest, a UCC pastor) to participate in leading a worship service (a wedding).  The differing answers to that question threatens the very fabric of our District and our Synod.  We in the LCMS need to be able to discuss such matters openly, honestly, and without compulsion to share the Sacrament together when a brother feels quite certainly that our faith is being compromised.

iowakatie1981

  • Guest
Re: Unity and the Means of Grace
« Reply #54 on: November 20, 2010, 09:39:54 PM »
Pr. Weedon,

Interesting, wow.  I still haven't wrapped my mind around what I think about "ecumenical worship". 

I'm sincerely trying to be respectful here, so know that, but correct me where you think I'm wrong.  I can kinda see both sides, here (I think...).  On the one hand, I think it would be wrong to force a pastor to commune with another as some sort of "proof of...something" before a conversation can be held.  On the other hand, if your district leadership is overseeing the whole thing (including the communion service) and making good faith efforts to keep everybody grounded in orthodoxy, it's not clear to me how "refusing to commune with that person" is particularly helpful. 

I'll be praying for your District, though. 

Katie

Weedon

  • Guest
Re: Unity and the Means of Grace
« Reply #55 on: November 20, 2010, 09:41:27 PM »
One more thing:  we recognize that there will not in this fallen and confused world be 100% doctrinal agreement; we believe that there needs to be substantial theological agreement.  A messy term, I realize.  But there's not a way to make it unmessy.  The way I like to express it is that there needs to be agreement in the dogma of the Church without insisting that there be uniformity in explaining the doctrinal schemata by which we seek to make sense of that doctrine.  The classic instance is the difference between St. Augustine and the Cappadocians in explicating the Trinity.  Even though they offer different doctrinal schemata, they confessed together the dogma that the One true God eternally exists in three divine persons.  And so they were joined together in the one Church, even though they offered different explanations of the mystery of One in Three and Three in One.  The mother of schism is elevating one's theological opinion (theogumenon) to dogma.

Weedon

  • Guest
Re: Unity and the Means of Grace
« Reply #56 on: November 20, 2010, 09:44:34 PM »
Katie,

Your prayers are much appreciated.  It's a sticky wicket with lots of emotion beclouding the issue on all sides.  Our District hasn't come down on one side or the other, but continues to encourage those struggling with the issue to talk together and listen to each other under God's Word.  It's been a long, long time, though, and some feel that the encouragement to continue to talk is simply a refusal to take a stand pro or con.  May the Lord in His mercy guide us!

Brian Stoffregen

  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 43164
  • ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν, ἀγαπᾶτε τοὺς ἐχθροὺς ὑμῶν
    • View Profile
Re: Unity and the Means of Grace
« Reply #57 on: November 20, 2010, 11:46:54 PM »
No one questions that such sacraments are true sacraments; they question whether we hold the same faith to the degree that we can celebrate them together with integrity.  Does that make sense?

No. It is not our faith (whether in full agreement or not) that makes a true sacrament, but God's Word. It is God's Word that makes us one body -- not our thinking about God.
"The church … had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

pr dtp

  • Guest
Re: Unity and the Means of Grace
« Reply #58 on: November 20, 2010, 11:48:54 PM »
I think LCMS87 is bang on the money here.  We cannot make joint partaking at the table be a condition for entering the conversation precisely because it declares to those brothers who are convinced the Synod has fallen into grave error at points that they are in fact wrong in their concern, even before the conversation begins.  For good or for ill, in the Lutheran Church the accent is upon the Supper as an individual seal of God's forgiveness and mercy.  I ought not be in the business of judging why Pastor X didn't commune at a given gathering, even as I don't presume to judge members of my parish who decide not to receive on a given Sunday.  We ought not use partaking together at the Supper as a sine qua non of participation in the Koinonia project. 

Father, yes, it is right next door to schism.  But the fact that they have not officially broken fellowship, but recognize the fellowship as impaired, gives a window of opportunity.  May the Holy Spirit use that opportunity to grant us the healing that can come from His grace alone!


Here we go again - with avoidance of what I have said - replaced with what you want to hear.   Heck I've only said and written it how many times?

The discussion is based on that fact that we are in fellowship/communion/koinonia - based in what our confessions say the church is united in - word and sacrament.  Those that self-excommunicate themselves from the rest of the synod are the ones using the Lord's Supper as a gate - condemning either themselves or those they claimed with whom they walked.

Its funny - a Roman Catholic priest - whose church has had many divisions (the arguments between the Franciscan and Jesuit brothers I was taught by were much more volatile) gets this, yet those who grasp AV IV don't?

pr dtp

  • Guest
Re: Unity and the Means of Grace
« Reply #59 on: November 20, 2010, 11:52:02 PM »
One more thing:  we recognize that there will not in this fallen and confused world be 100% doctrinal agreement; we believe that there needs to be substantial theological agreement.  A messy term, I realize.  But there's not a way to make it unmessy.  The way I like to express it is that there needs to be agreement in the dogma of the Church without insisting that there be uniformity in explaining the doctrinal schemata by which we seek to make sense of that doctrine.  The classic instance is the difference between St. Augustine and the Cappadocians in explicating the Trinity.  Even though they offer different doctrinal schemata, they confessed together the dogma that the One true God eternally exists in three divine persons.  And so they were joined together in the one Church, even though they offered different explanations of the mystery of One in Three and Three in One.  The mother of schism is elevating one's theological opinion (theogumenon) to dogma.

Again I appeal to the standard we have acknowledged in our ordination - which clearly spells out where our unity is found.