Author Topic: Unity and the Means of Grace  (Read 30190 times)

janielou13

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Re: Unity and the Means of Grace
« Reply #285 on: November 27, 2010, 11:54:31 AM »
"The idea that we can have a unified church body that includes wildly different theologies is a fantasy."

Best to check out how Rome does it,,,, it works quite nicely for them.  Catholic is the original 'big tent', afterall.

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: Unity and the Means of Grace
« Reply #286 on: November 27, 2010, 11:55:16 AM »
The controversy over women lectors is a good place to get specific.

Currently, we have some congregations who prohibit female lectors and others who use them frequently. Therefore, the witness that we give as a Synod is contradictory and confused. Either this practice is contrary to Scripture or it is not, and we have people who believe, teach and confess opposite positions. I believe that this situation impairs our unity and leads to misunderstandings and hostility such as brothers and sisters who refuse to commune in certain situations.

We should be able to come together (in a process like Koinonia) and with prayer, deep study of the scriptures and frank conversation, work out a consensus. Most importantly, we must urge everyone in the Synod to conform to the consensus position, or leave the Synod. The most important step is the most difficult.

My congregation uses lay readers (including myself) who are exclusively male. Yet we do not teach that female readers are contrary to scripture, we just don't use them.

If consensus is reached that female lectors are acceptable, and if other congregations regularly use female lectors, than we should start using them as well as an expression of unity within our churches. This might be difficult or controversial in our congregation, but we should do this in the name of unity and clarity of confession. Those that cannot tolerate the consensus and find it antiscriptural should leave at this point.

The principle: various LCMS congregations should submit in love and conform themselves to the consensus position in all areas of belief and practice, so that we can truly walk together in unimpaired fellowship and joyfully celebrate the Sacrament of the Altar together. Those who find the consensus position unacceptable should leave the church body.

BUT. This consensus must be arrived at by including all opinions (in the beginning) and always submit itself to the authority of Scripture and confession. We have tried to arrive at this kind of unity through the democratic, parlimentary procedures of the Synod in Convention and have failed. I think Koinonia could be a better process.

It seems to me that you are making a mountain out of an adiaphoron.
"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]

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: Unity and the Means of Grace
« Reply #287 on: November 27, 2010, 11:57:25 AM »
If consensus is reached that female lectors are acceptable, and if other congregations regularly use female lectors, than we should start using them as well as an expression of unity within our churches. This might be difficult or controversial in our congregation, but we should do this in the name of unity and clarity of confession. Those that cannot tolerate the consensus and find it antiscriptural should leave at this point.

So consensus of men trumps Scripture?  I should leave the LCMS if I don't like the consensus of men?  Just making sure I understand you.  I prefer to worship in a church that doesn't have female lectors, but it's not my place to condemn those who do since the LCMS approves of this.  I take Scripture literally that women should not speak in church.  Others don't.  So I need to leave if more people feel differently than me?  Hmmmm . . .

You don't sing the hymns? You don't speak an "Amen" at the end of prayers?
"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]

Steven Tibbetts

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Re: Unity and the Means of Grace
« Reply #288 on: November 27, 2010, 12:22:24 PM »
No, there is no "ambiguity in how other full communion church bodies describe" the presence of Christ in the sacrament.


Not only is that not true, the official report and defense of the Formula of Agreement between the ELCA and the Reformed directly acknowledges it.
The Rev. Steven Paul Tibbetts, STS
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Richard Johnson

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Re: Unity and the Means of Grace
« Reply #289 on: November 27, 2010, 12:25:36 PM »
And if the consensus, or however you reach decision, is - no women lectors, no women acolytes, no women crucifers - good luck on getting the congregations that permit such to stop doing it. I'll be watching to see how that happens.

Gratuitous, snarky, and unnecessary. Charles, please keep comments like this to yourself.
The Rev. Richard O. Johnson, STS

Matt

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Re: Unity and the Means of Grace
« Reply #290 on: November 27, 2010, 12:32:47 PM »
A "church" of one is also untenable. Fallen human beings seeing through the glass darkly probably can't come to a clear consensus-- I would hazard a guess that's one of the reasons we need a Redeemer.

I have no doubt that disunity in the church is a result of the fall. God has given us perfect scriptures that express perfect doctrine around which we can build the perfect church. But in our sinful state, we are incapable of coming to agreement. Yet Christ demands and prays for a unified church. Christians who disagree on many things yearn together for unity.

The practical question is, at what level do we work for unity? Doctrinal agreement in the local congregation is relatively easy, especially since there are no barriers to a person leaving a church she disagrees with for one that is a better fit with her beliefs. Many of us are members of churches wherein the members are in agreement and at peace with one another.

At the highest level, I don't think that agreement will ever be reached among all of the the Roman, Eastern, Lutheran and various Protestant Christians until Christ returns and personally leads His true church. I think it is a waste of time to work for unity at this level and is much more likely to lead to arrangements that sacrifice true and clear doctrine for a superficial unity (JDDJ).

At an intermediate level, I am hopeful that agreement is possible at the level of the LCMS and church bodies that are in full fellowship with her. The LCMS has known this kind of unity before (during her period of greatest growth) but it does not exist now. I think it is worth it to work for unity at the level of the LCMS.

Key to this is the idea that communion together should confess complete agreement in doctrine. This understanding provides much of the motivation for our efforts to hammer out agreement around the true scriptural understanding on any topic. I think this is a great strength of the LCMS and something that distinguishes us from the ELCA, among others.


Brian Stoffregen

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Re: Unity and the Means of Grace
« Reply #291 on: November 27, 2010, 12:33:07 PM »
I think that's where President Harrison's initial promise that he would not force anyone but would seek to lead only by the clear and compelling Word of God comes in.  Either the Word of God does the job, or it doesn't get done.

Or there are different, but equally valid interpretations of the Word of God. As the NASB indicates with 1 tim 4:13: "Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching." The italics indicate that those words are not in the Greek text.

In the biblical world, they did not do silent reading. All reading was out loud. So Philip hears the Ethiopian reading in his chariot (Acts 8:30). Presumably, this was for his own understanding, but it was still out loud.

There are also verses where it is clear that ἀναγινώσκω/ἀνάγνωσις refer to the public reading of scriptures in worship. There is no certainty that 1 Tim 4:13 refers to private reading for understanding (to inform his exhortations and teaching), or for the public reading in worship that is followed by exhortation and teaching.
« Last Edit: November 27, 2010, 12:40:21 PM by Brian Stoffregen »
"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]

Dave Benke

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Re: Unity and the Means of Grace
« Reply #292 on: November 27, 2010, 12:33:44 PM »
I would say at the end of Matt J's longer post that as the Word speaks and does not forbid the practice of lay lectors including women, Matt would return to his parish and if the laity are not reading indicate that when that's found in a sister congregation it's a matter that does not divide us in either direction; ie it is neither commanded nor forbidden.  Whatever the local parish then determined with its pastor would be what they determined.  

In other words, Urzeit gleich Endzeit - The beginning is like the end.  Right now no one is commanding that laity be lectors, and no one is forbidding it.  It is viewed as an area of Christian freedom.  And in my opinion that's the way it's going to end up.  But in the meantime, we'll be talking it through, which is what has, in the opinion certainly of the Koinonia Project, been lacking and which has caused confusion in the minds of some on both sides of the equation.

Marie's underlying point is well taken, also on both sides - there are underlying theological issues that will focus the practical presenting issue and they will be unpacked and dealt with in a manner that does not include a majority vote or even a consensus vote unless and until there's harmony (or until the Lord returns, whichever comes first).

Dave Benke

Dan Fienen

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Re: Unity and the Means of Grace
« Reply #293 on: November 27, 2010, 12:35:31 PM »
In working the Koinonia process to consensus, we must be careful that we do not end up speaking a difinitive Word of God where God has not definitively spoken or binding consciences to certain practices that God has not mandated.  IMHO "whatever is not forbidden is commanded" is not a principle of Lutheran theology.  There needs to be room for local custom and preference.  In striving for consensus on issues there needs to be room not only for "Yes" or "No" but also for "Undetermined."  One example in doctrine could be the perpetual virginity of Mary.  Some take it as a theological truth, some disagree.  Should this be church dividing?  Or shouldn't this fall under the "Undetermined" category where God has not spoken in clarity in Scripture.

In the area of women lectors - it seems to me that one outcome of our discussions is that it is permitted but not mandated.  In other words, if we decide that Scripture does not forbid it (yes, I know not everyone agrees with that - discussion is needed), but also that Scripture does not command it, what would be wrong to leaving it to local option?

We need to promote harmony in our church body, not monody.  In music, harmony is made up of several voices (or instruments) singing different notes that fit together to make an harmonious whole.  Monody is a single unison line and if more that one voice is singing, all sing the same notes.  While there may be elements of dissonance in a harmony, those are usually in the end resolved, we should strive to do so.  Harmony is not the same a chaos or total dissonance.  Some notes would be simply wrong, errors to be corrected.

In seeking consensus within our fellowship, do we need to seek absolute lock step conformity where everyone does the same thing, thinks the same way?  For freedom Christ as set us free, let us not trade our freedom for slavery to rules and policies, while being careful not to abuse that freedom to permit what God does not allow or avoid what He commands.

 Dan
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Brian Stoffregen

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Re: Unity and the Means of Grace
« Reply #294 on: November 27, 2010, 12:38:05 PM »
I'm too cynical to think we can come together in agreement on some topics

Realistically, I don't think we can reach 100% agreement on all topics, and neither does Pr. Harrison. So staying with my example, lets say I believe that women lectors are wrong, but the Koinonia consensus decides otherwise. I have a decision to make. If my sanctified conscience tells me that the consensus has taken a position contrary to scripture, then I must break fellowship with the consensus and leave the church body, no matter how difficult, expensive or painful this would be. Scripture must always, always, always have the final word.

Alternatively, I may come to the conclusion that my understanding of scripture is incorrect in this area and accept the consensus.

Either alternative would leave the church body more unified in doctrine and practice.

There can't be a position that women lectors (as an example) is neither commanded nor forbidden in scriptures -- or, phrased differently, biblical scholars recognize that there are different ways of interpreting the pertinent texts, so it is adiaphora and each congregation is free to adopt a practice that best fits their circumstances. Cannot there be unity over "We agree to disagree on this issue. It is not congregation/church dividing"?
"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]

Steven Tibbetts

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Re: Unity and the Means of Grace
« Reply #295 on: November 27, 2010, 12:42:15 PM »
There is a great gulf between today's LCMS and the ELCA.
There are people in the LCMS who want to make that gulf wider; and there are people in the LCMS who - in their day to day parish ministries - find ways to bridge the gulf. Unfortunately, the former seem to be prevailing.


There is a great gulf between today's LCMS and the ELCA.
There are people in the ELCA who want to make that gulf wider; and there are people in the ELCA who - in their day to day parish ministries - find ways to bridge the gulf. Unfortunately, the former seem to be prevailing.

Pax, Steven+
Who first observed this in 1988.

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kls

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Re: Unity and the Means of Grace
« Reply #296 on: November 27, 2010, 12:48:44 PM »
You don't sing the hymns? You don't speak an "Amen" at the end of prayers?

I'm sure there's a thread for that.  This isn't it.

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: Unity and the Means of Grace
« Reply #297 on: November 27, 2010, 12:50:48 PM »
There is a great gulf between today's LCMS and the ELCA.
There are people in the LCMS who want to make that gulf wider; and there are people in the LCMS who - in their day to day parish ministries - find ways to bridge the gulf. Unfortunately, the former seem to be prevailing.


There is a great gulf between today's LCMS and the ELCA.
There are people in the ELCA who want to make that gulf wider; and there are people in the ELCA who - in their day to day parish ministries - find ways to bridge the gulf. Unfortunately, the former seem to be prevailing.

Pax, Steven+
Who first observed this in 1988.

I saw it way back in the early 70's when the LCMS officially reinstated the gap that fellowship with the ALC had decreased. The gap has been widening ever since.
"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]

Matt

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Re: Unity and the Means of Grace
« Reply #298 on: November 27, 2010, 01:14:18 PM »
I would say at the end of Matt J's longer post that as the Word speaks and does not forbid the practice of lay lectors including women, Matt would return to his parish and if the laity are not reading indicate that when that's found in a sister congregation it's a matter that does not divide us in either direction; ie it is neither commanded nor forbidden.  Whatever the local parish then determined with its pastor would be what they determined.  

In other words, Urzeit gleich Endzeit - The beginning is like the end.  Right now no one is commanding that laity be lectors, and no one is forbidding it.  It is viewed as an area of Christian freedom.  And in my opinion that's the way it's going to end up.  But in the meantime, we'll be talking it through, which is what has, in the opinion certainly of the Koinonia Project, been lacking and which has caused confusion in the minds of some on both sides of the equation.

There are those among us who do not agree with Dr. Benke's first phrase above: they sincerely believe that scripture forbids the practice, and should for all Christians. Declaring it a matter of Christian freedom speaks for only one side of the debate.

Our practice reflects our belief, it cannot be otherwise. If my congregation never uses female lectors, then it confesses its agreement with those who think such practice is antiscriptural. If the practice is not antiscriptural, then we are contributing to the general dissension over what should be a matter of freedom. I do not think that personal preference should play a role here; my personal preference is far less important than Biblical truth and harmony in the church.

In our contemporary society, diversity and freedom are positive values. Our society defines these in a way that every individual and his tastes and preferences are supreme. This is not the way of the church. Diversity is not a good thing when it comes to worship practice and doctrine (which I see as inseparable). Diversity is a good thing when it is evidence that the Gospel is reaching people regardless of race, gender and age. Unity requires that all of us be willing to sacrifice our individual or congregational preferences for closer obedience to scripture and unity in the church. But these sacrifices should be voluntary as the result of persuasion rather than compulsory as the result of political power and enforcement.

Weedon

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Re: Unity and the Means of Grace
« Reply #299 on: November 27, 2010, 01:26:27 PM »
Mr. Jamison,

I would disagree with the notion that if your congregation does not use female readers it thereby confesses that it is contrary to God's Word to use them.  My own parish does not use them; but I'm not personally convinced that it is sinful to use them, and I suspect my parish would be rather divided on the question were it put to them.  But the parish simply prefers to have the reading done by pastors (or seminarians), so it never comes up.
« Last Edit: November 27, 2010, 01:29:13 PM by Weedon »