Poll

Do you (if you are laity - state what your church does - and if you avail)

Offer it scheduled consistently
Announce it is available by appointment - and it is regularly taken up
Offer it by appt, but it is not ever used
Don't offer it
Private what?
Offerend and rarely used (as opposed to not used)

Author Topic: Private C&A  (Read 9860 times)

recentrev

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Re: Private C&A
« Reply #165 on: March 01, 2011, 10:17:05 AM »
I was reading a memoir last night (Hannah's Child), and I ran across this sentence:  “[Do] not trust yourself to know yourself.  You learn who you are only by making yourself accountable to the judgment of others.”

I think this is a huge part of the reason I find individual C&A so helpful and compelling.

We humans are suceptible to remarkable amounts of subtle self-deception (or deception by the devil, as the case may be). 
1) We can convince ourselves that we are not worthy of God’s forgiveness. 
2) We can also convince ourselves that our sin isn’t really “that bad.” 
3) We can be too self-congratulatory that we’ve gotten better about a particular habitual sin. 
4) We can be in denial that particular behaviors we cling to are actually sins at all. 

I find that I almost always err in at least one of these directions when left entirely to my own devices, and most of the time, I don’t even realize it.  For example, it is only with the sense of relief I feel when I hear the words of absolution spoken to me that I come understand that I hadn’t fully believed in God’s forgiveness in the brief order.  I am incapable of truly looking at myself objectively, which includes an inability to see my relationship with God objectively. 

Built into the form of individual confession is a remedy for the first form of self-deception: the inability to truly see the overflowing abundance of grace for me is countered by an individual assurance of that grace and forgiveness.  Numbers 2, 3, and 4 are countered somewhat by the practice of examining one’s conscience and the realization that we are ashamed to confess our sins to another human being.  The discipline of articulating one’s sins aloud to another person does a great deal to strip away the self-deception caused by pride.

A skilled confessor, particularly one you have a regular relationship with, will also be able to help discern which (if any) of those categories you fall into at a given moment.  In the time for pastoral confession, that pastor can help apply Law and Gospel accordingly.  (Though, I must say that one of the most helpful and perceptive confessors I’ve ever had was someone who didn’t know me at all the one time I confessed to him).

Yes, the absolution in the brief order is adequate and valid for all who hear and believe it.   Maybe there are some who always (or at least nearly always) fall into that category, though I doubt that on any given Sunday we are all that “good soil” that hears the word, receives it, accepts it, and then bears much good fruit.  Some of us may not be ready to hear the absolution because we need the Law to kill before the Gospel can make alive.  Some of us may not be ready to hear it in that form, because we’re not sure if we believe that it applies to our sins, or just the sins of the person next to us.  Some of us may hear it only as “cheap grace” without realizing that grace always uges us on to deeper faithfulness.  If individual C&A can be seen as “Christian therapy,” it is only a form of “Christian therapy” for sin, not for our emotional or psychological well-being (which may be positive secondary consequences, but are not the primary intent).  Maybe "individual confession and absolution" won’t always take the forms printed in our hymnals—it may well be a part of regular pastoral care or a even faithful friendship—but for others to help tell us who (and whose) we are, to protect us from self-deception, it certainly helps if we aren’t hiding significant parts of our lives from them.  As we come to see ourselves more clearly, we will also come to see the overflowing abundance of God's grace more clearly.

A Catholic Lutheran

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Re: Private C&A
« Reply #166 on: March 01, 2011, 10:30:50 AM »
I was reading a memoir last night (Hannah's Child), and I ran across this sentence:  “[Do] not trust yourself to know yourself.  You learn who you are only by making yourself accountable to the judgment of others.”

I think this is a huge part of the reason I find individual C&A so helpful and compelling.

We humans are suceptible to remarkable amounts of subtle self-deception (or deception by the devil, as the case may be). 
1) We can convince ourselves that we are not worthy of God’s forgiveness. 
2) We can also convince ourselves that our sin isn’t really “that bad.” 
3) We can be too self-congratulatory that we’ve gotten better about a particular habitual sin. 
4) We can be in denial that particular behaviors we cling to are actually sins at all. 

I find that I almost always err in at least one of these directions when left entirely to my own devices, and most of the time, I don’t even realize it.  For example, it is only with the sense of relief I feel when I hear the words of absolution spoken to me that I come understand that I hadn’t fully believed in God’s forgiveness in the brief order.  I am incapable of truly looking at myself objectively, which includes an inability to see my relationship with God objectively. 

Built into the form of individual confession is a remedy for the first form of self-deception: the inability to truly see the overflowing abundance of grace for me is countered by an individual assurance of that grace and forgiveness.  Numbers 2, 3, and 4 are countered somewhat by the practice of examining one’s conscience and the realization that we are ashamed to confess our sins to another human being.  The discipline of articulating one’s sins aloud to another person does a great deal to strip away the self-deception caused by pride.

A skilled confessor, particularly one you have a regular relationship with, will also be able to help discern which (if any) of those categories you fall into at a given moment.  In the time for pastoral confession, that pastor can help apply Law and Gospel accordingly.  (Though, I must say that one of the most helpful and perceptive confessors I’ve ever had was someone who didn’t know me at all the one time I confessed to him).

Yes, the absolution in the brief order is adequate and valid for all who hear and believe it.   Maybe there are some who always (or at least nearly always) fall into that category, though I doubt that on any given Sunday we are all that “good soil” that hears the word, receives it, accepts it, and then bears much good fruit.  Some of us may not be ready to hear the absolution because we need the Law to kill before the Gospel can make alive.  Some of us may not be ready to hear it in that form, because we’re not sure if we believe that it applies to our sins, or just the sins of the person next to us.  Some of us may hear it only as “cheap grace” without realizing that grace always uges us on to deeper faithfulness.  If individual C&A can be seen as “Christian therapy,” it is only a form of “Christian therapy” for sin, not for our emotional or psychological well-being (which may be positive secondary consequences, but are not the primary intent).  Maybe "individual confession and absolution" won’t always take the forms printed in our hymnals—it may well be a part of regular pastoral care or a even faithful friendship—but for others to help tell us who (and whose) we are, to protect us from self-deception, it certainly helps if we aren’t hiding significant parts of our lives from them.  As we come to see ourselves more clearly, we will also come to see the overflowing abundance of God's grace more clearly.

Extremely well said.  Thank you.

Pax Christi;
Pr. Jerry Kliner, STS

A Catholic Lutheran

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Re: Private C&A
« Reply #167 on: March 01, 2011, 10:43:56 AM »
Were you raised Slovak by any chance?  I know they preserved that custom for a long time.  Where I vicared, though, they only did it still on Maundy Thursday, I seem to recall.  That was years ago now.  Don't know if they do it at all anymore.

We do this on Maundy Thursday at Cross of Grace as well.  I find it an interesting parallel and contrast with the Impostition of Ashes which began the Lenten Fast.  On Ash Wednesday, ashes remind us of the consequences of our sin and our broken faith (they are the remains of the palms that we waved on the last Palm Sunday, crying "Hosanna in the highest" and singing "All Glory, Laud, and Honor" after all...).  On Maundy Thursday, those same people have the opportunity to kneel in the same place, hear the words of Absolution said to them, and recieve an anointing with blessed oil (unction) in place of that ashen cross.

Pax Christi;
Pr. Jerry Kliner, STS

vicarbob

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Re: Private C&A
« Reply #168 on: March 01, 2011, 11:43:31 AM »
on Maundy Thursday, I seem to recall.  That was years ago   Don't know if they do it at all anymore.

So you were there Pastor...and therefore speak with apostolic authority of the first kind. :D :D :D :D :D :D

Gosh darn FB profile  :'(

Karl Hess

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Re: Private C&A
« Reply #169 on: March 01, 2011, 02:06:24 PM »
I am incapable of truly looking at myself objectively, which includes an inability to see my relationship with God objectively. 


This entire post was excellent and very helpful to me.  Bravo.  I hope you will post more stuff like this.

I've also had this experience: that sins that seemed not so bad when I did them--for instance, something nasty I said in an argument--suddenly appeared much uglier when I began to confess it in front of someone else.  This is what makes the private absolution so joyful; on the one hand it is not what often happens, where my confession to God does not really take seriously the full weight of what I have done.  The full ugliness of the sins, spoken where another human being might hear them, suddenly appears.  Then, the amazing nature of the absolution becomes clear.  God is not merely saying, "I understand.  Nobody's perfect."  But to the very sins that in my heart of hearts I know makes me the one who deserves eternal death, Christ speaks unconditional pardon and forgiveness and declares me white as snow.  So that I not only get out of jail, but I am also a new creation as he said I was when I was baptized. 

The absolution also helps me to realize that my fundamental sin is not all my moral failings, which are many and great, but rather the fact that I do not believe God.  He tells me I am a new creation, but way down, below the conscious level, I completely reject what God has said.  I refuse to believe God and remain in chains.  So in the private absolution Jesus comes personally to me and makes me watch him unlock the prison door of sin and death again.

So often the Gospel remains a theory in our minds, an explanation of the way things happen.  But as Forde reminds us, the Gospel is not simply teaching us facts.  It is a performative word by which Christ steps in to our presence (although hidden under human words and earthly elements) and looses us of our sins, makes us free.  Quite often I see that Lutherans--and I myself--hear the preaching of the Word of God as the description of objective facts about the world or the universe--God created the world, God redeemed the world, etc.  But in private Absolution it is impossible to weasel away from the confrontation that Christ is addressing me personally and entering into conflict with my flesh, putting it to death.  My flesh can no longer hide out and say, "Yes, of course, God loves the world.  Christ died for the world.  Isn't that nice!"  In private absolution I must either agree that Christ has just forgiven and loosed me or I must say that the Word spoken by the minister was not God's. 

That is why Luther praised private absolution so highly and why it is difficult to understand how Lutheran pastors could have allowed it to fall into disuse, or why they would continue to defend the status quo.



racin_jason

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Re: Private C&A
« Reply #170 on: March 01, 2011, 03:53:27 PM »
As I reflect on what's been written the last few days, I have especially appreciated the contributions from Karl Hess.

Part of the obstacle is that this is a clergy-centered activity. The american (if not human) inclination toward keeping sin private makes this a tough sell. Cultural Lutherans who are not familiar with Luther's theology of the Word view this enterprise as a clergy-centered endeavor that was shed in the reformation. The "I don't need a pastor to forgive my sins, i can get that directly from God" type of thinking.

If placed within the framework of a conversation around what God is doing in a person's life, I imagine a person seeing real value in private C&A. Many pastors do that and I think it's effective. It would be part of a broader discussion as opposed to the person showing up and being asked to walk down the plank and jump into a talk about one's sins.

To stir the pot a little, I'm curious what people think of the idea of a lay person offering confession and forgiveness to another lay person. Would anyone here argue those sins would not be forgiven, that the absolution not be valid? Can the Keys to the Office be loaned out by the pastor?


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Sandra

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Re: Private C&A
« Reply #171 on: March 01, 2011, 04:51:27 PM »
To stir the pot a little, I'm curious what people think of the idea of a lay person offering confession and forgiveness to another lay person. Would anyone here argue those sins would not be forgiven, that the absolution not be valid? Can the Keys to the Office be loaned out by the pastor?

Forgiveness is forgiveness. It's the same "stuff" regardless of who is speaking it.

That said, there's something more "official" about absolution from the mouth of one called and ordained to speak "in the stead and by the command" of my Lord, Jesus Christ.
Sandra (Ostapowich) Madden
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Weedon

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Re: Private C&A
« Reply #172 on: March 01, 2011, 06:06:19 PM »
racin_jason,

LC, Exhortation par. 14:

The origin and establishment of private Confession lies in the fact that Christ Himself placed His Absolution into the hands of His Christian people with the command that they should absolve one another of their sins.

This, for Lutherans, is never a matter of clerical power.  The only difference between the absolution by the called and ordained servant and the non-ordained is this:  the ordained have taken a vow never to disclose what is revealed in confession; the laity have not (but, of course, they should never reveal sins confessed to them either).

George Erdner

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Re: Private C&A
« Reply #173 on: March 01, 2011, 06:13:49 PM »
As I reflect on what's been written the last few days, I have especially appreciated the contributions from Karl Hess.

Part of the obstacle is that this is a clergy-centered activity. The american (if not human) inclination toward keeping sin private makes this a tough sell. Cultural Lutherans who are not familiar with Luther's theology of the Word view this enterprise as a clergy-centered endeavor that was shed in the reformation. The "I don't need a pastor to forgive my sins, i can get that directly from God" type of thinking.

If placed within the framework of a conversation around what God is doing in a person's life, I imagine a person seeing real value in private C&A. Many pastors do that and I think it's effective. It would be part of a broader discussion as opposed to the person showing up and being asked to walk down the plank and jump into a talk about one's sins.

To stir the pot a little, I'm curious what people think of the idea of a lay person offering confession and forgiveness to another lay person. Would anyone here argue those sins would not be forgiven, that the absolution not be valid? Can the Keys to the Office be loaned out by the pastor?




I would suspect that in the Brief Order for Confession and Forgiveness in the LBW, the second alternative statement would be appropriate even if spoken by a layman:

"In the mercy of Almighty God, Jesus Christ was given to die for you, and for his sake, God forgives you all your sins. To those who believe in Jesus Christ he gives the power to become the children of God and bestows on them the Holy Spirit". That's not a proclamation by the speaker that the speaker has exercised the Authority of the Keys. That's just an advisory statement that God forgives sins. When I was leading non-sacramental worship services, I always used that version, and also changed the pronoun from "you/your" to "us/our".

The new ELW does not include an option for such an advisory statement that "God forgives".

Karl Hess

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Re: Private C&A
« Reply #174 on: March 02, 2011, 02:48:30 AM »

If placed within the framework of a conversation around what God is doing in a person's life, I imagine a person seeing real value in private C&A. Many pastors do that and I think it's effective. It would be part of a broader discussion as opposed to the person showing up and being asked to walk down the plank and jump into a talk about one's sins.

To stir the pot a little, I'm curious what people think of the idea of a lay person offering confession and forgiveness to another lay person. Would anyone here argue those sins would not be forgiven, that the absolution not be valid? Can the Keys to the Office be loaned out by the pastor?




I agree with the first point here.  The loss of private confession is part of the larger loss of the cure of souls, which used to be part of what people looked to their pastors to do.  If a pastor can build up enough trust with his congregation, or if people see their pastor as a guy who can actually do something for you when you suffer from grief, or depression, or the loss of a job, etc., that would be the first step toward restoring private absolution.  First of all you have to teach people that the pastor's ability to listen, to apply the word of God and prayer to  the troubles of their soul that arise from the various difficulties of life and the world, his calling to give the Lord's blessing--these are all things that actually do something, rather than being essentially useless.  Unfortunately when people are suffering, oftentimes they never think of talking to the pastor.  They figure they have to deal with it themselves--or they go to see their doctor or find a therapist.  Quite often going to a therapist is good and helpful, but part of our job now is to help people see that in addition to the specific help a doctor or therapist can give (which a pastor can't and shouldn't try to do unless he is trained that way--and probably not even then), the pastor is called to bring God's 3rd article gifts to bear on their need--that is, the forgiveness of sins.  Once people start seeing the pastoral office that way, a wise pastor will be able to guide the sufferer toward private absolution when it would be the appropriate cure. 

To the secon point: absolutely.  The forgiveness of sins is not the property of the pastor.  They keys are not the pastor's either.  All Christians have the calling to teach God's word in their callings and to edify their brothers. Absolutely a layman can pronounce absolution--and they do.  My 3 year old son absolves me sometimes--that is to say, Jesus absolves me through him.  It might not be appropriate for a layman to say, "I forgive you all your sins," (I will leave someone else to make a judgment on that)--but the statement, "Jesus died for that sin too" or "the Lord forgives you" is just as much an absolution as the pastor's.  As I think Pr. Weedon pointed out, the only difference is that it is part of the pastor's calling never to divulge what is confessed--not even to the earthly authorities.  But with this it isn't a question of either/or.  What would be fantastic is if the royal priesthood learned to recognize when someone is expressing guilt, and would learn to absolve and be willing to receive absolution from one another--in addition to singing and speaking the Gospel to one another, and in addition to receiving absolution from the man who has been called by God to serve them as His undershepherd.

Donald_Kirchner

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Re: Private C&A
« Reply #175 on: March 02, 2011, 08:28:07 AM »
The only difference between the absolution by the called and ordained servant and the non-ordained is this:  the ordained have taken a vow never to disclose what is revealed in confession; the laity have not (but, of course, they should never reveal sins confessed to them either).

No, as to the last phrase, that is incorrect. Some laity are mandatory reporters and even those who are not may be in vocations specifically given, for example, to guard and protect the vulnerable. Some sins confessed to them should be revealed to the appropriate authority.

Clergy, therefore, are in a unique position to be a confessor, in which the seal of confidentiality is preserved both by the the church and, e.g., in Minnesota, by the state. (Thouroughly discussed on past threads) And our people should not be misled into thinking that others hearing a confession can and will offer that absolute cloak of confidentiality. And laity who might hear such a confession should not be burdened and even be put into a position of legal vulnerability by an erroneous suggestion that "they should never reveal sins confessed to them either."
« Last Edit: March 02, 2011, 08:35:52 AM by dgkirch »
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Weedon

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Re: Private C&A
« Reply #176 on: March 02, 2011, 08:34:16 AM »
Good point, Pr. Kirchner.  Though I'd venture to say that if the lay person is in such a position, they should recuse themselves from hearing another's confession. 

Donald_Kirchner

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Re: Private C&A
« Reply #177 on: March 02, 2011, 08:43:11 AM »
No, I disagree, for that does not go far enough. No confession other than one made to clergy, bears the expectation of complete confidentiality, and laity should not be misled into thinking otherwise. And laity who would hear a confession must not be misled into thinking or burdened with the expectation that they bear, legally as well as morally, the requirement of complete confidentiality.

Do you want complete confidentiality? Confess to your pastor. (Although, given the position of some clergy nowadays, stated on past threads and even as manifested by the outrageous action of the Lutheran pastor in John Grisham's new novel, Confession, that's no longer a guarantee.) Or confess to your lawyer, if applicable.   ;)
« Last Edit: March 02, 2011, 02:45:22 PM by dgkirch »
Don Kirchner

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