Author Topic: Issues for a Dissenting Lutheran Synod (July 2005)  (Read 8854 times)

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Issues for a Dissenting Lutheran Synod (July 2005)
« on: June 14, 2005, 11:48:22 AM »
Issues for a Dissenting Lutheran Synod
By Russell Saltzman
©2005 American Lutheran Publicity Bureau

Any dissenting synod arising in the wake of the coming Orlando churchwide assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America must be as comprehensively Lutheran as possible, without sectarian agendas intruding.

Folks following these pages are probably aware, Lutherans argue passionately about the Confessions and confessional questions. Broadly speaking, very broadly, to be sure, Lutherans fall into at least two categories —“evangelical catholic” or “protestant.” Terms like these are unfortunate and I must confess, Forum Letter has used them about as much as anybody. Obviously, those terms are shorthand for a constellation of peculiarly Lutheran theological concerns, but they are not very convenient, even as shorthand. More particularly, if you like, you can locate the dispute geographically and the old bugaboos stand out: the Upper Midwest vs. the East. Again, that’s shorthand, and, again, subject to the usual limitations.

Take your average Lutheran “protestant” — or, for that matter, your average Lutheran “catholic” — and both will describe themselves as “confessional” Lutherans. It is a matter of how to read the Confessions, or maybe a matter of how they are misread. In some extreme instances, this produces a “more confessional than thou” attitude, but that is extreme, and rare. Usually, we all know how to get along with each other.

Most practically, though, this split produced Word Alone. Call it a “protestant” reaction against bishops in succession, required by Called to Common Mission, the Episcopal/ELCA accord. Ended up, hardly anybody was talking to anyone anymore.

Now, the two sides, “protestant” and “catholic,” are talking, thanks to some effort from both sides. The two find themselves united, so it seems, by their mutual opposition to the proposals that would relax disciplinary standards for clergy and admit same-sex partnered pastors into the church.

Load limits
Too bad it’s sex that unites the factions. There are plenty of concerns, and always have been, in and around the ELCA to inspire a principled opposition. But every camel’s back has a limit to its load-carrying capacity. Homosexuality seems to be the proverbial straw.

So, as we say, conversations are underway. That is all to the good. Yet there are issues. Oh, boy, are there issues. While there are surely more than the ones we will highlight, these appear to be a good starting place. So, in no special order:

The historic episcopate, status of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification between the Lutheran World Federation and the Vatican, use of a eucharistic prayer, lay presidency at the Lord’s Supper, Lutheranism’s identity — whether we are a reforming movement within and for the whole church, or a protestant denomination.

Here’s my own take.

Eucharistic Prayer. First thing, it’s the Lord’s Supper with or without a eucharistic prayer (canon). I prefer its use because it links this assembly in this place and time to the whole of salvation history, beginning with the “making of the universe” and onward to the “night in which he was betrayed.” Thus, it serves an important anti- Gnostic function, linking the God of creation to creation’s redemption.

Martin Luther excised the Eucharistic prayer in his liturgical reform of the mass because the 16th century canon did, as he put it, from the offertory on “smack and savor of sacrifice.” For Luther there was a sharp distinction between proclamation (the Words of Institution, or Verba) and sacrifice (prayer). The Verba is proclaimed to the hearers, but prayer is offered by petitioners. The two should never be confused and to drive the point home relentlessly, he provided that the Verba was to be sung on the same tone as the Gospel, underscoring the proclamatory character of both. (Chanting either of these today, by the way, would seem excessively, if not pointlessly ceremonial, however much it would thrill parishioners to hear their pastor sing.)

But, then, Luther lacked contemporary insights into the history of the mass and, for example, knew little of the very early custom, as Justin Martyr put it, of eucharizing the elements. I like to think, had Luther the benefit of more than a century of liturgical study behind him, as contemporary Lutherans do, he might have retained the eucharistic prayer, after thoroughly “evangelizing” it.

I am well aware of the arguments, from Oliver K. Olson most prominently, that Luther absolutely would have done no such thing. But absent word from Luther himself, who can say? To this, both sides argue from relative silence. In any case, I do not regard the eucharistic prayer as making or breaking the sacrament. I use it; it is a rare Sunday when I do not. (Were I to ask my parishioners about it, most would regard the prayer merely as a longer way of getting around to the “for us” part.) But the sacrament is hardly validated or invalidated by its use or non-use.

And as for the argument that it confuses prayer (sacrifice) with proclamation (Gospel), I don’t understand that at all. Prayer may do both — proclaim and petition — if it acknowledges all of the Father’s bias “for us.”

This is not a question over which dissenting ELCA Lutherans should divide in a dissenting synod.

[Continued on the next post]
« Last Edit: June 14, 2005, 12:06:35 PM by roj »
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Issues for a Dissenting Lutheran Synod (cont.)
« Reply #1 on: June 14, 2005, 11:52:10 AM »
[continued from previous post]

Historic Episcopate. As an issue for dissenting ELCA’ers, again, this is not a question where we should part company. There is no Lutheran theological imperative that requires bishops in historic succession. It would be nice, though, if everyone could acknowledge that the Confessions do speak winsomely of good bishops. There is ample biblical and traditional precedent for the office of the bishop. Along with the late Warren Quanbeck of Luther Seminary, I think we should work at recovering the ministry of bishops. I was wrong to believe that full communion with the Episcopalians was a way of achieving it. I should have stuck to my original notion that, if American Lutherans were to have bishops in historic succession, as many other world Lutheran bodies do, we should do it on our own and for ourselves. Still, that said, the reason — the only reason — for the ELCA to have adopted bishops in succession was to secure full communion with Episcopalians through Called to Common Mission. The value of that has so quickly faded for most of us “catholic” Lutherans who supported the idea, that the whole thing is moot.

Statement on Justification. I do not agree with the assessment, as a friend puts it, that JDDJ “represents a retrenchment to a Thomistic doctrine of justification and the capitulations of the Lutherans involved in the conversations.” But that, even if true, may not matter. From all I observe, JDDJ has gone into the dead letter box.

At the same time, due appreciation for the achievements of the dialogues must be recognized. With few exceptions the Lutheran/Catholic dialogues have been first rate. Reading them, one comes to a better, deeper understanding of the Church of Rome and the Church of the Augsburg Confession. The dialogues have served both to sharpen our understanding of the real differences between us, and to reveal the wide accord we do enjoy. Practically speaking, should a theoretical dissenting synod seek international Lutheran ties within the LWF, JDDJ would require some attention. But this is a question for later, not now.

Lay presidency. As yet a layman (albeit a seminarian, as if that confers any grant of privilege) on a solo internship in inner-city Detroit, I was licensed for Holy Communion, and conducted
several funerals and preformed several baptisms. As a pastor after ordination with umpteen kids needing baptism, the senior deacons in the parishes I then served conducted the baptisms needed in my family. While I am on vacation this month, my two synodically-trained and -certified parish ministry associates will preach and preside in my absence, and both have been authorized by the congregation to distribute Holy Communion to our home-bound at my discretion. Great care must be taken in this matter, licensing and authorization, obviously. But by and large, lay presidency may exist along side of a “high view” of pastoral office. It is the Word, the promise of Christ, that secures the validity of the sacrament, not the person. At least that is so in Lutheran theology. To say otherwise is to risk becoming a Lutheran Donatist. This should not be an issue dividing dissenters.

However, I do question the motivation behind the insistence upon lay presidency. If this “right” of the laity is construed as best representing the doctrine of the Priesthood of All Believers, it is a misunderstanding of the common priesthood all share in Christ. Presidency at the Eucharist is not a matter of “right,” or “privilege,” or even “order” in the church, and it should never be regarded as somehow essential to the common priesthood. Eucharistic presidency — and all of the pastoral implications that carries with it — is very much, however, a matter of call, of ministry, of baptismal vocation. If lay presidency is intended merely as means for the laity to get their slice of the clergy pie, then we have unjustly diminished the vocation of the laity in their daily baptismal call . . . and with equal injustice we have diminished the office of the pastor as, to quote an old pope, “a servant of the servants of Christ.”

The Priesthood of All Believers argues that all work is in dedication to Christ. Luther once used the example of a father changing the baby’s diapers — something I’ve pondered on more than one occasion in the past. Holy work, he called it, that made angels sing. This is the true business of holy calling and right vocation, wherever our fields of service lay.

[continued on the next post]

©2005 American Lutheran Publicity Bureau
The Rev. Richard O. Johnson, STS

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Issues for a Dissenting Lutheran Synod (continued)
« Reply #2 on: June 14, 2005, 12:01:37 PM »
[continued from previous post]

Lutheran identity. It has always been my contention that the Lutheran Confessions must be treated as texts in their own right. Call me a “confessional fundamentalist.” I have little sympathy and less patience for those who appear to quote Luther against the Confessions. These are the texts that determine Lutheran identity, not what Luther may or may not have once said.

So, strictly on the texts, I see Lutherans historically as reluctant exiles from the Church of Rome. The Augsburg text clearly says our confession was intended to show that we had not departed from the catholic faith, nor even from the faith of the Church of Rome.

And do, please, forget the influence of politics at the time and the supposed propaganda value the Reformers found in saying that. This alleges, sure, they said it, but they didn’t really mean it. Whatever. It is the text and what it says that we must deal with.

How we get “back to Rome,” though, is pretty much up to Rome. I’ve always thought if the Pope was more serious, he’d start making some inactive calls. In any case, I do not accept the view that we are Protestants — not in the generic North American sense — or that from the very beginning we intended to found a “new” church. If we are Protestant, it is protestant with several unique differences. We are Catholic regarding the Real Presence, “eating orally,” as the Confessions put it. We are Catholic by the confessional standard of offering the sacrament weekly. We are Catholic in teaching baptismal regeneration, Catholic in the preference for continuing private absolution, Catholic in a host of other ways — and in none of these ways are we intentionally aping anything Roman. We come by our catholicity honestly and we have our own way of being Lutheran Catholics— Lutheran on the doctrine of grace, Catholic in an understanding of the universal Church.

Call a truce
All that said, these protestant/catholic tensions have always been present in Lutheranism, at times more pronounced than others, but generally co-existing. The two factions lived rather happily within the ELCA’s predecessors.

The crisis that has become the ELCA cracked us open, hardening our lines and — as if there weren’t other hints before that — revealing to both sides, protestant and catholic, that the ELCA is nothing else but another Liberal Protestant establishment.

Time to call a truce. Because what happens when Lutherans put sectarian “purity” above broad confessional consensus isn’t pretty.

--Russell Saltzman

Copyright ©2005 American Lutheran Publicity Bureau
« Last Edit: June 14, 2005, 12:05:44 PM by roj »
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Samuel_Zumwalt

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Re: Issues for a Dissenting Lutheran Synod (July 2
« Reply #3 on: June 14, 2005, 01:31:54 PM »
To Russell's list of topics in which confessionalists need to find common ground I would go back to the very heart of things -- the Gospel itself.  What do we mean when we say the Gospel?

At our recent North Carolina Synod assembly, the revisionists were out in full force talking about the Gospel.  From the opening sermon to numerous speakers on behalf of freeing the oppressed homosexual minority, the clear understanding of the Gospel was the murky confusion of Law and Gospel that is known as liberation theology.  Of course, that's the official version of the Gospel that holds sway in countless offices at Higgins Road and in seminary classrooms throughout the ELCA not to mention pulpits.

As with the current morass among Anglicans, the revisionist leaders, teachers, clergy seem to lose the unity that Christ gives in baptism and confuse it with the unity we establish by espousing a fragile big tent view of church -- as if the ELCA's survival were the optimal loyalty.

In the ALPB Christian Sexuality book, Gilbert Meilander did a nice job of restating the traditional understanding of the Gospel as pardon for sins and the power for amendment of sinful lives.  That understanding of the Gospel breathes throughout the Lutheran Confessions and is something very different than liberation theology.

As I pointed out at our assembly, we cannot have the visible unity that Augsburg 7 finds in the Gospel and the sacraments if we do not agree on what the Gospel is and does.

I think confessionalists would do well to stake out that territory at the outset especially if there is any chance at all of retaking the ELCA from the revisionist minority.

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Re: Issues for a Dissenting Lutheran Synod (July 2
« Reply #4 on: June 17, 2005, 01:40:23 PM »
Following our recent (Metro Chicago Synod) Assembly, I fear for the first time the possibility of CWA 2005 by-passing the "local option" ruse and going straight to mandating the blessing of same sex unions and ordaining of homosexually active persons.  As I will be a voting member in August, I'll have only one vote out of the 1,000.  You see, in Chicago last weekend, two such resolutions were passed, one by more than 80%(!) and the other by somewhat less.  

Where is there prospect for such a synod as Russ Saltzman describes?  Every dissenting synod of which I'm presently aware exists primarily for at least of one of the sectarian reasons that he recommends we avoid (and I agree that we should avoid such reasons).  I fear that there will very soon be need for such a synod, and am hoping to hear of plans, at least, preliminary, for its formation.

Mike Bennett
« Last Edit: June 17, 2005, 09:50:53 PM by roj »
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Re: Issues for a Dissenting Lutheran Synod (July 2
« Reply #5 on: June 17, 2005, 04:13:47 PM »
Russ:

I was with you all the way to the "Priesthood of all believers" reference.

The argument based on this myth is pretty well blasted by Tim Wengert's paper at Valpo earlier this spring.  See http://www.valpo.edu/ils/documents/05_wengert.pdf

Given this myth, any claim to the POAB regarding lay presidency is a non-starter in the conversation, and to acknowledge it only continues the myth.

Peace

Art Hebbeler

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Re: Issues for a Dissenting Lutheran Synod (July 2
« Reply #6 on: June 17, 2005, 09:54:41 PM »
Quote
Russ:

I was with you all the way to the "Priesthood of all believers" reference.

The argument based on this myth is pretty well blasted by Tim Wengert's paper at Valpo earlier this spring.  See http://www.valpo.edu/ils/documents/05_wengert.pdf

Given this myth, any claim to the POAB regarding lay presidency is a non-starter in the conversation, and to acknowledge it only continues the myth.



Gosh, I thought that's more or less what Russ said.
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Revbert

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Re: Issues for a Dissenting Lutheran Synod (July 2
« Reply #7 on: June 18, 2005, 02:01:02 PM »
Well, it is...except that to even suggest that the phrase is one of Martin's is aiding the myth.  That was the point I was trying to make, and didn't do very well at it.    :(

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Re: Issues for a Dissenting Lutheran Synod (July 2
« Reply #8 on: June 21, 2005, 06:18:06 AM »
A strange observation from a, probably, E.C. :  Taking the lead of our forfather Luther, we might just have to adopt his strategy on the Eucharistic prayer.  SInce the prayer also teaches, as Russ points out, we must ask ourselves if the content of the Renewing Worship prayers is what we wish taught.  For my part I would say we are better off without if the RW prayers are the only choice.

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Re: Issues for a Dissenting Lutheran Synod (July 2
« Reply #9 on: June 26, 2005, 03:46:57 PM »
I think we should continue to explore Rubric #33 in the LBW and the prayers of Thanksgiving in This Far by Faith.  Why not use the option of a prayer followed by the Words?  This is an option for Lutherans in other places, as well as the Presbyterian Church, USA.  With some new phrasing and careful thought, we could have some good "brief" prayers to precede the Verba.  In the RW prayers, I have noticed that they get longer and longer.  Most congregations don't use prayers that are so long.

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Re: Issues for a Dissenting Lutheran Synod (July 2
« Reply #10 on: June 27, 2005, 08:33:06 AM »
Quote
I think we should continue to explore Rubric #33 in the LBW and the prayers of Thanksgiving in This Far by Faith.  Why not use the option of a prayer followed by the Words?  This is an option for Lutherans in other places, as well as the Presbyterian Church, USA.  With some new phrasing and careful thought, we could have some good "brief" prayers to precede the Verba.  In the RW prayers, I have noticed that they get longer and longer.  Most congregations don't use prayers that are so long.



FWIW, our associate pastor, formerly in the Presbyterian Church of the Republic of Korea (the "evangelical" Presbys in Korea) led the Korean ministry here from quarterly Eucharist to weekly Eucharist WITH full Eucharistic prayer "cold turkey" about 2 years ago.  We have since made a complete translation of the Mass (using WOV IV as the basis, as it sings in Korean better) that we use in joint services and will be using in regular worship in the coming months.

Jongkil is an educated churchman (including an STM from Yale Divinity School---and he's STILL orthodox), and I just can't see him using the Verba alone anymore.

As I believe someone mentioned earlier...we seem to have forgotten what we learned of the early church from Justin and others, that the president prays "as best he can" over the bread and wine, and didn't simply offer the Verba.

Art

Dennis

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Re: Issues for a Dissenting Lutheran Synod (July 2
« Reply #11 on: June 27, 2005, 09:02:52 AM »
No disagreement, Art.  My point was only that it doesn't have to be either Eucharistic Prayer OR Verba alone.  There is a third option, one with precedent, of Prayer followed by the Verba, thus following the catholic tradtion of a Eucharistic prayer, but having the Verba spoken as proclamation as Luther did.  Almost every Eucharistic prayer in the Book of Common Worship (PCUSA) has that as an option.  In RW, under Thanksgivings at Table, Option C, from BCW, the originial form there has the words following the prayer rather than inserted in it.  That is a change made by RW.

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Re: Issues for a Dissenting Lutheran Synod (July 2
« Reply #12 on: June 27, 2005, 01:27:05 PM »
Dennis,

It is this change in the prayer that worries me, not because it care about the PCUSA book but because of what the re-written prayers says.  It gives the words of institution and then prays that the bread and wine "may become to us a communion with the Lord"  or is it "may become to us the body and blood etc", I m quoting from memory here.  First: what is the "to us" doing there and then, why are we praying for a "change" that by the proclamation of the verba has long since happened?  It suggests the transformation by our prayer not by the word of God.  What does this then teach and is it not better to take Martin of Wittenberg's advice to leave the prayer behind rather than teach nonsense?  SOmething that must be said about several of the Eucharistic Prayers; Thanksgiving at table is: "Come Lord Jesus be our guest.."

I agree with the rubric #33 compromise or the LCMS hymnal supplement 98 tack that had a prayer remembering humanity's decent into sin, a rememberance of the work of Jesus, the Lord's prayer, and then the verba.  Pretty tidy.

I wonder if this discussion should not go to a forum of its own, but I am too much of a luddite to start one.

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Re: Issues for a Dissenting Lutheran Synod (July 2
« Reply #13 on: June 27, 2005, 05:03:25 PM »
Quote
It gives the words of institution and then prays that the bread and wine "may become to us a communion with the Lord"  or is it "may become to us the body and blood etc", I m quoting from memory here.

Interesting.  In the Roman Eucharistic Prayers, the celebrant prays that gifts of bread and wine "may become for us the Body and Blood of Jesus" and then the Verba are said.

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Re: Issues for a Dissenting Lutheran Synod (July 2
« Reply #14 on: June 27, 2005, 05:45:21 PM »
Quote
It is this change in the prayer that worries me, not because it care about the PCUSA book but because of what the re-written prayers says.  It gives the words of institution and then prays that the bread and wine "may become to us a communion with the Lord"  or is it "may become to us the body and blood etc", I m quoting from memory here.  First: what is the "to us" doing there and then, why are we praying for a "change" that by the proclamation of the verba has long since happened?

The petition in that part of the prayer is not about the bread and wine, but about our unity. I quote:

Pour out your Holy Spirit upon us that this meal may be
a communion in the body and blood of our Lord.
Make us one with Christ and with all who share this feast.
Unite us in faith, encourage us with hope, inspire us to love,
that we may serve as your faithful disciples
until we feast at your table in glory.
[/b]

Quote
It suggests the transformation by our prayer not by the word of God.

I don't see it as a prayer about the elements, but a prayer about us.
« Last Edit: June 27, 2005, 05:47:20 PM by Brian_Stoffregen »
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