Saturday, May 12, 2007

Roundtable 16: Church Ceremonies

Our churches teach that ceremonies ought to be observed that may be observed without sin. Also, ceremonies and other practices that are profitable for tranquility and good order in the Church (in particular, holy days, festivals, and the like) ought to be observed.

Yet, the people are taught that consciences are not to be burdened as though observing such things was necessary for salvation. They are also taught that human traditions instituted to make atonement with God, to merit grace, and to make satisfaction for sins are opposed to the Gospel and the doctrine of faith. So vows and traditions concerning meats and days, and so forth, instituted to merit grace and to make satisfaction for sins, are useless and contrary to the Gospel. (AC XV, Concordia, 39)

This is the third of what I term the “apologetic articles” (Articles 13-21) which are written in response to certain slanderous allegations by Eck and other papal apologists against the Lutherans and also to distance the Lutheran side of the Reformation from the more radical elements. Clearly, the charge is that the Lutherans had abrogated and abandoned the traditional rites and ceremonies of the Church.

The conservative nature of the Lutheran reformation is apparent. Our churches keep the traditional ceremonies and practices, including the liturgical calendar, for the sake of tranquility and good order. This attitude is restated clearly in Apology XV where Melanchthon states: “We gladly keep the old traditions set up in the church because they are useful and promote tranquility, and we interpret them in an evangelical way, excluding the opinion which holds that they justify” (Ap XV.38). The same idea is echoed in the close of the Augustana where the reformers state, “we have introduced nothing, either in doctrine or in ceremonies, that is contrary to Holy Scripture or the universal Christian church.”

Melanchthon makes three points in Article XV. First, the existing rites of the received tradition are kept insofar as they do not conflict with the Gospel and contribute to peace and good order in the Church. Second, consciences are not to be burdened by making man-made rites necessary for salvation. This corresponds to Article VII in which the preached Gospel and administered sacraments are the necessary marks of the Church, while man-made ceremonies may vary and do not contribute to the unity of the Church. Third, certain traditions are rejected, ie monastic vows and fasting regulations, not for what they are but for what they purport to do, namely “to earn grace and make satisfaction for sins.” These are deemed “useless and contrary to the Gospel.”

The papal Confutation accepts the first part of this article but resoundingly rejects the second part, precipitating a lengthy response from Melanchthon in Apology XV. The gist of Melanchthon’s apologia lies in this sentence: “We can affirm nothing about the will of God without the Word of God” (Ap XV.17). Therefore, no rite or ceremony can serve as a revelatory sign of God’s grace without the Word of God. Interestingly, this article does not mention or deal with the liturgy or divine service. (That is taken up in article XXIV on the abuses of the Mass). This is not surprising since the reformers would not have considered the divine service a “manmade rite” but the Word of God, since the liturgy is composed almost entirely of Scripture passages and allusions. In his reform of the Mass, Luther simply excised those manmade parts that were in contradiction to the Gospel.

In our thinking about church rites and ceremonies, this article needs to be read and applied before we get to Formula Article X. Far too often in our circles today, the concept of adiaphora is invoked in a way that is contrary to the conservative spirit of the Lutheran reformers and much more consistent with the way of Münzer, Karlstadt and the radicals under the banner of “Gospel freedom.” AC XV reminds us that the Lutheran reformation was, and still is, a Gospel reformation of the western catholic tradition, not the beginning of a new church, or a romantic restoration of the first century church, or an exercise in unbounded Christian liberty.

Melanchthon’s maxim is well worth noting today: “Nothing should be changed in the accustomed rites without good reason, and to foster harmony those ancient customs should be kept which can be kept without sin or without great disadvantage” (Ap XV.52).


Rev. Brady Finnern said...

I appreciate the thoughts on Church Cermonies, especially the care and conservative nature that Luther took on this issue.

I find it interesting in our world today, especially in the last 40 years that the question usually asked over church ceremonies is, "Can we make the changes?" However the question that probably is more appropriate would be, "Should we make the changes?" For if we ask the question, should, we will take into account the tradition from the past, the richness of that tradition, and most of all, what do we lose if we make the change.

I have found that the re-emphasis of how it is asked, was a similar approach that Luther brought in his day. A concern that he had for all people (not just the new to the faith or from a certain generation) and their spiritual lives.

Christ's blessings in ministry

David Jay Webber said...

This is not a comment on AC XV per se, but it comes close. Luther was someone who often spoke differently in his younger years than in his older years. On some subjects (such as his feelings about the Jews) we regret the change, since it was not for the better. On other subjects (such as his way of explaining the character and basis of the Public Ministry) we are happy about the change, since it was an improvement. (I'm speaking for myself here, but perhaps for most others too.)

Luther's views on ceremonies and church traditions also developed over the years. Most people are very familiar with the things he said in 1525 to the Livonians, and with the things he said in conjunction with his two proposed orders of service (1523 and 1526). But his more mature thoughts on these matters are not as well known, mostly, I think, because the writings in which he expressed them do not appear in the American Edition. But the collection of letters where they do appear has recently been reprinted. For your interest, here are two significant excerpts:

>>With respect to what troubles you - whether a cope or alb is to be worn in the procession during Rogation week and on Saint Mark's Day, and whether a procession around the churchyard is to be held with a pure responsory on Sundays and with the Salve festa dies on Easter without, however, carrying the Sacrament about - this is my advice: If your lord, the margrave and elector, etc., permits the gospel of Jesus Christ to be preached with purity and power and without human additions and the two sacraments of Baptism an the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ to be administered and offered according to their institution, if he is willing to abolish the invocation of saints (as if they were mediators, intercessors, and deliverers) and the carrying about of the Sacrament in procession, and if he is willing to discontinue daily Masses, vigils, and Masses for the dead and the consecration of water, salt, and herbs and allow only pure responsories and hymns, Latin and German, in procession, go along in God's name and carry a silver or gold cross and wear a cope or alb of velvet, silk, or linen. And if one cope or alb is not enough for your lord, the elector, wear three of them, as the high priest Aaron did when he put on three vestments, one on top of the other and all of them beautiful and attractive [cf. Lev. 8:7] (after which ecclesiastical vestments were called ornata in the papacy). Moreover, if His Grace is not satisfied that you go about singing and ringing bells in procession only once, go about seven times, as Joshua compassed the city of Jericho seven times with the Children of Israel, making a great shout and blowing trumpets [Joshua 6:4,5,16]. If your lord, the margrave, desires it, let His grace leap and dance at the head of the procession with harps, drums, cymbals, and bells, as David danced before the Ark of the Lord when it was carried into the city of Jerusalem [II Sam. 6:14,15]. I am fully satisfied, for none of these things (as long as no abuse is connected with them) adds anything to the gospel or detracts from it. Only do not let such things be regarded as necessary for salvation and thus bind the consciences of men. How I would rejoice and thank God if I could persuade the pope and the papists of this! If the pope gave me the freedom to go about and preach and only commanded me (with a dispensation) to hitch on a pair of trousers, I should be glad to do him the favor of wearing them. As concerns the elevation of the Sacrament in the Mass, this is an optional ceremony and no danger can come to the Christian faith as a result of it, provided nothing else is added. Accordingly you may lift up the Sacrament in God's name as long as it is desired. We had ample cause to abolish the elevation here in Wittenberg, and perhaps you do not have such cause in Berlin. Nor shall we restore the ceremony unless some urgent reason requires us to do so, for it is an optional thing and a human exercise rather than a divine commandment. Only what God commands is necessary; the rest is free. (Letter to George Buchholzer [December 4, 1539], in Luther: Letters of Spiritual Counsel [Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1960], pp. 306-07)>>

>>I confess that I am not favorably disposed even toward necessary ceremonies, but that I am opposed to those that are not necessary. Not only have I been (and still am) incensed by my experience under the papacy, but the example of the Ancient Church is also disquieting to me. It easily happens that ceremonies become laws, and after they are established as laws, they quickly become snares to men's consciences. Meanwhile pure doctrine is obscured and buried, especially if those who come after are indifferent and unschooled folk who are more concerned about ceremonies than they are about mortifying the lusts of the flesh. We see this even among those who are now living; strife and divisions arise when everybody follows his own opinion. In short, contempt for the Word on our side and blasphemy on the side of our opponents seem to me to point to the time of which John prophesied when he said to his people, "The ax is laid unto the root of the trees" [Matt. 3:10], etc. At all events, since the end is close at hand, it does not seem to me that it is necessary (at least in this blessed time) to be too concerned about introducing ceremonies, making them uniform, and fixing them permanently by law. The one thing that needs to be done is this: the Word must be preached often and purely, and competent and learned ministers must be secured who are concerned above all else that they be of one heart and one mind in the Lord. If this is achieved, it will undoubtedly be easy to secure uniformity in ceremonies, or at least to tolerate differences. Without such internal unity, on the other hand, there will be no end to differences and no way to deal with them, for those who come after us will claim the same right that we exercise, and flesh will be set against flesh, a consequence of corrupt nature. Accordingly I cannot advise that ceremonies be made uniform everywhere. Diversity may be tolerated - provided that manifestly godless and foolish ceremonies are abandoned. For example, if some ceremonies have been discontinued in certain places, they should not be restored, and if some ceremonies have been hitherto retained, they should not be given up. This applies to the customary location of altars, to the sacred and secular vestments of the clergy, and to other similar things. For if heart and mind are one in the Lord, one man will readily allow another's ceremonies to be different. On the other hand, if there is no seeking after unity in heart and mind, external agreement will achieve little. Nor will such agreement last long among those who come after us, for observances are subject to places, times, persons, and circumstances. The Kingdom of God does not depend on them. Moreover, they are by their very nature changeable. ... After all, why should one wish to make everything uniform when even under the papacy there was great diversity, which reached into every province? And how great are the differences that have always divided the Greek churches from the Latin! This is why we insist on the establishment of schools, and especially on purity and agreement in doctrine, which will make hearts and minds one in the Lord. (Letter to Prince George of Anhalt [July 10, 1545], in Luther: Letters of Spiritual Counsel, pp. 311-13)>>

Jay Webber

wm cwirla said...

Three thoughts on Luther's letters cited above:

1. Context is everything, especially when it concerns letters written into a particular context. Luther is notoriously contextual when it comes to his counsel, whether he has Rome or the radicals in view. We can speculate to our hearts' content what Luther might have to say to the churches that bear his name today. I suspect that neither the high church "ringnecks" nor the Evangelical wannabes would be terribly happy with what he had to say.

2. The beauty of confessional Lutheranism is that we are not bound to Luther but to the Lutheran Confessions. While mature Luther may be "colorful," as befits a man who has come to the age where he can say whatever is on his mind with nothing to lose (I can't wait for the same!), the Confessions work within the period of 1528 to 1537 (excepting, of course, the Formula).

3. The spirit of AC XV remains the same in these letters: "I am fully satisfied, for none of these things (as long as no abuse is connected with them) adds anything to the gospel or detracts from it. Only do not let such things be regarded as necessary for salvation and thus bind the consciences of men." This is almost verbatim from AC XV.

Paul T. McCain said...

Pastor Webber, thanks for the quotes, that was the easy part. Now, let see some "What does this mean?" from you by way of applying those quotes. Looking forward to it!

wm cwirla said...

This article raises an issue in my thinking.

One often hears invoked the principle of lex orandi, lex credendi or some such paraphrase of Prosper of Aquitaine's maxim "legem credendi lex statuat supplicandi," with the recognition that doctrine (lex credendi) and worship (lex orandi) go together.

My issue is this: It seems to me that the Lutheran reformers attempt to have a lex credendi with much, if any, of a lex orandi. While AC XV takes a conservative stand with regard to reform of the Mass, it really doesn't create any sort of lex orandi. The received tradition is presumed, though not in any confessional way, leaving room for the comments of the "mature" Luther cited above.

Compare this with the Anglican church which has a strong lex orandi (Book of Common Prayer) but a rather loose lex credendi (39 Articles, etc). Orthodoxy likewise has a strong lex orandi in the Liturgies of St. John Chrysostom and Basil), as does Rome, even post-Vatican II, with its canon of the Mass. The Lutheran churches endeavor to hold the ground on doctrine alone, without a similar confessional stance on worship.

Today's "worship wars" center on the dispute over whether one can maintain Lutheran doctrine while forsaking traditional Lutheran practice. The popular dichotomy of "style and substance" would be comfortable with the absence of a Lutheran lex orandi. According to this theory, one can believe as a Lutheran and worship as an Evangelical.

I wonder whether we inadvertantly shortchange the power of symbol and ritual by not guarding the received liturgical tradition with the same concern and zeal that we guard the doctrinal tradition.

Just thinking aloud here.

David Jay Webber said...

The Luther quotes are the "What does this mean?" in reference to AC XV, to which Luther subscribed and which he never repudiated!

Paul T. McCain said...

Pastor Webber, sorry, you are not going to get off the hook this easily. I would like to know how *you* believe they should be applied today in the context of the general liturgical meltdown across Lutheran Christendom. As you know, Luther said a great many things, and pulling two quotes out of his vast corpus and quoting them without application...well, that's just no fun!

David Jay Webber said...

In summary, I think Luther would say that the value of ceremonial uniformity is sometimes greatly overstated, but also that the value of ceremonial dignity is sometimes greatly understated. If one church has chanting, chasubles, and chancel bells, and another has speaking, simple vestments, and little in the way of ornamentation, Luther would not see this as a problem as long as a spirit of reverence, and a focus on the means of grace, prevailed. But he would see it as a major problem if a church stopped using doctrinal hymns, and if its pastors stopped preaching doctrinal sermons. He would see it as a major problem if a congregation turned its Divine Service into a dog and pony show. He would flee.

Paul T. McCain said...

Here's what one Lutheran said. In his day he was accused by some of being a kind of "secret Roman Catholic" or a "Puseyite" for his position on worship and liturgy.

We refuse to be guided by those who are offended by our church customs. We adhere to them all the more firmly when someone wants to cause us to have a guilty conscience on account of them. It is truly distressing that many of our fellow Christians find the difference between Lutheranism and Roman Catholicism in outward things. It is a pity and dreadful cowardice when a person sacrifices the good ancient church customs to please the deluded American denominations just so they won’t accuse of being Roman Catholic! Indeed! Am I to be afraid of a Methodist, [or a non-denominational Christian, or a Calvinist, or an Evangelical], who perverts the saving Word, or ashamed in the matter of my good cause, and not rather rejoice that they can tell by our ceremonies that I do not belong to them? We are not insisting that there be uniformity in perception or feeling or taste among all believing Christians, neither dare anyone demand that everyone be of the same opinion as his in such matters; nevertheless, it remains true that the Lutheran liturgy distinguishes Lutheran worship from the worship of other churches to such an extent that the houses of worship of the latter look like lecture halls, [theaters or auditoriums], while our churches are in truth houses of prayer in which Christians serve the great God publicly before the world. . . . Someone may ask,” What would be the use of uniformity in ceremonies?” We would answer, “What is the use of a flag on the battlefield? Even though a soldier cannot defeat the enemy with it, he nevertheless sees by the flag where he belongs. We ought not to refuse to walk in the footsteps of our fathers.

C.F.W. Walther, Essay on Adiaphora in Essays for the Church: Volume I (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1992), p. 193-194.

Paul T. McCain said...

I think the quotes from Luther that Pastor Webber put up might be misunderstood to imply that Luther would be a cheerleader for the kind of liturgical diversity we see today in various places in Lutheranism.

But, the older Luther was personally involved in the preparation of the Wittenberg Church Order and approved of its content. It offers a better perspective on Luther's position on these issues.

Now even though external rites and orders ... add nothing to salvation, it is unChristian to quarrel over such things and confuse the common people. We should consider the edification of the laity more important than our own ideas and opinions ... Let each one surrender his own opinions and get together in a friendly way and come to a common decision about these external matters, so that there will be one uniform practice throughout your district instead of disorder ... For even though from the viewpoint of faith, the external orders are free and can without scruples be changed by anyone at anytime, yet from the viewpoint of love you are not free to use this liberty...

Or how about this one?

It is the cause of much incorrectness... when the external church ordinances, divine service and ceremonies are not held with reverence, or in orderly fashion, or in like manner. Also certain pastors purpose to act in these matters without uniformity. They shall carefully see to it that the ceremonies which have to do with hymns, clothing of the priests, administration of the sacrament ... as well as the festivals, be maintained in an orderly and uniform fashion, at one place as at another, uniform and in accord with such as occur at Wittenberg and Torgau, in accord with the Holy Scriptures...*

One more

Ceremonies [should be instituted] which give the external indication that in the congregation great, high, serious dealings are present, so that the ceremonies lead, stimulate, admonish and move the people to join together their thoughts, lift up their hearts in all humility. That there be in the congregation heartfelt devotion to the word, the Sacrament and prayer … Christian freedom has its place in this matter, as the ancients said, “Disagreement in rites does not take away agreement in faith.” It still brings all sorts of benefit that in ceremonies, so much as it is possible, a uniformity be maintained, and that such uniformity serve to maintain unity in doctrine, and that common, simple, weak consciences be all the less troubled, rather strengthened. It is therefore viewed as good that, as much as possible, a uniformity in ceremonies with neighboring reformed churches be affected and maintained. And for this reason, henceforth all pastors in the churches of our realm, shall emphatically follow this written church order, and not depart from the same without specific, grave cause. *

To suggest that the better way for the church to order herself is for there to be the greatest amount of liturgical uniformity as possible strikes some ears as a call for a slavish formalism, some even go so far as to use the word "legalistic" whenver this comes up. That never has made sense to me. I've never heard anyone in favor of traditional Lutheran worship say that its use is required for salvation. It seems that some in the Lutheran Church have dismissed discussion of the dangers of liturgical diversity and the blessings of the great possible liturgical uniformity. Why? Sadly, in an era that has witnessed a trend toward doing whatever is right in the eyes of an individual pastor, or congregation, the blessings of liturgical uniformity are being woefully neglected. We have lost our understanding of the blessing and advantage of striving to have as common a liturgical practice as possible.Preaching

The thought that a pastor would, from Sunday to Sunday, reinvent the church's worship service was an alien thought to the Lutheran Confessors, and hence the Lutheran Confessions. Rev. Matthew Harrison, some years ago, did a study on the practice of the Lutheran Church in the sixteenth century. In it he uses the "church orders" of the time to demonstrate how one should, and likewise should not, interpret the comments on adiaphora in the Lutheran Confessions. It is quite fascinating and very revealing. You can read a copy here: Download liturgical_uniformity.pdf

Worship Some might assume that my remarks are directed only toward those who have chosen to embrace "contemporary worship" or "blended worship" with its Sunday-to-Sunday "newness." But that would be a mistake. I would also direct these remarks to those who choose to "do their own thing" in a more traditionally liturgical direction: that is, those whoDance choose to embellish and otherwise change the church's received liturgies in a direction that they regard as "better" or "more faithful" or "more liturgical."

I have been concerned for years that some of those most stridently speaking against the liturgical diversity in our Synod turn right around and in their parish create their own little variation on the Lutheran liturgy, claiming that they are doing it better, or more historically, or more traditionally. I've seen horrendous mixta composita of liturgical services slapped together from multiple sources, all of course perceived as being "historically Lutheran" and these undertakings have always struck me as problematic in the same way the cut and paste "services" in contemporary worship contexts are.

I do not see any difference between this and those who chose to go another direction in terms of a sensitivity for the good order of the church. It may be that a liturgy is more similar to a particular 16th century German Divine Service than others, perhaps even more similar than anything in any present hymnal, but I find no justification for deciding, as an individual pastor or parish, to "go it alone" in this direction, any more than I find justification or benefit in creating new liturgies from Sunday to Sunday. The goal of liturgical uniformity is not repristination of what happened in the Sixteenth Century, any more than it is should be the goal to toss our the liturgy.

My opinion is that it would be a tremendous blessing to our church body if we would all set aside our pet theories, our cherished preferences, and even our favorite hymnals, and embrace the use of one hymnal: Lutheran Service Book.

I believe it is essential for all of us to set aside a fixation on"contemporary worship" [as if there is any worship that is not contemporary"] and stop dividing up our Sunday mornings between "traditional" and "classical grace" or "contemporary" or "blended" and just start having "church," period. It means that we need to stop turning the church into a popular opinion poll from Sunday to Sunday. It means that we use the church's hymnal. Use the church's liturgies as they are printed in the church's new hymnal and use the many opportunities for variety within that structure. I see as little wisdom in trying to mimic some specific territorial German church order, as I do in trying to take our cues from the non-denominational "Evangelical" worship forms prevalent in our nation among many Protestants.

There are some who would like to use the Tenth Article in the Formula of Concord to justify a practice by which each individual congregation in our Church can just go ahead and "do its own thing" when it comes to worship practices. But this is truly a misuse of this article, and was not, by any stretch of the imagination, what the Lutheran Confessors had in mind when they prepared the Formula of Concord. Here is a very helpful insight into the attitude toward liturgical uniformity that was in the minds of those who prepared, and subscribed, to the Formula of Concord from 1577-1580. As Rev. Harrison notes in his paper: "The final Church Order here referred to is one of the most significantSpell001002 for interpreting FC SD 10, 9. Duke August I of Electoral Saxony was the driving force behind the Electoral Saxon Church Order of 1580, and Andreae its author. The order came out after the adoption of the Book of Concord. In fact, it calls for ministers to subscribe to the Book of Concord. What FC SD 10 means when it states, ‘no church shall condemn another’, is crystal clear in ‘IX. Regarding Ceremonies in the Churches’."

Pastors and ministers, on the basis of God’s Word, and at the instigation of the declaration published this year (1580), and incorporated in this book [The Book of Concord], shall diligently instruct their flock and hearers in their sermons,2002savbaptism as often as the opportunity avails itself, that such external ordinances and ceremonies are in and of themselves no divine service, nor a part of the same. They are rather only ordained for this reason, that the divine service, which is not within the power of human beings to change, may be held at various times and places, and without offense or terrible disorder. Accordingly, they should not at all be troubled when they see dissimilar ceremonies and usages in external things among the churches. They should much rather be reminded herein of their Christian freedom, and in order to maintain this freedom, make profitable use of this dissimilarity of ceremonies... Nevertheless, so unity may be maintained in the churches of our land…the following ceremonies shall be conducted according to our order or incorporated church agenda, until there is a general uniformity of all churches of the Augsburg Confession … And it will be granted to no minister to act contrary to the same [agenda] to introduce some revision, no matter under what pretext. *

Liturgical uniformity and the good it brings to the church's life is more important than any personal interest in doing it "better" or "different," and that cuts both ways.19071132766480mcd3dlozenge

If I may use a crass analogy, imagine if you would that McDonalds decided tomorrow that they no longer cared what any of its restaurants looked like. No more standardization of the logo, or clothing, or ways of doing things. Every McDonalds would be told, "Do whatever you feel is best and whatever feels right to you." That would make little sense, would it? How much more than does it make sense for every Lutheran congregation to be running off in its own direction, doing what feels right to it? Now, granted, every McDonalds has some minor differences, but there never is any doubt that you are at a McDonalds. See the point?

That's my .02 cents worth. As always, your mileage may vary.

By the way, the person who said the first quote, that we are not free to use our liberty in matters pertaining to liturgical uniformity was...Martin Luther. And the second quote? It is from the Wittenberg Church Order of 1542, prepared by Jonas, Cruciger, Bugenhagen, Melachthon, Luther, and others; Sehling, I:202. The third quote? It is from the 1569 Church Order of Brauncshweig-Wolfenbuettel and was prepared by none other than Martin Chemnitz and Jacob Andreae, the chief authors and architects of the Formula of Concord. [Sehling VI.1, 139, 40]. The final quote is from: AL Richter ed, Die evangelischen Kirchenordnungen des
sechszehn ten Jahrhunderts. Urkunden und Regesten zur Geschichte des Rechts and
der Verfassung der evangelischen Kirche in Deutschland, Leipzig, 1871, vol II:, p. 440.

wm cwirla said...

After reading this tome, it occurs to me that the 17th c. Kirchenordnungen, which were cited above, served as a lex orandi for the territorial churches. Can you imagine an entire district agreeing on a liturgical form?

Paul T. McCain said...

Yes, just imagine an entire group of congregations agreeing to walk together. Sounds like a great idea to me. Let's call it a synod!

Paul T. McCain said...

Imagine everyone putting their personal preferences in their back pocket and agreeing together for the sake of the witness to the truth that unity in practice affords. Imagine the "high church" guys who "just know" the way the liturgy "really should be done" just using the hymnal as we have it, not adding to it, nor playing around with it, and similarly, those who do the whole "let's do a new PowerPoint every week" to make the serve "mean more" stowing that.

Imagine it. Lex credendi, lex orandi: that's actually the way that phrase was intended and meant when it was first used, as Winger so clearly proved a number of years ago in Studia Patristica.

David Jay Webber said...

"I think the quotes from Luther that Pastor Webber put up might be misunderstood to imply that Luther would be a cheerleader for the kind of liturgical diversity we see today in various places in Lutheranism."

You do? Why?

Luther says: "Diversity may be tolerated - provided that manifestly godless and foolish ceremonies are abandoned. The manifestly foolish "con temporary" worship practices that are sweeping through many mind-numbed congregations today cannot in any way be defended on the basis of Luther's statements. And we're talking, too, about ceremonies, not about the heart of the Liturgy. So, whether the Creed is spoken, or chanted, or occasionally replaced by one of the Lutheran Church's traditional hymn paraphrases, is not something to get your breeches all knotted up over. That was Luther's point. His point has nothing at all to do with the entertainment-oriented frivolity and man-centered "new measures" that are being smuggled into the church nowadays.

wm cwirla said...

"So, whether the Creed is spoken, or chanted, or occasionally replaced by one of the Lutheran Church's traditional hymn paraphrases, is not something to get your breeches all knotted up over."

I couldn't agree more with this statement.

I recall the Rev. Dr. Roger Patelko, with whom I took a liturgics course, who made the distinction between the rite (ritus) and the ceremony. The rite concerned the text, the ceremony was the action accompanying the text. While these are not divorcible, since text determines action and action interprets text, they are nonetheless distinguishable. The Creed spoken, chanted, or sung is still the Creed. The bread and wine are still the Body and Blood whether we genuflect, bow, kneel, or stand. I would advocate a uniformity in rite without a rigid uniformity in ceremony.

Having said that, it is nice (though not necessary) to have an agreed upon ceremonial (ie rubrics). While prayer is heard by God regardless of how we hold our hands, it is helpful to have a discipline about what to do with one's hands. Personally, I have always found rubrical instruction to be a liberating discipline. I fear that much of what passes for "informal" in "contemporary" worship is symptomatic of a discomfort with reverence, awe, and mystery.

Paul T. McCain said...

To me, the really intersting and perhaps most pressing question is simply this:

Why did our 16th Lutheran predecessors, who either themselves actually prepared our Confessions, or were the first generation heirs of those Confessions, fully understanding their intention in writing those documents, choose to adopt and make such widespread use of Church Orders and a system of superintendencies in which, in many cases, no deviations were allowed from the Church Orders without the agreement of the consistory? Why did they place such a high value in both theory and practice, on uniformity? Was it that they were just German control-freaks? Or merely cow-towing to the political rulers of the day? Or....did they understand things about the necessity of uniformity and good order that we today seemingly have trouble even beginning to understand?

Yes, that's a rhetorical question.

It's the question that has come to haunt me as I continue to compare and contrast Lutheranism as it is, "o the ground" in our day and their day.

Topper's Dad said...

I am both frustrated and saddened by this discussion. Why isn't there more voicing of pastoral concern for the people in the pews in many Lutheran congregations who are being made to suffer through a great deal of theological confusion, a direct result of a necretizing debate on the form and function of public worship/ceremonies, led in no small part by the internecene struggle between cleric-led factions? (Theological struggles create a lot of collateral damage) Enough rant. Apart from preaching and the sacraments being administered rightly, it seems to me that the overarching concern in this article, as much as throughout the confessions, is on true kerigma/message content. Is it not true that the modes of expression thereof in "services," "church ceremonies" are not referred to as being that important in and of themselves, if not expendable, but, when not teaching or inferring error, are a matter of pedagogy, lovingly applied? Teaching the faith, without confusing/conflicting articles that lead the people away from the clear voice of the Good Shepherd. In the category of education, the traditional ceremonies, "in so far as" they agree with the whole Gospel, are good to keep, because they don't confuse the people, are familiar and culturally convenient. Was it not a pastoral concern for the people of the day, that they not be led astray from the true source of justification as primary, while concern for preserving unoffensive ceremonies a matter of casuistry? Cememonies do not save, although the general populace seems rather easily convinced that they do when ceremonies are given undue importance by the leaders or when they are not understood for what they are. Isn't it a matter of pedagogical technique or lack thereof when ceremonies teach unintended content? Isn't the method/mode chosen to teach as much a matter of the culture of the students? Meanwhile, isn't it more important and fruitful for the mission of the church to focus on 'what' is taught in gatherings of believers in any particular culture than to be concerned with controlling 'how'? Is imposing or even promoting a top-down uniformity of "worship" ceremonies part of a corporate identity crisis? I happen to like liturgy and good music matched with orthodox words. Study music history and you realize that the basic ability to make and understand western music has evolved. The western "ear" has evolved as music has "progressed" from the days of little or no harmony to the aural explosion of today. For the people out there, what is the message intended by the church through ceremonies today? Have the "ears" of the church changed since 1580? 30 AD? Just a lot of questions.

John Mark Hopmann M.div,CSL 1980

William Weedon said...

What is interesting is that this is a doctrinal article. It is not among the abuses being corrected. It states that our churches TEACH that ceremonies are to be kept within the stated parameters. DO we teach this? If not, why not? In other words, can our parishes reach the point of simply reading the words of the AC and saying: "That's who we confess ourselves to be, so let's be it!"

Paul T. McCain said...

Here is the Roman Confutation of Article XV of the Augsburg Confession, a remarkably stark assertion against the Gospel.

In the fifteenth article their confession that such ecclesiastical rites are to be observed as may be observed without sin, and are profitable for tranquility and good order in the Church, is accepted, and they must be admonished that the princes and cities see to it that the ecclesiastical rites of the Church universal be observed in their dominions and districts, as well as those which have been kept devoutly and religiously in every province even to us, and if any of these have been intermitted that they restore them, and arrange, determine and effectually enjoin upon their subjects that all things be done in their churches according to the ancient form. Nevertheless, the appendix to this article must be entirely removed, since it is false that human ordinances instituted to propitiate God and make satisfactions for sins are opposed to the Gospel, as will be more amply declared hereafter concerning vows, the choice of food and the like.

William Weedon said...

Pastor McCain,

It almost staggers the mind, doesn't it? But such is what they were up against.

Most helpful, then, is how this article operates - to slip into Nagelese - "in the way of the Gospel." That is, the question is not: "Do we have the RIGHT to change the old ceremonies?" Or even "who has the right to change the old ceremonies?" Instead, the Gospel formulation is: we keep that which is in service to the Gospel, and that which is done away with in human ceremonies is simply whatever opposes that Gospel - anything instituted to be a substitute for the One and Only Substitute, our Lord Jesus Christ.

It is in the way of the Gospel that God's gifts to his Church didn't cease with the death of St. John the Divine. And thus the Lutheran looks at the vast liturgical treasury of the Church with joy and delight and recognizes it as a gift of God indeed, but a gift which is not entirely of even quality.

If St. Paul could in 1 Cor. 3 speak of how some built upon the apostolic foundation as with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay or straw, so also we can see their equivalent in the whole ceremonial life of the Church. To recognize that some of the ceremonies are wood, hay, or straw and to insist that we lose nothing by tossing them is not the same as throwing away the gold, silver and precious stones in the name of "adiaphora." This article provides a defense against such an approach with its "our churches TEACH."

Rev. Rod Zwonitzer said...

How cool would it be to have a "mini-Formula of Concord" discussion of this topic?

It happened, here in Michigan for three years! Eight LCMS pastors, four of the Confessional bent and four of the Church Growth persuasion met and discussed the topic: Worship, Liturgy and Adiaphora for three years. It culminated in the written presentation of confessions on the topic using only the Scriptures and Book of Concord as authoritative sources.

What was tragic is that the original goal of publishing these humble efforts so that the rest of synod would have them as possible jumping off points was denied at the very end.

As a participant, the summary difference I took away was that both sides were polarized in their view of what a synod is. One felt that it was about walking together in agreed upon rites and ceremonies, while the other objected strongly believing each pastor and congregation had considerable freedoms to do their own local thing.

So, my mentioning this is to ponder what good this does in isolation from such discussion with the other side?

Is it not our curse that their is no vialbe channel or mechanism in "official synodom" to do this?

Where do we ever slug it out using Sola Scriptura as our banner?

Lord have mercy!

Paul Gregory Alms said...

Here is a bit of an article by Dr. Arthur Just on culture and liturgy that I posted on my blog.

Kinda pertains to this discussion. The whole article is here:

Many people today are driving an artificial wedge between those who want to maintain a traditional form of Lutheran liturgy and those who want liturgy to speak to this day and age. These concerns are not mutually exclusive. There are some who desire a nostalgic 16th century liturgy and could care less whether it speaks to today's world. There are also some who want to discard everything Lutheran in favor of an American Protestant liturgy. The majority of us, however, want Lutheran liturgy in a modern context. The issue is not traditional liturgy on the one hand, and contemporary liturgy on the other. Rather, the question is how Lutheran liturgy is both ancient and contemporary, and how to best proclaim that to this generation. In recent times too much of our liturgy has been given away to a culture that is hostile and antithetical to Lutheran theology. The reason for this loss is not what many people think it is-there is no great malevolence here, no crazed society for the death of the liturgy. These are sincere pastors who want to save souls by appealing to people in a way that won't "turn them off."

Bryce P Wandrey said...

In the LCMS, uniformity of practice can essentially break down into two groups: the conservatives who maintain the 'historic' liturgy and the liberals who change the liturgy (or discard it completely) in order to be more 'contemporary'.

While this will seem like a 'devil's advocate' type question, I sincerely ask: Why do we allow Martin Luther to take the 'historic' liturgy and completely and seemingly for all time get rid of very ancient and historic things like the eucharistic prayer and the epiclesis? Yes, he does so via his own principle of "clarity of the gospel" but in so doing, did he not set himself up as the sole judge of what the "clarity of the gospel" would be in the liturgy? Could the pastor who changes the liturgy be (as in Just's article) doing so for means of hopefully conveying the gospel more clearly? In other words, why is Luther allowed to change the liturgy quite signicantly but we do not allow someone else, now in our day, to make his own quite autonomous changes? And why would the principle, that some use (maybe even Luther), that getting more ancient, recovering a rite that was used in the 1st or 2nd century, be a better principle than allowing the liturgy to develop?

Joel R. Baseley said...

Walther makes the folowing comment in his address to Synod in 1866 (Brosamen p. 537)

As we, with Luther and the ancient Lutheran church, would not allow our conscience to be bound to any human church order, in our new situation in this place, freely choosing an appropriate ordination and altogether standing upon our freedom in those matters neither commanded nor forbidden by God, in all so-called adiaphora (Mitteldingen), so the one crowd charged us with being against all discipline and order, being a ‘bubble of liberty’ and lovers of innovation. But as we, at the same time, retained tried and true, ancient, edifying customs and ceremonies, which inform our faith against heresies, and would not allow that to be called a sin, so the second group charged us as being on the road to Rome.

-end quote-

Walther maintains the freedom of conscience in regards to ceremony and maintains the proper use of such freedom. When what is good (historical liturgy) is called sin/wrong/impotent/not efficacious; Christian liberty is off. Do not let your good be called evil (Romans 14.16)

William Weedon said...


I think it would be a mistake to read the history as though Luther made the decision on that matter and that was the end of it. Although Lutheran Church orders in Germany tended to conform to his suggestion regarding the canon in DM, they did so freely and not just because he did so. The Church of Sweden followed a different course (more in line with Luther's FM suggestion but retaining a prayer of thanksgiving enclosing the Verba). No one cried out: "That's unLutheran! Can't do that!"

Also, we see among the Ukrainian Lutherans where Jay served for some time the use of a slightly modified form of the anaphora of St. John Chrysostom. It's purely Lutheran, of course.

Chemnitz, I believe, nailed then he pointed out in the Examen (vol. 2, pp. 514-515):

Therefore that they want to compel the churches to recite the papalist canon as something necessary, as though the consecration and Communion of the Eucharist could not be done without this canon, is done outside of and contrary to the opinion of antiquity. And our churches are unjustly condemned because in the celebration of the Lord's Supper they, as did the ancients, freely use prayer formulas which are in harmony with the faith and because they accord with the nature of our times and make for the edification of the church, in which nevertheless the essential things are comprehended which were customary in the prayers of the ancients.

That's a very curious paragraph. I can only assume that by "prayer forms" Chemnitz has reference not only to the Verba and Our Father, but also to the long exhortations. These were addressed to the people, but spoken in full knowledge of being "coram Deo." And if you compare them with the ancient anaphorae, the result is rather startling! They DO have incredible overlap.

Interesting to me is that nowhere does Chemnitz argue that we do what we do at that point of the Eucharist BECAUSE that's how Dr. Luther said to do it. The entirely early Lutheran communities seemed united in their objection to the canon of the mass because of its doctrinal content rather than its liturgical form; the argument about liturgical form does not appear, I believe, until the 20th century. I don't think Luther would have even conceived of such a thing.

Paul T. McCain said...

I have had to decline to post several recent comments submitted here, and I would like to explain why.

A gentle reminder to our readers. This blog site is devoted to a discussion of the Lutheran Confessions. Therefore, we wish to refrain from getting too involved in any particular Lutheran church's or Synod's issues and parochial concerns, politics, factions and debates over new hymnals, etc.

And, please keep in mind that we will not be engaging in personal attacks and other such rhetoric here. Unfortunately, that is the "name of the game" on other Lutheran discussion boards, but here we wish to focus on the meaning of the Lutheran Confessions.

I fully appreciate that when we feel strongly about things we will speak strongly, but ... let's do our collective best to keep our conversation calm, deliberate, collegial and to the point.

Thanks for everyone's understanding, cooperation and continued excellent participation and contributions to this blog site.

William Weedon said...

To pick up on William C's earlier comment about lex ordandi/lex credendi:

I think it is true that there's a difference in how the question was approached between Anglicans and Lutheran's and it is amazing how the difference played out. Lutherans did not insist on a unified Lex ordandi, trusting that IF the Lex credendi was healthy and sound, the Lex ordandi would follow suit on its own. And I think you can see how it did indeed - for centuries.

But the Anglican approach, in a sense, proves the Lutheran fear: a united lex orandi by itself cannot and does not preserve a sound lex credendi.

IF that's so, then all the afflictions that have come upon us Lutherans in recent years are not to be fixed by addressing perceived difficulties in the lex orandi. Instead, we need to note that trouble in the lex orandi is symptomatic of corruption in the lex credendi and turn our attention to that place and address matters of how the Gospel is being preached in our parishes. THERE'S the cause of the mess in the Mass. And only by addressing such matters in that way, can the "worship wars" come to an end in a way that is NOT Romanist (fiat from on high) or Protestant ("each man did what was right in his own eyes").

Paul T. McCain said...

My feeling is that a major problem we face is that we have, to a great extent, collectively, lost our understanding of just how valuable it is to be united in *both* doctrine *and* practice, precisely for the sake of mission and outreach with the Gospel.

Bryce P Wandrey said...

First of all, I doubt we can really discard the Anglican ideal (or anyone esle who tries to maintin the balance) of lex orandi as being ineffective in preserving unity of doctrine. Just like we would not want to disard the Lutheran ideal of lex credendi because it as well cannot preserve unity of doctrine. One could ask, per se, concerning the office of Ministry: How as the Lutheran approach to theology via lex credendi preserved the understanding of a rightly ordered ministry compared to the Anglican approach via lex orandi? I guess one would have to choose which they think is a worse (or less ordered) offense to a proper ordering: ordained women (Anglicanism) or 'pseudo'-laypeople (Lutheranism) administering the sacraments.

Secondly, Rev. Weedon: I admit you have given a fine historical example of how Luther's reform of the Mass was either carried out or not in specific contexts for varied reasons. Obviously Luther's reform was very influential, in varying degrees, upon churches that followed his reformation lead. Lutheran's look to Luther for guidance and help in these areas, do they not?

As a result I would like to get more at the principle of liturgical reform. If Martin Luther can decide that certain parts of the Mass are a hindrance to the clear proclamation of the gospel, then why can't I? Even if my reforms of the Mass go no further than my congregation, aren't they valid reforms according to the precedence that Luther has set (maybe only if they stay true to the reforming principle, which is another discussion?)?

p.s. Consequent to this we could talk in detail about Luther's own reforming principle (clarity of gospel), but I would first like to explore the principle of liturgical reform itself.

William Weedon said...


About the Anglican ideal, from the get-to it was NOT about preserving unity of doctrine, but unity of practice. When the act of uniformity was decreed, it was stressed that there would be no inquiry into what people actually believed, provided they just DID the service from Common Prayer. Anglicanism, it seems to me, has historically prided itself on not inquiring too closely into lex credendi. One can be a good Anglican and consider the Eucharist a memorial meal in which one spiritually eats of Christ alone by faith; a meal in which Christ gives to all His true body and blood under the forms of bread and wine; a meal in which the bread and wine have ceased to be bread and wine become Christ's body and blood. Lewis was very much an Anglican when he said: "After all, our Lord said take and eat, not take and understand."

The laity administering the Sacrament is simply wrong and should be stated so without equivocation. It may be practiced in Lutheran Churches, but such a practice is inherently UNLutheran and vitiates AC XIV.

Moving on, I think that if you could show parts of the mass to be hindrance to the Gospel to the churches, then you'd be able to suggest similarly - for surely whatever gets in the way of our Blessed Lord dishing out His life-giving gifts to His people not only may, but should be, dispensed with. Still it is worth remembering that Luther's orders were never adopted by any Lutheran Church and the Church Orders that were adopted vary in differing degrees from his own proposals. That's a good way to view his work, I think, it was a liturgical proposal.

Do Lutherans look to Luther for liturgical guidance? Well, sometimes and sometimes not as just indicated. Most Lutherans, I believe, still dispense with Alleluia during Lent, but we know Luther was not in favor of that. Historically, the Lutherans observed all sorts of saints days and festivals that Luther preferred to go bye-bye. Luther would have been appalled at the thought of no Latin mass anymore at all, but we take it for granted that the vernacular is the way to go.

AC XV anchors ceremonial reform in the richness of the church's liturgical treasury, and Luther showed this more by his actions (maybe) than his words. There was that which was not up for grabs: that which is "of the Lord." "Ceremony" tends to be the word for our response to the Lord's gifts. And here there are more than one kind: we have responses that are gems. Te Deum Laudamus! Sitting at its heart is the sola fide: "When thou hadst overcome the sharpness of death, thou didst open the kingdom of heaven to all believers." Even the canon of the mass itself was not utterly devoid of them: "not weighing our merits, but pardoning our offenses." But there were some problematic ceremonies, at least as they were being HEARD in Luther's day (see Ratzinger's *The Spirit of the Liturgy* for an excellent discussion about whether what was heard was in fact what was intended by the original formulators of the text and the earlier church's use of them). And Luther suggested cutting the offending stuff out.

And that by itself is rather different from the Anglican approach: they rewrote the offending canon, for example, into that lovely eucharistic prayer. But Luther just crossed out what was problematic (at least in FM) - drawing a black line through it, if you will, from Te igitur all the way to the Qui Pridie. I think the best way to understand FM is that it is instructions on how to use the Roman Missal in an evangelical manner. Rather than rewriting the Missal!

I'm all over the place in this response, but I hope it makes a modicum of sense. I'd like to hear your further thoughts.

Paul T. McCain said...

Also, it is very important for us to keep in mind that Luther did not go about making changes willy-nilly. He was not flying solo here, nor behaving as a free agent. It was not akin to what happens with Pastor A leaves and Pastor B comes and in a month a congregation suddenly sets up PowerPoint screens and puts a praise band in the chancel.

Luther's reforms were *painfully* slow to those who wanted him to move much, much more quickly.

Goodness, this is the man who continued to wear his monastic clothing until 1523 or so, for nearly six years after he posted his theses and a couple years after he had been tossed out of the Roman Church!

Any changes that were made at St. Mary's in Wittenberg were done in a very collegial manner. It took years to get things changed at the Castle Church just a few hundred yards away from the city church.

Luther did not simply "up and change" things, but all reforms were extremely slow, deliberate and very, very carefully and patiently done over years, not a few months.

And no Lutheran congregation in Saxony would have thought of "doing things differently" since they had a much higher sense of Church as more than atomistic congregations just voluntarily banded together, but free agents to do whatever they want to do without regard for other congregations in their fellowship.

Carlstadt did try to pursue a more radical method of change and Luther had to come back from his exile at the Wartburg Castle where he was under protective custody to set things right after Carlstadt went

William Weedon said...

Very good and important points, Paul. In fact, pointing us to Luther's famous Invocavit sermons is very helpful to understanding this article. There were those who wanted change in the way of the law: this is the right way to do things, darn it all, and so it will be done! That was Karlstadt's method. Luther saw it for what it was: a new papacy! He knew that the problem was never just the external form but the attachment of the heart. His solution was similar to the story in 1 Samuel about Dagon. You want the idol to tumble? You don't tear it down. You bring in the ark of the living God and let it do the idol demolition for you. And what is the Ark but the saving Gospel which bears to us God Himself?

Luke said...

Pr. McCain writes: "And no Lutheran congregation in Saxony would have thought of "doing things differently" since they had a much higher sense of Church as more than atomistic congregations just voluntarily banded together, but free agents to do whatever they want to do without regard for other congregations in their fellowship."

This is an interesting point to pursue among The LC-MS and the article on ceremonies. I wonder if our Synod's doctrine of the Church and history contributes to the inability to act as the Continental Lutheran Churches did.

Lutheranism in America is a strange, strange amalgam of all sorts of practices in worship, since we are not a continuation of one Church from Europe. And I believe that this hinders the agreement on ceremony, especially when we place all the "rights" of the Church in a congregation. When each minister serves as "Bishop of X," it's difficult to tell him that he can't decide for his "diocese" what ceremonies will be done.

I believe Pr. McCain is right about Saxon churches acting similarly, but wrong about the reason. I don't think it's because of a higher sense of Church. True, no Lutheran congregation in Saxony would have thought of "doing things differently," since the superintendent could come down to the parish and enforce the established ordo. In a congregational-synodical form of polity, that is nearing impossibility.

It's not like a Saxon congregation who wanted to have morality plays for sermons or large placards up front for people to read during service could have done so without raising the ire of the superintendent. Nor could they go off to the "Free Saxon Lutheran Synod," since the Elector likely would have something to say about that. And besides, not everyone in Saxony was doing the same things as Pomerania, Sweden, Denmark, Hanover, Nuremberg, etc.--even though they were all in "fellowship" with them as Lutherans. I think that the rule of the left-hand in Church polity enforced the unity much more than the right-hand of Gospel proclamation.

But I might just be wrong........

Pr. Luke Zimmerman

William Weedon said...


I suspect it was not an either/or. They certainly had no problem with Church law being enforced in their territories by civil authorities. But I suspect that acquiesced to this because they didn't understand themselves atomistically, as Paul pointed out.

And thus the entire title of Walther's "proper form of a Christian congregation" assumes a monumental importance which is not usually recognized. I am paraphrasing because citing from memory (dangerous at my age!) but it runs something like:

"What might be the proper form of a Christian congregation when the state is no longer at hand to arrange things?"

Perhaps William C. will remember the whole title for us?

Frank Sonnek said...

I would like to post a comment as a layman who first was raised in the Wisconsin Synod and then attended a liturgical LC-MS congretation cared for by a pastor well known and respected by this group.

In the Wisconsin Synod, there was the unspoken thought that organizational control over the form and content of the vehicles for doctrine would ensure orthodoxy and "doctrinal purity" What this ended up looking like to me was not requiring pastors or laymen to actually think about things. there was a prescribed form and way to do everything. The WELS is exceedingly uniform. But now there are some WELS pastors talking regularly to very liturgical and confessional LCMS pastors and being wholesomely influenced by them. I was pleased in this context to see a Lutheran pastor at a WELS church embrace vestments and every sunday communion etc. THEN he informed me that the altar was not furniture so flowers had no place there, among other rather legalistic concepts about christmas trees in the church etc...... It seems in a way the doctrinal turmoil of the 70s in the LCMS turned out to be in part a blessing because it forced pastors and laity, or at least some of them to have to think about the "why" of everything. It was no surprise then that every sunday i attended his church, the sermon was centered on the 3rd use of the law.

Finally the Holy Liturgy is about Jesus Christ. "true worship is faith in Jesus Christ."

Let me comment further starting with something that seems out of context here. Bear with me please...

I am an IT professional who started with computers before windows and macs. every program had its own user interface. nothing at all was standardized. then... along came windows.

I read endless articles about how standardizing the user interface would stifle creativity. Quite the opposite turned out to be true in fact! Setting the basic menu options for file/edit/help and basic key movements in fact liberated programmers to focus on stuff that really mattered and it allowed users like me to learn that stuff once and not be distracted by it. I could then focus on the the stuff that i was using the program to accomplish.

It seems like a uniform liturgy is in some ways the same sort of deal. the pastor and laity have the basic stuff set and memorized. no distracting search for the right page number in the hymnal or worse following an ever changing order of service in the service bulletin. and better that memorized liturgy finds inself in my daily prayers and devotional structure for the rest of the week and in those times that I need to explain my faith to others. And the pastor is free to focus on the cool stuff in his sermon and the music and other stuff. The sermon part should of course be easy. EVERY sunday it should be ALL about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus for the redemption of the cosmos. You Lutheran pastors have it so easy!!!! but some of you insist on having it otherwise... ok.

Finally, sometimes, even with my confessional pastor, I saw that rather than posturing as the custodian of a treasure that belonged to everyone, he felt that it was his office and position to decide when to depart from the order. Usually quality in the form of his usually radical christo-reductionism (everything reduced to being only and ALL about Jesus. Hey I think i just coined a phrase that I like better than "christocentric!") , suffered noticably. Mothers' day sermons come to mind....

You men set a certain attitude and instruct us laymen and women by example.

So there it is. My departing point. IF the liturgy is to be changed and modernized and whatever. WHO gets to take on that authority? each pastor? the noisier members of the congregation nagging the pastor for not being "relevant enough?" If pastors are ordained by the church and not self appointed, does that not also circumscribe and instruct the limits of their authority to innovate and depart from seeking a unity with the church at large. This would include the Synod I think in that they should not ignore the other liturgical churches in developing a hymnal...If the nicene creed belongs to the church, should not each pastor and member tread with fear and trepidation at inserting even a hymn that paraphrases it?

Finally a practical note: I often bring potential members to church who have no religious background or a very non-liturgical background. it is EXTREMELY helpful to catechize those individuals if the pastor uses consistent forms week to week in those critical areas. So I can only agree (and do agree) in part with the comment about the creed spoken, chanted "OR replaced by some hymn"...

Yours in our common True worship.. our faith in Jesus Christ.

David Jay Webber said...

It is, I think, historically incorrect, and maybe even a bit anachronistic, to compare the collectivist/statist approach toward regulating external church life as experienced in the territorial churches of European Lutherandom to the circumstances of American Lutheranism. We should not try to shoehorn American Lutheranism into that State Church pattern. More in keeping with the facts of American Lutheran history, and more in keeping with the relationship that exists between church and state in the New World, would be a comparison of Lutheranism in the Netherlands in the 16th and 17th centuries with the modern American Lutheran experience.

Lutheranism in the Netherlands was unique in the period of the Reformation and afterwards, in that it existed as a tolerated confession under a government that was trying neither to destroy it nor to manage and control it in the interest of the state. The ecclesiology of Lutheranism in the Netherlands accordingly took on a strongly congregational shape. The various congregations understood themselves to be accountable to each other, but they related to each other in terms of fraternal cooperation, and not in terms of a mutual submission to a hierarchical ecclesiocratic authority. So, many of the kinds of decisions that were made at the territorial level in Germany - pertaining to things like church polity, church discipline, and liturgical practice - were made at the congregational level in the Netherlands.

This doesn't mean that there was a free-for-all, just because decisions were made locally. In most cases the smaller congregations followed the lead of the congregation in Amsterdam - which was, incidentally, for many decades the largest single Lutheran congregation in the world. But the tradition we have in America, whereby a synod is understood to be "advisory" in its relationship with its congregtations, has a legitimate Reformation-era basis in the Free-Church Lutheranism of the Netherlands. The State-Church Lutheranism of the German territories and the Scandinavian kingdoms does not work in America. The Swedish colony along the Delaware River found that out the hard way. Apart from this failed experiment in transplanting Old World Lutheran structures to the New World, the other Lutherans who immigrated at various times adapted themselves to the Dutch-style of Lutheran church government that they found in America when they arrived - originally established by the Lutherans in the New Netherland/New York colony in the 17th century. Those who may want to read up a bit more on these matters can take a look at this:

Such a "bottom-up" approach makes for a messy and difficult situation, of course. It's easier to issue a decree from a centralized ecclesial authority saying that the Liturgy will be conducted in such a such a manner in all the churches, and that this or that set of ceremonies will be used. Our task in America, which requires us to persuade weak and misguided congregations to do the right thing, is a more challenging task. But for good or for ill it is the task we have.

At a certain point, of course, a congregation that turns its back on Lutheran practice will also turn its back on Lutheran doctrine. It's inevitable. And at that time, such a congregation should be ecclesially disfellowshipped from its synod - if its synod has remained orthodox. I do believe that much of the "con temporary" craze has already carried many a congregation across that line, and that these congregations have become discernibly heterodox in faith and practice and not just boorish and uncultured in their ceremonial and liturgical life. But within the kind of parameters that Luther layed out in the writings from which I previously quoted, I think we do need to recognize the necessity of being willing to tolerate a certain level of diversity in ceremonies from congregation to congregation, even within one particular synod. What the Lutherans of Germany and Scandinavia were willing to tolerate from territory to territory or from country to country while still remaining in fellowship with each other, we need to be willing to tolerate from congregation to congregation. By the same token, what the Lutheran churches of Germany and Scandinavia were not willing to tolerate from territory to territory (at least during the time when Lutheran Orthodoxy prevailed) - namely blatant departures from the Lutheran Confession - likewise should not be tolerated from congregation to congregation today.

wm cwirla said...

"What the Lutherans of Germany and Scandinavia were willing to tolerate from territory to territory or from country to country while still remaining in fellowship with each other, we need to be willing to tolerate from congregation to congregation. By the same token, what the Lutheran churches of Germany and Scandinavia were not willing to tolerate from territory to territory (at least during the time when Lutheran Orthodoxy prevailed) - namely blatant departures from the Lutheran Confession - likewise should not be tolerated from congregation to congregation today."

I think this is an excellent point. Rober Farrar Capon, from an entirely different perspective, in his book "The Astonished Heart," makes a similar point about American denominationalism attempting to mimic the state church models of Europe (and failing in America). He likewise cites the Netherlands of the period David suggests, as a good example of an institutional model that could work in America.

The word "diversity" is the crux here. If we are looking at a variety of ways of doing the same rite, I don't think we have a problem. Those who want rigid uniformity fear a "slippery slope," while those who want diversity without norms recognize no slope at all. The diversity slope need not be slippery, given a healthy ability to correct missteps along the way. This is where good ecclesiastical supervision would be helpful in maintaining liberty while at the same time providing some traction against license to do whatever is right in our own eyes.

Ultimately, liturgical discipline begins with the shaping of the clergy's piety. If our pastors are a-liturgical, we should not be surprised that our churches are. The Reformers were clearly shaped by the liturgy, without being enslaved by it.

Paul T. McCain said...

Weedon posted this on his blog. He should have posted it here too. I'll do it for him.

What little fare we settle for! I was reading in Martin Chemnitz’ Examen today his description of Church life in Braunschweig, where he served as the Superintendent (or Bishop). He speaks of DAILY matins and vespers in the churches (with sermons - yup, count them up: preaching sermons in the parishes in the number of 15 a week minimum - hey, with that much practice I might finally learn how to do it!). He specifically mentions at these services that “a number of psalms” are chanted and that readings are distributed “in an orderly manner” from the Old (usually at Matins) and the New Testament (usually at Vespers).

He speaks of the people gathering in larger numbers for the praying of litanies on certain week days.

He speaks of a multitude of people assembling on Sundays “with great regularity to sing the praises of the Lord, to hear and meditate upon the Word, for use of the sacraments, for public prayers, and for the gathering of alms…”

He clearly implies not only Vespers on Saturday and Matins on Sunday morning with the Chief Service, but also Vespers on Sunday afternoon.

And he speaks of celebrating with great devotion “solemn festivals about the chief benefits of Christ, and of the principle points of the heavenly doctrine.” He speaks of the three-day celebrations of the Nativity (and implies the three day celebrations of Easter and Pentecost); Circumcision; Epiphany; Purification; Baptism of our Lord; Annunciation of Mary; Maundy Thursday; Good Friday; Resurrection; Ascension; Pentecost; Nativity of the Baptist; Visitation of the Virgin; Michaelmas.

He mentions the 40 days of Lent and the setting aside of the four sets of ember days for “the customary treatment of the Catechism.”

He mentions the blessing of the set readings for all these occasions.

Thus, he can say: “With the superstitions removed, the true and useful festivals of the ancient church are celebrated among us for church gatherings, and with such devotion and peity that there is no doubt that under the blessing of God piety is kindled and increased, since the people are taught that the Holy Spirit wants to be efficacious through the ministry of Word and Sacrament, and that Christ wants to be in the midst of those who are gathered together in His name.”

I read through it and think: that’s a tall mountain to climb, but would it not be a joyous one?

Bryan Gerlach said...

Much of this discussion has revolved around bedrock theological principles and the basic form of the liturgy. That is good, especially in corners of Lutheranism where there is confusion about the bedrock.

But I submit that some dissatisfaction about worship comes from an unimaginative use of solid Lutheran worship forms.

Wm Cwirla wrote (May 18, 10:21am):
"If we are looking at a variety of ways of doing the same rite, I don't think we have a problem."

Paul McCain wrote (May 17, 1:21pm):
"Pastor A leaves and Pastor B comes and in a month a congregation suddenly sets up PowerPoint screens and puts a praise band in the chancel...."

This reflects the all-too-common perception that there are two options available: traditional liturgical and contemporary. And "traditional liturgical" in many implementations means "hymnal and organ only" without variety in the (musical settings of) canticles. LSB, with its multiple settings of Divine Service, is helpful in this regard.

LSB is closer to historic Lutheran practice in the 17th to 18th centuries than to what many did with TLH in the mid 20th century - and what many have done with more recent Lutheran hymnals.

Here's an excerpt from a Q&A at the WELS website that relates to the point above.
----- begin quote

Since there are many styles of music appropriate for worship, it's unfortunate when some talk about "traditional" and "contemporary" as if there are only two options available to us. Churches that have pursued greater variety may in some services use only piano (with optional guitar, hand percussion, wind instruments) while relying on the organ in other services. Or they may regularly make greater use of piano and other instruments in a service that still uses the organ for some songs. For example, the piano might play music during the offering or communion distribution, as well as accompanying choir or soloist and some hymns or psalms.

. . . equal energy and creativity should be applied to enriching so-called "traditional worship." There is a common phenomenon among some churches eager for variety or change: they devise a new/contemporary/blended worship strategy and pour tons of creative energy into that service - while leaving the "traditional" service to languish in the uncreative patterns that contributed to a desire for something new in the first place.

In some denominations one can find congregations with a contemporary service led by a dedicated "praise band" of several competent musicians, highly motivated, practicing diligently. Then at the "traditional" service there is the lone organist who, according to an all-too-common expectation for that role, plays relatively simple (uninteresting) music. And she plays alone, without any other instruments.

How would people perceive the traditional service if the same number of highly motivated musicians as found in the "praise band" contributed their skills on a regular basis? Imagine such a service with: a qualified organist; regular use of song leader or choir; trumpet descants on some hymns; occasional brass quartet; piano, flutes, guitar, and hand percussion on the psalm and another hymn; and other combinations of various instruments regularly accompanying choir selections and playing service music.

A lot of work? Sure. But God's praise and his people certainly deserve it.


---end quote

Paul T. McCain said...

I appreciate Rev. Gerlach's remarks.

Daniel Zaeger has done wonderful work in helping us understand that the great Lutheran chorales of the 16th and 17th centuries were *never-ever* intended to be sung according to the dirge-like blight that infested them when isometric singing took hold, thanks to Pietistic notions that it wold be best to sing the great hymns S L O W L Y and with the S A M E rhythm for E V E R Y syllable. The great chorales were written and composed to be sung in a lively and animated fashion and played that way as well. There is nothing tedious, dull and boring about Lutheran liturgy done well.

I'm afraid that many of us Lutherans have a done a great job of giving the impression that the only difference between Lutheran Sunday morning worship services and funerals is simply that there is no corpse present on Sunday mornings, but even that point would be debated by those who are forced to grind through listless recitations of the liturgy and stoic sermon deliveries.

Anyone who has had the honor and privilege of standing with four or five hundred other men singing their lungs out during the Divine Service at Kramer Chapel on the campus of Concordia Theological Seminary will know that boring, lifeless and bland are not qualities that distinguish Lutheran Orthodox worship forms from others. Just the opposite, in fact.

Paul T. McCain said...

Appropriate to this discussion, I believe, are these observations I gleaned from a fascinating book.

Thanks to a new colleague here at Concordia Publishing House, Josh, for sharing with me his copy of an utterly fascinating book titled, The New Faithful: Why Young Adults are Embracing Christian Orthodoxy. Here is but one small "clip" from the book, which is filled with tremendously useful and important information. By the way, according to Wikipedia, I'm both a "Boomer" and a "Gen-X-er" depending on how you define either category. Actually, a trailer Boomer and a leading-edge Xer. I can see this reality from both angles. Consider this important statement in the book, which every survey done of people who are in their twenties and thirties reveals to be true, a fact that, tragically, far too many "boomers" in their fifties and sixties, frankly those in key leadership roles in many churches, simply either do not understand, or do not want to understand. To the extent that we either do not know this, or refuse to believe it, we condemn our Lutheran church to a slow, painful and lingering decline.


Despite their generation's famous distrust of institutions and their parents' conspicuous quest for feel-good theology, many young adults are flocking to churches that preach conventional morality and employ traditional worship. Young adults who are disenchanted with the moral relativism and materialism that saturate popular culture--and many American churches--may find viscerally attracted to the very aspects of Christianity that their parents' generation rejected. Churches that demand sacrifice and celebrate tradition often appeal to world-weary young adults.

"Generations X and Y have watched the parental seeking [of baby boomers] and don't have the same set of questions," said Phyllis Tickle, a contributing editor at Publishers' Weekly and national commentator on religion and spirituality. "They want to go to a spirituality that's rooted in tradition."

Tickle, who left Presbyterianism in college to be come an Episcopalian, has edited and written dozens of books, including a trilogy of best-selling prayer manuals based On the he sixth-century Benedictine Rule of fixed-hour prayer. Though she sees a split in the the American consciousness between religion, spirituality, and morality--with many Americans now identifying themselves as 'spiritual but not religious,' for instance--she predicts that tide may turn with the next generation. For the past four or five years, Tickle said, she and her peers in the book business have been expecting to see a shift from generic and New Age spirituality to tradition. [McCain: And that shift has happened!]. A 2000 Gallup youth survey confirmed that change, Tickle said, when it found that teenagers identified most strongly as "religious" (55%), instead of "spiritual but not religious" (39%) or "religious and spiritual" (2%).

"That's a major shift," said Tickle, who expects to see morality eventually reunited with spirituality and religion. "It had to come." . . . .

For nearly all of these young orthodox believers, a good church gives them the fullness of the gospel and worship experience that connects them to the mystery of God's presence.

The primary cravings of young orthodox Christians in America--for tough time-tested teachings and worship imbued with mystery and a sense of the transcendent--are often the result of deficiencies in their childhood spiritual diet. Those raised in mainline Protestant and Catholic churches typically complain that their faith formation consisted of vague platitudes abut tolerance and love, not the "hard Gospel" of sin and salvation. They recall church leaders so absorbed with chic social causes that they filed to lay the faith foundations for their service work. In evangelical circles, young adults often recall many sermons on personal salvation but few discussions of how Christians should treat the poor, engage the culture, or learn from Christian history and tradition. They complain of pastors focused more on winning converts than helping converts live out their Christian faith and of worship more interested in entertaining the congregation than encouraging reverence for God.

Many evangelicals -- including many children of former Catholics and mainline Protestants -- are drifting back toward those liturgical churches in a quest for historical Christianity. Others remain committed to evangelical Christianity but devoted to engaging -- not ignoring or retreating from -- popular culture and church tradition. . . . .

The trend toward tradition and mystery in worship transcends denominational lines. Magazines such as Christianity Today and FaithWorks have run major features on the attraction of evangelical and Low-Church Protestants to traditional devotions and liturgical worship.

End quote

The New Faithful: Why Young Adults are Embracing Christian Orthodoxy
(Loyola Press, 2002), pg. 60-64).

Bryan Gerlach said...

Paul McCain wrote:
“... an utterly fascinating book titled, The New Faithful: Why Young Adults are Embracing Christian Orthodoxy.”

Here’s another good comment.

<< Tom Beaudoin, a leading voice for understanding younger generations in the church, has cautioned against attracting people to the gospel by appealing to their personal tastes. "The church always goes wrong when it tries to appear cool. It never goes wrong when it tries to attend to people's deepest thirst." … "I find most Gen-Xers suspicious when the church comes too closely to resemble what they're doing in their secular lives." >>

The source, an article from Lutheran Leader, also mentions The New Faithful.
Comfortable or Compelling?

McCain again:
“Daniel Zaeger has done wonderful work in helping us understand that the great Lutheran chorales of the 16th and 17th centuries were *never-ever* intended to be sung according to the dirge-like blight….”

Focusing again on liturgy (which includes hymns), here is some input on early Lutheran practice to illustrate liturgical/musical variety. If today’s Lutherans would follow a 21st century implementation of early Lutheran practice, would we see less ‘worship wars’ among Lutherans?

---begin quote

To study how the Lutherans understood and implemented worship principles, we have considered first some relevant citations from the Confessions. Next we looked at how confessional statements are reflected in the Kirchenordnungen. But the KOO still give us only rather bare outlines of early Lutheran worship. We can see the liturgical consistency from region to region as well as minor variations. This is like seeing a drawing of an ancient instrument. We know what it looks like, but we do not know much more; we do not know what it sounded like.

Fortunately, we are able to move beyond the KOO to the actual liturgical music publications and choir library inventories. Thus we have not only bare outlines of early Lutheran worship; we also have detailed information from the actual music used.

Our focus here is not so much ceremony, ritual, and rite but rather musical settings for the Lutheran mass. Ceremony, ritual, and rite from this era are worth further exploration, but we will focus now on the wealth of musical expression in Lutheran worship formed by the Confessions and guided by the KOO. This musical wealth is not unrelated to ceremony and rite. ...

We know from extant records and inventories that during the 17th century alone 151 Latin settings of the liturgy (mostly missa breve: just Kyrie, Gloria ) were published for use by German Lutheran choirs. Latin was preferred for the Kyrie and Gloria in cities, but German settings were also used. ...

From the many published collections as well as inventories of actual music held by various churches, we gain an impression of vigorous and dynamic variety. Certainly an unwavering use of TLH page 5/15 for two or three decades was not a 20th century application of historic Lutheran variety. …

When liturgical worship demonstrates variety and vitality, it might be judged more satisfying by more people. This satisfaction level might well remove some of the pressure for worship styles usually judged to be less Lutheran. Thus a strategy for variety and creativity within Lutheran parameters—which broadens and diversifies current "range of practice"—also promotes a creative unity within that range of practice. This increased satisfaction level also should be expected to have a positive impact on outreach and member retention. I mention this not as a sociological strategy to pursue for the sake of outreach or member retention but rather as a sort of apologetic to fortify confidence in Lutheran liturgical worship. (We make worship choices first on the basis of theology, not pragmatic sociology.)

---end quote. (I am happy to share the presentation from which this material is taken.)

For a recent application of liturgical variety principles, see an article by J. Kohrs:
"Eclectic Liturgical Music"

wm cwirla said...

"This reflects the all-too-common perception that there are two options available: traditional liturgical and contemporary."

This is likely a misunderstanding on my part, but I don't see how what I wrote regarding the diversity of ways in doing the same rite reflects the perception expressed above. The categories "traditional" and "contemporary" are false and misleading. The notion that worship in the "Lutheran tradition" consists of a hymnal and an organ is an unfortunate caricature. The Lutheran tradition is (or at least used to be) far more vital and creative than that!

I think it would be sufficient (satis est) if we could agree on a basic uniformity in ritual texts while allowing a diversity of ceremonial and setting around those texts. As a plant rooted in different soils grows somewhat differently, so the liturgy will have a different character depending on the cultural soil in which it is planted. But we should be able to recognize the liturgy.

I can envision anything from a 55-rank pipe organ to an orchestra to what we call a "band" delivering the ritual texts with reverence and awe. I have a personal preference for the a-capella voice, but then I betray my own tendencies.

William Weedon said...

Amen, William! Once and for all, let's be done with these useless terms: traditional and contemporary. I'd suggest instead liturgical and nonliturgical. Liturgical denotes that which is rooted in and grows out of the Church's historic pattern of worship. Nonliturgical refers to that which has no rootedness in that historic pattern. Nagel once used the analogy of a "bush." The liturgy is like that. It grows. It's living. And sometimes - like most any bush - it needs a haircut. But there's a difference between that which grows out of the bush and that which is offered in substitution for it. Justin Martyr's description is readily apparent in the ordered action of Lutheran liturgical worship; in nonliturgical worship, "not so much."

wm cwirla said...

An afterthought:

A lot of "dirge-like" funerial liturgy flow out of poor liturgical practice on the part of our presiders. (The pastor as funeral director with his funeral parlor organist.) While 500 seminarians in Kraemer Chapel is certainly a spine-tingling experience, it is not the way of our humble parish in the suburban ghetto of Los Angeles. The key is knowing the difference and adjusting the expectations. Presiding has a certain fatherly playfulness to it that combines the formality of rite with the informality of pastoral fatherhood. (We tend to fall off the road into one ditch or the other.)

A very helpful book on the art of presiding and the handling of ritual is "Strong, Loving, and Wise" by Robert W. Hovda. The adjectives pretty much tell the story.

William Weedon said...

I was years in the parish before I realized that wherever I was, wherever I went, I was trying to recreate my home congregation: the Lutheran Church of St. Andrew in Silver Spring, MD. When I was growing up there, the worship was really incredible. Oh, it had some hiccups. We regularly prayed Matins with no Psalmody other than the Venite, and in the Eucharist we went from the General Prayer to the Our Father to the Verba. But the rest of the liturgy was largely intact and the music - well, it was simply shockingly good. Week after week, Dave Stechholz (now English District President) and then Karl Bachman (now in Hawaii) served up glorious organ music. Ann Cockrell would play flute music that would bring tears to your eyes. The Adult Choir usually processed in, vested and belting out the entrance hymn, and they invariably had a beautiful blend. There were lay readers who knew how to READ and read well: I remember especially readings by Carol Petzold (now a MD state senator) and Robert Wessel. The Gospel was often read from the center aisle and George Lobien knew how to deliver solid and beautiful Law/Gospel homilies week in and week out. The Eucharist was available each Sunday, but you had to chase it around. Anyway, it was a really vibrant and wonderful experience.

But it belongs in the suburbs of the nation's capital and not in the cornfields of Southern Illinois. Here things are different. Not that we should ever settle for the funereal dirges! We use bells and organ and timpani and flute and trumpets and all sorts of things here too. But the feel is totally different because the people are quite different.

It took me a long time to stop trying to make the one into the other. I *think* I've learned now. I wonder if others do a similar thing, trying to recreate a Zion Detroit or a Redeemer Fort Wayne.

Paul T. McCain said...

Put me down too as one who eschews, despises and disdains the distinction: "traditional" and "contemporary." When is worship ever not contemporary? It is, finally, truly non-sense.

In fact, the use of the distinction is based on pejorative tendencies toward the liturgy, since the implication is quite clearly intended to be made that "traditional" means, "no relevant and of little meaning to our day and age."

It is a harmful distinction and one that only serves to perpetuate the "worship wars."

Similarly foolish and useless is the false distinction made by some between "confessional" and "missional." If a person actually think there is a difference between those two words, then that person understands neither of them. But that's another conversation, for another time perhaps.

But it does come into play here because often we here that those who are interested in evangelism, outreach, mission are those who will put into place the so-called "contemporary" worship services.

William Weedon said...

Yes! I blogged on that a while ago: Confusing the How with the WHAT.

I'm speaking of mission, specifically the mission of Christ's Church. Ask people what the mission of the Church is and the typical answer is: "to spread the Gospel." But that is incorrect. That's HOW the Church accomplishes her mission. It is not the mission itself. WHAT is the mission? Nothing less than rescuing sinners from idolatry (which is trying to squeeze life out of the dead stuff of this world) and bringing them into the worship of the one true God, the blessed Trinity. THAT is the mission of the Church. If we remember not to confuse the how with the what the entire mission takes on a much sharper focus.

"For the Father seeks such to worship Him!"

"We bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God!"

"Let the peoples praise You, O God, let all the peoples praise You!"

"So that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of His glory!"

"Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire."

wm cwirla said...

"Reverence and awe." I love that verse from Hebrews. That's what is missing in much of the push to be "relevent," "missional" (another word for which we need a moratorium) and "seeker sensitive." It's the "let all mortal flesh keep silence and with fear and trembling stand" take off your shoes (not put up your feet) you're on holy ground sort of thing.

There is something terribly frightful about a God who can and should damn you to hell but doesn't, all for Jesus' sake.

Paul T. McCain said...

I can find no evidence in Holy Scripture that the congregation's worship service was ever intended to be evangelistic, that is, intended to be used to "attract" unbelievers. I think this is an assumption being made today that has had very unfortunate negative consequences for the worship of our congregations. Designing the worship service to make unbelievers feel "comfortable" or "at ease" or something an unbeliever can understand with no explanation really makes no sense upon careful reflection.

Paul T. McCain said...

Rev. Gerlach observes: during the 17th century alone 151 Latin settings of the liturgy

That may certainly be true, but they were settings, not rewritings of the liturgy. I would strongly suspect that one would find nearly identical wording in all those settings. This, to me, is quite a different thing from one Lutheran congregation using the texts of the Western Mass, as reformed by Luther, and another congregation changing the words of their worship service from Sunday to Sunday.

I guess I'm not therefore clear on what point is made by observing there were many different settings of the Latin Mass. They were all the Mass, just with different settings.

That can't be said of congregations that rewrite the liturgy from week to week, can it?

Frank Sonnek said...

McCain hits a nail on the head. the divine service cant really be "evangelistic" in the sense that he uses that word in his context.

At the same time it MUST BE evangelistic in the sense that there are not TWO gospels to be presented by the church. one for outside and one for inside. Good Liturgy is all about true worship which is ALL about faith in Jesus Christ. which is all about evangelism. even the pastor evangel-izing his own self as he prepares his sermon.

As a laymen I have found that the musical setting, even a simple liturgy can be trumped by a pastor who infuses Jesus creatively in ever way he can into the service.

Sometimes it seems that even the best pastors I know focus on polishing the service to present the gospel well rather than presenting the gospel well to polish the service.

I loathe the idea of a "director of evangelism" with some programatic stuff aimed at those outside the church. what a strange idea. Yeah I know.... he can organize canvases and buy advertising... maybe if we focused on evangel-izing those IN the church and evangel-izing the liturgy continuously renewing it in that specific way. A pastor reflecting on how he can put the pedal to the metal and put even more Jesus into the liturgy....they would just naturally "overflow" with that evangel and things would just happen?

Christians are at once saint and sinner and need that SAME life giving message that made their stony hearts into children of abraham to "convert" the side that is still sinner and help us to repent, that is turn to see things the way God sees them and to be fed with the heavenly manna of body and blood.

I was so fortunate for 11 years to have a pastor who faithfully preached nothing but Christ and Him crucified EVERY sunday. My stony heart was continually being put to death and raised again in my baptism with that. painful and joyful. communion was every sunday. the liturgy was done in a way that made you reflect on pieces of it throughout the week. I knew what to expect every sunday and what anyone I invited would recieve. I could pre catechism them with that being true. explain communion practices. etc. My pastor NEVER ran out of new things to say about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus so fortunately that was the only subject that ever seemed to matter to him! or to the rest of us in congregation.

Maybe practically what is missing is a clear path to catechesis that dovetails into the devine service to prepare those who are entering the church for the first time and encouraging church members to reach out to those who are seeing the liturgy for the first time. as in "ok I have precatechised someone, brought them to church, now how do i turn them over to the care of the pastor and elders?"

God bless all of you men for your fine service to us laymen and the care and thought I see you devoting as custodians of what has been given to you in trust.

William Weedon said...

On settings and such, I do think that it would be wrong for us to imagine that the fixed text of the traditional Western rite is what Lutherans were after across the board. It was the cantus firmus on which they then played their improvisations. The "Creed" to them did certainly mean FIRST the Latin "Credo" of the Nicene. But they also called Luther's paraphrase (built, by the way, as Jon Vieker has demonstrated, on pre-Reformation hymnody) also just "the Creed." So they kept in the Latin THE text upon which the liturgy was based and then they did all sorts of creative stuff with it in the vernacular.

What happened across the centuries with the loss of the Latin was the loss of the cantus firmus and then things fell apart. I'd suggest that the Common Service in its restoration was something along the lines of a cantus firmus for us in its very faithful translation of the Latin into the vernacular (something that did not happen with German Lutherans until after the period of Orthodoxy).

I think you can see this in LSB with its five Divine Services of which there are numerous variations in the basic text (which I think of DS 3) than in the approach of the old SBH which understood "setting" in the strict sense to apply to music alone and left the text wholly uniform.

wm cwirla said...

Interesting thoughts, William. On the liturgy subcommittee for LSB, some of us (myself included) supported the "SBH" model of one text with several musical settings. The reality came clear that this was not possible, and may not even be desireable.

Of the 151 settings of the Mass in the 17th c., I wonder how many were used in the average congregation. Or were there 151 settings among various congregations? Endless variety, the hallmark of our time and place, does not lend to good liturgical practice which comes first with memorization of the key texts. The face planted in the hymnal (or service folder or projection screen) is to liturgy as counting 1-2-3 and looking at your feet is to dancing a waltz.

William Weedon said...

Ah, William. My heart was with the SBH model also. But I do know it was not the approach of the Lutheran Church in Orthodoxy, which is neither here nor there.

Stiller's book on Leipzig gives us some idea of what happened. The key is that in that period the people really were not expected to participate in the singing of the Ordinary! Instead, they had their prayer books: "Prayer while the choir sings the Et in Terra" "Prayer during the Agnus Dei" etc. With the choirs (remember they had the GOOD choir and then the regular choir), you had some room for wider variation than when the congregation has to carry it all.

I'm sure it was beautiful and they employed a variety of settings and that it worked just fine in Leipzig, but what about in the villages? There the German hymns replaced the Latin "cantus firmus" and the sole voice of the Küstler led the congregation's song - if the parish was lucky enough to have a good singer!

But what that whole approach carried over from the medieval Church was that the liturgy remained in the hands of the masters of music and the people largely just passive listeners (well, I suppose praying along with the music isn't bad, but it is NOT the same as singing!). When it comes to today's way - which I much prefer, though I long for the great music too - I don't think a huge variety can be expected. Five settings was probably pushing it. Our parish lives on DS 3 alone for the Divine Service. Cantus firmus, dude. : )

Paul T. McCain said...

William, ok, yes, if that is what Rev. Gerlach means to suggest with his reference to "settings" I would also concur. If however we are talking about one parish using the Creed and another using a "statement of faith" that the pastor concocts each week on his computer. I do not see how this is anything helpful for the unity of the Church.

William Weedon said...

Indeed. And an important thing to note: those parishes that vary the TEXT week by week of the basic framework of the ordinary thereby instantly disinherit the non-readers, above all the little children. I wish you could hear the little ones belt out the ordinary at St. Paul's! They know it. It's THEIR service. They may not be able to sing all the hymns, but when they come to the parts that they can sing, they let loose. It's great.

And just like they know if you change their favorite bedtime story, so they do not appreciate it if you monkey with how THEY know the service is supposed to go. I think that at least part of what our Lord was getting at when he spoke of becoming as little children is enfolded in that. They are not bored by repetition; it provides them the framework on which to soar.

Which is a longwinded way of Amening also William C's paraphrase of Lewis on the dancing bit. If you're counting the steps, you're not dancing yet.

Paul T. McCain said...

I appreciate the analogy about dancing. That's why the "do it yourself" liturgies drive me up the wall, from a purely non-theological point of view. In my experience, everytime I run into these "hot off the printer" liturgies, I am so distracted trying to pay attention to what's coming next, I find that I can't focus on what I'm actually doing, or supposed to be doing, or hearing. Trying to make the liturgy "more special" is a great temptation for pastors who are, frankly, either bored, or never understood it to begin with. Most unfortunate.

William Weedon said...

Ah, and why did they not understand it? The answer to that, I believe, is that our seminaries fail singularly at providing - NOT classes on liturgics (ugh!) - but liturgical experience.

Rumor is that the Fort does a bit better than St. Louis, but when I was at St. Louis (granted, many, many moons ago), the liturgical life was non-existent. I mean, there was no life of prayer, no learning to sing the psalms, and way, way too much bad preaching. I know that sounds very harsh and unkind, and I suppose it is. But it WAS a liturgical vacuum. At the time, Bronxville did much better at LIVING the liturgical life and fostering it.

wm cwirla said...

Liturgical discipline is something I'm afraid can't be taught by distance learning and all the various ways we have of imparting information. It is more habitus than knowledge.

Brother Weedon is right on the money - it is learned in the school of experience. I credit singing in the St. Louis sem chorus under Henry Gerike and the experience of praying and leading Evening Prayer and Compline at the sem for providing the foundational skills of presiding. It took me about seven years or so at one congregation to develop a level of comfort with rubric and form.

I'm working with a group of newly ordained Chinese Lutheran pastors in our area, at their request, to create a liturgical awareness and discipline they did not receive as part of their training. I'm concerned for the liturgical formation of our ministerium, especially among those who have not had the full in-residence experience at a seminary, though such experience is certainly possible in a liturgical congregation.

Paul T. McCain said...

Comment submitted by Pastor Andrew Green, edited:

I appreciate all that has been said thus far, much of which has enrcihed my understanding and use of the liturgy. However, may I point out one important aspect of any conversation on this topic that has not yet been raised (or at least was missed in my reading of this). The issue is one of growth. Perhaps, Pr. McCain implied this in his comments regarding the worship service being used as an evangelism tool, but what I see as a hindrance to a proper use and appreciation of the liturgy is that we (clergy and laity) are fixated with the supposedly greener grass on the other side of the fence. The laity drives to church on Sunday morning (long after the pastors do) and they pass by over-flowing parking lots of "Community Harvest Church of the Living Way" (insert whatever name you want) and think, "Why can't we be like that? What are they doing that we aren't to attract the people?" They then start clamoring to the pastor and the elders about the need to do those things so as to be successful. The clergy on the other hand, frustrated with a low attendance and/or with the incessant groaning of an uninformed laity give in to their whims. There might be excitement, there might even be "growth" by adopting what is being done on the other side of the fence. But, at what cost? Among other things our confession of the Third Article is sorely undermined that gorwth is measured in the work of the Spirit who calls, gathers, and enlightens.

As is true with so many things, it is especially true of the liturgy - where there is no understanding, there can be no appreciation. I think that this is the point that Pr. Cwirla was making in his comment, "Liturgical discipline is more habitus than knowledge." If we expect our flocks to understand why we worship the way we do we need to start teaching the liturgy, that is, what the Invocation means and why it is used, what the intentions behind the Kyrie, Gloria and Collect are, etc. As with the Creeds, Commandments, and Lord's Prayer instruction and explanation needs to be constant.

Bryan Gerlach said...

So many comments and questions growing out of my posts Friday afternoon. I confess that in my vocations of father, husband, gardener, organist, et alia - I didn't have time for various responses until later Sunday. Here are some clarifications.


Cwirla - May 18 3:54am:
“I don't see how what I wrote regarding the diversity of ways in doing the same rite reflects the perception expressed above.” (Quoting my remark: "This reflects the all-too-common perception that there are two options available: traditional liturgical and contemporary.")

Earlier (May 18, 10:21am) he wrote and I quoted: "If we are looking at a variety of ways of doing the same rite, I don't think we have a problem."

I did NOT mean by quoting this sentence that it illustrates the falsely polarized option of traditional vs contemporary. Rather, I approve of his point – “a variety of ways of doing the same rite” – and went on to illustrate how this variety could come also from musical settings and not only variety of ceremonial or ritual. My second post (May 18 3:27pm) suggested that an almost exclusive use of TLH pp 5 and 15 in some (many?) LCMS and WELS parishes for decades was not a parallel to what 17th c Lutherans might have experienced – at least in the cities. Such heavy reliance on one setting might well reinforce worship dissatisfaction.


Cwirla - May 19, 2007 6:15am:
“Of the 151 settings of the Mass in the 17th c., I wonder how many were used in the average congregation. Or were there 151 settings among various congregations? Endless variety, the hallmark of our time and place, does not lend to good liturgical practice which comes first with memorization of the key texts. The face planted in the hymnal (or service folder or projection screen) is to liturgy as counting 1-2-3 and looking at your feet is to dancing a waltz.”

Several clarifications:
My earlier post: “151 Latin settings of the liturgy (mostly missa breve: just Kyrie, Gloria ) were published for use by German Lutheran choirs.” These were for choirs. The congregation sang hymns, including at times the German Credo (Wir glauben all) and German Sanctus (Isaiah Mighty Seer).

This answers the first question above: Yes, 151 settings (plus older settings and imported settings) among various congregations – with emphasis again on the cities, which had the resources to do such music. I don’t have information that shows how many settings were used in one specific congregation over, say, two decades.

Regarding average congregations:

1) Village churches didn’t have the resources that city parishes did and so couldn’t have followed the same level of variety by the choir. But the KOO often indicate that the pastor conducting a service in a village should take along some of the “students” from the city, i.e. those who could help with the sung portions of the service – propers as well as ordinary.

2) Not every city parish would have resources for music composed by a Praetorius or a Bach. But there were easier settings of Kyrie and Gloria available as well. Andreas Hammerschmidt published 16 mostly breve mass settings (Kyrie, Gloria) in 1663. His preface for a 1655 publication defends his more accessible music as "directed toward the usable [or usual] style of the common city singers, who have thereby glorified and praised their and our God no less than the most artistic singers of the present time."

I agree that there is value in being able to worship/sing from memory. So a modern application of the 151 settings wouldn’t be “endless variety” but certainly more than many parishes experience. In the parish where I am a member, we know two settings of the Common Service along with the “Service of Word and Sacrament” in the WELS hymnal (plus various other non-communion services). We also have used some responsorial settings from publishers such as GIA, settings in which the congregation sings only a refrain (e.g., “Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth”) while soloist or choir sings the bulk of the text.

One other point about responsorial settings (congregation sings refrain): in a culture that has experienced decline in musical literacy (reading notes), such a musical setting makes variety possible in a way that doesn’t overburden the average worshiper. These refrains are quickly accessible also to children. I’ve heard numerous stories of preschool children singing such refrains while playing during the week.

Here’s one example that has been widely used in WELS. The brass is optional. When I was a parish pastor (and musician) in N Calif, we used this setting 3-6 times per year.

And McCain - May 18, 2007 10:19pm:
“Rev. Gerlach observes: during the 17th century alone 151 Latin settings of the liturgy.

“That may certainly be true, but they were settings, not rewritings of the liturgy. I would strongly suspect that one would find nearly identical wording in all those settings. This, to me, is quite a different thing from one Lutheran congregation using the texts of the Western Mass, as reformed by Luther, and another congregation changing the words of their worship service from Sunday to Sunday.

“I guess I'm not therefore clear on what point is made by observing there were many different settings of the Latin Mass. They were all the Mass, just with different settings.”

I believe the clarifications offered above to Pr Cwirla should answer this as well. The texts in the 151 settings were largely the Kyrie and Gloria (sometimes also the remainder of the mass in Latin when the German versifications weren’t used). So there was no variety in text (apart from the German versifications), only music.

My application to the current scene is this. If parishes would offer greater variety and vitality (within their local capabilities), there would be higher satisfaction with worship and less pressure for poorer choices. Variety: more than one musical setting of a regularly used service. Vitality: use of a wider variety of instruments, less reliance on “organ only.” This approach helps to forestall the “need” for congregations to “rewrite the liturgy from week to week” (McCain).

One final comment: There certainly is a risk of too much variety. Cf. the value of singing from memory. My goal is that we not do with 21st century hymnals what many did with TLH – too much reliance on one setting. It is beneficial for all parishes within a synod to know the primary setting (or two settings?) from the hymnal. But then each parish might add other settings based on local capability.

William Weedon said...

Oh, time for an LSB commercial!!!

Teaching the liturgy - man is that EASY with LSB. The wonderful Scripture references right alongside the texts. Words that might be difficult explained (what does Sabaoth mean anyway, you might wonder, and a glance to the bottom of the page tells you: "Hebrew for 'heavenly hosts'"). A glossary of liturgical terms right up front and not buried in the middle somewhere. Hey, if pastors want to teach the liturgy to their people this book is the best.

BUT (and this is a BIG BUT), the way people learn best about the liturgy is not being taught about it, but DOING it. Unless I am much mistaken, THAT was William C's point. It's not that we don't need teaching on ceremonies - I mean, it's GREAT to teach about Private Confession and Absolution. But teaching and learning about it will never impart the understanding that comes from walking in there, trembling in fear, and one day actually USING it, and then walking out in peace and joy.

Paul T. McCain said...

Rev. Gerlach, thanks for your additional post. I understand what you are saying now better. It is interesting to note that your comments had to do more with what the choir was doing with various parts of the ordo. That is a very good point and underscores the valuable point that there is, within the liturgy, more than enough room for tremendous variety and creativity and it is, in fact, the very structure itself that makes this creativity and variety possible. One need only look to what J.S. Bach was able to accomplish within the "confines" of the Lutheran mass as it was celebrated at Leipzig, etc.

Thank you for your contributions to this conversation. Much appreciated.

Paul T. McCain said...

Posted for Pastor Bryce Wandrey:

Part of this whole "Church Ceremony" issue, is wrapped up in the whole "Church Polity" issue. Other ecclesial communions have in place, normally via something like canon law, regulations that state that a congregation must celebrate the Eucharist as a main service every Sunday, must use prescribed liturgical rites and services, must use approved creeds and confessions of faith, etc.

It seems to me that Lutherans don't want any of these things to enter the realm of 'law'. And maybe this comes from a false application of the scriptural distinction of Law and Gospel. I don't know for sure. But it seems as though the majority of bloggers on here (which I have to say is a good representative of many of the conservative and/or confessional Lutherans I know) want there to be a certain amount of demanded(?) unity of practice without there actually be any demanding(?) by the ecclesial body. Instead, it appears that they would rather have uniformity of practice spring, flow or emanate from uniformity of doctrine(?), life in Christ(?), or a certain theo-logic(?). I place the question marks because I am not sure where they expect this uniformity to come from when there is no office in the synod that is in place to demand uniformity.

(An an anecdote: My childhood congregation overwhelmingly and joyously moved to communion every Sunday when they got a new pastor. Once they effectively got rid of him and the interim guy showed up, they overwhelmingly and joyously got rid of the practice. My family's question was, "How can they do this? Can't anyone stop this from happening?" My response, in my mind was, "How can't they do this in a congregational-based ecclesial structure?" And (to the 2nd question), "No".)

Back to my earlier points: part of this appears to me to be a flaw with the philosophy of the "confessional" approach. Some will respond, as I presume this blog is attempting to do, "If we just understood the Confessions better, or understood them in their historical context, then uniformity of both doctrine and practice would ensue; it would just be a natural outflowing, almost spontaneous." But once again, like the liturgy, the confessions are something that has to be picked up and read. And anytime that happens interpretation, human judgement is in play. And any time human judgment is in play, varying and different responses will happen. So, where will the principle and guidelines of uniformity come from? And what will be the standard of uniformity? We seem quite incapable of giving answers to these questions.

This is a comment by Bryce Wandrey.

William Weedon said...

I was hoping Bryce wasn't done with this conversation. I have some thoughts, but I'd like to hear some others and how they would address Bryce's well-thought concerns.

Mike Baker said...

This may be the most ignorant layman comment ever, but I'm always looking to outdo myself with each new post:

I am trying to wrap my brain around the definition of "unity" when it is applied to practice.

When we speak about "unity" in terms of doctrine we have a confessional model to measure everything against. If you step out of the confession on any point, then you are no longer in unity with the one, accepted doctrine. Unity is a yes/no issue with doctrine. Either you get it or you don't.

Thankfully (in my opinion), no such model was ever set in place for Lutheran practice. The issue with practice seems to be that their are several salutary ways to go about it. Unlike doctrine, questions of practice often do not have a yes/no, pass/fail answers.

With that being the case, is it possible to be unified without being identical? Could it be that confessional practice can display a great deal of variety and still be in unity when viewed from a larger perspective? Are we unified by what we do or are we unified by what we proclaim?

As a military servicemember, I visit alot of LCMS churches while I am on orders. I think I have sat in nearly a dozen churches from our synod this year. Most of them are here in Texas, but one was as far away as New Jersey. I've been to big churches (800+) and tiny chuches (14-20).

Red hymnals, blue hymnals, LSB, etc, etc. There is alot of variety out there, but does that make it lack unity? I've seen all kinds of options and methods for carrying out the Divine Service, but it is all familiar and recognizable. When it all carries the same refreshing gospel without error or confusion, is that unity? How much precision and similarity is needed to achieve this ideal of unity in terms of practice?

Maybe instead of unity of practice we should look for some kind of practical unity. If we all decide tomorrow to say the same things at the same time and do the same things at the same time and chant the same things at the same time and the hymn selections come from St. Louis in a weekly email, how long will it be before some observent brother notices that our pastors aren't all taking the same number of steps as they walk up to the alter? How tightly are we looking when we say unity is a good thing that we should try to achieve?

It's all one cup, right? Paul calls us one body, right? It is all one gospel centered around one Christ and the sacrifice on one cross. It is protected by one common confession.

To me, any liturgy that successfully and consistantly communicates our doctrine is all ready pretty unified. Maybe I'm not looking hard enough at the details. Maybe I'm too much of a "big picture" guy and I am missing the point. I just wonder how much unity is required for the official "100% unity of practice" stamp and how will anyone know when we've acheived it.

wm cwirla said...

I'll endeavor to respond to Mike's cogent comments, focusing on this statement of his:

"Red hymnals, blue hymnals, LSB, etc, etc. There is alot of variety out there, but does that make it lack unity? I've seen all kinds of options and methods for carrying out the Divine Service, but it is all familiar and recognizable. When it all carries the same refreshing gospel without error or confusion, is that unity? How much precision and similarity is needed to achieve this ideal of unity in terms of practice?"

My short answer is "yes," this would be a sufficiently unified liturgical witness. I'm assuming here that we simply mean the rites found in TLH (1941), LW (1982), and LSB (2006). A close examination of these hymnals will reveal a basic, recognizable commonality in the divine liturgy of the Word and the Sacrament. There is certainly no practical need to go beyond that. I think Mike gives a good test for whether unity is being expressed: Is it "familiar and recognizable" to one who shares this faith and confession? This is very much akin to Walther's banner in the battlefield analogy.

As an example, Br. Weedon indicated that his congregation stays on the cantus firmus of DS 3 in LSB, which is the 1888 Common Service Order by way of ELH and TLH. My congregation uses DS 1,2,3 in seasonal rotation. We would easily recognize the divine service in each other's congregations.

We dare not make "uniformity" yet another measuring stick of our purity. I think sufficient virtual ink has been applied in this blog to indicate that no one here thinks we should be measuring how far apart the presider's hands are when he prays or how many steps he takes to the altar or whether or not he genuflects when he gets there.

wm cwirla said...

With regard to Pr. Wandrey's comment:

It goes back to what I wrote earlier, that we try to have a lex credendi without a lex orandi, hoping for the best. Ideally, an agreement in confession (lex orandi) coupled with an attitude that pastors are stewards of the liturgy and not its masters to do with it as they please should bring us to some sort of voluntary consensus regarding uniformity.

I'm not sure how much we have lost agreement in confession among us, probably more than we care to admit. I think we suffer even more in the latter, whether in the "high" or "low" church departments.

Certainly a hierarchical directive from a godly bishop would be efficient, provided, of course, that the bishop is indeed godly. The Lutheran Confessions commend obedience to the bishops even in manmade ceremonies for the sake of peace and good order. But as long as congregational autonomy and democratic rule are the order of our churches, we must rely purely on persuasion and put up with the rest as the cost of doing business under the banner of liberty.

wm cwirla said...

To the matter of uniformity in worship practice, here is a link to an excellent survey of 3000 LCMS pastors conducted by a CTS grad as an MDiv project:

The results speak volumes to what we are discussing here.

Paul T. McCain said...

We hear a lot from the Walther that speaks eloquently, and quite correctly, about the Biblical doctrine of the royal priesthood of all believers, but we don't hear as much from the Walther that speaks highly of the office of the holy ministry.

And the same holds true in matters liturgical. We like the Walther that speaks in defense of the freedom we have to use or not use ceremonies, but the Walther that praises and defends Lutheran liturgy and even calls for uniformity in such matters is the Walther we do not hear as much from.

Enjoy this from the good doctor:

We know and firmly hold that the character, the soul of Lutheranism, is not found in outward observances but in the pure doctrine. If a congregation had the most beautiful ceremonies in the very best order, but did not have the pure doctrine, it would be anything but Lutheran. We have from the beginning spoken earnestly of good ceremonies, not as though the important thing were outward forms, but rather to make use of our liberty in these things. For true Lutherans know that although one does not have to have these things (because there is no divine command to have them), one may nevertheless have them because good ceremonies are lovely and beautiful and are not forbidden in the Word of God. Therefore the Lutheran church has not abolished "outward ornaments, candles, altar cloths, statues and similar ornaments," [AP XXIV] but has left them free. The sects proceeded differently because they did not know how to distinguish between what is commanded, forbidden, and left free in the Word of God. We remind only of the mad actions of Carlstadt and of his adherents and followers in Germany and in Switzerland. We on our part have retained the ceremonies and church ornaments in order to prove by our actions that we have a correct understanding of Christian liberty, and know how to conduct ourselves in things which are neither commanded nor forbidden by God.

We refuse to be guided by those who are offended by our church customs. We adhere to them all the more firmly when someone wants to cause us to have a guilty conscience on account of them. The Roman antichristendom enslaves poor consciences by imposing human ordinances on them with the command: "You must keep such and such a thing!"; the sects enslave consciences by forbidding and branding as sin what God has left free. Unfortunately, also many of our Lutheran Christians are still without a true understanding of their liberty. This is demonstrated by their aversion to ceremonies.

It is truly distressing that many of our fellow Christians find the difference between Lutheranism and Roman Catholicism in outward things. It is a pity and dreadful cowardice when a person sacrifices the good ancient church customs to please the deluded American denominations just so they won't accuse us of being Roman Catholic! Indeed! Am I to be afraid of a Methodist, who perverts the saving Word, or be ashamed in the matter of my good cause, and not rather rejoice that they can tell by our ceremonies that I do not belong to them?

It is too bad that such entirely different ceremonies prevail in our Synod, and that no liturgy at all has yet been introduced in many congregations. The prejudice especially against the responsive chanting of pastor and congregations is of course still very great with many people -- this does not, however, alter the fact that it is very foolish. The pious church father Augustine said, "Qui cantat, bis orat--he who sings prays twice."

This finds its application also in the matter of the liturgy. Why should congregations or individuals in the congregation want to retain their prejudices? How foolish that would be! For first of all it is clear from the words of St. Paul (1 Cor. 14:16) that the congregations of his time had a similar custom. It has been the custom in the Lutheran Church for 250 years. It creates a solemn impression on the Christian mind when one is reminded by the solemnity of the divine service that one is in the house of God, in childlike love to their heavenly Father, also give expression to their joy in such a lovely manner.

We are not insisting that there be uniformity in perception or feeling or taste among all believing Christians-neither dare anyone demand that all be minded as he. Nevertheless, it remains true that the Lutheran liturgy distinguishes Lutheran worship from the worship of other churches to such an extent that the houses of worship of the latter look like lecture halls in which the hearers are merely addressed or instructed, while our churches are in truth houses of prayer in which Christians serve the great God publicly before the world.

Uniformity of ceremonies (perhaps according to the Saxon Church order published by the Synod, which is the simplest among the many Lutheran church orders) would be highly desirable because of its usefulness. A poor slave of the pope finds one and same form of service, no matter where he goes, by which he at once recognizes his church.

With us it is different. Whoever comes from Germany without a true understanding of the doctrine often has to look for his church for a long time, and many have already been lost to our church because of this search. How different it would be if the entire Lutheran church had a uniform form of worship! This would, of course, first of all yield only an external advantage, however, one which is by no means unimportant. Has not many a Lutheran already kept his distance from the sects because he saw at the Lord's Supper they broke the bread instead of distributing wafters?

The objection: "What would be the use of uniformity of ceremonies?" was answered with the counter question, "What is the use of a flag on the battlefield? Even though a soldier cannot defeat the enemy with it, he nevertheless sees by the flag where he belongs. We ought not to refuse to walk in the footsteps of our fathers. They were so far removed from being ashamed of the good ceremonies that they publicly confess in the passage quoted: "It is not true that we do away with all such external ornaments"

(Walther, Explanation of Thesis XVIII, D, Adiaphora, of the book The True Visible Church, delivered at St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Indianapolis, Indiana, Beginning August 9, 1871, at the 16th Central District Convention, translated by Fred Kramer, printed in Essays for the Church [CPH: 1992], I:193-194).