No Liturgical Freedom without Rules, or, Liturgical Freedom without Rules is LIturgical Anarchy

I was at the Chiropractor one day last year and was reading some of the periodicals laying around and came across a great little piece on “No Freedom without Rules.” It was talking about freedom in our country, and how there is no true freedom without rules. Many people act like freedom means anarchy. But that is not true. Imagine what our country would be like without laws to govern. No one would really be “free.” We would be worried more about thieves and robbers because they would be able to do whatever they want. Freedom, true freedom is not being able to do whatever you want.

This also applies to writing, be it poetry or prose, by the way. Children must learn rules to writing before they are allowed to do “free” writing. Otherwise it is unintelligible. Every good poet works with rules, and the rules make the writing better, not worse. People often have this problem with rules, as if they are meant only to restrict. And of course, that is part of their purpose. I give my children rules about jumping on the couch because I don’t want them to “fall off and bump their heads,” to quote a favorite children’s book. They have freedom in the house, but not without rules and boundaries.

So what does this have to do with liturgical freedom? I think that many people think of liturgical freedom as though that meant they can do it however they want. Make no mistake. We do have liturgical freedom. We are children of the free woman, not the slave. But even children of the free woman live within rules and boundaries, right? (See the Ten Commandments)

No one wants to make any “rules” about the conduct of the service because they think that this is meant to hinder their freedom. And so, what happens is liturgical anarchy. The rules of prayer exist in order to make our prayers “better”, not simply to restrict “free” prayer. It is the same thing with the lectionary. We follow basic rules so that the whole counsel of God gets preached and not just our hobby horses (although sometimes we still manage to do that). So also rubrics/rules have been created, indeed by men, but for the purpose that our liturgical freedom does not turn into liturgical chaos. God likes order. He likes formality. He ordered the universe. He still gives order to our lives. It is we who are disorderly and chaotic. It is a result of sin.

So, there is no true liturgical freedom without rules. Those who would tout “freedom, freedom” but refuse to follow or obey rules are not really free, are they. By living in a country we are bound to following certain rules but this does not mean we are not free does it? This is the land of the free, but it has laws and rules that govern and ensure our freedom. And those who wish to live here must abide by them or they forfeit their freedom and their rights.

So also by being a part of the church here on earth we need rules, liturgical rules, to ensure that we are not straying from the right path. This is not legalism. It is ordered freedom. Chew on that for a while if you wish. The question, I guess then, is what are the rules, and who makes them? I think I have some answers to that, but I’ll let everyone else speak.

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About Rev. Paul L. Beisel

Graduate of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN in 2001 (M Div.) and 2004 (S.T.M.); LC-MS Pastor and Adjunct Instructor for John Wood Community College; Husband of Amy and father of Susan, Elizabeth, Martin, and Theodore.
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37 Responses to No Liturgical Freedom without Rules, or, Liturgical Freedom without Rules is LIturgical Anarchy

  1. Carl Vehse says:

    The rules were clearly stated in Article VI of the Synod Constitution and the referenced Lutheran Confessions, and even received confirming interpretation by both seminary faculties (though belatedly by one) and the CTCR. yet the Missouri Synod failed to remove a spiritual pimp and t-shirt-hawking whoremonger, and has even re-elected them to office. And now the spiritual whoremonger and his cultist disciples promote his heresy about the Islamist god, and his ecclesiastical supervisor does nothing.

    In the meantime LCMS posters debate hot and heavy about children’s sermons, individual communion cups, liturgical colors,… and deckchair arrangements on the Titanic.

  2. Pastor Beisel says:

    Carl,

    So far I haven’t seen any “hot and heavy” debate about children’s sermons, individual communion cups, and liturgical colors, much less deckchair arrangements on the Titanic, at least on this blog.

    So tell me this–why is it so hard for us to take action against pastors and congregations that do not abide by the constitution?

  3. Lawrence says:

    Because we don’t want to look mean and “judgemental”. Society teaches moral equivocacy and any thing that offends someone is deemed hate speech.

    Because we don’t want to appear “different” from other Christians. Or make other Christians appear different and/or wrong.

    Because we don’t want others to call us right-wing fundamentalists.

    Because we are focusing on how we want the world to see us, rather than how God says he wants to see us.

  4. Carl Vehse says:

    These issues, not to mention [whisper]semper virgo[/whisper], have been debated on many email lists and blogs since the mid-90s, if not before.

    Taking a stand against a synodical leader, or one of his supporters, is tough for a member of the Missouri Synod to do, because of the retaliatory consequences (à la Wallace Schulz). It also was tried over a decade ago and the CCM opinion of January 1992 resulted in the de facto papacy of the synodical president.

    Despite that, the 1992 convention delegates still managed to elect a new president, but they then failed to throw out the 1992 CCM opinion, and instead set up a worthless dispute resolution system to guarantee any future actions objecting to papist behavior could be buried with bureaucratic rhetoric.

    Why is it hard to take action? It’s a combination of lingering quietism and an unwillingness to use Robert’s Rules of Order to get dealt a good hand in the big poker game called the Synodical Convention.

  5. Carl Vehse says:

    Oh, yeah – That poker game in Houston in 2007. The players will be selected in the electoral circuits months earlier.

    So if confessional Lutherans are not active movers and shakers at those circuit meetings, they may be out of the big game before it’s even played.

  6. Lawrence says:

    they may be out of the big game before it’s even played.

    And if the convention turns away from the confessional path…?

    May we see predict a confessional exodus from LCMS to… where?

    And where does that leave me? and you Carl? and confessional pastors like Pastor Beisel, and my pastor?

  7. Father Hollywood says:

    I think the problem *is* “Roberts Rules” and the notion of running the Body of Christ “like a poker game.”

    How are we part of the same Church of the holy apostles, prophets, and martyrs when we speak of our holy mother Church as a “game”?

    The corporation known as The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod(tm) has become more important than the Bride of Christ in the minds of some.

    Synods come and go. Big deal. The Church goes on unto eternity. Is our main goal preservation of, and desire for partisan dominance in, the LCMS – or are we striving to be faithful to Christ and His Church?

    Do the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions matter any more? All I hear from both right and left are citations from bylaws and the constitution.

    So long as we think there’s a political solution to our problem, we will continue to be hammered by God’s Law until we repent. Psalm 2.

  8. Carl Vehse says:

    Let’s make sure the right players are selected and that the deck is appropriately shuffled (along with any help from a Missouri judge).

    What happens after the convention can be discussed after the convention.

  9. Carl Vehse says:

    I think the problem *is* “Roberts Rules” and the notion of running the Body of Christ “like a poker game.”

    It would be a problem if the synod were the church instead of a Missouri corporation of churches allegedly walking together. Saying that we are going to follow God’s will and the Lutheran Confessions is important, but even JF/DS cultists will claim that.

    In dealing with synod decisions, like elections, organizational structures, and practical courses of actions, political action and decisions will be involved.

  10. FatherDMJ says:

    Mr. Strickert, aka “Carl Vehse”:

    Would you please stick to Pr. Beisel’s post and stop blathering about poker games, whisperings on e-mail lists, and other such nonsense?

    This is a problem with the “Lutheran blogosphere”. People leave comments that have nothing to do with the topic but instead leave another blog post as a comment to a blog post.

    Once again my theory is proven true: “Confessional” “Lutherans” eat their young.

    Have a nice day (TM).

  11. Lawrence says:

    father hollywood asks… Is our main goal preservation of, and desire for partisan dominance in, the LCMS – or are we striving to be faithful to Christ and His Church?

    This is what I’m trying to figure out myself. I’m hoping the later.

    But in the larger scope I see number, numbers, numbers. Article after blog post about how LCMS used to be the biggest, until E?CA happened. The Ablaze “counter” which makes the hair stand straight up on the back of my neck. etc.

    Confessional Pastors having to take a public stance on whether or not they are really confessional, because other Pastors are taking any number of other public stances.

    My naive comfort zone in LCMS is getting a bit shakey.

    It’s all a bit confusing, and frustrating.

  12. Carl Vehse says:

    Rev. Beisel asked: The question, I guess then, is what are the rules [about the conduct of service], and who makes them?

    I answered with an example of one major rule which has been so blatantly violated that if not corrected, discussions on minor rules will become rather pointless.

    Rev. Beisel then asked: “So tell me this–why is it so hard for us to take action against pastors and congregations that do not abide by the constitution?”

    Some reasons why it has not been directly address were pointed out, and Lawrence has provided other reasons. Enforcing the rule will require political action at synodical convention, and even active involvement earlier at electoral circuit meetings. The image of a convention “poker game” was used in dealing with the liberal JF/DS card sharks.

    There is also another answer to Rev. Beisel’s question of why it has been so hard to take action against the liberals who violate the constitution.

    The Missouri Synod, since its founding, has had a congregational polity, which involved active lay participation in (required attendance) voters assemblies and synod conventions. Some in the LCMS have continued to long for a more episcopal polity. Strengthening or even maintaining the congregational polity within the Synod was not given a high priority. Lay involvement came to mean (with a few exceptions, noted by Alan Graebner in his book, Uncertain Saints) “pray, pay, and obey”. Now when liberals have taken advantage of an increasingly uneducated laity, it is difficult for confessional Lutheran pastors and laity to again coordinate within the congregation polity to take any decisive action in the synod.

  13. Father Hollywood says:

    Regarding our synod’s recent experiment in congregational polity, I kind of feel like Dr. Phil asking the rhetorical question: “How’s that workin’ for ya?”

  14. Chris Jones says:

    Mr Strickert,

    Now when liberals have taken advantage of an increasingly uneducated laity, it is difficult for confessional Lutheran pastors and laity to again coordinate within the congregation polity to take any decisive action in the synod.

    To paraphrase: the heterodox have been able to use the “uneducated laity” to wrest control of the Church from her appointed shepherds.

    The problem here is that the “uneducated laity” have been put in charge of the ark of salvation; or, not to put too fine a point on it, the flock has been set over the shepherds. It is just possible that a congregational polity is not actually all that good an idea.

    I’m not all that well-versed in the history of the Missouri Synod, but I have come to understand that you have adopted your nom de plume (“Carl Vehse”) in order to indicate that you are a strong champion of that congregational polity. I fail to see how you can possibly square your views on polity with Heb 13.17, and the absence of congregational polity in the history of the Church until well after the Reformation.

  15. Carl Vehse says:

    “Regarding our synod’s recent experiment in congregational polity”

    For the pastors and congregations in the Missouri Synod, it’s been more than a “recent experiment”; it’s been a 159-year history.

    Chris Jones said: “To paraphrase: the heterodox have been able to use the “uneducated laity” to wrest control of the Church from her appointed shepherds.”

    That’s your paraphrase, but it’s not what I said and meant.

    “The problem here is that the “uneducated laity” have been put in charge of the ark of salvation;…”

    The Missouri Synod is NOT an ark of salvation.

    “…or, not to put too fine a point on it, the flock has been set over the shepherds”

    That’s not a problem since it agrees with Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions.

    “It is just possible that a congregational polity is not actually all that good an idea.”

    Possible, but highly improbable, especially when compared to an episcopist polity.

    “I’m not all that well-versed in the history of the Missouri Synod

    As are many members of the Missouri Synod, especially with what might be considered the year of conception, 1839.

    “I fail to see how you can possibly square your views on polity with Heb 13.17”

    Since 1852 the Missouri Synod has held, as part of a definitive statement under Holy Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions of the Synod’s understanding on the subject of church and ministry, that:

    “Reverence and unconditional obedience is due to the ministry of preaching when the preacher is ministering the Word of God. However, the preacher may not dominate over the Church; he has, accordingly, no right to make new laws, to arrange indifferent matters and ceremonies arbitrarily, and to impose and execute excommunication ALONE, without a previous verdict of the entire congregation.” (Kirche und Amt, Thesis IX, on the Ministry)

  16. Pastor Beisel says:

    “Reverence and unconditional obedience is due to the ministry of preaching when the preacher is ministering the Word of God.”

    This is not happening in many parishes. You congregationalists like to skip quickly over this part and get to the next. It’s like when the girl who is about to get married closes her ears while the pastor reads: “Wives, submit to your husbands,” but opens them wide when he says, “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church.” You hear only what you want to hear. Meanwhile, pastors are getting kicked out of their congregations because the congregation doesn’t want the Pastor to teach the Catechism. The fact is, God has placed His ministers in charge of the flock until He returns. You see this as evil, but God sees it as a blessing. It’s funny how the old hymnal got this right. In the hymn: “God of the Prophets, Bless the Prophets’ Sons”, v. 2 says: “Anoint them prophets…” v. 3 says: “Anoint them priests.” And guess which verse LW left out? V. 4: “Anoint them kings, aye, kingly kings, O Lord.”

  17. Carl Vehse says:

    “This is not happening in many parishes. You congregationalists like to skip quickly over this part and get to the next.”

    All of my previous uses of “congregational” refer to the polity of the Missouri Synod, established by Walther and the other founding pastors and congregations. If you are referring to “congregationalist” as defined elsewhere in some non-Missouri Synod sense, then you are not referring to me.

    “Meanwhile, pastors are getting kicked out of their congregations because the congregation doesn’t want the Pastor to teach the Catechism.”

    Such a congregation would not be “congregationalist” in the Missouri Synod understanding; instead, such a congregation is a liar and hypocrite because it has denied the very doctrine it promised to uphold. Such a congregation would not deserve to be called a Lutheran church.

    “The fact is, God has placed His ministers in charge of the flock until He returns. You see this as evil, but God sees it as a blessing.”

    I previously provided what I see in the entire quote of Thesis IX from Kirche und Amt, which has been the statement under Holy Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions of the Missouri Synod’s understanding on the subject of church and ministry. If you judge this Missouri Synod view as evil, Rev. Beisel, then you also should judge your continued membership in the Missouri Synod as evil.

  18. Pastor Beisel says:

    I have no problem with the content of that statement by Walther because I think it is in agreement with the Scripture and the Confessions. I know of no pastor who dominates his congregation, implements new laws, or tries to usurp the duty of excommunication to himself. You are hitting at a straw man. I have identified the real problem, and that is the usurping of authority that is not theirs ALONE by the congregations who are supposed to submit unconditionally to the ministry of preaching when the minister is preaching the Word of God. The fact is, sir, is that many congregations have hijacked the ministry and are using their “rights” to dictate to pastors, or if not dictate outright, make pastors feel as though they have no right or authority to do their God-given duties.

    Now, if you have something to comment regarding this post, do so.

  19. Father Hollywood says:

    Rick:

    159 years is not only recent, but *very* recent when it comes to the Church. We Americans think buildings built in the 1700s are ancient, and the rest of the world just looks at us in amazement.

    Walther would be spinning if he could see what has become of the LCMS. Now that it is broken, there is no mechanism to fix it, since there is no authority, no discipline, and no unity.

    Kieschnick was elected, and will be re-elected. The COP is a festering wound that will only continue to ooze pus. The LCMS culture is hopelessly compromised with feminism – even among the “conservatives.”

    Maybe the LCMS will limp along for another 50 or 100 years – but I rather think the patient is terminal, and not far from hospice care.

    Even failed experiments are not failures – as long as we learn from them. Hopefully, we can learn from our mistakes.

    The very order of creation itself is hierarchical – God – Man (Male then Female) – animals – plant life – inanimate matter. Families are hierarchical: Husband – wife – children. The office of episkopos (overseer) is biblical, while the office of voters is nowhere in scripture.

    Emergency situations don’t establish doctrine – at least they shouldn’t – but they have in the LCMS.

    But we Americans know better, because we’ve done it this way for 159 years (out of twenty centuries of the Christian Church, not counting the Old Testament Church!), and it works so well.

    But it’s all about playing poker against the libs. All we need to do is learn to use tactics like “Point of Order” and “Motion for a Roll Call” – and we can fix what ails us. Let’s appeal to Robert’s Rules as well as documents outside of the Bible and the Confessions, in addition to constitutions, bylaws, and secular laws of the state of Missouri. That’ll fix it.

    So much for sola scriptura!

    Kyrie eleison!

  20. Carl Vehse says:

    “I have no problem with the content of that statement by Walther because I think it is in agreement with the Scripture and the Confessions.”

    Then you should have no problem with congregationalists (in the Missouri Synod understanding), who are in agreement with that same statement. Yes, those who pervert the congregational polity with CGM, CEO, and Hoeflingite ideals are destructive to the Missouri Synod, but they are not “congregationalist” in the Missouri Synod sense.

    “I know of no pastor who dominates his congregation, implements new laws, or tries to usurp the duty of excommunication to himself. You are hitting at a straw man.”

    Such wording was only part of the Thesis IX quote, with which you, Rev. Beisel, just said you had no problem. There was no strawman hitting.

    “159 years is not only recent, but *very* recent when it comes to the Church.”

    The original statement was “Regarding our synod’s recent experiment in congregational polity” [emphasis added]. For the synod, congregational polity covers its history. OTOH, the use of the English language in Missouri Synod worship services could be considered a more “recent experiment.”

    “The very order of creation itself is hierarchical – God – Man (Male then Female) – animals – plant life – inanimate matter. Families are hierarchical: Husband – wife – children. The office of episkopos (overseer) is biblical, while the office of voters is nowhere in scripture.”

    And nowhere in Scripture are congregational voters forbidden. As long as you, Rev. Beane, a member of the Missouri Synod, honor and uphold Walther’s Kirche und Amt as the definitive statement under Holy Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions of the Synod’s understanding on the subject of church and ministry, and teach in accordance with it, your objections and attacks can be directed at the actions which violate such definitive statements, including the Stephanite actions of the current SP, the CCM, Benke cultists, and Hoeflingite congregations, and thus damage and harm the Missouri Synod pastors and congregations (and congregational polity).

    “So much for sola scriptura!”

    I’m glad you give recognition to one of the important principles pertaining to the source of Lutheran doctrine. It’s been getting hit lately on other blog sites by Eastern jumpers and sympathizers; though the confessional Lutheran principle has long withstood attacks from liberals who deny Scriptural inerrancy and rely on historical criticism, and from Romanist/Eastern wannabes who include a stretch-to-fit definition of tradition as another source of doctrine.

  21. Father Hollywood says:

    Rick:

    I never took an oath or subscribed to Kirche und Amt. In fact, I’ve never read it. My German isn’t fluent, and it has never been completely translated into English.

    How can 6,000 pastors be required to uphold 1) a non-confessional document, 2) that has never been translated into our mother tongue?

    I’m sorry, but it may well be true (just as it’s true that the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941 or that it’s true that St. Paul was martyred) – but I’m not bound in conscience to it unless it’s in Scripture, or in the Lutheran Confessions which are a proper exposition of Scripture.

    I could very well deny Pearl Harbor and decide to not believe St. Paul was martyred – and still remain a faithful Lutheran pastor. I could even deny that the Book of Revelation is part of Scripture and still be a faithful Lutheran pastor.

    I can likewise deny that congregational polity is sacred, and I can even refuse to learn German in order to read Kirche und Amt – and still remain a faithful pastor in the LCMS.

    Even the works of Walther are only of human origin and part of human tradition, and a Christian can no more be compelled to accept it than he can be forced to accept Eastern Orthodox fasting regulations.

    Unless and until pastors stand before an altar and confess additional documents, we Lutheran pastors are only bound by the confessions. Wouldn’t Daystar and Jesus First *love* to force us to subscribe to non-scriptural documents?

    It’s no more right when conservatives do it.

    We’re no more bound to resolutions about Kirche unt Amt than we are bound to resolutions about women elders and lay ministers.

  22. Father Hollywood says:

    Again, I think Rev. Beisel’s original point about the lack of unity in our synod demonstrates that congregational polity, though it is how we in the LCMS are structured, can’t assure uniformity among our congregations.

    In the early days of Missouri, we had unity of doctrine and practice, so polity had little to do with liturgical unity. We were already on the same page. We could get away with the “honor system.” But this is no more.

    So long as the LCMS exists (at least in its current form), we are stuck with congregational polity – and we all agree to work under it. It has even been a good thing at times. In certain situations, it has its advantages. However, like Greek democracy, I believe this polity has sown the long-term seeds of the synod’s eventual destruction.

    And a pure episcopate is not the only other option. There is also a consistory model – which was used considerably by Prussians – and was actually copied from the Lutherans by Peter the Great in organizing the Russian Orthodox Church after he got rid of the Moscovite Patriarch.

    Our current model is not sacred – it’s simply one option among many. And it didn’t take long (historically speaking) for the model to fail. It can’t be fixed by simply voting out Kieschnick or getting a conservative guy elected.

    Again, the Lord’s orderly universe presumes some form of hierarchy. Let’s see a Christian family try to run with a voters’ assembly or convention.

    “Ice cream for dinner, again?”

  23. Lawrence says:

    I, for one, do not look to the Synod for political unity.

    I look there for theological and liturgical standards (unity).

    I think our culture presumes that political unity must be present in any given organization. But that is a cultural thing. Not a religious thing.

    We are either Lutherans, or we are not. Period.

    Yet the current political culture strives to split hairs, embracing any number of ideas to encourage a unity of membership. (which is a focus on numbers, which is backwards).

    Maybe it is time the LC-MS disbanded and reorganized? Could we handle the embarrassement in the eyes of our E?CA counterparts? Or will our E?CA numbers envy finally consume us?

    I hate to see this happen, but it would seem better to have a bunch of small groups marching down the right path and not bickering about it, than one large group constantly bickering down the wrong path (which is where we are headed).

    I’m not advocating that we give up, but there comes a time when one must evaluate the wisdom of continuing a losing battle.

    My time will be after the 2007 Convention. Until then, I feel a duty to stand up and be heard. Speaking out in these discussions, and supporting the pastors that I trust and respect as true Lutheran pastors.

    I do post under a pseudonym, but I have reasons for doig so. I will introduce myself if contacted privately.

  24. Father Hollywood says:

    “I, for one, do not look to the Synod for political unity.

    I look there for theological and liturgical standards (unity).”

    Lawrence:

    There’s the rub. Without some form of polity that brings practice in line with our doctrine, without some form of oversight (Greek: episkope), we run the risk of having every parish using its own liturgy (if the bother with a liturgy at all).

    Q: What can currently be done if a pastor and/or congregation ditches the liturgy in favor of dancing girls and rock music? A: Nothing!

    Synod is only advisory, and the congregations are autonymous.

    The problem of polity and the problem of liturgical/doctrinal discord are intertwined.

  25. Carl Vehse says:

    “Wouldn’t Daystar and Jesus First *love* to force us to subscribe to non-scriptural documents?”

    Larry,

    At your ordination as a called servant of the Word you stated your belief and confession in the canonical Scriptures as the inspired Word of God and the only infallible rule of faith and practice, the three Creeds as faithful testimonies, and the symbolic books as contained in the 1580 Book of Concord as in agreement with this one scriptural faith.

    Around the same time, though you may have forgotten, you also agreed to become a member of the Missouri Synod. You did this by signing and filing with your District President a statement which acknowledged your “subscription to the Constitution of the Synod” and which, upon installation and following ordination or commissioning, “shall be deemed equivalent to the member having signed the Synod’s Constitution”.

    The other 6,000 current members of the Missouri Synod have subscribed to the same. You and they did it voluntarily; no one (including DS/JF) forced you to subscribe.
    Unless you claim you had your fingers crossed, by subscribing to the Synod Constitution you, in effect, pledged yourself to its doctrinal confessions (see Article II; the same as in your ordination) and to uphold and work under the Synod’s congregational polity (see Article III.

    Now, If you cannot uphold and work under your subscription pledge as a member of the Missouri Synod

    – because you no longer want to uphold and work through the polity of the Missouri Synod,
    – because you claim the Missouri Synod polity “is broken, there is no mechanism to fix it”,
    – because you consider it is “a festering wound that will only continue to ooze pus”,
    – because you believe the LCMS culture “is hopelessly compromised with feminism”,
    – because you “rather think the patient is terminal”,
    – because you consider it one of the “failed experiments”, and
    – because you now “believe this polity has sown the long-term seeds of the synod’s eventual destruction”

    then, Rev. Beane, and any other Missouri Synod pastors who similarly denigrate the Missouri Synod, as a ordained pastor, and as a man, please have the decency to publicly renounce your membership subscription in what you consider to be such a disgusting Synod. (One can only hope you don’t describe the voters’ assembly, or Board of Directors, of your congregation in similar terms.)

    This issue of subscribing to the Missouri Synod constitution is a good example of the answer to Rev. Beisel’s question of why it has been so hard to take action against the liberals who violate the constitution (one of “the rules”). It’s because it’s such a low priority; it’s because some on both extremes just don’t care about the constitution to which they subscribed.

  26. Pastor Beisel says:

    I agree with Fr. Hollywood that polity and theology are intertwined when you are talking “Church.” It is difficult to separate the two. The reason we have “political” strife is because of different theologies at work.

    Look, I for one am willing to work with the Synod that we have. I am willing to accept the fact that our Synod is only advisory and that resolutions, though well-meant, ultimately mean nothing in practice. I am willing to accept this because I have a call to a congregation in the MO Synod that needs the teaching and instruction of the Lord. I am going to strive my hardest to be faithful here where I am planted. I will also strive to speak out against aberrant practices and doctrines that I see and hear from others in my circuit. The bottom line is, Christ has placed us here to work in His vineyard, and our duty is to be faithful pastors and shepherds and sheep, and to submit, everyone of us, to the Lord’s Word. Make no mistake though, as I said in another comment elsewhere, don’t go calling me a “Hyper-Euro” Lutheran or a “Grabauite” because I make some practical decisions in the parish without getting a vote from the congregation. If that makes me an LC-MS heretic then so be it. The congregational voters assembly is NOT supreme over the Word of God. And the Word of God is not just words, but it is reflected in our worship practices and in our pastoral practice. The congregation should submit to my authority not just when I am standing in the pulpit preaching, or when I am teaching Bible class, but also when I make decisions about our worship, so long as those decisions do not contradict the Scriptures. Does that place a lot of responsibility on me? Yes. But that is why James says that “Teachers will be judged more harshly.” I’ll be darned if I’m going to sit back and let a popular vote decide how often the Lord’s Body and Blood are offered in the congregation, or what ceremonies we are going to use or not use. And my congregations fully realize this.

  27. Pastor Beisel says:

    Let me rephrase something from that last comment. I said that the Word of God is more than just words. What I meant is that my authority as a pastor, I believe, extends beyond just those fifteen minutes that I am standing in the pulpit or those 60 minutes that I am teaching Bible class. I am also a steward of the mysteries of God. I am in charge of overseeing, planning, and executing the services of the church, and so forth.

  28. Carl Vehse says:

    In his paper, “The Pastor:God’s Servant for God’s People” (Church and Ministry: The Collected Papers of The 150th Anniversary Theological Convocation of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, Edited by Jerald C. Joerz and Paul T. McCain, The Office of the President, 1998, pp. 123-161) former Missouri District President James Kalthoff wrote:

    “One of the Synod’s district presidents, Dr. George Wollenburg, has called our attention to the imagery used by some of the old Lutheran dogmaticians to reflect on the scriptural teaching of the Priesthood of all Believers. When the church as the bride of Christ commits to her servant (i.e., the pastor) the Keys, they come with a manual. It is the book written by the bride’s husband. He determines how the servant is to serve the bride. The ordination vow of a pastor, reiterated every time he is installed in a new congregation, is highly significant in our Synod. For here the church in effect says: This is how Christ wants you to serve, how He wants you to be a pastor. You can only serve us this way, according to Word of God and the Lutheran Confessions. And even if at some later point the church seems to change its mind and demands some different teaching or ministerial activity, the biblical way is the way the pastor is to keep on going because he is God’s servant.”

  29. Lawrence says:

    “Q: What can currently be done if a pastor and/or congregation ditches the liturgy in favor of dancing girls and rock music? A: Nothing!”

    Actually the Synod and District have a very powerful capability.

    They can publicly denounce and proprely document the un-Lutheran practices.

    By we have to be careful because we might make someone mad.

    But I see your point. Beyond public chastisement, there is little the Synod or District can do to force compliance.

  30. Lawrence says:

    Pastor Beisel said…“The reason we have “political” strife is because of different theologies at work.”

    Exactly.

    Look, I for one am willing to work with the Synod that we have.

    I do too. Up to a point. I’m just trying to figure out what constitutes my final straw.

    I am willing to accept this because I have a call to a congregation in the MO Synod that needs the teaching and instruction of the Lord.

    Indeed.

    I will also strive to speak out against aberrant practices and doctrines that I see and hear from others in my circuit.

    I respect that.

    The bottom line is, Christ has placed us here to work in His vineyard, and our duty is to be faithful pastors and shepherds and sheep, and to submit, everyone of us, to the Lord’s Word.

    And petty bickering doesn’t help.

    I make some practical decisions in the parish without getting a vote from the congregation.

    I think you should. Not all congregations would like it. But you gotta do what you gotta do, or go somewhere that allows you to.

    If that makes me an LC-MS heretic then so be it.

    Then we join together in our herecy, as long as it is herecy of politics and not theology.

    The congregation should submit to my authority not just when I am standing in the pulpit preaching, or when I am teaching Bible class, but also when I make decisions about our worship,

    That is what we ordain you for.

    I’ll be darned if I’m going to sit back and let a popular vote decide how often the Lord’s Body and Blood are offered in the congregation, or what ceremonies we are going to use or not use. And my congregations fully realize this.

    Charge! I’ll do what I can to watch your’re back.

  31. Father Hollywood says:

    Rick:

    I appreciate your help in this matter. It’s obvious you are overflowing with Christian love and charity, and are really agonizing with me that so much in our synod is awry.

    Please help me with something.

    Since I am a member of synod, am I required to uncritically accept the brokenness of women congregation presidents, women elders and communion assistants, lay ministers, abuses by the synod and districts, the completely tolerated charismatic movement, Concordia profs teaching evolution, Ablaze, and all the other things that grieve me in this synod – things that have been approved by conventions and other mechanisms in our synod?

    So, you’re saying submit to all of these things, or resign?

    Look, I swore to uphold the Bible and the confessions. I’m not going to be bullied by you, by any bureaucrat, or by anyone else into confessing anything else. Being a member of the LCMS does not mean I am compelled to accept extra-biblical doctrine.

    Being in synod means I have to put up with things I disagree with (things which are outside the Bible and confessions)- but it doesn’t compel my *agreement* with them. Else we would simply force everyone who did not vote for Kieschnick to resign from the rolls.

    As far as my relationship with the voters or board of directors goes, transfer to Salem Lutheran Church, and that will be your business. Otherwise, mind your own. Salem has been in the forefront of pointing out our synod’s deviations over the years, and we won’t be bullied by you or anyone else.

  32. Anonymous says:

    Mr. Strickert, you bitch and moan as much as anyone else about the synod and its leadership. But let a pastor complain, and you tell them to resign!

    Instead of attacking pastors who are trying to make us more confessional, why don’t you support them? Are you one of the sheep who wants to be a shepherd without the vocation to be a shepherd? It just sounds like sour grapes to me.

    We have pastors all over the country being thrown out for being confessional. Pitting the laity against the pastors only fuels the liberal agenda. These men give you the Lord’s Supper, preach the gospel, and hear our confessions at the Lord’s behest. Thank God for them! Why are you so anti-clergy?

    They are our shepherds. We need to obey them (Hebrews 13:17) and support them.

  33. Carl Vehse says:

    “So, you’re saying submit to all of these things, or resign?”

    No, Larry, that is not what I said. Since you asked for my help, let me suggest you reread my 11:25 AM post for the seven listed causes that could lead a member to conclude he could no longer uphold and work under his subscription pledge as a member of the Missouri Synod. Each of these reasons dealt with the official Synodical polity or structure. When that very structure is pronounced as failed, broken, unfixable, and oozing pus, then the member cannot honestly maintain his subscription pledge. Furthermore a congregation who also believes the same thing about the synod should also renounce its own Synodical membership.

    The issues you bring up in your 2:17 PM post are not intrinsic to the synod’s organizational structure. These are activities promoted or tolerated by one or more disreputable and/or irresponsible leaders (some ordained minsters themselves), who fail to correct or remove such activities or the offending pastors or congregations. Currently it is still within the power and authority of convention delegates to remove such irresponsible leaders and elect new more responsible ones. While this will be a steep uphill battle, it can still be done. Congregations and future delegates can be warned and educated about these dangers. Congregations, circuits and districts may still offer well-composed and thought-out memorials that provide the authority, justification, and support to take action against the liberal corruption in the Missouri Synod. Capable delegates at the convention can use Robert’s Rules and parliamentary skills to force such overtures onto the floor for a vote. Papers and convocations can still be presented. Emails and websites can still denounce the heterodoxies and heresies.

    That is why, Rev. Beane, I encouraged you to make up your mind. If you want to uphold and work within the Synodical polity to defeat the DS/JF cultists and other rot within the Synod, then publicly join those of us who are just as fed up with what we see. Be prepared for a tough battle against spiritual pimps and whoremongers. It will not be wrapped up within one or two conventions.

    But if you see the Synod and its polity as a lost cause, a terminal case, a bloated corpse, a failed experiment, then please publicly state that decision as well. Staying on as a member of an organization whose structure you believe is inherently doomed to self-destruction serves no honor to you, your congregation, or those who decide to fight.

    And to those who advocate that we all should just surrender the Synod and leave —- Nuts!!!

  34. Lawrence says:

    I believe the synod is salvageable in some form. If not, an new synod will spring forth. I don’t know which way it will go, or how long it will take.

    But I’m not ready to give up yet, personally. I still see a lot of good / proper teaching and preaching, and have met a number of young upcoming pastors and vicars that I respect. I am also aware of any number of solid (truly confessional) churchs alive and kicking.

  35. Father Hollywood says:

    Rick:

    My call is to Salem Lutheran Church. We began our parish life in 1870 apart from the LCMS, and perhaps we will outlive the synod. I am committed to them. This is where God has called me.

    If they stay in, I stay in. If they leave, I leave.

    If you were a member of my flock, I would have spiritual counsel for you. You aren’t, so I don’t.

    I’m a preacher and a shepherd, not a politician. I am called to study holy scripture and the confessions, not bylaws and legal briefs. I’m called to forgive sins, not to run around stumping for bureaucrats with fat salaries. The bureaucracy of the church is too big and bloated – whether occupied by liberals or conservatives.

    Let someone else bask in the spot lights and glory of the roll call and motion. I have no interest in it, nor gift in that vocation.

    If you think there is a political solution to the LCMS’ problems, I wish you well. I’m content to do *church* work.

  36. Anonymous says:

    Pastor Beisel,

    You mentioned the term “hyper-euro Lutheran” in this blog. I was a member of a church which had a sacardotalist for a pastor. It tore the church apart. You said you would make changes absent the voter’s assembly…why? Do you not think the voters, given proper teaching, will be smart enough to vote right? Are pastors the only ones God has given the gospel to?
    You are saying you don’t trust the members of the congregation you serve. Trust is a two way street.
    Hyper-euro pastors are hurtful.

  37. Pastor Beisel says:

    Whoa! Where in the heck did that come from?

    Some things should simply not be put to a vote. Do you think it is God-pleasing to put people in a position to vote against the Lord’s Supper? I think that is just sinful. The Lord’s Supper should not be something that people vote “yes” or “no” on, in my opinion.

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