Church the way it’s supposed to be

Say what you want about congregations and pastors that break from the LC-MS, but ELDoNA (Evangelical Lutheran Diocese of North America) seems to be more than a step in the right direction. I particularly like the fact that the clergy are the only ones who are members of the Diocese, while the congregations remain independent of any ecclesiastical structure. The congregations remain under the sole spiritual leadership and guidance of the called pastor in that place. I also like the fact that they have chosen to adopt the traditional roles and terminology for their polity of Bishop/Superintendent. It will be interesting to see what becomes of this group of pastors and congregations that are served by them. I like it because of the Ministry of the Word is central to its understanding of “Church.” I am increasingly uncomfortable with calling a corporate entity like the LC-MS “Church” and referring to it as if it were “The Church.” At any rate, perhaps a fresh start is not entirely a bad thing. Something to keep in mind.

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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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3 Responses to Church the way it’s supposed to be

  1. Carl Vehse says:

    “ELDoNA (Evangelical Lutheran Diocese of North America) seems to be more than a step in the right direction.”

    Well, it’s more a step in the direction of attacking C.F.W. Walther for his position on Church and Ministry as done in the linked paper, “The Office of the Keys in the Ecclesiology of C.F.W. Walther and the Lutheran Confessions”, by Rev. James D. Heiser, Salem Lutheran Church, Malone, Texas.

    Heiser starts out by raising the question of what happened to Walther between his support for episcopist polity [Stephanism] in 1839 and his support for congregational polity in 1841:

    “A monumental change had occurred in Walther’s understanding of the doctrine of the Church. Having espoused an understanding which saw the Church centered on the Office of the Ministry-the episcopal form of polity having been deemed ‘indispensible’- in 1839, Walther’s 1841 theses on the Church never directly mention the need for the pastoral office; instead, the only ‘indispensable requisite’ for salvation is ‘fellowship with the invisible Church,’ fellowship which is attained by faith in Christ because of the work of the Holy Spirit through the Gospel.” [p.5]

    Why not let Walther himself answer that question:

    “With deep gratitude I must here recall that document which, now almost a year and a half ago, Doctor Vehse, Mr. Fischer, and Mr. Jaeckel addressed to us. It was this document, in particular, which gave us a powerful impulse to recognize the remaining corruption more and more, and to endeavor to remove it. Without this document — I now confess it with a living conviction — we might have for a long time pursued our way of error, from which we now have made our escape. I confess this with an even greater sense of shame, because I first appeared so ungrateful toward this precious gift of God.” (A. Baepler, A Century of Grace, CPH, 1947, pp.47,48, translated by Dr. P.E. Kretzman, Concordia Theological Monthly, XI, 169ff, from J.F. Koestering, Auswanderung der saechsischen Lutheraner in Jahre 1838, ihre Niederlassung in Perry-Co., und damit zusammenhaengende interessante Nachrichten, A Wiebusch u. Sohn, 1867, pp.43-45)

    Lutheran History Professor, Walter O. Forster, noted the same thing in his Zion on the Mississippi (CPH, 1953, p.520):

    “It was in these dark days [prior to the Altenburg Debate] that C.F.W. Walther came forward with a series of propositions which were to prove the fundamental factor in saving the colonies. The idea he advanced was by no means a new one, for it was contained in more than an embryonic state in Vehse’s writings. Walther was ready to admit his indebtedness to the Dresden archivist. Keyl and Burger joined in this acknowledgment. Later writers with a less meticulous sense of fairness, however, have given Vehse little credit.”

    Or Rev. Heiser could have read further into Carl S. Mundinger’s Government in the Missouri Synod (CPH, 1947) than from where he pulled a quote out of context. Then he would have seen Mundinger write [p.125]:

    “Just how did the principles which Vehse and Walther derived from the writings of Luther work out in the day-to-day life of a Lutheran congregation? Was the Vehse-Walther-Luther principle, that laymen have the power by majority vote to regulate financial and spiritual matters, practicable? Did the theory of the ‘supremacy’ of the congregation work? Nowhere is the working of this principle better revealed than in the minutes of Trinity Lutheran Church, St. Louis, one of the mother churches of the Missouri Synod… [I]t can be said that by and large the principle of congregational supremacy was applied in the early years of ‘Old Trinity’ and that it worked.”

    Maybe the mitre is on too tight.

  2. Chris Jones says:

    I particularly like the fact that the clergy are the only ones who are members of the Diocese, while the congregations remain independent of any ecclesiastical structure.

    What is it that you like about it? I find it quite odd.

    If the pastor is bound to the diocese, but the congregation remains independent, is that not a division between the shepherd and his flock? If is is worthy for the pastors to be in sacramental communion with one another, is it not also worthy for the congregations to be in sacramental communion with one another?

    And of course, being in sacramental communion implies mutual accountability for both the pastor’s and the congregation’s fidelity to the apostolic and catholic faith. That (the mutual accountability) is why it seems quite odd to me that being “independent of any ecclesiastical structure” is thought to be a good thing.

    I have always thought the polity of the LC-MS was weird; but I don’t think that of ELDONA is any improvement.

  3. Pastor Beisel says:

    As far as I can tell, the congregations are sister congregations and are in fellowship with one another, but they are not part of a corporate entity like the congregations in the Missouri Synod. I could be wrong. I don’t know that much about it, honestly.

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