A Missourian’s Perspective on Missouri

Started by Weedon, April 29, 2024, 07:11:46 PM

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Weedon

I know that this is a pan Lutheran board and anyone can comment on any thread. Still, this thread is aimed not at getting a non-LCMS look at the LCMS (maybe someone should start that thread), but providing a place for those inside the LCMS to reflect upon her: her strengths, her weaknesses, her challenges, her failures and her triumphs.

I want to start it off by noting that my primary attitude toward my Synod is one of deep gratitude. She has consistently been an instrument of great blessing in my life. She baptized me, confirmed me, educated me, married me, further educated me, ordained me, further educated me again, and has provided me with countless opportunities to preach and teach, to sing and to celebrate the joyful good news of sin's forgiveness and death's defeat in our Lord Jesus.

I am grateful for her staunch liturgy and hymnody and for the theological education she gave me above all.

One of her weaknesses, in my opinion (I know many will disagree), is her attempt to hold together disparate theological convictions and pretend that we can say "yes" and "no" at the same time. Another of her weaknesses is her tendency to elevate the current status quo to a norm (the CTCR quoting itself!) and thus stifling the ability of the Lutheran Symbols to actually challenge and correct our course. She has had a fatal tendency to mistake theological schemata (by which some of her theologians sought to make sense of the theological data) for the actual dogma of the Church.

Her biggest challenge is that her structure only works the way it was intended when the parishes are populated by Lutheran Christians who take seriously their confirmation vows and intend to preserve the Lutheran heritage as a priceless gift. She doesn't have a back up plan (I am not sure there is one) when LINO becomes a thing, as people refuse to be held to and to insist on upholding the Book of Concord.

Her biggest failure in my book isn't in the area of evangelism, but in the area of piety. She has sought overwhelmingly to impart Lutheranism as a school of thought (hence, you learn it in a class) rather than a way of confident living from the bounty of God's divine giving, what Kleinig calls "receptive spirituality." I am convinced that if the piety piece were addressed and the faith came to be lived again in our homes (daily prayers, table blessing, study of the Word together, singing the hymns of our church), we'd find the outreach problem solved on its own.

Her biggest triumph is also, in my opinion, a great danger. I refer to her turning her back on the way of liberal higher criticism and seeking for a way of studying the Scriptures that honored their divine origin by the Spirit. The devil will never cease trying to falsify and take the Word away from the Christian people, and the mistake is to think having won a battle, we can relax. The war goes on and he is indeed a wily foe.

Okay, my scattered thoughts. I'd be curious from my fellow Missourians about their own thoughts or reactions to any of the above.


J. Thomas Shelley

#1
Quote from: Weedon on April 29, 2024, 07:11:46 PMHer biggest failure in my book isn't in the area of evangelism, but in the area of piety. She has sought overwhelmingly to impart Lutheranism as a school of thought (hence, you learn it in a class) rather than a way of confident living from the bounty of God's divine giving, what Kleinig calls "receptive spirituality." I am convinced that if the piety piece were addressed and the faith came to be lived again in our homes (daily prayers, table blessing, study of the Word together, singing the hymns of our church), we'd find the outreach problem solved on its own.

From a fellow traveler on the other bank of the Bosporus, and, by "fellow traveler" I mean one who has found  the greatest affinity and collegiality with those of the LCMS than of other Lutheran church bodies subsequent to my 2014 ELCA/LCMC departure:  "Receptive spirituality" is a challenge here as well.

In long-established ethnic parishes there are many who really do not understand--much less embrace with all of their heart--the received tradition.  Some desire enlightenment, but there are plenty of others who are content to be "culturally Orthodox" in a manner similar to marginally observant "cultural Jews".

Converts pose a different challenge.   Many have first explored Orthodox Christianity "as a school of thought",  particularly when their initial contact has been from reading Athanasios, Basil, Chrysostom, and the other early Fathers.   As inquirers they wonder why they need to immerse themselves in parish life or begin to appropriate domestic expressions of their faith, such as creating an "Icon corner".

Euclidean geometry teaches axiomatically that three points establish a plane.  Hence a three legged stool in inherently stable.   The application to Orthodox Christianity is that there must be a triadic symbiotic relationship between Parishes, the domestic Church, and Monasteries in order to maintain stability.   Weaken one leg and the whole structure is endangered (remember the lockdowned Holy Week of 2020?).

In short; though on different banks we face similar challenges.
Greek Orthodox Deacon - Ecumenical Patriarchate
Ordained to the Holy Diaconate Mary of Egypt Sunday A.D. 2022

Baptized, Confirmed, and Ordained United Methodist.
Served as a Lutheran Pastor October 31, 1989 - October 31, 2014.
Charter member of the first chapter of the Society of the Holy Trinity.

Jeremy_Loesch

Will, thank you for what you have shared.  I appreciate it very much.  I have a few things to say, or at least one thing, but I'm going to try to organize my thoughts first before I blurt them out through the keyboard.  But thank you again for your sharing about our church.

Jeremy

D. Engebretson

A second 'thank you' Will for your thoughts. I love my Synod, but see both its strengths and its weaknesses, as well.

Such as: "One of her weaknesses, in my opinion (I know many will disagree), is her attempt to hold together disparate theological convictions and pretend that we can say 'yes' and 'no' at the same time."  I sometimes feel that neighboring parishes live different lives with different directions. This happens most often, in my opinion, on what we do on Sunday morning.  With live-streamed services now so prevalent since the pandemic, anyone can see for themselves what is happening in the sanctuaries of our parishes.  At times I do not recognize my Synod in what I see.  It does not sound like what I cherish and practice. It seems like a different church.   
Pastor Don Engebretson
St. Peter Lutheran Church of Polar (Antigo) WI

John Mundinger

I think the following statement from Dr. Borrasso's dissertation regarding the LCMS approach to study Bibles says a lot.

The expressions highlighted above, "our people," "entire bible," and "soundness of
teaching," exemplify the attitude of the Missouri Synod that sees theological development and
articulation as univocal. It is as if the synod is saying, "we are one people, with one book,
teaching the same thing.


As I noted in the other thread and what I think is relevant to this one is the suggestion that his dissertation would be an answer to the question, "what does a comparison of the various authorized study Bibles reveal about the evolution of LCMS theology over the past Century?"
Lifelong Evangelical Lutheran layman

Whoever, then, thinks that he understands the Holy Scriptures, or any part of them, but puts such an interpretation upon them as does not tend to build up this twofold love of God and our neighbour, does not yet understand them as he ought.  St. Augustine

Jeremy_Loesch

Quote from: John Mundinger on April 30, 2024, 08:49:27 AMI think the following statement from Dr. Borrasso's dissertation regarding the LCMS approach to study Bibles says a lot.

The expressions highlighted above, "our people," "entire bible," and "soundness of
teaching," exemplify the attitude of the Missouri Synod that sees theological development and
articulation as univocal. It is as if the synod is saying, "we are one people, with one book,
teaching the same thing.


As I noted in the other thread and what I think is relevant to this one is the suggestion that his dissertation would be an answer to the question, "what does a comparison of the various authorized study Bibles reveal about the evolution of LCMS theology over the past Century?"

What it says is we are trying to get rid of faddish ideas that have brought nothing but empty carbohydrates and calories to our diet in recent years.  I've lived through what you are talking about and think that we are trying to claim the good teachings from past generations.  Browsing titles in bookstores and online and seeing "New thoughts on XYZ", "New understandings of ABC", "New perspectives on LMNOP"...all that is the quickest way for me to close my wallet and go back to my bookshelf and pull out the books I used in seminary. 

The writers of the Concordia Commentary Series and the contributors to The Lutheran Study Bible are top notch.  They are current and up to date on all the latest fads and trends and can address them.  They know the Word and don't play games with it.  I thought the old Concordia Self-Study Bible was really good.  But when we switched to the ESV it was a good time to come out with TLSB.  It's excellent.

Jeremy

John Mundinger

Quote from: Jeremy_Loesch on April 30, 2024, 09:15:14 AM
Quote from: John Mundinger on April 30, 2024, 08:49:27 AMI think the following statement from Dr. Borrasso's dissertation regarding the LCMS approach to study Bibles says a lot.

The expressions highlighted above, "our people," "entire bible," and "soundness of
teaching," exemplify the attitude of the Missouri Synod that sees theological development and
articulation as univocal. It is as if the synod is saying, "we are one people, with one book,
teaching the same thing.


As I noted in the other thread and what I think is relevant to this one is the suggestion that his dissertation would be an answer to the question, "what does a comparison of the various authorized study Bibles reveal about the evolution of LCMS theology over the past Century?"

What it says is we are trying to get rid of faddish ideas that have brought nothing but empty carbohydrates and calories to our diet in recent years.  I've lived through what you are talking about and think that we are trying to claim the good teachings from past generations.  Browsing titles in bookstores and online and seeing "New thoughts on XYZ", "New understandings of ABC", "New perspectives on LMNOP"...all that is the quickest way for me to close my wallet and go back to my bookshelf and pull out the books I used in seminary. 

The writers of the Concordia Commentary Series and the contributors to The Lutheran Study Bible are top notch.  They are current and up to date on all the latest fads and trends and can address them.  They know the Word and don't play games with it.  I thought the old Concordia Self-Study Bible was really good.  But when we switched to the ESV it was a good time to come out with TLSB.  It's excellent.

Jeremy

Absent the objective analysis that I suggested, the answer to question, "What does it say...?" is subjective.  I think you and I agree that LCMS theology has changed over the past Century.  I suspect that We also agree that we disagree about the nature and significance of that change.  Let's also agree that this is not the correct thread to discuss that disagreement.
Lifelong Evangelical Lutheran layman

Whoever, then, thinks that he understands the Holy Scriptures, or any part of them, but puts such an interpretation upon them as does not tend to build up this twofold love of God and our neighbour, does not yet understand them as he ought.  St. Augustine

RF

Quote from: Jeremy_Loesch on April 30, 2024, 09:15:14 AM
Quote from: John Mundinger on April 30, 2024, 08:49:27 AMI think the following statement from Dr. Borrasso's dissertation regarding the LCMS approach to study Bibles says a lot.

The expressions highlighted above, "our people," "entire bible," and "soundness of
teaching," exemplify the attitude of the Missouri Synod that sees theological development and
articulation as univocal. It is as if the synod is saying, "we are one people, with one book,
teaching the same thing.


As I noted in the other thread and what I think is relevant to this one is the suggestion that his dissertation would be an answer to the question, "what does a comparison of the various authorized study Bibles reveal about the evolution of LCMS theology over the past Century?"

What it says is we are trying to get rid of faddish ideas that have brought nothing but empty carbohydrates and calories to our diet in recent years.  I've lived through what you are talking about and think that we are trying to claim the good teachings from past generations.  Browsing titles in bookstores and online and seeing "New thoughts on XYZ", "New understandings of ABC", "New perspectives on LMNOP"...all that is the quickest way for me to close my wallet and go back to my bookshelf and pull out the books I used in seminary. 

The writers of the Concordia Commentary Series and the contributors to The Lutheran Study Bible are top notch.  They are current and up to date on all the latest fads and trends and can address them.  They know the Word and don't play games with it.  I thought the old Concordia Self-Study Bible was really good.  But when we switched to the ESV it was a good time to come out with TLSB.  It's excellent.

Jeremy

Very well said Pastor Loesch.  Thanks for your comments.


Charles Austin

So what "faddish ideas" threatened us or did us damage?
Bultmann?
Tillich?
Moltmann?
Kasemann?
Theilicke?
Kung?
Niebuhr?
Liberation Theology?
Textual criticism of scripture?
The church's engagement with "the world."
All those were prominent, but not dominant in my seminary education.
Ecumenism? Not a big influence in your LCMS.
ELCA PASTOR. Iowa born and raised. Former journalist. Former news director and spokesman for the LCA. Former LWF staff in Geneva, Switzerland.  Parishes in Iowa. New Jersey and New York.  Retired in Minneapolis.

John Mundinger

Quote from: D. Engebretson on April 30, 2024, 08:45:42 AMI sometimes feel that neighboring parishes live different lives with different directions. This happens most often, in my opinion, on what we do on Sunday morning.  With live-streamed services now so prevalent since the pandemic, anyone can see for themselves what is happening in the sanctuaries of our parishes.  At times I do not recognize my Synod in what I see.  It does not sound like what I cherish and practice. It seems like a different church. 

I suspect that what you cherish and practice aligns pretty well with what Dr. Barry described in "What About Worship?", including respect for the logic of worship practices that follow the lectionary and the Ordo.

Is what you are seeing deviations from traditional form or is it some other concern?
Lifelong Evangelical Lutheran layman

Whoever, then, thinks that he understands the Holy Scriptures, or any part of them, but puts such an interpretation upon them as does not tend to build up this twofold love of God and our neighbour, does not yet understand them as he ought.  St. Augustine

Jeremy_Loesch

I would echo Will's remarks.  I love the synod I was raised in and the family of my American ancestors maternal and paternal.  I was educated in public schools through high school, then earned degrees from CURF and CSL.  I am very appreciative of the education I received.

I am just a 'regular' pastor.  I have served small congregations for the majority of my 25 year ministry.  I have been in Ohio, Delaware, Missouri, and am back in Delaware.  I have never been a circuit visitor, was nominated to be SED secretary but received at most ten votes.  (I didn't even vote for me.)  The biggest title I ever had was Zone Counselor for the LWML in the KC area. 

The perspective I'd like to share is of the church worker/congregation relationship.

The largest church I served was in KC and that was where I flamed out.  I stepped away from the ministry after serving there 8 years.  There were many moments of joy and delight.  But I don't believe I had the skills, or didn't add the skills, I needed to oversee a 'large' congregation (120-140 Sunday attendance).  In 2018 my wife dealt with an illness, my parents were descending into dementia, I started to deal with depression, we had children to raise, I had a congregation to tend to, and then covid came.  Eventually I broke my giveadamn and the fix required more than a band aid.

I went on disability and received treatment from a psychiatrist and a counselor.  I also got a 40 hour a week job.  I also started pulpit supply in both MO and KS.  That was nice, for I got to see a number of congregations and got to provide a Sunday off for some pastors.  Eventually I became the long term fill in for a congregation in Independence MO.  I was there every Sunday.  On Saturday nights I worshiped in a congregation close to home.  I was able to go to church and have pastors who tended to me.  In a time I don't ever want to repeat I found some peace in God's house. 

But now it has been brought to my attention that the church I used to serve has called a pastor to serve them.  What sort of work has the congregation had to do?  I owned up to my failings, but I wasn't the sole reason things went south.  There were strong personalities who needed their way to be done, some passive aggressive behavior.  Is the called pastor aware of this as he contemplates the Spirit's guidance? 

I don't quite know what the answer may be, or the way forward, but while we give pastors 'remedial' and 'corrective' work to do, what do we ask of the congregations? 

And I am not certain of my role.  I have spoken to the SED president at our last church worker conference about things (not about my old congregation) and the focus in our district seems to be on healthy workers and churches.  I am glad to see that and I am availing myself of coaching/mentoring.  I know a few pastors who are dealing with deep pain and confusion in their settings and I tell them to advocate for themselves as best they are able.  But I don't know if my voice gets heard because I also don't always feel I have the courage to speak out because speaking out means I'd have to tell of my failures again and again.  I don't exactly like to admit that I was not a good husband, son, brother, father, pastor.  That all kind of hurts. 

We do have a strong corps of church workers.  And they are dedicated.  And they are servants.  Do we as church workers have the wrong mentality?  Do we allow ourselves to be treated like dirt?  I don't know.  I believe districts are working on church worker health.  But...you can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink. 

Just a perspective on church workers in Missouri.

Jeremy   

Jeremy_Loesch

Quote from: Charles Austin on April 30, 2024, 10:17:43 AMSo what "faddish ideas" threatened us or did us damage?
Bultmann?
Tillich?
Moltmann?
Kasemann?
Theilicke?
Kung?
Niebuhr?
Liberation Theology?
Textual criticism of scripture?
The church's engagement with "the world."
All those were prominent, but not dominant in my seminary education.
Ecumenism? Not a big influence in your LCMS.


Yes to most of those but not all.  One has to really be discerning when viewing 20th Century Lutheran theology because there were some deviances from historic Christianity.  And I noticed you did not include Bo Giertz or Herman Sasse on your list? 

And about ecumenism, I'll say it out loud: our two churches think differently about what it means to be engaged in ecumenism.  The ELCA is the church that can't say no.  The LCMS is the church that can't say yes.  Perhaps you should say no more often and perhaps we should say yes more often.

Jeremy

John_Hannah

#12
Quote from: D. Engebretson on April 30, 2024, 08:45:42 AMA second 'thank you' Will for your thoughts. I love my Synod, but see both its strengths and its weaknesses, as well.

Such as: "One of her weaknesses, in my opinion (I know many will disagree), is her attempt to hold together disparate theological convictions and pretend that we can say 'yes' and 'no' at the same time."  I sometimes feel that neighboring parishes live different lives with different directions. This happens most often, in my opinion, on what we do on Sunday morning.  With live-streamed services now so prevalent since the pandemic, anyone can see for themselves what is happening in the sanctuaries of our parishes.  At times I do not recognize my Synod in what I see.  It does not sound like what I cherish and practice. It seems like a different church.   

Indeed. When I go to the Midwest, in LCMS churches I find strange divergences from the Church's liturgy. Sometimes it is hard to connect what is practiced with anything as derived from historic liturgy. We have come a long way from the year (1965) I was ordained and the Missouri Synod, in Detroit initiated what became the Lutheran Book of Worship. Back in the 1930's Theodore Graebner delivered an essay on, "Our Liturgical Chaos." I don't know what he would call conditions today where we have much, much wider divergence, even total abandonment of catholic liturgy.

If only we had as much energy for liturgical uniformity as we have for Biblical hermeneutics! Our standard assessment of Episcopalianism notes ambiguity about the Real Presence, yet they have successfully preserved and reformed catholic liturgy that is uniform in every parish. We practice the "real absence" on far too many Sundays, in far too many parishes.

Your loyal critic.  Peace, JOHN
Pr. JOHN HANNAH, STS

Weedon

Thank you, Jeremy and Don. Both of those are profoundly helpful.

Don, I cannot but say "Amen" and remain amazed at those that cannot (or refuse to) see the measure of that divergence as yanking at the very fabric of our Synodical unity.

Jeremy, when I was in ONM, we seriously contemplated whether Synod could actually fund in every circuit a father confessor for the church workers, a circuit chaplain, if you will: zero reporting responsibility, but who travelled the circuit to provide pastoral care to the workers. I still think it's a crying shame the idea went down in flames when we floated it past some DPs. Their response was either 1. I am the pastor to my pastors and other workers (which is not true). 2. Why would I support that? They'd elect that guy DP! (Which was really dumb, because that's the ONE person that they'd never want to be DP!). The idea was to have an older and experienced pastor who understood the vow of silence and took it with utmost seriousness provide pastoral care as a chaplain for his area: this would be for pastors and their wives, and for church workers of every stripe. In exchange for his time, the national Synod would provide a modest stipend. It would be a way of getting care down on the local level and the national Synod would have every motivation to provide such care. I wonder if you had had something like that, Jeremy at the time of your serial crises if your experience of those hardships might have been significantly different. Thank you for being vulnerable and sharing as you have!

peter_speckhard

I think people in any job go through vocational crises when there is a confluence of adverse conditions, but for pastors there is an added spiritual dimension. To say you're sick of driving a truck and want to open a little restaurant instead is one thing. To say you're sick of tending to God's flock, which is no less likely to happen at times, seems much worse. That's why I think a lot of pastors don't seek the help. They feel not only bad but guilty for even needing it.

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