changing membership requirements

Started by Coach-Rev, November 18, 2010, 10:00:20 AM

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Quote from: peter_speckhard on November 19, 2010, 01:20:54 AM
The problem with any "minimum" is that it can only refer to a Law thing. Private confession/absolution is a gift, which is why we can encourage it but not mandate it, not even once a year. You can't mandate gifts; the minute you do, it is no longer a gift. As soon as you say "once a year" is the attendance minimum, you've implicitly encouraged people toward an entirely wrong view of what they're doing by attending church. So by all means have requirements for voting, such as being 18 or attending a meeting in the last year, or something, but don't attach those requirements to the worship/sacramental life of the church. It messes things up. Pretty soon you're wondering whether standing in the back or reading the newspaper in the cry-room counts as attending.

And that is exactly the reason that private confession and absolution will NEVER be embraced by any large numbers of Lutheran laity. If you say its good and people ought to do it, then make it completely optional, very few will ever avail themselves of it.  I ought to know. I am a former Lutheran who asked my pastor for private confession and absolution.  He was polite and gracious, and he heard my confession.  But you should have seen the expression on his face when I asked him to hear my confession.  He clearly thought I was odd, weird, and, I think, a bit eccentric.  His response to my request was rather interesting. If I remember correctly, it went like this:

Me: Pastor, I want to make a private confession.
Pastor H:  Confession!  My goodness, have you murdered somebody? (said in a friendly manner, though)
Me:  I'll reveal my sins DURING the confession, not before, Pastor.
Pastor:  Do you really feel the need for something so formal as Confession?
Me: Yes, I do.
Pastor: Well, then, go wait at the altar rail and let me take a few moments to prepare myself. I'll be in there shortly.

To give this pastor (an LCMS one) the benefit of the doubt, I think he was nervous.  I know he hadn't been out of seminary all that long. Perhaps he had never heard a confession before. I don't know.  Anyway, he did hear my confession, absolve me, and gave me some very good, practical advice. We kind of formed a bond after that.

I do want to praise Lutherans for not abolishing private confession entirely.  However, now that I am Orthodox, the Lutheran approach seems incredibly wimpy and milquetoast to me.  As an Orthodox Christian, I really don't have to go to confession.  Of course, I don't HAVE to go to heaven either.  No priest or bishop can force me to go to confession, and none ever have.  However, as part of Eucharistic discipline, as I approach the Chalice, the priest can ask me (and, indeed, in the Orthodox tradition is bound to ask me) three questions:
1.  Are you at peace with all?
2.  Have you prepared yourself with prayer and fasting?
3.  How long has it been since your last confession?

Questions one and two are easily answered with a yes or a no.  Question three usually requires a little more explanation. I once recall a teenage boy standing in line for Communion.  When he got to the Chalice the priest asked him how long it had been since his last confession.  It had been a while, and the boy told the priest he couldn't remember when he made his last confession.
I was standing close enough to hear the priest's response, "Well, if you can't remember, then its been too long. You aren't prepared to receive the Eucharist today. I will bless you with the Chalice instead."

The priest was firm, but polite. He didn't scold the boy. He didn't make a scene. And he did give him a blessing. But at the same time he made it clear that private confession was not optional and that, as a priest, he wasn't going to overlook that.

I realize the Orthodox and Lutheran churches are different churches and having differing beliefs and follow different customs, but when Luther and the Lutheran Confessions say that "private confession should not be allowed to fall into disuse" ... How can confession be kept from falling into disuse if the church doesn't require it?  Could it not be possible (thinking outside the box for a moment) for Confessional Lutherans to require private confession at least once per year from every confirmed member in order to comply with the confessional mandate of not letting private confession fall into disuse?

Let's discuss this.

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