Thursday, October 25, 2007

Synod Issues

A few readers have suggested that I am neglecting important synod issues on this blog. Therefore, I have listed a poll on the right side of the page. Please indicate which topic you believe is the most important or controversial issue facing the WELS today. If I didn’t list your choice please leave a comment about what you see as the most important issue facing the WELS.

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

John,

Many outward problems are starting to surface because the group of pastors aging into the powerful positions in the synod are the first group in history to actually apply the Wauwautosa Theology. Though it was written in the beginning of the 20th century, the logical outcomes are only starting to be seen now.

Anonymous said...

If you look at the history of the WELS, financial troubles are nothing new.

Anonymous said...

Would the person who criticized the Wauwatosa Theology be willing to say what exactly he feels is wrong with it? (Rather than making an accusation without any giving any specific facts or argumentation.)

Anonymous said...

What's wrong with the Wauwautosa theology?

1. The Gospel creates it's own forms (coincidentally, these forms will be whatever we come up with and want them to be)

2. The ministry as a list of functions which everyone is to do.

3. Rejection of all church history and church tradition, in theory to take a fresh look at Scripture, but which ends up in practice creating binding WELS church traditions.

There you go! Have a lovely day. :)

LM said...

This comes from DP Janke's AZ/CA Fall 2007 report:


"I attended the ELS-WELS Forum on September 28 as the COP’s representative. The main subject of the forum was “Women Communing Women.” Concerns about this practice arose in both the WELS and the ELS after one WELS congregation called MLC female staff ministry interns to administer communion to female shut-ins. After review of the practice by the COP, the congregation was asked not to continue having women commune women. The congregation complied with the request. The COP conceded in its January 2005 statement on this issue that the Bible doesn’t specifically address this matter, but concluded that for numerous reasons it was not wise to continue having women commune women.

It’s apparent now that the COP’s call to refrain because the practice is “not wise” is not as strong a statement as some in the Evangelical Lutheran Synod were hoping to hear. According the 2006 ELS Synod Report, the ELS has urged its Doctrine Committee, “To continue its discussions with the CICR on the matter of women communing women noting that we unanimously agree that Scripture clearly teaches that women are not to be in the pastoral office, because this presiding office includes the exercise of authority over men (1 Cor. 14:34-35, 1 Tim. 2:11-12). Also, when Scripture refers to one who officiates at the word and sacrament liturgy it speaks in male terms (1 Tim. 3:2, 1 Tim. 4:13). Therefore women shall not read the Scripture lessons in the divine service, preach the sermon, administer Baptism or distribute the Lord’s Supper, for these things are intimately related to the pastoral office.” (Underlining mine) WELS, through its Commission on Inter-Church Relations, clearly needs to continue talking with our brothers in the ELS on this matter, but I hope it’s also clear that we in the WELS—even if there were no concerns from the ELS—are not in a position to have women read Scripture lessons in worship or to have women commune women."

I know some on here were previously admonished for making a big deal of this issue, but as Janke's report shows, this could prove to be one of the more important issues presently facing the WELS.

LM

Anonymous said...

"1. The Gospel creates it's own forms"

I'm not sure I see what the problem with this statement is, or what we should use to create our forms if not the Gospel. Proponents of liturgical worship often make the point the the liturgy is so valuable because its forms are shaped by the Gospel to proclaim the Gospel.

"(coincidentally, these forms will be whatever we come up with and want them to be)"

That's not what the Wauwatosa Theology says. Actually it's the polar opposite of the Wauwatosa Theology, saying that my own opinions rather than the Gospel should create forms. This is crass mischaracterization of the WT perpetuated by the C&Cers and others.

"2. The ministry as a list of functions which everyone is to do."

What a laughable caricature of what the WT says. Couldn't you make the same caricature of Luther's priesthood of all believers? But just like Luther the WT and the WELS makes the distinction between the priesthood of all believers and the called "priesthood". I'm sure you can come up with anecdotal evidence that some in the WELS don't always make this distinction, but let's stick to official doctrinal statements.

"3. Rejection of all church history and church tradition, in theory to take a fresh look at Scripture, but which ends up in practice creating binding WELS church traditions."

Again, a laughable caricature. 99% of all WELS churches use the liturgy, drawn from the centuries of "church history and tradition". Students at the Seminary take many church history courses. I wouldn't exactly call this a rejection of all church history and tradition.

Anonymous said...

I tried to post this comment earlier. If the first one does come through, please disregard this repitition.

""2. The ministry as a list of functions which everyone is to do."

What a laughable caricature of what the WT says. Couldn't you make the same caricature of Luther's priesthood of all believers? But just like Luther the WT and the WELS makes the distinction between the priesthood of all believers and the called "priesthood". I'm sure you can come up with anecdotal evidence that some in the WELS don't always make this distinction, but let's stick to official doctrinal statements."


Here is part of the official WELS doctrinal statement on the ministry:

"A. Christ instituted one office in His Church, the ministry of the Gospel. It is the task of proclaiming the Gospel in Word and Sacrament. Mt 28:18-20; Mk 16:15; Jn 20:21-23; Ac 1:8; 1 Pe 2:9; Lk 22:19,20. This office or service, the ministry of the keys, has been given to the Church, i.e., to the believers individually and collectively. Mt 16:19; 10:32; 18:18; 1 Pe 2:9."

Note that here the ministry is defined as tasks given to the church, collectively and individually. So to say that the WT defines ministry as a list of functions that everybody does is not just a laughable caricature; the Synod has met under the Convention Theme of everyone a minister.

Your labeling of this as a laughable caricature seems to suggest that you disagree with such a definition of the ministry. But to do so also puts you at odd with the official WELS statement on the ministry.

Perhaps this statement on the ministry would be a good topic. For example, I have never understood how the WELS draws from scirpture its teaching that Christ wants public ministers to carry out the public ministry but never instituted an office

As for the third point, the foundation of the WT is to take a fresh look at Scripture instead of approaching Scripture through the traditions of the church. We are, of course, free to agree or disagree with the approach of the WT, but we cannot call this a laughable caricature of the WT.

RNN

Anonymous said...

RNN,

You are making a classic mistake. You are confusing a statement on the priesthood of all believers with a statement on the called/public/representative ministry. They are two different things. When the WELS statement says that the ministry of the Gospel has been given to all Christians, it's talking about the priesthood of all believers. It's not saying that all Christians are pastors. Luther repeatedly made the same point as the WELS statement does. Perhaps you would benefit by reading more of what Luther had to say about the priesthood of all believers and the called priesthood. The problem isn't with the WELS statement, it's with Romanizing Missourians who deny the priesthood of all believers (or claim that it only exists in theory and not in actuality).

Anonymous said...

Anonymous,

Forgive my confusion, but the quotation is from the WELS statement on the ministry, not the preisthood of all believers. The quotation nowhere speaks of the priesthood of all believers, but of the ministry. And to drive the point home, this is the first point immediately under the title "The Ministry."

Three points later the following statement is made:

"This public ministry is not generically different from that of the common priesthood of all Christians. It constitutes a special God-ordained way of practicing the one ministry of the Gospel."

So the WELS statement clearly says the priesthood and the ministry are the same thing. Why then do you claim that they are two different things? How are they different to the WELS?

If you are correct, and Point A cited in my previous post is talking about the priesthood, why does it not say so? If what you say is correct, the WELS statement is confusing, at best.

Just out of curiosity, who is an example of a Romanizing Missourian who denies the existence of the Priesthood of All Believers? I have yet to come across that error.

RNN

MAV said...

Why is Exodus 19 never cited? Interesting that many forget there was a priesthood of all believers in the OT too.

mav

Anonymous said...

RNN,

You're still making the same mistake. Whenever you read the word "ministry" you automatically make the jump to public/representative ministry. Ministry is a broader word than that. Perhaps it would be clearer if we spoke of the ministry of all believers. (Afterall, priesthood and ministry mean the same thing.) That's why the WELS statements puts the priesthood of all believers under the broader term ministry. That's also why the statement indicated the public/representative ministry isn't "generically" different, meaning they both have to do with the Word and Sacraments.

Anonymous said...

What then is the distinction between the broader ministry and the public/representative ministry?

Also, how do we square this with Article 14 of the Augsburg Confession?

Thanks!

RNN

Anonymous said...

"What then is the distinction between the broader ministry and the public/representative ministry?"

The difference is the call. All Christians are given the ministry of the Gospel. Through the call, they entrust the responsibility to administer the Word and Sacraments in a public/representative way to certain individuals. This is exactly what Article 14 of the Augsburg Confession says.

Anonymous said...

"Through the call, they entrust the responsibility to administer the Word and Sacraments in a public/representative way to certain individuals. This is exactly what Article 14 of the Augsburg Confession says."

If that is the case, then how can it be said that there is nothing wrong with a woman, who likely is not the called pastor, publicly adminstering the sacrament to other women?

Anonymous said...

"If that is the case, then how can it be said that there is nothing wrong with a woman, who likely is not the called pastor, publicly adminstering the sacrament to other women?"

But the call isn't limited only to the pastoral office. The call is extended to anyone who publicly administers the Gospel in the name of the congregation. For example, day school teachers receive calls, because they publicly teach God's Word on behalf of the congregation.

Anonymous said...

"Through the call, they entrust the responsibility to administer the Word and Sacraments in a public/representative way to certain individuals. This is exactly what Article 14 of the Augsburg Confession says."

Not exactly. Here's what it says: "Our churches teach that no one should publicly teach in the Church, or administer the Sacraments, without a rightly ordered call." AC XIV

N.B. This does not say the pastors are acting as representatives of the other believers but in the stead of Christ (see Articles IV and V). This is no way denigrates the priesthood of all believers, who go to God their loving Father in prayer and serve their neighbors in their vocations and are salt and light to a dying world (btw, I'm not a pastor, so this applies to me).

Anonymous said...

"But the call isn't limited only to the pastoral office. The call is extended to anyone who publicly administers the Gospel in the name of the congregation. For example, day school teachers receive calls, because they publicly teach God's Word on behalf of the congregation."

This is what is said in the WELS. However, it doesn't square with Scripture. In Scripture the deacons did care for people's temporal needs like our day school teachers do, but they did not preach the Gospel (I don't mean teaching a religion class; i mean preaching) or administer the Sacraments (which our day school teachers do not do either on a regular basis, aberrant practices aside). The deacons also were not in the same office as the apostles. Jesus made a clear distinction between his chosen apostles and his other disciples. If you want to call teachers, that's fine. They provide a good and salutary service to the church. However, there is a difference between the good work they do for our children and the work of preaching and administering the Sacraments.

Anonymous said...

"The difference is the call. All Christians are given the ministry of the Gospel. Through the call, they entrust the responsibility to administer the Word and Sacraments in a public/representative way to certain individuals. This is exactly what Article 14 of the Augsburg Confession says."

As I look at the passages once again, I am less convinced that the priesthood of all believers and the ministry are the same thing. In fact, this seems to be a denial of the priesthood of all believers. It also is ironic that this is clericalism in its highest form.

Its clericalism because it makes everybody into a minister. As it does this, it denies the value of the other vocations that Christians have. That is, it is not enough for a man to be a faithful husband, father, and plumber; it is not enough for him to rejoice in the gifts of his baptism and declare the praises of him who saved him. (This is what the 1 Peter passage says: to praise God for the gifts received, not to give out those gifts.) This is not enough; we need to make him a minister too, because we all know that the ministers are the ones doing what is really spiritual and God-pleasing. So let's make everyone a minister that they might all do God-pleasing things. This is the view that puts pastors in a higher status, but justifies it by putting everyone else in this higher status too.

It seems rather that the priesthood is a gift, being incorporated into Christ's body through baptism and sharing in all of his glory and blessings. We ought not deny this gift by equating priesthood and ministry when Scripture never does this.

RNN

John said...

its clericalism because it makes everybody into a minister.

This is what seminarians are being taught. I had one young pastor tell me that his job was to put himself out of work at his church by empowering his members

Anonymous said...

"This is no way denigrates the priesthood of all believers, who go to God their loving Father in prayer and serve their neighbors in their vocations and are salt and light to a dying world"

Sorry, but you are confusing vocation with the priesthood of all believers. They aren't the same thing. Believers serve God through their vocations, but they also share in the priesthood of all believers. Read Martin Luther. He repeatedly talks about vocation and repeatedly talks about the priesthood of all believers, but he never confuses the two or claims that the priesthood of all believers only refers to vocation.

"However, there is a difference between the good work they do for our children and the work of preaching and administering the Sacraments."

What's the difference then? IF a teacher proclaims God's Word in a classroom for 20 minutes that's different than a pastor proclaiming God's Word for 20 minutes in a pulpit? Don't see a difference besides the location.

"Its clericalism because it makes everybody into a minister."

Read 1 Peter 2:9 again. All Christians are "a royal priesthood...that [they] may declare the praises of him..." The WELS position doesn't make people ministers, it recognizes that Christ has already made all Christians ministers.

"This is what the 1 Peter passage says: to praise God for the gifts received, not to give out those gifts."

Sorry, but that's not what the passage says. Praise and proclamation are the same thing. You can't praise God without proclaiming what he has done (unless you are a CCM artist).

"We ought not deny this gift by equating priesthood and ministry when Scripture never does this."

But priesthood and ministry mean the exact same thing. If I were translating the NT, I could use both of those words interchangeably. It's the exact same linguistic concept. We ought not do violence to the Greek language or the English language to claim that synonyms are really synonyms. That's the same sort of word play that says "is" doesn't really mean "is".

Anonymous said...

In Scripture the deacons did care for people's temporal needs like our day school teachers do, but they did not preach the Gospel (I don't mean teaching a religion class; i mean preaching) or administer the Sacraments (which our day school teachers do not do either on a regular basis, aberrant practices aside). The deacons also were not in the same office as the apostles.

If my memory serves me right, Stephen was stoned not for waiting on tables, but for preaching.

Perhaps Lutherans could learn a little something from Stephen and blow up the vicar year in favor of another year of seminary, then a year or so of being a deacon, then ordination leading to a curateship of sorts.

It works overseas for Lutherans and other Christians. Why not in the USA?

RMC

Anonymous said...

"But priesthood and ministry mean the exact same thing. If I were translating the NT, I could use both of those words interchangeably."

Leaving aside the hyperbole in your comment, this is exactly my question: do priesthood and ministry mean the same thing? I think not, and I would like more evidence to support your claim that they are synonyms.

When reading more and more of Luther, I find less talk about this priesthood than I might expect, especially when faced with the Radical Reformation (ie, after 1525). They were the ones to make everyone a minister; Luther rejected this position.

Thanks!
RNN

Anonymous said...

Good point RMC. The NT offices are not so clearly delineated as some here claim. Perhaps the apostles should have stoned Stephen for taking it upon himself to preach the Word in public, since we all know that deacons weren't allowed to do that, right?

Anonymous said...

"do priesthood and ministry mean the same thing? I think not, and I would like more evidence to support your claim that they are synonyms."

This isn't a deep theological point we're talking about. Use a dictionary or thesaurus. They mean the same thing.

"When reading more and more of Luther, I find less talk about this priesthood than I might expect, especially when faced with the Radical Reformation (ie, after 1525). They were the ones to make everyone a minister; Luther rejected this position."

Read the Babylonian Captivity of the Church. It was one of the cornerstones of the Reformation and deals with exactly this point. Also, the radical reformation didn't err because they invented the priesthood of all believers. They erred because they denied the public/representative priesthood. Lutheranism is all about the Biblical middle ground. The Catholics went too far with the public/representative priesthood. The Radical Reformers went too far with the priesthood of all believers. But that doesn't mean that we should throw either truth out just because someone took them too far.

Anonymous said...

Lutheranism is all about the Biblical middle ground.

Since when have Lutherans confessed the via media, a la the Anglicans.

I hope your three-legged stool doesn't go out on you. You seem to be short one leg.

RMC

Anonymous said...

The NT offices are not so clearly delineated as some here claim. Perhaps the apostles should have stoned Stephen for taking it upon himself to preach the Word in public, since we all know that deacons weren't allowed to do that, right?

If my memory serves me right, my pastor once told me that the Greek word for "priest" is "jeros", or something like it. The Greek word for "minister" is "diakonos" or "presbyteros" (sp?). I'm working from a Bible Study worksheet here so I might be wrong.

If you take words seriously, it seems to me that these are completely different words. Perhaps they might have completely different functions too.

I guess ol' Rush is right. Words mean things.

Covered in Christ's blood as a priest in His Kingdom,

RMC

Anonymous said...

RMC,

You're absolutely right. The problem with the "Missourian" position is the way it manhandles these words to fit its point.

For example, they claim that minister and elder and overseer and bishop are all different words for the same thing, but that priest and deacon and deaconess are completely different words for different things.

It's an example of reading their established position back into Scripture and arranging words and concepts based on what's necessary for the position. For example, it's necessary for their position that deacons didn't preach the Word. But as you pointed out, it's quite clear that Stephen did in fact preach the Word.

This tendency to read one's position back into Scripture rather than allowing Scripture to form one's position was one of the chief concerns of the Wauwautosa theologians.

Anonymous said...

Anon:

You know, I'm beginning to think that no Lutheran synod in the USA has the absolute, positive, one and only one answer to the Ministry question.

Further, I understand that this question was not really something that pastors in the Missouri Synod and the Wisconsin Synod were not communing over.

Might it be compatible to say that both positions affirm certain true things about the Ministry and call it a day? There are greater and more important issues to divide over.

If my memory serves me right, I read an essay on the Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary website that featured something called the Wauwatosa Theses or Mequon Theses. It was both St. Louis and Wauwatosa agreeing on the Ministry. Something like four or five points. It's been a while since I read it.

I've said too much. Both Missouri and Wisconsin have a lot to repent about through the 20th century. The same can be said for this one too. Both aren't perfect. Both still confess by the grace of God.

RMC