Tuesday, November 27, 2007

WELS Fellowship

Feel free to address the issue that is important to you. (I have updated the opening post on Fellowship)
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Here's something. The material below came from a recent WELS Q&A.

Q: I am the volleyball coach for our WELS school team. We have combined our sports teams with a neighboring Missouri Synod church due to the fact that neither of us have enough students for form our own teams. I would like to have a short prayer with myself and our team before each match simply asking God to help us remember proper sportsmanship and the like. Is it wrong for us to pray with others, even small children (grades 3-6), if they are not WELS?

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A: There are a lot of questions you have to address in order to answer your question.

The first is why does the Bible tell us to not join together in worship with those individuals and groups that hold to false teachings? The primary reason is to give a clear testimony against falsehood. A secondary reason is to not entangle ourselves with false teachings and false connections. What will give a clear testimony in this case?

Why are we not able to be in fellowship with the Missouri Synod nor they with us? What is the position of this Missouri Synod congregation to the teachings that separate us from them and to the sharp internal divisions in the LCMS? Do they reject any of our teachings and practices as false? Since the Missouri Synod has an unscriptural position on prayer fellowship, do we have to be especially careful in this case?

Whose teams and whose prayers are these? There is no reason we cannot pray our own prayers when others are present as we do when we have visitors at VBS or Sunday school or church. But do you have a right, for example, to give a table prayer at someone else's house when you are a guest? Can we impose our prayers on others? What if the joint team was with Catholics or non-Christians? Would you still have the prayer then? Would the other parties then have the right to lead our team in prayer?

When children are involved, is our responsibility to avoid offense less of an issue or is it greater? If prayer in this situation is okay with 3rd to 6th graders, what about 7th and 8th or teens? What if this is an adult league? Is the only factor here the effect on the children or is it the testimony to the congregations?

If this joint team is cooperation in an external thing, why do you feel a need to introduce your prayer for the group? Why can't each person just have his or her own silent prayer?

What did the pastors and boards of the two churches say when you asked them about this? What understanding did they have when they set up the joint teams? Are you introducing an unnecessary complication to the arrangement?

All of these are questions you should be discussing locally in order to answer your question.

186 comments:

AP said...

Here's something. The material below came from a recent WELS Q&A. The answer is really just a list of more questions. Other than that, is there anything in this answer that you take issue with? Can you give a better response? Is there anything you agree with?

Enjoy,

AP

Q: I am the volleyball coach for our WELS school team. We have combined our sports teams with a neighboring Missouri Synod church due to the fact that neither of us have enough students for form our own teams. I would like to have a short prayer with myself and our team before each match simply asking God to help us remember proper sportsmanship and the like. Is it wrong for us to pray with others, even small children (grades 3-6), if they are not WELS?

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A: There are a lot of questions you have to address in order to answer your question.

The first is why does the Bible tell us to not join together in worship with those individuals and groups that hold to false teachings? The primary reason is to give a clear testimony against falsehood. A secondary reason is to not entangle ourselves with false teachings and false connections. What will give a clear testimony in this case?

Why are we not able to be in fellowship with the Missouri Synod nor they with us? What is the position of this Missouri Synod congregation to the teachings that separate us from them and to the sharp internal divisions in the LCMS? Do they reject any of our teachings and practices as false? Since the Missouri Synod has an unscriptural position on prayer fellowship, do we have to be especially careful in this case?

Whose teams and whose prayers are these? There is no reason we cannot pray our own prayers when others are present as we do when we have visitors at VBS or Sunday school or church. But do you have a right, for example, to give a table prayer at someone else's house when you are a guest? Can we impose our prayers on others? What if the joint team was with Catholics or non-Christians? Would you still have the prayer then? Would the other parties then have the right to lead our team in prayer?

When children are involved, is our responsibility to avoid offense less of an issue or is it greater? If prayer in this situation is okay with 3rd to 6th graders, what about 7th and 8th or teens? What if this is an adult league? Is the only factor here the effect on the children or is it the testimony to the congregations?

If this joint team is cooperation in an external thing, why do you feel a need to introduce your prayer for the group? Why can't each person just have his or her own silent prayer?

What did the pastors and boards of the two churches say when you asked them about this? What understanding did they have when they set up the joint teams? Are you introducing an unnecessary complication to the arrangement?

All of these are questions you should be discussing locally in order to answer your question.

UP said...

"There is no reason we cannot pray our own prayers when others are present as we do when we have visitors at VBS or Sunday school or church"

This statement from the answer does not seem to agree with the WELS doctrinal statements on fellowship. The doctrinal statement makes no distinction whether WELS members are praying with or near non-WELS visitors in a WELS congregation or whether they are praying somewhere else, say at a volleyball game. It says "every" joint expression of the faith. There is no geographical distinction (ie: it's ok if you're in a WELS building with visitors present, but not ok if you're a visitor in an LCMS church)

If the reason for not praying with others is to give a clear confession against their errors, then it is not ok to pray with visitors in a WELS church anymore than it's ok to pray with this LCMS volleyball team. To say it is ok in the one case but not the other is inconsistent. Prayer in either case is an expression of the faith.

UP

Michael Schottey said...

UP,

Extrapolate where your statement is going "then it is not ok to pray with visitors in a WELS church..."

Should we then, if there are visitors on a given sunday, remove prayer from our services? By no means!

Prayer is not a sacrament. Like you said, it is an expression of faith. I don't know about others, but personally I look to express my faith among unbelievers as much as I can!

This is not an invitation to "join hands around the flagpole" with unbelievers. There is certainly a distinction to be made for praying "with" others and praying "among" others.

If I say a prayer with my wife, even aloud, in a crowded restaraunt, I have not joined in fellowship with the patrons beside me, but with my wife. What I have done for the patrons beside me is let my light shine, that they may see our good deeds and praise our father in heaven.

I believe having a corporate prayer for the two teams before the games would be in breech of the rules of fellowship. However that is not what you spoke to.

I believe that if a VBS is being run and a nonbeliever is present it is surely right and fitting that the LORD be proclaimed in their sight.

LM said...

UP,

I think you touch on something that has always confussed me about the WELS doctrine and practice regarding fellowship. The WELS says you can't pray with other people that aren't WELS, yet WELS welcomes non-WELS visitors into their services (in fact, this is one reason I've heard why some churches don't offer the Lord's Supper every service--because it might offend the visitors), and presumably, those non-WELS visitors are praying at the same times the WELS members are praying durring the service. So is there a difference between praying with someone and praying at the same time as someone, in the same building, being led by the same pastor? Can anyone help me make sense of this?

LM

LM said...

Mike,

I posted my comment, above, before I saw yours. You touch on this issue too--though I admit, I have a hard time seeing the distinction between saying a non-WELS person can pray with a WELS person, but a WELS person can't pray with a non-WELS person. (I don't think that is what you are saying--your distinction, if I understand it, is between praying "with" and praying "among"). But still, isn't what is really happening when a non-WELS person attends and prays at a WELS service?

Thanks,

LM

LM said...

Sorry, the last sentence in my 12:59 post should read, "Isn't THAT what is really happening when a non-WELS person attends and prays at a WELS service?"

LM

Michael Schottey said...

Perhaps, as I should do more often, I will defer to men greater than I. I direct you to a paper written by Rev. Bartelt on this matter.

http://www.wlsessays.net/authors/B/BartleltWith/BarteltWith.pdf

What I gleaned here inbetween classes is of more pertinance to the matter and something we should keep a mind on.

With all Christians, we should not make assumption that they are false believers or hypocrites. But rather as Christ our Lord illustrated in the parable of the nets, we should leave the sorting of Good fish and bad fish for the last day. Our job (according to the great commission) is to keep dropping the nets.

That being said, we do not pray with those who have broken fellowship with us by means of their public confession of faith (be it LCMS or otherwise).

A personal note that I feel I should correct, many in other threads have referred to me as a seminarian. I am not. I am at MLC and more correctly a "pre-seminarian".

In Nomine Jesu
Michael A. Schottey

theshepherdsvoice.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

LM,

The overriding question in all of these issues of fellowship is this: "What will give the clearest testimony to the truth of God's Word?"

When a visitor comes to a WELS church, there really is no risk that the truth of God's Word will be compromised. Every single person there understands that this is a WELS church, WELS pastor, etc. The visitor may participate as much or as little as that visitor is bound by their conscience and their understanding of fellowship. But whether that visitor prays or not, the truth of God's Word is clearly being proclaimed and maintained.

Now, if a WELS person visits a non-WELS church, and that WELS visitor prays or participates in worship, that WELS member would be giving an unclear testimony to the truth of God's Word. Would anyone else even notice? Maybe, maybe not. But the WELS member is bound by conscience to give a give a clear testimony that the church they are visiting does not uphold the truth of God's Word.

That's the basic difference.

Michael Schottey said...

LM,

Thank you immensely for writing what I was incapable of expressing.

So often we deal with things on a case by case basis, as if we wished to create a giant Christian rulebook that dealt with every special circumstance (read: Catholic Catechism).

Let us all ask ourselves, in what way will I glorify God the most with my actions?

UP said...

Mike,

Welcome back! Will you have time to also give some answers to GM on the other topic? Just wondering. I'll keep checking it if you plan to.

The Q&A answer said: "The primary reason is to give a clear testimony against falsehood." A visitor to a WELS church service will most likely not know the WELS doctrine of fellowship. At least this is true of my non-WELS family and friends. Therefore, if they are praying along with everyone else in a WELS worship service, they will assume that they are praying WITH the present WELS members, not simultaneously alongside WELS members. If we are true to the WELS doctrines, and if the doctrines are there to give a clear confession against error, shouldn't we in love inform those who are present but not of our fellowship that they are not to pray with us? If we don't we are appearing to have a double standard (you can pray with us, but we can't pray with you)and not giving a clear confession.

UP

Anonymous said...

Where does fellowship come from? Is it something that we do? Or is it comething God gives?

LM said...

"Thank you immensely for writing what I was incapable of expressing."

Mike, if you are referring to the comment at 1:17, I didn't write that. Rather, it looks like that comment was in response to mine.

LM

UP said...

"The visitor may participate as much or as little as that visitor is bound by their conscience and their understanding of fellowship."

Then is the WELS' doctrine of fellowship unimportant or incorrect? If it is up to everyone's own conscience, either we are not very loving and don't care that someone else is in error, or our doctrine isn't that important to us.

Why is a WELS member bound to give a clear testimony in other churches but not his own?

Anonymous said in his/her comment that everyone in a WELS service knows that it is a WELS church. That's true for anyone who looked at the sign out front, but the visitors likely don't know what that means doctrinally, especially in dealing with fellowship.

UP

Anonymous said...

UP,

When the Apostle Paul prayed on the ship, he didn't first warn the sailors not to listen or join in. He simply prayed and gave a testimony to the truth. Whether the sailors listened or joined with him in their hearts or aloud really isn't the point.

Like Michael said, if I go to a restaurant and pray aloud, I don't first need to warn the other diners not to listen or join in. I simply pray aloud and give a testimony to the truth.

The same applies to a WELS church service. The pastor and the congregation proclaim the truth. If others are visiting and hear it, that's fine. It should be clear simply based on the fact that he/she is a visitor, that there is a difference in belief. I doubt any visitor would come to a church thinking, "Yup, I'm perfectly united with these people." Nor do I think any visitor would leave after the service thinking, "Well, I said the prayers with them, so we must all believe exactly the same thing." Would it be nice to have a chance to sit down with every visitor and explain fellowship? Yeah. Is that practical? No, but hopefully the chance will arise.

Ultimately every individual Christian is responsible to God and conscience for his/her own actions. It's not our job to police the actions of all Christians.

Anonymous said...

Let me just add this too, UP,

There is no "Fellowship Rulebook". Again, the overriding principle is to always give the clearest testimony possible. If a pastor or a congregation felt that visitors were joining in prayers and somehow being confused regarding the truth of God's Word, then by all means they could include something at the beginning of the service asking visitors not to participate. But as I noted before, I really don't that such confusion exists.

LM said...

"When a visitor comes to a WELS church, there really is no risk that the truth of God's Word will be compromised. Every single person there understands that this is a WELS church, WELS pastor, etc. The visitor may participate as much or as little as that visitor is bound by their conscience and their understanding of fellowship."

But isn't that saying that there is a difference between prayer fellowship and communion fellowship (because we tolerate non-WELS people praying with us in our services but we don't tolerate or allow them to commune with us)and doesn't the WELS reject any distinction between the two (ie. levels of fellowship)?

I guess that is what is confusing me.

The following comment by UP might be applicable here too (pardon me if I've takent this out of context):

"If we are true to the WELS doctrines, and if the doctrines are there to give a clear confession against error, shouldn't we in love inform those who are present but not of our fellowship that they are not to pray with us?"

If we in love refuse to let non-WELS members commune with us, shouldn't we, as UP asks, in love inform them not to pray with us?

LM

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I figured that question was coming next. The Lord's Supper is different, but not because there are different levels of fellowship. The Lord gives us specific warnings about communing improperly. Thus, we take special precautions regarding the Lord's Supper. We don't want anyone to commune to their damnation because they don't, by faith, recognize the body and the blood of the Lord. There is no warning from the Lord that those who pray without recognizing fellowship principles will pray to their damnation.

There's also a practical side. A pastor can't keep his words from the ears of a visitor. Nor can he keep the visitor from praying--especially if that visitor is praying silently. But a pastor can keep the body and blood from a person's lips.

Anonymous said...

Good topic.

Great discussion.

Reading along and "listening."

IT

Anonymous said...

I think that a previous poster hit the nail on the head talking about the fact that all Christians have personal responsibility. If a visitor comes into a WELS church and participates in the service, they are indicating to all that they are in doctrinal agreement with the members of that church. Whether or not that's what they intend to do, whether or not that's what they know they're doing, is up to that individual. The WELS church can't be responsible for the actions of other Christians. If that visitor wasn't instructed in fellowship principles, the fault is with that visitor's shepherd, not with the WELS shepherd.

UP said...

No, there is no rulebook for fellowship, however the WELS has doctrinal statements on fellowship. Here's a portion: "Church fellowship is every joint expression, manifestation, and demonstration of the common faith in which Christians on the basis of their confession find themselves to be united with one another."

Note the word "every". There is no distinction based on whether you are in a WELS church or a church of another synod to determine whether you should make a confession against error.

Again, from the doctrinal statements: "We may classify these joint expressions of faith in various ways according to the particular realm of activity in which they occur, e.g., pulpit fellowship; altar fellowship; prayer fellowship; fellowship in worship; fellowship in church work, in missions, in Christian education, and in Christian charity. Yet insofar as they are joint expressions of faith, they are all essentially one and the same thing and are all properly covered by a common designation, namely, church fellowship."

This makes no distinction between prayer fellowship and altar fellowship. It calls them "one and the same thing".

Nowhere does it say that a visiting Christian not of the WELS fellowship is responsible for knowing or not knowing proper fellowship principles. Instead they speak of building up the faith and understanding of the weak, which is a far more loving response than to say it is on the visitor's head for showing up having never had the opportunity to be instructed in fellowship principles (or the visitor's pastor, who, if he is not WELS, will likely not teach the WELS fellowship principles)

Two of the above anonymouses have conflicting conclusions regarding visitors in WELS services. This shows some of the confusion surrounding the fellowship principles too. A at 1:50 wrote:"It should be clear simply based on the fact that he/she is a visitor, that there is a difference in belief. I doubt any visitor would come to a church thinking, "Yup, I'm perfectly united with these people." Nor do I think any visitor would leave after the service thinking, "Well, I said the prayers with them, so we must all believe exactly the same thing." "

A at 2:35 wrote: " If a visitor comes into a WELS church and participates in the service, they are indicating to all that they are in doctrinal agreement with the members of that church. Whether or not that's what they intend to do, whether or not that's what they know they're doing, is up to that individual."


Wouldn't it be a clearer testimony to be uniform and in line with our own doctrinal statements in our practices?

UP

LM said...

Anon at 2:17,

Thanks for answering my question.

In your last paragraph you mention the "practical side" of the issue. In fact, I think it is this "practical side" that makes the WELS unit concept hard for me to follow. Observing the unit concept seems like it would be a practical impossibility--because, as you point out, I can't control the non-WELS visitor standing next to me.

Anyway, I'll have to think about this a little more. Thanks for all the comments.

LM

Anonymous said...

"Wouldn't it be a clearer testimony to be uniform and in line with our own doctrinal statements in our practices?"

How do you propose to make our practice uniform? I'm not sure I am understanding your point.

We can't control other people. If people choose to come to a church and worship, that is between them and God. I can't read their hearts. I am not God. Now for me,I make decisions regularly in regards to fellowship.

We cannot micromanage our guests. I think we are over thinking that aspect.

IT

Michael Schottey said...

Could anyone site a case in which a unbeliever were to "pray damnation upon himself" if he prayed incorrectly.

Is there any semblance of a "horizontal" fellowship of prayer?

If a unbeliever comes into one of our churches, and prayers to a God they've just come to know...the angels will be rejoices, why wouldn't we?

Anonymous said...

"If a unbeliever comes into one of our churches, and prayers to a God they've just come to know...the angels will be rejoices, why wouldn't we?"

I agree. Instead of harshly trying to analyze a heart (which is impossible to do because we aren't God), we should be rejoicing and doing everything we can to encourage them!!

IT

Michael Schottey said...

pardon my hasty and bad grammar and lack of proofreading, I meant "rejoicing"

Anonymous said...

"to commune to their damnation"

Can someone please explain this? I don't see St. Paul saying this in 1 Corinthians. He doesn't say that you are damned or that you commune to your damnation, but speaks about judgment. is there a difference, if so please explain. If not, please explain.

cfsed

Anonymous said...

"Observing the unit concept seems like it would be a practical impossibility--because, as you point out, I can't control the non-WELS visitor standing next to me."

Is it tough? Yeah. Do different people apply it differently in different situations? Sure. But that doesn't mean giving in and going to levels of fellowship to make things easier. We can't control the non-WELS visitor next to us. But so what? Why would we want to anyway? As has been said, what the non-WELS visitor does or doesn't do is between him and God. All we can do is ensure that we personally give a clear testimony to the truth--in our church or someone else's.

AP said...

"As has been said, what the non-WELS visitor does or doesn't do is between him and God. All we can do is ensure that we personally give a clear testimony to the truth--in our church or someone else's."

Yeah, but that isn't what the WELS doctrinal statement on fellowship says. It says "[i]n selecting specific individuals or groups for a joint expression of faith, we can do this only on the basis of their confession."

I think you may be missing LM's point. I don't see him saying we shouldn't rejoice when a vistor shows up in church, or "harshly trying to analyze a heart", or saying that we should try to control non-WELS visitors or want to control non-WELS visitors. It looks like he is just trying to point out a discrepancy between what our doctrinal statement on fellowship says and what actually happens in our churches regarding prayer fellowship.

Mike asked if anyone could "site a case in which a unbeliever were to 'pray damnation upon himself' if he prayed incorrectly." I'm not sure exactly what he means, but based on the WELS doctrinal statement on fellowship, if a WELS person prays with a non-WELS person, they are praying "incorrectly". But if praying "incorrectly" is without consequence, then why do we bind the conscience of others by telling them they can only pray with other WELS members?

AP

Anonymous said...

"[i]n selecting specific individuals or groups for a joint expression of faith, we can do this only on the basis of their confession."

I am not reading it the same way you are. We aren't "selecting" anyone to jointly express faith. If a visitor comes, I didn't "select" to worship with them...they "selected" to worship with us.

Now, if I pray with my Mormon neighbor or go worship in a Methodist church, that is what the above is addressing.

It is not addressing a visitor outside our fellowship who chooses to worship with us.

Besides, what is your answer in how you are reading the above? What do you suggest we do?

IT
To me you are reading something that isn't there in the confession.

Anonymous said...

Hmm, not sure what happened to the above post, but the sentence after my initials should have been before the sentence "Besides, what is..."

Sorry about that.

IT

RNN said...

Good topic. Thanks for bringing this to our attention, AP.

I have been concerned about this very question as well. I find the comments about the personal responsibility of visitors troubling. This is turning a callous blind-eye to the visitors in our midst. If it is wrong for them to pray with us, then we ought to instruct them on this.

That is, if they are breaking the WELS doctrine of fellowship, then they would be not just praying improperly, but sinning. And if they are sinning, then we are called to show them their sin that they might repent. To fail to do so is not showing them Christian love.

It seems to me that if the WELS is to put its unit concept into practice consistently, letting its doctrine guide its practice, no visitors should be allowed in WELS services--or at the very least, they should be instructed not to participate. Otherwise, the WELS is allowing, inviting, and encouraging them to sin. This is nto showing true Christian love.

I also see the inconsistency with communion practice. If communion and prayer are both joint manifestations of the faith, as the WELS doctrinal statement labels them, then they should be treated alike. WELS practice makes a distinction that WELS doctrine does not.

All of this highlights what the problem with the WELS doctrine of fellowship is. The problem is that the WELS doctrine of fellowship is all about us. It's all about what WE DO. This is not scriptural.

Fellowship is a poor English translation for the same Greek word that means communion. It is a joint partaking in, a joint receiving of something. Namely, church fellowship is a joint partaking of Christ and his gifts. Or, better, it is a joint receiving of Christ's gifts.

From this joint receiving we not only receive Christ's benefits and blessings, but we also are joined together to our fellow believers, sharing with them in all good things. Fellowship is this God-given blessing of being united with Christ and being made members of his body with all other saints.

That is, fellowship is something that God creates. We recognize it, but we do not create or do it. We receive it.

RNN

Anonymous said...

IT,

I was going to say the same thing. When visitors come to worship, we aren't selecting to worship with them, they are selecting to worship with us. That makes a huge difference that some are simply overlooking.

RNN,

Nothing you said is any different than what the WELS teaches. Where the difficulty lies is in the application of what you said. You said: "Fellowship is something that God creates. We recognize it, but we do not create or do it." That's very true, but how exactly does that work in real life? How do we demonstrate our recognition of fellowship (and also our recognition of lack of fellowship)? What you said really supports the WELS teaching. If fellowship is something that God gives and creates, then it's an all or nothing thing. It's not up to men to decide on or distinguish between different levels of God's gift.

RNN said...

Dear 9:26,

WELS statement: Church fellowship is every joint expression, manifestation, and demonstration of the common faith in which Christians on the basis of their confession find themselves to be united with one another.

My statement: Namely, church fellowship is a joint partaking of Christ and his gifts. Or, better, it is a joint receiving of Christ's gifts.

How does this support the WELS statement? WELS says fellowship IS everything that we do; I say that fellowship IS God's gift. These are opposites.

I assume that since you make no statement about the WELS application of prayer fellowship, you agree that the WELS is leading people into sin.

You also have a false alternative: either you agree with WELS or you have levels of fellowship. But before we can move on to that, we first have to grasp the point that fellowship is God's gift created in us. It is not what we do. It is God's work.

RNN

Anonymous said...

RNN,

I'm sorry, I really think that you're splitting hairs here trying to look for an issue.

You said, "We recognize [fellowship]"

WELS says, "We express fellowship."

How are those opposites? We recognize what God creates. We express that God has created something. Seems pretty similar to me.

Besides, Scripture speaks of fellowship in both ways. It speaks of fellowship as something that God creates/does. It also speaks of fellowship as something that Christians do/have/celebrate/share/avoid with each other.

Here's another example: What about good works? It's accurate to say that our good works are done by Christ living in us. It's accurate to say that Christians do good works. But that's not a contradiction. It's just two different ways that Scripture looks at good works.

In the same way, Scripture looks at fellowship in two ways: both as something God does and something Christians do.

You're focusing on one truth to the denial of the other.

AP said...

IT,

You said:

"If a visitor comes, I didn't 'select' to worship with them...they 'selected' to worship with us.

Now, if I pray with my Mormon neighbor or go worship in a Methodist church, that is what the above is addressing.'

Okay. I think I get it. So if I pray with my LCMS brother-in-law on Saturday night, that is different than him praying with me at my WELS church on Sunday morning, because on Saturday night I "selected" to express fellowship with him (BAD), but on Sunday morning he "selected" to express fellowship with me (NOT BAD). Now we are getting somewhere.

AP

RNN said...

Dear 10:19,

I am not splitting hairs. Either fellowship IS something we do, or it IS something that God does. That is a big difference.

WELS says only that fellowship is WHAT WE DO. Period. That is their definition of fellowship. You are missing this point, that nowhere in the WELS definition of fellowship does it acknowledge that fellowship is a God-given gift. Rather, it takes the "expression" of fellowship, as you term it, as fellowship. Period.

Where does Scripture talk about fellowship as something that we do? And where does Scripture talk about fellowship as something that we avoid? A reference would be nice.

RNN

Anonymous said...

"Okay. I think I get it. So if I pray with my LCMS brother-in-law on Saturday night, that is different than him praying with me at my WELS church on Sunday morning, because on Saturday night I "selected" to express fellowship with him (BAD), but on Sunday morning he "selected" to express fellowship with me (NOT BAD). Now we are getting somewhere."

It's not about good or bad...it's about loving someone enough that you don't express fellowship with them and thus endorse them in whatever false teaching they are submitting themselves to.

It's why I won't worship in an ELCA church. It's not that I'm judging who is or isn't a Christian (I can't do that as I can't see hearts), but I am judging their official confession/church doctrine and thus refraining from endorsing that doctrine by worshipping with them.

As for someone worshipping with us. I wouldn't call it "not bad," I would call it them choosing to participate and whether they recognize it or not, they are endorsing our beliefs and teachings.

IT

Anonymous said...

"I am not splitting hairs. Either fellowship IS something we do, or it IS something that God does."

Why? Why does it have to be one or the other? Why can't it be both? What about the other example I gave? Are good works something that Christ does or something that we do? It's both, isn't it? And why in the world do you claim that WELS says that fellowship ISN'T something God does!?! I have always, without exception, heard WELS pastors say that it is.

"Where does Scripture talk about fellowship as something that we do?"

Well, just off the top of my head, I can think of Galatians 2:9. "James, Peter and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me." Really this talks about both aspects of fellowship. James, Peter, and John recognized fellowship created by God, and then they actively extended/offered/gave fellowship.

"And where does Scripture talk about fellowship as something that we avoid?"

How about 1 Corinthians 5:2. "Shouldn't you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this?"

Those are just off the top of my head. I'm sure there are more.

Anonymous said...

Just encouraging you all to keep up the great discussion and tone!! The thread previous to this one isn't going as well for some reason, but this one is great!

Thanks you a million times over everyone!!

IT

The Mass Guy said...

GM,

I think you owe an apology to WELS pastor track students by saying that Schottey is a typical one, I am sure many of them are embarrassed by their classmate.

THE Mass Guy

Michael Schottey said...

Perhaps this thread is going better because there is little personal venom flying about.

On the matter of the object of fellowship.

Certainly there is a fellowship with God (more correctly, a unity--Romans 6:4ff)

However there is also a fellowship among brothers (horizontal rather than vertical) This is a gift of God, and therefore it is, in essence, perfect. (James 1:17)

Any imperfection, therefore, is the result of sin. Thus any imperfect fellowship ought to be avoided as one would avoid sin.

True fellowship is union of knowledge, belief, and also the joint expression of the fruits of faith. (Phil 2:2)

I believe there is a great amount of talking past each other in the realm of what constitutes a confession of fellowship vs. an attempt at evangelism.

If I make a door-to-door call and meet someone who is unchurched, LCMS, Catholic, Buddist, etc etc and that person wishes to pray with me, I will not deny them "on the basis of "fellowship principles." Likewise is such a person comes into our gatherings and wishes to pray our prayer of the church or the Lord's prayer with us, or even is so grieved that they wish a prayer to be said on their or a loved ones behalf, heaven be praised!

What then is the purpose of fellowship? It is a gift certainly, one many of us enjoy. But it should be treated as a gift and not a burden, for it becomes burdensome only at the hands of imperfect men.

We seek not to create a New Testament age "10 commandments of fellowship" (it would probably turn into 100) Rather, as it has been said. At all times we "desire mercy not sacrifice" (Hos 6:6). We ask outselves, what can we do to glorify the name of God the most and give a clear testimony to his Word.

A WELS pastor praying publically at a rally with non-denominational pastors would not give clear testimony. A joint reformation service with the ELCA church down the road would not give a clear testimony.

A Pastor, or fellow Christian, who takes the time to pray with someone who is in need, regardless of affiliation to strengthen their confidence, to urge them to rely not on themselves but on their God, to lean on the promises of their redemption and a heaven to come... that is a clear testimony.

A church who welcomes a visitor with open arms, and points them to the cross, and to their savior, and invites them to worship and sing and pray with them, yet in love shows them that they should refrain from communing until declaring full doctrinal agreement with one another...that is a clear testimony.

Mass Guy said...

To all,

Sorry, my post above was for the other thread.

Carry on.

The Mass Guy

Another Observer said...

"A Pastor, or fellow Christian, who takes the time to pray with someone who is in need, regardless of affiliation to strengthen their confidence, to urge them to rely not on themselves but on their God, to lean on the promises of their redemption and a heaven to come... that is a clear testimony."

You should be careful about who you say this to, Mike. I've known a WELS pastor that has done this, only to be told by other WELS pastors that he wasn't really praying "with" the other person, but "for" them, becasue praying "with" them would violate fellowship priniciples.

AO

Anonymous said...

Yeah, the personal venom isn't present here (except for a slip by one poster that wasn't really meant for this thread anyways).

Which brings me to a huge point, why do we have to get so personal here?

It would be great if we could just stick on topic without questioning one another's level of Lutheranism, faith or validity.

I hope we have more threads like this in the future and I pray that all personal attacks cease completely.

No more threats. No more proclamations of judgements. That would be great.

IT

Anonymous said...

"It would be great if we could just stick on topic without questioning one another's level of Lutheranism, faith or validity."

To do this I think we also have to stop accusing people that advocate good Lutheran doctrine of doing it for their own personal glory.

Anonymous said...

"To do this I think we also have to stop accusing people that advocate good Lutheran doctrine of doing it for their own personal glory."

General "we" or are you saying this directly to me?

IT

Anonymous said...

General. Inclusive of everyone and no one. Let your conscience be your guide.

Anonymous said...

Cool.

IT

Anonymous said...

Another pastor has told me that I am expressing fellowship during a worship service only with those that have publicly declared fellowship with me by virtue of their visible church membership. He said that as far as visitors and praying, the burden is on the visitor as to whether he/she prays or observes. Just because a visitor prays it is not a public declaration of fellowship.

I have a diagram that shows (for example, if I would be WELS):
A - WELS Pastor
B - WELS member
C - WELS members/worshipers
D - LCMS visitor
With this example A and B and C are expressing joint fellowship with each other whether D decides to observe or to pray.

A - LCMS Pastor
B - LCMS member
C - LCMS members/worshipers
D - WELS visitor
With this example A and B and C are expressing joint fellowship with each other whether D decides to observe or pray.

(A WELS member would normally observe if he she is a visitor at a LCMS congregation).

In both examples C would also include members of other synods that have publicly declared doctrinal fellowship with the host congregation's synod.

Anonymous said...

Just reading through...

I'm confused. Is an LCMS visitor to a WELS service, who doesn't know about WELS fellowship principles and so prays with everyone else in the service, sinning?

Anonymous said...

"Is an LCMS visitor to a WELS service, who doesn't know about WELS fellowship principles and so prays with everyone else in the service, sinning?"

Not sinning intentionally or against conscience. Perhaps sinning unknowingly and unintentionally if that person doesn't agree fully with WELS teaching.

Anonymous said...

Still confused here. For fellowship we do not look in each person's heart, we go by their public confession (church membership in a synod as an example).

The answer at 8:07 doesn't really answer my question. If someone is "perhaps sinning", in Christian love, shouldn't we guard against this? By our doctrinal statements, we are saying that it is God's will that we observe fellowship principles in every joint expression of the faith. To not do this would then be going against God's will and sinning, wouldn't it?

To welcome non-WELS visitors into a church service then becomes an invitation to them to sin. "Whoever causes one of these little ones to sin..." If they are sinning, whether it is intentional or unintentional, why wouldn't the church warn them?

Anonymous said...

At whose alter you worship, his religion you confess.

Tico

Anonymous said...

At whose alter you worship, his religion you confess.

Tico

Anonymous said...

At whose alter you worship, his religion you confess.

Tico

Anonymous said...

Tico,

altar,

altar,

altar.

Anonymous said...

Tico,

Spelling mistakes aside, that doesn't answer my question.

Anonymous said...

Tico,

It is not a question.

Anonymous said...

What's not a question?

Anonymous said...

"At whose alter (sic) you worship, his religion you confess." is not a question.

Anonymous said...

Here's my question again, so it doesn't get lost in whatever happened above here. If visitors to WELS services who participate are sinning (which I haven't gotten a definite answer about, but a "perhaps"), shouldn't the church warn these visitors of their sin?

Anonymous said...

A at 9:25,

I'm not Tico. My questions were at 9:12 and 9:26. Sorry for the confusion.

Anonymous said...

Sorry about the misspelling of ALTAR. Thanks for pointing it out. And I don't know why the comment went up 3 times!? I really didn't intend for it to do that.

Let's see, the phase is one that I heard from a WELS pastor years ago. Worded in another way, but not as "home-grown" sounding: If you pray at someones ALTAR (church, temple, etc.) you are expressing public unity with what they teach and believe and confess. Whether you know what they teach and believe, is another matter and it is why this simple phrase was used to teach about prayer fellowship. You better know what is being taught before praying and showing support of that belief system.

Again, sorry for my spellling missstepps.

Tico

Anonymous said...

My question still remains, shouldn't we let visitors know this before they pray with us?

Anonymous said...

"My question still remains, shouldn't we let visitors know this before they pray with us?"

In my opinion, the beginning of a worship service is not the time or place to warn everyone there about any sin they might possibly be committing. Why not warn everyone about the sin of worshiping mindlessly? Why not warn the hypocrites who might be there about that sin? Why not warn the kids about being noisy? Why not warn that teen who is checking out the cute girl in the next pew? Why not...etc...

As has been said before, ultimately each individual is responsible for his own private sins, whether in worship or not.

Anonymous said...

A at 10:32,

We're not discussing warning of every sin someone might commit in a worship service. We're discussing fellowship and the WELS doctrinal statements. If the WELS doctrinal statements on fellowship are correct, we are inviting visitors to our worship services to sin if they pray with us. The idea that "at whose altar you worship, his religion you confess" is not known by visitors and newcomers to WELS, nor is it taught consistently in WELS. I've heard many pastors say the same as an earlier commenter here :"It should be clear simply based on the fact that he/she is a visitor, that there is a difference in belief. I doubt any visitor would come to a church thinking, "Yup, I'm perfectly united with these people." Nor do I think any visitor would leave after the service thinking, "Well, I said the prayers with them, so we must all believe exactly the same thing." " I think this second view of visitors worshipping is more common, but it doesn't fit with the WELS doctrinal statements.

So, what I'm understanding is being said here (correct me if I'm wrong) is that visitors who don't know our fellowship principles and worship and pray with us are sinning, but we are going to continue to let them sin and even lead them into sin by inviting them to worship.

(I'm not trying to be witty or sarcastic. The thoughts expressed here by some would give me serious pause before inviting any friends or relatives to a WELS service. They don't seem very loving or Christian.)

Anonymous said...

"The thoughts expressed here by some would give me serious pause before inviting any friends or relatives to a WELS service."

If you were going to invite friends or relatives, why don't you take the responsibility yourself to warn them before hand? That way no one would have to worry about it during worship. (That just sounds like lazy-lay-personitis: "Talking to my friends and relatives about the dangers of false doctrine is too awkward, I'll let the pastor do all of the dirty work.") Besides, why would you invite members of other churches to WELS worship anyway? That borders on sheep-stealing.

Besides, here's the thing, visitors to worship (assuming they are members of other churches) are already sinning against God's Word simply by being members of heterodox churches. Thus, simply by coming to a WELS church, they aren't increasing their level of sinfulness, they're simply moving that unclear confession somewhere else. We should be warning these people about the danger of false doctrine first and foremost, and then the participation in worship thing will solve itself.

Anonymous said...

So, guests who come and hear the Word of God in its truth and purity are sinning?

I just don't get that.

Anonymous said...

Here's another thought about why we warn regarding Communion participation and don't regarding participation in other parts of the service.

Unbelievers and those who aren't members in any church are welcome to come to worship and participate (if they wish) because they don't have a public Christian confession--they are purely in the position of learners. The only problem is with members of other churches that visit, since they are already giving a public Christian confession by means of their church membership and are not in the position of learners. Because of this, they should already be aware of what the Bible says about fellowship--if they aren't that is the fault of their church. In other words, the warning would have to be something like this, "Visitors are free to participate as they wish, except whose who belong to other churches."

This is also why we actively invite unchurched people to worship but don't invite churched people to worship. If lay people do invite their churched friends and relatives to a WELS church, the onus is on them. So from the church's perspective, everyone at worship should be a member or an unchurched person--since the church doesn't invite members of other churches. Thus, a warning, from the church, shouldn't be necessary.

But when it comes to Communion, unbelievers clearly aren't welcome in that case. So the warning applies equally to all visitors. From the church's perspective, then, it is necessary, since we are inviting people who can't participate in that aspect (because they can't recognize the body and blood by faith).

This has always been the historic practice of the church. The service was open to learners, but the Lord's Supper was closed to all but members. The WELS is simply continuing this historic doctrine and practice while almost all other churches have abandoned it.

Anonymous said...

"So, guests who come and hear the Word of God in its truth and purity are sinning?

I just don't get that."

It depends.

Are they members of a heterodox church? Then they are sinning daily because they are giving a faulty confession, simply by means of their church membership. Coming to a WELS church doesn't change that.

Are they members of no church? Then no, they aren't sinning. They're learning what the Bible has to say.

Anonymous said...

Whoa! Are you saying that members of every other church body outside of the WELS are sinning by having a "faulty confession"?

That's reminiscent of the papacy!

Anonymous said...

Inviting nonWELS family and friends isn't sheep stealing. With the holidays coming up, it happens quite frequently if nonWELS family/friends are visiting and attend church services.

Anonymous said...

"The WELS is simply continuing this historic doctrine and practice while almost all other churches have abandoned it."

Not true. The WELS' "every joint expression of the faith" is a new and novel doctrine.

Anonymous said...

"Whoa! Are you saying that members of every other church body outside of the WELS are sinning by having a "faulty confession"?"

Oh please, it's nothing like the papacy. I shouldn't even validate this comment with a response, but I will.

The papacy claims that only members of the Roman Catholic Church will be saved. The WELS rejects this thought, and teaches nothing remotely close to it.

The WELS recognizes the Holy Christian Church and praises God for it. But the WELS also realizes that false doctrine is serious--false doctrine is a sin against Christ himself who said, "Teach them to keep EVERYTHING I have told you."

Of course the WELS believes that other church bodies have faulty confessions--that's why we aren't in fellowship with them. The same holds true for any synod or denomination that isn't in fellowship with another. Not being in fellowship with a church body is exactly the same things as saying, "That church has a faulty confession."

Anonymous said...

"Not true. The WELS' "every joint expression of the faith" is a new and novel doctrine."

You really think so? You wanna prove that with even a shred of evidence, or do you just want to make baseless accusations? Come on, show me anything but "every joint expression" in the historic Confessional Lutheran church.

Anonymous said...

"Inviting nonWELS family and friends isn't sheep stealing. With the holidays coming up, it happens quite frequently if nonWELS family/friends are visiting and attend church services."

Well, how about you give your family and friends a real Christmas gift this year and warn them about the dangers of the false doctrine in their churches which eat away their faith in Christ, instead of taking them to your church without ever mentioning that there's any difference between them. That is the loving responsibility all Christians have--to warn others about false doctrine. Notice I said ALL Christians have this responsibility. It's not the pastor's job alone to do the dirty work.

Anonymous said...

a@ 8:23--Not that I don't agree with you, but your words conjured up a funny Christmas image: a big wrapped box with a bow around it.

Whats inside?

A PS3? A Wii? A Tickle Me Bush Doll? NO!

A piece of paper with the word "Apostate!" written on it.

Oh the hilarity!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous WELS: All other church bodies have a faulty confession.

Benedict XVI: All Christians outside the Roman church are members of a deficient church.

Similar, yes?

Anonymous said...

"The WELS recognizes the Holy Christian Church and praises God for it. But the WELS also realizes that false doctrine is serious--false doctrine is a sin against Christ himself who said, "Teach them to keep EVERYTHING I have told you.""

Is the WELS perfect?

Anonymous said...

The historic Confessional Lutheran church has always used fellowship to speak about the joint reception of God's gifts. The WELS, with its "every joint expression" language is different. Every joint expression takes us outside the church and into secular life where the royal priesthood go about their daily vocations offering their bodies as living sacrifices.

This is where the WELS has issues with groups like the Boy Scouts and praying a table prayer with nonWELS family members, which are new to the Lutheran church. In these two examples, we are not talking about joint participation in God's gifts.

Anonymous said...

Calm down, A @8:23,

No one said it was the pastor's job to "do the dirty work".

Anonymous said...

"Anonymous WELS: All other church bodies have a faulty confession.

Benedict XVI: All Christians outside the Roman church are members of a deficient church.

Similar, yes?"

No, not at all. Having a "deficient church" means one's salvation is deficient.

Having a faulty confession means that we rejoice that your salvation is found in Christ alone and that you will join us one day in heaven, and yet there are parts of your confession that don't align with what God's Word teaches. Such things cannot simply be ignored for the sake of having fellowship with someone because they spread like yeast.

Frankly, Anonymous, I'm not sure what your point is in this discussion? Is it your belief that all Christians should be in fellowship with each other, regardless of differing confessions, lest we offend by saying that some are faulty or in error? Should we stop listening to the OT prophets, the Apostles, and Christ himself when they tell us to warn others about the extreme danger of false teaching?

Anonymous said...

"This is where the WELS has issues with groups like the Boy Scouts and praying a table prayer with nonWELS family members, which are new to the Lutheran church. In these two examples, we are not talking about joint participation in God's gifts."

Huh? You lost me. Isn't prayer one of God's gifts to us? If so, then wouldn't praying with non-WELS family members be a "joint reception of God's gifts", to use your very own words?

Anonymous said...

The Christian church in the past (and the Lutheran church always and still today outside the WELS) taught that fellowship was participation in those blessings coming from God to us. WELS did something novel by making fellowship also expressions that flow from us to God.

As examples, look at the Lord's Supper and prayer. The Lord's Supper flows from God to us. The Lutheran church has always, out of love, only communed those of its own fellowship.

Prayer is different. It flows from us to God. Now, no, praying with Jews, Hindus, Muslims, etc. is not ok.

The WELS did something new when it lumped what we receive together with what we do in response. This causes confusion, as seen on this blog and elsewhere, between what God does and what Christians do (see the discussion on the Lord's Supper in a previous post).

Anonymous said...

"Frankly, Anonymous, I'm not sure what your point is in this discussion? "

My Point: The WELS doctrine of fellowship is unclear at best and possibly wrong.

A @ 9:32,

Is the WELS perfect?

Anonymous said...

"Is the WELS perfect?"

Ah, that old chestnut. It never gets old.

Of course the WELS isn't perfect. No one ever has or ever would claim that. WELS members are sinful like everyone else. But is imperfection as excuse for false doctrine? Can we excuse the false teaching of others because, "Hey, no one's perfect."? Of course not. The WELS strives to teach exactly and only what the Bible does. I wouldn't belong to the WELS if I thought that its official confession contained false doctrine.

Anonymous said...

"Prayer is different. It flows from us to God"

Umm, are you sure about that one? Last time I checked, prayer was a gift that God has given his children. Last time I checked, our prayers are joined by the prayers of the Holy Spirit who prays for us in groans that words cannot express.

But that's beside the point. The only point is this question: "What provides the clearest testimony to the truth?" Would it be a clearer testimony to the truth if I were to pray with my Baptist neighbor, giving him the impression that we agree in doctrine, or to take the time to warn him about the dangers of the false teaching in his church?

Anonymous said...

"The Christian church in the past (and the Lutheran church always and still today outside the WELS) taught that fellowship was participation in those blessings coming from God to us. WELS did something novel by making fellowship also expressions that flow from us to God."

Ha ha. Yup. Martin Luther had lots of prayer services with the Catholics and Zwinglians.

Anonymous said...

Oh man, just when I thought this conversation was going so well and being conducted on such a high level, we get the "You think WELS is perfect" and "The WELS is claiming infallibility like the papacy" stuff. Give it a rest, people, before this conversation degenerates like the one before it.

Anonymous said...

Whoa folks! We are getting into some pretty pithy discussion and detail here.

One thing I like about this site is that it gives a place and format to vent. But there is no real Ecclesiastical authority about most serious doctrinal points that are brought up here. If a good sophist makes a logical sounding argument, one is left with the impression that that is authoritative. It may or may not be.

This is one of the great dangers of the small group or cell group. I know, I used to participate in them. Everyone is giving their thoughts and ideas and with GROUP CONSENSUS a conclusion is reached that may be right or wrong. No pastoral authority IS around to properly illuminate with ecclesiastical authority what the Bible teaches on such topics.

Just a word of caution.

If there IS a pastor out there that is commenting with that Authority, please leave your real name so that we can be assured that you can back up what you are saying as being in tune with Confessional Lutheran teaching

Peter

Anonymous said...

In response to the comment that prayer flows from us ot God, someone replied:

"Umm, are you sure about that one? Last time I checked, prayer was a gift that God has given his children"

Everything is a gift that God has given his children. By your reasoning, sharing an apple with my non-WELS friend would also be a joint expression of faith becuase we are sharing "a gift that God has given his children."

Anonymous said...

Not quite. Apples are gifts that God gives to the world. Prayer is a gift that God gives to believers only, which is an act of worship. By the way, you didn't mention the second part of that post--about the Holy Spirit joining our prayers with his own.

Anonymous said...

WELS Doctrinal Statements,

"Church fellowship is EVERY joint expression, manifestation, and demonstration of the common faith in which Christians on the basis of their confession find themselves to be united with one another (Emphasis added)."

Every means every. So watch that apple sharing fellowship. (Of course, it may depend on what "every" means...)

WJC

Anonymous said...

WJC, did you even bother to read the context surrounding that "EVERY"? Eating an apple is not an expression, manifestation, or demonstration of common faith. Prayer, on the other hand, most certainly is.

It would be helpful if people would debate honestly here. That is, not quoting things and taking them wildly out of context (even though it's perfectly clear what that context says) to score cheap points.

Anonymous said...

"Every joint expression takes us outside the church and into secular life where the royal priesthood go about their daily vocations offering their bodies as living sacrifices."

Huh? So it's OK to pray with others as long as it's done in the secular realm? Are there such things as secular prayers? I thought all prayers were in the realm of the sacred.

WJC said...

Anon.

I quoted the WELS Doctrinal Statement, it speaks for itself.

Sharing an apple (etc.) is not an expression or manifestation of my Christian faith? Ok. I can do it, but not with my pagan or LCMS or Babdist neighbor. Ok, that's good to know.

WJC

Anonymous said...

The prayer of thankfulness implicit in enjoying a delicious, God-given apple with a friend might be an expression of fellowship. I don't know. I can't judge peoples hearts or hear their silent prayers. Can you?

WJC said...

Anon.

I didn't say I was having silent-apple-prayer-thanking fellowship. I just shared the apple, an expression and manifestation of my faith.

I can only judge the words that are written, it seems you can judge words that aren't. Amazing!

WJC

Anonymous said...

"I wouldn't belong to the WELS if I thought that its official confession contained false doctrine."

So, WELS' doctrine is perfect?

Anonymous said...

"I can't judge peoples hearts or hear their silent prayers. Can you?"

I can judge their outward confession based on their church membership. And who said anything about silent prayers?

I sense this thread slipping into the cesspool along with the others--just when there was some actual good discussion on this topic, too. That's too bad.

WJC said...

Anon.

I think I misread your post. My apology. If I am correct now, you are saying that apple sharing might lead to false fellowship because of the implicit silent prayer of apple thanking for. You are right, it can be dangerous.

WJC

Anonymous said...

"So, WELS' doctrine is perfect?"

The teachings of the Bible are perfect. If those are what the WELS officially teaches--nothing more or nothing less--then WELS doctrine is perfect. Those who teach it aren't perfect. The way they teach it isn't always perfect. The way they understand it isn't always perfect. But the doctrine itself is, because it's the doctrine of Christ.

Why would anyone willingly belong to a church body that they knew didn't hold to the perfect doctrine and teaching of Christ?

Anonymous said...

"If I am correct now, you are saying that apple sharing might lead to false fellowship because of the implicit silent prayer of apple thanking for. You are right, it can be dangerous."

Nope. That was another facetious comment, which I have since refuted.

WJC said...

Anon.

Which Anon are you? It seems there is an apple thanking for prayer Anon, and a non apple thanking for prayer Anon. I thought we were supposed to identify ourselves.

So to the last Anon at 10:42. As the one Anon said, is not apple sharing an expression or manifestation of my faith, and a joint one when I express it with another? If this discussion is going into a cesspool it is because of the EVERY etc. of the WELS doctrinal statement. (And, relax, you can just ignore me.)

WJC

WJC said...

Anon.

"Facetious"

Ok. That's like sarcasm. I can dig it.

WJC

Anonymous said...

WJC,

Let me say this again. You focussed on the "every" without even bothering to read what came after that. Obviously the "every" doesn't apply to sharing an apple, since sharing an apple has nothing to do with expressing a common faith. You're acting like the "every" was followed by "single thing that we do in life". That's why reading the context is so vital.

ATFPA said...

WJC,

Sorry for the mix-up. I am responsible for the 10:14 and 10:35comments.

Anon,

Doesn't Romans 12 describe what we do in the secular world as our "spiritual act of worship"? Ignoring the dangerous act of apple fellowship for a moment, Isn't a spiritual act of worship an expression of faith? And if so, then from the moment we step out the door in the morning (unless we work at the Synod Office Building) aren't we engaging in Church fellowship with non-WELS people?

ATFPA

Anonymous said...

ATFPA,

You're missing one crucial word from the WELS statement: "common". It's not talking about our own personal expressions of faith as we live our lives in this world. It's talking about expressing our COMMON faith with others. In other words, we won't want to do anything, no matter where we are, to give the impression that we are united in doctrine with others who belong to churches that teach false doctrine. To do so would fail to give a clear testimony about the truth of God's Word and the danger of even a little false doctrine.

mav said...

The WELS doctrinal statement says "EVERY JOINT EXPRESSION OF THE FAITH". St. Paul says, "Offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-this is your spiritual act of worship."

The Augsburg Confession, Article XXVII: "True Christian perfection is to fear God from the heart, to have great faith, and to trust that for Christ's sake we have a God who has been reconciled (2 Cotinthians 5:18-19). It means to ask for and expect from God His help in all things with confident assurance that we are to live according to our calling life, being diligent in outward good works, serving in our calling. This is where true perfection and true service of God is to be found."

Everything Christians do is an expression of their faith. That word "EVERY" in the WELS doctrinal statements makes the WELS' fellowship principles impossible to follow unless WELS members do not associate with any nonWELS members.

As for prayer, yes, it is a gift from God, but it is also something that we do. It is different from hearing the Word and receiving the Sacrament of the Altar, where God is the one doing all the action. From the Large Catechism, Part 3: "And the first thing to know is that is is our duty to pray because of God's commandment. For that's what we heard in the Second Commandment, 'You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain'(Exodus 20:7). We are required to praise that holy name and call upon it in every need, or to pray."

mav

WJC said...

Anon at 10:54

Please cooperate and give yourself a moniker, how about "applesauce" - just kidding.

No, actually I did focus on what came after the "every." The ambiguity is in the WELS statment. As ATFPA shows above our "spiritual worship" falls under the WELS definition.

If I recall in its discussion with the CLC the WELS insisted that if two different practices resulted from a supposed confessed common faith then the confession must be lacking. This is seen in spades in the WELS (about whom we are talking now). Can a heretic speak to WELS group? Some say, no, some say yes, and those who say maybe invariably run up against either sanctified common Christian senses (the yes crowd) or the WELS statements (the no crowd).

The WELS ought begin with the marks of the church, otherwise commonly referred to as altar and pulpit fellowship.

WJC

Anonymous said...

A @ 10:46,

Again, is the WELS doctine perfect? You answered with an "if" before which wasn't very clear.

Anonymous said...

mav,

You too aren't reading what the WELS statement says. You might want to reread it: "Church fellowship is every joint expression, manifestation, and demonstration of the COMMON faith in which Christians ON THE BASIS OF THEIR CONFESSION find themselves to be united with one another." What you quoted isn't what the statement says.

You said, "Everything Christians do is an expression of their faith."

Of course it is! But again, that's not what the statement is talking about. Not everything that we do is an expression of common faith between people based on our confession.

Anonymous said...

"The WELS ought begin with the marks of the church, otherwise commonly referred to as altar and pulpit fellowship."

Hmm, where have I heard terminology like that before? The Church is wherever two or three gather together around Christ's Word. That includes two people joining together in a prayer.

WJC said...

Anon at 11:37

Or sharing an apple.

WJC

AFTPA said...

Anon,

I think I get it now. Church fellowship only happens when we make a common expression of faith. So, if I pray with my Baptist neighbor, it isn't an expression of common faith because we believe different things, hence, it is not Church Fellowship. So I can pray with whomever I want, because if we don't share a common faith it isn't church fellowship anyway.

ATFPA

Anonymous said...

I think it's funny that people have to change and misquote what the WELS statement says before they attack it.

Anonymous said...

"So, if I pray with my Baptist neighbor, it isn't an expression of common faith because we believe different things, hence, it is not Church Fellowship."

NO, ATFPA, it's an expression of false church fellowship since you believe different things. In other words, you are implying a common confession by joining together, when such a common confession doesn't exist.

mav said...

Anonymous at 11:31,

From the WELS doctrinal statement on fellowship: "Through the bond of faith in which He unites us with all Christians, the Holy Spirit also leads us to express and manifest our faith jointly with fellow Christians according to opportunity: as smaller and larger groups, Ac 1:14,15; 2:41-47; Gal 2:9; as congregations with other congregations, Ac 15; 1 Th 4:9,10; 2 Co 8:1,2,18,19; 9:2. (Before God every activity of our faith is at the same time fellowship activity in the communion of saints. 1 Co 12; Eph 4:1-16; Ro 12:1-8; 2 Ti 2:19.)"


To give a clear testimony to the truth, WELS members should then only associate with other WELS members.

mav

WJC said...

Anon at:11:40, whom I'll call "Appleseed," no "Gala" said

"I think it's funny that people have to change and misquote what the WELS statement says before they attack it."

Please illustrate (and don't just say "all of the above"). Unless I am missing somehting I see it quoted exactly by those examining its weaknesses, but it seems its defenders are misquoting and changing it by saying it doesn't say what it says.

WJC

Anonymous said...

Think of it this way: Let's say you and your neighbor both have cups of water in front of you. You know that yours is pure, but that his has arsenic in it. What is the loving thing to do in that situation? Do you say, "Let's have a drink!" (maybe thinking "Well there's only a little bit of poison, it probably won't hurt him." or "Well, he's really thirsty, it wouldn't be nice to deprive him of a drink.") Or do you take the time to warn him about the poison in his cup?

Praying with a Christian who is a member of a church that teaches false doctrine is akin to saying, "Let's have a drink!" You are implying that both cups are equally good and ignoring the danger to your neighbor.

WJC said...

Anon at 11:48,

Wow. "Let us thank the Lord for this cup of apple juice*" is saying "believe in heresy?"

WJC

*Sorry, couldn't help myself,

Anonymous said...

mav,

Just like you missed the word "common" before, this time you overlooked the word "jointly". We express our Christian faith in everything that we do to everyone we meet. But we only express that faith JOINTLY with those who believe as we do.

ATFPA said...

"I think it's funny that people have to change and misquote what the WELS statement says before they attack it."

I'm not attacking. I'm just asking questions. It seems to say that worhiping with non-WELS or ELS people is wrong, yet I do it every Sunday when vistors come to my church. It says that praying with someone is expressing Church fellowship because it is a common expression of faith, but then I'm told that my spiritual act of worship is not because it isn't "common," whatever that means. That leads me to beleive that what I posted at 11:39 is the case. Is it? I'm going to have to take a little break. My eyes are starting to cross.

ATFPA

Anonymous said...

"Please illustrate (and don't just say "all of the above"). Unless I am missing somehting I see it quoted exactly by those examining its weaknesses, but it seems its defenders are misquoting and changing it by saying it doesn't say what it says."

You quoted it exactly, but then failed to consider the words that came after "EVERY". mav quoted it and dropped the word "common" from the quotation.

Anonymous said...

"It seems to say that worhiping with non-WELS or ELS people is wrong, yet I do it every Sunday when vistors come to my church."

It would be wrong if we were to go and worship with them or if we were to actively invite members of other churches to come and celebrate our doctrinal unity in worship. If they choose to come and worship with us, though, that is a matter of their own conscience. When I say a prayer in a restaurant, I can't be paranoid, looking over my shoulder, making sure no one else hears. Same thing in our own churches. We proclaim and pray, without being paranoid that others might hear or join. We already covered this in much more depth in earlier posts.

"It says that praying with someone is expressing Church fellowship because it is a common expression of faith, but then I'm told that my spiritual act of worship is not because it isn't "common," whatever that means."

When you pray with someone, obviously there are two people involved. Thus it is a common activity--something that you're sharing and doing together. When you live your life as a Christian, it's something that you're doing individually. No one is living your life with you. What you do as an individual is purely about your own individual faith. What you do as a group is about what that group believes together, in common.

WJC said...

Gala,

I will let MAV speak for himself, but I think every aspect of the WELS statement is being discussed, the every, the joint, the expression and manifestation.

And I did consider the words after EVERY, it seems you and others don't, because as I said in my first post, apparently every doesn't mean every. Others have shown that the apple-sharing act falls under the definition. It seems you and others wish to divide up acts of Christian sanctification, those that can be done jointly and those which can't.

Anyway, adios, back to work.

WJC

Letting Of Steam said...

I believe in the importance of keeping doctrine pure, and certainly history is replete with cases where false doctrine has led to a church body's downfall.

However, if I am at a funeral for a non-Wels member, or at a non-Wels member's house for dinner, and a Christian prayer is said, in no way do I believe that this is promoting or inviting in false doctrine.

This coming Sunday a friend invited me to see a play being held at their church; hope I don't get the scarlet H (Herectic) branded on my forehead.

Geesh, sometimes I think the WELS is almost papal-like in its view of other Christians.

Remember, if you talk the talk of being the only true Christian church body, be prepared to walk the walk.

ATFPA said...

"It would be wrong if we were to go and worship with them or if we were to actively invite members of other churches to come and celebrate our doctrinal unity in worship. If they choose to come and worship with us, though, that is a matter of their own conscience."

It sound like what your saying then, is that the WELS doctrinal statement has no objective meaning, because it means different things depending on who we are (visitor vs. member). I too have to return to work, or I may very well never get to express apple fellowship again (unless it is part of the environmentally friendly compost that I am burried in after I starve to death because I got fired.)

Anyway, I look forward to checking back here later. Thanks for your patience.

ATFPA

Anonymous said...

"And I did consider the words after EVERY, it seems you and others don't, because as I said in my first post, apparently every doesn't mean every."

Don't they teach reading comprehension in school anymore? "Every" is an adjective. It modifies a noun; it doesn't stand by itself. So, no, "every" never just means "every". It always modifies another word. That word determines how we understand "every". For example: "Bring me every red ball." That doesn't mean to bring me every ball, simply because of the word "every". In the same way, the WELS statement doesn't talk about everything we do in life; it's talking about every expression of common faith.

"It seems you and others wish to divide up acts of Christian sanctification, those that can be done jointly and those which can't."

Hmm, interesting. So you're saying that we should carry out every act of sanctification jointly with all Christians? Isn't attending worship and act of sanctification? Isn't giving offerings an act of sanctification? So should all Christians simply join one church and all go to church together? Should all Christians combine all of their offerings in one huge pot? I don't think you really thought that one through before you posted it.

Anonymous said...

"However, if I am at a funeral for a non-Wels member, or at a non-Wels member's house for dinner, and a Christian prayer is said, in no way do I believe that this is promoting or inviting in false doctrine."

It may not be promoting or inviting false doctrine. But is it warning against it? That's what the prophets, apostles, and Christ himself command us to do. We are watchmen on the walls of Zion. Our task is to sound the alarm at any and all false doctrine, since any false doctrine (no matter how small) will inevitably, like yeast, work through the entire batch of dough, until faith in Christ itself is gone. This is true even when it comes to funerals and friendships, no matter how uncomfortable it may make us, no matter how unloving people claim we are.

When the watchmen of the church fall asleep and no longer sound the warning, there soon will be no church left.

Anonymous said...

"This is true even when it comes to funerals and friendships, no matter how uncomfortable it may make us, no matter how unloving people claim we are."

Amen, brother!

Isn't that what Jesus himself meant when he said, "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple."

WJC said...

Gala,

Thanks for the English lesson. But nice try, AFTA or whoever he is and MAV (who quoted the AC in this regard) others showed you what fits under your definition, that includes apple sharing.

And apparently you attended the same school I did, the one that doesn't teach reading comprehension because you have again seen words that do not exist. But to use your example, yes, everyone should go to a church that rightly preaches the Gospel and administers the Sacraments and support that and not go where that isn't going on. (What Lutherans since the time of the Reformation have called Altar and Pulpit Fellowship).

It is you, however, well, your Doctrinal Statement that additionally directs you not to participate in activitiess outside that which fall under the WELS definition as AFLAC and MAV have clearly shown.

And the WELS really should have thought this one through before it adopted it. As AFL-CIO showed in his 12:13 post, it's a mess.

BTW, have the last word, I think we have wrung this one dry.

WJC

(Now I am going to go pray my RC friend, an elderly nursing home bound woman who just loves to pray with me, into hell.)

Anonymous said...

"(Now I am going to go pray my RC friend, an elderly nursing home bound woman who just loves to pray with me, into hell.)"

If you truly loved your elderly friend, instead of praying with her, you would warn her about the incredible dangers of the Roman teaching of works-righteousness. If she truly believes what her church teaches then your attempt at a joke about hell will be all too real for her.

mav said...

I think (hope) we agree that fulfilling our vocations is an expression of faith, as Scripture and our Confessions teach. If I have a coworker who is WELS and another coworder who is LCMS and we are all assigned to the same project, which we work on faithfully, am I fulfilling my vocation in fellowship with the one coworker but not the other one? Shouldn't we, as Anonymous at 12:23 said, warn our coworker?

If we only express this fellowship when expressing our faith JOINTLY with those of our same confession, is this fellowship only seen by God? If so, why can I work along side Christians of other denominations, all fulfilling our God-given vocations and be only in fellowship with those who share the same confession (as determined by church membership), but not pray at my RC neighbor's birthday dinner, since there too, God knows which of us are in fellowship with each other?

Some here are making a distinction between what is done in the church (or around the altar and pulpit) and what is done in the world. This is a legitimate distinction but one not made by the WELS doctrinal statement.

mav

Anonymous said...

mav,

God sees everything that Christians do together as an act of fellowship within the Holy Christian Church. I believe the WELS statement makes that exact point.

The problem is that we can't see such things. We live in a church torn apart by false teaching. In such a church, we must warn others about the dangers of such teaching. To make joint expressions of faith, when a common confession doesn't exist, ignores the danger of false doctrine and confirms our neighbor in it.

Perhaps the WELS should do a better job of emphasizing the first point. I might put that second point in better context.

mav said...

I agree the WELS statement on fellowship needs to be clearer. In practice, there is a difference in how WELS members treat Christians of other denominations depending on where they are. If they are at work, they fulfill their God-given vocations together, if they are in church, the WELS members will make confession to the truth against the members of other Christian denominations. However, THIS IS NOT A DISTINCTION MADE BY THE WELS DOCTRINAL STATEMENT. The doctrinal statement does not make allowance for whether we are in the worship service receiving God's gifts or out fulfilling our vocations. Nor does it differentiate between some kind of invisible fellowship outside of church and a visible fellowship inside the church. It says EVERY JOINT EXPRESSION OF THE FAITH. To be consistent and give a clear testimony to error in all expressions of faith, WELS members should make it clear (warn those in error) that they are no more in fellowship with erring coworkers in their vocation than they are in fellowship with those same erring people in a church service.

In most areas, WELS practice is much closer to the historic Lutheran teaching of Altar and Pulpit fellowship, but this is not what the doctrinal statement says.

mav

Anonymous said...

mav,

I disagree with you on several points.

"If they are at work, they fulfill their God-given vocations together"

Yes, of course they do. But joining in prayer with other Christians isn't part of that God-given vocation. One of the vocations that God gives to Christians is to warn others about the dangers of false teaching. One of the ways that we carry out this vocation is by refusing to join in joint prayers that would imply there is no danger in false doctrine.

"if they are in church, the WELS members will make confession to the truth against the members of other Christian denominations."

Why is this something only to be done in church? It seems that we would want to take any and every opportunity to warn others, whether that be in church, at work, at a family get-together. False doctrine is a yeast that is always at work, and thus is something always to be warned about.

"To be consistent and give a clear testimony to error in all expressions of faith, WELS members should make it clear (warn those in error) that they are no more in fellowship with erring coworkers in their vocation than they are in fellowship with those same erring people in a church service."

Exactly, and this is done by not joining in things like joint prayers. That's how WELS members make it clear that they aren't in fellowship with erring coworkers.

"In most areas, WELS practice is much closer to the historic Lutheran teaching of Altar and Pulpit fellowship,"

Do have even a scrap of evidence for your assertion that the historic Lutheran teaching is "levels of fellowship"? Nothing in the Bible or in the Confessions ever sets up such a thing. Instead, both confess staunchly that truth is truth and error is error--there are no levels in between. Truth creates fellowship and error is to be warned against. Both Scripture and the Confessions speak extremely forcefully about the dangers of false teaching, much more forcefully than the WELS statement even. I've never even heard any anecdotal evidence from the history of the Lutheran church that would support levels of fellowship, unless you have some evidence of Luther holding prayer services with Catholics and Zwinglians and Anabaptists or something.

Anonymous said...

I've never been able to understand how Lutherans would ever feel comfortable praying with other Christians. How could I pray with my Baptist neighbor when he's praying to a God who doesn't give us his own body and blood? How could I pray with my Catholic co-worker when he's praying to a God that demands good works for salvation? How could I pray with my Pentecostal friend when he's praying to a God that works through emotion, not the means?

I want to teach these people to know God as Scripture reveals him, not to pray with them and confirm them in their false ideas about God.

mav said...

A @ 1:48,

Altar and pulpit fellowship is not "levels of fellowship". It is Church fellowship, fellowship in the Church.

By saying "every" the WELS includes vocations in expressions of the faith (whether or not they are praying at work), so my point, again, is that to be consistent, WELS should not separate prayer from other expressions of the faith, like vocation.

The unit concept of fellowship means every expression of the faith. Vocation, prayer, worship, etc. Whether you are praying with others or not in your vocation, you are still expressing your faith by fulfilling your vocation, as are the other Christians around you. In the unit concept, to testify against error, you should point out an erring confession whether you are praying, worshipping, or fulfilling your vocation with someone who holds to an erring confession.

mav

Anonymous said...

mav,

The difference between prayer and vocation is simple. Vocation is an individual expression of faith. Prayer is a joint expression of faith. The WELS statement is only dealing with joint confession. Vocation isn't included in that.

ACS said...

Anon @ 1:53 (to all anons, seriously, how hard is it to come up with some initials?)

"I've never been able to understand how Lutherans would ever feel comfortable praying with other Christians.How could I pray with my Baptist neighbor when he's praying to a God who doesn't give us his own body and blood?..."

I see where you are going with this, but the WELS doctrinal statement doesn't make a distinciton between Lutherans and non-Lutherans, rather it makes a distinction bewteen [W]ELS and non-[W]ELS. So, it isn't just about saying Lutherans shouldn't pray with non-Lutherans. The Doctrinal statement goes one step further and says WELS Lutherans shouldn't even pray with LCMS Lutherans, even though by their "public confession" they agree concerning the doctrine of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments.

In that respect at least (though as MAV is pointing out, there may be others), I would argue that the WELS doctrinal statement on church fellowship goes beyond our Lutheran Confessions.

ACS

Anonymous said...

ACS,

That you said would be true if there was such a thing as really bad, dangerous false doctrines and harmless, little false doctrines. But as the Bible clearly says, all false doctrines are dangerous and serious. So the same warning must be sounded, even if it's another Lutheran synod.

ACS said...

Since a distinction is being made between an individual expression of faith and a joint expression of faith, maybe we should look again at what the WELS statement says:

"Through the bond of faith in which He unites us with all Christians, the Holy Spirit also leads us to express and manifest our faith jointly with fellow Christians according to opportunity: as smaller and larger groups"

If I'm expressing my faith through my vocation, and my non-WELS coworker is doing the same thing, at the same time while we work together, how is that not expressing faith jointly? We are both expressing our faith in the same place at the same time. Doesn't an individual expression of faith become joint when we do it with someone else?

Or are some expressions of faith (prayer for instance) always joint (even when we do them by ourselves?) and some always individual (like vocation) even when we do them with others?

ACS

Anonymous said...

By definition, vocations are never joint--they are always individual. Your vocation is your vocation. My vocation is my vocation. If we carry them out in the same place, we aren't carrying them out jointly, just in the same location. Much as if you and I are in the same restaurant and happen to pray before dinner at relatively the same time--you at your table and me at mine. We aren't praying together, even though our proximity happens to be close at the time. (Unless one of us says to the other, "Let's say the prayer together." At that point it would be a joint prayer.)

Letting Off Steam said...

I've never been able to understand how Lutherans would ever feel comfortable praying with other Christians. How could I pray with my Baptist neighbor when he's praying to a God who doesn't give us his own body and blood? How could I pray with my Catholic co-worker when he's praying to a God that demands good works for salvation? How could I pray with my Pentecostal friend when he's praying to a God that works through emotion, not the means?

How about this one? How can I pray with someone who might be in my same church body, but who I personally know has little personal belief in what that church teaches?

Anonymous said...

"How can I pray with someone who might be in my same church body, but who I personally know has little personal belief in what that church teaches?"

How could you ever know that a person has "little personal belief"? We don't have the ability to read hearts, only public confessions (as expressed through church membership).

ACS said...

Anon @ 4:05,

"By definition, vocations are never joint--they are always individual."

What does "joint" mean? (stay out of this you hippies)

Lets retrace our steps. According to the WELS doctrinal statement, fellowship is every joint expression of faith, right?

Now, does "every joint expression of faith" mean every expression of faith done with someone else, as the statement suggests--"we manifest our faith jointly with other Christians according to opportunity" (in other words--we have faith; we manifest and express it in certain ways; sometimes we manifest it or express with other people, according to opportunity) or does it mean that some "expressions of faith" are by their nature joint and others are by their nature individual? Is there any scriptural support for the distinction in the second option? And if there is, then shouldn't the statement say, "...the Holy Spirit also leads us to joint expressions and manifestions of our faith jointly with fellow Christians..."?

You also say:

"Your vocation is your vocation. My vocation is my vocation. If we carry them out in the same place, we aren't carrying them out jointly, just in the same location."

And as you explain in the next few sentences, prayer is the same.

"Much as if you and I are in the same restaurant and happen to pray before dinner at relatively the same time--you at your table and me at mine. We aren't praying together, even though our proximity happens to be close at the time. (Unless one of us says to the other, "Let's say the prayer together." At that point it would be a joint prayer.)"

So, prayer is an individual expression of faith too, unless we ask some one to join us in it?

Now put it together.

When we say, "Let's work together/start a business together/be on a sports team together/fly kites together/etc,," at that point wouldn't it be a joint vocation?

ACS

Letting Off Steam said...

How could you ever know that a person has "little personal belief"? We don't have the ability to read hearts, only public confessions (as expressed through church membership).

In the same mannner, you don't know if, for example, a Roman Catholic buys into the whole idea of saints and the Virgin Mary as a co-redeemer either...I have known non-Lutherans who, from personal conversation, are more biblically correct than some of the Lutherans I have met over the years...

Anonymous said...

"In the same mannner, you don't know if, for example, a Roman Catholic buys into the whole idea of saints and the Virgin Mary as a co-redeemer either..."

By being a member of a particular church, you are claiming that you believe what that church believes. That's what church membership is all about. If a Catholic doesn't buy into those things, they should leave the Catholic church.

Anonymous said...

"When we say, "Let's work together/start a business together/be on a sports team together/fly kites together/etc,," at that point wouldn't it be a joint vocation?"

No, because by definition there's no such thing as a joint vocation. God calls each individual Christian to serve him in whatever station they have in life. He doesn't call specific groups of people to serve him in specific ways.

And besides, on a purely practical level, flying a kite with another Christian doesn't give any false impressions of doctrinal unity in the way that praying does.

ACS said...

Anon @ 5:23,

"No, because by definition there's no such thing as a joint vocation."

Again, what does the word "joint" mean?

And even if it means what you say it means, which it doesn't, that isn't the way the WELS statement explains it. It doesn't say that "joint" is an intrinsic characteristic of certain expressions and manifestations of faith. That is what you are saying. Instead, it says that there are many ways we express or manifest our faith and every time we join others in manifesting or expressing our faith, then it becomes joint, and that joint expression of faith is called Church Fellowship, and we may only join others in expressing our faith if they have the same public confession we do.

By your reasoning, fellowship in church work, in missions, in Christian education, and in Christian charity aren't really joint expressions of faith either--but the WELS statement says they are (A6).

Can you see why this is so confusing for some people?

ACS

mav said...

"He doesn't call specific groups of people to serve him in specific ways."

That's not what the Lutheran Confessions say. The Table of Duteis from the Small Catechism has group vocations. (what hearers owe their pastors, parents, what subjects owe to the rulers, children, servants, hired men, and laborers, young persons, and for all in common). These are collective groups who jointly carry out their God-given vocations.

mav

Anonymous said...

No mav, that's not quite what I was talking about. Those are groups, but they aren't "group vocations" per se. A "hired man" is called to fulfill the duties in the Small Catechism not because God called him to be part of a group called "hired men", but because God called him individually as a Christian who happens to be a hired man. In other words, in vocation, God doesn't call groups to serve him, he calls individuals to serve him as part of whatever group they belong to.

Anonymous said...

I think that the WELS prayer fellowship can be missed used and abused to the detriment of spreading the gospel. Most people do not have as clear and deep understanding of doctrine as Sem students or Pastors. I have seen a lot of racism from WELS membership, so when a person who speaks Spanish or who is black attends our church the �Old guard� WELS members will actually glare at people who shake their hand and welcome them to church to learn about the saving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. This problem is serious. It also assumes that a person not born and raised WELS is somehow �less�. This might not be your intent, but that is the message that is sent.

Anonymous said...

Huh? WELS prayer fellowship is racist? Umm, I can honestly say I've never heard that one before. Wow. Did you want to support your claim that somehow the WELS teaching on prayer fellowship discriminates against blacks and Hispanics? You know, like with facts or evidence or quotations or something? Or did you simply want to make an inflammatory comment without a shred of proof?

Anonymous said...

WELS prayer fellowship is not racist....just missued. The concept is wonderful. WELS does have racist memembers that abuse "Fellowship" to justify their actions. This is not true of everyone. But it does happen and it is a problem.

Letting Off Steam said...

I had a teacher in WELS Lutheran grade school who was fairly racist (this was about 35 years ago).

He used to tell the class it was actually a bad thing if blacks and whites ever married.

I also had a professor in prep school who was somewhat of an anti-Semite. Most of my professors at MLS were World War II era men, but none had served in the military due to their religious exemptions.

One, who ironically was our German professor, was quite sympathetic to Germany during World War II, and would make many excuses for Gernmany coming under the sway of Nazism. At this time, on television, a miniseries called "Holocaust" came out. I remember our professor saying "maybe it was the Jews just trying to get sympathy".

Anonymous said...

To the person who made the comment at November 30, 2007 8:21 AM:

How many minority friends do you have? Just curious?

Anonymous said...

"How many minority friends do you have? Just curious?"

Ah, the common tactic for those who like to make wild accusations without proof. When asked to back up what they say, they try to turn it personal in an attempt to discredit the person asking for proof. It doesn't make a bit of difference how many minority friends I have. You still need to back up your claim that WELS prayer fellowship is somehow racist. For example: could you provide a quotation from the WELS doctrinal statements that says not to pray with minorities? Could you show a paper written by a WELS pastor with that interpretation? If no, then you've given false testimony and need to repent.

(By the way, not that this has anything to do with the discussion, and not that you deserve this tidbit of information, but my best friend from kindergarten to eighth grade--his last name was Rodriguez. My roommate for 3 years in college--black.)

Anonymous said...

Sometimes in WELS we are so intent on finding every one else's error, we sometimes forget that we too are in need of forgiveness. I'm thankful that God loved me enough to send Jesus to save me from my own sin. Jesus is more than doctrine to me.....He is my personal savior.

Anonymous said...

By the way, I never said that WELS pray fellowship was rasit. Only that sometimes it is misused.

Anonymous said...

Stop the presses! You mean there might be WELS members who are racist? Oh my gosh, like WELS members still have sinful natures and sinful thoughts? Holy cow, what a scandal! Let's all leave the WELS and join a group that has no racist people at all in it, like...um...well...I guess there aren't any. I know, let's live up alone on a mountaintop and congratulate ourselves for not being terrible racists like all of those other people.

Anonymous said...

"By the way, I never said that WELS pray fellowship was rasit."

You should probably learn how to spell "racist" before accusing people of being it.

Anonymous said...

Sorry for my misspelled word...it seems like this touched a sensitive spot for you. Have a good day. May the peace, love and joy of Jesus Christ bless you today.

Anonymous said...

"it seems like this touched a sensitive spot for you"

No what touches a sensitive spot for me is when people flippantly and casually throw around charges of racism. That's not something to be taken lightly--reputations and careers can be ended by such foolishness. I know that the anonymous format of this blog leads people to say things they normally never would, but you still have to be careful and responsible.

mav said...

A@7:18am,

Sorry. I didn't see your response to me. It got lost in all the unrelated racism talk above. Now, I don't know which anonymous you are, but here's what I've understood from this thread regarding the WELS position: Every expression of the faith is individual unless you specifically invite someone to do something with you. This gets ridiulously confusing because as Christians everything we do is an expression of our faith. "1 Cor. 10:31 Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." By WELS logic, a WELS member should not invite a nonWELS member to eat with them.

I thank you for attempting to explain how everyone's vocation is singular, but this does not fit with Scripture or the Confessions. We, the Church, are a collective, The Bride of Christ, we are One Body, if one part hurts or sins, it affects us all. Many of us do share the same vocations and do them with others, especially the example of parents. The faith of another Christian will not allow me into heaven, but we are not just individuals with personal relationships with Jesus. We are a group and we are called to carry out group vocations as well as individual vocations at the same time.

Many here are focusing on prayer fellowship. I think the WELS statement would have been much clearer if it had said prayer fellowship instead of every joint expression.

Also, what many here (including me) have a problem with is that the discussion is all about what WE DO. Fellowship is centered around what GOD DOES in the Church through the Word and the Sacraments. Do we express fellowship? Yes. But the focus though is on God and His gifts to us, not on making a clear confession against error, which is a result of fellowship.

The tangled semantics necessary (every doesn't always mean every?, you're not really doing something with someone even if you're doing the same thing at the same time in the same place unless you invite them to do something with you) show the weakness and lack of clarity of the WELS doctrinal statement.

mav

Anonymous said...

mav,

Actually I think the bit of "semantics" that you're not seeing is the difference between an expression of faith and an expression of THE faith. The first would be the "whatever you do"/vocation sort of expression of one's personal faith. The second would be a confession of corporate belief. Scripture uses this very same semantic difference. I believe that the WELS statement refers to the latter (though it doesn't clearly make that distinction). Vocation is an expression of personal faith, but isn't a confession of the corporate faith. Prayer, though, is an confession of the corporate faith. If you understand it in that way, I think it's pretty clear. The statement is saying, "Live your lives serving God in faith in whatever you do, but when it comes to a specific confession of faith with someone (as happens in prayer) then these fellowship principles apply." I'm not sure if I explained that as well as I could have. Hopefully it's understandable.

mav said...

A@11:54,

I'm not sure you can make the distinction you are trying to draw. Where in Scripture do you find a difference between personal faith and corporate faith? Eph. 4:4-6 "There is one body and one Spirit-just as you were called to one hope when you were called-one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all."

As I wrote before, if the WELS statement said "prayer" instead of "every joint expression" it would be more clear and match practice much better.

mav

Anonymous said...

At least we can all agree, it's great that the Packers lost.

Anonymous said...

Just wait 'til the playoffs!

John said...

Just wait 'til the playoffs!

So have the fellowship and communion topics run their course?

Any suggestions for the next hot topic?

ACS said...

A@11:54,

Maybe my last comment, which has gone unanswered, got lost in the mix, but what you are saying isn't what the WELS statement says.

In fact, this is the first time I've ever even heard of a distinction like this. Do they teach this at Sem?

And how does fellowship in church work, in missions, in Christian education, and in Christian charity fit in with your personal faith/corporate faith distinction?

ACS

Anonymous said...

Acts 6:7: "a large number of priests became obedient to the faith."

Acts 13:8 "But Elymas the sorcerer (for that is what his name means) opposed them and tried to turn the proconsul from the faith."

Galatians 1:23 "The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy."

1 Timothy 3:9 "They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith"

Titus 1:13 "Therefore, rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith"

Hebrews 4:14 "let us hold firmly to the faith we profess."

Each of these passages clearly is not referring to personal saving faith, but to the "corporate" faith, i.e. a body of beliefs or doctrines. Each passage isn't referring to that by which an individual clings to Christ, but to the body of doctrine that is clung to. Or think of the Athanasian Creed: "This is the true Christian faith..." Does it go on to describe what personal faith is? No--it describes Christian doctrine.

Dogmaticians refer to these as "fides quae" and "fides qua": the faith by which one believes and the faith (doctrine) in which one believes. (I may have reversed the meanings--I don't know Latin.)

I thought that these two uses of the word faith were more commonly known than this.

So, I believe the WELS statement, when talking about expressions of faith, are talking about joint expressions of corporate doctrine. Prayer is an expression of doctrine, vocation isn't.

Anonymous said...

"In fact, this is the first time I've ever even heard of a distinction like this. Do they teach this at Sem?"

Like I said above, I was under the impression that the two uses of the word "faith" were more well-known. Yes, I believe they teach this at Sem since it is a very common dogmatic distinction (it even has its own Latin terms, so it must be well-established) and I have been taught it by WELS pastors.

"And how does fellowship in church work, in missions, in Christian education, and in Christian charity fit in with your personal faith/corporate faith distinction?"

It would be hard to imagine that any of those things (except some kinds of charity work) could be done without a proclamation of the faith (i.e. doctrine) so fellowship principles would apply.

Anonymous said...

One other thing, I don't know Greek, but I believe that the distinction between "faith" and "the faith" is present in the Greek as well. In some cases (talking about personal faith) the article isn't there in front of the word "faith", but in other cases (talking about Christian doctrine) the article is there.

Anonymous said...

It is funny that when we talk about fellowship we make a big deal about the absence or presence of an article in front of the word faith (althought the WELS statement on fellowship doesnt do this) yet when discussing who may serve communion or preach, we ignore the fact that male pronouns are always used (ie women communion other women.) Just an observation.

"Prayer is an expression of doctrine, vocation isn't."

So when I pray with my parents before dinner I'm expressing THE faith, but when I go in to the world and live my life I'm expressing a different faith. I think this is the sophistry that an earlier poster wanred us about.

Anonymous said...

"So when I pray with my parents before dinner I'm expressing THE faith, but when I go in to the world and live my life I'm expressing a different faith. I think this is the sophistry that an earlier poster wanred us about."

Well, you'll have to talk to the Holy Spirit and warn him about sophistry, since the inspired Word makes such a distinction between "faith" and "the faith", as has been demonstrated above. You'll also want to talk to the many theologians who speak about "fides qua" and "fides quae".

Anonymous said...

"Well, you'll have to talk to the Holy Spirit and warn him about sophistry, since the inspired Word makes such a distinction between "faith" and "the faith", as has been demonstrated above."

I think you have misunderstood me. This is the comment I was responding to.

"Prayer is an expression of doctrine, vocation isn't."

Nothing in the passages you quote above suggests that prayer is an expression of THE faith and vocation is an expression of (not THE) faith.

And shouldn't every expression of faith be an expression of THE faith? Can the passages that distinguish between faith and THE faith be explained by the syntax? For example, if one said "Protect THE faith" and another said "have faith," does that really show that there are two types of faith or is this distinction purely grammatical?

Anonymous said...

A@11:55, 11-30,

You've only shown passages that speak of, in your words, "the faith". Where are those that talk about a different "personal" faith, as opposed to "the faith"?

You have failed to prove your point.

Anonymous said...

"Where are those that talk about a different "personal" faith, as opposed to "the faith"?"

Well, I figured that since personal faith is the usual meaning in Scripture that those passages would be self-evident. I guess not.

Here ya go...

Matthew 6:30 "will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?"

Matthew 8:10 "I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith."

Matthew 8:26 "He replied, "You of little faith,"

Matthew 15:28 "Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted."

Etc, etc... There are many, many more.

"You have failed to prove your point."

This distinction between faith and the faith isn't my point at all. It's a point made by countless theologians. Feel free to read some theology, you'll find much more on this distinction.

ACS said...

"This distinction between faith and the faith isn't my point at all. It's a point made by countless theologians. Feel free to read some theology, you'll find much more on this distinction."

Please name one of the countless theologians that have made this distinction as it relates to Church Fellowship so I can read more about it. Thank you.

ACS

Anonymous said...

Anon @ 10:20,

You cited Matthew 8:26 as evidence of your faith/the faith argument: "He replied, "You of little faith." Again, how does this verse show that through prayer we express THE faith, but through our vocations we only express (not THE) faith? Yes some passages refer to "faith" and others to "the faith" but isn't that just a gramatical choice? What is it that the "you of little faith" have so little of? Might it be THE faith?

Please see my 12/1 6:11 post.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if any of the folks reading this comprehend what our anonymous friend is saying. It took nearly 170 posts for someone to come up with this faith/the faith distinction, which anyone who has been reading this discussion should be able to see does nothing to explain or support the idea that people have two different types of faith or that the WELS doctrinal statement on fellowship is dependant on any such distinction. Good grief. Yes, the word faith can be used in different ways, as in "ye of little faith" and "let us hold firmly to the faith" but both refer to the same thing--faith in Christ.

Anonymous said...

Does any one feel that we lose opportunity to spread the word of God when we as individuals fear "breaking fellowship" rules to the point that we avoid all nonWELS people?

ACS said...

So no one can explain or point to any theologians that explain how the "fides quae" and "fides qua" distinction relates to the WELS doctrinal statement on fellowship or prayer and vocation?

ACS

Prince Valiant said...

I'm sorry to say this, but personally I think the Pharisees in Jesus' day would have made good WELS members. Talk about straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel! I've thought many times of becoming a WELS member (because the WELS is generally more conservative than the LCMS), but I just can't get past the WELS' phariseeism. Am I the only one that thinks this?