Friday, December 26, 2008

Planned Givers ?

Below is question from a reader about planned giving counselors? You might recall about a month ago I posted about Rev. JD Liggett's annual plea for money. Maybe another reader can give insight as to the historical development of these "fund raisers."


What are the views of WELS having "planned gift counselors" to help write wills, etc. ? I am middle age, and I never remember planned gift counselors existing 35 years ago or so...

Sometimes I think it is a good idea; other times it sounds kind of like a "hard sell".

I think WELS has a lot of money issues, but I am not sure this is the solution...on the other hand, the younger generation does not seem to be making up for the older generation that is passing away.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Keep the Mass in Christmas

We so often hear about the need to keep Christ in Christmas which is well and good. The focus of this season does need to be on the birth of our Savior. But what about the Mass in Christmas? On this the Nativity of our Lord what a blessing to have a church that celebrates the Holy Supper. The call to keep Mass in Christmas is what should ring out. The term "Mass" has fallen out of use in our circles (lest you be deemed a magpie). However, the confessions do refer to the divine service as the mass with the focus on Christ crucified and the Holy Supper. As pointed out below it is hard to offer communion when a church service is not even held. That Christmas morn Christ came in the flesh..."take and eat this is my body.."

I wonder if Ed Stetzer will be telling the WELS pastors to keep the Mass in Christmas?

"We do not abolish the Mass but religiously keep and defend. ... We keep traditional liturgical forms' (Apology to the Augsburg Confession, 24)"

Friday, December 5, 2008

A Christmas miracle

The Christmas miracle is the birth of our Lord and Savior. Yet at some WELS churches it might be a miracle if you find the church doors unlocked. I am curious as to why a WELS church would not want to celebrate this holy day of Christmas with a divine worship service (with communion too). As some travel to church on this holy day we might just hear the women respond, "the church is empty."
It seems to me that this Holy Day should be set aside for the church family to gather and worship the birth of the King. Yet search a bit and you will see that the very WELS churches that don't admit they are Lutherans are the same ones following the evengelical trend of not having a worship service on Christmas Day. They love the pregame Rock show on Christmas eve but don't show up for the actual event on Christmas Day.

This trendy thing to do started in the non-denominational churches several years ago. These churches say they will meet you where you are. That is as long as you don't go to their church on Christmas Day.

Heb. 10.25 "Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another-- and all the more as we see the Day approaching."

These Rock and Roll churches of course balk at the liturgy and the liturgical calendar. They scream we don't have to go to church on Christmas. We don't have to use the liturgy. We don't have to follow the liturgical calendar. Again the identity of the Lutheran church is lost as they follow the trend of the non-demonational church down the road.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Full disclosure ?

I am wondering why the Church and Change group is not proudly and loudly advertising their upcoming conference with Ed Stetzer as the keynote speaker.

Ed Stetzer has revealed on his blog that he is in fact coming to this conference.

Last spring a covert group of WELS pastors swam down to the exponential conference in Orlando.

Not long after that Ed Stetzer was contracted to speak at the WELS conference.

The Board for Parish Assistance issued several calls for a consultant and finally landed a whale, Rev. Paul Kelm. The synod now must make drastic cuts due to a large budget deficit. hmmm...

Rev. Bruce Becker is asked to clarify a recent statement:

So what is happening? All is not well in the WELS.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Justifiable concern

Here is any interesting comment from a WELS blog: There is a concern — and I would argue a justifiable concern — that some segments within WELS are flirting too much with methodology that leave the proclamation of the gospel behind just so we get people in the door.

Self-analysis and self-criticism for a church body, LCMS and WELS included, are healthy exercises these days when church growth methodologies abound and the gospel seems to be shrinking out of more and more pulpits and classrooms.

It seems that the concerns pointed out on this blog and elsewhere are justifiable and valid. It is interesting that Pastor's Strey's blog has not received comments about how "unloving" his concerns are. His concerns are shared by many. Yet during this economic crisis Paul Kelm was called back to 2929 as a leading Church growth expert.?. Ed Stetzer is still coming to Milwaukee next November. Mission churches have been asked to not hide their Lutheran identity yet the Rock and Roll churches persist.

It's re-energizing to read Pastor Strey's words and to especially note that Pres. Schroeder is going to make a confessional stand. But I wonder about a house divided.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A time for Thanksgiving

It is time to pause and reflect on the blessings our Lord has graciously given to us. I am especially thankful that our Lord has provided a remnant of confessional Lutherans both pastors and laypeople for such a time as this. It is my prayer that the confessional voices have the courage to speak and those promoting Reformed practices would have the courage to listen. I pray that our church would be "different" than the culture surrounding us: a place of refuge and peace. I hope that those promoting Ed Stetzer might see that to be relevant to this culture we need to be different. We need to be a light shining in darkness rather than blending in with the non-denominational melting pot that Ed Stetzer represents. There needs to be a place for those who desire a confessional, orthodox, and liturgical church.

"And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Growing our churches

This past week a group of individuals from over 30 "growing and thriving" WELS churches met in Milwaukee to discuss the various methodologies and activities that have seemingly led to church growth in numbers.

I'm interested in hearing more about this analysis meeting. What was discovered? What have the rest of the WELS churches been doing wrong?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Freddy says

Thank you for sharing Freddy...well put!!!

Freddy said...


It is good that you are investigating these things. I take your posts to be those of genuine interest (and, I think, from one who has been exposed primarily to Church Growth perspectives). Much of what you bring up in your post has been directly dealt with, relatively recently, on this blog. I’ll briefly answer some of the points you make, and then forward you to several posts that deal with these points more fully. If my tone seems sharp, don't take it personally -- I am speaking to the ideas, not at you.

You Question: Are electric guitars evil? How about drums…

My Answer: In your statement you make the fundamental assumption that forms, including music and instrumentation, are amoral. This is a false assumption, and the liturgical principle of lex orandi, lex credendi informs us of this. You further (apparently) assume no distinction between Ecclesiastical and Secular forms, that they are (or ought to be) equally nothing but worldly reflections of popular culture. This is also wrong. Just as the Church is distinct from the World, so are its forms and its culture, reflecting our true citizenship in and of the Kingdom of Grace. Moreover, under these false assumptions, you draw the conclusion that popular forms taken from Secular pop-culture apply without negative consequence in an Ecclesiastical setting, that lyrical content alone constitutes the “substance” of worship. Again, this is wrong. Forms are of great substance, which is why we confess in AC XXIV that Rites are necessary to teach the people what they believe. The corollary is that we avoid practices that do not teach what we believe, especially those that overtly teach what we believe to be false. The fact is, “contemporary” worship forms, which Lutherans are increasingly guilty of borrowing from Evangelicals, Charismatics, and Pentecostals, including their music and instrumentation, have been carefully chosen and developed by these heterodox to teach their false doctrine – namely, Worship as a Means of Grace, and Religious Experience as Assurance of Salvation. Since, for them, overt zeal in worship is no small factor, the music they have developed for the worship setting is chosen in a calculated attempt to manufacture and manipulate powerful emotions. Worse, under a (now defunct) Church Growth paradigm, such forms have been further exploited to “draw the un-churched” by transforming the Divine Service into entertainment-grade performances, thus taking the focus off of Christ (christocentrism) and placing it on man (anthropocentrism). While many among us are becoming entranced and seduced by these powerful gimmicks, the rest of us are active sounding the alarm and feverishly working to reverse the damage, before we ourselves are compelled run in horror. Here are some previous entries from this blog that you may find interesting: Alternative Missions (or, Tim’s Debut) & Liturgical vs. non-Liturgical

You Question: What about the pure joy that people feel after hearing the Gospel? Is it sinful to express that joy during a service?

My Answer: Of course it is not sinful to express “pure” Joy in the Gospel! By asking this in the context of a defense for contemporary forms, however, you erroneously equate the use of contemporary forms with the expression of “pure” Joy. “Pure” Gospel Joy bubbles uncontrollably out of a true Christian, with or without musical accompaniment. In the context of the Divine Service, such expression is present in his Worship sacrifice (as it would be in all expressions of his faith), as he joins those with whom he shares Unity, and in unison with them confesses his faith and expresses his Joy and Gratitude in word and song. In such a setting, the emphasis in worship expression is not on the individual; rather, it is on the unified and corporate expression in which the individual takes part. This corporate expression, which cannot function outside of the context of unity, is guided by a liturgy addressing two parties, the Minister and the Congregation, and carries them together through the Divine Service, keeping them together centered on Christ, rather than themselves or the antics of others. An orthodox hymnody is essential support to the objectives of the liturgy, likewise is accompaniment to serve the liturgy and hymnody without interfering with it. Accompaniment should not be used as a catalyst for emotions which ought to already be present “purely” as a result of the Gospel, nor should it be allowed to develop into such a crutch for Christians in any congregation. In such a case, accompaniment replaces the Gospel, and is employed to artificially manufacture what true Lutherans place their faith in the Holy Spirit to produce through the Gospel alone. Here is a previous entry from this blog that you may also find interesting: Difficulty in Rooting Out Church Growth

You State: The world is diverse, therefore worship forms ought to be equally diverse (my summary from your first paragraph)

My Answer: You seem to be unaware of what our Confessions mean when they define Lutherans as “catholic.” By this, we certainly do not confess that we are “Roman Catholic,” but that we are a church which “remembers” and “imitates” (Heb. 13:7-9) those who have faithfully served the Gospel throughout the church’s history. Dr. C.P. Krauth describes it best, I think, when he declares that the church catholic thus represents the outflowing of 2000 years of Christian faith and practice into the present, and projects it into the future (in his context, he is speaking of the utter necessity of well-educated Pastors, fully trained in Church History and Classical Studies like Western Civ., etc., and that those without such rigorous training are not fit to be Pastors, because they are incapable of effective catholicity). And so, in terms of our Rites, our Confessions inform us that we use nothing that has not been with us since the earliest of times (and this excludes, of course, what may have existed in earliest of times, but has been since rejected and is no longer “with us” – such as supposed “Apostolic Rites” dredged up by those who despise the Western Rite). In context, this applies directly to the Western Rite, but by extension, also to modified forms of the Eastern Rite (which is also a catholic Rite). In terms of our hymnody, catholicity is an aggregate of expression from across all cultures over the history of the Church. And so, worship cannot be said to be “catholic” if historic forms do not dominate, especially if there is disproportionate representation from strictly “contemporary” sources or modes of expression. Since the heart of Lutheranism has historically been Germany and Scandinavia, it makes sense that hymns and musical settings from these parts of Europe will have greatest representation in orthodox Lutheran hymnody. Over time, this will (and has been) change(ing), as Lutheranism spreads and as influences of orthodox Lutheran expression from a broader cultural spectrum find their way into our hymnody. In short, practices derived exclusively from, or dominated by, either “contemporary” influence or “local culture,” are not catholic and therefore, not Lutheran.

Here is a useful article addressing this topic (along with others): Why is the Lutheran Church a Liturgical Church?Related to this point, you also seem to define “culture” as “what is contemporary” – which isn’t true at all. In fact, the reverse is true. Those who understand and benefit from culture are not so narrow as to insist that “culture” is what’s “contemporary,” but have and express an active knowledge and appreciation for what makes a culture what it is: its history. Thus, a cultured individual can appreciate a performance by local (contemporary) talent at the corner establishment on Friday night, can enjoy a Saturday evening Classical concert, and arrive at Church on Sunday morning eager to engage the Rites of the Divine Service in distinctly Ecclesiastical musical forms. A cultured person is one who understands and appreciates artistic expression for what it is in its native context, but doesn’t demand that all artistic contexts coexist in some sort of shared artistic hegemony, or worse, as a lowest common denominator of pluralistic equivalency. Those who make such demands are neither wise nor “cultured,” but ignorant and narrow.

The point is, the Church is distinct and separate from the World, just as the local bar (and the musical entertainment it provides) is distinct and separate from a concert hall. There is every proper expectation for the Church to have its own “other worldly” culture and forms of expression. On the other hand, it is individual Christians, in the Domestic Estate, who are in both the Kingdom of Grace and the Kingdom of Power, not the church; but, while we are in both Kingdoms, we are only of the one Kingdom, not the other. Our expression, including our forms, ought to represent this fact unreservedly and most pointedly – especially when we are on our home turf (at church, that is). Here is another pertinent blog posting: CG vs WELS ContemporaryIn your final paragraph you make the assumption that the Divine Service is, or ought to be, focused principally on Evangelism and/or Outreach. This is a false assumption and an abusive redirection of the purpose of the Divine Service that is being promoted by C&C Church Growth advocates. Evangelism is specifically not the purpose of the Divine Service, nor should any self-respecting Lutheran allow it to become the purpose of the Divine Service. The Divine Service, as a worship setting, is a forum in which the believer is focused on Christ and His completed work on our behalf, is guided in responsive expression that only believers can offer to God, and which climax’s as Christ is joined with the believer in a most intimate way, as he receives His Body and Blood for the forgiveness of sins in Holy Communion. Reducing the Divine Service to (the now defunct theories of) Church Growth anthropocentrism, by refocusing the service on the pleasure drives of the unregenerate and concealing the Sacrament to spare them offense, is nothing short of tragedy. If you have followed any of the above links, you, no doubt, have already read the following, but I think it is worth repeating: “‘Any practice which elevates worship experience as an Evangelical tool, to a status anywhere near equal to the proclamation of Law and Gospel, is abusing both Worship and the preaching of Law and Gospel. Worship is a forum in which those with faith in the objective promises of God's Word offer their sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving to Him on the basis of His completed work on their behalf. Those without faith have nothing to offer in such a forum. In fact, their offerings are offensive to God -- the Bible states directly that He turns Himself from such offerings, and rejects them. To draw unbelievers into the church on the pretense of worship experience is to sinfully draw them in on the false pretense of the efficacy of their worship sacrifice. The fact is, God hates the worship offerings of the unregenerate...’ Worship is not evangelism. Worship is what those with faith in the objective promises of God do, it is not what the unregenerate do, nor is it a forum which God has provided for them. We should avoid giving such indications in our worship practice.”

Just Trying to Help,

Freddy Finkelstein
November 17, 2008 4:47 PM

Friday, November 14, 2008

Treasure Trove ?

Some of you are new to these parts. I would invite you to peruse through the older posts for some interesting reading, valuable insights, and some worthless comments.

Posted below is just a sampling of the treasure trove hidden inside BW. Of course, you will need to plow throught the muck to find the context of these statements:
#1 : ) I nominated 'Bailing Water' as the 2007 blog of the year. I said that you generated many comments and that you must be read by many persons.

Norman TeigenELS layman(I am not Mr. Anonymous)
RTMM said...
The office is instituted.
C.L. Merts said...
If all of you are so scared of your synod, why are you still in it? "Come to the WELS" to live in abject terror of setting a toe out of line!?
Never, ever read Luther, Chemnitz or the Lutheran Confessions, you will be floored.

With the holidays fast approaching plus a wedding, I'll be brief, but you ask excellent questions. In all seriousness, I would recommend that you read The Motley Magpie (no, I'm not a relative of any of the editors, but I am a reader and really found it helpful personally). The editors dealt with many of the questions you have raised. They use Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions in their explanations and criticisms, which are very helpful to those of us who grew up not really being taught the Lutheran Confessions. Some of the back issues can be found at MotleyMagpie UP

Rev. Fr. John W. Berg said...
Kind bloggers,

And if anyone would actually wish to discuss/refute etc. what we wrote, even show us how nasty we are (which no one has, to date), they are welcome to e-mail me at We will print your letter in our next reissued Magpie, with our reply, of course.
Rev. Fr. John W. Berg, a.k.a.The Most High and Mighty Berg
(but don't look behind that curtain!)
Anonymous said...
The Magpie advocated communing infants.That's false doctrine.Case closed.
September 11, 2007 6:45 AM

A few words for the "brave" soul who hides behind the skirts of "anonymous" and who charged the Motley Magpie with heresy for its advocacy of the practice of infant communion: If you haven't read Fr. James Frey's excellent article on the subject, then shut up.

If you have read it, then grace us with a scholarly rebuttal. Better yet, wait for the two-part article on the subject in the next two issues of the MM soon to be put online (

The piece deals with the demise of the practice in the West, and offers an analysis of the objections to this ancient catholic practice (which are all specious and in the end lead to a denial of infant faith). Incidentally, your namesake did not call the practice heretical, but then again Luther wouldn't pass a colloquy into the wels if he were alive today.

Until then, Anonymous, hoist your skirt and stay off the playing field.

Rev. Peter M. Berg
September 12, 2007 11:51 AM
The inaccurate claim that President Schroeder is excited is now gone from the Church and Change website.
Think Green. Drink Wine. Go to Mass. Read the text. Read a bike -save the world. Vote for me.The B.
Thanks for the compliment. And thanks for all your work running this site--I do appreciate it.
To signatory "Pax,"And shalom to you.

Considering this forum a short answer will have to suffice. The article penned by Fr. Peter Berg was apparently labeled false doctrine by the WELS conference of presidents. Paul Janke wrote to me and said little more than it was not WELS, he did not provide any Scriptural or Confessional proof or analysis, really (You can ask him to see his March 11, 2004 letter to me if you do not believe me).

For example Fr. Berg took issue with the use of the word "public" as it is used in WELS literature. Janke countered that the WELS uses the word, period. (Oh, the Magpie offered him the pages of our journal to respond, he didn't even respond to that offer.) He said it was "classic" Missouri teaching. Good enough, I guess.I was asked to disavow that article and I declined. I repeatedly asked him to show me where the errors were in that paper and in what I personally wrote in the Motley Magpie. He never showed me where I was in error. The Magpie found the soft spots of WELS doctrine and practice and it had to be silenced. There were a couple attendant matters that are really immaterial to discuss at this point and you would not believe it unless you saw all the letters and witnessed the meetings.

Fr. Berg's article as well as his "lutheran lady lectors" and "lutheran lady celebrants" will help you begin to understand. The WELS does not look ontologically at these matters but centers all its prohibitions in the law. As the relationship between Christ and the church reflects the ontological reality of the Holy Trinity, so the Ministry of Christ continues through his called and ordained men who serve His Holy Bride. That Christologically iconic relationship (Christ and his Bride) is created in man, this is a part of the image of God, the husband-wife, giver-receiver relationship. All authority which Christ has, he has given to his church to be exercised through those who stand in his stead and give mouth and hand in service to the church. This is not the authority of the world, to boss about, bind wills and so forth (per the WELS) but the authority to serve with the blessed mysteries.

This a man must do who stands in an iconic relationship to Christ, thus the prohibitions in 1 Corinthians 14 and 1 Timothy 2-3. And yes, the women stands in an iconic relationship to Christ, but not in this manner - as husband or pastor as one in stead of Christ in this relationship. Look at 1 Timothy 2. She must be silent for Adam was formed first. Eve's sin was not simply that she got the command wrong, that too, but that she spoke. Pastor Adam had that job, failed and so the second Adam came, and men born of Adam must speak in the stead of the second Adam (no estrogen here) to the Bride, the Church.

The WELS does not understand that these Christologically iconic relationships do not exist outside of these relationships that God has given. Where those relationships exist, the husband or pastor loves his wife or church as Christ the Bridegroom and Shepherd loves the Bride or church. The pastor/Christ serves the church/Bride of Christ with the blessed means of salvation. This is the office. That is the authority. No women. Yet outside of those relationship the law or reason reigns. The WELS sends her women out to be subservient to men with whom they do not have these relationships. The WELS rightly appeals to the order of creation, but they miss the ontological underpinnings of the relationship and they miss the scope of the relationship. In short, my wife gives her submission (which means to receive) to me and to her pastor, oh that would be me, too. She doesn't have to submit to any other man, other than constituted authorities, be they men or women. She is polite and demur and too good for me (like I had to say that), and like many Christian women she has had authority over men, and votes.

The article by Fr. Peter Berg discusses these things and the WELS would have none of it for it saw the implications. This too is the short answer. But it will give you something to chew on. There are other matters that we took issue with the WELS and you can read all about it in the Motley Magpie.
Rev. Fr. John W. Berg
October 18, 2007 9:43 PM


The post receiving the most comments and attention: (316 comments)


Feel free to post your all-time highlights or lowlights...

Traditonal Service - Contempo Service - Rob

This is probably opening up a can of worms here, but isn't that what blogs are all about?

So here goes:

I'd wonder about a pastor who felt comfortable conducting a traditional service and then following it up with a contemporary service. I'd question how true to the confessions the traditional service was if the pastor turned around and did a contemporary service later. It seems to be a contradiction to me - and a "why would you even want to" type of thing.

I guess that hits at the heart of Tim's, JK's and now Ben's argument for the concurrence of both. I haven't had to decide about something like that to date, but we don't have a lot of options around here so I don't know that I'd have a lot of options.

Have at it, fellas.


A few thoughts from awhile back

John 4:24 "God is spirit, and His worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth."

Romans 12:1-2 "Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - this is your spiritual act of worship."

Philippians 3:2-3 "For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh."

Hebrews 12:28-29 "Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our 'God is a consuming fire.'"

The Augsburg Confession, Articles in Which an Account is Given of the Abuses Which Have Been Corrected also has this to say:

“For Your Imperial Majesty will undoubtedly find that the form of doctrine and of ceremonies with us is not so intolerable as these ungodly and malicious men represent. Besides, the truth cannot be gathered from common rumors or the revilings of enemies. But it can readily be judged that nothing would serve better to maintain the dignity of ceremonies, and to nourish reverence and pious devotion among the people than if the ceremonies were observed rightly in the churches.”

And from the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, VII and VIII:

“But just as the dissimilar length of day and night does not injure the unity of the Church, so we believe that the true unity of the Church is not injured by dissimilar rites instituted by men; although it is pleasing to us that, for the sake of tranquillity [unity and good order], universal rites be observed, just as also in the churches we willingly observe the order of the Mass, the Lord's Day, and other more eminent festival days. And with a very grateful mind we embrace the profitable and ancient ordinances, especially since they contain a discipline by which it is profitable to educate and train the people and those who are ignorant….”

Thursday, November 13, 2008

"Freedom from debt" Details enclosed

I opened my mailbox today and tossed aside what I thought was another credit card solicitation.
The glossy envelope screamed: "Freedom from debt" Details enclosed..

As I flipped the envelope over I realized it was in fact a mailing from the WELS to its members from the "Ministry of Christian Giving." The giving note is the annual plea from the office of JD.

The letter outlines the need to eliminate $22.4 million in debt during this year of Jubilee.

What is surprizing is the slick "credit card" like mailing. I wonder how many WELS members are going to toss this solicitation aside or how many will view it as a bait and switch.

We all need to look at how we give to the Lord. I just wonder if JD took the right approach with this cheezy mailing.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Augsburg Confession on Worship

I would like to point the many readers to this fine article by a WELS pastor on worship (you will certainly note that Rock and Roll is not apart of this WELS view). Yet mission dollars seem to be pouring into the Rock and Roll churches. I wonder if this will stop with the renenewed financial crisis? Is this a call to repentance?

Key Words In Lutheran Liturgical Worship
By Charles L. Cortright

For many of us the study of language and its meaning has been a large part of our education and is a large part of our work. As we gather for this seminar on worship in our Lutheran Church, I would like to focus briefly with you on what is meant by the phrase “Lutheran liturgical worship,” and what it means to appreciate such worship.

Please note that I say “appreciate,” which is not synonymous in every instance with “like.” Appreciation involves awareness and sensitivity towards its subject; it involves recognition of values that have established themselves over time. Appreciation transcends the sometimes narrow confines of our individual tastes. Unfortunately, it happens all too often that people assess the worship practice of the church on the subjective basis of their likes and dislikes with little appreciation for the heritage they have received as Lutherans. But the corporate worship of the church ought not be determined by whim and fad, but upon solid, scripturally consonant, confessionally consistent principles and practices. So we look briefly at the key words “Lutheran,” “liturgical” and “worship” with an eye to being renewed once again in our appreciation of such worship.


Our first task is to understand what we mean by “worship.” Most often we use this word to label the corporate activity of a congregation, but we must remember that corporate worship flows from that worship which encompasses the entire life of the believer: “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). Thus, our Lutheran Confessions (particularly the Augustana and the Formula of Concord) profess on the basis of Scripture that the true worship of God is essentially faith in Christ. If our lives are not rooted and grounded in this faith, then any corporate worship we do becomes a form of hypocrisy. Remember the Lord’s indictment of Israel’s worship because of hypocrisy: “I hate, I despise your religious feasts; I cannot stand your assemblies .... Away with the noise of your songs!” (Amos 5:21ff). And so also that of our Lord Jesus: “They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men” (Mt 15:9).

When the Holy Spirit gathers believers together into the Church, he also gathers them as the body of Christ in the outward activity we call worship. It is interesting that we often refer to the corporate worship of the Body as the “service.” But whose service? and for whom? Lutherans use the word “service” in English as a clipped form of the German Gottesdienst, “Divine Service.”

“Divine Service” does NOT refer to a worship service that is sublime in its language, or aesthetically beautiful in its celebration, or emotionally moving in its effect. (“How was the service?” “Oh, it was simply ‘divine’!”) Indeed, such criteria belong to the Reformed concept of worship with its emphasis on the feelings, emotions, needs, etc. of people. Yes, we Lutherans certainly do hope that corporate worship among our people is moving; and we should place a high premium on the competency and grace of the celebrant, preacher, and musician, but these things do not constitute the substance and worth of our worship. Nor is “Divine Service” to be thought of as service rendered to God as something that is owed, a duty exacted by a demanding God, or worse, as something which is meritorious before God. Such is the Roman concept with its emphasis on law works and sacrifice. Yes, we do owe God our heartfelt adoration, this is a First Article truth to us—but that is not the essential aspect of the Divine Service.

Divine Service is rather that service which God graciously gives to us. Lutheran worship is focused on the Means of Grace, on the blessed gospel proclamation in Word and sacrament that comes to us from the holy Trinity. God speaks to us his words of absolution and comfort; he reminds us of the blessed covenant of grace granted through Holy Baptism; he feeds us with the precious body and blood of Jesus Christ in the Lord’s Supper. God comes to us and serves us (!), and only afterward comes our response. So we characterize our worship properly as theocentric as opposed to a focus on ourselves, and as evangelical as opposed to a focus on the performance of certain functions or law duties.


We modify our understanding of corporate worship with the description “liturgical.” What does that mean for our worship? “Liturgical” does not mean simply “having a liturgy” or following a certain so‑called “order of service.” Many Protestant sects that eschew the characterization “liturgical” nonetheless follow a regular pattern or order in their worship. Nor does simply utilizing a form of the historic liturgy necessarily mean one is liturgical.

Lutherans usually understand liturgical worship in terms of following the historic liturgy of the western Church, but liturgical worship especially emphasizes the ecclesiastical year with its cycle of seasons and celebrations. And it needs to be said in this regard that the church year is greater than a mere rehearsal of the life of Christ as we move around the cycle—Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Passion Week, Easter, etc. The liturgical celebration of the church year is more than the rehearsal of history and more than “sanctified nostalgia”; it is walking with Christ via the liturgy: celebrating his grace, sharing in his sorrows, exulting in his victory by means of the rich rites, practices, and propers of the liturgy.

In that connection, and perhaps somewhat tangentially, we should stress how false the notion is which some advance that theological conservatism is best expressed (and preserved) by liturgical minimalization, that is, by ignoring the seasonal emphases of the church year and scorning the rubrics of the liturgy. Proponents of this notion sometimes like to recall a romanticized version of the “primitive simplicity” of the early church’s worship, citing it as the paradigm of “true worship.” Limitations of time do not permit us to look more closely at this notion now; a corrective to this point of view may be found in the first chapters of the Manual to Christian Worship.

But by the same token and for the sake of balance (since we are already on this tangent), equal care needs to be taken lest emphasizing the form and practice of the liturgy becomes an end in itself. The liturgy is rightly treasured as a time‑tested vehicle for celebration, but it is only a vehicle. The proclamation of the gospel through the means of grace is the substance of the Divine Service. If liturgical minimalization is wrongly conceived of as a hallmark of orthodoxy, liturgical maximizing can lead to the sad state of affairs in which form obscures orthodox content altogether!

To return to our main point, in the Lutheran Church worship practice that is determined to be liturgical traditionally conceives of itself in terms of a form of the Common Service of the Western Church. It celebrates the Divine Service of the Lord through Word and Sacrament in accord with the church year and by means of the order and rubrics of the “holy mass” (CA, Art. 23) as developed in history under the Lord of the Church. And it does so in accord with the meaning of the third key word before us, that of “Lutheran.”


Calling our worship “Lutheran,” of course, is not meant by us as merely a label or simply to distinguish our liturgy from that of other traditions (e.g., Lutheran vs. Anglican). We use the designation to mark our worship as being consonant with the Confessions of the Lutheran Church.

In this connection the name Lutheran as applied to the liturgy first denotes a tradition that is free under the gospel. As mentioned earlier, the Lutheran Confessions carefully distinguish the true worship of God—faith in Christ—from the man‑made forms of the liturgy (FC, ThD, Art X, 8). Thus, “the congregation of God of every place and every time has, according to its circumstances, the good right, power, and authority to change, to diminish, and to increase them [i.e., liturgical ceremonies] . . . as . . . may be regarded most profitable, most beneficial, and best for preserving good order, Christian discipline, and the edification of the Church” (FC, ThD, Art X, 9). Lutheran worship is worship undertaken in this gospel freedom. In Lutheran liturgics there is no sense of a “divinely ordained” form of worship as in Orthodox or Roman liturgics. Confessional Lutheranism, in fact, will always strenuously oppose any such notion as being contrary to our freedom in Christ. But having declared and affirmed that freedom, it is interesting to note the example of the Lutheran Confessions with respect to the liturgical heritage which the Lutheran Church holds in common with the Western Church. Indeed, the Augsburg Confession points to the retention of the customary ceremonies of the western mass—purified of Roman dross—as evidence against the charge of sectarianism (CA, Conclusion.) Martin Luther founded no church of his own; by God’s providential grace, he sought to reform the one he loved. As a result, the Lutheran Confessions uphold everywhere the understanding that the Lutheran Church is the purified “Church Catholic” (CA, Art 24, Concl; Ap, Art 24) and points to her liturgy as prima facie [primary fact]evidence of this.

A contemporary understanding of what it means to be Lutheran in terms of the liturgy, then, assiduously arms the freedom that is ours under the gospel on the one hand. On the other, Lutheran liturgical understanding regards highly the liturgical heritage of catholic Christianity, in its freedom adapting it as necessary to the changing exigencies of history and culture, but treasuring and conserving it with all deliberateness for its time‑proven utility and for the continuity it visibly proclaims with the Church catholic of ages past. To borrow a phrase from Charles Porterfield Krauth, the continuity of the Lutheran liturgy is one of the most visible aspects of the grace given the “conservative reformation.”

So, what is Lutheran in liturgical worship? I believe it is precisely the dynamic of this tension: freedom that seeks to celebrate the Divine Service meaningfully, culturally, and relevantly in the context of the liturgical heritage of the historic liturgy. It is this dynamic that has produced the significant and distinctly Lutheran alterations and additions to the liturgy such as hymns, the corporate confession, and the like, all the while preserving the rich, time‑proven order of the service: Kyrie, Service of the Word, Preface, etc. for the celebration of the ecclesiastical year. Speaking of Lutheran liturgical worship in terms of a “dynamic tension” leads us to view the practice of the liturgy as one that demands an on‑going investment of our time, understanding, awareness, and sensitivity. In a word, it means appreciating it!

May our praise in our Lutheran liturgical worship remain a fit response to the One who has served us and continues to bless us through Word and sacrament in Christ Jesus.

When this article was written, Charles Cortright was a professor at Northwestern College, Watertown, WI. In the Summer of 2000 he began serving St. Paul, North Hollywood, Calif.
This is an adapted version of an address given at the WELS Christian Worship seminar at Calvary Lutheran Church, Thiensville, WI, on July 15, 1994.

CA: Confessio Augustana, The Augsburg Confession (1530)
Ap: Apology of the Augsburg Confession (1531)
FC: Formula of Concord (1577); ThD: Thorough Declaration (also called Solid Declaration), part II of FC.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

WELS seeking advice from Ed Stetzer

It looks like the scientific results are in: The number 1 issue facing the WELS is the Church and Change group. This is the group that recently sent a group of rogue pastors down to the church planting conference in Orlando, FL. At this conference these pastors sat at the feet of Baptist Pastor Ed Stetzer.

It wasn't much later that the C&Cers contracted Stetzer to present at the 2009 fall conference.

I guess we can all recognize why the C&C group is the synod's number 1 issue (according to the readers of BW)

Friday, October 31, 2008

Reformation and Restoration

On this Reformation Day I though it would be fitting to meditate on an article that sought to begin a Reformation in the WELS..
http://www.a rag journal/

The Mass is the Heart and Life of the Church

A dedication by Peter M. Berg

+ In the Name of Jesus +

The Mass is the heart and life of the Church, and the Holy Supper is the heart and life of the Evangelical Mass. For centuries the Mass, and its apex, the Supper, have been the center of Christian life, for the Supper is Jesus and he is the Life of the Church. All of God's graces are poured out in the preaching and in the Supper, because Jesus, who is Grace, is Word and Meal. All Christian verity and all heresy are revealed in one's understanding of the Supper. All ecclesiastical structures, church programs, and cutting-edge ideas may cease to be, but as long as the Church has the Mass with its Supper it has Jesus, and Jesus is the heart and life of the Church. Jesus, the Incarnate God, is truly and really present with His Church in the Mass. Preaching and the Sacrament are the new "signs and wonders" of the New Testament, and how wondrous they are! The incarnation of the Son of God was so stunning to the ancient world, and the Real Presence so mystical, that the pagan Romans accused the early Christians of secretly devouring their deity. There is often a bit of truth in every calumny. The Mass is the heart and life of the church because here the incarnate Son of God comes to his mortal - flesh and blood - people, giving them his immortal flesh and blood to eat and to drink, saving them, body and soul. We know of no other Son of God than the incarnate Jesus, and apart from him, God is an unknown horror. No flesh and blood Jesus, no God. In the Mass this God comes in all his humanity and sinful human beings can approach him without fear. "The glory and mystery of the incarnation combine there (in the Supper) as they combine nowhere else."¹ Therefore the Mass is finally all that matters. Indeed, all other sacred things, whether Holy Baptism, Holy Absolution, preaching, catechesis, the daily office, the occasional services, etc. only have their full relevance in their relation to the Mass. This is the conviction of those who publish this modest journal, and this is what we teach. However, before this conviction is brushed aside as the ramblings of some fussy high-church types well on their way to crossing the Tiber, we would ask you, dear reader, to give us a hearing. Before you write off what is written in these pages, please read what is written.

The Manner of our Lord's Coming

The Mass is not important because it happens to be a part of our Lutheran culture, just one culture among many other equally valid Christian cultures. The Mass is important because it is the way in which God comes to his people. How does he come? It goes in the way of incarnation and it follows the pattern of speak and eat. It is the visible Lord visiting and eating with Abraham as he reaffirmed the Promise of the Savior and announced his intentions for the Sodomites. It is the Passover meal with its annual rehearsal of God's saving presence and act. It is the Lord speaking and eating with the elders of Israel on the mountaintop. It is Jesus teaching and miraculously feeding the multitudes. It is the Savior eating at table in fellowship with tax collectors and sinners. It is the institution and celebration of the Supper on the night of the Lord's betrayal. It is the revelation of the Lord as he opened the scriptures and broke bread at Emmaus. It is the early Christians devoting themselves to the apostles' didache and the breaking of bread (the koinwniva). The Mass is speak and eat, the only two things that matter - the words of the Word Incarnate poured into our ears and the pouring of the Incarnate Word into our mouths. As the Son of God was conceived in the hearing of the Virgin Mary, and the finite contained the infinite, so through their hearing and their eating the Incarnate One dwells within the entire being of his people in a way beyond comprehension. Christ's Christians become His body, and they are nourished by his body.

These two things - speaking and eating - are bound together in the Mass and one without the other leaves something missing. The Supper without preaching can lead to mindless mysticism. The preaching without the Supper can lead to pedantic moralism. Without the Supper, Herman Sasse once observed, "the proclamation of the Gospel could be understood as just one of the many religious messages in the world." And all we preachers can claim a mea culpa when it comes to short-changing our listeners. The Supper must, at times, save the preacher's neck, just as it saves the communicant in body and soul. Yet, astonishingly, the "dry mass" is still the common practice in all too many churches of the Augsburg Confession, in spite of the confessors' steadfast assertion that the Mass was retained for the consolation of troubled souls (AC XXIV.7). "We have preaching, that's the Gospel, that's enough. We'll have the Supper another time." But isn't that our very own version of concomitance - If you have one thing (e.g. preaching) you pretty much have the rest. Yet the Lord did not come only in word, but in word and deed. He came not only in water, but in water and blood (1 Jn. 5:6). Word and deed. Promise and Body and Blood. The mysteries of God - preaching, Absolution, Baptism, the Eucharist - share things in common, but they also have things unique to each. To omit one is to omit what is unique to it.

The Mass is Heaven on Earth

Preaching is many things, and some of these things are what the Supper is and some are what it is not. Unlike the Supper, preaching is Law, it must be. The sinner is to be convicted. Like the Supper preaching is Gospel, it must be. The sinner is to be consoled with the forgiveness of sins. Preaching is didactic, it must be. Christians are to be instructed in true doctrine, warned about heresy, and urged to be helpful to their neighbors in every need. But most of all, the preacher preaches his people to Heaven; therefore, he preaches to the Supper, he preaches sacramentally (not just about the sacraments, but sacramentally), for the Supper is Heaven on earth. The Supper is the parousia of our Lord now - just as it shall be - only then with the scales fallen from our eyes. Therefore, the Supper is the apex of the Mass, for Heaven is the consummation of the believer's life. We confess this, not because the Holy Communion conveys a better Gospel than preaching, but because preaching is not only about the things to come, but also about the things that are passing. "And now abide faith, hope and love, these three; but the greatest of these is love" (1 Co. 13:13). Preaching, and the faith and hope which it instills, will one day pass away, but Jesus (who is Love) and His feast of love will never pass away.

There is something more. Consider how wonderfully the Holy Liturgy on each Lord's Day tells the story of how our Lord came to us in Word and deed. Whether by Divine providence or happy coincidence, the western rite tells the story of Jesus. In the Gloria in Excelsis we have the song of the Christmas angels, "God incarnate! Peace on earth!" Through the reading and preaching of the scriptures, the Liturgy of the Catechumens tells us about Jesus' ministry of spoken word and miraculous deed as he journeyed to his destiny in Jerusalem. To this we say, Credo. As the gospels are Passion narratives with long prologues (thus, Martin Koehler), so the Liturgy of the Faithful takes us to Holy Week. In the Sanctus/Benedictus we join the Palm Sunday throng and sing, "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord."² As He came upon a lowly donkey, so He also comes now in the lowly species of bread and wine. The Words of Institution take us to Maundy Thursday, and the Agnus Dei to Good Friday. In the elevation, the Son of Man is lifted up as Moses lifted the serpent in the wilderness and all who behold him in faith are healed. In the consumption, doubting Thomases and weeping Marys actually get to touch their risen, flesh and blood Lord, for the Mass is the continuation of our Lord's post-resurrection appearances. And then, together with aged Simeon, the faithful are ready to "depart in peace." Listen to old Simeon, he's got it right. In the Mass, we achieve the hope of all Christians: We go to heaven. For the Mass is heaven on earth - and not just a foretaste of the Feast to come - but the Feast itself right here on earth! Here, the whole Christian Church on earth and the saints of Heaven are joined together spiritually, sacramentally, Christologically, and mystically. In the Lamb's high feast, the grateful dead, your grateful dead (!), are in communion with those yet on earth. Indeed, we become the "one bread" of which the Apostle Paul speaks (1 Co 10.17). If you don't have the Supper, you can't attend the Feast, for the Body and the Blood of our Lord are the Feast. He is host and meal.

The glory of the Supper is that it is purest Gospel, the very forgiveness of sins. Here, as noted above, preaching and the Supper differ. Preaching must be Law and Gospel. Yet, how many times haven't we preachers slighted our people with one or the other, or even both. It must be noted that Law and Gospel are not on even footing. Both are the Word of God and are to be believed as such, but the Law is God's alien work, the Gospel is His proprium. Even in the best-crafted sermon, with the proper distinction between Law and Gospel observed, there is no guarantee that our hearers will hear it that way. No matter how clearly we preach the Gospel, some weary saints will hear only the Law on any given Sunday. The Supper is the safety net, which catches them before they leave church, and before they fall into despair. The Supper (like the liturgy and pericope) is the layman's protection against his own poor hearing and against the preacher, in spite of the preacher's best intentions.

"We must never regard the sacrament as a harmful thing from which we should flee, but as pure, wholesome, soothing medicine that aids you and gives life in both soul and body."³ Here is our "daily food and sustenance,"4 our "Tree of Life," our "divine Armory,"5 and "the medicine of immortality, the remedy against having to die." (Ignatius of Antioch) Until we end our earthly trek and join in the Feast of the Lamb in heaven (Rev 19), this Supper is our viaticum, our provision along the way. With St. Ambrose we say, "Because I always sin, I ought always to take the medicine."6 Here also is our guarantee of "the resurrection of our entire frame."7 In the Supper, the Savior comes to his own in the manner in which He came to earth: Incarnate, in flesh and blood. And now he gives that divine flesh and blood to His own to eat and to drink, vivifying them in body and soul. Whatever role we give John 6 in the discussion of the Eucharist, it still remains true that Christ's "flesh is food indeed, and (Christ's) blood is drink indeed." (v 55) No Supper, no holy flesh and blood to eat and to drink. Then with Zwingli, we must by faith fly up into the "fiery heavens" and somehow apprehend Jesus, seated on his throne. "No!" the earth-bound, sin-laden, flesh and blood Christian cries out, "Come from on high to me; I cannot rise to Thee" (CW 34).

The Current State of Affairs

In view of this great gift, how do we account for the current state of affairs? The truncated service continues to claim half of the Sundays during the year in a majority of our churches; also serving to truncate the Holy Ministry. One can give a historical explanation for the situation. The list of suspects is well known: Melancthonianism, Pietism, Rationalism, Prussianism, the frontier experience of North America, etc. However, permit this author to propose another idea. There seems to be a concern within our clerical ranks that preaching in our midst is not what it could be. The publication Preach seems to be directed to this need. There have been murmurs for some time now, that there is too much emphasis on sanctification in WELS preaching, on the pages of Forward in Christ, and in our educational materials. The editors of this journal believe that this is definitely the case, and they also believe that the heart of the problem is the status given the so-called Third Use of the Law, or to state it in a slightly different way, the problem lies in the goal which we have established for preaching. It seems to us that our shared goal has become growth: growth in Bible knowledge, growth in holiness of living, growth in stewardship, and quantifiable, numerical growth of new members. The means to attain this goal? Is it an over-simplification to say that the way to attain this goal is revealed in this paradigm: Law/Gospel/Law. The Third Use of the Law in the minds of some, in one way or another, seems to be key to this growth, and the final step in the process of preaching.8 Many will cry foul, but listen carefully to our preaching and to what we publish. The result of all this is that an almost imperceptible transformation takes place, with up-beat exhortations to busyness around the church and the affirmation of everybody's ministries to the church are now seen as the proclamation of the Gospel, when in reality, it is the Law. However, this goal and these means to attain the goal are wrong. We must never forget that the "Law always accuses." The preacher may think that he is using only the Third Use of the Law, but lex semper accusat, and some, even many, may be crushed, and without the Supper, may remain so. We must also remember that the Christian's goal is not the well-ordered life, but to go to heaven, period. The forgiveness of sins, distributed in Gospel and Sacrament, assure him of his salvation, and they are powerful pardons which move him to help his neighbor in every bodily need. Indeed, the believer consumes the Supper that he might be consumed in service to his fellow man. Good deeds follow as a matter of course, for faith is a living and active thing, and the Christ, who lives within, continues to carry out his ministry of compassion here on earth through His believers.

Still, the Savior suffered just as much for our righteousnesses as He did for our sins. When the true goal of the Christian faith and the means to attain the goal are not properly understood, then the life of the church is fundamentally affected, and this is especially true of the Mass. When the goal is wrong, the Sunday service easily becomes a quasi Bible class, a casual, warm, friendly time for sharing, caring, and dealing with "managerial and therapeutic concerns" which become the new sacraments by default. In this environment, preaching and imparting information will be seen as the most "effective" tools and the Supper will continue to be a bi-monthly addendum and incongruities will abound. When the sacred Body and Blood are not on the altar and in the minister's hands, because it is a "non-communion Sunday", and when the goal is information for godly living, then, I suppose, some won't see it as an incongruity when the power point screen scrolls down from the ceiling at the end of the service (or in the middle!) and strains of "Come to the WELS" begin to meddle into Divinum Mysterium (CW 35) or Herzlich Lieb Hab' Ich Dich, O Herr (CW 434). If the sermon is seen as an inspirational talk, then there is no incongruity between it and the upbeat "WELS Connection" piece on the success stories of other franchises of McChurch. However, there are those who see the incongruity and they cry out, Kyrie elieson!

It is the Real Presence which sets the stage on Sunday morning. When Christ is upon the Lord's Table, which incidentally assures that bread will be on our tables at home, then the entire atmosphere is changed. This is sensed even by those who never seem to tire of creating new "liturgies," which bring their people something new (and mediocre) every Sunday. Yet, even these folks have never been known to insert the "children's application" or the WELS Connection between the Sanctus and Verba. At least here they demonstrate a measure of propriety. Why they can't demonstrate it elsewhere is a mystery. The Real Presence carries the freight. It is the Gospel. It is the manner in which the Savior came and comes to His own.

Reformation and Restoration

With this in mind, one is compelled to ask is there an appreciable difference on a "non-communion Sunday" between the average WELS church (or any Lutheran church for that matter) and the conservative Presbyterian church down the block when it comes to what is heard in the way of preaching and hymnody and what is seen with the eye? If they are not appreciably different (granted, that's an "if"), then why should visitors "come to the WELS", especially when the minister down the block probably does the children's sermon and the power point presentation better? There is much hand-wringing in our circles today about growth; a kind of Arminian angst fills our hearts when it comes to assessing how we're doing in "sharing the Gospel." If evangelism techniques are all the rage, then let us consider the winsome force of the Holy Liturgy and the Real Presence of Christ in the Supper. When the conduct of the Holy Liturgy transcends the mundane of everyday life and the pallid commonness of Protestantism, when Sunday morning is an encounter with the divine, then those we seek to reach will say, "I've never witnessed anything like this before, I've truly entered the House of God." Unless we reconsider the Real Presence of the Incarnate Son of God in the Mass and see the Mass as the heart and life of the Church, I'm afraid that we will continue to morph into a general kind of Protestantism. We have noted and eschewed our Pietist roots, or at least we think we have. Could it be that we've taken more with us from the past into the present than we would care to admit? Could it be that we are the way that we are, because we were the way that we were? From the time of the Lutheranism's betrayal by Philippism, to this day, the drift of the Lutheran Church has not been toward Rome, but to Geneva, with side trips to Herrnhut and Gettysburg. The solution to our problem has been under our noses since the night our Lord was betrayed: Gospel, Mass, Real Presence, Jesus.

What is the point of all this? This: The Mass is the heart and life of the Church, for Jesus is the Mass and He is the Church's Breath and Life-Blood. This is the reformation of the Church. The reformation of our little bit of Holy Church will not come about by a top-down edict, but with a bottom-up reformation of Sunday morning. The restoration of the Supper to the weekly life of the Church, and the appropriate ceremonia which support it, will not be accomplished by legalistic dictates, or appeals to historic Apostolic and Lutheran practice, or to matters pertaining to liturgical aesthetics, but rather to what the Lord Himself has said about His Supper and what He has said about His people. When we see our great need, and the Savior's great aid in preaching and the Supper, then the unfortunate discussions which have attended this issue will be moot. There will be no more talk about our "glorious gospel freedom" to withhold the Supper, which is purest Gospel, from our people. Every Sunday there will be those in attendance who are "weak and heavy laden" (which is everyone) and who are in need of preaching and Jesus' true Body and Blood. These people do not schedule their guilt, woes, fears, and hopes for heaven to align with the off-and-on again schedule of "communion Sundays" and "non-communion Sundays." As the old rule goes: Where there are communicants, there is the Mass, there is the Supper, and there is the Heart and Life of the Church. And there will be communicants if our preachers preach about the Blessed Supper and preach their people to the Supper. Then the dream of Doctor Luther will come true for the people of God: ".they would come on their own, rushing and running to it; they would compel themselves to come and would insist that you give them the sacrament."9 §

The Reverend Peter M. Berg is senior pastor of Saint Peter Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Plymouth, Michigan. He also serves on the Board of Directors of Lutheran Liturgical Renewal, Inc. which publishes The Bride of Christ: The Journal of Lutheran Liturgical Renewal. He has also contributed to the journals Gottesdienst and Logia.

1 Charles Porterfield Krauth, The Conservative Reformation and Its Theology Philadelphia: General Council Publication Board, 1871, p. 655.

2 This nuance is lost in the treatment of the Sanctus in the "Service of Word and Sacrament" (Christian Worship, p. 34) where the Benedictus has been replaced with the work of the communicants. This, together with the loss of the Gloria in Excelsis and the misplacement of the Kyrie and the Lord's Prayer, lessens the appeal of this liturgy.

3 Large Catechism, V 68, The Book of Concord, Kolb-Wengert, Augsburg Press, 2000, p. 474.

4 Ibid, V.24, p. 469.

5 C.F.W. Walther, Gnadenjahr Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1890, pp. 209f; quoted in Marquart, "The Word As Life," pp. 51-52.

6 Augsburg Confession XXIV.33, The Book of Concord, Kolb-Wengert, Augsburg Press, 2000, p. 71.

7 Coxe, Fathers of the Third and Fourth Centuries, p. 566.

8 We would be better served if we remained with Luther's two-fold use of the Law.

9 Small Catechism, Introduction, The Book of Concord, Kolb-Wengert, Augsburg Press, 2000, p. 351.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


A commenter, a self-identified journalist, posted about journalism. I believe his intention is to shut down this blog. Yet he doesn't share his own writing or his own blog.

The blogger format has opened a whole new journalistic perspective. This journalist is looking for facts and proof. Who - what - where - when - how - and why. Yet this journalist didn't tell me who he was.

Yes the readers of this blog need to read with discernment. More importantly, the WELS laity need to apply critical discernment to the wisdom of novelties that are introduced into their church. The journalist begs for us to use discernment according to God's command. Yet this same journalist will scream adiaphora at me when I use God commands.

I would ask this journalist to continue to read FIC for a somewhat filtered view of what is happening in the synod. However, many are interested in what is happening to our churches. Why are we losing our Lutheran identity? Mr. journalist reveal your identity. No, more importantly, help me to reveal the identity of our WELS churches.

Are we ashamed of our Lutheran identity? I fear so. (opinion) New mission churches are not identifying themselves as being Lutheran (fact). We are not proud of our sacraments (opinion). The Lord's supper is hidden from the visitors (fact). Our Lutheran heritage is not being studied by many WELS pastors (opinion). A group of WELS pastors venture off to see Ed Stetzer (fact). More WELS pastors want to hear what Stetzer has to say (opinion). Church and Change has invited Ed Stetzer to be the keynote speaker at the '09 conference (fact).

Mr. Journalist I hope that you can see the facts and opinions clearly presented. Drop me your email and I will fill you in more clearly on the details.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Fundamental - non-fundamental

Freddy said...

Years ago, I read an essay by Dr. P.E. Kretzmann: Fundamental and Non-fundamental Doctrines — and Church Fellowship. In this article, Dr. Kretzmann quotes from Dr. C.P. Krauth regarding the "Course of Error in the Church." It was this quote that inspired me to find a copy of Krauth's Conservative Reformation and it's Theology, and read it (this was before CPH started reprinting it). This is the quote:

"When error is admitted into the Church, it will be found that the stages in its progress are always three. It begins by asking toleration. Its friends say to the majority: 'You need not be afraid of us; we are few and weak; let us alone, we shall not disturb the faith of others. The Church has her standards of doctrine; of course we shall never interfere with them; we only ask for ourselves to be spared interference with our private opinions.' Indulged in for this time, error goes on to assert equal rights. Truth and error are balancing forces. The Church shall do nothing which looks like deciding between them; that would be partiality. It is bigotry to assert any superior right for the truth. We are to agree to differ, and any favoring of the truth, because it is truth, is partisanship. What the friends of truth and error hold in common is fundamental. Anything on which they differ is ipso facto non-essential. Anybody who makes account of such a thing is a disturber of the peace of the Church. Truth and error are two coordinate powers, and the great secret of church-statesmanship is to preserve the balance between them. From this point error soon goes on to its natural end, which is to assert supremacy. Truth started with tolerating; it comes to be merely tolerated, and that only for a time. Error claims a preference for its judgments on all disputed points. It puts men into positions, not as at first in spite of their departure from the Church’s faith, but in consequence of it. Their repudiation is that they repudiate that faith, and position is given them to teach others to repudiate it, and to make them skillful in combating it. (p. 195 f.)."

This is wise insight from a man who witnessed the decline of Lutheranism first hand, who had the courage to publicly fight against the error which was causing it, and to work toward unity. His effort not only made him a celebrated figure of his time, but a largely credible one as well.

Making application to our own time, Rev. Paul Kelm and company were asking for toleration two decades ago, and, using much the same “gee, they're so full of evangelical zeal, and such good Christian men” reasoning displayed by “WELS Pastor,” they were granted it. Some in our midst are still asking for toleration. Strident agents of "change," such as "WELS Pastor," it seems, are long past asking for toleration, however. They are demanding equivalency. It's obvious they intend to run a parallel church before moving to Krauth's final step of asserting supremacy. This is, after all, the objective of “change.”

But, while Krauth was addressing doctrine, are we not, in our case, looking at Lutheran practice? Yes and no. We are rightly concerned with practice as it is a reflection of what we Confess, and we see evidence of doctrinal error in the practice of the C&C crowd. When those who confess doctrinal unity with us engage in practice that is confusing or offensive, we have every right to demand of them an explanation, and they have every obligation to render one. Drawing the C&C or CG crowd into explanation of their practice, more and more, it seems, exposes their divergence from us and their disregard for anything more then rhetorical unity. So, while we take our queue from confusing and offensive practices endorsed by the C&C church-growthers, our concern is Confessional integrity.

As I continue to read and study, I am growing convinced that earlier discussions on this point are correct: WELS is facing a Confessional crisis.

My thoughts,

Freddy Finkelstein

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Crusaders unite

October 26, 2008 7:42 AM
Anonymous said...
As a WELS pastor, what I'm afraid of is printing my name on your blog and others, and then getting my reputation crucified on a public forum. I have heard the charges and insinuations of your blog and others; but when I talk to the men you have demonized, I realize they are Scriptural, orthodox teachers and preachers of the Word. They may feel there is nothing wrong with blended worship services--they may even utilize contemporary worship forms. They may even (gasp!) administer the Lord's Supper separate from the regular worship service. If you have ever lived outside the friendly confines of the Midwest, you know visitors can get very put out with the practice of closed communion. The early believers celebrated it privately among themselves. All of these things do not make them heterodox. These men have a love for the Word and a love for people, and they want to see their people in heaven someday. I have never attended a Church and Change conference, but there have been several presentations over the years I would have loved to sat in on. C and C offers a great deal when it comes to the nuts and bolts of practical every-day ministry. THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT! And no, I will not give you my name!
October 26, 2008 6:53 PM

Mr. WELS pastor,

I wonder if Luther had the same fear as you do. I have talked to the men I have listed on my blog (yes I have). How have I demonized these men? I could say you are breaking the 8th commandment. I have listed what is happening at their churches. These are things that I have witnessed. You might have me confused with another blogger..?..?

If you were to talk to Robert Schuller, Rick Warren, and Ed Stetzer you might also find them to be loving and caring men. But misguided and certainly not Lutheran. I have lived almost half my life outside of the friendly confines of the midwest so you can't use that argument. That is one of the reasons I know well what is happening in the far flung regions of the WELS too. Gasp..hiding communion. Does this privilege and treasure need to be hidden? Did the early church do this? Do you want to sit at the feet of Ed Stetzer? Will you? Several of your fellow WELS pastors did and do. So Mr. WELS pastor if I came to you as a member with my concerns about C&C, I take it you would tell me to hit the road.

I guess I am, as Mr. Tim has characterized me, a confessional crusader. As we approach the Reformation hour I wonder what I shall do next. I have used this blog to spark discussion and open some eyes. I will continue to hold the cross high.


Some of you have wondered about the recent conference that was held (where I heard BW got some notice). I will say that I have contacted the Oktoberfest organizer and have not yet been given consent to post their writings. I hope that they can stand tall and share their thoughts.

WELS Pastors on Board - laity continues to bail

Anonymous said...

>>Notice how quiet WELS pastors are as the Church and Change pastors filter back into 2929.<<

Maybe they're quiet because maybe they agree with C&C. Perhaps your outrage with it is a little outrageous?

October 26, 2008 7:42 AM


So is silence golden for the changers? It is my hope that a WELS pastor or pastors will rise up and follow the example of this LCMS Lutheran manifesto:

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Issues in WELS ? aren't there still issues?

Anonymous said...

I talked with my pastor who is and has been outraged with what has been going on. He is not strong enough (or perhaps outraged enough) to publicly take a public stand ALONE. He would like to see a large group of pastors take a stand TOGETHER against all this stuff.

The beginnings of taking a stand together was happening in the Issues in WELS group...but they have disbanded or suspended for some reason. It makes it appear that all is well in WELS.Our District President does not seem opposed to the Church and Change stuff.

I will try to talk with him once more.Can we all get our pastors together so they can take a public stand?

QUESTION: If a pastor leaves WELS before retirement age, does he lose his entire pension? Is it $$$ that is preventing some from leaving or taking a chance that taking a firm stand against things will get them ousted?

October 25, 2008 3:11 PM


Most pastors are still afraid to put their neck on the line. Yes it is interesting that since the financial issues in the WELS is no longer a crisis the ISSUES IN THE WELS group has disbanded and is not holding forth on their original concerns.

I don't believe that a pastor will lose the retirement money that has been put away if he does leave (although the pension plan is very small).

Friday, October 24, 2008

Righteous indignation

Anonymous said...

I was wondering how to respond to the blogger who advised we should shut up about C&C and take his word for it that everything is OK and we're wrong for even questioning it. We're causing people to fall away by discussing it. We're creating a bigger problem by asking questions.

Righteous indignation, John? Not bad. Not bad at all.The bloggers comments are not unlike liberalism in any other aspect of society, a kind of gnosticism that aggressively condescends any challenger. Discussion, if it is dissension, must be stifled. He/she showed their cards though, which is honest enough. They are of them. And we should trust this anonymous poster because they have researched it for us, confirmed the commitment of its promoters to Lutheran confessions and we are sinful to oppose it or them. Liberalism feigns tolerance, but is anything but in reality. "Do not worry. Everything is OK here. You can have yours and we'll have ours. We are not affecting anything. It is only to save those who don't know about Lutheranism or are offended by it. You have no love for the lost..."

It reminds me of the scene in The Naked Gun when the fireworks are exploding and all kinds of chaos ensues behind the detective as he shouts, "Move along. There's nothing to see here. Move along."It reeks of deception and hypocrisy. Oh, yes, all are welcome ... as long as you believe as they do. How is that any different than what we confessional crusaders are accused of? C&C is trying to accept everyone, except, of course, you relics. Liberalism hides its intolerance behind crafty words. I don't know what affect C&C is having on WELS, but it is bound to have some.

That is their goal. I've heard a WELS mission counselor speak the exact same things as C&C. And comments on this blog in support of it are not unlike what is being heard in this current political environment. Maybe it is only a small portion, but the theology of glory spreads like a cancer - slowly and quietly. And before long, it is too late.

Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy.

October 24, 2008 8:34 PM

well said...j

WELS making use of ELCA's faith program

The WELS has formed a quasi-partnership with an ELCA program:

Faith stepping stones: It is a reformed program with a dash of WELS flavor added.

Meet the ELCA leader of the stepping stones:

ELCA churches love it:

WELS pastors and others that have given consent to this program:

And these reformed leaders like it also:

It has evolved from faith inkubators:
Faith Incubators pushes the new Gospel of Social Transformation
“Faith Inkubators” was started by Rev. Rich Melheim (ELCA) who started a mentor-based program at Trinity Lutheran Church in Stillwater, MN. By the Fall of 96 over 1000 congregations were experimenting with the program as living laboratories. “The movement currently involves 2/3 ELCA and 1/3 LCMS congregations and has its first UCC, Presbyterian, Methodist and Catholic test sites.” Yes, “Faith Inkubators” is a pan denominational, globalist, relational, catechism.

“Faith Inkubators” strives for transformation through “PROCESS”. Each child is assigned an adult mentor or “Guide” on their learning, serving, playing, praying, and growing journey. Pastors still teach content but a third of everything is taught through interactive small group learning activities. This writer evaluates the programs as enlisting spiritual guides, values clarification, and spiritual gift assessments. Melheim says he developed the program’s small group structure from Carl George’s Meta Church Model; its philosophy from William Glasser (a secular humanist and an expert in behavior modification); its business sense from MIT’s Peter Senge (author of “The Fifth Discipline”) and his own research. Theological “tips” come from Dr. Pat Keifert of the Leadership Network (

The Leadership Network, who endorses Willow Creek as a model for American Churches of the 21st Century, is also advising the LCMS Council of Presidents on how to restructure congregations and the LCMS.

Seminary training

Awhile ago a WLS alumni wondered about the changes taking place in the Seminary curriculum. The curriculum developers are looking to make sure that the sem and its students are kept current on the cutting edge methods that are being used by "others" are also studied and used by new WELS pastors.

The president of the sem, faculty, students and others sat at the feet of the leading Church and Change promoters to hear what the Baptists are doing and how we should be following their lead.

and I quote:

Seminary faculty, the school presidents, representatives from current students, from pastors, from teachers, from laypeople, from various areas of ministry, from governing board members, and from district presidents will all gather on these two days to discuss these presentations given by Pastor Paul Kelm, President Paul Prange, and Pastor Don Patterson.

If you pal around with Baptists you become Baptists

Anonymous said...
Blogging also inadvertently creates hysteria and this is what I see happening in regards to C&C.

Many readers take the opinion of a few bloggers as fact, when in reality it is just that - an opinion.

It is my opinion that the Church and Changers are using methods that deny the Word and Sacraments because they are stealing ideas from the Baptists (ie Ed Stetzer). I believe that Martin Luther held the same opinion on the importance of the Word and Sacraments.

I have regular dealings with many of those involved in C&C. My pastor has also attended their conference. None of them have separated themselves from our WELS in their actions or their beliefs. I have no doubt of their Lutheranism. I have no doubt of their abidance to God's truth.C&C doesn't seek to abolish our Lutheranism. It encourages additions to it, in the manner in which we present God's true and saving grace. .......I suspect you will not find that.I do support C&C, both in my prayers and my givings.

Mr. Anonymous, ~ I will continue to disparage the Church and Change movement. I have visited a conference and walked out. I have studied it and thrown up. I have visited the C&C churches and I have found them anything but Lutheran. The hysteria should be greater than what it is. The C&Cers have denied the importance of the sacraments. Therefore, by doing this they are denying the word. This is not Lutheran sir. Our worship life is tied to our doctrine and the Word. The changers read this blog and try to quiet the discussion. They didn't want the invitation to Ed to become public knowledge. They don't like to be exposed.

Yet what pastor will stand up to this??? Are there any??? One WELS pastor recently told me that this won't happen because of the confessional witch hunt atmosphere. I will acknowledge that Pres. Schroeder has been working to stop this hunt. But they (C&Cers) are working against him. I hope and pray that some WELS pastor will have the courage to stand up and publically denounce this movement.

Hebrews 13:7-9 -- The author of Hebrews warns us about the Church and Changers. I implore you to study these verses. The liturgy does not reflect 16th century Germany it is our faith from earliest of times. Remember the Augsburg confessions which talks about novelties that did not exist in the ancient church. This is what the changers are doing to the catholic church. Be warned, be aware, and be afraid of what is happening. Do not give your offerings to this movement. This is not your grandfathers church any longer. This is becoming a radical movement. Yes radical. That is how the C&Cers describe themselves on their own website as they shun the historical context of Lutheranism.

October 24, 2008 11:03 AM
Anonymous said...
Well, I have mis-givings about C and C. They tried to stay under the radar for a long time. As soon as this blog exposed the Church and Change invite to that Dunker Stetzer, the C and C began filling their catapaults with mud and firing away. The Confessions are not a tradition. Lutheran doctrine is not a tradition. We follow Lutheran doctrine because it is faithful to the plain meaning of the canonical Scriptures. The non-Lutherans make fun of Biblical, Lutheran doctrine. That is their tradition. Lie down with Baptists, get up with headaches.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Church and Change funding


the cross that doesn't

Anonymous said...

Who foots the bill for C&C, is it independent or supported by synod money?



Board of Directors- Select a name to read a Bio:

Pastor Ron Ash Chairman

Jeff Davis Vice Chairman

Sarah Owens Secretary

Barry Spencer

Caleb Cordes

Pastor Bruce Becker

Pastor John Huebner

James Skorzewski

Innovation in methodology is yesterday's news in the WELS. Pastors, teachers, synod administrators, worker training leaders, home and world missionaries, worship leaders, computer buffs, and countless local laymen and laywomen, have been tweaking (and/or radically changing) ministry methods for years. In every WELS generation God has raised up men and women, for reasons known only to Him, who are interested in pushing the envelope of "gospel delivery systems." And this, long before concepts like "English" or "radio ministry" or "Parish Assistance," or "paradigm" or "long distance learning" entered WELS thinking or culture.
Where do you get these radical ministry methods... This is where the 2008 Exponential Conference was held. This is where your WELS pastors went to soak in these radical ideas. Who do you think paid for this trip?

They must have their own budget. Although I'm sure you will notice that over the years many Synod sponsored grants have been and are given to the innovative thinkers in the WELS
Anonymous said...
Church and Change is not a part of the synod structure and doesn't receive synod funding.
October 23, 2008 11:20 AM

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

What is the Year of Jubilee offering? -- How did the debt come about?

Year of Jubilee offering Q&A
From the office of President Mark Schroeder

Last week, the Conference of Presidents held its regular fall meetings in Milwaukee. Among the items on the agenda was the Year of Jubilee thank offering. The presidents are encouraging all congregations within their districts to participate during November and December, the months designated for the celebration.

Many people, including some congregational leaders, still have questions about the offering. Here are answers to some of those common questions:What is the Year of Jubilee offering?The offering was authorized by the 2007 synod convention as a way to address our synod's $22.4 million debt. Every congregation and individual is being encouraged to participate in this offering.

How did the debt come about?Most of the $22.4 million debt is capital debt that has been incurred as a result of various building and improvement projects over the last 12 years:
* building projects at synod schools during the amalgamation of Dr. Martin Luther College and Northwestern College in 1995;
* heating plant at Martin Luther College;
* science wing at Michigan Lutheran Seminary; and
* dormitory addition at Luther Prep.

About one-third of the debt is the result of expenses exceeding support in the 2001-03 biennium.Most of the $22.4 million was borrowed internally (from various synodical funds) and was being repaid in a variety of ways and at different interest rates. In the fall of 2007, the debts were all combined into a single synodical debt. This debt has a single interest rate and is to be fully repaid in ten years. The combining of all these into a single debt enables us to present a clear picture of the debt, and it also enables us to reduce the annual payments required.

Why is it important for us to reduce or eliminate this debt? How will this help?There is nothing inherently wrong with borrowing or with debt. But the fact is that each year $2.7 million is budgeted for the repayment of this debt. The convention believed that this money would be better used if it were spent on opening missions and operating our ministerial education schools. If we can eliminate or significantly reduce the debt, dollars will be available to carry out ministry rather than making debt payments.

What is the timeline on the offering?The offering will take place during November and December of this year, but congregations will have the ability to be flexible in how they carry it out. Some congregations are conducting the offering over four Sundays; others are having a single special celebration. Other congregations will start the offering this fall and continue to encourage and gather gifts over the next six months. The offering itself will end at the time of the synod convention in July 2009.How will the gifts be gathered?Congregations have been furnished with offering envelopes for every member. These can be gathered by the congregation and submitted to the synod. Individuals may also send their offerings directly to the synod or give a gift online.

To access Year of Jubliee resources online, go to: will this offering benefit our shared mission as a synod?We pray that the elimination or reduction of this debt will enable those dollars now being used for debt service to be used to expand our efforts to proclaim the saving good news of Jesus Christ to the world. For every $100,000 saved, a new home mission can be established. Additional funds would enable our world missions efforts to be maintained and expanded. Additional funds would help to stabilize the funding of our ministerial education schools and to keep tuition costs from rising. In short, the less we have to dedicate to repaying our debt, the more we will have available to carry out our shared mission.

Why should I participate in this offering?Our purpose and motivation in this offering is not simply to be free of debt. Our purpose is to unite in the faith and joy that God has given us in Christ, walking and working together to proclaim the gospel to more and more people. We gather this offering as a means of expressing our thanks to a God who has given sinners like us every reason to be joyful. We trust that God will bless these efforts conducted in his name and for his glory.

Serving in Christ,

Mark Schroeder