Response to “A Tale of Two Synods” has been interesting and illustrative: some people posting comments to the blog, some to the FB repost, and some to the editors via email. Although many of these responders would have no problem identifying themselves, I am protecting their privacy by not publishing their names and geographical clues that might identify them. It is their choice whether they wish to be made known or not. That’s not my call.
Clearly, this phenomenon is not just an American problem, as we received feedback from three countries. The slide of our churches into pop-music entertainment worship and/or a rejection of the liturgy is especially scandalous to those who, like me, converted to Evangelical Catholicism. It is often the convert who has actually studied the Book of Concord, and leaves a service scratching his head, wondering if the Lutheran congregation sold the building to a non-denominational church.
And since the faith is the most important thing in the life of the believer, he and his faithful wife are willing to pile the family into the car, sometimes with several young children, and travel ridiculously long distances to attend an authentically Lutheran Divine Service - often driving right right past several congregations who have traded away the treasure of their birthright for a bowl of junk food.
Maybe such families and individuals can’t do this every Sunday, but they strive to be faithful under trying circumstances.
Others have a similar story. And perhaps for political reasons, their stories are not told in Lutheran Witness, Reporter, in the publications of our seminaries, in our district publications, or in our congregational newsletters. It is as though they don’t exist, as they are stifled and hidden under the blare and bombast of the cacophony coming from the speakers of the “successful” church.
It is high time that we acknowledge this massive problem in our synod and in the various church bodies around the world that were either established by, or influenced by, the LCMS. And it is certainly overdue that we begin to push back against those pushing Nondenominationalizing Tendencies in our fellowship wherever that pressure occurs - whether it be in the seminary chapel, in the district office (the MMFs and DPs in particular), or in church publications.
I’ve been considering this issue quite a lot lately, and I believe there are indeed things that we pastors and laity can do together to take practical steps towards a renaissance of Lutheran Authenticity here and around the world. It will take persistence and patience - qualities that our progressive brethren have displayed over the long haul to get to where we are today. The time is long past for the ship to be righted. I’ll be writing more about that in the future.
But the first step is to get the problem out into the open and acknowledge it.
Here is a sample of some of the responses that we have received.
I wanted to convey to you the immense encouragement that I received from this post, which might seem somewhat unusual, because I think you wrote it with some exasperation about what's going on the LCMS.
Actually, it was just great to read something that someone had written that is so close to my thinking.... I actually wrote a public statement and left the [church body] in [country], which is much further gone than the LCMS. I can tell you more, but suffice to say, that I couldn't in good conscience remain. I've just started a small congregation here in [city], and I'm hoping to make some contacts with the ILC, and such churches. (I loved the video of Siberia that you posted.)
I also like how the older people tend to think that this is what us younger people want: bands and lights and smoke. Okay maybe it’s true. I want the one man band called the pipe organ, I want the candles, the incense, the liturgy, a meat and potatoes sermon that will feed me through the week. Divine Liturgy that lets me worship God by repeating his words back to him instead of repeating some endless chorus of the same watered down words of a praise song. I want to touch the hymn books and have the full experience. I want to hear the little children that can not read yet but have the Divine Liturgy memorized because church is the same every week instead of some rock concert.
Man this hits home! Okay, so, I live in [place name], which is the "Texas of [country], and the landscape here appears strikingly similar. That is to say, while the area itself is known to be politically conservative, the Neo-Evangelicalism by way of a lack of Confessional integrity, ejection of the hymnal and liturgy in favour of "creative worship" or non-denominational mega-church nonsense, is astounding. Like the LCMS, the divide… here is very real as well (although perhaps easier to navigate geographically as it appears to be east vs. west, generally speaking). I mean, even [among our seminaries], the attitude and emphasis is in such stark contrast that it is exactly as you say where it might as well be two synods (one catering to boomers, or the death of the [Lutheran] church, and the other authentically Confessional Lutheran serving as a beacon for the elect).
The proposed polity solution I could not agree with more and would love to see such a model…. . It would alleviate much of this tension and conflict, and perhaps be the answer to the problem of the microsynods who just can't stand to be in fellowship with a body that allows what it does. It also has historical precedence insofar as superintendents used to be in charge of setting the church order for their region and standardizing practice. Although, on that note, this would also be a good time to revert back to traditional language as Fr. Peterson makes a case for, opting for terms like diocese and bishop instead. Or, at least the Orthodox Lutheran districts can use such verbiage, the rest can continue to distance themselves from anything "traditional", "catholic", or "Lutheran" for that matter. Then if/when a split happens, it'll be much easier as everyone will already be organized and grouped together in their respective camps that honestly reflect what they believe and where they stand.
Anyone whose been around knows that you have to carefully check a church’s website or FB page to make sure they haven’t gone off the rails. “You should try the Lutheran church” could be the best or worst recommendation at the same time.
I want the Pastors, and District President (Bishop) of the Texas district to understand why and what I left. I converted to Confessional Lutheranism as an adult, a few years ago. Converting as an adult I left an American Evangelical church where I had volunteered as a small group leader, musician, and technical service (sound/lighting/projection). I was in a very comfortable position as a volunteer, esteemed by my co-volunteers, appreciated by the church staff. I walked away from it all. The concert sound, the theater lights, the visuals, and a musician I walked away from it all.
I walked away from rock concert church to join a "boring" small congregation with a pianist who doubles as the organist, and seasonally triples as a choir director. I walked away from the exciting flashy rock concert church so I could read the SATB notes in the service book and struggle to sing the bass line. I walked away from one church and don't think I won't walk away from an LCMS congregation that does the same, because I already did. I needed to attend an evening service on occasion and the closest LCMS church has a soft rock band. After posting on Facebook for another evening church I drive double the distance to go to a liturgical congregation.
It angers me to see our fellowship mixed with rock'n'roll, as if we could flirt with the world and not be changed by it. We don't avoid sins by flirting with them, which is what rock and roll church is all about. And on top of this all my wife was watching, and on rare occasion coming with me to see our services. She also left the same American Evangelical church only to find the same problem among us. Can you imagine a life long Baptist in a young marriage seeing what her husband is doing in such a different church and finding the same music that caused her to leave? She's already walked from a second Am. Ev. church! whose pastor she knew! Do you think she'll want to return to a congregation in our fellowship? As her husband I pray one day she does.
There is frustration, disorientation, and even pain in these responses, and in similar personal accounts that I have heard over the years - and yes, experienced myself as a layman who was actually shocked at what I saw in LCMS churches. It seems like our district offices are not listening, and they just down care.
Well, it’s time that they start caring. And the first step is to start listening.
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