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April 15, 2011


“Host Consumption”—ELCA Continues To Contract

It’s sad to watch other denominations self-destruct just as TEC has done.  In an email from North Carolina, someone commented that his small county has 16 Lutheran churches—some voting to leave, some staying but splitting, and some in the process of voting.  An entire county’s denominational heritage up in smoke—and this is happening county by county.

Increasingly desperate denominational leaders are, in the meantime, hoping to make the leaving process more difficult, for rather obvious reasons, at the August ELCA Churchwide Assembly.  You can read about the proposed changes at this blog post from late last year over at Lutheran CORE’s blog.  Note this section also:

The ELCA announced Nov. 3 that nearly 300 congregations have already completed the required two votes to leave the ELCA and 140 additional congregations have taken a first vote but have not yet taken their second vote.


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37 comments

I realize it’s no laughing matter that Mr. Hanson will have to answer for what he has done at the end of time.

Still, hypothetically, I think it would be amusing to watch him try to explain himself to Luther, if Luther could somehow to come forward in time and ask him what he was doing and why.

[1] Posted by SpongJohn SquarePantheist on 4-15-2011 at 11:53 AM · [top]

“How ironic that ELCA leadership is so committed to disregarding the Law of God on sexual ethics but so determined to use the law of humans to coerce congregations to remain in the ELCA.”


Ooooohhhh. Does that sound familiar?

[2] Posted by SpongJohn SquarePantheist on 4-15-2011 at 12:01 PM · [top]

I wouldn’t be so concerned about facing Luther, who might yell and shout at me, perhaps using all sorts of unheavenly expletives.

There’s nothing in Scripture about coming before Luther when we die.

However, I’m sure that Luther would be honored to have the opportunity to escort these heretics to That Other Place.

[3] Posted by Ralph on 4-15-2011 at 12:16 PM · [top]

It seems to me that ELCA folks have Lutheran alternatives such as LCMS and Wisconsin Synod, which is less like those who were looking for shelter who left TEC.

[4] Posted by Fr. Dale on 4-15-2011 at 03:51 PM · [top]

[4] Fr. Dale

The cultural barriers between ELCA and LCMS mean very few from ELCA will travel to LCMS.  It’s best explained by Garrison Keillor’s differentiation between ‘happy Lutherans’ and ‘dark Lutherans.’  They simply don’t mix.

carl

[5] Posted by carl on 4-15-2011 at 04:09 PM · [top]

#5. Carl,
Being a former “happy” LCMS member for 15 years, I was never picked up by the merriment patrol. I think it would be more proper to say the LCMS folks drank Leinenkugel and the ELCA folks were less particular. For myself, I voted to keep any alcohol out of the potluck and then we can talk about dark Lutherans.

[6] Posted by Fr. Dale on 4-15-2011 at 04:31 PM · [top]

[6] Fr. Dale

I grew up in the ELCA and married into the LCMS.  It’s funny the different perceptions.  To me the LCMS sees ELCA as ‘happy’ (i.e. insufficiently serious) whereas ELCA sees LCMS as ‘dark’ (rigidly theological).  I was certainly a ‘dark’ Lutheran before they kicked me out for committing the High Crime of Calvinism. 

carl

[7] Posted by carl on 4-15-2011 at 04:54 PM · [top]

I’ve listened to a lot of Issues, etc. I’ve never found Todd Wilkin or Rod Rosenbladt to be particularly ‘dark’.

[8] Posted by SpongJohn SquarePantheist on 4-15-2011 at 05:11 PM · [top]

“How ironic that ELCA leadership is so committed to disregarding the Law of God on sexual ethics but so determined to use the law of humans to coerce congregations to remain in the ELCA ,” said the Rev. Mark Chavez, director of Lutheran CORE.

This is especially bizarre given the history of Lutheran organization in the US.  They have no history whatsoever of diocesan structures but rather synods that have merged and split for ages.

[9] Posted by Nikolaus on 4-15-2011 at 06:05 PM · [top]

What “communion” with TEc really means.  Let him who has ears, hear!  Let him whose has eyes, see!

Perhaps that chappy in jolly ol’ at the big palace ought to have a quick glance, eh?

[10] Posted by dwstroudmd+ on 4-15-2011 at 06:57 PM · [top]

I spent my first 2 decades of life in the “Misery Synod”, ECUSA/TEC since.  Don’t think they aren’t facing their challenges—had a lengthy conversation with Mom earlier this week about how our old parish is faring, and even the LCMS is seeing a loss in pledge and plate.  Faith Lutheran did OK for a few years, picking up orthodox TEC folks looking for a safe haven, but there’s very little growth in the lower age brackets.

[11] Posted by elanor on 4-15-2011 at 08:37 PM · [top]

Are Lutherans down to simple expulsion now, Carl?
Or did you get the ‘Embarrassment before the Elders’ before hand?

[12] Posted by Bo on 4-16-2011 at 12:49 AM · [top]

You can’t spit in any direction in these parts without hitting a crowd of Lutherans.  I’ve spent the last 10 years warning ALL of my Lutheran friends of the dangerous path they were on (following TEC).  To no avail. 

Today, several of them are heartbroken.  Several have become “Free Lutherans”; many have disconnected - showing up for baptisms and funerals; many have just quit talking about the Lutheran Church, and sit quietly in their pews thinking they can insulate THEIR congregation from it.

One close friend has said to me:  “you were absolutely right all along, and I didn’t listen to you”. 

It is of little consolation to hear this, knowing the church of my father’s side of the family - going back to Norway and Sweden - is being destroyed from within.  Uffdah!

Deja Vu all over again.

[13] Posted by midwestnorwegian on 4-16-2011 at 06:44 AM · [top]

The business about “happy” and “dark” Lutherans simply represents the real issue between ELCA and LCMS.  In ELCA, attending is as much as a social thing as anything. Doctrine is something tiresome and, well, “dark”.  The Scriptures are a picture of what the Jews believed about 150 BC and what the Church of about 100 AD believed, when the canons of each testament closed.  They are not, in the ELCA view, really God’s Word, though one can get divine guidance from them
LCMS isn’t “dark,” nor are the other conservative synods (WELS, ELS, and smaller groups).  What is true is that the pastors, when they preach, are preaching with the presuppositions that the Bible is truly the inspired Word of God—that its authors did not follow “fables of their own devising,” but told of Christ and what He did; they “spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”
That view used to be the view of all but the most lunatic heretics.  It was understood in the Roman church until a decretal of Pius XII in the 1950’s opened the doors. Luther in his Large Catechism said, “Consult the Scriptures; they will not lie to you; you and I may lie and deceive, but God does not lie or deceive.” The Lutherans of a generation later called the Scriptures “the pure clear fountain of Israel” and the only norm and rule of doctrine.
Anglicanism of that era did not differ in that.  Cranmer wrote that “Holy Scripture contayneth all Thynges generally necessarie unto Saluacion; and in there is no poysonous Meate.”  In even shorter form, Hooker wrote, “God doth not lie.”
Anglicanism and Lutheranism are closest cousins. When Elizabeth was pushing through the Settlement, the 1559 Prayer Book and the 39 Articles was the same time when a powerful faction within Lutherans, generally called Philippists, were urging compromise with Calvinism on doctrine and with Rome on structure.  Anglicanism basically is Philippism, which is why it and ELCA get along so well—and why the Churches of England and Sweden are in full communion. Good Queen Bess considered herself a Lutheran, writing “I am inclined to the Augustanan”. Sweden’s church never formally signed the Formula of Concord, which rejected most of the Philippists’ argument, and Elizabeth’s representatives at the conference that led to the Formula of Concord urged that it not be adopted. 
Melanchthon had composed a number of revisions in the Augsburg Confession, called Variata. The most significant was the Variata of 1540, which Melanchthon wrote to get the Reformed to sign. Calvin did sign it. 
The 39 Articles were the ultimate Variata; the large majority of the articles are taken directly from the Augsburg Confession or from other Lutheran statements, and only two articles (28 and 29) are actually repugnant to Lutheran theology.
Today, TEC—and many of the more conservative bodies, especially among the Anglo-Catholics—accords the Articles almost no weight.  The Episcopalians routinely describe them, if they think of them at all, as “historical documents” of little applicability to today’s church. ELCA gives the Lutheran confessions—the Augsburg Confession, its Apology, the Smalcald Articles, the two Catechisms and the Formula of Concord—almost, if not quite as little, weight.
The “dark” Lutherans of the conservative synods believe that the Confessions are true expositions of the Bible’s teachings, and that since they are, all teaching in Lutheran churches should conform to the Confessions. (Note: that isn’t some sort of tradition cooked up outside Scripture; the Confessions have no authority of their own. But because they teach the Scripture correctly, they carry a derivative authority.)
I have seen some conservative Anglican groups that confess the 39 Articles the same way.  This is not “dark”. It is a matter of holding to first principles; the beliefs that distinguish one (in the Book of Concord) as a Lutheran or (in the Articles, Jewel’s Apology of the Church of England, Cranmer’s Preface to the Bible and Hooker’s Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity) as an Anglican.

[14] Posted by KenChicago on 4-16-2011 at 09:04 AM · [top]

#14. KenChicago,
I enjoyed reading your post. I was in the LCMS when they decided to go their own way in the development of the hymnal around 1982. At one time the LCMS was in fellowship with WELS.

[15] Posted by Fr. Dale on 4-16-2011 at 02:14 PM · [top]

To Ken #14, thank you, so much to learn.

[16] Posted by episcopal100 on 4-17-2011 at 06:07 AM · [top]

While I agree that one distinctive—a real and positive one—between ELCA and LCMS is that the latter actually believes something substantive, I don’t agree that that is why the latter is called “dark” by some.

The reasons for the designation of “dark” are many, some cultural, and some theological:  1) The practice of allowing communion only to those who are baptized and confirmed members of one of the congregations of the LCMS or other congregations in fellowship with the LCMS [like the RCs], 2) the belief that there are “two kingdoms” which largely precludes much political involvement [rather like the early 20th century American separatist dispensational fundamentalist sects], 3) the fact that all members must agree and accept the confessions [in their defence, the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutherans actually believe that fellowship among Christian members of churches cannot occur unless all agree with the Lutheran confessions], and 4) in practice allowing very little ecumenical fellowship or worship [although there are some “risk-takers” there].

Further, those doctrines underly a rather suspicious view of interaction with other Christians or interaction with the world that is, I think, more cultural than theological.

It all adds up to the designation of “dark” and also adds up to a declining, rather than an expanding denomination.

Do these doctrines mean that they are less tainted than other denominations by heresy?  Probably so.

And if that’s the ultimate goal of a church and if heresy is strictly defined as “anything not in conformance with the Bible and the confessions of our church” . . . well . . . then they’re successful, I suppose.

Generally speaking, though, there are very clear reasons why so few traditional Episcopalians who depart TEC are able to consider the Missouri Synod or, for instance, the PCA church as options for membership.

The vast majority of folks who have left TEC in my area have veered off towards 1) large non-denominational contemporary worship churches, 2) another mainline church [one of the main one of which has already agreed that it’s leaving the denomination at a certain point], and 3) the RCs.

[17] Posted by Sarah on 4-17-2011 at 07:25 AM · [top]

The LCMS is not, relatively speaking, a declining denomination.  Consider the following:
In 1970, the Lutheran Church in America had 3.6 million people.  The American Lutheran Church had 2.2 million.  The LCMS had 2.7 million, but over 100,000 of them were in two foreign districts in Canada and Brazil.
  In 1974-77, approximately 100,000 members of LCMS left the synod, primarily over the question of Biblical inerrancy.  In the years that followed, LCMS spun the foreign districts off to become independent church bodies, which remain to this day in fellowship with LCMS. So over 200,000 were removed from the Synod’s numbers because of things that have nothing to do with any general synodical decline.  There has probably been a real loss of about 100,000 out of the 2,500,000 who were in the United States and who did not leave in that one dispute over 30 years ago, a 4% decline in 30 years.
  On the other hand, the 3.6 million of LCA, the 2.2 million of ALC, and the 100,000 of AELC who had come out of LCMS formed ELCA, make a beginning membership of 5.9 million.  But membership in ELCA today is about 4.8 million, a decline of over 20% in about 20 years.  And the rate of decline in ELCA pales in comparison to some other “main line” churches.  The United Church of Christ has lost over half its membership since 1970. The Episcopal Church, which was larger than LCA in 1970, is smaller than LCMS now, having declined about 40% in those 40 years.  The United Methodist Church and PCUSA have experienced decreases similar to those of ELCA and the Episcopal Church (UCC’s precipitous fall is just about without comparison in Christianity, and the reasons for that are plain enough).  LCMS has done better by standing firm than the “main line” churches, including ELCA, have done with their permissiveness and open communion.
  There is a story of a church in Mississippi where, at the end of service, a lady said to the pastor, “Pastor, that was a wonderful sermon.  But sometimes the Church doesn’t teach what I believe.” He responded, “Then you must learn to believe what the Church teaches.”
  Secular society says, “Be nice. Invite everyone.”  St. Paul, however, tells us that those who receive the Communion not discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. Jesus and St. Paul alike have warned that there will be woe to those who cause another to stumble.  So how can we admit to communion those who do not confess the Real Presence (most Protestants), or those who believe that the priest is performing a new, unbloody, sacrifice of Christ’s body and blood as if Christ’s one sacrifice had not been, in the words of the Book of Common Prayer, a “full, perfect and sufficient sacrifice, oblation and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world” (Roman Catholics and some—but not all—Anglo-Catholics)?
  There is a fair argument that LCMS should be in communion with more of the conservative Lutheran bodies, and perhaps with such Anglican bodies as confess the Real Presence without also confessing the Eucharist as a propitiatory sacrifice.  The LCMS constitution describes establishing fellowship with other orthodox bodies as one of the synod’s purposes.  On the other hand, most of those bodies have made clear that they do not wish to be in fellowship with LCMS; most of the conservative Lutheran bodies consider LCMS too liberal, while conservative Anglican bodies tend to teach that the Body and Blood of Christ is not given in most Lutheran churches because most Lutheran pastors are not in apostolic succession. (I would guess that most conservative Anglicans leaving TEC are more put off by the lack of apostolic succession as they understand it than by the existence of closed communion.)
  Should conservative Lutherans and Anglicans engage in a closer dialogue? Probably.

[18] Posted by KenChicago on 4-17-2011 at 08:09 AM · [top]

The Missouri Synod has gone from around 2.8 million in 1970 to around 2.4 million in 2006—and judging by qualitative data that figure of 2.4 million will have declined further in the past 5 years.  So yes, it is declining—as many in the Missouri Synod acknowledge and lament today.

Judging by anecodotal illustration, fellow Anglicans who have visited the LCMS are pretty clear about why that denomination is not an option for them—and that does not include apostolic succession, for after all, they’re perfectly happy joining other churches which do not include that doctrine.  I’m, of course, one of those Anglicans still in TEC, and certainly should I leave TEC and go to another denomination, apostolic succession will be the last on my list of “must haves.”

As to a defense of LCMS doctrine—I certainly understand that defense and appreciate its good points.

[19] Posted by Sarah on 4-17-2011 at 08:33 AM · [top]

[18] KenChicago

“Then you must learn to believe what the Church teaches.”

That’s a big part of the problem.  In the 35 years I spent in the Lutheran Church I never met so much as one layman who could explain (let alone defend) consubstantiation.  I met many Lutherans who knew the catechism.  I met none who could trace it back to Scripture, and defend it from first principles.  That was the genesis of all my troubles.  I got into a bible study that actually taught Scripture.  Not like a typical Lutheran sermon where the pastor selects a verse and then meanders around it without providing any exegesis.  It was quite a revelation.  I discovered I knew the stories but not with understanding.  Suddenly I had questions that I couldn’t get answers to.  Eventually I had to leave.  That is the one enduring unforgivable sin of the Lutheran church in my mind - that in 35 years, it consciously taught me so little, but instead simply expected me to believe what the ‘church taught.’ 

When I left the Lutheran church, I possessed a fairly cynical and distrustful attitude towards clergy.  It would have been so easy for me to slip into congregationalism, but I got over it - thanks mostly to a PCA minister who gave me a different model.  I think the tendency of refugees to gravitate from mainline churches to non-denominational independent churches stems from this learned distrust of clergy and hierarchy.  It infiltrated liberalism into the church once, and so how can it ever be trusted again. 

carl

[20] Posted by carl on 4-17-2011 at 09:36 AM · [top]

#18. KenChicago,
“Should conservative Lutherans and Anglicans engage in a closer dialogue? Probably”
Agreed.

[21] Posted by Fr. Dale on 4-17-2011 at 04:33 PM · [top]

“A typical Lutheran sermon in which the pastor selects a verse and meanders around it without providing any exegesis?” In what Lutheran church is that typical?
First of all, Lutheran pastors are taught preaching on a pericope, not on a single verse.  They are expected to do the work to know what the passage really meant in context and what its application today is.  In doing so, they are to provide an explanation of how that passage pertains to the Law—what God expects of us—and then how it pertains to the Gospel—what God has done for us and has promised to do for us.  Lutheran pastors, at least in LCMS, are admonished that if they do not do that, they are no preachers at all. (The seminal text on the subject is Carl Walther’s *Law and Gospel*).  If any of my sermons ever amounts to what you describe, I hope someone will come up to me afterward and ask me, “What in the world were you talking about?” If a pastor happens to be sitting in the pews and hears me preach like that, may he tell me, “Get out of that pulpit and go back to seminary!”
  I’m sure no pastor ever provided an explanation of “consubstantiation”, because that is not the Lutheran doctrine of communion.  The proper term is Sacramental Union. We begin with the proposition that the Sacrament is BOTH the Body and Blood AND the bread and wine.  But it is not some kind of mixture or compound of Body, Blood, bread and wine. 
  Rather, it is truly His Body and Blood, for He said: “This is my body…This cup is the new testament in my blood.”  That precludes Zwinglian memorialism, and, because THIS IS, and does not just signify, His Body and Blood, the Calvinist explanation of an inchoate reception of the Communion is also excluded.  St. Paul warns us of the peril of taking Communion without recognizing the Body.
  At the same time, it is truly bread and wine.  St. Paul tells us that the bread that we break is a participation in the sacrament of Christ’s Body.  So it IS still bread and wine as we receive it; this excludes Transsubstantiation.
  All this also excludes any proposition that there has been some kind of combination of the Body and Blood with the bread and wine.  The Sacrament is both true Body and Blood and true bread and wine, and these natures are not to be confused.  Gelasius used the teaching of sacramental union in order to explain the doctrine of the hypostatic union of the natures of Christ. Why would he do that? Very simply, because in 490 AD, the doctrine of the Communion was not controversial—all understood the Communion to be the sacramental union of the Body and Blood with the bread and wine, producing one Sacrament yet not confusing their natures.
  By Gelasius’ analogy to the hypostatic union, the Romans are teaching a sacramental Docetism—the sacrament only looks like bread and wine, but is really Body and Blood.  Zwinglians are teaching a sacramental Arianism—what is received is just bread and wine, perhaps blessed bread and wine, but still just bread and wine.  Calvinists, by separating the reception of the bread and wine from the reception of the Body and Blood, are engaged in sacramental Nestorianism. 
  Now, if Lutherans taught that what was received was some sort of compound of the bread and wine with the Body and Blood in which there was no difference, that would be sacramental Monophysitism—and Calvinists have raised that charge more than once. (Remember, Consubstantiation is the Calvinist, not the Lutheran description of the Lutheran teaching.)  But that is not the case.  We receive, in the Sacrament, the Body and Blood, joined to, yet distinct from, the bread and wine—sacramental orthodoxy.  Probably the best book explaining the doctrine and showing its scriptural basis is Johann Gerhard’s *A Comprehensive Explanation of Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.* It’s available in translation from Repristination Press.
  I regret that you received so little catechesis from your pastors.  Was that an LCMS church? WELS? Or ELCA and its predecessors?

[22] Posted by KenChicago on 4-17-2011 at 05:23 PM · [top]

[22] KenChicago

My pedigree.  I was baptized and confirmed in the LCA.  I walked away from the LCA/ELCA in the early 80s due to emerging liberalism, and eventually married into the LCMS.  From 1985 to April 1997 I was a member in good standing of LCMS.  In the late 80s, I had a pastor who seriously encouraged me to attend seminary.

In what Lutheran church is that typical?

Every Lutheran church I ever attended regardless of Synod.  I did not develop a systematic knowledge of Scripture until after I left the Lutheran church.  In retrospect, I find appalling the level of instruction I received in Lutheran churches.  Not once between birth and 1997 did I ever receive teaching from the Lutheran church that was exegetical.  Not once in several different churches in four different states.  When I sought out such instruction outside the Lutheran church, I was told to stop taking the instruction because I was exposing myself to error.  They did not provide it, and simply expected me to glean whatever I could from the sermons.  Which was not much.  I learned the bible stories and the creeds from the Lutheran church and not much else.  Conservative or liberal made no difference.

Remember, Consubstantiation is the Calvinist, not the Lutheran description of the Lutheran teaching.

Well ...ummm ... er ... ah ... it just so happens…  :D But the nomenclature doesn’t change the basic point.  I never met one Lutheran layman who could explain or defend the doctrine.  I certainly couldn’t.  I knew plenty of Lutherans who got mad when the catechism got challenged.  They got mad because they couldn’t defend the catechism from the challenge.

There are many things I should have learned before my mid-30’s that only only learned because I went outside the Lutheran church in search of teaching.  How can that be?

carl

[23] Posted by carl on 4-17-2011 at 07:41 PM · [top]

btw, I have my own ideas about why Lutherans don’t do exegesis.  Lutheran doctrine doesn’t necessarily lend itself to the task.  When people learn too much about Scripture, they start asking questions that are difficult for a Lutheran to answer.  I won’t ever forget asking my LCMS pastor about eternal security and hearing him respond “I’ll have to ask St Louis about that.”  He was a good pastor, and just about a year from retirement at the time. 

carl

[24] Posted by carl on 4-17-2011 at 08:00 PM · [top]

#24. carl,

When people learn too much about Scripture, they start asking questions that are difficult for a Lutheran to answer.

Thank Goodness Calvinism is robust enough for an inquiring mind like yours.

[25] Posted by Fr. Dale on 4-17-2011 at 10:03 PM · [top]

Did I seem to have a hard time answering?  It’s pretty sad that the pastors you encountered couldn’t give you a Scriptural answer. 
  Eternal security? From God’s standpoint, there is.  He knows from before all time what you will do.  From your own perspective, it is a bad idea to think in those terms.  Rather, “come, let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.”  What was in Solomon’s mind when the king who had talked directly to God and written two or three books of Scripture built altars to strange gods? Better just to persevere.

[26] Posted by KenChicago on 4-17-2011 at 11:37 PM · [top]

I have a curious question for Carl.

Don’t you think that all denominations [that do not teach Calvinism] cannot handle or teach Scripture?  ; > )

In other words, were the Missouri Synod pastors particularly different from any others, other than of course, those glorious ministers who taught Calvinism from their pulpits?

So in one sense the Missouri Synod preachers—by your standards—weren’t any different from any other preachers who didn’t believe Calvinism.

On another, but related note, I don’t think that **laypeople** of any denomination are particularly good at defending any of their doctrines from Scripture: not the Baptists [which often get such high marks for being “scriptural”], not the Presbys [and I include the vast majority of Calvinist laypeople too], not the Methodists, not the RCs, and certainly not the Episcopalians.  Many is the time that I have attempted to engage laypeople of all of these denominations, only to marvel at their ignorance, shallowness, or boilerplateisms.  I came to the conclusion, then, that this is just normal human nature and humans of all sorts are pretty much this way.  Ask, for instance, the average Republican or Democrat “layperson” why he or she believes as he does, and it is hopeless.  They really aren’t able to defend what they believe, other than “instinctive feelings” that appear to come largely from culture, family, and conclusions based on various personal experiences of one sort or another.

I am genuine in asking these questions—not in order to debate Calvinism but to try to narrow down your objections to Missouri Synod preachers in particular [or perhaps they are not in particular at all].

[27] Posted by Sarah on 4-18-2011 at 07:11 AM · [top]

[25] Fr. Dale

Thank Goodness Calvinism is robust enough for an inquiring mind like yours.

Is that some kind of accusation of pride?  Should I not have gone searching for the instruction my own church was manifestly not providing?  Here is the truth.  By 1996 I was already well-convinced of the doctrines of grace, and could defend them.  Even so in 1996:

1.  I didn’t know John Calvin from Jacob Arminius.
2.  I couldn’t have defined TULIP on a bet.
3.  I thought Reformed was a synonym for Liberal.

I didn’t know there was such a thing as Calvinism until Oct 1999 when a friend handed me an article written by Jonathan Edwards.  No, I came to these conclusions the old fashioned way - by reading the text.  There were no preconceptions.  I didn’t know enough to have preconceptions.

But where I ended up is not the point.  The Lutheran church did not prepare me to sit down with my children and explain the Scripture to them.  I didn’t know how to read it.  I didn’t know how to handle it.  I didn’t know how to deal with it.  I didn’t know anything.  I was in the Lutheran church for 35 years.  How could that be? 

carl

[28] Posted by carl on 4-18-2011 at 07:22 AM · [top]

#28. carl,

Is that some kind of accusation of pride?

No Carl, I believe Sarah in post #27 is asking you the same question as me. I think there are two kinds of people who spend their lives digging deeper into scripture. There are those who want more of God and those who are looking for loopholes. In your case, I believe you are the first example. For those that I have known that claim to be Calvinists, God as truth is very important. Precision and structure are also important. One of the priests in our diocese is a Calvinist and has a background in engineering. I am a former LCMS person also and the more I read scripture, the more confining I found the LCMS doctrine. I was Charismatic and LCMS while not dispensationalist was questioning the authenticity of the Charismatic experience. Pastor Ferd Barr in Milwaukee was the only Charismatic LCMS willing to go against the grain on this in southeastern Wisconsin at the time. So what I am getting at, is that movement from one to another denomination may be as much a function of personality as it is how iron clad the doctrine is. Is God ultimately Truth, Good, Unity, Love, Beauty. For me, God in Christ has provided the unity and personal integration necessary to stop killing myself on the installment plan. This view of God is a good fit for Anglicanism as reformed Catholicism. I’m not here to argue the authenticity of one Christian denomination over the other.

[29] Posted by Fr. Dale on 4-18-2011 at 08:14 AM · [top]

[27] Sarah

Don’t you think that all denominations [that do not teach Calvinism] cannot handle or teach Scripture?  ; > )

Not at all.  Earlier I referred to instruction that an LCMS pastor told me not to take.  That instruction was provided by a professor from a small Plymouth Brethren Bible College.  Each Monday, he would drive 90 minutes to teach without charge a two-hour course to whoever would come and listen.  Typically he would teach a book of the Bible, and the course would involve an extended exposition.  I sat under his instruction for some seven years, and learned a great deal from him.  He is a great Brother.

Now was he a Calvinist?  No, he was Amyraldian.  Did he try to teach me Dispensationalism?  Yes, and the more he taught the more firmly I rejected it.  Did he try to teach me credo-baptism?  Yes.  Was he a committed congregationalist?  Yes.  But in every case, he stood in front of me and he made a reasoned case from Scripture.  We had a common base of communication.  In our disagreement, we held together a single authority that bound and judged both our arguments.

It shocks me not at all that limited finite creatures will disagree about the meaning of Scripture.  We all get things wrong.  There is no doubt my mind that I have things wrong.  I’m just as limited and finite as the next man.  That’s why it’s always good for us to let knowledgeable believers dial in their sights on our precious doctrines and pull the trigger.  It’s a healthy and desirable thing for (say) credo-baptists and paedo-baptists to beat on each other because if forces both sides back to the common source.  The end goal is always to make the case from Scripture because that is the authority.

What angers me about my years in the Lutheran church is that I was never taught to make a case from Scripture.  I was never taught how to handle Scripture.  I never saw any expositions of Scripture.  There was never any connection of doctrine to Scripture.  I have no remembrance of any Lutheran pastor ever standing in front of me and going through a text verse by verse.  Not in a sermon.  Not in a bible class.  That’s why I didn’t know anything.  That’s why I was so shocked when I got into a bible class that actually exposited the text. 

carl

[30] Posted by carl on 4-18-2011 at 11:03 AM · [top]

At a National Council of Churches Governing Board meeting in 2010, the ELCA representative noted that a far more pressing issue than departures was a steep drop in giving. Many ELCA churches that have no intention to depart are still cutting their contribution to the denomination. The Chicago HQ has had to make severe staff cuts, and Presiding Bishop Hanson has been issuing pleas for congregations to continue their financial support.

[31] Posted by Jeff Walton on 4-18-2011 at 12:16 PM · [top]

In our disagreement, we held together a single authority that bound and judged both our arguments.

I’m interested to learn how this single authority resolved your disagreement.

[32] Posted by CPKS on 4-18-2011 at 12:26 PM · [top]

Not only is LCMS declining, it is consistently one of the fastest declining denominations. Data from the NCC yearbook:

2011: Down 1.08%. Sixth fastest declining denomination behind PCUSA, TEc, UCC, ELCA and American Baptist.

2010: membership down 1.92%, the fourth fastest declining (behind TEc, PCUSA, UCC but faster than ELCA.

2009: Down 1.44% Fourth fastest declining denomination behind TEc, PCUSA and UCC but again ahead of ELCA.

Now, NCC Yearbook data is “two years behind”, i.e., the 2011 data is from the year 2009, and the decline seems to be slowing but slowing decline ain’t growin’.

[33] Posted by robroy on 4-21-2011 at 04:40 AM · [top]

I forgot to preface my previous note with:

“Sarah is again correct (doggone it).”

[34] Posted by robroy on 4-21-2011 at 05:11 PM · [top]

For public consumption, I recently ran across an article demonstrating how a major reason for the ECLA’s and TEC’s decline is tie to the composition of our priests and who attend at semenaries. Part of the problem ‘established’ churches (i.e. Mainline Protestants and Anglicans) have is the level of professionalism and formal training require for someone to take up the diaconate or the priesthood. Meanline, ‘emerging’ churches (Independent, Baptist and the like) have ministers that while not as formally trained, often demonstrate greater passion and evangelical spirit in building up a parish community. I am not asserting that we should necessarily lower our standards, but we could consider being more receptive of the issues of confronting ECLA and TEC: a spirit of bureaucratic indifference coupled with a desire to do good works in a manner no differently from the Red Cross or the Rotary Club. The capacity for Anglicanism in America to continue to exist as a vital expression of the Christian faith is tied up with our ability to somehow reconcile our traditional desire for a learned clergy with this modern, not entirely unreasonable,  impluse to have priests, filled with the passion of the Holy Spirit, to effectively evangelize the Word.  http://blogs.forbes.com/jerrybowyer/2011/04/20/the-seminary-bubble/

[35] Posted by ILAnglican on 4-22-2011 at 09:26 AM · [top]

I read ILanglican article. It’s a good one. The ACNA doesn’t have to follow the same failed patterns of selection and development of clergy. I liked this paragraph from the article:

Mainline churches have largely become local versions of the Green Party at prayer. Leftie fads long ago captured the commanding heights of the established denominations. In fact, they did it through the seminaries. So, clergy moved left, members moved out, and mainline churches became mixtures of union halls, encounter groups and mausoleums.

Ouch.

[36] Posted by robroy on 4-23-2011 at 10:14 AM · [top]

While I certainly concur with some of the points in the article, ILAnglican (are you in Quincy by any chance?) I still see some gaps in that narrative.  First off, I don’t have the stats but not all priests in TEC attend seminary for the full 3 years, usually second career and part-time clergy.  At least around these here parts they form a sizable contingent among the ranks of the clergy.  Second, given the abysmal quality of TEC’s seminaries, perhaps the less time spent there the better.  Finally, given the demand for democratic structures, theology is strongly influenced by lay delegates to diocesen and general convention who have precious little understanding of doctrine beyond Sunday School and confirmation.

[37] Posted by Nikolaus on 4-23-2011 at 10:49 AM · [top]

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