Saturday, September 27, 2008

Lutheran Theology Blog


I've been meaning to give Father Hollywood readers a heads-up about a Lutheran Theology blog that lay and clergy theologians of a more intellectual bent might enjoy (of course, the way the blogosphere works, you probably already know about it anyway).

But nevertheless, I would like to recommend Lutheran Theology as a unique resource because of its ecumenicity - being run by a former Lutheran (now Anglican) parish priest, and includes current Lutheran pastors and academic theologians - several of whom were seminary classmates of mine (specifically Oxford-trained Rev. Bryce Wandrey, S.T.M. candidate Rev. Luke Zimmerman, Harvard doctoral candidate Rev. Piotr Malysz, and Loyola professor and Notre Dame Ph.D. Rev. Dr. John Paul Salay) - all utterly brilliant guys, it should go without saying. But they are also men with a sense of humor who are equally comfortable on a tavern stool as they are in the sanctuary pulpit or at the classroom lecturn.

The advantage of this blog is that it allows Luther (and others, such as Sasse and Bonhoeffer) to breathe a little, not being stifled by the stagnant air of 21st century American Lutheranism.

50 comments:

Mike Keith said...

How intriguing. I will check it out. Thanks!

Paul McCain said...

Father Hollywood, I do think though that you should issue a bit of a "buyer beware" on that site. Mr. Wandrey left his call and ordination vows as a Lutheran pastor and has joined the Church of England and is not a cleric in that church body.

His interest in Lutheran theology is just that, an interest, but no longer a confessional commitment. I think readers of "Lutheran Theology" need to be aware of this.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Paul:

I agree with "buyer beware" - whether it is Bryce Wandrey's website or the LCMS's. All theology needs to be measured by the canon of the Word of God, no doubt.

I'm quite sure, however, that Wandrey is indeed an ordained cleric in the C of E. He is listed as a "curate" (which in England is similar to an associate pastor) on his parish's website - along with a female "curate" as well FWIW. And there are also pictures of his Anglican ordination on his website, so I do think he is currently a clergyman.

And I do agree that his interest in Lutheran theology differs from those of us bound by vow and confession to the Book of Concord. Absolutely. But I do believe our theology is robust enough to dialogue outside of our own boundaries. In other words, I think Dr. Luther and others of our communion have much to offer the Church Catholic - especially fellow heirs of the Reformation (though these days, the C of E may be more Teilhard de Chardin and less Luther, to paraphrase Benedict XVI).

Also, keep in mind, nearly all of the other participants in the blog (e.g. Salay, Zimmerman, Malysz, etc.) are faithful Lutheran pastors and knowledgeable theologians from within our communion.

I have every confidence in our confession of the faith to hold up to outside scrutiny. And a little disagreement and differing perspective is good for us (like iron sharpening iron). I think a little outside perspective helps us from becoming stagnant and inbred - if not stuck in a ghetto.

The senior pastor at Wandrey's church (Dr. Trigg) is recognized as a Luther scholar in his own right, and was received warmly at CTS a few years ago as a symposia speaker (though some of the CTS profs might not be too keen on asking him back, given that he now has two of our former pastors at his church).

But I do appreciate your caveat, and am basically in agreement with it. Thanks for pointing this out.

Paul McCain said...

"Not"= "now"

My bizarre perennial keyboard mistake.

I know about Trigg, in fact, it was precisely his "warm reception" that was the occasion for him to be able to recruit a couple men out of Lutheranism into Anglicanism.

If these men love Lutheranism so, then let them leave the heresy and apostasy of Anglicanism and declare their confessional allegiance.

Father Hollywood said...

Paul:

I'm sorry, I should have picked up on the context. That makes perfect sense.

Hey, don't feel bad. One typo. Bah! Some of the things I hammer out look like my cat walked over the keyboard until I read it the eighth time. You'd think since I have to look at the keyboard I'd get more of the letters right the first time.

I think Bryce is using the term "Lutheran theology" in the sense of "Luther's Theology" rather than the "Theology of the Church of the Augsburg Confession" - but that's just my presumption. I have not spoken with either of the two guys since they left and joined the C of E. I don't know their reasons for doing so, but I think everyone would agree that the Church of England is like a box of chocolates... (and there are many ways to "finish the sentence!" as Scaer would implore).

Paul McCain said...

Blessed Kurt Marquart taught me this delightful quip about the Church of England:

You are either high and crazy, broad and hazy, or low and lazy.

Paul McCain said...
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William Tighe said...

This Mr. Wandrey, like Mr. Trigg, seems to have no problem with WO, right? Isn't the wife of one of them a priestess, too?

Bryce P Wandrey said...
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Father Hollywood said...

Dear Bryce:

Paul removed the post himself.

But I would not have done so. I believe in freedom of speech, and Paul was expressing his opinion. If you or Dr. Trigg or anyone has a contrary point of view, you are free to refute him.

In fact, that's the best way to argue a point - with factual correction - rather than telling us about hurt feelings and by throwing around the word "libel" - which is really a couched threat of a lawsuit. I especially don't appreciate your telling me what I "must" do on my own blog. You are simply out of order there, Bryce.

I don't cotton to English bullying any more than my ancestor who served under Washington at Valley Forge. ;-)

One thing I learned very quickly what truly is a "must" for a man in the holy ministry - you need to develop some thick skin. "Sticks and stones" and all that.

And is this what I get for plugging your blog? Told what I "must" do because you disagree with someone's comment? Goodness! As the old saying goes: "No good deed goes unpunished."

Bryce P Wandrey said...
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Bryce P Wandrey said...
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Piotr said...

I must admit I do not quite understand why the denomination to which the blog’s administrator (Rev. Wandrey) belongs has to be determinative not only for how one a priori evaluates the content of the blog but also whether or not one should even read it.

In my opinion, the ad-hominem slander that Mr. McCain has been engaging in on various blogs is a good illustration of a larger Missouri-Synod problem: in our parochialism, we are unable and unwilling (unwilling because unable) *constructively* to engage voices from the outside. Discrediting and lashing out in fear and self-righteous desperation is extremely easy, but it is a far cry from carefully engaging, judging on its own merits, and truly learning, that is, learning in this whole process better to understand and appreciate one’s own commitments. It is deeply saddening and disturbing that through this posture (of which Mr. McCain is but an example) we have muted ourselves on the theological scene. Where is our contribution to Luther studies, to ethics; where is our voice?? Why is it that some of the best confessional theology today is done by people like Oswald Bayer (whose publishers are Eerdmans and Oxford University Press)? We should do our theology less “by [kosher] names” and in our own “boys’ club” and more by paying attention to how the treasures we have can be put in conversation with the theologies and the life “out there” and how these treasures can open up new and rich dimensions unsuspected by the “out there.” But that takes, first of all, a good ear, a modicum of respect, skill, not to mention good will. The LCMS that I know is neither a cult nor the besieged fortress that Mr. McCain so desperately wants it to be. (That was one of the reasons why I put together my “Spot the Heretic!” quiz – to encourage thoughtfulness, even through disagreement.)

Further, Mr. McCain’s juxtaposition of academic theology and confessional commitment (as expressed in confessionally-grounded parish work) is offensive to those of us who have all along been combining university studies and parish ministry and who, in fact, believe that parish work is an indispensable component of any (academic) study of theology. The deep irony here is that we are being self-righteously lectured about a call by someone whose “call” is to a cubicle at a publishing house.

Finally, thank you for pointing out, Larry, that all the other contributors to the blog are LCMS pastors. Even though we might disagree with some of our friends’ decisions, we can also respect their integrity and the exasperation in which they originated. But then we’ve actually made the effort to talk these things through instead of rushing to spew condemnations from our high horses. Besides, doesn’t Jesus say that criticism must always presuppose self-criticism? I believe He’s onto something there.

Paul McCain said...
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Paul McCain said...

"Libel"! "Slander!"

OK, then Bryce, how about you recount here how you became interested in the Church of England, and an account of your and Christopher Stoltz' leaving behind your Lutheran Confession and embracing the Church of England.

Are you going to say here that Trigg did not play a major role in your journey out of Lutheranism?

Was he not in fact "warmly welcomed" at Fort Wayne and consequently was able to establish and make contacts there?

Did Trigg urge you and Christopher to remain members in The Lutheran Church? Did Stoltz urge you to stay at your post and not leave your Lutheran Confession?

Did he urge you to stay and not join the Church of England? Did Stoltz do the same?

Are you really going to tell us here that Trigg did not in fact encourage Christopher and then you, particularly through Stoltz, to come to England and affiliate with the Church of England?

There are more than a few persons who are well familiar with the nature of the "warm welcomes" about which we speak.

Did Trigg bring membership papers in the Church of England with him? No, of course not. Did he offer signing bonuses? No, of course not. Did he, and has he, played a key role in the departure of Stoltz and Wandrey to the Church of England? Of course he has, and he did.

This is precisely what the problem is with Wandrey. There has been deception behind his leaving the Lutheran Church as well as other situations similar to it. There has been a lack of candor and forthcoming honesty about confessional allegiances, and quite a bit of game playing. Trips to England, said to be for leisure and vacation, or touring, were actually trips establishing closer ties to Church of England persons. Were congregations involved in this informed of what was really going on? Were they told about the nature of the growing affinity and fondness for the Church of England? Or were these facts presented as merely a love for all things England?

What galls me is not the leaving, as much as the lying, not the departure, but the deception, involved in Lutheran pastors who leave their calls and congregations to pursue their interest in other church's confession. Where is the honor and integrity in that?

I happen to be well familiar with a pastor and a congregation who were "burned" by these types of behaviors.

To my knowledge, Mr. Wandrey still has not resigned his membership in The LCMS. That's more than a bit odd and strange, don't you think? Particularly since he has been ordained a cleric in the Church of England.

So, if there are those who wish to toss around terms like "libel" and "slander" perhaps they had better very carefully check their facts, and their sources.

Now, to Piotr, I hasten to correct your ad hominems, on one most important point. I do not have a "cube" I have a palatial office suite that occupies most of the tenth floor of Concordia Publishing House, complete with a butler and private chef. The private spa is particularly nice.

The point, Piotr, is not at all about pursuing academic studies, the point is abandoning one's confession and running off into the arms of a church body that has formally embraced apostasy and heresy and misleading those to whom one is ministering into thinking that trips to England and interest in "pursuing studies" is simply that, an innocent desire for more education, when in fact there was/is much more going on.

Piotr, I can assure you are not the first person to have discovered the world is larger than The LCMS. A few of us figured that out before you happened on the scene.

I wish you well on your studies, and appreciate the fact that you have taken up the office, while engaging in those studies. My remarks about Wandrey have nothing at all to do with pursuing advanced studies, but quite everything to do with abandoning Lutheranism.

I would hope you might be just a tad more sensitive to that concern.

Paul McCain said...

I could not help but smile at Piotr's remark:

"Where is our contribution to Luther studies" in light of this project, which was concocted in somebody's cube at Concordia Publishing House.

cyberbrethren.typepad.com/cyberbrethren/files/lwprospectus.pdf

It is the largest Luther translation project since the commencement of the American Edition project in the late 1950s.

I welcome and any all contributions to Luther studies and, having made a few myself over the years, am well aware of the blessings of scholarship and academic pursuits that contribute to it.

I'm even more impressed by scholarship that exists in service to the pure confession of the Gospel and Sacraments, and that flows from a rigorous advocacy for the same. That is not possible where one walks away from one's Lutheran ordination and fellowships with the Church of England. A point I trust Piotr is mindful of.

Bryce P Wandrey said...
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Piotr said...

Paul,

Now that we are finally talking substance and can perhaps do it in a more cordial manner, I’d like to emphasize two points. I know how wish-washy Lutheranism can be on the other side, so to speak; how impatient with theology and with actually taking the time to think through the church’s witness. I came out of a church like that, and I learned my appreciation for our heritage (tradition?!), more than that, for the church’s confession, in the LCMS. But it pains me to no end, and this is the second point I’d like to emphasize, that the LCMS (in some quarters at least) has allowed itself to degenerate into a very smug church body, self-righteously pleased with the confession it possesses but no longer able to confess it in constructive and respectful dialogue with the world.

By the world I mean not only the academia, where some great theology is still done today and to which we have an even greater contribution to make. I also mean all those, like so many of my students, who are trapped within ideologies whose lifelessness is only thinly covered up by their militancy. But in order to conduct this sort of engagement it simply will not do haughtily to throw about repristinated phrases without consciously continuing the theological reflection of our noble ancestors, without thinking with them – critically thinking. Concepts – realities! – such as sin, redemption, being in God’s image (to name a few) have an even greater urgency today, and it is our responsibility both to take them into the world and to put them back on the theological map. But to do so well, we must first learn to listen and never assume that the others have nothing to contribute.

The LCMS does not always encourage this sort of critical, constructive, yet faithful witness (because it presupposes humility, compassion and good listening skills, as well as letting go of the ghosts of one's past). There are in the LCMS more self-appointed heresy hunters than responsible theologians. And I can fully understand the exasperation of some who look for other avenues and other places where they might engage in thoughtful theology. And I would be very reluctant – before talking to them first – to say that their witness can no longer be faithful, confessional even, where they are. I have no doubt that God’s church subsists in the LCMS. But judging people’s hearts is a tricky business.

In Christ,
Piotr

P.S. I greatly appreciate the Luther’s Works project under way at CPH. I have spoken about it to Chris Brown before. I’m extremely grateful for the initiative. And I would even like to offer my services at some point. But this does not change the fact that simply (re-)publishing Luther or Gerhard is only one step, the first step, and it will not do the job for us, this generation of pastors and theologians. For it is not true that everything that could have been said in theology had been said by the year 1700. If we allow ourselves to think that then we underestimate the richness of God’s gifts and the call that He issues to their stewards in each and every generation. Therefore, the next step is learning critically, responsibly, and faithfully to think through those witnesses of our past for the sake of the world in which we live. They passed on treasures to us! But these treasures do not exempt us from thinking, nor are they meant to make us self-righteous. Our righteousness is from Christ, as you well know. And we in the LCMS would benefit from less finger pointing and more self-criticism.

Piotr said...

Larry,

Thank you for unwittingly providing a forum for this discussion. I hope that, if it continues, it might be both substantive and edifying.

Thank you also for your recommendation for the Lutheran Theology blog on your site.

It is our hope to provide a forum where good criticism is fostered -- the sort of criticism that all of us should exhibit, first of all, in relation to our own work. And as our readers offer constructive criticism, we hope that the conversation so generated will be not only a learning but also edifying experience for all those involved. Above all, may it be to the glory of God.

Thanks again,
Piotr

Paul McCain said...

Bryce

Thank you for demonstrating a degree of candor and honesty that, to this very point and moment, has been woefully lacking. Many unanswered questions remain, but you alone bear responsibility for those, and what you have said here is sufficient. While I will not again make inquiries about your personal situation, I will continue to make sure people are aware that when you present yourselves on Lutheran blogs and in Lutheran conversations, that you do so, not as a Lutheran clergyman, but as a cleric in the Church of England, with all that this means. There are sheep of Christ's fold reading these things, and I do not want them to be led astray.

Piotr,

You are too smart a person to play the game of chiding people for not realizing "there are more members of the church than are found in The LCMS." That is a throw-away line and does not speak well for your expressed interest in urging The LCMS to engage more intentionally and vigorously with other Christian churches.

Simply put, Piotr, a bit more humility and a bit less professorial lecturing would be appropriate.

You might consider showing LCMS clergyman as much respect as you do your Harvard colleagues.

Journal articles and theological conferences are all well and good, but much more significant is the ongoing confession of truth and explicit rejection of error going on in our pulpits and at our altars, and the fact that one of our ministers abandoned his call, and renounced his ordination vows is of great significance for the well being of the sheep entrusted to our care.

It it tempting in the collegiality of the hallowed halls of academia to brush past the stark realities of neo-paganism infesting modern theological pursuits. I pray that you will make the bold confession, as winsomely as possible while still speaking without equivocation and hesitation.

Whenever a scholar begins to suggest it is time to move beyond Luther and our Lutheran fathers, that, to me, is a warning sign. And I hope you heed it.

I hope you spend as much time with Luther and our Lutheran fathers, as you do with Jüngel.

I'm not sure against whom you think you are speaking with your throw-away lines like, "all that needs to be said was said by 1700." That's a cute little quip and I've heard it made by many who have rushed into the open arms of modernism and post-modernism. I trust that does not happen to you.

Now as for your, frankly, demeaning remark about "your" generation of Lutheran pastors. One would need but remind you that "your" generation of pastors only is able to do what it is doing because of previous generations, even those oh-so-parochial persons like the men of Perry County, or the remote towns of Thuringia and Saxony, who were perfectly fluent in German, Latin, Greek, Hebrew and who read Luther and the writings of his opponents, in the original as easily as you read and write your posts on Lutheran blog sites and others.

There was a time when I too was quite impressed with "my" generation of Lutheran pastors. But then one grows up a bit and matures a tad and realizes just how broad and giant are the shoulders upon which we all stand today. I urge you to demonstrate how appreciative you are of this fact.

Finally, I won't ask for, nor do I expect, an apology for your snarky remark about my call as being to a cubicle, but it might be nice to think you would offer it, or at least consider it.

Paul McCain

Piotr said...

Paul,

(As you indicate, it is time to wrap up *this* discussion. Perhaps we shall resume it again, but on a less personal level, with more good will, and in a way that edifies both you and me and our readers, and enables us all to grow in our understanding of the treasures entrusted to us).

Please understand: I do share your fear of the “beyond” and your uneasiness in its face. Too many of the students I encounter in my classroom have moved “beyond” so effectively that, in their deconstructing fervor, they are left with nothing to deconstruct, and their constructive attempts to build a brave new world fail because they no longer have the building blocks out of which to build. Even on a very humanistic level, let alone when it comes to matters of faith, I’m a firm believer that we must take the past seriously and attentively listen to its voice.

However, if you will pardon the hair splitting, moving beyond has at least another meaning. Yes, it can mean leaving behind or, worse still, abandoning – as in, most recently, “beyond Walther” (though, who knows, that might actually be a good thing). But moving beyond, for example, Luther may also mean moving beyond his milieu but in such a way as to take him with us. To move beyond may mean to appropriate, engage again out of our present situation, and in so doing to open up the present situation – with its near-sightedness, its obsession with relevance, its idols, but also its genuine groping for the truth in all the wrong places – for new and truly liberating possibilities. And this is, if I were to use the phrase “move beyond” (which you yourself have put in my mouth), what I would like it to mean in relation to my understanding of theology as something infinitely more than just academic speculation. Yes, we stand on the shoulders of giants (I think I’ve indicated as much), so don’t lets be afraid of allowing them to collide head-on with the present. This is the task entrusted to us, *also* to us, this generation. What a marvelous sight the world beheld when Luther allowed Paul and Augustine to crash into the systems of his day!

And so there are two theological postures which, I believe, must be overcome: the posture of abandonment of the past (reinventing the wheel, which always produces an incomparably inferior object) and the posture of dwelling only in the past (treasuring the wheel so much as to never let the rubber hit the road). The past cannot be simply repristinated – especially if it’s the witness to the Truth of all truths – it must be allowed seriously to concern itself with the present, to absorb it, and through this to prove larger than any human present and so to endure. So yes, by all means, let’s move beyond!

Piotr

P.S. I am moving beyond (leaving behind) your rather insensitive comments which also concerned me. Please do the same with mine.

William Tighe said...

I am neither Lutheran nor Anglican (but have a great admiration for the way that the Missouri Synod has resisted the "siren call" of "relevant religion" so firmly). One of my firm convictions, now held for well over 30 years, is that the practice of the "ordination" of women is a herald of the defection of any body that practices it from anything resembling "mere Christianity" (cf. C. S. Lewis) -- if, indeed, it is not itself constitutive of that very apostasy. Certainly (and those who are aware of my writing in Touchstone will know of my sustained interest in the Scandinavian and Baltic Lutheran churches, as well as in the Union of Utrecht "Old Catholics") all the evidence is, that there is an ineluctable procession from WO to SS (= Sanctified Sodomy, or the "blessing" of homosexual "life partnerships") in churches or communions that adopt WO, and no wonder, since both abominations are supported by the same "theological" reasoning and "scriptural" hermeneutic.

I am sorry that I mistakenly suggested that Mr. Wandrey's or Mr. Trigg's wife was a priestess, but I do remember that there church sports a "lady reverend" on its staff. The Church of England, however, is no longer a fit place for orthodox Christians, "Evangelical Catholic" or simply "Evangelical."

Piotr said...

William,

I’m not sure if you’re responding also to me, but I’ll assume for the moment that you are.

I hope I’ve made it abundantly clear above what it is that I mean by thoughtful engagement with the past. However, if your example of engagement with the present leading to women’s ordination and the “ineluctable” progression from that to the blessing of same-sex unions is to serve as a deterrent from a thoughtful and faithful appropriation of the past for the sake of the present, then I’m afraid it is a very shabby argument indeed. If the apostle Paul had used this kind of logic, he would not have been able to preach the Gospel at all! Just because something (in someone’s experience) might lead to something else, or that something might end up being abused – as, for example, Gospel freedom might be interpreted as license for sin – this does not yet mean that the first thing should be given up. Just because the call for us theologically to engage our time (just as our forefathers theologically engaged theirs) might, for some people, mean a total sell-out, does not yet exempt us from fulfilling this obligation.

If we go about it in the right and faithful way, we’ll avoid the extremes of both the left and the right (which are actually mirror images of each other). The people on the right Platonize the past, and in doing so effectively empty it of its context, its nuances and its emphases, and then say that all we are left with is repristination and the compiling of endless “catalogues of testimonies.” The people on the left single-handedly consign the context to the rubbish heap, which allows them to pick out of the past what they please and interpret it how they please. The right refuses to think out of fear, and the left has no patience for thinking at all. Responsible theology consists in listening to the voice of the past – in its entirety and its original setting – and then bringing it into conversation with the present, as I have already explained above.

I’m afraid that as theologians we have to do better defending the Truth than resorting to contingent arguments and flogged-to-death clichés. Must the Truth not be allowed to authenticate itself and re-assert itself in the midst of our time as something that understands our time and yet frees us from it? The sainted Kurt Marquart (quoted by Paul McCain above, so he’s got to be right) once said in class: “The worst thing we can do is bore people to death with the Truth.” When one possesses the Truth and, on that account, allows himself to become intellectually lazy and unwilling meaningfully to engage, one is just a clanking cymbal.

Sloth is inexcusable, regardless of whether it's thinking that's at stake or making accusations.

Respectfully,
Piotr

Father Hollywood said...

This is a really interesting discussion, and I'm really pleased that it is happening. This kind of engagement has needed to happen for a long time.

I agree with Piotr's thoughtful observation and assertion that theology needs to address the present, and that Lutheran involvement in that dialogue is a very good thing - not only for us (21st century American confessional Lutheranism) but for the world as well.

I believe the LCMS is way too inbred. We have allowed our understandable siege mentality to become an irrational ghetto mentality. I think dialogue with other Christians is a healthy thing - and I don't worry that our theology can't "hold its own" so to speak.

However, Dr. Tighe's point about women's ordination and the issue of homosexuality is important. This issue has grave implications.

I think there can be little argument against his point that women's ordination leads to an increasing acceptance of homosexuality - as every church body that reinterpreted Scripture and/or Tradition in the last generation to the point of seeing sex (erroneously called gender) as no obstacle for ordination has come around in this generation to saying sex is no obstacle for sexual relationships. I think the burden of proof is on someone who would claim there is no link.

And this does throw a wrench in the works of Christian dialogue.

Is a communion that ordains women even Christian? And if they aren't Christian, how can we dialogue with them as fellow Christians? For example, Scaer's argument against the validity of sacramental acts of women clergy is rooted in the argument that women's ordination places them extra ecclesiam, and therefore not in possession of the Church's sacraments.

I find his argument airtight. In all of the history of God's people, He has never ordained women to the priesthood, called them to the apostolate, or placed them into the New Testament pastoral office. They have never been authorized to forgive sins, stand in the stead of Christ, and lead worship. Never. To do so is such a fundamental break not only with Scripture, but with the order of creation (which touches upon the very issue of the incarnation itself, as many of the proponents of WO either downplay, or in some cases even deny (!) the maleness of the incarnate Christ).

Sex is inseparable from incarnation. Women's ordination is a form of idolatry that calls into serious doubt (at very least) the Christian nature of the religion held by its advocates. Denial of the incarnation is a mark of antichrist.

That issue makes dialogue with the Church of England (as well as with LWF members) very difficult. Are we even fellow Christians? Can we accept baptisms carried out by priestesses? What about ordinations conducted by female bishops? I would not.

Of course, there are "refuseniks" - both clergy and congregations - within these bodies that reject all the same errors traditional Christianity has also rejected since the beginning. In other words, there are certainly Christian churches in those fields (such as the C of E) even with tares sewn right next to them thanks to the capitulation to the culture on matters of gender.

On a similar note, I just received a mailing from Lutheran Forum. I have enjoyed some of the discussion in that journal in the past. I notice that the editor is a woman "pastor." I will not subscribe or support this journal because of that. If I were to write an article and have it published there, it would give the impression that I approve of this. But this is a horrific abomination. I would no more want to associate with such a journal than I would want to write for a Satanist publication (and I do believe the devil is behind women's ordination).

I realize others may disagree. Obviously, Bryce and Dr. Trigg do. And obviously, there are many WO opponents who don't share my disgust with sharing page space with a priestess. I do understand there are different perspectives here.

But there certainly is a line that defines the Christian Church. I believe some in the LCMS tend toward the notion that only churches in fellowship with the LCMS are truly Christian. I believe that definition is far too narrow. But I also believe there are people who accept a pretty-much anything goes definition of Christianity - such as Joel Osteen's argument that Mormons are Christian.

Personally, I believe that a woman at the altar is diabolical. That's what I believe and confess. I realize that may be hurtful to some people, but that's not my intent. It's simply what I believe. I don't want to dialogue with women clergy on principle - even if everything they write is factually correct - in the same way that I would not consider such dialogue with Buddhists to be the same as dialogue with a Baptist.

I completely understand why men leave the LCMS (where "playing church" has become routine) in search of a historically rooted communion that doesn't play patty-cake with the ever-changing secualr culture. I understand the attraction to historic liturgical communions that believe in the Real Presence - such as Anglicanism, Orthodoxy, and Roman Catholicism. We don't find theologically-minded LCMS pastors defecting the LCMS for Pentecostal, Baptist, or non-denominational churches - rather they go where there is a history, a link to the apostles, a liturgy, a respect for the pastoral office, tradition. But the Church of England is an enigma - an ancient liturgical church rooted in tradition, but one that has jettisoned tradition when it comes to homosexuality and women clergy. The C of E thinks it can unilaterally remake tradition in its own image. A large portion of the Anglican Communion has decided that "catholic" means that it can unilaterally redefine sexual deviance to be Christian apart from the testimony and tradition of the rest of the Church (not to mention, obviously, Holy Scripture).

The "gender issue" has terribly complicated matters of ecumenical dialogue. If we in the LCMS and other traditional historic communions that refuse to ordain women and recognize homosexual unions wish to dialogue with the Church of England, we are expected to deal with the pornographic images of women in priestly vestments and pretend there is no elephant in the parlor. I'm sorry, but when Christians numb their gag reflex to that point, they are well on their way to yielding the issue within a generation.

I apologize for the length and rambling here. I hope I didn't hopelessly muddy the waters.

Bryce P Wandrey said...
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Father Hollywood said...

Bryce:

The definition of Catholic (according to St. Vincent of Lerins) is what has been believed by everyone at all times.

There is a universal consensus in the Church that stands the test of time.

From the days of the Old Testament at least until until extremely recently, the catholic consensus (based on scripture) prohibits women priests. Of course, there were heretics outside the faith who rejected this catholic teaching - such as the Montanists - who "ordained" women, but because of this and other heresies, were simply considered outside the Church Catholic.

The world changes. God doesn't. Doctrine doesn't. Truth doesn't. So, how could scripture, tradition, and 1900 years of consistent practice simply be wiped away unilaterally by a handful of people in a few American restorationist sects and later in the Anglican Communion?

Bryce, can you point to a single instance of an ordained woman presbyter in any Catholic church (that is to say, not a heretic) prior to say, the mid-18th century? Luther bases the doctrine of infant baptism on the formula "we've always done it this way" (tradition, catholic consensus, etc.) in the Large Catechism. The modern secular view of sex is that the differences between men and women are merely functional in the physical sense, and non-existent in the spiritual sense. This is an example of modern sensibilities clashing with the Scriptures and with the catholic teaching of the Church.

We simply don't have the right to impose modernism and feminism on the Word of God and just do what we want to do. Whether we like it or not, we must submit to Scripture - even when it doesn't seem to make sense to our senses. That's the essence of faith. My senses tell me my wife would make a great pastor. The Scripture, the Church, the order of creation, and catholic consensus say the opposite. So, whom do I believe? Where should I locate my faith?

The difference between your theological participation with a those that reject women's ordination, and my refusal to participate with women clergy is that in the former case, you see us as Christians (deluded as we may be), whereas I simply can't accept that a woman pastor is anything other than a pagan priestess whose presence in Christian holy places is a kind of abomination of desolation.

And if we needed any further evidence, we can see the rot and decay that has taken hold of churches that have ordained women - very quickly and in perverse ways - such as the "art display" at the Cathedral in Upsala in which our blessed Lord and the apostles were portrayed in the form of homosexual pornography. This happened less than a generation after the first female "priests" in Sweden. They're so liberated, aren't they? Gene Robinson is a bishop in your communion who left his wife to "marry" a man. This would not have occured without the first step of "ordained" women.

Are you also okay with gay bishops and same-sex "marriages"?

You simply do not find such abominations where women are not "ordained." But where women are ordained, there you'll find such sexual license as well as the "normalization" of homosexuality - with dissenters being relegated to the fringes.

But it all makes sense in a certain perverse way. If your pastor is a woman, what's to prevent her from being a lesbian?

I'd be interested in Piotr's observations here.

Do we in the LCMS simply not ordain women because we could but choose not to at this time? Is it an adiaphoron? Or is women's ordination outside of the bounds of Scripture and the Catholic Faith to which we must cling in order to have salvation? I know how most members of the Church of England would answer that question, but I'm surprised at your (Bryce's) shock that I believe women's ordination to be unscriptural. We both went to the same seminary and had the same profs. I can't believe you find it surprising that an LCMS pastor has such a view.

To those of us who reject women's ordination, it is a matter of doctrine that we are not free to make choices about. It is as settled as the doctrine of the Trinity.

Bryce P Wandrey said...
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Father Hollywood said...

Dear Bryce:

You make a good point here. Truth is truth no matter who writes it.

On the one hand, one of my favorite commentators on culture is Camille Paglia - who is a lesbian feminist atheist. I read her stuff because it's good scholarship - she's an excellent historical philosopher and observer of society in spite of the many issues I would disagree with her about.

On the other hand, Playboy Magazine has some excellent articles - for example their legendary interviews with Jimmy Carter and Ayn Rand. However, based on the fact that Playboy is mainly a porn mag, I'm simply not going to subscribe, buy, or read it because of the good that is in there as well. The porn is the "elephant in the parlor" and I think it would scandalize my flock to subscribe and put old copies in the narthex.

Theology is not social commentary, nor in the same category as wine-tasting or secular writing. Recognizing a woman pastor to be in any way a "minister" is a confession that I'm just not going to make. I will not write to one and call her "Reverend" nor will I ever address one as "Pastor."

We in the LCMS don't take the position that women's ordination is just an adiaphoron that we don't happen to do; rather we confess with traditional Christianity that it is an ontological impossibility - like a
male mother - and to impersonate a pastor contrary to God's establishment is wrong, is sinful, and is diabolical.

Thus, I view women's ordination as an ecclesiastical version of porn. It is a spiritual-sexual deviancy and, as I said, I firmly believe to be a diabolical entree of paganism and goddess-worship into the Church. History bears me out on this. You will not find goddess-worship in any "church" that does not ordain women. But the reverse is most certainly true. I don't think that is merely a coincidence.

So, no, I won't subscribe to, or read Lutheran Forum. I would no more leave copies in the narthex any more than I would leave Playboy there. I would not want my flock thinking there is something "not so bad" about women clergy. I want them to retain their "gag reflex" - and shrugging it off because "I only get it [Lutheran Forum] for the articles" just doesn't cut it for me.

One danger of academic theology is (and I am in no way gainsaying academic theology - I believe it is important) that we can be around women "pastors" in the academy so often that it just doesn't seem unbiblical any more. They're nice ladies, smart, scholarly, and "pastoral." So, heck, what's the big deal?

That's the way Satan always works, though. "Did God *really* say...?"

I hope that clarifies my take on all of this. I know others disagree. But I'm just being straightforward with you. I don't mean any malice by any of this. But I am thoroughly scandalized by priestesses, and I simply can't accept anything about their "ministry" to be Christian - not their baptisms, their ordinations, nothing. I believe they act, knowingly or not, *in persona Satani.*

And I want nothing to do with that.

William Tighe said...

I was not replying at all to
Piotr -- whose comments I find unobjectionable, with the caveat that "the devil is i the details" -- or, perhaps, in this case, the application.

As to the "ineluctable" (and perhaps "inevitable") relationship between WO and SS, you might care to see my articles on the Church of Sweden:

http://trushare.com/96may03/MY03SWED.htm

http://trushare.com/96may03/MY03COMM.htm

http://www.touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=11-06-046-r

http://www.touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=15-04-050-r

http://www.touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=13-06-035-i

http://www.touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=16-02-036-f

or else these two articles on the "Union of Utrecht" Old Catholics:

http://www.touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=12-01-021-f

http://www.touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=17-04-056-r

If "faith is the confidence of things unseen," then you don't need faith to comprehend the relationship between WO and SS, just a modicum of perception, intellect and good sense.

Bryce P Wandrey said...
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Piotr said...

William,

Thank you for the clarification (I wasn't sure if I was misinterpreting you or not and didn't want to come across as overreacting). As someone who was both born and raised in Poland, I do share your concern about the churches in Europe.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Bryce:

Well, if you can make a scriptural argument for breaking with two millennia of tradition and what has been a clear scriptural prohibition until more "enlightened" modern/postmodern times where texts can be twisted to say anything, I'm all ears.

But until you can make such a case, I will continue to confess that women's ordination is just the latest manifestation of Eve's first sin, of the failure of men to exercise the dominion God gave them, and is ultimately the work of the Serpent asking: "Did God really say...?"

Maybe women's ordination would be a great topic for the Lutheran Theology blog. It would be interesting to track Lutheran thought on the topic from Luther to the present, and see at what point some of the voices began to break with the catholic voice of the historic church.

smith_ad19 said...

"Once that did become a reality, ie. my ordination, I immediately posted photos and statements on my personal blog. I have also written a letter to my former congregation explaining all of this but only after it became a reality. It would have been foolish of me to write such a letter when I first left to go to England because, once again, I was assured of one thing only: a year of study. I was completely up front and honest about every thing that I was assured of."

Bryce, you very conveniently edit out so much in this tight little chronology. But from the whole it pretty easy to see you got an offer to study for the C of E version of what we in the LCMS call colloquy and just like we don't guarantee a pulpit to a pastor crossing over, they didn't either and so you hedged your bet. The question should be what would you have done if they had not made any offer to you? Come back to some Missouri flock to bide your time until the bishop waved his hand and made it so? Maybe not the worst thing to do personally, but pastorally and confessionally its preposterous. Then again, harping on about a public confession (i.e. what church body one belongs to) isn't a C of E strong suit.

I don't think Paul and I have any ill will toward you or even the choice you've made. It's how you went about it that upsets me and many others. Let it be known, Bryce never undertook to write a letter to his former congregation on his own accord like it appears in this blog post. Its this kind of deception and the kind of deception your buddy Stoltz was famous for. You're going to get lumped in with him if you do the same things he does even if you are smarter.

The beloved Synod has its good side and its bad. But your sanctimonious attitude to all of us left behind has got to go.

-Andrew Smith

Bryce P Wandrey said...
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Father Hollywood said...

Dear Bryce:

I do believe that if a man can no longer in good conscience confess what his church body confesses, and he is leaving the ministry of that body, it seems that the honest and honorable thing would be to resign from the roster. It doesn't need to be accompanied by a marching band, but a quiet letter requesting resignation would certainly be in order.

I don't think it would prove less hurtful to your parish if you're an ordained priest in the C of E but are still listed as an LCMS pastor. A simple letter of resignation to the district president would still make sense if your main goal is to avoid hurt parishioners (which is unavoidable).

As of today, you are still on the roster as an ordained pastor in the LCMS. Technically, if my church wanted to extend a call to you to serve here, we could do it. Maybe the district or synodical office is not on the ball. But I know for a fact when a local pastor had to resign his call, he was off the website within days. How long has it been since you have been on a track to ordination in the C of E?

Maybe it's none of my business, but if you want to clear your name and protect your reputation, here is your opportunity to do it.

I really don't see the point in trying to stay on the roster *even after being ordained in another communion!* And I also don't understand why the District President didn't simply remove you from the roster.

What the heck does a guy have to do to get defrocked around here?

Was there some reason you didn't just send a letter resigning your status as an LCMS pastor? There may be nothing nefarious in your not doing it (maybe you forgot in all the excitement) - but it sure looks weird - you've got to grant as much. I think that's probably the source of a lot of people's suspicions. Your path out of the LCMS just looks kind of sneaky. Maybe it wasn't, but that's how it looks.

Bryce P Wandrey said...
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Piotr said...

Gentlemen,

For God's sake, please!!! The amount of jumping to conclusion and reliance on all sorts of grapevine accounts that's driving this whole exchange -- while symptomatic of the way things are generally done in the LCMS -- is both unprofessional and unbecoming.

I don't know where this conversation is going, and who it's edifying other than being an easy outlet for frustration venting. What bitter stewards of Truth we have all become!

Piotr

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Piotr:

You have a point. There is really nothing good that can come from any further poking and prodding into the sequence of events of Bryce's departure from the LCMS.

Maybe the wounds need to heal without picking at scabs.

What is done is done. Bryce has explained the matter, and I don't think he owes *me* any explanations. Perhaps he may owe others (or maybe not) - but that's not something that can be settled on a blog.

Why don't we get back to theology?

What do you think about women's ordination? Adiaphoron or Scripturally prohibited? What about the validity of the churchly acts of women in communities that hold them out as ordained? In ecclesia, aut extra ecclesiam?

What does this mean to the order of creation and to the brideship of the Church to Christ? How about ecumenical implications? Can cooperation happen (and if so, how much) between churches with a differing confession on WO?

That's a great topic for the Lutheran Theology blog - especially the havoc this issue has caused Lutherans in Kenya, Sweden, Finland, and the Baltics. You certainly know more about the European Church and the state of Lutheranism there than I do. Maybe this is something that needs to be addressed?

Piotr said...
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Piotr said...

Larry,

You're demanding a veritable treatise from me!! And I'm just not sure that I can improve on the 395pp that CPH published on the subject earlier this year. Have you read the Harrison/Pless volume?

Seriously, however, I am quite open to doing a "blog symposium" on the subject at some point. I'm sure I'm going to come across as more reserved, at least in my choice of vocabulary, than you. I think I'd also be reluctant to construct the *main* argument against women in the ministry from the orders of creation, even though Paul gestures in that direction, but rather from the nature and extent of the Dominical mandate -- though I am open to discussing this. I may also have to re-read the Scaer piece.

Alas, all that will have to wait. At the moment I'm working on another lengthy (40pp) Luther piece that has been commissioned from me by yet another non-Lutheran publisher, so I'd better get on with my missionary endeavour and show why and how Luther is infinitely better than Thomas!

Paul McCain said...

Here is an example of my concern with recommending a blog site administered by a man who abandoned his Lutheran confessional commitments and has joined himself to the Church of England. Bryce Wandrey posted this on the American Lutheran Publicity Bureau's form re. communion fellowship. He is advocating that admission to the Supper involves only a communicant's desire and an acknowledge of the presence of Christ [in what that acknowledgment consists, Bryce does not say].

Why then should we refer and recommend people to a web site that claims to be a place for "Lutheran Theology" when it is painfully apparently that the site's administrator has abandoned "Lutheran Theology" and now only picks and chooses from it as if at a buffet, while embracing the Church of England, and now approves and by his membership in the Church of England endorses women's ordination?

This is the issue that Peter is having apparent difficulties understanding. The issue is not scholarship in service to the Gospel and in support of the Lutheran Confessions. That is welcomed.

The point is public advocacy for a blog site claiming to be devoted to Lutheran Theology, but established and administered by a man who turned his back on his ordination as a Lutheran pastor and the confessional commitments that entails.
There's the concern and the point.

Here are Bryce's musings on altar fellowship:

I think if we could leave it simply at "hunger" (due to sinfulness and need of grace) and belief in the presence of Christ's body and blood, as Luther does, then that would be the most faithful "closed" communion practice (according to Luther). And what a crummy phrase: closed communion?

And yet, some want to push it far beyond hunger and belief in the body and blood of Christ; they want to push it to "What do you believe on women's ordination?"

William Tighe said...

Well, I would recommend a reading oe rereading of Werner Elert's *Eucharist and Church Fellowship in the First Four Centuries* to demonstrate how inadequate a criterion of communion fellowship "hunger" + "real presence" is. It is a typically Anglican fudge, and certainly has little or nothing in common with the faith and practice of the Early Church (or of any surviving pre-Reformation body today, save possibly the Waldensians and the Moravians), or with historic Lutheranism (so far as I am aware).

Piotr said...

It seems to me that the parameters of the case keep shifting ever so slightly. No one on the Lutheran Theology blog has ever asked for an endorsement or a recommendation. Our hope has always been that our work will simply recommend itself (to some, and perhaps not to others, esp. given the more academic nature of the blog).

Paul, as I have already indicated, as a fellow Missourian I was frankly embarrassed by your initial reaction against the blog, and I remain astonished how difficult it’s been to make you see its inappropriateness. Your judgement was hasty, impatient, and along the line of least resistance (discredit the blog by discrediting Bryce and then discredit Bryce while a host of questions still remained to be answered). I believe you have every reason to pass judgement – as all of us do – but please do so (let’s do so!) in a substantive and balanced manner. Is that too much to ask?

I honestly think it is high time we all wrapped up this thread. It is generating way too much unhealthy excitement. And, at least as far as I’m concerned, I no longer have a clue what it’s about: Bryce, Lutheran Theology, Lutheran theology, or women’s ordination.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Paul:

I appreciate your concerns, but to be frank about it, Bryce isn't saying anything different than a lot of LCMS pastors and District Presidents. The open communion Bryce advocates is practiced openly and shamelessly in the LCMS.

I'd rather such ideas be discussed and debated on a blog than actually practiced in the LCMS. To endorse a blog is not to endorse every sentence written there. Besides, I'm in no position to give an imprimateur on behalf of the synod. I simply think Lutherans and non-Lutherans discussing Lutheran theology is interesting and intriguing.

Some have suggested to me (and quite forcefully) that due to the rampant open communion, due to members of synod openly endorsing women's ordination, lay ministry, and other false doctrines, that I should not "publicly endorse" the LCMS with my membership, that it is hypocritical to remain in the LCMS.

Such logic is analogous to what you're proposing - and I admit, it is hard to refute to a certain extent. But I do think a blog, being a personal discussion group that others are free to listen in on (or participate in) is a better place to hash out open communion and women's ordination than in our churches. Women's ordination is openly proposed in published memorials prior to conventions by synodical members with no consequences whatsoever.

However, I don't think we've yet reached the point of no return, where we become morally obliged to go into a state of confession or depart the synod - but I certainly understand those who do.

The issue of laymen being recruited to "preach" and "consecrate" is far more rampant than the Jefferson Hills church. This issue is promoted by districts in the LCMS. There is also a terribly unhealthy divide between the seminary-educated pastors and the "alternate route" guys - many of whom have a hostility (a jostility, for crying out loud!) to the Book of Concord and those who believe the BOC is actually a "normed norm" of our churchly life.

So, Bryce's views aren't all that "radical" at all, but have become rather mainstream in our synod. And I see that far more troubling and worthy of our attention than a private blog. The ALPB's forum itself is a "Lutheran Theology" blog of sorts. I don't read it, but obviously a lot of LCMS pastors do. I'd rather see open communion proposed (and refuted) there than imposed by pastors and propped up by district presidents who are either 1) heretical, 2) theologically clueless, or 3) too cowardly to practice the episcopal oversight they are so quick to invoke (episkope).

Piotr said...

Larry, I'm really grateful for your words here (though, of course, chagrined by the situation they describe). Back in 1998, when I was debating whether or not to come to the US, the LCMS seemed like the perfect church body in answer to all my prayers. Since then I've become more of a realist, much more of a realist. This leads me to two recommendations: (1) We honestly must learn to reflect on our own backyard for our witness to our neighbours to be less triumphalist and more effective. (2) We must create fora where people can discuss views and opinions and have them constructively critiqued by others without fearing that the moment they speak their minds they will be pounced on by some heresy hunter. I think willingness to learn and to listen, even when one ends up disagreeing, is fundamental. I am very well aware that not every medium is appropriate for this sort of exchange, not every website, and not every blog -- but that does not mean that all blogs should be the same.

Bryce P Wandrey said...
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Bryce P Wandrey said...
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Father Hollywood said...

For the record, I believe women's ordination is heretical (it is neo-Gnostic or neo-Montanistic). Open communion (which differs in degree depending on who the communicant is) is more along the lines of irresponsible pastoral practice than heresy.

Bryce P Wandrey said...
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Paul McCain said...

Bryce, just catching up on this comment thread. You continue to display here, as you have elsewhere, a strange attitude, to wit: "I've expressed my point of view, now you must respond to it."

I learned a long time ago that I have no more right to expect anyone to respond to my remarks, or to respond in a way I want them to, than I have an obligation to respond to somebody's opinions in a manner they may wish.

Your public actions speak more loudly about your level of knowledge of Lutheranism and Lutheran theology than anything you will ever write about it.

"Lutheran theology as interesting hobby" is not what interests me.