Thursday, April 30, 2009

Traditional Lutheranism

Thanks to my colleague Fr. William Weedon, click here for some magnificent pictures from the divine services for holy week and Easter conducted by Archbishop Janis Vanags at the Lutheran Cathedral in Riga, Latvia.

You'll notice the continuity from the pre-Reformation Church, as the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia (with whom the Missouri Synod shares fellowship) has retained ancient practices such as: incense, foot-washing, the veneration of the cross, Easter Vigil, High Mass, and continues to worship in the ancient Cathedral in Riga - built in 1211. Apb. Vanags was consecrated as a bishop in apostolic succession - a form of church order preferred (though not required) by our Lutheran forefathers. The political situation in Germany made episcopal polity with apostolic succession impossible - though the Scandinavian Lutherans (and through them, the Russian, Baltic, and African Lutherans) were able to retain the ancient practice - whereas we in the United States have a form of apostolic succession in which all pastors hold the rank of bishop (which explains our extraordinary form of ordination in which we are "ordained" (as presbyters/priests) and "consecrated" (as bishops). As our confessions point out, the difference in rank or grade between "priest" and "bishop" is a human tradition, not something mandated by Scripture. And yet, Latvian Lutherans were able to hold onto the more ancient custom!

The Latvian Lutherans are true survivors.

Not even Communism was able to snuff them out. The courageous Latvians, under the faithful archbishop's leadership, have even been brought back from the brink of the apostasy that plagues many other state churches to this day that have been taken over by Communists and Socialists. Nearly all of these apostate "churches" are in the Lutheran [sic] World Federation.

Someday, I would love to visit the Riga Cathedral and participate in our Lord's most Holy Mass where Christians have been doing for 798 years.


Petersen said...

Perhaps one of our bureaucrats will now cross examine the bishop. Did he get approval from the appropriate LC-MS business enterprise? Does he have gadget's approval? Has he paid the proper licensing fees?

I didn't think so.

Father Hollywood said...

And, I suspect he will be discouraged from participating in the internet survey concerning the Blue Ribbon Task Force for the Missional Structural Governance and Funding of Diverse Worship Practices in the Twenty First Century in our Synodical Walking Together Under the Ablaze!(tm) Banner as One People Under God With Liberty and Justice "4 All" - (BRTFMSGFDWPTFCSWTUAABAOPUGWLJ4A) - or whatever that acronym is.

But then again, as a Professional Church Worker (PCW) and a General Ministry Pastor (GMP), he may have been given an employee identification number.

But then again, maybe not. It's all very confusing.

Past Elder said...

Gotta love it when the top dog at a church body talking about the Gospel and the CEO where I used to work talking about getting our sales numbers up sound the same.

Just different products.

Mike Keith said...

I would also love to attend there!

William Tighe said...

Much of this "traditional" ceremonial in the Baltic Lutheran churches is not a pre-Refomation survival, but a post-Soviet revival of these things, based on contacts from the 1960s onwards between Latvian Lutherans and some "high-church" Swedish societies. Archbishop Vanags may dress in classical episcopal pontificalia, and the clergy in Riga cathedral (as I have seen myself) may use traditional eucharistic vestments, but out in the countryside the talar, or black gown is still the normal ministerial vesture.

Baltic Lutheranism in general was much more influenced by, and akin to, German Lutheranism than Scandinavian Lutheranism. The last Baltic bishops, some of them Laodicean Catholics, others aristocratic Lutherans, died out in the 1560s, and the episcopate was not revived until the early 1920s. When the German ex-landowners in Latvia were forcibly "repatriated" to Germany in the 1930s, there was a bitterly-fought referendum in Lavia over whether the Riga Cathedral should be given over to the Catholics or to the Latvian Lutherans (it had been the center of a German Lutheran body in Latvia thitherto).

Liturgical practice in Estonia has been in various ways "higher" than that of Latvia. In Estonia, however, all archbishops since the 1960s have been proponents of WO, and that blighting innovation seems to obtained a permanent claw-hold there -- much unlike Latvia, where one archbishop unilaterally introduced it in 1975, then his successor suspended it in 1986, then his newly-eleced successor got the electing synod to reinstate it in 1989, only to have he present archbishop suspend it again in 1992.

empesoumetha said...

I noticed that the Latvian church is not only a member of the World Council of Churches and Lutheran World Federation, but is also pursuing membership in the Porvoo Communion...

How exactly is it that the LCMS is in full fellowship with this church body?

Same question goes for the Ingrian Lutheran Church.

empesoumetha said...

I noticed on this set of photos that the bishop appears to be wearing the pallium. I don't think I've ever heard of Lutherans making use of that specific vestment. Neat.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Dr. Tighe:

Thanks for the brief history of the episcopal and traditional revival in the Baltics!

It is a great source of hope that no matter how far things stray from tradition, and no matter how oppressive atheistic regimes can be (and are) - so long as the flame of tradition is alive somewhere, it can be relit in places where it had been extinguished.

And even where the black gown is worn without chasubles, those churches still recognize the authority of the bishop and the need for priestly ordination and continuity. Those traditions are valued, and those traditions have survived in spite of everything else.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Emp:

It's a messy world.

Not all members of the LWF see themselves in fellowship with all other LWF churches. For example, Bishop Obare of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Kenya (whch is in fellowship with the LCMS) has made it clear that he does not see the LWF as a church fellowship, though the LWF defines itself in this way.

A few years ago, I quoted Obare's words, and people got really mad at me. Look, if someone out there reading this has a problem with that, go take it up with the bishop. I'm just telling you what he said.

Ultimately, church fellowship is a matter of pastoral care - it boils down to whom the local pastor communes and whom he does not. In the cases of episcopal polity, that decision is basically made by the primate or presiding bishop who oversees the pastoral care in his episcopal oversight. If Obare and Vanags decide they are not in fellowship with, say the mainstream Church (sic) of Sweden, then they aren't. The LWF can cry in its beer from now until the Lord returns, and it doesn't make any difference.

As far as the LCMS goes, all I can say is that the LCMS convention voted overwhelmingly (something like 98%) to enter fellowship with Latvia and Lithuania. There was really no issue made about these churches holding LWF membership. We are in communion with some LWF churches, and though some disgruntled former LCMS pastors try to argue that this means we (in the LCMS) are in communion with Episcopal priestesses - it simply doesn't.

The LCMS is in communion with whom the LCMS says it is in communion.

I can assure you that I would refuse communion to Mrs. Schori if she ever came to Salem Lutheran Church in Gretna (though I find it rather unlikely that such a thing would ever happen in the real world).

I suspect the pallium is owing to Abp. Vanags' status as the national primate.

empesoumetha said...

I don't quite understand why a church body would be part of the LWF if they were not also in altar and pulpit fellowship with allthe member churches. These things are indeed messy.

By being in fellowship with LWF churches, it appears that we are in fellowship with not only Episcopal, but also Lutheran priestesses.

What does Obare see the LWF as, if not a church fellowship? And why not join the ILC?

All of this mess just makes it more clear that we aren't meant to have these sad divisions.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Emp:

Not every association means fellowship.

There are many churches, for example, in the National Council of Churches that are not in fellowship with one another.

There may be other reasons for remaining in the association while refraining from extending fellowship to all the other members of the association.

There is also the issue that things take time. It may be (and I'm only speculating) that some of these churches may be in a period of transition from the LWF to the ILC. Perhaps there are contractual obligations that need to be settled first.

Again, I'm only speculating.

But the point is that we in the LCMS tend to see ecclesiastical membership as coterminous with altar and pulpit fellowship (and admittedly, much of the LWF sees itself that way as well) - but there is a difference of opinion on the matter.

It certainly is messy!

empesoumetha said...

Things do indeed take time. We must not be hasty with issues of fellowship, but I don't know if an entish pace is required either.

It is difficult to tell, from their website, if the LWF's official policy does indeed include altar/pulpit fellowship. However, they refer to themselves as a communion, which implies fellowship.

Also, the wikipedia article doesn't say much about the LWF, other than that all member churches have altar/pulpit fellowship.

I know that I would be a bit hesitant about joining an organization, labeled a communion, which is headed by the presiding bishop of the ELCA.

We don't much like it when congregations of the LCMS stray from our agreed upon official doctrine and practice, so I am not quite sure how the LWF would be much different. If a church is part of an organization, then it had better uphold what that organization teaches.

But who knows... I can't say that I know very much about the LWF or ILC.

Could you refer me to the Obare comments on the LWF?

William Tighe said...

A few comments and corrections:

1. The Latvian Lutheran Church at the last moment, around 1995, refused to join the "Porvoo Agreement," and it would surprise me a great deal if they are reconsidering this intelligent refusal, now that the Church of Sweden has all-but-accepted SS (sanctified sodomy), and others are following them. I have heard a report (but on uncertain authority) that the Latvian Lutheran Church earlier this year formally broke communion with the Church of Sweden over SS.

2. Abp. Vanags himself told me, when I interviewed him in 1999, that at a LWF meeting a few years earlier, he had seen liberal Western Lutheran Churches using promises of financial aid as a bribe (or threat to suspend existing aid agreements) to coerce the acceptance of WO. I did not gain the impression from him that he held the LWF in high esteem.

3. It may be that the continued membership of the Latvian Lutheran Church in the LWF is a compromise to keep its relations with its "sister" the Latvian Lutheran Church Outside Latvia (which has its own archbishop seated in Germany) -- as its refusal to denounce WO to be "against the Confessions" (as many of its pastors would like), instead of merely "suspending" it in `1993 "pending further study" certainly was -- from complete breakdown. That latter body, by the way, strikes me as in no whit inferior to any smaller Orthodox jurisdiction in functioning primarily as an ethnic club, and, much worse, 90% of its ordinands are female (the sound of the death rattle).

4. There was some opposition in the Missouri Synod convention that approved "Altar and Pulpit Fellowship" between Missouri and the Latvians, based on the fact that Abp. Vanags allowed (and still allows) the 8 or 9 female pastors whom one or another of his predecessors "ordained" to continue as pastors. That was the same convention that endorsed A & P Fellowship with the small Lithuanian Lutheran Church, but that latter vote evoked only a few opponents. I was rather surprised by this, because while the Latvians refused the Porvoo Agreement, the Lithuanians accepted it, and are still full members of the Porvoo Boondoggle. I asked the late Professor Marquart about this in 2003 or thereabouts, and he told me that "we flew under the radar on that one, but we really have high expectations of winning the Lithuanians over to sound confessional principles." Alas, the long-serving Lithianian Lutheran bishop Jonas Kalvanas died in April 2003, and when a successor was elected a year later, two Confessionalist candidates split the conservative vote, and the winner was a 30-year-old pastor who supported both Porvoo and WO. He agreed not to "push" WO, and has not done so, but he has kept the Lithuanians firmly in Porvoo.

William Tighe said...

Now that I've looked at the photos, I don't think Abp. V. is wearing a pallium (whew; for a moment I thought it must have been delivered in Riga to M. Pils iela, 4, rather than across the alley to #2), but rather a kind of apparelled (or embroidered) amice.


Are you sure about the Ingrian Lutheran Church? I could believe it of the Karelian Lutheran Church more easily than of the Ingrians.

empesoumetha said...

Its a pallium. Nothing wrong with that. Can anyone else imagine the LCMS president wearing one?

Its pretty sad when ecclesiastical organizations are used to push heterodox agendas by threating restriction of funds.

Here is where my "suspicion" of the Ingrian church comes from:

Past Elder said...

If it's a pallium, there's plenty wrong with that. As distinct from the Eastern omophorion, a pallium is conferred by the Pope to designate "plenitudo pontificalis officii", the plenitude of pontifical office for a metropolitan archbishop.

It probably wasn't woven by the nuns of St Agnes from wool from sheep raised by Trappists either.

We don't need garbage like that any more than we need garbage like financial threats to set you ablaze.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear PE:

Why the objection? I don't think westen bishops need papal approval to functon as an archbishop. Abp. Vanags is a primate, and his wearing of a pallium seems no different than my wearing a chasuble apart from papal permission.

I mean, I don't see the need to call vestments "garbage" - which sounds like the way some of our LCMS brethren would attack the bishop's use of a miter.

Past Elder said...

Since even before the Fall of Rome, the pallium is a papal garment. Wearing of the pallium by archbishops or large urban areas, metropolitans, was conferred by the pope as a sign that they were not autonomous in the Eastern sense.

So, it is not a sign of episcopal authority but union with Rome and recognition of the "bishop of Rome" as the church's top pastor. Hence the objection, not to vestments, but to the pallium, which, as I too believe papal approval is not required to function as a bishop, arch or otherwise, should be neither sought nor worn since it is precisely a symbol of papal authority or communion with it.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear PE:

You wrote: "it is not a sign of episcopal authority but union with Rome and recognition of the 'bishop of Rome' as the church's top pastor."

Actually, in this case, it is a confession of the opposite.

Sort of like the King of England claiming the title "Defender of the Faith" (Given to Henry VIII by the pope) apart from papal recognition.

Past Elder said...

Well, I can see that in a way, sort of like Napoleon crowing himself, however I would be wary of models drawn from English or French kings and emperors! Or churchmen in their state religion.

Still, as the garment has never designated episcopal authority, but rather the submission of an episcopal authority to the See of Rome, it would seem to have no place in Lutheranism.

Michael said...

He is most certianly not wearing a pallium. What you see is merely the ophreys on his chasuble.

empesoumetha said...

My first thought was orphrey. It doesnt look like it is attached to the chasuble though. It has the same crosses on it as Roman ones do as well. My vote is still cast firmly in the pallium column.

William Tighe said...

Well, if it's a pallium, where's the rest of it? It hangs down on the outside, after all, not inside. It would be silly to wear a little strip of a pallium around the neck; what's the point in that?

If you're going to take the line of "we're wearing a Roman rag to show we're not Romans, but as 'kosher' as the Romans," then it behooves those so doing to wear it correctly, or expose themselves to justified ridicule.

Past Elder said...

OMG, for the third time in as many blogs this year, I agree with Dr Tighe!

empesoumetha said...

I see the whole thing in this set:

Especially notice the picture of the elevation... maybe it is an orphrey that is just not attached to the chasuble?

William Tighe said...

Here's a proper pallium, properly worn:

And, actually, now that I've had another look through the photographs, I'd refer you to that of the Eucharistic consecration in Riga Cathedral. Note particularly the archbishop's sleeves, the end of his alb: they have embrioidered on them the same pattern as that on the "object" at his neck. I think that the "object" is simply a kind of embroidered collar to the alb.

Father Hollywood said...

Okay, I think I have the definitive answer regarding the burning Pallium Controversy (the next great epoch in American Lutheran history...):

I posted the question to my friends on a Scandinavian Lutheran yahoo group (not that these guys are yahoos themselvcs): "I know the devil wears prada, but does the archbishop wear a pallium?"

Dr. William Weinrich of CTS Fort Wayne, who has lived many years now in neighboring Lithuania and is friends with the archbishop reports: "Ha! Ha! Ha! The answer is no, but he does wear shoes."

So now we can move forward to the next great raging debate in the Lutheran universe, no doubt related to the Green Bay Packers or Warsteiner beer... ;-)

empesoumetha said...

Dr. Tighe,

I think we have been looking at different things. I have indeed noticed the unique alb collar before. I think I've also seen Russian Lutherans wearing the same thing.

Raymond Burke's pallium is indeed proper, but of course this is regulated in the Roman church. Should a Lutheran episcopal authority ever choose to wear one, they would not have to get it approved by Rome and could pick whatever bizarre design they felt a Lutheran pallium should be.

Also, Benedict has worn a pallium which is quite different.

I will gladly bow and accept defeat in the Great Pallium Debate... but I still contest that Abp. Vanags is wearing something different than I have ever seen before. Maybe it is indeed just a detached orphrey (if there is such a thing?) Maybe we'll never know.

The church is quite full of mysteries.

empesoumetha said...

I guess I want to try again just to clarify the vestment I have been referring to.

I dont think I can link to a specific photo, and I dont read Latvian... so maybe that link will work. What I have been talking about is the golden piece of cloth draped across the archbishop's shoulders with cloth hanging in front and in back... like a pallium. I would think orphrey, but it appears to be a different piece of clothing.

Not that I am still insisting on the palliumness of the item of liturgical clothing in question. If we have word that it is not, then it is not. But what is it?