Monday, October 19, 2009

"Uncomfortable with our own skin..."

A blog really worth looking at is called Pastoral Meanderings by a veteran parish pastor (Pastor Peters) in the heart of the Bible belt.

In a recent post that muses upon what Lutherans are vs. what Lutherans perceive, or even market themselves, to be, Pr. Peters hits upon what may be the most pressing issue when it comes to Lutheranism in America: What does it mean to be Lutheran? What does our confession have to do with our practice?

While some of our parishes in the LCMS are in the midst of a decades-long confessional and evangelical catholic awakening, others (often pushed along by our church hierarchy and social and money pressure) are moving in the opposite direction. And these practices are indeed informing the doctrine, leading it around by the nose in a direction opposite of what we have bound ourselves to in our Lutheran confessions. In doctrine and practice, we have a disturbing diversity in our synod. It has become the elephant in the parlor that our synodical president simultaneously says exists and yet does not exist. And the millions of Lutheran lay people are caught in the middle of the pincers of the two opposing movements.

Anyway, I commend Pr. Peters's post to you, and here is just a snippet:
The drift between what we were and who we claimed to be and what we have become and who we want to be today has come slowly but surely. It is my conviction that the Lutheran struggle today is not between us and Protestants or Evangelicals or Roman Catholics. Our struggle is internal. We have become uncomfortable with our own skin. We have looked over the fence into the yards of other traditions because we no long like our own. It is not that we ditched all the history, we have reasons for what we do. Mission, outreach, evangelism, marketing, fitting in, becoming more American, science and technology... the list goes on. We have reasons for this and yet we also have a little guilt about the drift. This guilt is kept alive by those within every Lutheran church body who keep alive the confessional identity.

For the ELCA the Augsburg Confession has become a historical document....

For Missouri the Augsburg Confession has become less important to our history than Walther and democracy and congregationalism. When some in Missouri felt threatened by liberals in control, this became the means to maintaining orthodoxy. When some in Missouri felt threatened by conservatives, this became the means to maintaining their moderation. In the end it has crippled our church body and our style of governance looks like a bruised and battered body held together with splints, tape and bandaids. What Augustana spoke about has been filtered through the democracy of America and the urgency of Walther and a few ship loads of people who needed to justify the voyage. So the conservatives are out conservativing each other and the moderates are insisting that we are dying unless we change enough to make Jesus our first concern... all the while everyone pays lip service to a inerrancy... and confessionals speak a language about liturgy, sacramental theology, and life that flows from them as well as the efficacy of Scripture (that God's Word does what it says) and is attacked by both sides.

I for one believe that Lutheranism's core document, the Augsburg Confession, must be the pivotal confession in our self understanding, our raison d'etre, or we have no real reason for being...
You can read the entire piece here. And you might want to add Pastoral Meanderings to your reading list.

1 comment:

Ryan said...

"In doctrine and practice, we have a disturbing diversity in our synod."

What I have found terribly sad is that members of my congregation, especially the youth, want and seek the liturgy, when they move they cannot find it and so are left without church. And on the receiving end we have had families who have come from 'contemporary' congregations with no knowledge of the liturgy and despite efforts to reach out, they also stop going to church.

This disunity among the shepherds, who have full bellies, is so hard on the hungry sheep.