Saturday, December 12, 2009

Vsevolad. Yeah. Whaaat's happening? Yeah. I'm gonna have to ask you...

... to use the new cover sheet on your TPS reports. Did you get that memo? Yeaaaah.

This is no joke. This is what goes on in the bureaucracy of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod, otherwise known as Initech. I mean, really. "Partner churches" vs. "sister churches"? Is it really too much to ask churchmen to use churchly vocabulary? And are the suits really that eager to use the word "partner" in the current ecclesiastical climate? Before they know it, they'll have Gene "The Bish Is Back" Robinson sashaying into the Lavendar Palace looking for one of those big-buck office jobs.

Do you guys even hear yourselves? Maybe it's time to get back to the parish. Then again, maybe that's not such a hot idea.

And here is a little detail that may have gotten lost in the shuffle: we are already in fellowship with Lutheran churches that are themselves in fellowship with the SELC. Did anyone get that memo?

Of course, nobody will be able to give one single theological or doctrinal reason why we are not in official altar and pulpit fellowship right now with this faithful Lutheran church body that is contending for the Gospel and has had close ties to the LCMS for many years. And if you can, fellas, feel free to weigh in. Instead we are getting a bunch of doublespeak. Actually, there is a theological term for it. It's German and rhymes with "edelweiss" - but only has one syllable and starts with the letter "s."

The good news is that the Russians are used to all the foibles of bureaucracy and politics. Hopefully, they won't have to wait 70 years for this "iron curtain" to fall. But can you just imagine the jokes they tell in Novosibirsk about the Purple Palace? It's almost enough to make one want to learn Russian.

Altar and Pulpit fellowship for Siberia now, Lumbergh! And give me my red Swingline stapler back!


Theophilus said...

Dear Father Hollywood:

I read with interest the confusing statement from the "Purple Palace" on "fellowship."

My reading of the New Testament indicates that "fellowship" was extended by the first Christians to all who embraced the actual covenant-gospel message Jesus had proclaimed.

Why does the "Purple Palace" have additional requirements, like full agreement with the LCMS dogma-tradition, which did not exist when the first Christians went forth into all the world? The need for those additional requirements is bewildering to me.

Blessings on your message today!
I look forward to reading it.

Theophilus, "Follower of the Way"

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Theo:

It's a great question. As far as fellowship goes, the Scriptures never say that fellowship is to be extended based on "the actual covenant-gospel message" of Jesus.

St. Paul cautions against communing those who are not "discerning the body" (1 Cor 11:29). He also speaks of the apostolic ministry of being "stewards of the mysteries" (1 Cor 4:1). One of the steward's jobs was to determine when someone should be served - especially wine - and when they should be refused. The office of elder/overseer in the early church had such oversight in the NT church, and continues to do so today. Our small catechism refers to this ministry as the "office of the keys" - and this divine madate to absolve comes with the other side of the coin - to exclude.

In Revelation, the Lord Jesus warns us against heretics, such as the Nicolaitans (2:6, 15). We are not in fellowship with such people - not based on their conduct nor on how much they respect Jesus, but rather based on their false confession of faith. John warns us about those who deny the incarnation of Jesus in 1 John (e.g. ch 4) as being "antichrist."

We are not to dispense the Holy Sacrament like a Pez dispenser.

An obvious situation would be if a Wiccan or Satanist came to the communion rail seeking the sacrament. Of course, it becomes more of a gray area when it comes to other Christians.

In the early church, we did not have a multiplicity of denominations as we do today. But we did have various sects that were not in communion with one another. For example, the followers of Arius (who were known as Arians) who denied the Trinity and did not believe in the divinity of Jesus - who had their own churches and bishops. They and the Orthodox (Catholic) Christians were not in communion fellowship with one another. Fellowship was a matter of bishop-to-bishop recognition.

The Arians are very close to your own confession of faith (or, as you might put it, your own dogma-tradition).

In 1054, Eastern and Western Christians broke fellowship with one another - partly owing to hot tempers and politics, but also owing to a divergence of confession. Subsequently, they ceased sharing communion.

And today, Lutherans and Baptists, for example, though they are all Christians who confess the Trinity and the divine and human Jesus, have vastly different confessions regarding Holy Communion. It would be hypocritical (not to mention disingenuous) for a Baptist and a Lutheran to share communion. A Baptist would refuse me communion based on his charge of my idolatry, and I would refuse him communion based on his not discerning the body.

The LCMS and the ELCA are not in fellowship owing to (among other things) a difference in what we confess about Scripture. We also have differing theologies of the ministry.

Fellowship is extended among Christians based on mutual and common confession. For example, the Lutheran Church Canada (LCC) and the LCMS are in full communion. I once had the honor to participate in a service with Dr. John Stephenson of the LCC - since our churches have full altar and pulpit fellowship.

We are in fellowship with churches that share our confession. At least, that is how it is supposed to be - assuming that no sinful political motives encroach into the process. In the case of the SELC and the LCMS, there are no confessional barriers to fellowship. Our churches believe, teach, and confess the same doctrine.

This traditional and biblical approach to fellowship (known today as "closed communion") is rather unpopular in the age of postmodernism and hyper-sensitivity. But it is really the only honest approach to fellowship. If I were to give communion to a Roman Catholic, for example, I would be assisting in an act that goes against what his church confesses, and would be interfering in his own pastor's relationship with him. And, according to RC canon law, he would be excommunicating himself.

Anyway, I hope this explains my reasons for poking a little fun at the PP and its gobbledygook on this matter.

Christian Soul said...

I don't know anything about this situation, but is it possible that the LCMS is not yet in fellowship with the SELC because it is too confessional or traditional for LCMS leadership?

Deacon Latif Haki Gaba, SSP said...

Maybe the best line from this story is where Nafzger admits that he might be the only man who understands these distinctions.