Monday, November 14, 2005

Who Are We?

I am beginning to realize that the Missouri Synod knows some things very well. For example, we know who we are NOT. For example, we are NOT Roman Catholics, we are NOT Orthodox, we are NOT Reformed, we are NOT mainstream American Protestant, we are NOT charismatic, and we certainly are NOT EVANGELICALS!!

When my parents and grandparents were growing up in the Lutheran Church, the thing NOT to be was Catholic. As a matter of fact, there was nothing worse than the idea that we were just a different “kind” of catholic. As I am growing up in the Missouri Synod and learning more and more about our history, it seems that we have a long line of groups that we are NOT. It seems that in my career in the Missouri Synod, the thing so far that we are trying to distance ourselves from (at least the more vocal among us) is that of the dreaded Evangelical. Now, I’ll be the first to tell you that I am NOT one of those mainstream, mega-church, feel good, polo-shirt wearin'-to-church-on-Sunday Evangelical ministers (actually, I’m not quite sure what I am sometimes, since I am, after all “just a Vicar.”) The atmosphere among the “in-the-know” theologically educated shuns this feel-good Evangelical, smiley, nice dressing and generally watered down group of happy-clappies.

Unfortunately, no one is clearly telling our people or our clergy what we ARE. Are we liturgical? If so, how liturgical can we be without crossing the historically dreaded line of Catholicism, or the mysterious, although somewhat alluring, line of Orthodoxy? Are we contemporary? If so, how many praise bands, testimonials, and “worship leaders” are we away from being general Protestants, or worse (gasp!) Evangelicals?!!

It's always a fine line that I find no one wants to cross. As a matter of fact, no one even really knows where it is, that is, until it's been crossed. By the time the line has been crossed in either direction it is not much longer until accusations are being made, threats are being lobbed by all sides and the fear of schism rears its ugly head in our beloved Synod.

So, here’s a real question, and I hope I will get some constructive feedback on this. Who are we as Missouri-Synod Lutheran Christians? How far can we go in either direction? Is incense too far one way? Are all out heavy metal Divine Services too far the other? No one really seems to know until it has already been done, and often times by that time it's too late.

I am confident that, for the most part, the majority of our pastors and theologians are well right of the center as far as theology goes. But what are we going to do about who we are? Can anything be done? Who knows? As for me, I’m gonna keep pushing that liturgical envelope until I can someday have people, without fear, follow Luther’s suggestion to “make the sign of the holy cross” as a rememberance of their baptism, to “let their prayers rise before God as incense” and all sorts of other fun and meaningful liturgical stuff that may be considered “too Catholic.”


Jim Roemke said...

No anonymous posts will be accepted on my blog site! If you have something to say and are serious about it then you better have the guts to put your name to it!

Preachrboy said...


One assumption you seem to be making here (that I would agree with) is that we SHOULD be striving for unity in practice. I don't think that is a priority for many who quickly tout the "freedom of the Gospel".

Surely a balance would be helpful here (and some fall off on both sides), but perhaps you would agree that the LCMS as a whole has erred too far on the side of "freedom".

Preachrboy said...

BTW: Are Psuedonyms and Handles and Aliases ok?

Jim Roemke said...

Tom (aka Pimp Daddy Flex) the old saying "with much freedom comes much responsibility" fits well with what you're saying. Yes, we have freedom of the Gospel, but does that mean that we have such radically divergent practices within the church that it is confusing? I'm not trying to institute a law here, one is not saved by doing certain things or worshipping in certain ways. What I crave in the LCMS is more clear cut unity and guidelines of what is acceptable practice and behavior. No one will say that, thus there is confusion amongst lay people and clergy alike on what it looks like to be in the LCMS.

Personal Diatribes said...

As an ELCA pastor I never thought of the LCMS as having too much freedom. In fact one of the big reasons I never left our Biblically Liberal , pain in the but Church was that there was too little Gospel freedom in the LCMS. I have been reading some of your blogs and just can't get by the term happy, clappy. I guess every Lutheran group has its problems. By the way when I was an active pastor I would have been clasified as a happy clappy high church liturgical kind of guy.
Pastor John

Jim Roemke said...

Thanks for your comments. My Dad is an ELCA congregational president and that is an issue we discuss often. As I mentioned in a previous comment, with freedom comes responsibility. It doesn't mean that we can simply do what we want when we want and how we want because of the grace God so freely gives us.

By the way, what does a happy clappy high church liturgical guy look like? (I guess maybe your profile pic gives me some clue!)
Thanks again for your comments!

Orycteropus Afer said...

Good graphic to lead off a thoughtful, well-written post, Jim. It's been given props in Aanother Round of Aardvark Honors. If you desire, you may claim your Aardie at any time.

Preachrboy said...

Maybe Pastor PD you weren't so much happy clappy as a "chancel prancer".

What's with the clown thing, by the way?

CPA said...

We are (or you, as a future pastor, will be) consistent preachers of justification by faith apart from any work of the law. We/you are preachers of salvation fully and objectively won by Christ on the cross and fully and objectively applied in word and sacraments.

If everyone was committed to these things, they would be very clear about where the line with Catholic/Orthodox and Reformed/revivalistic Christians are.