Friday, July 16, 2010

Welcome News From the Ecclesial Community In Which I Was Raised

News that "represents a larger ideological change for the 2.5 million-member conservative denomination, which is split between moderate and conservative camps" — Conservative Insurgency Topples Missouri Synod President. (Nota bene: there is no liberal camp.)

Victorious was "the candidate of theological and doctrinal conservatives who call themselves 'confessional Lutherans' and stress a strict adherence to the central doctrines of Lutheranism." Ousted was a man "criticized by traditionalists who bemoaned what they called his postmodern approach to the church," whom, "they said, had favored a nondenominational, evangelical megachurch model, and in the process diluted Martin Luther's theology." (Nota bene: the "nondenominational, evangelical megachurch model" represents a "postmodern approach to the church" rejected by "theological and doctrinal conservatives.")

The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod is about as close as it comes to High Church Lutheranism in America. I grew up with smells and bells (never too much, mind you, we're Germans), ad orientem, and even a chanted liturgy. Like Catholics, we even practiced closed communion, denying even other Lutherans a place at the Lord's table!

Once, while at a Catholic conference (still a Lutheran, I worked for a small Catholic non-profit, El Buen Amigo - Latin American Fair Trade Store & Community Center), I meet an older gentleman and it was established that we were both Missouri Synod Lutheran; he leaned toward me, and whispered conspiratorially, "More catholic than the Catholics." Of course, that isn't entirely true. If you're presided over by a president, not a bishop, you can't hope to be anything other than an ecclesial community, never a church proper.

That said, sometimes, in those moments when as a Catholic I am tempted to hope for a smaller, more theologically-correct Church, I look back nostalgically to my old denomination. After all, it's easier to achieve unity among 2.5 million mostly Germano-Americans than among 1.1 billion people from just about every race, culture, and nationality on the planet. And then I remember, however good it is to be among your own kind and the like-minded, it's even better to know that people with whom I share almost nothing in common except for the human condition, many of whom I'd likely never get along with at all, are my brothers in the Faith.

Anyhow, in celebration of this traditionalist victory — J.S. Bach's Ein Feste Burg Ist Unser Gott Performed by Münchener Bach-Chor Münchener and Bach-Orchester, Directed by Hanns-Martin Schneidt.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

As some one going to have dinner with a Missouri Lutheran tomorrow, your post is providential.

I also appreciate the link to the Fair-trade products.


9:43 PM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

Have a great dinner, Faustina. Missouri Synod Lutherans are good folk. A bit of an enigma in the American Protestant scene, they don't really fit into any box.

I managed that place about 16 years ago for a year-and-half. You could survive in Buffalo pretty well making under ten bucks and hour then. It seems to have grown a lot, or at least gotten a webpage.

It's run by a delightful and very quixotic Chilean former political prisoner who had a knack for putting the "non-" into "non-profit." God only knows how much of his own money he sank into his "lay apostolate" to keep it going.

I could write a novel about that place, and its style would be Magical Realism, of course. Going into $5,000 debt with Salvadoran nuns who ran a cooperate and trying to pay them back through somewhat shady dealings with Ecuadorian Indian sweater-merchants from New York City was just one of the interesting episodes.

9:57 PM  
Anonymous m.z. said...

I'm not sure how good the news is. The 'conservative' churches, more-so old citadels from the culture wars, are not retaining their youth and hemorrhaging. If you remember the old line prots saying wait until this happens to you, well, now it is happening. The seeker churches aren't doing much better. They have difficulty keeping members for 5 years. The family in this country, the real one and not the nuclear one, is dead in this country, and it is killing the churches with it. In 20 years, I wouldn't be shocked to see a professed agnostic or atheist rate of over 70%.

11:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My experience is that Protestant pastors/congregations that stick to their guns theologically and morally, and have outreach, are doing well. 17th Street Presbertyrian Church in Philly comes to mind. My Lutheran friend attends a very alive congregation across the river in Jersey. We are planning a German sausage fest tomorrow.

IMO one cause of the current disorientation is suggested in the Douay-Rhiems Bible, Tobit 6:16-22.

Good looking sweaters on the Fair trade webpage.


12:48 AM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

m.z., you make a a valid point. We all know that liberal denominations are going the way of the dinosaurs, but what of the conservatives? If the moderate "seekers" can't keep anyone for more than five years (and what right mind could stand more than five years of that crap?), then I fear your prognosis of mass agnostication may right. Look at Europe, particularly Ireland. They gave it all up in a generation. You're right; it's the death of the family properly understood, not that I've helped matters by moving overseas.

Faustina, I'd like to hear more abiout these Philly Presbyterians, and about your German sausage fest. Thank you for sharing those verses:

"[16] Then the angel Raphael said to him: Hear me, and I will shew thee who they are, over whom the devil can prevail. [17] For they who in such manner receive matrimony, as to shut out God from themselves, and from their mind, and to give themselves to their lust, as the horse and mule, which have not understanding, over them the devil hath power. [18] But thou when thou shalt take her, go into the chamber, and for three days keep thyself continent from her, and give thyself to nothing else but to prayers with her. [19] And on that night lay the liver of the fish on the fire, and the devil shall be driven away. [20] But the second night thou shalt be admitted into the society of the holy Patriarchs.

"[21] And the third night thou shalt obtain a blessing that sound children may be born of you. [22] And when the third night is past, thou shalt take the virgin with the fear of the Lord, moved rather for love of children than for lust, that in the seed of Abraham thou mayst obtain a blessing in children."

4:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually it is 10th Presbertyrian Church in center city. I went there occasionally until I finally broke with the reformation churches. That said, they had multiple packed services every Sunday. They had lots of solid ed for young adults- they talked about the hard stuff and the hard stuff about Calvinism. Then you could take it or leave it. One Christmas some of the college-agers went caroling in the neighborhood including local bars-they had street people in the pews along side respectable church goers. A lot of Good was happening there.

I do agree with MZ that a lot if not most churches are sick.(But hasn't the church always been coming down with some virus or another? But now we are in a culture where people just don't have to go to Church to be respectable. The disgusted and the lukewarm quit coming.


12:38 AM  
Anonymous M.Z. said...

With modern transportation, churches can appear more vibrant than they are. Many of the original churches were built to service neighborhoods. If you double the number of parishioners, but your servicing area has increased by an order of magnitude, you have the appearance of vibrancy, but in reality you are dying. On the Catholic side, you have traditionalists bragging about there full pews in both parishes whereas the rest of the diocese is half full. So, 5000 people can be an example of vibrancy but a quarter million is an example of dying.

3:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Alligators were once an endangered species and then they came back and now are nuisance.

From those 5000 who are willing to drive an hour to find the Gospel, God will replenish the church... when He is ready.


9:44 PM  

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