Monday, July 16, 2007

an observation on the Missouri Synod convention

The tentative schedule for the 2007 convention of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod can be found here: http://www.lcms.org/graphics/assets/media/2007%20Convention/Convention%20Schedule%202007%20-%20Todays%20Business%20-%20Master.pdf

Looking at this plan for the convention, I can't help noticing a couple of things, which will perhaps strike some as being judgmental, or bitter, or whatever. In fact, I don't think I'm bitter. It's not like I woke up one morning and realized the Synod has changed. It has been on a certain trajectory for years & years now. Nor would I shy from this observation even if, say, William Weinrich were President of Synod, instead of the current leadership.

Now my observation: despite the fact that the synod web site boasts that worship is a key part of the convention, just take a good look at the daily agenda for the triennial convention of the great Confessional church known as the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, and what do we see? There is one liturgy on Saturday, called "Opening Convention Worship Celebration with Holy Communion," a noneucharistic liturgy on Sunday morning called "Morning Prayer Service," a liturgy on Wednesday morning designed, I think, as a memorial service for church workers who have died in the past three years, and a "Closing Worship" on Thursday.

William Weedon has reported that the Saturday service was surprisingly good. For that I am grateful. I do not have any criticism of the substance of these services, except to say that it should be stunning and scandalous for the Missouri Synod to gather in convention and not celebrate the Lord's Day with the holy Mass. Instead, there was a "Morning Prayer Service." Beyond that, I wonder why the paucity of liturgical opporunities at the Convention? There is no time for a daily Mass? No time even for a brief order of the Daily Office, say Matins, Lauds, or Vespers?

Worship and nurture are two of the chief purposes of the Convention. Wouldn't it have been appropriate, then, to have several stations set up at the Convention hall for Private Confession? I do trust that those who planned the Convention had the best of intentions, and had no ill motives. Just step back and look at this convention, though, not with the eyes of one who has grown accustomed to the way things are in this synod, but as an outsider looking at a church that claims to stand in the great tradition of Lutheran Catholicity, and one will conclude that things just don't add up. I know, if a synodist reads this, he will conclude I am being judgmental, I'm being "Ft. Wayne" or some such sinful vice, and if a "confessional" man reads this he will likely wonder why I am going on about the obvious, why I am expecting the impossible, why I am being so idealistic, etc, etc. I was not expecting that the convention would be like stepping into a former time. Yes, this is our Church body, etc. But I do not want to "get used to it." "Ecclesia semper reformanda est" ought to be our attitude and our constant goal. Yet I am struck by the quietness from so many quarters regarding this convention.

I make no critique on the votes and acts of this convention. I merely think it is worth observing that my general impression of this convention is that of a corporate business meeting, with a few "Bible Studies" and "devotions" sprinkled into it. Why is this worthy of observation? Because I think it is a sign of the condition of the church represented at the Convention. It is a venerable saying that "Since our Church's problems are not political, but rather spiritual, we pray God to grant us repentance, and seek no political aim." In that light, I pray future conventions, whether at district or synod level, will be more concerned about the renewal of Confessional Lutheranism among us. The Augsburg Confession, for example, could be publicly read at each convention, perhaps divided up so that a portion is read each morning and afternoon. No time for that? Really? At a convention that has time for numerous Bible Studies, devotions, evening parties and receptions? I'm no expert, just a layman, wondering aloud, and praying for our Synod.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

a few historical & liturgical notes for this weekend

Lutherans who use Lutheran Service Book, unfortunately, are deprived this weekend of a couple of historical feasts. That covers a growing number of Missouri Synod parishes and chapels. Therefore, for their sake, I thought I would mention a brief word or two on the holy days historically kept on these last few days.

13 July is the feast of St. Anacletus. Anacletus, if we follow Irenaeus's list of Roman Pontiffs, was probably the same man as Cletus, who came after Linus, and preceded Clement. We recall how precarious the situation was for the Church at this early date. It is likely that Anacletus was driven into exile, and later returned to his chair. Like so many of our dear brothers & fathers in Christ, he was faithful to Christ even unto death, and won the martyr's crown. He was killed for the faith under Trajan.

14 July is the feast of Saint Bonaventure. I checked to see if LSB merely moved Bonaventure's feast (as an aside, I differentiate between feast and commemoration in a slightly different way than modern Lutherans & Roman Catholics do, I'll explain in a future post) as it does with so many other saints in the Novus Ordo manner, and unless my eyes missed it, I don't see it listed anywhere on pages xi-xiii, which surprises me, since other notable doctors of the Church are included, such as Augustine, Ambrose, Jerome, Gregory, Bernard, & Anselm. Bonaventure was one of the truly great men of the thirteenth century church, alongside Thomas Aquinas. (Both taught in Paris simultaneously.) The discipline of Bonaventure's life was Fransiscan in form. He guided the Order well, and eventually became bishop of Albano. He died while attending the Council of Lyons in 1274.

15 July is the feast of St. Henry, the Emperor. That feast falls this year on the Seventh Sunday after Pentecost, which means that he would be commemorated with a collect in the Mass. Henry, a man of the late tenth and early eleventh centuries, was well known in his day, and for a long time after, for his piety, holy life, and defence of the Church. At one point, a man as great as Emeror Henry was taught a lesson in vocation. He desired to retire and live the life of a Benedictine monk, so he asked for admission to the monastery of St. Vanne at Verdun. But the abbot would not admit him; he urged him instead to return to the rule of his kingdom. Henry fell asleep in 1024.

Now I do not want this weekend to pass without mention of another, more historical than directly liturgical, note. Namely, on 14 July, in the year 1833, the Oxford Movement was launched, when John Keble preached his "Sermon on the National Apostasy," at Saint Mary's, Oxford. The Oxford Movement is defined differently by different writers, more broadly and more narrowly, eg., but its beginning can certainly be marked at the ocassion of this sermon by the pious and unassuming professor of Poetry. Together with Newman and Pusey and others, the movement restored the Church of England to its former ritual and doctrinal heritage. I do hope, and pray, for a similar movement to take place in modern American Lutheranism. Certainly there is much we can learn from the Tractarians.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

text of summorum pontificum

One may find an English translation of the motu proprio on the use of the pre-Vat II liturgy, along with an accompanying letter, at the following link:
http://www.usccb.org/liturgy/bclnewsletterjune07.pdf

and the Latin text here: http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/motu_proprio/documents/hf_ben-xvi_motu-proprio_20070707_summorum-pontificum_lt.html

summorum pontificum

The Pope's long awaited Motu Proprio, Summorum Pontificum, cutting much of the "red tape" for wider use of the old Mass which reached its final form in 1962, is released today. Here is a link to a story on its release: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/new.php?n=9820
I will comment on it later today, after work, and after I have time to read and ponder the document. lhg