Monday, April 07, 2008

The Seeker-Sensitive Takeover of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod

It looks like another denomination is going the way of "praise bands": the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. Although the LCMS has a wing of "Luthero-catholics," liturgically minded people who use a modified Breviary, there has been a strong cultural pull to slide into LCD (lowest common denominator) worship. Here's how one LCMS blogger views the current situation:
[L]ook around, dear friends. It's happening, and has been happening for some time. That much is incontrovertible. How premeditated it is and how many are involved is unknown...and moot.

We knew when Pres. Kieschnick was elected. It is not our Grandfather's Synod, after all. Doubt this? Listen to this radio interview conducted the very same day Issues Etc [a talk radio program produced by the LCMS - BJ] was canceled.

We knew when the 2004 Convention re-elected Kieschnick and the resolution to provide Contemporary worship materials passed.

We knew when Ablaze! was passed.

We knew when Fan Into Flame! was promoted in our Districts (that's the fund-raising scheme behind Ablaze!)

We knew when we read stories like this (note the Ablaze! Live Church in the bottom left of the first page. See more here). And saw websites like this. Yes, JH Church is LCMS in theory (to put the "best construction" on this, they have a very professional, sharp web design, and some slick marketing and branding. It is very effective marketing).
"Issues Etc." was no friend of happy-clappy worship, hosting shows on "The Self-Centeredness of Pop American Christianity" and "Praise Bands." The program, though sometimes critical of the Orthodox Church, aired shows on "The Market-Driven Church" with Fr. John Parker of the OCA and two programs on Eastern Orthodoxy with Fr. John Matusiak (OCA).

Rev. William Weedon, whose blog is linked to your left, was frequently heard on "Issues Etc." as well. He adds the replacement for "Issues Etc." is a touchy-feely show for women. Anyone taking bets on how long it will take before the entire LCMS can be described that way?



Blogger Chris T. said...

The election of President Kieschnick may have been the death of a canary, so to speak, but this has been building at least the last fifteen years or so.

I grew up in a moderate, liturgically traditional congregation of the Synod (though I would not call it Lutho-Catholic by any stretch). When I went away to high school, I went to St. Paul's in Aurora, as well as the smaller LCMS mission in town. Both were miles away from anything I had ever experienced. St Paul's is an evangelical mega-church with few Lutheran distinctives, and the mission was like a UCC church.

Oddly, having observed changes in the district I grew up in, the worst of the slide into middle-of-the-road evangelicalism seems to be coming from the Ft Wayne seminary, which is far more conservative than St Louis. The Ft Wayne pastors seem to be steeped in a kind of evangelicalism that is culturally very conservative, and I guess doctrinally somewhat conservative, but which has no real appreciation for the small-c catholic tradition prized by confessional Lutheranism.

So all of the liturgical conservatism of my home congregation (full disclosure: I left the Synod about six years ago) is gone, washed away by three successive pastors from Ft Wayne. The first of them pulled the altar away from the wall and the end result is American evangelicalism with albs and stoles.

Though I'm no longer Lutheran, it has still been very sad to see. That confessional Lutheranism is what led me to (Independent) Catholicism and the richness of the Western Catholic liturgical and dogmatic tradition. This new evangelicalism just leads to megachurches and a loss of Lutheran distinctives.

2:53 PM  
Blogger Fr John W Fenton said...

To say that "Issues, Etc." was "sometimes critical of the Orthodox Church" might stretch the limits of charitableness. Certainly, calling Orthodox "Spiritians" exceeded charity.

Nevertheless, as you rightly point out, the forcible demise of "Issues, Etc." appears to be another indicator of the demise of a particular ecclesial community that once knew, and unhesitatingly proclaimed, what it believed, taught and confessed.

6:50 PM  
Blogger Christopher D. Hall said...

Thanks for the "bump!" Chris T. is dead-on: what has been happening in the LCMS has been happening a long time--probably going back to the post-WWII years, if not further.

I enjoy your blog and your work Lancelot Andrewes Press.

Pr. Christopher Hall

6:58 AM  
Blogger Ben Johnson said...

To both "Chrises," you're right that this is not a new problem. At last I knew, CTS-FW had a liturgically minded dean of chapel, Dean Reuning. (He has held retreats for the LLPB.) I wonder how those in the LCMS now would see it?

Fr. Fenton, I hadn't ever heard the show discuss the Orthodox Church (although I found the links; downloading them is too slow). I had no idea they called us "Spiritians"! (As opposed to Christians, I guess? How ironic, given that certain passage in Acts concerning Antioch....) The end of the program is another sign of the transience of the order to which LCMS Lutherans were accustomed.

Pr. Chris, my pleasure - it was a good post! Has the slump really been going on 60 years? I know all Protestant churches have to deal with the cultural tendency to depress "archaic" liturgical forms. On a personal note, I think you have me confused with Subdn. Benjamin Andersen, who works at LAP. People often confuse us due to us both going by "Ben" at times. He is shorter, (much) younger, a better chanter, an ordained cleric, etc. And I enjoy most of his work at LAP, as well. Thanks for dropping by the blog; come again.

God bless!

6:30 AM  
Blogger Christopher D. Hall said...

Sorry for the confusion! Don't know why I had it in my brain--but thanks for straightening me out.

In 1945, a document appeared in the LCMS called since, "The Statement of the 44" calling the LCMS away from a "loveless" and "legalistic" attitude and toward more "mission-minded, evangelistic" identity and so forth. Interpretations of the significance of the Statement vary, but in general it's seen as one of the first organized attempts to call the LCMS away from its Confessional identity and toward a more Mainline Protestant one.

I enjoy your blog and visit often; keep it up!

9:02 AM  

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