Sunday, June 6, 2010

Rome, Geneva and the "Geneva"

(This longer reply to a recent comment made by Pastor Marc Frey touches on several key points, so it's been promoted to continue the discussion here.)

Thank you for your comment, Pastor Frey. You bring up a valid point with the vestments, and it certainly merits more discussion and study, not for the sake of justifying the use of this or that vestment, but to understand how our Lutheran forefathers dealt with these matters of adiaphora. They didn’t just say, “Hey, it doesn’t matter whether we wear white or black or purple, since Scripture doesn’t tell us to wear one or the other!” They correctly applied the doctrine of adiaphora to their situation during the Leipzig Interim, and as a confessional statement against the false doctrines being foisted upon them by the Roman Catholics, they chose black over the white priestly vestments. What had once been free to them (to wear the priestly vestments) was no longer free, not because a specific Bible passage commanded it, but because the proper application of Scriptural principles demanded it. Somehow I doubt that every parish in southern Germany “did its own thing” in this regard, but that will require further study.

I don’t think there exists any single, pure, historical form that must be found and used. What does it teach? What does it communicate? Why is one or the other being used or discarded? How would a change in practice affect God’s people? Those are the questions that need to be answered.

I really can’t speak for those who have enunciated problems with the black gown per se. It teaches the dignity of the preaching office far better than the Hawaiian shirt, and it covers the man and reminds the congregation that they are not to hear the man now, but Christ. These are the purposes of vestments, as far as I am aware. The fact that it is called, in our circles, a black “Geneva,” does at least hint at a Reformed origin, regardless of pure Lutheran historic usage of a similar gown in some places. Something tells me that few men in recent years have worn a black gown because of the historic Lutheran origins Kretzmann wrote about. Neither do I think that black gowns have been used in WELS with the intention of trying to look more Reformed. My sense is that more often than not, we do what we do because that’s what we do. I think Prof. Tiefel at the seminary has been doing a good job over the past many years helping us to understand the “why,” leading many to put aside the Geneva in favor of the alb.

I hear and agree with your warning against going back to Rome in the process of fleeing from Geneva (and other places, of course). I just don’t see much Romanizing in WELS, compared, for example, to the LCMS. I don’t hear anyone in WELS insisting that a church must have a crucifix to be confessional Lutheran. However, it is not consistent with confessional Lutheranism to denigrate the crucifix or remove the one that was there because it’s too offensive to people, or because the Lutheran Church supposedly prefers the symbol of the empty cross, which is not historically accurate or theologically defensible.

As for every-Sunday Communion, I’ve heard no one in WELS speak of this as if it were a law we must obey. But I do find the confessional Lutheran practice, described in the Confessions, to offer the Sacrament every Lord’s Day for the consolation of souls. I hear the Confessions exhorting and exhorting God’s people to see their great need for the Sacrament and to seek it often, and that’s the reason given in the Confessions for why the Sacrament was offered every Sunday to all who desired it. The Confessions do not lump the celebration of the Sacrament together with the human traditions and manmade rites that surround it. They treat it as one of the twin towers of Gospel administration that makes the Mass/Divine Service what it is, together with the Gospel preached. Hardly a “high church” anomaly.

We’ll be doing our best on this blog to direct people to the narrow Lutheran middle road between Rome and the sects. It’s just that we see Arminianism/Evangelicalism as a greater threat than Papistic practices to confessional Lutheranism in the WELS, a threat that is so thoroughly ingrained in our own culture that it can rather easily slip through the door unnoticed until it’s too late.


Anonymous said...

Yes, it's absolutely true that there was a valid, confessional reason for wearing black academic robes in one particular region at one particular time in history.

But it's also absolutely true that the usage of black Genevas in the WELS has nothing to do with the Leipzig Interim. Instead, it has everything to do with Pietism. Pietism put pastors in black Genevas because of their faulty understanding of the pastoral ministry and the priesthood of all believers. Back then, the black Geneva was the equivalent of pastors wearing a Hawaiian shirt today. They wanted to send the message that the pastoral ministry was nothing special, that pastors had no special divine call or responsibilities. Instead, they denigrated the pastoral ministry and promoted lay-led cell groups.

So, then, we have to ask ourselves what situation we're in today. Are we in the WELS being forced by governmental law to adopt the practices of Roman Catholicism? Certainly not. Are we still under the influence of Pietism which seeks to downgrade the pastoral office and claim "everyone a minister?" Absolutely yes.

Thus, in our historical situation, WELS pastors should insist on wearing the alb and stole in a confessional statement against Pietism.

(Besides, the alb is patterned after the garment worn by Christ and the Apostles. Why would a pastor want to leave that behind to wear what John Calvin wore?)

Mr. Adam Peeler

Jeff Smith said...

You mean I shouldn't be wearing that flowered shirt.--Just kidding.

David said...


My congregation likes it when I wear the black robe, they would never call it a Geneva, because that's what they've always seen their pastor wear. So for them when I wear it, I seem more pastoral. Of course I think they understand why I wear an Alb but it's still not what they are used to. I can't think of one congregation that ever wanted me to wear a Geneva so I would be just like everybody else. We've just got a different take on the Geneva now that we are hundreds of years past the start of pietism.

I also wanted to say that although I like some of the things on this blog, some of them are still a little off. I can't think of anyone that I've heard on either side of the worship discussion say it doesn't matter what you do since it's adiaphora, so to argue against that type of attitude here seems like a straw man argument to me.

David Endorf
Pastor St. John-St. Peter
Cleveland Wisconsin

Lisette Anne Lopez said...

I have a few questions and am seeking guidance.
So, what I am trying to get from this blog is that apart from the Roman Catholic Church, the WELS is more concerned and afraid of protestant practices and teachings which are against salvation by grace alone as John Calvin fought for, like Martin Luther.
If this is the case, then, what exactly are the Arminianism evangelist teachings being taught in our Synod? Who is practicing them? And who is not seeing them being practiced, as they slip through the door unnoticed?
I guess I am asking for specifics...

Intrepid Lutherans said...


I don't know if I would say that the WELS is "more" concerned with certain Protestant practices and teachings than with Roman teachings and practices. I would hope we're concerned equally about any deviations from God's Word and the Lutheran Confessions. But I think I understand what you're getting at. It may sometimes seem as if those writing on this blog - both posting and making comments - are more opposed to certain false teachings and practices of various Protestant churches, than they are worried about "looking" or "sounding" Roman. Please be assured, all confessional Lutherans want to oppose anything that would take honor or glory away from Jesus Christ and His perfect work of redemption, or in any way reduce the comfort of salvation by grace alone through faith, no matter which side of the theological spectrum from which it comes.

As for specifics, I will ask you to be patient. I believe two things must come first. First, we need to be sure we all are using the terms like "Arminian," "Calvinist," "Reformed," "Evangelical," correctly, and understanding their differences from confessional Lutheranism. Second, we have to be very careful about "short-circuiting" the work of Pastors, Circuit Pastors, and District Presidents as they deal with what might be specific instances of someone in our synod practicing or teaching in a way that is outside the Bible and our confessions.

Look for a post in the very near future about the various branches of Protestant belief, so we can be using the terminology properly and in the same way.

Thank you for your question!

Pastor Spencer

LPC said...

Over here I have attended services conducted by some German migrant pastors. These pastors wear the black gown. I work with one of them and support his missions work. I have discussed doctrine with him and I think it unfair if some one suggests to me he is a crypto-calvinist because of this.

My synod does indeed recommend the alb but that is only a suggestion and not a hard and fast rule. They won't persecute you if you happen to wear the black gown.


Intrepid Lutherans said...

Anonymous (who has properly identified himself to the moderators of this blog) has left a new comment. We have removed his name so that the discussion may continue on the topic without involving any local congregation.

Pastor Endorf had written - "I can't think of anyone that I've heard on either side of the worship discussion say it doesn't matter what you do since it's adiaphora."

Anonymous replied - "I totally disagree. I hear this all the time in the congregation I belong to. For example, a few years ago there was a group of members that was pressuring the pastor to do children's sermons. My pastor had some very legitimate concerns about doing a children's sermon, but the members made an argument consisting of two points (1) other WELS churches do it, so it must be a good thing and (2) there's no verse in the Bible forbidding it, so the pastor's concerns are invalid. That's a complete and total abuse of adiaphora. And, sadly, now the pastor has been forced against his warnings and his will to appease a small but vocal minority."

Anonymous said...

Dear Intrepids,

I have 3 questions:
1) Why do you not print every post from everyone? Or do you only print from people who agree with you?
2) None of you have answered my simple question about where you find in the Bible one right liturgy to use in church. When will you? It all sounds like your personal opinion and what you like best instead. Unless I am committing some great sin for liking "Blest be the tie that binds."
3) Do you have other jobs? I'm retired. I can post all I want. It must take you hours to keep posting such long arguments that just go in circles.

Mr Raymond James

Intrepid Lutherans said...

Mr. James,

We will answer your three questions:

1) We do not print every comment from everyone because some of the comments we have received have been anonymous or crude or rude or slanderous, or have involved personal attacks rather than a brotherly discussion of the issues. On this basis, we have rejected comments both from those who agree with us as well as from those who disagree with us, just as we have published comments from all sides.

2) We never said there was one right liturgy to use in church. We have been giving many reasons for why some practices do not belong in the Divine Service, and our beliefs page has several Scriptural and Confessional answers to your questions. What it seems like you’re struggling with is that we’re dealing with the application of Scriptural principles rather than a single Bible passage to resolve every issue. To use an extreme example, we couldn’t cite you a specific passage that forbids a pastor from dressing up like a clown while he administers the Sacrament. But we could agree, couldn’t we?, that such a practice would be a violation of Scriptural and Confessional principles.

3) We will put the best construction on your question and assume that you ask it out of genuine love and concern for us and our families. Yes, we all have jobs. Three of the moderators here are pastors of congregations, two have full-time jobs in the secular world. It does take many combined hours to do what we’re doing. We do it because we love the Lord Christ and his precious Gospel which he has so graciously preserved for us in the Lutheran Confessions. We do it because we love his people and the church body to which he has called us. We do it because we are not content to be hired hands who run away and hide when we see the wolf approaching the sheep.

In Christ,
Intrepid Lutherans

Lisette Anne Lopez said...

Mr James,
Our liturgy stems from what is in the bible. What we confess as Lutherans, how we confess- it comes from the bible. Our Pastors give us the Bible in their sermons, readings, Psalms and in what we sing. Many songs sung have been passed down to us from historical Christians. We confess the Creeds. This is our liturgy in short, but there is much more.
Martin Luther translated the bible. The Roman Catholic Church didn't want the common people to hear or see the words of the bible. They wanted us to believe whatever they said we should. They told us to pay penance because of "purgatory." We were to work our way to heaven but Martin Luther read the bible and found that by grace and not actions one is saved who believes in Jesus their Savior. The Apostles, after Jesus ascension began the hard work of forming the Christian church, through the Holy Spirit. Later when the Christian church eventually became corrupted Martin Luther came and worked by the Holy Spirit, also. That is what broke the Roman Catholics from the Protestants. Martin Luther didn't want to actually break from the Roman Church, that is why we are Lutheran, because we do not follow all the other protestant churches. But, the Roman Catholics tried to kill Luther and did not accept him when he fought for the truths he found in the bible. We are catholic, but are not Catholic. Martin Luther did not find fault with everything in the Catholic church but they found fault with him.
Jesus taught us to baptize in His name. He taught us to take communion, his body and blood, for the forgiveness of sins. Some protestants in other denominations who do not use our confessional Lutheran liturgy do not believe that when you take communion you are in fact receiving Jesus' actual body and blood. Some other protestants in other denominations who do not use our liturgy don't believe in the story of Jonah, and many other parts of Scripture. Therefore, they take what they want from Scripture and create their own false doctrine, with their own messy liturgy not reflecting true Christianity.
Confessional Lutherans are true Christians and believe that Scripture is inspired by God. We believe in the entire bible, we confess it and live by it to our best through the grace of God. All of this, again stems from the bible. We are confessional Lutherans for a reason, guided by God not man.
God demands order- he himself is orderly and we have to have order in our liturgy, too. It is what respect we have for it that seems to matter here. We aren't teenagers who just do "whatever." We don't take he bible and throw it around- the same goes for our liturgy and sound doctrine and behavior.
I am glad you are retired- read the Book of Concord. Compare it to Scripture. You are obviously an intelligent man- see the similarities. If you can understand scripture, then you can understand the right liturgy to use in the church.

WELS church lady said...

In response to Mr. James: Why would these pastors want to state teachings based on their personal opinions? My pastor ha said that you can do a sermon on the liturgy alone. In the liturgy you have Christ crusified(died,buried,raised), Praise to God, Confession,Forgivness, and Absolution. During one of many visits to a relative's WELS church, the pastor's sermon topic was about how important our liturgy is and that we must NEVER loose it! After the liturgy goes, then what? The title "Lutheran" is taken off the sign. Next, the schools close, so the students cannot learn Lutheran doctrine. Ultimately, outside fellowship with reformed or 'other' religious bodies. These 'others' or neither Lutheran nor trinitarian for that matter. I would also ask that you read about the Exponential and Drive Conferences. These conferences were believed to be some 'harmless' Baptist deal. Wrong. Universalist groups are part of such conferences. Now back to the liturgy, yes, we must nver loose it!

In Christ,
Rebecca Quam

David said...

Dear Anonymous,

There are some clear differences between what I was talking about in my post and the points your brought up. I was talking about the attitude that it doesn't matter what we do since it's adiaphora. I've never seen that, people always seem to have clear reasons for why they want to do something different. I don't always agree with those but they have reasons for doing it that way.

Your post however references people who are making points about the freedom that we have to do things. I've seen these debates more than once and the people who are pushing for children's sermons do think it matters what you do even if it is adiaphora. They think that children's sermons are going to help out the congregation usually by making the place seem more family friendly and so bringing in more young people. They very much believe that it does matter what you do.

I don't think we have any chance of true unity if we mis-characterize people's attitudes.

The two points that you brought up are poor arguments but they don't apply to what I was talking about.

David Endorf

Anonymous said...

Hello, and thanks for taking the time to look at my comment.

As I read this blog I'm noticing the same problems that crop up on all similar blogs, that is, people talking past each other, people painting with too broad of strokes, etc.

Therefore, I think the big, overarching question that comes to my mind about this blog is as follows:

What is the purpose of the writing? I understand it is to "promote true confessional unity," but how would that look in practice? So far, the problems identified seem to be very general, e.g. non-liturigcal worship, promotion of ministry methods, etc. How about some specific examples of non-confessional practices you would like to see stopped?

Please articulate what a pastor would have to do to contribute to the true unity in WELS again. What are the action steps? In other words, what are you hoping every pastor in WELS does when he reads your blog, and how do you hope that changes his ministry?

I think this is important to get this blog some traction, because to simply say, "We all need to be careful about using certain worship practices," doesn't strike to the heart of the matter. Plenty of pastors who read that will say, "Of course I'm being careful!" while some on this blog will say, "By even having this or that practice, you are not being careful or faithful." And then, well, this whole thing is a "your word vs. mine" kind of thing.

Without taking a clear, practical stand on real, practical issues, this blog tends to be nothing more than chasing after a Zeitgeist. The premise of this blog is that the WELS is not united in true confessional unity. Lay bare the practices that do this so that pastors who practice these non-confessional methods may see 1) that they are doing what is wrong, and 2) what they can do to amend their ways.

Benjamin Cruz

David said...

Rebecca Quam

I'm a pretty liturgical person but we should be clear about how people are preserved from error. It's not by how well we keep the liturgy, it's by the grace of God. There are many liturgical churches that have not remained orthodox the Roman church, the Anglican, ELCA, and the LCMS.

David Endorf

AP said...

The following may be a particularly applicable passage of Scripture: 2 Timothy 1-10.

1In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: 2Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 3For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 5But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry."

Perhaps one of our pastors here can correct or add to this, but I see a few general points of application for worship:

First, worship should primarily be about the preaching of God’s word. God’s word tells us what he has done for us. Thus, the focus on worship should never be on what we suppose we do for God, but on the word’s focus.

Second, worship should be instructive and encouraging. Sermons, for example, should focus on a serious exposition of the text and application of law and gospel. What could possibly be more encouraging in this fallen world than the pure gospel of justification by faith through grace alone?

Third, everything the church does must be based on sound doctrine, which is easily corrupted. Should we give in to ears that itch for songs and worship forms rooted in the corrupting influence of false doctrines of Calvinism and Arminianism or the worldly tenets of sociology? Dare we think, even for a moment, than any device of man can possibly make God’s mighty word stronger or more effective?

And, yes, I actually work two jobs right now, which I must get back to. Thankfully I’m a fast typist.

Dr. Aaron Palmer

Anonymous said...

Pastor Endorf, I'm not sure I understand your point. Are you saying that congregations should be able to do whatever they want, as long as they have some rationale for it, regardless of whether that rationale is good or not? That's the impression I'm getting from your comments. That certainly doesn't agree with what St. Paul tells us about adiaphora.

Just because something is permissible, it isn't necessarily beneficial. Just because something can be done, it isn't necessarily something that should be done. Just because someone has a rationale for doing something, it doesn't mean that rationale is valid. (For example, the rationale you provided for children's sermons is not valid--we don't do things in worship simply to please people.)

This is the point that is sorely lacking in discussions about worship. People think that simply proving worship forms are an adiaphoron means that they have made the case for contemporary worship. Nothing could be further from the truth. You must prove not only that contemporary worship is permissible, but also that it is beneficial--just as beneficial as liturgical worship.

This is, I think, why most promoters of contemporary worship try to focus the discussion on what is permissible rather than on what is beneficial. It's impossible for them to make the case that something cooked up by false teachers in the last 50 years is somehow more beneficial than something tried and tested by orthodox Christianity for 2000 years.

Mr. Adam Peeler

David said...

Mr. Peeler,

I said nothing of the kind. I said that it is unfair to characterize those people who are changing worship as doing so flippantly and without reason simple because it's adiaphora. They do have reasons, and if we are going to have true unity we need to understand what those are and talk to each other not past each other.

I've noticed that the reason they tend to focus on what is permissible is because they run into a lot of people who draw lines where God hasn't.

For instance who set the standard that it has to be more beneficial than the liturgy? How about something that is as beneficial? More than that who gets to judge what's beneficial for one congregation to do? What test exactly has the liturgy passed for the past 2,000 years? The Catholic Church fell into error as has the Anglican, ELCA, LCMS.

Yours in Christ,
Reverend David Endorf

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

Mr. Gorman,

I do thank you for making out that list and will try to comment on portions of it later on.

But I want to make it clear that Intrepid Lutherans does not endorse any single version of the liturgy as inalterable and sacrosanct, nor do our Confessions speak of any rites or ceremonies in this way.

If we lose our balance on either side of this, we're in trouble. If we take the "freedom to change rites" sections of the Confessions to their extreme and abandon liturgical worship entirely, we stray from the spirit of the Confessions. If we take the "traditional rites should be used" sections to their extreme and condemn any change anyone makes, we also stray from the spirit of the Confessions.

Love for the pure truth of Christ and for the people of Christ (past and present) will keep us from losing balance on either side. Trust in the power of the Means of Grace will keep us from depending on any manmade rite to gather, enlighten and sanctify the Church.

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

Pastor Endorf said, "They do have reasons, and if we are going to have true unity we need to understand what those are and talk to each other not past each other."

Pastor Endorf is right about this. We do need to understand what their reasons are for the changes they make, and I invite them to give their reasons here and anywhere else.

Here's a summary of a reason I've heard: "The 18-35 year old crowd is disenfranchised with the established churches and with authority in general, and is looking to encounter God in a more relevant, informal setting."

There's a reason. Is it a good one?

Anonymous said...

Pastor Endorf,

I think I finally understand what you're saying. Yes, of course, people have reasons for what they do. That much is obvious. Who ever claimed that the supporters of contemporary worship do so without any reasons at all for doing so?

But just because someone has a reason for doing something doesn't mean it's a good or valid or wise or beneficial reason. The Apostle Paul is very clear on that.

As Pastor Rydecki observed, the typical reason people give for starting contemporary worship is because it's more "relevant" to "the young people".

There are three flaws in this reason. First, it ignores the overwhelming evidence showing that contemporary worship is mainly a baby-boomer fad and that 20-somethings are more apt to see through the trendiness and phoniness of contemporary worship in favor of something with more substance and history.

Second, it derives purely from human arrogance. It is arrogant to assume that our generation is somehow completely and totally different than all other generations that have lived and been served well by the liturgy over the last two millennia. It's also arrogant to assume that some praise band can come up with something better on a weekly basis than all of the great Christian theologians and writers and musicians of the past 2000 years combined.

Third, it comes from a flawed understanding of the means of grace. We cannot make the law or gospel more relevant or powerful than they already are. Nothing we do in worship can make them more relevant or powerful than they already are. The Holy Spirit relates them directly to our hearts through the means of grace. It's not our job.

Finally, let me answer the questions you pose:

"For instance who set the standard that it has to be more beneficial than the liturgy?"

Who said contemporary worship has to be proved more beneficial than liturgical worship? I said that it has to be at least as beneficial. Do you not agree? Why in the world would anyone want to scrap the liturgy in favor of something that they themselves admit isn't as beneficial? Aren't we then offering the gift of Cain and saying, "Well, this isn't as good as what I could have have given, but it's good enough for you God." Aren't we then being cruel to starving souls and saying, "Well, I could have fed you a rich banquet, but these stale crackers are good enough."

"More than that who gets to judge what's beneficial for one congregation to do?"

Ultimately, the pastor is called to decide what's beneficial for his congregation. Too many pastors, though, would rather do what's merely acceptable or what's popular or what the people are pressuring him to do.

"What test exactly has the liturgy passed for the past 2,000 years?"

It passed the test of countless generations. It passed the test of apostles, church fathers, saints, martyrs, and reformers. Is that not a good enough test for you? What greater test could there be?

"The Catholic Church fell into error as has the Anglican, ELCA, LCMS."

Yes, but they fell into error despite the liturgy, not because of it. And even to this day many people within those churches are still members of the Holy Christian Church due to the liturgy, which continues to proclaim law and gospel to them every week, even if their pastors don't.

Compare that to contemporary worship which was conceived and born by false teachers. It was designed specifically to lead people into false doctrine. Thus, people fall away because of it, not despite it. And once preaching fails, there's nothing left in contemporary worship to preserve souls.

Mr. Adam Peeler

Anonymous said...

Dear Intrepids,

Since I notice you will not print any of my posts which disagree with you, this will be my last. (I notice you have also taken off other posts which perhaps you were embarassed about.) Is this a truly open forum or not? Maybe you will have courage to print this. Maybe not.

Mark 10:13-16 -- is that not a valid reason to have a children's service?

You never answered Mr. Benjamin Cruz's question. What exactly do you hope to accomplish with this blog? Do you want us all to use the same liturgy to be confessional Lutherans? Pastor Rydecki seems to say no above, but then every other form of worship besides the same liturgy is condemned as false doctrine and bad for people. So what do you want? Will we only be united when we agree with you? Because I don't think I'll ever agree with you until you start using the Bible.

Pastor Endorf hit on a big problem here. Your arguments are your opinions. Who sets the standards for what is "the best" and the "only acceptable" way to worship? Pastor Spencer earlier revealed (on a post now deleted) that his personal opinion was that contemporary worship was all bad. Now Mr. Peeler makes a sweeeping statement that trying to be relevant to young people is "derived purely from arrogance" and that all "contemporary worship was conceived and born by false teachers. It was designed specifically to lead people into false doctrine. Thus, people fall away because of it, not despite it." And "nothing can make law and gospel more relevant than they already are in worship." Is that so? Then why did we switch from preaching in German to English? Why did we switch from the King James to the NIV?

How can you make such statements like that? Who sets the standards and makes those judgments? God doesn't. It is personal opinions. And it is my personal opinion that if you expect everyone in the WELS to be united by your personal opinions, you will destroy it.

This will be my last post. Maybe you will cheer. But I hope you have the courage to print it unlike my other ones. I think I have better things to do with my time than argue with you all when you don't seem to really want to listen and discuss anything.

Very sadly,
Mr. Raymond James

Anonymous said...

"Mark 10:13-16 -- is that not a valid reason to have a children's service?"

No. Not at all. Look at the context. These things are not happening during public worship. Jesus never would have dreamed of interrupting worship in the synagogue in order to have the kids ramble up to the front. We see very clearly in Luke 4 that Jesus strictly followed the very traditional and very formal synagogue order of service. This is the very same order of service which the Apostles adopted for use in the Christian Church and came to be known as the liturgy.

"Now Mr. Peeler makes a sweeeping statement that trying to be relevant to young people is 'derived purely from arrogance'"

Sweeping? I suppose the law is usually sweeping in its accusations. I provided a clear explanation for my statement. If you disagree, you should explain why.

"and that all 'contemporary worship was conceived and born by false teachers'"

This is a simple historical fact. Even the supporters of contemporary worship concede this fact.

"And 'nothing can make law and gospel more relevant than they already are in worship.' Is that so? Then why did we switch from preaching in German to English? Why did we switch from the King James to the NIV?"

The switch from German to English and the switch from KJV to NIV had absolutely nothing to do with relevancy. They were about clear proclamation. There's a HUGE difference between the two.

"Who sets the standards and makes those judgments? God doesn't."

He doesn't? God most certainly does give us standards about the efficacy of the means of grace, the need for order and propriety in worship, the warning about listening to and imitating false teachers, and so on.

Now obviously God leaves it our human judgment to apply these things, but I think that's the whole point that the owners of this blog are making. We need to use serious and mature Christian judgment in discussing and deciding these issues. It's not as simple as saying we all have freedom and therefore each person can do whatever he or she wants to do.

Mr. Adam Peeler

Intrepid Lutherans said...

Mr. James,

We're trying to have a mature discussion here. You know very well that we've posted most of your comments, and all of them have disagreed with us. It's not as if you said anything new in the comments we rejected.

You also know very well that in the comments we rejected you got rather nasty and rude, and that's not the tone we want to have for the discussion on this blog.

So we have courageously published your last comment and we wish you well and God's blessings. May you continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Intrepid Lutherans

Intrepid Lutherans said...

Mr. James,

Pastor Spencer here. Please allow me to reply to your concerns in order -

"I notice you will not print any of my posts which disagree with you,. . ."

Yes, this is an open forum. But we are "moderators," and "editors," not simply funnels through which anything and everything is allowed to pass. Rest assured there are good reasons why a number of posts - not just yours - are not printed.

"Mark 10:13-16 . . . a valid reason to have a children's service?"

Not necessarily. But perhaps you mean "children's sermon." Still, Jesus in this context is not talking about worship services, or even sermons, but about keeping children away from Him. These are two different subjects.

Who is advocating that we prevent little children from coming to Jesus or He to them? Certainly not us! The Means of Grace are able to work on children as well as adults just as they are. The words of the Gospel and the promises and water of Baptism are always able to create and strengthen faith. They do not need either a "children's service," or "children's sermon" in order to "work."

"You never answered Mr. Cruz's question. . . Do you want us all to use the same liturgy to be confessional Lutherans?"

In fact, we have answered both questions numerous times and on our pages - "What We Believe," and "Stand With Us," among other times and places. We would like the WELS to be united once again in both doctrine and practice. And if by "same liturgy" you mean exact same words, music, order, etc.... the answer is "no." If you mean contain the Means of Grace in all their glory and workings, then "yes."

"So what do you want? Will we only be united when we agree with you? Because I don't think I'll ever agree with you until you start using the Bible."

We will be united again when we all agree with each other in all areas of doctrine and practice. It was true at one time, and it can be true again. And we are, have been, and will continue to use the Bible. Once again, look at our pages and posts more closely. The Bible is most certainly there!

"Who sets the standards for what is "the best" and the "only acceptable" way to worship? Pastor Spencer earlier revealed (on a post now deleted) that his personal opinion was that contemporary worship was all bad. Now Mr. Peeler makes a sweeeping statement . . . "

We find the standards in the Bible and in the Lutheran confessions. I (Pastor Spencer) have seen a number of so-called "contemporary" services, and have found each one of them lacking in many ways. We're going to be looking at that term "contemporary worship" in a few days. I hope you come back to read that post. It will be very enlightening.

I will let Mr. Peeler explain and defend his own comments.

"Who sets the standards and makes those judgments? God doesn't. . . . you will destroy it.(the WELS)"

Yes, God does indeed set standards for worship. Our observations based on His Word and the confessions are not just personal opinions.

You give us far too much power. Intrepid Lutherans cannot "destroy" the WELS all by themselves.

"This will be my last post. . . . I have better things to do with my time than argue with you all when you don't seem to really want to listen and discuss anything."

Please don't go away mad. In fact, don't go away at all. We want you to be part of the discussion. But we also want you to consider fairly what we have to say.


Pastor Spencer

Christopher S. Doerr said...

At this point I am not able to sign my name to the "What We Believe," as I feel it is not clear enough. Are there plans to make changes to the "What We Believe" as requests for clarification come in? If so, what will happen to the signatures you have already received--will they be asked to re-sign? If there will not be changes, why not?

One specific example of a point that makes me uncomfortable is what I brought up in my only other comment, when I asked if it was the position of Intrepid Lutherans that a pastor or congregation be put under discipline simply for using something besides the liturgy. I am happy with the answer you gave me, which was "No," and with the explanation. However, I feel that the "What We Believe" is not clear enough on this point. Others on this blog seem to think your answer would be "Yes." Still others seem to say your answer has to be "Yes" or you aren't orthodox enough for them--(And I would confidently say that such a position is another way to promote disunity in our synod). Your "What We Believe" as currently written can give the impression that Intrepid Lutherans might be in the crowd that says the Christian Worship hymnal isn't Lutheran enough. Since you aren't in that crowd, it would be good to distance yourselves from them, and the place to do that is on your "What We Believe" page.

That is just one example of a clarification I would request.

I would also like to say that Benjamin Cruz's remarks struck a chord with me. The "blog" format lends itself to promoting conversations, but the way comments end up scattered here and there under various articles and blog posts it seems hard to use a blog to build consensus on many topics. Maybe you already have a remedy in mind for this.

Thank you for considering my comment and I look forward to your response.

Pastor Christopher S. Doerr
Waupun, Wisconsin

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

Pr. Doerr,

(Please see the latest post entitled "Clarifying What We Believe" with the reply to your comment. Once again, it got too long!)

Anonymous said...

Back to the original topic: When I was a kid in the '50's and '60's every WELS pastor I met wore black. I believe it had nothing to do with either the Interim or Calvin. That's just the way it was. And it was good. It was like the WELS uniform, serving as an outward symbol of our inward unity. I often wish we could go back to those days.
Then white and other more exotic vestments came in, it seems to me, not as a result of Romanism, but because more and more we became LCMS wannabe's - the same as the church growth movement, the hyperliturgical movement, and the abomination of so-called "incarnational theology." All LCMS wannabe-ism.
For me, though, there's a far weightier reason for wearing black: My wardrobe consultant insists that, with my pale complexion, I should not be wearing white, and I'm convinced she's right. Once in awhile I do wear white, simply to assert my Christian freedom, and to remind her that the woman shall not have authority over the man in the church.
I am happy for those darker-complexioned brothers who look good in white. Of course, that's not what it's all about. I won't tell you, though, how many women were drooling over the good-looking presiding minister at a WELS Reformation rally a few years ago when he came out in his red chasuble. Envious? Nah - I'm over it.

Pastor Mark Porinsky
Faith Lutheran Church
Dexter, Michigan

Anonymous said...

"All LCMS wannabe-ism."

Nah, I don't think that's it at all. Why would the WELS suddenly get a case of LCMS "wannabe-ism" in the 60s and 70s, right after the split, when the hard feelings against the LCMS were at their peak? It doesn't make any historical sense.

I think WELS pastors started wearing albs simply because more and more of them started to become educated about the history of the church and the liturgy. From what I'm told, in the past, worship classes at the Seminary consisted of singing hymns for an hour or two a week. But as more and more WELS pastors took the initiative to learn about worship, and as the Seminary actually started teaching worship history, more and more pastors stopped being content with wearing black simply because that's what everyone else in the synod was wearing, and started saying, "Wait a second, black was introduced by the Pietists? Jesus, the Apostles, the Church Fathers, and Luther all wore albs? Maybe we should restore a part of worship history that we've lost."

I know you were trying to be silly talking about your skin tone, but I've heard too many pastors talk about vestments flippantly, rejecting the alb because of their skin tone or because they're afraid it makes them look fat, or things like that. Making decisions about vestments based on personal comfort or preferences goes against the very spirit of wearing vestments, which is to hide the man and his own fashion sense. I seriously doubt Aaron made light of his priestly garb. Maybe WELS pastors should take their vestments a bit more seriously.

Mr. Adam Peeler

AP said...

I think many pastors take thier vestments very seriously. On the other hand, I wonder how many WELS members have the slightest idea what the vestments mean. This discussion indicates a more general problem in the WELS--ignorance. As a synod, I think we have done a horribly poor job of educating our members about church doctrine, history, and practice. It would be interesting to see what percentage of WELS members could even name the documents of the Book of Concord. I know some congregations do try hard to educate members on these things, but I think the issue needs to be addressed on a synod-wide basis. It's hard to deal with issues of doctrine and practice when people do not even fully understand the correct doctrine and practice of their own church.

Dr. Aaron Palmer

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

Pr. Porinsky,

You hit the nail on the head when you said, "When I was a kid in the '50's and '60's every WELS pastor I met wore black. I believe it had nothing to do with either the Interim or Calvin. That's just the way it was."

This is what I said in the original post, "We do what we do because that's what we do." While this may work for awhile in a pragmatic sense, it's a rather shallow way to approach the ministry. The laity can hardly be blamed for a lack of loyalty to liturgical forms when the message they receive from their pastor is, "It doesn't matter why we do it. It has no meaning. It's just the way it is." With flimsy arguments like that, it's no wonder the poor people turn to something they find to be more "meaningful and relevant."

When I entered the seminary, I had hardly seen an alb worn. Black Geneva only in my home congregation for a long time, then the white "Geneva" came out after Memorial Day because it was "cooler" to wear white during the summer than black. My first introduction to the alb was probably at Northwestern College, but even there it wasn't the vestment of choice yet. I thought it looked silly.

In Prof. Tiefel's worship class at the seminary, I remember challenging him on the use of the alb. "What if I just don't like the way it looks? Why should I wear it?"

I was a thorn in the Professor's flesh for a few years, but he finally broke through my stubbornness with the simple facts of history and with the more important evangelical purposes behind the liturgical forms. It had nothing to do with copying the LCMS.

But the fact that the LCMS had been concerned about the history and meaning behind Lutheran worship forms long before WELS ever cared about it is not something for WELS to brag about, either.

Anonymous said...

Aaron's priestly garb was commanded by God. Ours is not. Big difference.
But do scholars contend that the alb-like garments worn by Jesus and the Apostles were significantly different from the standard dress of their culture?
Is it possible to confuse culturally conditioned customs with timeless precepts?
Is it possible that clerical garb - whether black or white or red all over - rather than hiding the man, might in many cases draw undue attention to the man?
Is it possible to exalt concern for liturgy and vestments to such a level that we detract from the Gospel?
Sometimes the things we do produce the opposite result of what we intend.
When I was first in the ministry I thought, "If only I could be 40 years old, people will respect me." It didn't happen.
In the past decade I've come across several brothers who thought, "If I start wearing a clerical collar, people will respect me." Guess what: It didn't happen. (By the way, I have no objection to clerical collars in themselves.)
After a worship service a few months ago I made a joking remark to one of my members as he was leaving church. He replied, "And you expect me to pay attention to some guy who wears a dress to church?" Of course, he was joking. Or was he?

Pastor Mark Porinsky
Faith Lutheran Church
Dexter, Michigan

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

Pr. Porinsky,

You ask some very good questions, and I appreciate your comments.

I will be the last to say that our vestments are commanded by God like Aaron's were. Can we say that God was teaching his people something about the dignity of Aaron's office? Absolutely. Can we say that the preaching office today is still to be honored? Yes, and all the more in opposition to those who teach falsely regarding the Means of Grace. Here's a quote from the Apology, Art. XIII:

It is helpful, so far as can be done, to honor the ministry of the Word with every kind of praise against fanatical people. These fanatics imagine that the Holy Spirit is given not through the Word, but through certain preparations of their own. For example, they imagine He is given if they sit unoccupied and silent in far-off places, waiting for illumination, as the Enthusiasts formerly taught and the Anabaptists now teach.

The purpose of the vestments is to both cover the man and to teach the dignity of the office.

But you're right that every good thing can be abused. Too much emphasis can be placed on the man, if we're not careful to teach the proper meaning of the vestments.

Too much emphasis can also be placed on the man if the man allows his own scholarship or cute stories to come through more than the voice of Christ. I've seen this happen. The more we speak with divine authority as those who have just come from the presence of God with a message for his people, the better.

Anonymous said...

"Aaron's priestly garb was commanded by God. Ours is not. Big difference."

I knew someone was going to say this as soon as I put Aaron's name in my comment. But if you'd like to go back and read what I actually wrote, you'll see that that wasn't my point at all. My point was simply that, just as Aaron took seriously what he wore when he presided at worship, our pastors today should take seriously what they wear when they preside at worship. I'd even go so far as to say that our New Testament Christian freedom when it comes to vestments will lead us to be more serious about it than less serious. God now gives us Christian freedom because he trusts us to make good and wise decisions. When we instead say flippantly, "We're free to do anything, so I'm gonna wear what goes best with my skin tone," we are mocking and abusing the blessing of freedom that God has given us.

Mr. Adam Peeler

Timid Lutherans said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I hardly know a WELS pastor who does not take seriously what he wears when he presides at worship. Of course my comments about skin tone - though true - were somewhat lighthearted.
Because I do take seriously what I wear, I favor the idea of wearing something different from what those outside our fellowship wear. Hence my preference for black. If, for historical reasons, some have objections to black, it would be fine with me if we'd all agree on some other color that no one else wears: Navy blue, olive green (wouldn't go with my complexion but I'd be willing to wear it); I think we'd want to avoid pink, for obvious reasons. My point is that we'd be making a far stronger confessional statement by all wearing black, than be wearing white albs and giant stoles, etc., that make us look like all the other "Lutherans," and many non-Lutherans.
Be careful, though, with this Aaron thing. Aaron did not merely preside at worship. He was the High Priest, a type of our Savior. We are not.
And be even more careful when applying Old Testament principles to New Testament practices. If we say that New Testament Christian freedom will lead us to be more serious (more serious than what? than Old Testament worshipers?) when it comes to vestments, then should we also be more serious about other abrogated Old Testament ceremonial laws (such as observing the Sabbath for 28 hours instead of 24)? I'm sensing an attempt here to bring us under spiritual bondage.

Pastor Mark Porinsky
Faith Lutheran Church
Dexter, Michigan

Anonymous said...

"I hardly know a WELS pastor who does not take seriously what he wears when he presides at worship."

I know several of them.

"Because I do take seriously what I wear, I favor the idea of wearing something different from what those outside our fellowship wear. Hence my preference for black."

Huh? How is black different than what those outside our fellowship wear? Most Baptist and Methodist pastors wear some version of the Geneva. I'd rather have my pastor look like a LCMS Lutheran than a Southern Baptist (or a judge).

Besides, inventing our own worship garb would be the height of sectarianism. Wearing the alb symbolizes that we are part of the historic, catholic (not Roman Catholic) church. That's why Luther continued to wear an alb and stole (and chasuble--gasp!) for worship. He wanted to stress that he was not inventing some new sect or cult--he was very much part of the historic church, and thus wore the historic garb of the church. If Luther didn't have a problem looking like a Roman Catholic, why does it bother so many so-called Lutherans?

"Aaron did not merely preside at worship. He was the High Priest, a type of our Savior. We are not."

Once again, huh? Pastors most certainly represent Jesus Christ as they preside at worship. They speak the Absolution, the Gospel, and the Words of Institution (and everything else) in the place of and with the authority of Christ. What a joy to know that when my pastor tells me my sins are forgiven that I'm hearing the voice of Christ himself.

Now don't misrepresent what I'm saying and call me a sacerdotalist or something. I'm not saying that the pastor has some sort of special Jesus-power that others don't. Not at all. I'm simply stating the very Lutheran doctrine that pastors represent Christ.

"then should we also be more serious about other abrogated Old Testament ceremonial laws"

For a third time, huh? How did you get that out of what I wrote? I will assume you simply misread and not that you are misrepresenting what I wrote.

I specifically noted that we most certainly do have freedom from the OT law. That's exactly why we will be so serious about making decisions in the church. God now treats the NT church as mature, adult believers who are capable of using sanctified wisdom. Mature use of Christian freedom means carefully examining the options and doing not what is allowed, but what is truly beneficial.

Mr. Adam Peeler

Anonymous said...

I wasn't aware that anyone was wearing black anymore. In the local papers it seems Methodists generally wear white and Baptists don't wear gowns at all. I could be mistaken. But even if they all wear black, the likelihood/danger of even the most rabid WELS church growth pastor being mistaken for a Baptist or Methodist would appear quite slim.

What would you say about this statement, though: "The historic liturgy is a divine drama in which the presiding minister plays the role of Christ"?

Mark Porinsky
Faith Lutheran Church
Dexter, Michigan

Anonymous said...

"What would you say about this statement, though: "The historic liturgy is a divine drama in which the presiding minister plays the role of Christ"?"

Trying to set a trap for me, huh?

I reject the statement. It gives the impression that the person of the pastor is somehow reenacting or re-effecting the sacrificial work of Jesus, which of course is at the core of the abomination of the Roman mass.

That statement is not an accurate summary of what I said. The pastor does not play the role of Christ, but he certainly acts as a representative of Christ and speaks in the stead of Christ with the authority of Christ.

Do you disagree with this?

Mr. Adam Peeler

Anonymous said...

No trap, and I did not mean to imply that the statement was an accurate summary of what you said. I just wanted to clarify, because former WELS pastors have made the statement, which of course I disagree with.

I certainly do agree that the pastor acts as a representative of Christ and speaks in the stead of Christ and with the authority of Christ - in the same way an ambassador would speak as a representative of his king and in the stead of his king and with the authority of his king. Of course, it would be presumptuous for the ambassador to think that, in order to do this, he had to wear garments that were facsimiles of the king's.

By the way, I have checked with some of the local Protestant churches, and they're all over the map, just like us. Black still seems to be the predominant color, but white, and no gown at all, seem to be taking over rapidly. I guess no matter what we wear (aside from navy blue, etc.), we're going to look like somebody else.

Thanks for your responses, Adam.

Pastor Mark Porinsky
Faith Lutheran Church
Dexter, Michigan

Anonymous said...

"Of course, it would be presumptuous for the ambassador to think that, in order to do this, he had to wear garments that were facsimiles of the king's."

Yes, but won't the ambassador wear special clothing that conveys the authority of the message he speaks? And bringing it closer to home, doesn't the alb, which started in orthodoxy and has 2,000 years of history behind it, convey that authority better than the Geneva, which started in heterodoxy and has only a couple hundred years of history behind it? To use the analogy, would it be better for the ambassador to wear clothing similar to the king's own clothing or to wear the same clothing as one of the king's wicked servants who spreads lies about the king?

"I guess no matter what we wear...we're going to look like somebody else."

But that gets us back to one of my original points. If we're going to look like someone else, isn't it better to look like Jesus and the Apostles and the Church Fathers and the Reformers than to look like Calvin and Spener?

Plus, I still get this sectarian sense from your words that the WELS should divorce itself completely from the history of the universal, catholic church to do its own thing. Such a thought goes against the very spirit of the church itself. Luther spoke very forcefully about the need to maintain that unbroken connection to the history of the church rather than starting new sects with new practices. By using the liturgy and wearing the alb, we are making a statement that we are united with Christ and his Apostles. That's an extremely powerful message to send, especially when 20-somethings are ditching what's trendy and longing for things that are authentic and historical.

Mr. Adam Peeler

Silas Pieper said...

Wow! People haven't yet heard the Gospel and we're at our desks arguing over what we should wear when we tell them... COME ON PEOPLE!!! This is what is wrong with the WELS... we're too concerned with the what and not concerned with the who...

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...


When you say we're "not concerned with the who," I'm not sure what you mean. The people I serve care very much how I represent Christ to them and to those who visit us, including what I wear on Sunday morning as his ambassador. They are very important "who" as far as Christ is concerned. The Church has always been concerned about this and written about it and talked about it. The Bride of Christ is a very important "who" to Christ.

Are they not an important enough "who" to you?

Anonymous said...

Silas, perhaps you should lob the same complaint at God. 3500 hundred years ago, far fewer people had heard the gospel than today, and yet God spend a whole bunch of time telling people what to wear (and what to do and what to say and what color yarn to use).

The argument that says that the number of unbelievers in the world justifies doing anything and everything and that talking about worship principles is a waste of time is rooted in pure emotionalism and has been used to justify a host of heterodox practices throughout history.

(By the way, I'm not comparing OT law with NT freedom again. I'm just making the point that God thought vestments were pretty important back then, and thus it's something worth discussing today.)

Mr. Adam Peeler

Rev. Richard Bowley (ILD) said...

It doesn't matter what garment one wears at Divine Service (pulpit robe & preaching bands, cassock & surplice, or alb & stole), it what comes out of the Minister's mouth that counts. Yes, Pietism began the process of deemphasis on both the Ministry and the Lutheran Church (in Germany) as well, but thankfully, Old Lutherans from Prussia and Neo-Lutherans from Bavaria kept Confessional Lutheranism alive and well. As for vesture, either the cassock with surplice and stole or the alb with stole and a plain chasuble (with the chasuble worn from the Offertory to the Dismissal) should be worn for the Service; relegate the pulpit robe and bands to Matins, Vespers, and academic occasions.

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